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News

Saturday Selections - November 28, 2020

Lockdowns: if it saves one life? (3 min) It's not simply lives vs. money. Some lives are being endangered by the lockdowns to the extent that, worldwide, 150 million people could be thrown into extreme poverty this year. It's not as extreme in the West, but there are crucial surgeries and diagnostic doctor visits being postponed, as well as an increase in mental health issues caused by the business closures and enforced isolation. There are no solutions, only trade-offs, so we need to count the actual cost. Free book: Randy Alcorn's Pro-choice or Pro-life This short, fantastic e-book ably dismantles 15 pro-choice arguments. The only flaw: this is largely a secular presentation. The end result is that even as author Randy Alcorn can show the pro-choice position to be unreasonable, contradictory, or inconsistent, readers aren't confronted with the clear contrast that exists between the pro-choice position and the Christian position...or at least not until chapter 15. The book remains valuable because the arguments can be improved simply by stacking them on the foundation of God's Truth. So, for example, that the unborn aren't all that different than the newborn is a good point, but unless it is rooted in the biblical truth that all of us are made in God's Image, that argument could be turned around and used as a reason to "abort" newborns...as has been done! It is by arguing as Christians – by stacking our arguments on God's Word and His Truth – that we can be sure we have a solid foundation. Happily married? A 10-step relationship assessment While the article doesn't contain anything we haven't heard before, this 10-item list is a good encouragement to invest energy and effort into our spouse and marriage. A creationist take on global warming (30-minute read) It's a long piece, matching its importance. There's no such thing as "safe sex" for kids The lie about government sex-ed is the presumption that sex outside of marriage can be safe. It leaves kids open to heartbreak and disease, and is an act of rebellion against a holy, righteous God. Quite the lie indeed, to call that safe. A call to divine obedience over civil obedience (10-minute read) This is a strong stand against the latest state-imposed limitations on worship services. In that it is a strong stand, it is controversial too: most everyone could find at least a point or two of disagreement. My own disagreement is with a concession that author Aaron Rock didn't explicitly make. He notes how churches aren't getting treated as well as schools. That is a good point: a government that treats worship as less important than school has gotten things backwards. But if and when churches are treated no different than schools, movie theaters, bars, and businesses, that shouldn't satisfy us. To our government, congregational worship is just another service provided, or another entertainment option. While it's understandable that they think so, that doesn't make them any less wrong. Shuttering God's Church is a big deal in a way that shuttering Ciniplex Odean just isn't. We don't want the worship of God to be given equal treatment; we want the government to understand that shutting a church should be the last thing they'd consider doing. The Marxist Trojan Horse (15 minutes) Larry Alex Taunton on "the Marxist Agenda in America...and how it relates to Black Lives Matter, Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and White Privilege." This is a longer video, at 15 minutes, but worth the time invested. ...

Marriage

Men and the Marriage Dance

Maybe I have been looking in all the wrong places, but in my ten years of being a Christian, I seem to have heard an awful lot more on the subject of wives being in subjection to their husbands than I have on the subject of husbands loving their wives. In the interests of redressing the balance, I wish to focus on the other side of the marriage bond. Love before submission One of the first things to notice about Paul’s teaching on marriage is that although he mentions wives before husbands in both the Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 passages, the onus is clearly on the men to act first. Husbands are told to: ...love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her (Eph. 5:25). Elsewhere in Scripture we are explicitly told the order of Christ/church relations: “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). So if the husband/wife relationship is to look anything like the Christ/church relationship, it is very much the responsibility of the husband to first ensure he is loving his wife before he starts worrying about whether his wife is submitting to him. Sacrificial headship In Ephesians 5:22-24 we read a passage that many a man loves for all the wrong reasons.  Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Some husbands, while properly recognizing that this passage is about headship, conveniently ignore the fact that it is about sacrificial headship. Their thinking goes something like this: “Christ commands his church, right? And his church is meant to be in subjection, right? That’s what Paul says, isn’t it? So if the marriage relationship is meant to be like the relationship between Christ and his church, then clearly I get to decide everything and you must obediently follow.” There are two big problems with this type of blockhead masculinity. The first is that although Christ commands His church and His church is called upon to submit to Him, He commands her as a sinless, spotless head. Which means that all of his commands are made in love, righteousness, and truth, and that nothing he has commanded to his church is dictatorial, and that nothing he asks his bride to do is necessarily grievous. Sure, the church disobeys and acts like these things are grievous, but that is because the church is stuffed with sinners, not because her Husband is in the wrong. The second big problem with this way of thinking, is that even Christ – though He had every right to just command and expect submission – had to die sacrificially in order to win His bride. His headship is not one of mere headship – I command and you obey – but rather a headship that is born of giving Himself, at great personal cost, for the bride that He loves. Any husband who just commands and expects submission is therefore wronging his wife in expecting her to obey whilst he himself fails to obey the command directed to him. He is failing to understand the import of Paul’s command, which is not to just assume headship, but to assume it in a self-denying and sacrificial way. Four different dances I tend to think that what Paul has in mind is something akin to a dance. Now in any really good male/female dance that I’ve ever seen, the man leads and the woman follows. Yet the man does so in a way which is firm and masculine, rather than authoritarian, and the woman follows in a way that is neither overbearing on the one hand nor a pushover on the other, but rather firm in a feminine way. But let’s just play around with this analogy and see what happens when we add various factors into it. Picture the scene: a husband and wife are about to begin a dance upon a high stage with no barriers surrounding it, set to a Strauss waltz. 1) The modern couple Now into this scene steps the modern couple. The way they do this “marriage dance” looks, shall we say, a little different to what Paul had in mind. Instead of a graceful scene of husband and wife dancing in unison, with the man gently but firmly leading his wife while she gracefully and willingly accompanies him, many modern marriages look like the two spouses just doing their own thing on separate corners of the stage. Maybe he’s making one last attempt over here to perfect his breakdance technique before middle-age sets in, while she’s over there doing her twerking thing. The two of them are utterly independent of each other, and it is no surprise when they split, citing irreconcilable differences. And poor Strauss carries on in the background, treated in much the same way as that beautiful gold ring on the end of the pig’s snout. 2) The feminist dance Then there is the feminist dance. You know, where the powerhouse woman tries to lead the man around and he either willingly submits and the dance ends up looking plain silly, or he resists and they end up pushing each other over the edge. 3) The apathetics Or there is dance of the “apathetics.” This is where the performers are so floppy and without backbone, especially the man, that you wonder whether they are actually trying to dance or to do a distinctly underwhelming impression of two octopi skulking across the sea bed. 4) The cro-magnon But what of the over-bearing, authoritarian, she-ought-to-submit-to-me-because-that’s-what-Paul-says dance couple? What does their dance look like? It looks like a man dragging his wife rather than leading her, and then when he starts veering too far toward the edge of the stage and his wife tries to pull him back from the brink, he gets mad, accuses her of not being submissive, and carries on doing his thing until they both fall over the edge. Such a guy thinks he’s doing what God commands, yet is in far more danger of disobeying Paul than his wife is. The dance done right So what will the kind of dance envisaged by Paul really look like? As with a beautiful waltz to a bit of Strauss, it will look like the man leading his bride gracefully but firmly around the stage, with his wife gladly following his lead. It will look like him making sure he does nothing to grieve her or put either her or the both of them in jeopardy. So he will not only be aware of his steps, but will be aware of her steps too, and of both their steps together. If he happens to wander too near the edge and his wife gently pulls him back, he will not accuse her of being unsubmissive, but rather will accept the reproof and adjust his ways accordingly. In practical terms, there is no thought in this type of dance of a man commanding his wife regardless of her feelings and opinions, and her being expected to just submit to everything he says. Rather the thought is that the kind of man Paul is thinking of will always take his wife’s desires and opinions into account. If there is disagreement about a decision that needs to be taken, yes it is ultimately the man who is called upon to make that decision and the wife who is called upon to submit. But if the man has not first spoken to his wife, sought her opinion, taken it into account, considered whether maybe she is right and he wrong and that perhaps he needs to die to self before making the decision – unless he has gone through those steps – he is not leading his wife in the dance the way Paul says he ought. Conclusion Now, this piece doesn’t address difficulties and problems, such as, “what if a woman is married to a husband who is a blockhead. How far should she go in obeying him?” That’s really not an easy question. Suffice it to say that when Paul teaches headship in Colossians 3, his command for wives to “submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” suggests that this is by no means an open check, and that there are limits to her submission, as when Abigail didn’t just go along with her fool of a husband, Nabal. However, difficult as these questions are, a good place to start in addressing such issues would be for more and clearer teaching on the role of men. This is the surest way of warding off problems and creating the beautiful marriage dance envisaged by Jesus Christ, the true sacrificial head. “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:28). Rob Slane is the author of “A Christian & an Unbeliever Discuss: Life, the Universe & Everything” which is available at Amazon.ca here and Amazon.com here. This first appeared in the January 2016 issue which you can download here.  ...

News

Dutch make it easier to kill patients with advanced dementia

Like many countries around the world, the Netherlands has been imposing shutdowns to slow the spread of COVID-19, a virus that is particularly dangerous to the elderly. Thus, it is ironic that the Dutch have simultaneously issued new euthanasia guidelines making it much easier to kill the elderly. Last year, Dutch doctor Marinou Arends was prosecuted for giving euthanasia to a 74-year-old woman in 2016. The patient’s Alzheimers had become so advanced that she no longer recognized her own face in the mirror. One of the aspects of the case that attracted the most criticism was the fact that Arends began by secretly adding a sedative to the woman’s coffee. Thus, the woman had no idea she was about to be put to death. However, she awakened when the lethal drugs were added to her IV and began to struggle. Her husband and daughter restrained her so Arends could finish. The Dutch media nicknamed the case “the coffee euthanization.” Arends was found “not guilty” of breaking the euthanasia law and we are now seeing the impact of that verdict. The Dutch committee that oversees the practice of euthanasia has issued new guidelines for dementia patients in line with the verdict. And it is basically anything goes – the committee has given explicit permission to doctors to secretly administer sedatives ahead of a lethal injection if they believe the patient may become restless or aggressive. A person can write a legal declaration requesting euthanasia should they develop advanced dementia in the future. Under the old guidelines, even if a patient had a legal declaration, a doctor had to get a final verbal affirmation that the patient still wished to die. Arends had failed to obtain this from the patient she euthanized, and that is part of the reason why she was prosecuted. The committee’s new guidelines allow doctors to skip the verbal affirmation if a dementia patient is no longer able to give it. The new guidelines also give doctors more room to interpret a legal declaration. In the Arends case, the patient had written that she wanted to die “when I am still somewhat mentally competent and I decide the time is right.” Arends had not honored this part of the legal declaration because the patient was no longer mentally competent when she was put to death. Because Arends was acquitted, doctors will now be permitted to ignore these types of stipulations. Under Dutch law, even if a patient has a legal declaration requesting euthanasia, a doctor must determine the patient is “suffering unbearably with no prospect of improvement” before administering a lethal injection. In its new guidelines, the oversight committee indicates it will never question any doctor’s determination that a dementia patient is suffering unbearably. Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the committees that oversee euthanasia, explained the new standard in an interview with Dutch media: “The doctor does not have to worry about us as oversight committee and the court should stay at arm’s length on the question of unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement. This is a medical-professional judgment by the doctor. The court and the oversight committee cannot stand in the place of the doctor. The question is: has this doctor acted reasonably in this situation?” Up to now, euthanasia for dementia patients had been extremely rare in the Netherlands, and it was very controversial. Even some euthanasia supporters were opposed because advanced dementia patients are unable to give consent. In 2018, ethicist Berna van Baarsen resigned from her position on the oversight committee over this issue. “That’s my boundary, based on ten years of reflection and reading dossiers,” she said at the time. The new guidelines brush aside those concerns. Euthanasia for advanced dementia is likely to become much more common now that it is much easier to obtain. Perhaps euthanasia supporters like van Baarsen will stop and ask, “Where does this end?” ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

Lost and Found

Animated / Family 24 minutes / 2013 Rating: 8/10 This short film made my girls cry and that's okay. It is a classic boy meets penguin tale, a tale of loneliness felt, and friendship found, and a beautiful tale throughout. This is what made my girls cry – the beauty of it – and that gave mom and dad an opportunity to explain to these two little misses that crying is not always linked to sadness, and that beauty can indeed by tear-inducing and then it is something, strangely enough, to be enjoyed. This lesson wasn't entirely lost on them and also not entirely understood but it was a good first exposure to this curious truth. The story itself is simple. Lost penguin arrives on boy's doorstep. Boy briefly tries to get others to help penguin, but then decides to do it himself. He builds boat and rows to the Antarctic, where he then drops off the penguin and heads back home, only to realize that the penguin wasn't lost after all, but had shown up at his house because he was lonely. Boy returns to the Antarctic, penguin hops in boat, and the two head together for what looks like the beginning of a wonderful friendship. The only caution would be that a storm scene may be a bit scary for the under 6 set. Our whole family loved it. I would recommend it for anyone 6 to 106. You can stream it – rent or buy – from Amazon (or ask your public library to pick up a DVD copy). ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – November 2020

Famous phrases from the Bible The influence of God’s Word on our culture is such that even those who have never cracked open a Bible aren’t likely to name their kids Jezebel, Judas, or Cain. There are, however, some common phrases that even believers might not know have biblical origins. A drop in the bucket – Isaiah 40:15 says, “Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.” The writing is on the wall – In Daniel 5, King Belshazzar sees “the fingers of a human hand” appear and write a message on his wall which he then gets Daniel to interpret…and it isn’t good news for the king who is killed that very night. Rise and shine – This morning wake-up call, common to mothers the world over, may come from the call for God’s people to “Arise, shine” in Isaiah 60:1. Seeing eye to eye ­­– Isaiah 52:8, in some translations, about watchmen on the city walls being in agreement. Go the extra mile – Jesus urges us to this in Matthew 5:41 Reading between the lines – This doesn’t come from any specific chapter or verse, but from a translating practice done to some Latin Bibles, where another language would be written directly above the Latin text. Asked and answered It’s a question we’ve all heard: how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?  But does anyone know the answer? It turns out some researchers at Cornell University discovered that if you provide woodchucks with chunks of 2 by 4s, then they can chuck wood…even if they normally choose not to. "Chucking” of a sort does occur when they dig out their burrows, though this involves dirt, not wood. Naturalist Richard Thomas estimated that a woodchuck burrow is about 35 cubic meters. Making a bit of a leap of logic he then presumed, if they can throw that much dirt, then they should be able to throw just as much wood, right? And a pile of wood with that volume would weigh, around 700 pounds. So there you have it! SOURCE Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Plunges Into the Universe, pages 445-446 J.C. Ryle on backsliding “It is a miserable thing to be a backslider. Of all unhappy things that can befall a man, I suppose this is the worst. A stranded ship, a broken wing, a garden overrun with weeds, a harp without strings, a church in ruins - all these are sad sights; but a backslider is a sadder sight still. “That true grace shall never be extinguished, a true union with Christ never broken off, I feel no doubt. But I do believe that a man may fall away so far that he will lose sight of his own grace, and despair of his own salvation. And if this is not hell, it is certainly the next thing to it! A wounded conscience, a mind sick of itself, a memory full of self-reproach, and a heart pierced through with the Lord’s arrows, a spirit broken with a load of inward accusations, all this is a taste of hell. It is hell on earth. Truly that saying of the wise man is solemn and weighty: ‘The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways’ (Prov.14:14). “Now, what is the cause of most backsliding? I believe, as a general rule, one of the chief causes is the neglect of private prayer. Of course, the secret history of falls will not be known until the last day. I can only give my opinion as a minister of Christ and a student of the heart. That opinion is, I repeat distinctly, that backsliding generally first begins with the neglect of prayer. “Bibles read without prayer, sermons heard without prayer, marriages contracted without prayer, journeys undertaken without prayer, residences chosen without prayer, friendships formed without prayer, the daily act of prayer itself hurried over or gone through without heart, these are the kinds of downward steps whereby many a Christian descends to a condition of spiritual palsy, or reaches a point where God allows him to have a tremendous fall.” English is a weird language If you’ve ever wondered why English is thought to be one of the harder languages to learn, contronyms are a clue: these are words that mean their own opposite. These examples should have us commiserating with our immigrant parents or grandparents who had to somehow make sense of them all: Apology: repenting from an action or defending it Bolt: to keep from moving or to run away Clip: to attach something on or to cut it off Dust: to remove fine particulate matter or to add it. Fast: describing something stuck firmly or moving quickly Literally: factually or metaphorically Left: still here or already gone Resign: only a contronym in writing, where it means either to quit or to sign up again Transparent: being invisible or being obvious Weather: to be worn away by or to stand up to, the elements Advanced math "There are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematician that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one." – G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday Did they or didn't they? The best quotes aren't always by the people they are supposed to be by. Sometimes they are altered, improved, and essentially abbreviated versions of something they really did say. Other times, it might be something they said, but no one can find a source to prove it. Regardless some are really worth repeating. Here's a collection of great quotes credited to the person who is popularly, but probably incorrectly, credited with saying them. “Why do bad things happen to good people? That only happened once and He volunteered.” - RC Sproul "Love is a game two can play and both can win." - Eva Gabor “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the Devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefront besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” - Martin Luther “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing—they believe in anything.” - G.K. Chesterton “Telephone” with a twist In the game “telephone” one friend whispers a sentence to a friend, and the message gets passed along the line quietly one by one. By the time it gets to the end of the line the message, through repeated “mishears” has been altered, sometimes to an unrecognizable extent, and to the great amusement of all. In a version of the game called “Predicament and Remedies” the first person shares some kind of “predicament” and their neighbor passes along, not that predicament, but a one sentence, fairly detailed, remedy for it. The person who hears the remedy then has to pass along a one-sentence, detailed predicament that remedy might solve, and so on and so on. So, for example, if we start with “My scuba airhose is leaking” the next in line might whisper “Wrap duct tape around the hose” to which the next in line might say “my vacumn hose has a hole it it.” The trick here is to leave some room for ambiguity, but not too much. “Buy a new one” wouldn’t be a good fix for any remedy because it is too general and a match for too many things, but something like “learn how to read upside down” would be great fun. The more creative the predicament or rememdy, the funnier the result. ...

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

The legacy of 25 Scripture verses on Parliament Hill

by Lynette Bloedow 68 pages / 2020 Perched atop my “to be read” pile, this caught the eye of a visitor who sat down, started reading, and soon after gave an enthusiastic two thumbs up. I hadn’t read it yet, but had already concluded a booklet about bible verses on the walls and windows of Parliament would have limited appeal. But I was wrong; even my American guest found it fascinating. Having read it now, I agree. In full-color spreads the book explores Parliament’s Peace Tower, built over the years 1916-1922 after a fire destroyed most of Parliament's "Centre Block" in 1916. Architect John A. Pearson covered the tower with all sorts of symbolism and lots of bible verses, including citations from Canada’s national psalm, Ps. 72, and references to the armor of God from Ephesians 6. I was surprised to learn there’s also a quotation from Pilgrim’s Progress. Author Lynette Bloedow includes page after page of gorgeous pictures, with the most beautiful showcasing the building's stain glass windows, each of which has a story behind it. The overall message evident in the tower's symbolism is that, not so long ago, Canada’s leaders had a much better understanding that they ruled only because God put them in their positions. The Peace Tower is currently undergoing renovations that might take as long as 10 years, so you can’t go and see any of this for yourself. But even if you could, this is a tour unlike anything you’d get, because much of the tower’s “biblical legacy” has been forgotten, not listed on government websites, and not mentioned by guides. The purpose of this booklet is to reacquaint the next generation with the lost truth that our "Ruler Supreme" remains God, and it is only in Him that Canadians, as individuals, and as a country, can find their hope. Legacy of 25 Scripture Verses would make for a great coffee table book in any Canadian household, and would be a good gift book for adult children. To learn more, take a peek inside, and place your order, go to ChristianRootsCanada.org....

News

Saturday Selections - November 21, 2020

Can God make a square circle? (5 minutes) Apologist Tim Barnett offers his own great answer in the video below, and if you want a unique alternate take, click on the link above for Rob Slane's answer. Live not by lies: the least we must do When it comes to cultural conversations where God's views are hated (think: abortion, gender, homosexuality, origins, etc), if we don't have the courage to shout the Truth,  can we at least refuse to speak any lies...no matter the pressure? 7 books to help you understand the times Tim Challies weighs in with some fantastic recommendations to better understand all the crazy that's going on. Jay Adams, pioneer of Nouthetic Counseling, dies at 91" "Adams was following in the footsteps of Cornelius Van Til.  Van Til argued that Reformed principles, drawn from Scripture, must be consistently applied in apologetics.  Jay Adams took that approach and applied it to pastoral theology." America's first, brief, socialist experiment went badly As Americans prepare to celebrate their Thanksgiving Day, let's remember that the Plymouth Pilgrims had a number of very bad years at the start of their settlement, and things only improved when they returned to the biblical idea of property rights. Matthew's begats... This is a fun little ditty by Andrew Peterson that your kids may just manage to memorize. ...

Book excerpts, Book Reviews

The Accompanist as Prophet?

The following is an excerpt from Dr. Bredenhof’s new book “Aiming to Please: A Guide to Reformed Worship.”  ***** If we have accompaniment, the accompanist has an important role in our worship service. ….We want our accompanists to aim to please the LORD along with the entire congregation. There has to be a pursuit of excellence in the craft of accompaniment. When this is done, we should be thankful and encourage our accompanists. Regrettably, in our tradition there has sometimes been inordinate language when it comes to accompanists, and especially organists. Sometimes the organist has been described as a “prophet” and his playing as “prophesying from the organ bench.” It seems that this rhetoric traces back to the famous Dutch organist Jan Zwart. According to Deddens, Zwart spoke of “prophesying during the worship service, before and after the sermon, in a language the people can understand.” Reformed theologian Klaas Schilder took over this language in describing Zwart posthumously: “His life’s work was to prophesy from the organ bench, and when we say that we give true expression to what motivated this man.” Deddens appreciated this rhetoric and took it over as well. Prophesy is about words The major problem with this description of the accompanist is that it does not stand up to biblical scrutiny. In the Bible, prophecy is almost always about words. A prophet without words is unheard of. There are instances where prophets performed prophetic acts, but these were exceptional, and even these acts never occurred in isolation from their words. Both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, prophecy is verbal. When Lord’s Day 12 of the Catechism says we are anointed to be prophets who confess the name of Christ, it is referring to a verbal activity. During and after the Reformation, preaching was sometimes called “prophesying” – because it had to do with words. The idea of a musical instrument being a means of prophecy is unheard of, biblically and historically. While certainly appreciating the work of accompanists (more on that in a moment), let us also be modest about what they are doing. If one wants to employ the language of the three-fold office of all believers to describe accompanists, then it would be better to refer to them in priestly terms. With their accompaniment, they are offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving with the rest of the congregation. That is something which can be done both with and without words.  Proper honor for accompanists If an accompanist takes his or her work seriously, there can be quite a bit of preparation involved with each service. Moreover, a serious accompanist might even be a professional musician with years of training. A lot of time and money may have been invested in honing their musical craft. This ought to be honored and recognized. That can be done in different ways, of course. One way would be for the pastor regularly to pray for the accompanist(s) in his congregation. Another would be for there to be occasional acknowledgement of the accompanist in the church bulletin or perhaps at a congregational meeting. Still another way would be to ask the accompanist to help the congregation in understanding music in worship. Accompanists have the musical understanding and skills that many of us do not, and asking them to share their insights also shows respect for them and their craft. Let them teach us. It is also appropriate to show our gratitude to our accompanists with an honorarium. This recognizes the time, energy, and financial commitment they have made to pursue excellence in accompanying our singing. Churches that do not offer an honorarium to their accompanists can sometimes struggle to find accompaniment, especially if there are other churches nearby which do offer honorariums. Now someone might object and say, “A lot of us do volunteer work in the church and we don’t get paid for it. So why should the accompanist get paid?” There are two things to say in response. First, the accompanist is not being “paid” for their labors. He or she is not an employee of the church, at least not typically. The accompanist is a volunteer, offering his or her services for the glory of God. Second, unlike most other volunteer work in the church, the accompanist has spent a lot of his or her time, energy, and money on learning to play well. Continuing to play well also requires investments, including the purchase of sheet music. Accompaniment is different than the other volunteer work done in the church. A modest honorarium recognizes this.  Dr. Wes Bredenhof's "Aiming to Please: A Guide to Reformed Worship" is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca. ...

Economics, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Love Gov: Breaking up with government is hard to do

Here's something new: an economic argument for small government presented as a comedic drama. And Love Gov is a romance too, sort of. Alexis was thinking of quitting college to start her own business, but then she meets the strangely charming Scott Govinsky (known as "Gov" to his friends). To compliment her ideas, ambitions, and drive, Gov is so very caring and supportive. And eager to help. And he never seems to runs out of advice. Perfect material for a boyfriend? Alexis thinks so...at first. The problem is, Gov's advice isn't nearly as helpful as it seems. If you haven't figured it out yet, Alexis' boyfriend Gov is a stand-in for our government, which wants to mind our business because it cares for us so deeply. But as much as the politicians and burecrats might mean well, that doesn't mean they are doing well...which is what Love Gov tries to show. CAUTIONS The series' producer, the Independent Institute, is not a Christian organization. So, even as they are for limited government, they might be for less moral restraint too, as evidenced by the little boy at the very beginning (who has only the briefest of roles) wearing a shirt with a transgender rainbow on it. A more notable quibble: because Love Gov is humorous, some of its serious points are made in an over-the-top manner, which could prompt the cynically-inclined to discount those points entirely. So it's important to pitch this to friends properly: introduce it to them as the light-hearted discussion-starter it is, and don't present it as any sort of weighty "final word" on the issues it raises. CONCLUSION The overall argument being pitched is for smaller government. While the group pitching it isn't Christian, there's a lot here for Christians to love, since we should also support limited, and thus smaller, government. Why? Because God has given different responsibilities to different types of "government." The "governments" we're talking about here are not of the municipal, provincial, or federal sort but rather family government, Church government, and yes, State government too. We can throw in self-government as well. These types of government are all appointed by God to take on different roles, and while who should have exactly what role can sometimes be difficult to discern, one type of government can only gain more power and influence at the expense of the others. Which type of government is the most expansionist? The State. Its influence in our family life, the education of our children, regulation of business, management of healthcare, direction of the economy – that reach is already enormous. And just as the State's expansion into education came by shrinking the parental role, so too its expansion into other areas comes at the expense of other levels of "government." That's why Christians should want a limited government; because we know that God didn't intend for us and the other types of government to abandon our roles and responsibilities to the State. Another reason for a limited government? When the State takes on jobs God never intended for it they will tend to mess things up. Good intentions simply aren't enough (Prov. 27:14); a good dose of humility about what the State can do, and shouldn't even try to do is also vital. Episode 1: An education in debt (6 minutes) Alexis wants to quit school to start up a business and start paying off her student debt. Then she meets Gov, who encourages her to stay in school "because there's nothing more important  than your education." What about that student debt? Gov assures her, "You are going to have a lifetime to pay off debt...a lifetime!" The Bible likens debt to slavery (Prov. 22:7) – it limits your ability and freedom to do what you otherwise might want to do. Episode 2: Protection from jobs (5 minutes) After Alexis graduates college she decides to pursue her small business idea. Gov is, once again, happy to help, though this time coming to the "aid" of employee Libby. Regulations are brought in with the intent of protecting workers. But regulations also make it harder and more expensive to hire workers: One estimate concerning Canada's tech industry had a 1% increase in regulations leading to a 5% decrease in business startups. The tradeoffs that come with government "protections" are often overlooked. Episode 3: A rememdy for healthcare choices (6 minutes) Alexis is looking for a new healthcare insurance plan, and Gov knows best. Meanwhile, Libby argues that choices and options and free market competition could produce healthcare for less. In his documentary Wait Til It's Free, Reformed filmmaker Colin Gunn makes that same argument. Episode 4: House poor (6 minutes)  Alexis goes house-hunting and mortgage-hunting too, only to discover that Gov has been spending her money, putting her tens of thousands in debt. In Canada accumulated provincial and national debts averages out to $40,000 CAN per citizens while in the US just the national debt works out to more than double that at $80,000 US per citizen. Episode 5: Keeping a close eye on privacy (5 minutes) While Alexis and Gov aren't together anymore, he's still keeping tabs on her – breaking up with "the Gov" proves very hard to do. This series came out soon after Edward Snowden revealed that the United States' National Security Agency (NSA) had been spying on its own citizens, though generally in aggregate – it viewed all the captured data as a whole, not tying it to specific people. But Snowden also shared that should the government want to look at your specific data it could do that too after getting a judge's approval...which was always given....

News

Jay Adams, father of modern biblical counseling movement, dies

Dr. Jay Edward Adams (1929-2020) died on Nov. 14 at the age of 91. For those who don’t already know his name, Adams could be described as the “Martin Luther of biblical counseling” for the reformation he started in that movement. In 1963, as a new instructor at Westminster Theological Seminary, one of his assigned courses involved a component on pastoral counseling. With only limited counseling experience himself, he ended up teaching the unit using the notes left him by the previous instructor. But as Donn Arms writes: He found no theological substance in what he had been handed and determined to study and do better before he would have to teach the course again the next year. As he studied, however, he found nothing to help him. He pored over everything he could find written from a Christian perspective and found only Freudian and Rogerian dogma. What Sigmund Freud, Carl Rogers, B.F. Skinner and other secular psychologists were doing was based on their ideas of what Man's nature amounted to. But their ideas about who we are, and what we are really like, didn’t line up with the fallen, yet accountable image-bearer of God that we are described as in Scripture. What Adams discovered is that while some Christians were trying to integrate these secular theories with the Bible, what they were doing was little more than sprinkling biblical texts on top of deeply unbiblical ideas. One example was the self-love movement – still big today but even more so in the 70s and 80s – that proposed one of Man’s biggest problems was low self-esteem. Christian counselors took hold of this idea, and then “baptized” it with Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). After integrating the two they concluded Jesus wants us to focus on loving ourselves, because how else can we love our neighbor as ourselves? In his book The Biblical View of Self-Esteem, Self-Love, and Self-Image, Adams pointed out that this turned Jesus’ command on its head, from being outward-focused to now focusing on the self. The problem, he argued was that even when Christian counselors were consulting God’s Word, it was only after they’d relied on secular counseling theories to set the course. So Adams called Christians pastors and counselors back to the Bible because it is there we find out who we are, and what our biggest problem is, and what God has done for us to fix that problem. Adams had his Christian critics, including those who critiqued his insights by testing them against God’s Word. But, significantly, it was because of Adams’ pioneering, reforming work that such a group – Christians testing counseling ideas against God’s Word – even existed. He had a leading role in the creation of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (BiblicalCounseling.com), the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF.org), and the Institute for Nouthetic Studies (Nouthetic.org). God used Adams as the spark to start this particular reformation, and like Luther before him, Adams’ key insights were then tested, refined, and built upon by the next generation. Counselors like Ed Welch, Heath Lambert, Wayne Mack, Paul Tripp, and David Powlison all stand on Adams' shoulders. ***** While the Church has lost a giant, God has so arranged things that in recent years most of Adams' 100+ books have been put back in print. We can still benefit from this man's godly wisdom via his written output, available at Amazon and INSbookstore.com. While his best-known book is his first, Competent to Counsel, his three most accessible have to be Greg Dawson and the Psychology Class, Together for Good, and The Case of the “Hopeless Marriage.” At roughly 150 pages each, they are short, and what makes them so intriguing is they are counseling textbooks disguised as novels. Adams wrote these as fiction so he could use protagonist/pastor/counselor Greg Dawson to “show rather than tell” what biblical counseling is all about. The one to start with would be Greg Dawson and the Psychology Class, where the pastor meets students from a Christian university who are taking an essentially secular psychology course. Their conversations give Adams the opportunity to compare and contrast his approach with that of Christian counselor’s “baptized” secular counseling. In addition to these three, Adams has a wonderful devotional, Day by Day Along the Way. Among his 100+ titles, he also tackles aging (which my father-in-law appreciated), eschatology, and even how to listen to a sermon. My personal favorite is his commentary on Proverbs, which, unfortunately, is not yet back in print. Pictures are courtesy of Donn Arms...

Assorted, Culture Clashes

MODERATION: Where beer and psalm-singing go hand in hand

In his book God Gave Wine, Kenneth Gentry outlines the three positions Christians have has concerning alcohol consumption: PROHIBITION: it’s bad and the Scriptures forbid it. ABSTENTION: it’s bad and the Scriptures allow it. MODERATION: it’s good when used with self-control. The first position is wrong and clearly so – prohibition simply doesn’t stand up to scriptural scrutiny. But what about the second? When a man destroys himself and his family via the bottle it’s hard not to wonder what might have been if he’d never touched a drop. We also know many of our young people regularly drink to excess. So, yes, the Bible allows alcohol consumption, but wouldn’t it be more sensible – wiser even – to simply abstain? Isn’t that the better course of action? We can make a compelling case for abstention. But not a biblical one. As Gentry notes, Christ drank, served, and even made wine. God also repeatedly describes alcohol as something that can be put to good use (Deut. 14:26, Psalm 104:15, Eccl 9:7, etc.). It can be abused, but so can every good thing – it makes no more sense to condemn all alcohol because it can lead to drunkenness than it would to condemn all food because it can lead to gluttony. Abstention undermines moderation This is important. If we get this wrong – if we treat alcohol consumption as shameful – then we are running right up against the true biblical position of moderation. And running up against the Bible is never a good idea. In this case the unhappy result may well be that we’ll contribute to the very drunkenness we are trying to curtail because abstention undermines the teaching of moderation. How so? Well consider this example. I know of a church that wanted to address the very muted way its young men were singing. So the pastor invited the young men down to the church for a psalm-singing kegger – everyone would be given some singing instruction and a tall glass of amber brew. How would you react if such a proposal came your way? I know how I reacted – that is not the sort of thing that ought be done in a church! But why did I think that? Clearly I wasn’t objecting to the psalm-singing. And I knew that a glass of frothy goodness would be an excellent aid in helping young men learn to sing with vigor. So on what basis could I object? It was my closet “absentionism” coming out. I know God speaks of moderate drinking as a good thing, and yet deep down I feel I know better, so when an opportunity comes up for young men to see how a drink can be enjoyed responsibly – when an opportunity comes for them share a cold one with their minister – I want to pass up that opportunity. But could there be a more God-glorifying way to enjoy a glass? Now we all know bush parties happen. We know many of our young people gather at homes or apartments where this is no parental supervision so that they can drink to excess. In that context it might seem reasonable to sound a general warning against all alcohol consumption. But blanket condemnations don’t foster maturity. What our young people really need is instruction in moderate use. They need to learn how to drink to God’s glory. So long as we parents lean in any sort of “just don’t drink” abstention direction are we properly motivated to teach our children how to drink? If we think that it’s more pious to abstain than partake, are we going to teach our children about moderation? When we forbid what God allows, then our children will still learn how to drink, but from peers who don’t care a whit about moderation. Conclusion Of course, Christians don’t have to drink. In God Gave Wine, Gentry rebuts both prohibition and abstention, but he himself has always been a teetotaler, drinking no more than a half dozen glasses of wine a year (and now a medical condition precludes even that). No one needs to drink…and some most definitely should not. But we need to accept what God says and acknowledge that moderate use is not only not shameful but a blessing from God. When we sit around the campfire with a s’more in one hand and a glass of red in the other, and friends all around, it is a wonderful thing. We can drink to God’s glory! Let’s teach our children how....

News

Saturday Selections - November 14, 2020

Flash mob singing Handel's Messiah (5-min) We're going back ten years to one of the first flash mob performances, with a chorus of 100 surprising Christmas shoppers with the Hallelujah Chorus. Tim Keller, John Piper, & Donald Trump (10-minute read) With the voting done (even if the counting isn't) this isn't so much about Donald Trump as it is about Tim Keller, social justice, and conservative churches' theological drift. The representative paragraph below is on one way the world suppresses truth (Romans 1:18-23): by pretending simple things are complicated. "When my eldest son, Michael, was a student at Yale Law School a few years ago, he says that Yale inculcated a specific progressive strategy for the deconstruction of otherwise simple moral issues like, say, abortion or the oxymoronic notion of “gay marriage.” They even had a term for it: “complexify.” In other words, obscure the issue at hand with data, highly selective science, and emotion to such a degree that your opponent no longer feels competent to adjudicate the issue." A year of living safely Andy Wilson reviews a book being much discussed, The Price of Panic, about the mostly uncounted costs – in money and lives – that resulted, not from COVID, but from governmental responses to it. What about when the life of the mother is in danger?  Being pro-life doesn't mean valuing babies' lives over mothers' lives. It means recognizing that there are two people. The unscientific roots of conversion therapy bans "There are many and varied reasons why same-sex attracted people want to move away from homosexuality. There is evidence that they can do so, often incurring significant benefits with no serious evidence of harm." Jeff Durbin confronts the Woke Church Jeff Durbin wants to wake up the Woke Church. And in this clip he uses strong language to confront them...but it is language that reflects and mirrors language that the Bible itself uses in a similar fashion, for a similar purpose. It is language that might confront churches, and members, that while not Woke, are starting to drift with the cultural current. This, then, will be a slap to the face, and a call to start fighting, to God's glory. The clip below is just 6 minutes, but you can see the full presentation on what Durbin calls "Van Tillian kill shots" by clicking on the title above. ...

Drama, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

The Man in the Iron Mask

Drama 1939 / 112 minutes Rating: 6/10 Based loosely on the Alexander Dumas story of the same name, it takes place 20 years after Dumas' more famous The Three Musketeers novel. The opening is the French palace, where the Queen has just given birth to son Louis. The King now has an heir so his court and the whole country are caught up in celebration. However, back in the Queen's chambers the doctor and nursemaid are still at work because, so it turns out, the Queen was carrying twins. When the younger prince Philippe is delivered, the news is kept secret, for he presents a problem: so long as Philippe lives he is sure to become a tool that unscrupulous sorts will use against his older brother. The King and his closest advisors all agree, this boy will be the cause of civil war. So what's to be done? Baby Philippe is packed off with the King's most trusted friend and the greatest of the musketeers, D'Artagnan, to raise as his own son. The boy is never to know who his true father is. Fast forward twenty years and the older Louis has been king since he was five. Indulged since that young age he has grown to become a wicked tyrant, so much so that he thinks nothing of arresting his father's closest friends, including D'Artagnan. When Philippe gets arrested too, the king discovers their startling resemblance. Knowing no reason for it – the birth of his brother has been kept a secret from him too – he decides to use Philippe as a body double. He's learned his unhappy subjects are planning to assassinate him, and he sees in Philippes's appearance an opportunity to redirect the danger to this other! However, there are now two in the palace playing the part of the King, and that is one too many. As the title shares, there's an iron mask involved at one point, but I'll stop here lest I give away too much. Cautions The twists and turns caused by one actor playing two roles confused our youngest. But hitting the pause button to get her back up to speed was all it took to help her. There is some swordplay, but of a near G-rated sort. At one point a man is whipped, just off-screen. We see the whip hit him, not directly, but in the shadows on the wall, and our sensitive girls wanted to know if the whipping was actually happening...and we could assure them it was not. Another consideration is that the King has both a wife-to-be and a girlfriend on the side. His lasciviousness is never shown on screen – the most anyone does in this film is get kissed on the forehead – but parents will have to explain how her presence tells us what kind of flawed character the King is. Conclusion I don't think anyone in our family would give this two thumbs up, though I think we'd probably all give it one – all of us found bits of the film we quite enjoyed. My wife likes to learn about historical settings, and appreciates being exposed to a famous story she hadn't heard before. The kids were intrigued by the whole identical twin angle with one actor playing both parts. All of us loved the sword fights. But I'll also add, my girls were a bit freaked out by the scenes with the man in the iron mask, and my wife was really disgusted by the evil Louis. So this isn't the sort of black and white film you should pitch to people who aren't used to black and white films. However, for those of us raised on such fare, this is a solid outing. While there doesn't seem to be a movie trailer available online, the clip before will give you a feel for the film's quite tame, cartoon-like violence. You can watch it for free by clicking here (though it might have commercials). ...

Book excerpts, Book Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution

Archer fish: a wonder of creation

This article is the first chapter from Dr. Jerry Bergman’s new book "Wonderful and Bizarre Life Forms in Creation" which you can order at Create.ab.ca. ***** The archer fish (Toxotes jaculatrix, from ejaculator fish) – named for its expert archery skills – is one of the most amazing fish known to humans.1 When first researched by scientists in the 1920s, researchers “could hardly believe their eyes” at its shooting ability.2 The existence of the fish was actually first reported by explorers as early as 1764, but for years scholars could not accept the reports of this amazing fish.3 This seven-inch long fish is well-known for accurately knocking insect prey out of overhanging vegetation with a jet of water six times more powerful than its muscles. To achieve this feat, the archer positions itself in the water with its snout just breaking the water’s surface, and its eyes just below the surface. Then it aims its jet spray using superbly designed binocular vision to accurately determine its prey’s location. If one eye is damaged, their aiming skill is lost. Archer fish modulate their water jet’s velocity to create a single large water droplet that strikes their prey with enormous force. This design avoids the requirement for specially designed internal structures to store large amounts of energy. HOW ITS WATER GUN WORKS The water shot is produced by the fish compressing its hard-bony tongue against the roof of its mouth, forcing water out the gun-barrel-like groove in the archer fish’s mouth roof by rapidly snapping its gill covers shut.4 It accurately strikes its target usually on the first attempt at distances of up to 2 to 3 feet! To position itself to hit its target, the fish can swim up, down, and even backwards to enable its vision to line up with its prey. So complex is its design, that the mechanism the archer fish uses to produce its water jet has been researched for decades. Only in 2011 were scientists finally able to understand how it works.5 Alberto Vailati and his University of Milan colleagues provided the first scientific explanation for how archer fish are able to generate such powerful jets to capture their prey. To study the mechanics of the water jet, the authors used high-speed video recordings of archer fish knocking insects out of plants. Scientists now know that a large amplification of the fishes’ muscular power occurs outside of the fish to cause a powerful impact of the water jet against the prey. The archer fish generates this power externally using water dynamics rather than specialized internal organs. Some animals, such as chameleons and salamanders, store energy in their body’s collagen fibers and abruptly release their stored energy to project their tongues outward at high speeds. Previous research on archer fish has ruled out the use of these specialized organs as the source behind their powerful water jets. Excellent vision in its typical muddy water environment is also critical to hit its target. To achieve this vision, the archer’s eye retina is far more complex than that of most fish. The cones for daytime vision number only 8 or 9, but the archers’ rods for vision in muddy water, where they normally live, number a whopping 217. The archer fish can extinguish cigarettes with their water jet in total darkness! The archer fish must also solve the refraction problem, the bending of light rays that occurs as the light rays enter the water, causing objects to appear where they are not. It achieves this feat with remarkable accuracy.6 PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT As the young fish develop, they begin practicing on targets above the water in their natural habitat.7 The tiny fish first succeed in squirting their jet only a few inches high. As they mature, they learn to shoot a stream of water as far as fifteen feet! Adult archer fish normally shoot down their insect prey at a range of less than a meter. To strike its moving target, the fish must compensate for the insect’s speed and the changing angle between the fish and its target to determine the refracted level (how much the light is bent at the air-water boundary). They also must compensate for the effect of gravity on both the fish and the water stream.8 These variables require computing a set of calculations that must be done by human mathematicians using calculus. Research has also determined that archer fish learn to make these calculations by observing other skilled fish practice their art. All of this is achieved by a “primitive cerebrum” which researchers have discovered is not primitive at all!9 EVOLUTION FAILS TO EXPLAIN ARCHER FISH ORIGINS Evolution cannot explain archer fish because evolution postulates that it gradually evolved its remarkable ability, and must have done so because it significantly helped their survival. No other fish has this ability. Nor are any intermediates between the archer fish and all other fish known. Fish either possess the complete set of biological systems to shoot insects out of the air, or lack the entire set. Another major problem with an evolutionary explanation is that archer fish most often feed on insects it finds on, or just below, the water surface. It can even jump above the surface to take insects on the wing. It can also feed on insects that sink a few inches into the water.10 For this reason, it does not need to shoot insects out of the air to survive, and can survive quite well without ever doing so. In fact, most of its food is usually obtained without ever using its water gun. It appears its archery ability is exercised mostly for sport or variety! Archer fish expert, Professor Lüling, recognized this problem, writing: Toxotes depends largely on food it finds on or below the surface. It prefers insects that have fallen to the surface, but it will also take food that has sunk a few inches into the water. This raises an interesting question for evolutionary theory: Spouting, if it is so unimportant, can hardly have been a significant factor in the survival of the species or in selection and differentiation within the species.11 Consequently, natural section cannot account for their amazing ability. Nor can evolution account for the unique ability of this marvelous little fish! Although normally existing in the waters of Australia and Southeast Asia, because of their unusual skill they are popular attractions in aquariums throughout the world. This is Chapter 1 from Dr. Jerry Bergman’s “Wonderful and Bizarre Life Forms in Creation” Each of the 23 chapters examines a different animal or creature, so if you liked this, you can order the book at Create.ab.ca. REFERENCES 1 Smith, H. M. 1936. The archer fish. Natural History. 38(1): 2-11. 2 Pinney, R. 1977. The amazing archer fish. Scholastic Science World. 34(4): 3. 3 Lüling, K. H. 1963. The archer fish. Scientific American. 209(1): 100. 4 Pinney, R. 1977. The amazing archer fish. Scholastic Science World. 34(4): 2-3. 5 Vailati, A., L. Zinnato, R. Cerbino. 2012. How archer fish achieve a powerful impact: hydrodynamic instability of a pulsed jet in Toxotes jaculatrix. PLOS ONE. 7(10): e47867. 6 Myers, G. S. 1952. How the shooting apparatus of the archer fish was discovered. The Aquarium Journal. 23(10): 210-214. 7 Brodie, C. 2006. Watch and Learn: Bench warming pays off for the archer fish. American Scientist. 94(3): 218. 8 Brodie, ref. 7, p. 218. 9 Brodie, ref. 7, p. 218. 10 Schuster, S. et al. 2006. Animal cognition: how archer fish learn to down rapidly moving targets. Current Biology. 16: 378-383. 11 Lüling, ref. 3, p. 100....

Parenting

Raising children who despise themselves

It seems like such a simple thing. You ask your child to do something and in response, he quietly keeps playing with his toy. If the day is laid back and the request seems inconsequential, the negative response might be ignored. But, you decide to press on, so you ask again, this time a little more firmly, and then one more time. Your four-year-old grudgingly, slowly does as he was told. You breathe a sigh of relief, no harm done, at least he obeyed. But actually this little boy has taken a step down the road to self-hatred. Solomon warns that those who disregard discipline despise themselves. What appears to be just an inconsequential delay is actually helping a child to despise himself. Look at Proverbs 15:31-32 Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding. In contrast, your role as a parent is to raise children who embrace obedience in the same way that Jesus did (Ephesians 4:13). When this boy embraces correction, he not only does well in the moment but he is learning to value the company of people who love wisdom. But when he rejects discipline he is on a path that leads to self-loathing. To reject discipline is to invest in one’s own judgment, not a good idea. He is headed toward the awful fate of the young man in Proverbs 5:1-14, who had come to the point of ruin because he rejected correction. The goal of obedience is to do exactly what is directed, right away, with a pleasant, willing attitude. Anything less is self-accommodation on the part of both the parent and the child and is leading the child to despise himself! So what appears to be a harmless exchange of little consequence is really the beginning of a child learning to not trust God and despise himself. Solomon is not mincing words in Proverbs 15. He is making an urgent plea to remember this warning the next time your child refuses to obey exactly, quickly and with a pleasant, willing spirit. Jay Younts is the author of Everyday Talk: Talking freely and Naturally about God with Your Children and Everyday Talk about Sex & Marriage. He blogs at ShepherdPress.com, where this article (reprinted with permission) first appeared....

News

Twice a Sunday needs to happen!

With the battle raging, we may not neglect coming together “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” – Hebrews 10:24-25 **** Churches face many challenges, and some are more significant than COVID’s potential impact on our physical health. There is a spiritual battle going on and the devil has no qualms with using any and all means available to try and deceive and attack the Body of Christ. And he can even use COVID. The devil has, long ago, learned that the Church can actually grow via the spilt blood of martyrs. So, rather than stir up passions via persecution, he will sometimes try the very opposite tactic, lulling the church into complacency and apathy. Beyond temporary During the initial uncertainty of COVID, many churches were mandated by the government to stop gathering together. After a few weeks, permissions were granted to have maybe five or six people in the building, and that made it possible for congregations to watch their pastors lead a service via livestream. Other congregations were encouraged to watch other church services online. Then, as restrictions were loosened, a group of fifty, or groups of fifty in different cohorts, could gather in the building for worship – some had restrictions on singing, others could sing with full voice! While these temporary restrictions to formal gatherings for worship might have been an acceptable measure while COVID was novel, now, months into it, we must ask, how long we can practice these temporary measures? Is it time to start making plans for the longer-term so that we can ably equip the saints for the battles we must wage? Worship services are essential One of the greatest training grounds for preparing saints for spiritual warfare is the formal worship services held on a weekly basis. In the Church Order of many continental Reformed churches we express the importance of formal worship services: “The consistory shall call the congregation together for worship twice on the LORD’s Day. The consistory shall ensure that, as a rule, once every Sunday the doctrine of God’s Word as summarized in the Heidelberg Catechism is proclaimed” (Church Order of the Canadian Reformed Churches, Article 52). The reason why at least one service focuses on the doctrine of God’s Word as summarized in the Heidelberg Catechism is to ensure that the congregation knows core doctrines well. Such knowledge equips the saints for the battles raging. In Canada, many of our church members were managing to worship in their buildings with about half the congregation once per Sunday. While this is better than not meeting, it does not meet the normative standard set out by the Church Order, to meet twice per Sunday. Worship with the communion of saints is special. Church attendance promotes fellowship and encouragement (cf. Act. 2:42; Heb. 10:24, 25). As the Psalmist says, “we used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng” (Psalm 55:14). The Holy Spirit works through the preaching of the Word (1 Cor. 2:4, 13; 1 Thess. 1:5) for the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). This weapon of offense, this Word, is powerful. Hebrews 4:12 teaches us that the “word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword…” The Word, accompanied by the power of the Spirit, is effective for changing lives. The preaching of that word is crucial for the saints, as they seek to maintain their engagement with each other and with the world around them. Formal worship services are centred around the preaching of the Word. But of course, formal worship is more than just a listening exercise; indeed, if that is all we needed to consider, then virtual worship would be virtually the same as corporate worship. We can hear great speeches, sermons, and elucidations on God’s Word anytime online. But Christians are not just concerned about an academic learning, but about developing and nurturing both their vertical relationship with God (the greatest commandment), and also the horizontal relationships (the second commandment to love one another). A worship service includes hearing the promises of God’s blessing, singing praises to God with the saints, active listening to the living preaching of God’s Word to a specific congregation of the Lord, etc. A worship service truly addresses both aspects of our walk of faith in a congregationally specific manner Where there is a will, there is a way It is time to refocus our efforts to worshipping together twice per Sunday. The principled position articulated in the Church Order needs to be reignited before apathy sets in, if it hasn’t already. It is apathy that the devil uses to infiltrate a laziness in the church. He sows the seeds of doubt through apathy when we start to wonder: do we really need to go to church twice? Why can’t we just stay home this morning? I think we’ll take a nap this afternoon and catch the service via livestream, etc. We must not let the devil get a foothold in the churches of Christ. We need to get back to corporate worship again! If we take the threat of the devil seriously, we will do all that we can to combat his attacks by any biblical means available. Practically speaking, this means that the consistory could call each half of the congregation to worship twice per Sunday. Yes, that means four services in the building. Some churches would need to have the elders lead one or two of the services per Sunday. It might be wise to have the same half meet together consistently for a period of time. This would allow that half of the congregation to get to know each other better and to increasingly function as a body of believers, encouraging each other to love and good works. However it happens, the normative practice of gathering in worship twice on Sunday needs to be restored as soon as possible. People have started feeling guilty coming to church twice because the one time was not technically their turn. Others have stopped feeling guilty altogether when they choose to skip going to church, or even skip watching the service online. Because we love the Lord and His saints, we need to reinstate the call to worship twice every Lord’s Day. In so doing, the Holy Spirit will continue to work mightily in the lives of God’s people so that we are increasingly equipped to fight the good fight of faith and to live according to God’s commands to love him with our heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbour as ourself. Since originally writing this article, further worship restrictions have been implemented in many regions. Brothers and sisters, let us do all that we can to gather together as often and willingly as possible. Formal worship is essential to the life of the local congregation – let us ensure we do what we can to keep the congregation alive and active before it may need to go on life support....

Documentary, Movie Reviews

The Reckoning: remembering the Dutch Resistance

Documentary 96 min / 2006 Rating: 7/10 My grandfather never talked about the war but I knew he had been involved in the Dutch Resistance. I was proud of him then, but I didn’t properly appreciate his courage. As a child I thought his involvement in the Resistance was a brave, but almost unremarkable thing. After all, most of my friends’ grandparents had also done their part. To me it seemed as if everyone back then had joined. I was sure that, had I been there, I would have joined as well. But now I understand things better. Though many from our small Reformed community got involved, what they did was rare and exceptional. As the narrator of The Reckoning notes, “Hundreds acted. Millions did not.” The Reckoning is a tribute to the courage of these special few, and delves deeply into the ordinary details around their courageous activities. Director John Evans uses a host of 1940s photography, interviews with surviving Resistance members and archival footage to bring viewers right into the dilemma these men and women faced. We should never make the mistake of thinking them fearless – one gentleman recounts how he had to change his shorts after one run in with the Nazis. And yet deciding to act seemed a simple decision for many. God gave them an understanding of right and wrong, and the conviction to act on it. A principal figure in the film, John Muller, described how quickly and suddenly he got involved: “My brother-in-law called me and said, ‘I want to talk to you… I decided you were material for the underground.’ I said ‘No!’ And then I thought it over and said, ‘Okay I will do it. I will do it. I will do something for my country.’ I said, ‘What do you want me to do?’” It was a simple decision for him, but millions more declined. Viewers can’t help but wonder, “Would I have been among the few?” CAUTION While this is an important film that I hope many will see, it does contain some graphic war footage, and film of some of the concentration camps including footage of skeletal bodies piled one on another. So this is not appropriate for small children. CONCLUSION I would highly recommend this film to any who come from a Dutch background. This is a tribute to our grandparents, and we should know their story, so we can seek to be like them. They loved the Lord, and acted as He directed, even when they were left confused and wondering why God would allow such evil. Their faith was tested, but God kept them close. You can watch the trailer below, and rent and stream it from Vision Video here or here at Amazon.com. ...

Adult fiction, Book Reviews

Flags out front

A Contrarian's Daydream by Douglas Wilson 196 pages / 2017 In Flags out Front, Douglas Wilson has crafted something that is as inspirational as it is fictional. What if a Christian public figure took a stand on principle and, no matter what pressure came, just would not back down? What might happen if, instead of wilting under that pressure, or trying to avoid it, a Christian leader embraced it, and fought back fearlessly? In Flags out Front we get to find out. Tim Collins is a "mild-mannered president of a dwindling southern" Bible college who never meant to cause a fuss. But he arrives on campus one day to find a prankster has swapped a couple of the flags at the campus entrance. Now instead of the American flag flying above all, there is the Christian flag waving from on high, with the Stars and Stripes just below. Collins doesn't know quite what to think. But, upon reflection, he concludes the change is a good one and leaves it. Then the phone calls start coming. He gets calls from conservative, patriotic sorts, wondering why the American flag is not in its central place. He hears from the other side too, from those who'd be happy enough to burn the flag, but don't want to see it waving below a Christian flag. Protests to the right, threats from the left, and Collins quietly stand his ground. He's willing to do it, even if it means standing alone...but alone is one thing he's not going to be. Quiet, meek, Dr. Collins, becomes the rallying point for Christians of all sorts...including some clever college students who know how to make some noise. This is how it should be, and, maybe could be – who knows what God would do with a fearless few? Actually, we already know: it wasn't so long ago that we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the firestorm God started with one monk and his mallet. Flags out Front is a funny, clever, comedic, feel-good novel that most anyone would enjoy, particularly if you want to be inspired as to how Christians can do politics differently. I've foisted this off on a number of friends and family (and read about half of it out loud to my wife) and the response has been enthusiastic all around....

News

Saturday Selections - Nov 7, 2020

What cobras can teach us about incentives Prov. 27:14  teaches that good intentions are not enough. And yet many a government policy is implemented, not because it has been shown to be effective – not because of evidence – but simply because the policy's drafters mean well. But, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with such good intentions. Operation Manna - a story for Remembrance Day In the winter of 1944-1945, the northern Netherlands were facing starvation. And they were still occupied by the Nazis so the Allies couldn't reach them with relief supplies. In episode of the History.icu podcast we get to hear how "manna" of a sort was delivered from the skies. "Born this way" is old science During her US Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Amy Coney Barrett used the term "sexual preference" instead of "sexual orientation" and in what seemed a response (it happened the very next day) Merriam Webster changed their definition for that term to now describe it as an offensive term. Why the fuss? Well, as Senator Mazie Hirono declared at the confirmation hearing, “Sexual preference is an offensive and outdated term…used by anti-LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice—it is not.” Except that newer science says preference is probably the better word choice after all. How an affair really begins "One of the great misconceptions about affairs is that they begin with sex. Affairs do not begin with sex.... Instead, it is a culminating decision in a long list of terrible, self-centered decisions." A sensible and compassionate anti-COVID strategy What's most striking about this article is its calm tone. But calm doesn't mean insignifigant, as it highlight the importance of correcting a lockdown strategy that the UN estimates might lead to 130 million more deaths by starvation this year. Biblical vs. Christian counseling: What’s the difference? (3 minutes) Dr. Heath Lambert provides a brief, general overview of the difference between Biblical counseling and Christian counseling. ...

Book excerpts, Book Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution

Giraffe: nature’s gentle giants

This is Chapter 7 from Dr. Jerry Bergman’s new book Wonderful and Bizarre Life Forms in Creation which you can order at Creation Science Association of Alberta. ***** Giraffes, the tallest living terrestrial animals on earth, are often called nature’s gentle giants due to their nonaggressive persona. Their most well-known trait is their long neck, longer than that of any living animal. Their 6-foot (1.8-meter) neck weighs about 600 pounds, more than the entire body of most animals. Their total height often reaches 20 feet and their weight 4,250 pounds. They are enormous animals. Their legs alone are taller than many humans, about 6 feet. They can run as fast as 35 miles per hour (mph) over short distances, or trot at 10 mph for longer distances. Giraffes are favorite animals in many cultures, both ancient and modern, and are often featured in books, paintings, and even cartoons. This is not only due to its long neck but also to its very distinctive coat patterns. It looks like the paint called “crackled” that shrinks as it dries, leaving distinct patterns of cracks spread throughout the animal’s body. For most young people, the giraffe is one of the most intriguing and exotic of all animals. It is so unusual, and in such contrast to other animals, that many people typically are more interested in it than many other fascinating creatures. In fact, the word “giraffe” is derived from the Arabic zerafa, a poetic variant of zarafa, meaning “lovely one” or “charming.”1 As one author noted, viewing a giraffe is one of humankind’s greatest visual experiences.2 The giraffe’s intelligent design The giraffe’s entire body – both its anatomy and physiology – is tightly intertwined as a single functional unit.3 The giraffe is an excellent example of intelligent design that demonstrates special creation. Its neck alone is a wonder of enormously complex design that requires all necessary parts to be in their proper places before its neck structure is functional. As Charles Darwin said, it is a beautiful animal with “an admirably coordinated structure” of many parts in its neck. Of interest, in The Origin of Species Darwin did not mention the giraffe’s neck as an example of evolution until the sixth edition, and then only in response to a critical review of his book by creationist St. George Mivart.4 In this work, it is clear that Darwin never regarded the giraffe’s long neck as central evidence of natural selection like biology textbooks that discuss evolution often imply today. Another major problem with the standard textbook story is that Darwin accepted Lamarckianism later in his life. Lamarckian theory of acquired characteristics explained giraffe neck evolution by arguing that constant stretching slowly elongated their necks, and they then passed on their beneficial longer neck trait to their offspring.5 Darwin resorted to the idea that evolution occurs by use and disuse of body parts because he was unable to come up with a plausible theory that explained the origin of genetic variety that Natural Selection could select.6 Darwin knew that without a viable source of genetic variety, no evolution can occur and his theory was dead. To produce a 6-foot-long neck from a short-necked animal (like evolution requires) necessitates hundreds or thousands of simultaneous, or nearly simultaneous, mutations – a set of events that has a probability of zero. It cannot just become longer, but requires a very different design than the less-than-one-foot neck that is common in most mammals. The late Harvard professor Stephen Jay Gould said, “the long neck must be associated with modifications in nearly every part of the body – long legs to accentuate the effect, and a variety of supporting structures (bones, muscles, and ligaments) to hold up the neck.”7 The giraffe’s head and neck are held up by large powerful muscles strengthened by nuchal ligaments anchored by long dorsal spines on the anterior thoracic vertebrae. The giraffe’s neck vertebrae use an atlas-axis joint that allows the animal to tilt its head vertically and reach more branches with its tongue to obtain food. Giraffes require not only long necks to reach tall trees, but also long legs and even long faces and tongues (their tongues are over a foot long) to reach the high growing acacia leaves they favor. One major problem for Darwinists is how natural selection simultaneously altered necks, legs, tongues, prehensile lips, knee joints, muscles, and complex nervous system and blood-flow control systems to control the pressure necessary to pump blood from the heart up to the giraffe’s distant brain. The common explanation of the giraffe’s long neck is that it was not produced by gradual evolution but instead mistakes called mutations produced it.8 To eat grass or drink water, because they are the tallest animals in the world, giraffes must move their heads to a point seven feet below their heart and, when upright, to a point about eleven feet above it. When the giraffe puts its neck down to drink, one would expect blood to rush into its head. Then when he raised his head after drinking, the blood flowing away from its head should cause it to faint. But a system of ingeniously designed reservoirs and valves inside its arteries prevents this from occurring. Its strong heart beats 150 times per minute. A spongy tissue mass below the brain helps to regulate blood flowing to the brain to ensure that rapid pressure changes are blunted.9 When water is available, giraffes drink regularly from ponds and streams. But during a drought, they can survive very well without water for several weeks at a time because they can satisfactorily obtain their needs from plants.10 Giraffes are an Icon of Evolution One of the more common icons almost universally presented as proof of evolution is giraffe evolution. It is used in high school and college biology, anthropology, and evolution texts. Science “has made giraffes the very symbol of evolutionary progress.”11 So important was this icon that Francis Hitching titled his critique of Darwinism “The Neck of the Giraffe” (1983). A survey of all major high school biology textbooks found “every single one – no exceptions – begins its chapter on evolution by first discussing Lamarck’s theory of the inheritance of acquired characters,” then presenting Darwin’s theory of natural selection as the correct alternative to Lamarck’s theory.12 As a result, the “classic textbook illustration of our preferences for Darwinian evolution... an entrenched and ubiquitous example based on an assumed weight of historical tradition that simply does not exist.”13 Thus, this example teaches evolution by use of “a false theory,” and thus is a false icon.14 A typical explanation for the evolution of the giraffe’s long neck is that some giraffes, purely by chance, were born with fortuitously slightly longer necks, and that this conferred upon them a selective advantage enabling them to reach higher branches in times of famine and drought, which greatly improved their chances of surviving and leaving offspring similarly endowed with longer necks. Such a process repeated over many generations would inevitably lead to the long neck of the modern giraffe.15 The giraffe’s neck is used to illustrate how natural selection gives more variety within a population. In any group of giraffes, there always exists variation in neck length, as is true of any trait. Consequently, the theory postulates when their food supply is adequate, the animals do quite well, but when food is inadequate, giraffes with longer necks have an advantage. They can feed off the higher branches. If this feeding advantage permits longer-necked giraffes to survive and reproduce even slightly more effectively than shorter-necked ones, the trait will be favored by natural selection. The giraffes with longer necks will be more likely to transmit their genetic material to future generations than will giraffes with shorter necks.16 The problem with this theory is that it is not just a matter of stretching the neck. Rather, giraffes require an entirely new design. WHAT IS LAMARCKIANISM? Larmarckism or Larmarckianism is a theory of evolution named after Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. He believed that characteristics that an animal organism acquired during its lifetime could be passed on to its offspring. It’s the idea that if a man started working out and getting huge muscles, his offspring would have bigger than normal muscles too, even without working out. It is also the idea that if a giraffe managed to stretch out its neck by reaching for those leaves on those tallest branches, its offspring would be born with longer necks. Long neck essential for its lifestyle The giraffes’ long necks are critical in allowing these long-legged animals to rise from a lying position. They use their neck to shift their weight, allowing them to stand on their long legs. It is also critical in climbing and running, which involve snake-like, slithery movements that propels their entire body forward. The long, thin giraffe neck provides a great deal of surface area, which is also important for effective body cooling. For this reason giraffes – in contrast to many other large mammals that live in warm temperate areas – can remain in the hot sun for long periods of time. Darwinists give reasons why giraffes evolved their long necks which include for mating, for defense, for thermoregulation, to facilitate their fast-forward travel (up to 30 mph), or for one of many other reasons, but it is a poor icon for their theory. They propose that the giraffes’ long necks evolved for all of these reasons – or none of them. As Gould concludes, “The giraffe’s neck cannot provide a proof for any adaptive scenario, Darwinian or otherwise.”17 The giraffe’s neck is far more useful as an example of the many problems with Darwinism. Common claims of giraffe neck evolution fail The typical textbook story is that giraffes evolved long necks to reach the leaves located “at the tops of acacia trees, thereby winning access to a steady source of food available to no other mammal.”18 Some question why the trees did not evolve to become taller to prevent the giraffes from consuming their leaves. Although now an icon for Lamarck’s mechanism of evolution, Lamarck presented no evidence for this interpretation but rather only “a few lines of speculation.”19 His reference to giraffes in his classic work consists of only one paragraph based on zero data.20 Lamarck also wrongly claimed that the animal’s forelegs evolved to become longer than its hind legs, indicating that Lamarck was not familiar with the literature on this animal.21 Why giraffes are used to support Darwinism A major reason that the giraffe example is used to support evolution is because it is an easy illustration of Darwinism by artwork or photographs.22 Virtually all textbooks picture giraffes eating from acacia trees, incorrectly implying that its leaves are the main staple of their diet. So “appealing is this hypothesis that students of giraffe behavior and evolutionary biologists alike accept it.”23 Although the tall acacia tree leaves may be a preferred food source, giraffes will graze on many other tree and bush types. Plentiful foliage exists at the lower-levels of the tree, and giraffes also commonly consume grass and low bushes and many kinds of ground-growing plants.24 Female giraffes are, on average, about a meter shorter in height than males – and they survive quite well. If leaves at higher levels are a large unexploited niche, then why have not many other animals, such as antelopes, also evolved the same long neck as giraffes have?25 One could argue that giraffes with shorter necks could thrive better because most of the foliage in the part of Africa where they live is near the ground, and it would be a decided survival advantage to be closer to the more plentiful ground vegetation compared to the comparatively rarer acacia tree leaves.26 All young giraffes feed on grass and bushes until their neck has grown long enough to reach the trees, usually at 3 to 4 years of age. The females spend over half their time feeding with their necks horizontal, indicating that their neck’s length may actually be a handicap. The giraffe diet is extremely varied. Generally, they are browsers, feeding by plucking leaves with their 17-inch tongue. Or they will grab a tree branch, put it into their mouth, and pull off leaves by twisting their heads. The over 100 plant species in the giraffe’s diet include flowers, vines, herbs, along with an occasional weaver-bird nest. If there are chicks in the nest, the giraffe eats them too, gaining some extra minerals from their bones. Giraffes also get minerals by gnawing on the bones of animals killed and left by hyenas and other predators.27 Other problems with the Darwinist textbook story One common theory is that the long neck evolved to aid in mating. The chief adaptive reason for evolving long necks could be sexual success “with a much-vaunted browsing of leaves as a distinctly secondary consequence.”28 The longer neck enables males to perform their ritual dominant battles called “necking.”29 The intrasexual competition theory assumes that “necking” behavior evolved first, then the neck length evolved due to sexual selection. Other evolutionists suggest that giraffes’ long necks evolved to function as look-out towers to spot potential predators. This, coupled with giraffe’s excellent vision, enables them to spot a lion as much as a mile away. The problem with this theory is giraffe’s have virtually no enemies – lions are the only wild animal that usually attacks them, but only when desperate.30 A lion is little match for a 2,000 to 4,000-pound giraffe. A giraffe hoof can kill a lion with a single blow. The giraffes’ best defense is not their necks, but it is their long legs and heavy hooves that are deadly to enemies. They defend themselves primarily by kicking. This theory may explain their long legs, but not why they evolved long necks. The legs could have evolved first to allow them to run from carnivores, then the neck grew so that the giraffe could stretch down to eat grass and drink water. The problem with this scenario is long legs do not always give the giraffe an advantage to outrun predators. Many of the fastest animals have legs far shorter than a modern giraffe’s. Fossil evidence for giraffe evolution lacking Much controversy exists about giraffe evolution, partly because no empirical evidence of giraffe evolution exists. Without any evidentiary constraints, scientists are free to speculate. As a result, they have tried to link giraffes to a variety of often very dissimilar animals.31 About a dozen giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) types are recognized. They are plentiful in the fossil record, and their bones have not changed much, if at all, in shape or size since giraffes first appeared in the record. The extant fossil record evidence leads to the conclusion that giraffes have been unchanged, by evolutionary reckoning, for about two million years.32 Furthermore, the fossil evidence that does exist “provides no insight into how the long-necked modern species arose.”33 Except that they are greatly elongated, the seven giraffe cervical vertebrae and leg bones are about the same number and are very similar to those of virtually all mammals.34 If giraffe neck and leg elongation occurred in evolution, then this should be obvious in the fossil bones. Yet no fossils supporting their neck evolution have ever been discovered. Savage and Long conclude that the origin of all three of the mainpecorans (giraffes, deer, and cattle) lineages “remains obscure” due to the total absence of relevant fossil evidence.35 Although some estimate that there exist approximately 50 extinct giraffe species, all are known from fossils extending back to the Miocene, estimated by evolutionists to be 17 million years ago. In spite of considerable effort, none of these show evidence for giraffe evolution. After unearthing millions of fossil bones, paleontologists have not located evidence for giraffe neck elongation, or any transitional stages. As Danowitz documents “the giraffe neck has been adequately researched” which has confirmed that “osteological demonstration of the fossils and evolutionary transformation of the neck is lacking.”36 Summary In conclusion, we agree with Gould that the standard giraffe evolution story “in fact, is both fatuous and unsupported,” and the existence “of maximal mammalian height for browsing acacia leaves does not prove that the neck evolved for such a function.”37 Gould’s major concern about this case is, “If we choose a weak and foolish speculation as a primary textbook illustration (falsely assuming that the tale possesses a weight of history and a sanction in evidence), then we are in for trouble – as critics properly nail the particular weakness, and then assume that the whole theory must be in danger if supporters choose such a fatuous case as a primary illustration.”38 We critics have nailed, not only this major weakness in Darwinism, but also its many other weaknesses and outright incorrect conclusions. This is Chapter 7 from Dr. Jerry Bergman’s “Wonderful and Bizarre Life Forms in Creation” Each of the 23 chapters examines a different animal or creature, so if you liked this, you can order the book at the Creation Science Association of Alberta. References 1 Allin, M. 1998. Zarafa: A Giraffe’s True Story, From Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris. New York: Walker and Company, p. 5. 2 Burton, M. and R. Burton. 1969. Giraffe. The International Wildlife Encyclopedia, Volume 7. NY: Marshall Cavendish, p. 885. 3 Davis, P. and D. Kenyon. 1993. Of Pandas and People; The Central Question of Biological Origins. Dallas, TX: Haughton; Brantley, G. 1994. A Living Skyscraper. Discovery. 5: 26. April. 4 Spinage, C.A. 1968. The Book of the Giraffe. London: Collins. 5 See J. B. Lamarck’s English translation. 1914. Zoological Philosophy. Translated by Hugh Elliot. London, England: Macmillan, p. 122. 6 Gould, S. J. 1998. Leonardo’s Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms: Essays on Natural History. NY: Harmony Books, p. 312. 7 Gould, ref. 6, p. 309. 8 Sherr, L. 1997. Tall Blondes, A Book About Giraffes. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel, p. 40. 9 Hofland, L. 1996. Giraffes; animals that stand out in a crowd. Creation. 8 (4): 11-13.; Davis, P. and D. Kenyon, 1993. Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins. Dallas, TX: Haughton Pub. Co. 10 Peterson, D. 2013. Giraffe Reflections. Berkeley, CA: University of California; Dagg, A. 2014. Giraffe: Biology, Behaviour and Conservation. NY: Cambridge University Press. 11 Sherr, ref. 8, p. 40. 12 Gould, ref. 6, p. 302. 13 Gould, ref. 6, p. 302. 14 Gould, S. J. 1991. Bully for Brontosaurus. NY: Norton, p. 166. 15 Denton, M. 1986. Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Bethesda, MD. Adler and Adler, pp. 42-43. Emphasis added. 16 Kottak, C. P. 2000. Anthropology: Exploration of Human Diversity. NY: McGraw-Hill, p. 166. 17 Gould, ref. 6, p. 317. Emphasis added. 18 Gould, ref. 6, p. 303. 19 Gould, ref. 14, p. 166. 20 Sherr, ref. 8, p. 41. 21 Gould, ref. 6, p. 306. 22 Hoagland, M., B. Dodson, J. Hauck. 2001. Exploring the Way Life Works: The Science of Biology. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett. 23 Simmons, R. E. and L. Scheepers. 1996. Winning by a neck: sexual selection in the evolution of giraffe. The American Naturalist. 148(5):771-786. p. 771. 24 Burton and Burton, ref. 2. 25 Gould, ref. 6. 26 Spinage, ref. 4. 27 Allen, T. 1997. Animals of Africa. Washington DC: Levin, p. 86. 28 Gould, ref. 6, pp. 317-318. 29 Sherr, ref. 8, p. 42. 30 Simmons and Scheepers, ref. 23. 31 Dagg, A. I. and J. Bristol Foster. 1976. The Giraffe: Its Biology, Behavior and Ecology. NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold. 32 Sherr, ref. 8, p. 42. 33 Gould, ref. 6, p. 315. 34 Gould, ref. 6, p. 309. 35 Savage, R. G. and M. R. Long. 1986. Mammal evolution. NY: Natural History Museum, p. 228. 36 Danowitz, M. et al. 2015. Fossil evidence and stages of elongation of the Giraffa camelopardalis neck. Royal Society Open Science 2: 150393. See also Danowitz, M., R. Domalski, N. Solounias. 2015. The cervical anatomy of Samotherium, an intermediate-necked giraffid. Royal Society Open Science. 2: 150521. 37 Gould, ref. 6, p. 318. 38 Gould, ref. 6, p. 314....

Drama, Movie Reviews

Desperate Journey

Black and White / War / Drama 107 minutes / 1942 RATING: 7/10 Ronald Reagan and Errol Flynn are two members of an Allied bombing crew assigned a near-impossible mission over Nazi Germany. When their plane is shot down, they set out to make it home again....and to do as much damage to the Nazis as they can along the way. Their desperate journey has plenty of explosions, fisticuffs, arial shootouts, guns blazing, and, at one point, Errol Flynn diving through a window to tackle two Nazi guards at once. There are laughs too, especially when the crew has the chutzpah to steal a ride on Nazi leader Hermann Göring's private train car. Desperate Journey is jingoistic, and at times not so realistic (ie. the real Nazis were smarter than movie Nazis) but it has an authenticity to it that comes of being made during World War II. This film was part of the war effort, made to encourage those back home that not only were we in the right, but that Australians, Brits, Americans and more could come together as a team to outsmart and beat back the Nazis. CAUTION As the crew is chased across Germany it isn't surprising that there are casualties along the way. And while there is no real gore, those losses make this a film that children could find too dramatic and emotional for them to deal with. So this might be best for 12 and up. CONCLUSION I watched this with a group ranging in age from 40 to just shy of 80, and all eight of us enjoyed it. If you have any sort of appreciation for World War II films made during World War II, this is one of the especially fun ones. Only downside? It only seems to be available on DVD right now, with no streaming options. ...

News

Dutch mayor threatens church’s rented space over “conversion therapy”

Many churches around the world rent a space for their weekly worship services. But are rented spaces going to become a new front in persecution of Christians? A disturbing recent event in the Netherlands suggests this is where we are heading. In September, the Mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, proposed having a “serious conversation” with the landlord of the local Hillsong Church congregation based on unsubstantiated claims that the church engaged in “gay conversion therapy.” Mayor Halsema had not discussed the issue with the church’s leadership directly and she also did not initially indicate any interest in doing so. Gay conversion therapy is currently not illegal in the Netherlands. Thus, Mayor Halsema was proposing using her office to strip a church of its rented building for something that – if they did it – would be entirely legal. Hillsong Church, which originated in Australia, is best known for holding rock-concert style services and for attracting celebrity members like Justin Bieber. Within the Christian world, Hillsong’s theology is not regarded as particularly orthodox. However, it appears that any association with Christianity is grounds for suspicion. The Mayor’s comments came during a city council meeting September 17 to discuss recent incidents of violence against LGBTQ residents of Amsterdam. The role of churches in promoting the “inequality” of gays came up in the course of the meeting. Mayor Halsema said: “If there are any signs that churches are preaching or offering gay healing, we get in touch to let them know that we don't like it. We state that we have no powers, but that does not prevent us from having a serious conversation, for example with the landlord of Hillsong.” Hillsong Church NL rents its worship space from a large theatre. The theatre is also currently hosting a musical called Anne about the life of Anne Frank, the Jewish girl who kept a diary of her life in hiding from the Nazis and subsequently died in the Holocaust. Mayor Halsema stated in the council meeting that it would be a “tragic irony” if the same stage where Anne is performed was also used to promote intolerance. Mayor Halsema’s comments sparked a backlash though, unfortunately, most of it was focused on the fact that Hillsong does not engage in gay conversion therapy. That is not really the point; Mayor Halsema’s tactics should be the primary concern. Hillsong Church NL’s leadership sent an open letter to the Mayor which did note “This is an attack on freedom of religion and freedom of speech” but most of the letter was devoted to refuting the allegation: “We are troubled that this false accusation has been disseminated by various media outlets and that the good name of our church, our leadership and the thousands of members of our congregation has been maligned” In response to the outcry, Mayor Halsema finally had a phone call with Hillsong Church NL’s leadership. They reassured her that they do not engage in gay conversion therapy. However, she did not apologize for her initial comments. Moreover, she says that during the phone call “we agreed the church would enter into dialogue with representatives of the rainbow community to remove any possible concern in this area.” In other words, even though Hillsong has done nothing wrong, they need to make atonement. She also wrote, “The city council has put representatives of the rainbow community in touch with the landlord.” Thus, the threat of losing their weekly worship space has not fully passed. Hillsong Church NL is a large congregation with significant resources. They were able to rally popular support to stand up to Mayor Halsema. But how would smaller, less famous congregations fare if they were the ones to be targeted? That question should be deeply troubling to all churches, particularly those that rent a building....

News

Calvin U's student president is openly gay

For over 100 years, Reformed Christian parents have scrimped and saved for their children to study at Calvin College (now Calvin University), praying that these students' post secondary learning would happen in an environment with Christian teachers and classmates. Many students, of course, paid their own way, including my own Uncle John VanHemert, who left Holland Marsh in Ontario to study for the ministry at this Christian Reformed (CRC) institution back in the 1960s. But much has changed at Calvin. In October, Claire Murashima announced, via an op-ed in the Calvin Chimes student newspaper, that she is the school's first openly gay student body president. "It's beyond time that the LGBTQ community is represented in the highest student leadership position at Calvin," wrote Murashima. She went on to suggest that, "Calvin's hetero-normative and relationship-focused culture can leave us feeling excluded… Not seeing anyone who loves like us makes us feel like we don't fully belong at Calvin." Miss Murashima's words are not aligned with the university's official policy. Calvin University has adopted a stance on homosexuality which states that while homosexual attraction is not in itself sinful, sexual relations have "their proper place in a marriage relationship between a man and a woman." The Bible clearly calls homosexuality sin, in both the Old and New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul identifies homosexuals along with fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, revilers and extortioners as those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God. In the letter of Jude verse 7, the writer reminds us that, "Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire." It’s worth asking then, why we would call anyone a "gay Christian"? To do so is to identify them with an adjective that describes their sinful condition. All Christians are sinful, and each of us is subject to different temptations to sin but we wouldn’t call someone a “murdering Christian,” or a “thieving Christian,” or a “fornicating Christian,” would we? In earlier generations, Calvin College took a leading role in advocating for evolution (remember Dr. Howard Van Till?) and for women in office. That infamous pedigree was referenced in the comment section for Miss Murashima’s article. One reader wrote, "Thank you Claire for your courage and leadership! It gives me hope that your example will help change the CRC official position on homosexuality. When I was at Calvin, we fought for women in leadership - which was just as heated, biblically justified, and now seems ridiculous. Hoping that Calvin and the CRC will stop being judgmental gatekeepers and instead embrace all people with open arms." How very sad it is that an institution like Calvin University, closely identified with a Reformed theologian and a Reformed church federation, has become a place of danger for Christian students....

News

Saturday Selections - October 31, 2020

Robot hummingbird spies on half-billion butterflies (3 min) How do you get the inside scoop on 500 million wintering Monarch Butterflies? Send in a very small spy. How to have more fun with your kids: 10 suggestions There'll be something in this list that any parent will enjoy doing with their kids. Making progress: Intelligent Design paper passes peer review  Mainstream science has rejected, for decades, that God's creation gives evidence of having been designed. This rejection was not due to any lack of evidence, but due instead to Science's a priori commitment to materialism, the belief that matter is all there is and that, therefore, a non-material Creator must not be. However, Materialism can't be proven, and is actually disproven any time scientists use the non-material rules of logic to drawn their conclusions. So it is a step forward that now – finally – an Intelligent Design paper has made it past peer review and been published in a major journal. Poll: 30% of US women under 25 now identifying as other than heterosexual? Any shocking poll should be taken with a grain of salt. And yet this is far from unbelievable. Do not repay racism with racism "God doesn’t instruct us to repay evil for evil or racism for racism. God doesn’t instruct black people to assume the worst of white people because some white people assume the worst of black people...." Why Atheism can't account for morality (5 minutes) Jeff Durbin breaks down the 3 explanations atheism gives for morality. Generally speaking they are: 1) preference 2) societal convention 3) the desire to survive and flourish ...

Assorted

Improving the elders' home visits

It is October and as “home visit season” ramps up, my thoughts turn to how home visits are being conducted and whether our methods serve well to accomplish the purpose of the visit. I believe that elders visiting members in their homes is biblically based and has for long stretches of church history been implemented to the good of the church. However, are they today as effective as they could be? In Reformed churches of Dutch descent we have our customs in the way such visits are conducted, but are these truly “best practices”? A typical home visit What exactly are our customs? Well, in my own denomination, the Canadian and American Reformed Churches, most homes see the elders once per year in the annual home visit. Elders duly prepare themselves for this visit by studying a passage of Scripture and praying for the family. Many godly and sincere elders have thus entered numerous homes with every intent to build up and bless. And no doubt the Lord has used their efforts to bless his people (including me and my family) and yet I can’t help feeling that, despite the best of intentions, something is off kilter with our practice. A typical home visit goes something like this: two elders enter the home and are invited to sit with the family. Small talk follows for a few minutes. Then one elder clears his throat to “open” the home visit with prayer and Bible reading. An air of formality fills the room and the family falls quiet. The passage chosen could be out of the blue or, as is often the case, the Bible reading is connected to the “home visit theme” adopted by the consistory and perhaps preached on by the minister. That theme could be centred on one of the ten commandments, a petition of the Lord’s prayer, worship, Christian lifestyle, living membership in the church, or the like. The lead elder then begins to expound on this theme out of the Bible passage and starts directing questions to the children and parents about either the passage’s meaning or how it might apply to that person’s life. The bulk of the visit is spent conversing about this Bible passage (and/or chosen theme) and how the family works out this biblical teaching in practice. Toward the end of the visit the elders may or may not ask more general questions of the kids and parents, but time-wise the thrust of the visit is spent explaining and applying the teaching of a particular Bible passage to that household. While discussing a Bible passage can certainly be beneficial, I ask myself: is this the purpose of a home visit? For elders to enter and teach? To the family it can feel like they’re being tested on their knowledge on the Bible passage in question. When a theme is chosen, members and families are often asked to read the passage in advance and “prepare for the home visit.” Again I ask: is this the intention of a home visit? To have a mini Bible-study on a passage and ascertain how well parents and children understand and apply that particular passage (or theme) in their lives? And if a passage is “sprung” on the family and questions are asked of them, it can be a very intimidating experience for children and parents alike. It seems to me that we are missing something significant in this approach to home visits. The purpose of home visits As churches and as elders we have made a promise to make home visits. That promise, captured in Article 22 of our Church Order, summarizes the purpose of such visits as well: “The specific duties of the office of elder are... to faithfully visit the members of the congregation in their homes to comfort, instruct, and admonish them with the Word of God.” There are three verbs here: comfort, instruct, and admonish. From the above description it would seem that elders have the second verb in the forefront of their mind and so they come prepared to instruct. In itself this is commendable. Scripture tells us that elders should be “able to teach” and should indeed “be able to give instruction in sound doctrine” (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:9). And no doubt many families have learned and benefitted from what elders have taught. But should that teaching be “out of the blue” or with little understanding of the particular circumstances and needs of the family (or individual)? That’s where I think the way we conduct our home visits has gotten out of focus and become imbalanced. Elders enter the home focussed on conveying a scriptural message, intent on teaching and applying the doctrine of the passage they’ve been intensely studying on their own, without having first listened carefully to what’s going on in the home. While gentle admonitions and words of correction might come out of the teaching passage, almost forgotten by the elders on a home visit is the duty to “comfort.” That shows that something is out of whack. There’s been a largely one-way period of instruction on a pre-chosen topic instead of a careful application of God’s Word to the specific circumstances of the family. All of this, I’ve observed, often creates an unintended disconnect. After an hour dialogue with the family about the passage where the kids and adults could gamely answer questions and make comments, the elders come away with a favourable impression. In the car they comment to each other: “that went well, don’t you think?” But meanwhile, in the home, the kids feel as if they’ve been in school for an hour and the parents feel frustrated that the elders didn’t inquire more personally into each family member’s walk with the Lord. The elders may have a good feeling that the family is on a solid footing in the faith but the family feels like the elders hardly know them and don’t “get” them. Maybe the worst of it is that those visited fail to see how God’s Word speaks into the concrete reality of their day-to-day lives. We need to fix this. Listening      Here is where the art of listening and seeking to understand needs to find a fresh place in our thinking as elders. Though the Church Order does not mention the need to “listen,” it is clearly implied in the duty to “comfort, instruct, and admonish.” How can elders comfort a member or a family if they don’t first know what difficulty or misery they may be experiencing? Of course, every person as a sinner experiences the general misery of sin and its consequences, but almost always individuals or families are feeling the effects of sin in very particular ways. They have their own troubles and for the elders to bring comfort to that household they must first take the time to ask about and understand those troubles. It is the same with admonitions. To admonish is to gently give reproof or words of correction to someone who’s acting, thinking, or speaking in an unbiblical way. How can elders correct a member unless they know if, how, and where he is going astray? In a conversation on a single Bible passage or theme, a certain limited area needing correction may come out, but there is so much to life and so many possible areas needing correction that a wide-ranging conversation (more than one even!) is needed before meaningful admonition can be brought. If the Bible passage is too much in the spotlight of the annual home visit, much of the family’s personal views and practices may remain in the shadows, unseen by the elders. Elders need to bring those out of the shadows by asking good questions in order to get a clear picture of a person and/or a family. Of course, it’s not to be an interrogation like with police officers but it ought to be a caring inquiry like that of a concerned father, who truly wants to help his son to stay on or find his way back to the pathway of life. Teaching or instructing by elders in the home, too, is meant to come on the heels of listening. Certainly, members are instructed (and admonished and comforted) in a general way from the pulpit by the preaching of the Word. Although the Holy Spirit definitely applies the preaching to individual lives in personal (and often surprising!) ways, the minister can’t single out a particular family or individual and their needs from the pulpit. But elders can when they enter someone’s home. That’s one of the privileges elders have, to  bring God’s Word into the specific, individual lives of the members they visit. That means they must come to know these sheep very well, up close and personal, so they can skillfully apply God’s Word to the particular needs of the household. It seems to me that too often elders are replicating what the minster does from the pulpit: they enter the home and the first thing they do is give a mini “sermon” on a passage with some pointed questions to the family. That’s like prescribing a certain medicine for a person without knowing the extent of his ailment or his overall condition. Wouldn’t it be far better if elders first took time to listen to all that’s going on in the lives of the parents and children and then came with the instruction, encouragement, comfort, and admonition of God’s Word? Wouldn’t that be establishing a genuine pastoral connection between elders and members that would be profitable for members and under-shepherds alike, upbuilding for the church, and glorifying to the Lord? A revised approach To bring this about I would suggest two things. First, elders make it a point to get to know the individuals and families in their ward as soon as possible after they are appointed to office. One home visit per year is hardly sufficient to get acquainted beyond the surface of things. Elders normally come into office in the spring. Home visits start in the fall. Why not use the summer months to drop in for a more casual acquaintance visit? Consider hosting a social for those under your direct care. You might think: that’s a lot of extra work! Yes, it is. But it’s the Lord’s work and it’s good and beneficial. Besides, it doesn’t have to be a huge burden. Elders generally oversee a ward in pairs, so the two partners could divide the ward in halves with each taking responsibility to getting to know one half over the summer months. A casual visit to become acquainted plus regular chats in the church parking lot will do a lot to establish both a bond and a base level of understanding of the person/family. That will set up the home visit to be a time of deeper connection and thus more genuinely helpful for the household. The second thing I would suggest is that elders re-order the flow of a home visit and change the focus of the visit. Instead of the customary: prayer Bible reading instruction conversation/listening prayer …which focuses on teaching a pre-conceived lesson, why not try: prayer conversation/listening Bible reading instruction/application prayer …which focuses on understanding the family’s needs in order to aptly apply God’s Word to their situation. Remember that neither Scripture nor the confessions nor the Church Order prescribe the order or manner of home visits. It is left to us to apply the principle of God’s Word (i.e. shepherds caring for the sheep) to the situation. As far as I can see, it would be a great improvement to the effectiveness of home visits if elders began with a brief prayer for the Lord to bless the visit with openness, honesty, a willingness to share what’s in the heart along with a good understanding for the elders and the ability to bring God’s word beneficially for the family. Indeed this is something those visited should pray for in advance as well – the ability to be vulnerable with the elders and for the elders to give wise counsel from the Word of God. The next and larger part of the visit would be spent inquiring about the family’s daily life and their walk with the Lord, listening carefully to their struggles and joys, to what really lives in their hearts and home. Equipped with an understanding of where the person/family is really at, the elders could then open God’s Word to apply its teaching directly to their realities. The concluding prayer can then bring to the Lord the details of thanksgiving/praise and needs that were raised in the visit (drawing in also what came out of the Scripture passage). In this way the individual/family will experience that Christ’s appointed shepherds have understood them well, genuinely care for them, and are using God’s Word to help them grow closer to the Lord. In this way Scripture (and prayer) can more truly and fully be used to comfort, instruct, and admonish members for their good and the glory of God’s name. Too difficult?   At this point an elder might say: but I can’t think that fast on my feet! Every household is different. How am I supposed to have a Bible passage that I can quickly pull out that will speak to the particulars of a given family? I realize this may sound daunting but it’s not as bad as it seems. Even if an elder only prepared one text thoroughly in advance, he would be better able to apply it meaningfully to the people after hearing what lives in their home than if he read it before all of that was discussed. However, many elders already have the habit of selecting two or three passages to use at home visits throughout the season. They study them so they know them well enough to use as needed. This allows both variety and flexibility to use a certain passage in a home where they have an inkling it will better fit than another passage. Elders can simply build on this approach. Even if a home visit theme is selected by consistory (and I’m not sold on the idea that this is the best way to go), experienced elders know that they need to be flexible and that the theme just doesn’t work in some situations. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch if an elder would work in advance to be very familiar with five distinct passages, each with its own accent. One passage could highlight the comfort we have in Christ as forgiven sinners; another the ability that Christ works in us to lead holy lives and his calling to do so; another could be the glorious future the Lord is preparing for us; still another could be a reflection on the love, power, and grace of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit); a fifth could deal with our task as living members of the church. After listening and grasping the nature of a person’s (or family’s) situation, the elder could mentally select one of his five passages, read it, and go to work applying its message to them specifically. Elders should not feel intimidated by this, as if selecting a text to match the needs of the visit is beyond their capability. Not so. I have always found it amazing how so many Bible passages can be applied in a variety of circumstances and do good to God’s people. His word is living and powerful. It always has something to say to those who belong to him. When elders, prayerfully relying on the Spirit of Christ, seek to bring his Word to meet the needs of his people, they will be blessed in doing so. The voice of the Good Shepherd will be heard by the sheep and they will be fed and led by him to continue walking in his way. In this way the home visit may be revitalized and experienced by all as a blessing from the Lord. Rev. Peter Holtvlüwer is pastor of the Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church and editor of the 4-volume commentary "Christ's Psalms, our Psalms." This article first appeared in Clarion, Issue 16 (Vol. 69) under the title "Improving home visits" and is reprinted here with permission....

Pro-life - Abortion

Pro-lifers aren't helping people after they're born?

When it comes to the topic of abortion, I often hear the claim that pro-lifers aren't helping people after they're born. The idea/objection is that pro-lifers are hypocritical and thus shouldn’t speak out against abortion. Is this a good objection? I don’t think so, for two reasons. Reason 1: It isn't true First, is it true that pro-lifers aren’t helping people after they’re born? Well, maybe some aren't. But many are. Witness the proliferation of crisis pregnancy centers/ pregnancy care centers. According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, in the U.S. in 2017 there were 2752 such centers, providing much help to women and their children. Also, witness the fantastic response gotten from a newspaper editor who asked via Twitter (disparagingly and dismissively, expecting no good answers) what pro-life people have done personally to help lower-income single moms. It turns out this editor received 13,000 responses indicating that pro-life people in fact do a lot! Permit me to speak from personal experience. My wife Carla is deeply pro-life. But she is also humble and doesn't talk much about the good things she does. She sees such talk as morally inappropriate – as bragging. So I will brag on her behalf! When Carla and I were dating and during our first years of marriage, Carla worked in a group home caring for – helping – children who were severely handicapped physically and mentally. Later (while I was completing my PhD and beginning to teach philosophy courses) we lived for eleven years in a low-income, high crime neighborhood. During this time Carla (along with a couple of her friends) began a community center to help our needy neighbors. This community center was supported by one church initially, then two, then three, then seven—and more. Carla also tutored some of our neighbors' kids. She also taught single parents how to make inexpensive but nutritious meals (Carla even took the time to become certified by our local health department to do this). She also helped organize a weekly food distribution. She also helped a neighbor (a low-income single mom with five kids) learn to drive, obtain a driver's license, and find some part-time employment (subsequently Carla often loaned our car to this mom for grocery shopping). Carla also helped a young woman deal with her abusive husband. Carla also used her nurse training to help injured neighbors as well as neighbors with young children, including a home birth. Carla also was instrumental in having our family provide ongoing financial support for an orphanage in Bolivia begun by a young couple at our church. And there's much more, but space doesn't permit. (She also homeschooled our two sons during this time!) You get the picture: Pro-life people (like my wife) are against abortion and they often do lots of good stuff – which we tend not to hear about. Reason 2: Even if it was true, so what? Second, an important logical point should be made: Even if pro-lifers weren't (contrary to fact) helping people after they're born, this would not make the killing of unborn children morally correct or permissible. And it wouldn’t mean pro-lifers shouldn’t speak out against abortion. Pro-lifers hold the view that abortion is the killing of an innocent unborn child – and is wrong, period. Maybe the following parable from Scott Klusendorf will help: Joe found the young girl unconscious in her upstairs closet. By the time he got there, the structure was a raging inferno. No one else dared go inside. Scooping up the girl, he took his only exit, straight out the second-story window and into the bushes below. The girl lived. Joe sustained three cuts and two sprained ankles – and an avalanche of questions. The media wanted to know how he planned to pay for the girl’s food, clothing, and health care now that he’d rescued her. A pastor asked if time spent saving the girl from temporal flames might be better spent saving people from eternal ones. The social justice coordinator at a local parish insisted that if Joe truly cared about saving lives, he’d care about all life and spend equal time rescuing poor workers from rich corporations. The local Congressman asked if Joe supported tax hikes aimed at reducing fire risk. Joe just kept looking at the girl. The above story is contrived, but it’s played out in the real world every day. Only the issue is abortion. The minute you state your pro-life convictions, foes attack. Or think of it this way: I believe that killing kittens by suctioning off their legs (via a high-powered suction machine) is wrong, period. Objecting to my view because I don’t volunteer at my local animal shelter is beside the point. (Oh, by the way, our cat Rupert came from our local animal shelter.) The critics' objection is beside the point, too. Conclusion In conclusion, the objection that pro-lifers aren't helping people after they're born is often false and it’s not relevant to whether or not a pro-lifer should speak out against the killing of innocent human beings via abortion. Hopefully, pro-choicers are helping people after they're born, too, to provide a real choice, and thus not merely advocating for the right to kill unborn children. P.S. Permit me to brag about my wife once more. Carla donates blood regularly. At time of writing, she once again donated blood – for the 73rd time! Seventy-three blood donations. SEVENTY-THREE. Pro-lifers aren't helping people after they're born. Yeah, right. Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is a retired philosophy professor and author of "Untangling Popular Pro-Choice Arguments: Critical Thinking about Abortion," now available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca....

Sexuality

Christians and same-sex attraction

I am a Christian. I am still a sinner. We could add a whole host of other sentences to describe me, too, but these two would encapsulate the others, I think. For example, I am a Christian and sinful dad; I am a Christian and sinful husband; I am a Christian and sinful employee, etc. I am a Christian, by God’s grace; I am a sinner, in need of a Saviour. But if I have been redeemed, if I am Christ’s, why then does sin still cling to me? In the Heidelberg Catechism we confess we are “freed from the power of the devil” (Lord’s Day 13) and our old nature is dead and buried so that sin no longer reigns in us, (Lord’s Day 16). So why then am I still a sinner? Why do I still do the things that I do not want to do? There are two realities working in our lives at the same time (Lord’s Day 21): The reality that God, because of Christ’s satisfaction, will no more remember my sins nor my sinful nature against which I have to struggle all my life He will graciously grant me the righteousness of Christ that I may never come into condemnation This is true of all true Christians. We will struggle against our sinful nature all of our lives. There is no escaping it until we pass away. This, then, must also be true for those who struggle with same-sex attraction: being tempted to sin in this way belongs to our sinful nature and can be a lifelong struggle for many Christians. Mainstream Christianity’s poisonous response So if this struggle with sin has been a constant through all time, why is it now that the struggle with same-sex attraction has taken on a life of its own within Christendom? Isn’t it because it has taken on such a significant position in the world? Over the past 150 years, sexuality has become increasingly part of individual identity. So how is Christendom contending with this issue? How are we explaining to the world, God’s thoughts on our sexuality and our identity? As you might expect compromising churches are doing what compromising churches do. I will begin by outlining two of their responses. 1. Qchristian There are a number of so-called ministries teaching that Christians can fully embrace an LGBTQ lifestyle and remain faithful Christians. One such ministry is Qchristian, and in a confessional-type document they ask and answer a number of questions that give a summary of some of their main positions: Does God affirm LGBTQ+ identities and gender-expansive identities? Yes Does God affirm same-gender sexual relationships? Yes Who are members of our “Side A” community? LGBTQ+ Christians who affirm both LGBTQ+ identity and same-gender sex for various personal and/or theological reasons Who are members of our “Side B” community? LGBTQ+ Christians who affirm LGBTQ+ identity and who also are committed to refraining from same-gender sex for various personal and/or theological reasons. What is “Side X” or “Ex-Gay” theology? This is dangerous and disproven theology that alleges that LGBTQ+ identity can and/or should be changed by God. Q Christian counters this theology… These questions and answers help us understand some of the main issues at stake. The claims they make are quite outrageous. To begin, the insistence that God affirms any sexual identities other than male and female, is very difficult to align with Scripture. In fact, there is some evidence that in Christ the only real identifier we need to consider is that we belong to Him (Gal. 3:28). Either we are followers of Christ, or we are not. When we first learn about marriage, we are taught that a “man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). There is nothing in Scripture that changes this concept of marriage. Throughout Scripture, Israel is described as the Bride of God (Is. 54:5, Ez. 16:8-14, Jer. 31:32); the church as the Bride of Christ (John 3:29, 2 Cor. 1:2, Rev. 19:7-9). Male and female again and again. Familiar as we are with the ways Scriptures can be twisted, we can perhaps imagine how, through theological gymnastics, some would argue that God does not forbid same-sex physical relationships, which Matthew Vine does in his book God and the Gay Christian. But they are going even further here, insisting that God affirms these relationships, and it really is hard to fathom how, no matter how extensive the squinting or editing they might do to Scripture, they can find any examples of that. We are introduced here to the Side A and Side B groups that both affirm Christian sexual identity. Many orthodox Christians would not identify a Christian by his temptations, weaknesses, or sins but that is exactly what both Side A and Side BChristians do. The Side B Christians, however, would agree with us that the practice of same-sex physical relationships is forbidden by Scripture. Unfortunately, holding to the Side B position seems to lead to an eventual affirmation of Side A; at a conference in Chicago where these two sides were to meet together, Side A had over 1100 representatives while Side B only had about 46. Most of our readers would be considered “Side X” by the Qchristian community. Of course, our position is that temptation for same-sex physical relationships has similarities to the temptation for opposite-sex physical relationships. Single people who desire opposite-sex physical intimacy have the same calling to purity as those struggling with same-sex attraction. “God’s grace is sufficient” (2 Cor. 12:9) is not a band-aid solution to help our struggling brothers and sisters, but it is a promise from our faithful Father: despite our struggle, God’s grace is our sure confidence. So, even though we cannot be certain that sexual temptation and desires of any kind will be changed by God in this life, we can know that such sexual temptation does not define us. Our identity is not our sin; we belong to Christ!  2. Reformation Project Another organization is even more dangerous in its approach. Since Qchristian is “progressive” it may not have much direct impact or reach into conservative Christian churches. However, that cannot be said of the Reformation Project. This organization, led by Matthew Vines (mentioned earlier), seeks to reform evangelical, conservative churches. They suggest that their work is similar to the work of Luther and other Reformers. The irony is sharp. When one reads Vines’ book, quotations from John Calvin, C.S. Lewis, John Chrysostom, and others are sprinkled throughout. But Vines pulls threads through his book that do not tie together. As just one example, the chapter on celibacy is quite strong even as its application is quite wrong.  We would agree with Vines that celibacy is not commanded or even, generally, considered the better way, but we would vehemently disagree with him that such a conclusion opens the way for those struggling with same-sex attraction to participate in marriage. This approach to Scripture is very dangerous because it sounds so pious but is so blasphemous. The Reformation Project outlines a Brief Biblical Case for LGBTQ Inclusion. The 10 principles are examples of pious sounding dangerously blasphemous teaching. For the purposes of time and space I’ll share and respond only to the first of them. 1. Experience of sound Christian teaching should show good fruit, not bad fruit “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them” – Matt. 7:16-20. Further on into their site they then list the fruit they think results from opposition to same-sex intimacy: ….Condemnation of same-sex relationship have created crushing burden of shame on countless LGBTQ Christians’ lives, fostering alienation from God, the church, and family. According to a landmark 2009 study, when families reject their LGBTQ children, their children are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide, 5.9 times more likely to have high levels of depression, and 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs than LGBTQ children who have supportive families.                 A 2018 study found that while religiosity helped to protect against suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts among heterosexual youth, it was associated with significantly higher rates of suicidal thought and suicide attempts among gay, lesbian, and questioning youth. Suicide rates are highest among transgender people; 41% of transgender adults in the Unites States have attempted suicide in their lifetime, compared to only 1.6% of the overall population. Do we see the logic used? They quote Matt. 7:16-20, but it is when we add verse 15 that the irony becomes all the more clear: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Matthew Vines dresses in sheep’s clothing, imitating the bleating of sheep, but serves as a ravenous wolf. He wants to serve as a shepherd to Christians struggling with sexual identity, but true sheep know the voice of the Good Shepherd, and His voice is not being echoed by Vines. When we read the above description and statistics we can see how The Reformation Project determines good fruit and bad fruit – if we do not affirm the sexual identity and orientation of Christians in their struggles the fruit is bad, that is, greater rates of suicide and self-harm. If we do affirm them, the fruit is better with far fewer episodes of attempted suicide and self-harm. Of course, logically if we affirm any sin, the sinner may feel better about him/herself… but then they would never echo the words of King David in Psalms 32: “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” As long as the sinner does not acknowledge his sinfulness but rather delights in it, and has others delight in it, too, there will be no repentance. The Reformation Project perverts Scripture to permit LGBTQ lifestyles which God hates. It is so similar to the temptation of the devil in the Garden of Eden; Vines and his supporters are asking Christians, “Did God really say…” and suggesting that faithful churches have had it completely wrong from the beginning. The Reformation Project and QChristian are providing false compassion and comfort to brothers and sisters struggling with same-sex attraction. There has to be a better biblical way. A better way The church of Christ is filled with sinning saints. Every day each one of us needs the Holy Spirit’s powerful work of sanctification in our life because apart from the redeeming work of Christ and the powerful work of the Spirit, we would all be dead in our sins. This is true for those of us who are struggling with pornography, greed, covetousness, same-sex attraction, gambling, excessive drinking, or whatever it might be. At the same time, we recognize that society’s insistence on identifying us by our sexual desires has taken root and developed fruit in the secular world and that makes sexual sins and temptations all the more challenging. The powerful sexual urges that well up in a person as they are growing up will no doubt be of considerable struggle for those with same-sex attraction, as it is for others. Nevertheless, just as single Christians who experience opposite-sex attraction must remain pure and abide by the word of God, so also those who struggle with same-sex physical attraction must resist the temptation. Nevertheless, having no hope to fulfill those urges can remain a true and real disappointment and loss for those with same-sex attraction. Therefore, the church also needs to be gracious and compassionate with each other, as members of the Body of Christ. We need to be living out Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Christians have no stones to throw at others who are struggling to resist sin and temptations. We have no stones to throw at those who have fallen into temptation and repented from their sin. We need to help each other, trust each other, be vulnerable with each other, etc. We are so fearful of one another’s judgements that many of us do not “confess your sins to another and pray for one another…” (James 5:16). We do not trust others because of harmful ways that many in our churches speak about being gay, about homosexuality, and about gender dysphoria. We need to ensure that our criticism and critique of sinful lifestyles is seasoned with salt, garnered in grace. We can offer friendship to those struggling with same-sex attraction, offering to pray with them, visit with them, and letting them experience the blessing of belonging to the communion of saints despite their temptations. Christians struggling with same-sex attraction ought not to be identified as gay or homosexual but as a brothers and sisters in Christ. The command to love God and our neighbour are the two greatest commandments given to us by Christ. Let us strive to do this with humility and love to the benefit of all those who belong to our Lord, who are members are His Bride, the Church....

Adult fiction, Book Reviews

Redeeming love

by Francine Rivers 1997 / 464 pages They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and that was never more true than with Francine River’s novel Redeeming Love. When it first appeared on bookshelves it was marketed with a schmaltzy romance cover. Two Reformed ministers told me it was fantastic, but I couldn't get over the cover. I only got around to reading it a year or two later, after it came out with a much more subdued cover, one that I could walk around in public without all the other boys making fun of me. Schmaltzy Cover #1 kept me from reading it...until it showed up in subdued Cover #2 It was worth the wait. A powerful, poignant, even brilliant novel, it tells the story of Michael Hosea, a settler in the California of 1850. The story is inspired by the biblical book of Hosea, and the true power of the story is in how it forces the reader back to the Bible to reexamine a small prophetic book many have overlooked. You can’t help but study the book of Hosea after reading this novel. If you are well acquainted with Hosea you’ll understand why this novel comes with a “PG-13” rating. The prophet Hosea, after all, marries a prostitute, and Francine Rivers closely parallels those facts in her account. So some disturbing subject matter is dealt with that probably isn’t suitable for young teens. Now, I'm always leery of books that purport to be fictionalized retellings of biblical stories, and with good reason. I remember one novel about the apostle Paul that left readers with the impression that he and James actually disagreed as to the importance of works, which is entirely untrue. Francine Rivers also has a number of fictionalized biographies of biblical characters and because fact is mixed with fiction it is so very hard, after reading one of those stories, to remember just what the Bible really says. So, I don't thinking fictionalized Bible tales are a great idea. But because this is inspired by, rather than purporting to be, the book of Hosea, Redeeming Love is something else entirely. It would be hard to confuse this with the original source material. And yet, it is an insightful parallel of Hosea that might make this somewhat mystifying Bible book a little more understandable for some readers. Jon Dykstra and his siblings blog on books at www.ReallyGoodReads.com....

Animated, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Two Martin Luther animated shorts

If you're looking for some longer Martin Luther-related films, check out our "Martin at the movies" post on three films that are all currently available for free online. But for something shorter, here are two kid-friendly Martin Luther shorts. The Story of Martin Luther (5 minutes) The very clever Playmobil animation is also available in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian. And if you want to see how this film was made you can with this 5-minutes behind the scenes peek. Martin Luther - The Animated Movie (11 minutes) If you have any friends in or from France, Quebec, or Sweden, this is also available in French and Swedish....

News

Saturday Selections – October 24, 2020

Is Canada systematically discriminatory? The Christian Heritage Party's Vicki Gunn gives an answer to that question that you might not have been expecting? Chinese Calvinist revival? (10 minute read) "...There is even diversity in the Chinese Calvinist movement. Some are nearly identical to Stephen Tong’s approach, combining neo-Calvinism with evangelicalism, whilst others such as the Wenzhou Reformed churches led by Zhou Dawei are far more similar to the fundamentalist orthodox Reformed churches in the Netherlands, banning television and practising exclusive psalmody (only singing hymns found in the Book of Psalms, a practice foreign to China)...." Porn is a tempation for women too It once was primiarily a temtptation for men, but with our porn-saturated culture, and instant access to it in everyone's backpocket, we need to realize that it a problem for women too. "One recent study indicated that 73% of women between the ages of 18 and 35 used pornography in the previous six months." 11 reasons Christians don't vote, and why they're wrong Gary DeMar dismantles these 11 objections to voting. The Night Watch brought to life The Dutch Rijksmuseum closed in 2003 for what would turn out to be a ten-year renovation. When they re-opened again in 2013, they celebrated with a live "re-enactment" of one of the museum's most famous works, Rembrandt’s 1642 The Night Watch. (If you understand Dutch you may enjoy a behind-the-scenes video at the link above.) ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - October 2020

Move just one stick to fix the equation I thought there were three right answers, but after posting a version of this to Facebook, friends helped uncover three more. So there are at least 6…but 3 of them include what could be consider “cheats” (that’s a hint). You can find the answers at the bottom of this post. Reformed one-liners worth unpacking On the “Reformed Pub” Facebook group, member Matthew Mannucci started a discussion about “famous one liners” from some more recent Reformed leaders and he started things off with the first one below. Most of the offerings were not self-explanatory so a brief bit of context is provided but if your curiosity is sparked, be sure to google them. While these gentleman all have their different strengths and weaknesses, the sermons and conversations that spawned these one-liners are gold. “What’s wrong with you people?” – R.C. Sproul, in response to the question "Since God is slow to anger and patient, then why when Man first sinned was his wrath and punishment so severe and long lasting?" “I don’t know why you’re clapping; I’m talking about you.” – Paul Washer to a youthful audience that doesn't understand he is admonishing them. Tim Challies gives his 10-minute take here. “Steal his wallet.” – R.C. Sproul on how to respond to someone who says there is no such thing as sin. “Jesus wants the rose!” – Matt Chandler on who could ever want a broken, almost pedal-free rose that a pastor was using to represent anyone who had been sexually impure. “It is better to lose your life than to waste it.” – John Piper C.S. Lewis on the problem with materialism “If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents – the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts – i.e. of materialism and astronomy – are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milkjug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.” - C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics Glorying in ignorance When Charles Spurgeon met a fellow proud to be an agnostic, the preacher used a quick bit of translation work to illustrate how strange it is to be prideful on this point. One walking with me observed, with some emphasis, "I do not believe as you do. I am an Agnostic." “Oh,” I said to him. "Yes. That is a Greek word, is it not? The Latin word, I think, is ignor'amus." He did not like it at all. Yet I only translated his language from Greek to Latin. These are queer waters to get into, when all your philosophy brings you is the confession that you know nothing, and…enables you to glory in your ignorance.”  – “The rowers have brought thee into great waters” preached Dec. 12, 1886 Stewardship at the gas pump For years now the site GasBuddy.com has been helping thrifty folks in Canada, the US, and Australia find the best local prices for filling up our vehicles. Clarity can come from closeness When faced with any big decision Christians will pray for clarity because it becomes so much easier to take even very difficult tasks when we know that, yes, this is something we really should be doing. But how does God provide that clarity? In a blog post on fostering children, Jason Johnson (JasonJohnsonBlog.com) shares how clarity can come by moving closer. “Sometimes our prayers for more ‘clarity’ are answered with a call for more proximity. From a distance we say, ‘God show me the way!’ and He responds with, ‘Just move closer and you’ll see.’ And a lot of your questions about fostering are only answered through this kind of proximity. The closer you get the more you see and the clearer things become. You begin to see things you can never unsee, hear things you can never unhear, know things you can never unknow and then suddenly, nothing can ever be the same again. You simply cannot pretend it doesn’t exist anymore. “ Science's "sliding scare of trust" “Science” is often brought into discussions to end them. Whether we’re talking about overpopulation, or global warming, or evolution, or now the efficacy of masks and lockdowns, science will be invoked to declare that this or that is so, and that only “deniers” would say otherwise. What this mike-drop trades on is the reputation science has garnered via some of its greatest hits: cars, smartphones, heat pumps, microwaves, flat screen TVs, laser-eye surgery, gluten-free pizza, and so much more. The great and glorious "science” has given us much, so who would be foolish enough to question it? But wait just one moment: there’s science and then there’s science. In the Creation/Evolution debate a useful distinction is made between operational science and historical science. Discovering a good gluten-free pizza is all about the former: endless experimentation, and then, when one proves successful, duplicating that same experiment time after time. That’s where the reliability comes in: it is based on repeated experimentation – repeated checks – that can verify whether something is right or not. In contrast historical science is about events that can’t be repeated, like the origins of the universe, or the Earth, or Man. So, this sort of science is very different...and doesn't deserve the same sort of respect. What Paul Price and Robert Carter call science's "sliding scale of trust" is also relevant in modeling big events going forward too. It’s one thing to say we’ve discovered a good gluten-free pizza dough (and really, have we even achieved that yet?) and quite another to say we understand what the weather will be like one hundred, or even ten year hence. To explain just how uncertain such conclusions really are, Price and Carter quote from Michael Crichton’s book Jurassic Park where a key character, mathematician and philosopher Ian Malcolm illustrate that uncertainty: “Chaos theory says two things. First, that complex systems like weather have an underlying order. Second, the reverse of that—that simple systems can produce complex behavior. For example, pool balls. You hit a pool ball, and it starts to carom off the sides of the table. In theory, that’s a fairly simple system, almost a Newtonian system. "Since you can know the force imparted to the ball, and the mass of the ball, and you can calculate the angles at which it will strike the walls, you can predict the future behavior of the ball. In theory, you could predict the behavior of the ball far into the future, as it keeps bouncing from side to side. You could predict where it will end up three hours from now, in theory… "But in fact … it turns out you can’t predict more than a few seconds into the future. Because almost immediately very small effects—imperfections in the surface of the ball, tiny indentations in the wood of the table—start to make a difference. And it doesn’t take long before they overpower your careful calculations. So it turns out that this simple system of a pool ball on a table has unpredictable behavior.” If we have to be humble about where the pool balls will land, then we should know that even more humility is in order when dealing with systems or situations that are far more complex. SOURCE: Paul Price and Robert Carter’s Creation.com article: “Historical Science, Chaos Theory, and the sliding scale of trust” posted Oct. 1, 2020 Sound to sooth the savage baby breast When a baby would wake in the middle of the night, and nothing seemed capable of soothing her, I had one go-to trick that could. I’d boot up my computer and head to SimplyNoise.com, a site that offered different sorts of soothing noises that, when paired with a soothing backrub from dad, would send the little one off to sleep. That site used to be free and while it is no longer, I ran across another that is: Noises.online offers the sounds of crackling fires, calm rainstorms, babbling conversation, straight white noise and many more that you can even combine with one another. If you have a kid just cracking their first tooth, I highly recommend it! Answers to "Move just one stick to fix the equation" The first three below are the "easy" ones, and the next three required some serious thinking outside the box. 0+4=4 8-4=4 5+4=9 5+4≠4 9-4≠4 9-Y≠4 H/T to Martha DeGelder...

Science - General

Surprising similarities: shrubs and whales, trees and snails

In his fabulous nonsense poem, The Walrus and the Carpenter (1871), Lewis Carroll groups cabbages and kings together. Upon reflection, we might ask what cabbages and kings have in common. Probably nothing. Nevertheless, there are some cases in nature where similar groupings might call for a different answer. Let me riddle you this: what do marine cone snails have in common with a tall tree growing in tropical Australia? And what do sperm whales have in common with a desert shrub? Don’t be quick to confidently reply “nothing”! The true answer is, “You would be surprised!” Toxic tree and savage snail The Australian stinging tree's stems and leaves are covered with longish hairs a quarter inch long in a layer so thick it looks like velvet. Picture by Norbert Fischer and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. The tree in question is the Australian stinging tree Dendrocnide excelsa which grows 35 m (115 ft) tall. Its stems and leaves are covered with longish hairs 1/4 inch long in a layer so thick it looks like velvet. But looks can be deceiving. These hairs are actually hollow tapering tubes with a small bulb at the tip. If anyone or anything happens to brush one or more of these trichomes/hairs, the victim receives an excruciatingly painful sting which can cause symptoms that last for days or even weeks. There are two features of this event that interest us, the delivery of the sting, and the nature of the poison. The sting mechanism is certainly interesting. According to a recent article, the needle-shaped hairs (trichomes) “act as hypodermic needles that, upon contact with skin, inject specific pharmacological mediators contained within the trichome fluid...”1 A leave that injects? That might seem a bit far-fetched. After all, how can a hollow tube inject anything? To answer that, a different study points out that it all comes from the complex design of the trichome (hair). Except for a flexible base, the rest of the hair is a hollow tube whose walls are made very stiff with calcium carbonate and silica. The interior of the hollow tube is filled with a cocktail of nasty compounds. The scene is set for the following event: “The stinging cells are essentially hollow from the base to the bulbous tip and break off with the slightest touch. Breakage creates a sharp edge connected to a large liquid reservoir similar to a hypodermic needle. Pressure applied to the trichome will compress the bladder-like base and eject the irritant fluid from the tip in an action analogous to the plunger in a hypodermic syringe.”2 Concerning that process, the authors of that paper declare: “Stinging hairs – even as mechanical structures – are not simple cells with mineralized walls, but stunning examples of unique plant microengineering.”3 That certainly sounds like design! The Australian stinging tree is classified in the same plant family as common stinging nettles. The nettle characteristics are very similar to the tree except for size (nettles are much smaller), and the nature of the irritant, which is not dangerous in the case of the nettles. Sinister similarity But finally getting back to our riddle, we now discover that the mode of delivery of the nasty chemicals in the tree (and the nettles) is very similar to what we see in some animals such as poisonous spiders and marine cone snails. Cone snails are dangerous predators that we see in tropical seas. Up to 22 cm or 9 inches long, these creatures hunt worms, other mollusks, or fish. Some of the 500 species exhibit toxin so potent that it can kill people. Interestingly, these nasty cone snails inject the poison into their victims by a syringe-like action similar to that of the stinging tree. However, it is in the appearance and action of the poisons that the similarity between stinging trees and cone snails becomes particularly clear. As a recent article declares: “Our results provide an intriguing example of inter-kingdom convergent evolution of animal and plant venoms with shared modes of delivery , molecular structure, and pharmacology.”4 Translating this into ordinary English, they are telling us that the poisons produced by the stinging tree and the cone snail are very similar to each other. The term “convergence” communicates the idea that these highly unusual products come from totally different sources. How the tree and the marine snail might have obtained these products through an evolutionary process, is unknown. Hence the term convergence suggests that organisms converged on the same obscure choice for unknown reasons by unknown processes. Despite the obscurity of the explanation, most scientists are sure that there must be an evolutionary explanation. The most remarkable aspect of the unexpected similarity between a tree and a marine snail is in the nature of the poisons that they produce. From the variety of compounds in the venomous liquids, the team found that the most effective products in the tree were “mini proteins” of only 36 amino acids long. Despite the fact the molecule is so short, the order of amino acids is unlike any other protein known in any other organism. Because the molecules are so unique to the stinging tree, the scientists called them gympietides (after the name for this tree in the local Gubbi Gubbi language). Although the mini protein is unique, its weird folding pattern or shape is similar to toxins found in some spiders and in cone snails. Another term for this molecular shape is “inhibitor cystine knot” (or aptly ICK or knottin). Apparently, the amino acid chain folds in on itself a couple of times, and sulphur atoms in one amino acid link up with another amino acid to hold the structure in a tight knot.5 The action of the gympietides (the knot) involves its victim’s nerves. If you recall your high school biology you’ll remember that the transmission of a signal along a nerve involves sodium ion gates that open in the nerve cell membrane allowing sodium to rush into the nerve cell. As the signal proceeds down the nerve cell, the previously opened gates slam shut so that the cell can return to its former condition in preparation for receiving a new signal. What the gympietide poison does is open the sodium gates and then doesn’t allow them to close or recover. Thus the scientific team reports that: “The intense pain sensations and reflex flare observed after by Dendrocnide species are consistent with the potent activity of the gympietides at channels .”6 While the order of amino acids in the protein chain from the stinging tree’s toxin has not been observed anywhere else, nevertheless the folding pattern confers on the molecule an effect similar to some spider and cone snail toxins.7 Thus the study authors conclude concerning the gympietides: “Their structural similarity and a delivery mode identifiable as envenomation exemplify cross-kingdom convergence of venoms.”8 The scientists can scarcely contain their surprise when they reflect that these close similarities in design are found between members of different kingdoms. Of course, plants and animals could scarcely be more different from each other in appearance, capabilities, and lifestyle needs. Whatever could lead to evolutionary processes which start so far apart but end up with a product so similar? As to whether there could be an evolutionary reason for a plant to produce animal venoms, the scientists declare that the issue remains “unclear.”9 Indeed it seems obvious that an evolutionary answer will never be found. Rather, the explanation is clearly that these were choices made by God. In our fallen world there are many agents of death and disease. That is not how it was supposed to be. Nevertheless, these agents demonstrate the same intricate characteristics as the rest of the Creation. Whale and shrub If similar compounds produced by a tropical tree and a marine snail are difficult to explain from an evolutionary point of view, how about liquid waxes from a whale and a desert shrub? According to an article from University of Washington Magazine, up to 1972 when the Endangered Species Act was passed in the United States, in North America alone up to 55 million pounds of sperm whale oil were used to protect automobile transmissions. According to the article, thanks to protection from whale oil, prior to 1972, car transmissions seldom failed. Within three years of the moratorium on whale killings, the rate of car transmission failures in the US increased 800%. Thus, the article declares: “Because the automatic transmission is the second-most expensive component in a car and the most complex to repair, total sales for transmission shops exceeded $50 billion by the 1990s.”10 The problem is that the sperm whale liquid wax was just the right product to provide for excellent lubrication in car transmissions and there was no other similar product available. The oil of the sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus is a liquid wax. The characteristics which made this product so perfect for lubrication included the following. For a start and most uniquely, this wax is liquid at room temperatures. Also, it is viscous (much thicker than water) but slippery and not sticky. And most importantly, this viscosity does not change much with greatly increased temperature and pressure such as we see in running motors. For example, if you were expecting a product to lubricate your engine, but the product became much more fluid with increasing temperature and pressure, your engine would soon seize up. Also helpful are the facts that liquid wax does not readily oxidize (breakdown) and it flows in cold weather rather than congealing. Deeply concerned that they had lost an exclusive and useful product, the automobile industry began desperately to search for alternatives. And they soon found one in seeds of a desert shrub, the Simmondsia chinensis, or jojoba. A professional oil chemists’ journal in 1979 declared: “The protected but still endangered sperm whale and desert-grown nuts from jojoba are the only major sources of liquid waxes.”11 Similarly, an article declared in 2009: “Jojoba oil is very similar to that of spermaceti for which it is an excellent substitute.”12 Later in 2017 scientists writing in Biological Research describe jojoba oil as a “high-viscosity liquid-oil that differs from any other oil produced by plants”13 so that “The jojoba oil plant is a promising alternative to threatened sperm whale oil.”14 So, the world did an about-face and focused their attention on the desert instead of the sea. Slick similarity So why are these oils, from two such different sources, so similar and otherwise so unusual? The secret of these oils is their chemical identity as liquid waxes. Without embarking on a crash course in organic chemistry, we find that most organic oils are fats. Fats involve long chain fatty acids linking up with a glycerol molecule. Glycerol has only three carbon atoms, but each of them is usually connected with a long chain fatty acid. This makes quite a complicated molecule, like a glove with three very long fingers. Liquid waxes are totally different. A moderately short chain fatty acid links with a similar molecule which ends with an alcohol grouping instead of an acid. So, we just have one straight chain of carbons in a liquid wax. For whale oil liquid waxes, we generally see 28 to 32 carbons.15 As organic compounds go, these are small molecules. For jojoba, the liquid waxes are a little longer, from 38 carbons to 46 carbons.16 The commercial exploitation of jojoba liquid waxes is not totally straightforward. The oil is found in the seeds (up to 50% by weight), but less than half of the shrubs actually produce seeds. For some reason, there seems to be a bias to grow more male plants than female plants and one cannot identify the female plants until they flower, several years after germination. Although the plants tolerate quite terrible desert growing conditions, the flowers don’t always set seed well. Altogether jojoba liquid is very expensive to produce. Nowadays we see mostly synthetic products of jojoba oil for automotive uses. The intriguing issue is why two such different organisms happen to exhibit this highly unusual chemistry.  Evolutionists would say that this capability came about by chance. Since no other organisms display this capability, it is obvious that these choices were not a case of the organisms needing these waxes for survival. It appears that the liquid wax does enhance germination of the jojoba seeds. Of course, whales don’t care about that. Several explanations have been proposed to explain the large amount of liquid wax in sperm whale heads. There certainly was no common condition encouraging the development of an unusual chemical product in these two creatures. We see rather God’s whimsical choices in conferring this valuable product on two such different creatures. At this point it seems appropriate to give thanks for the fascinating beauty that we see among living creatures of all types. We also see that diversity and unexpected complexity confer a richness on the Creation which never ceases to comfort us that God is in control. 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. Endnotes Edward K. Gilding et al. Neurotoxic peptides from the venom of the giant Australian stinging tree. Science Advances 6: September 16 pp. 1-9. See p. 1. Adeel Mustafa et al. Stinging hair morphology and wall biomineralization across five plant families. American Journal of Botany 105 (7): 1109-1122. See p. 1115. Mustafa et al. 1121. Gilding et al. 1. For people who like chemistry, the amino acid cysteine ends in a sulphur atom. And the cystine is formed from 2 cysteine residues joined end to end through the sulphur atoms (disulphide bond). Cystine is formed by linking cysteine residues through their sulphur atoms across different parts of the loop. In a knot, there are two cystine molecules connecting different parts of the chain and another in a different direction which ensures that the knot does not fall apart.] Gilding et al. 5. Gilding et al. 5 Gilding et al. 5 Gilding et al. 5 Jon Marmor. 2019. The Innovation File: Solving a Whale of a Problem. UW Magazine 1-5. See p. 2. K. Miwa and J. A. Rothfus. 1979. Extreme-Pressure Lubricant Tests on Jojoba and Sperm Whale Oils. Journal American Oil Chemists’ Society 56 #8 pp. 765-770. See p. 765. Vijayakumar et al. 2009. Synthesis of ester components of spermaceti and a jojoba oil analogue. Indian Journal of Oil Technology 16 pp. 377-381 September. See p. 377. Jameel R. Al-Obaidi et al. A review of plant importance, biotechnological aspects and cultivation challenges of jojoba plant. Biological Research 50:25. pp. 1-5. See p. 1. Al-Obaidi et al. 3. Vijayakumar et al. 377. Rogers E. Harry-O’Kura et al. Physical Characteristics of Tetrahydroxy and Acylated Derivatives of Jojoba liquid Wax in Lubricant Applications. Journal of Analytical Methods in Chemistry. 2018 Article ID 7548327 pp. 12. See p. 1. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

FREE: Flight of the Butterflies

Documentary 2012 / 44 minutes RATING: 7/10 Equal parts detective story and nature documentary, Flight of the Butterflies tells the story of "Dana" and her offspring, beautiful monarch butterflies making their way across the United States. It also showcases the investigative work of biologist Fred Urquhart and his wife Norah, who spent their lives trying to discover where the butterflies were going on their yearly migration. The nature half is simply stunning, and deserves a widescreen TV viewing – you'd lose so much watching it on your phone. We get to follow Dana as she flutters from plant to plant, laying her more than 300 eggs, and get to tag along, too, as she flies as much as a mile up into the heavens. Then, when we eventually see one of Dana's grandchildren form her chrysalis, we get a peek inside: "Fed oxygen by hundreds of fine breathing tubes. her brain, heart and digestive track change shape and size. New powerful flight muscles develop, and compound eyes form. Long legs and steady wings complete the transformation." The caterpillar to butterfly transformation is astonishing – one creature becoming something else entirely! But it gets even crazier: while Dana didn't live all that long, and her daughter didn't either, they somehow manage to spawn a granddaughter that will look just like them, but be another sort of creature once again: Dana's granddaughter is a "super butterfly destined to live eight times longer" than either of the two previous generations! The mystery half is fun too. An actor familiar to many Canadians, Gordon Pinsent (Beachcombers, The Red Green Show) plays Fred Urquhart who recruits the help of regular folk – "citizen scientists" – all over the United States to help him tag, and then track the flight paths of monarch butterflies. After gathering this information for decades he can tell they fly south towards Texas, but where do these millions of butterflies go afterward? I won't spoil things: you'll have to watch it to find out. Caution The documentary opens with a quick nod to Darwin, with biologist Fred Urquhart declaring, "It has been said since Darwin's time that evolution has been written on the wings of a butterfly. I know my life has." Another similar sort of "nod" happens elsewhere, but the brilliant design evident in the monarch's lifecycle and remarkable migration far outshine these little mars. There is also a few mentions made of man-caused environmental issues that might impact the monarch, including a passing mention of global warming. But these are very brief, and the film is not any sort of anti-man screed. As with many a secular nature documentary perhaps the most notable caution is simply that in a film about a creature whose beauty and amazing lifecycle screams out the glory of its Creator, the film never gives God His due. But we can make up for this deficiency. Conclusion Fred and Norah Urquhart spent 50 years learning all about the monarch, and in this remarkable film we get to come along for that journey of discovery. This is a quiet film – there are no explosions to be found – so it isn't going to be to everyone's tastes. But maybe it should be – if the brilliance of the monarch butterfly doesn't fill us with awe at God's genius, maybe it's time we stopped watching so many car chases and superhero battles and sharpened up our sense of awe. Regardless, for the nature lover in your family this will be something special. You can watch the trailer below, and watch the film for free here. ...

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Finding Narnia: the Story of C. S. Lewis and His Brother

by Caroline McAlister 48 pages / 2019 C.S. Lewis wrote, “A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.” Lewis, known by his family as Jack, and his brother Warnie were best of friends even though they were very different. Trains and ships fascinated Warnie, while imaginary worlds with heroes and knights enthralled Jack. McAlister traces their lives from the schoolroom to adulthood describing their experiences leading to the creation of Narnia, a magical kingdom which has enchanted generations. Paired with beautiful illustrations, we gain insight into their collaborative work. Although one drawing shows Jack in church, McAlister does not dwell on Lewis’s conversion nor connect his Christian faith to the fantasy world he created. However, fairly extensive author’s notes at the end of the book include a paragraph about his conversion.  Lanan also has detailed notes about her illustrations. It is worth reading them and turning back to the drawings to appreciate her care to detail and historical accuracy. This book is recommended for ages 4-8 but, Mr. Lewis, I’m happy to say that our grandchildren and I equally enjoyed this book. I recommend it to any Narnia fan. It would be a great addition to a church, school or home library....

News

Saturday Selections – October 17, 2020

What color is the balloon? (2 min) "The funny things about truth is, it's true...whether you believe it or not." Teens did surprisingly well in the COVID lockdown (10-minute read) Many adults have struggled during the COVID lockdown, whether because of job loss, or fears of death. Surprisingly teens's mental health has seen improvement over this same period. But why? "More sleep and family time – and less social media – may have made the difference." Life on Venus? Why "settled science" is so often hot air. It's in the interests of the media, and scientists, to hype up their findings. Car seats as contraceptives? By one estimate, US child safety seats save 60 children a year. Some economists are arguing they may also lead to 8,000 fewer births a year. How so? Only two of these seats fit in a car, so for parents to have a third child they'll need a new, bigger vehicle, raising the cost of that third child considerably. That might force some families to delay growing their family, and those delays can lead to smaller families over all. As the article author writes: "The point of this is not to launch a campaign to do away with child safety. It is to remind us that laws made with the best of intentions have unexpected consequences. Legislators need to bear this in mind when they impose restrictions which are simply 'common sense.' This has an obvious application to the Covid-19 lockdowns." A psalm for every day When Lindsey Tollesfson was 8 weeks pregnant, the doctor gave her a devastating diagnosis for her unborn son. "A verse kept ringing through my head: 'Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds' (James 1:2). How could I count it joy that my doctor told me my son would soon die? James wasn’t just saying 'rejoice despite your trial'; he was saying 'rejoice because of your trial.' Where could I turn to help me obey this command from the heart? I turned to the Psalms for comfort and wisdom, and I invite all who are walking through difficult circumstances to do the same..." Good news you probably haven't heard (5 min) It might not seem like it, but even this year there are positive global trends making life better in dramatic ways. While the video below is a secular presentation that credits the Englightenment for the progress being made, these improvements are a fruit of biblical principles like property rights and the free market, freedom of speech, stewardship, recognition of the Imago Dei, and doing to others as we would want done to us. ...

Movie Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution, Watch for free

Free film: Genesis Impact

Docudrama 68 minutes / 2020 RATING: 7/10 This is a very good...something. The topic matter is plain enough – human origins – but what's less clear is whether this is a documentary or drama. The beginning is standard documentary: apologist Ray Comfort, just off camera, interviewing college students about their views on evolution. But when the camera pulls back we discover these interviews are actually a smartphone's 3-D holographic projections being viewed by a teen boy sitting on the edge of his couch (presumably a decade or two into the future seeing as there's no app for that quite yet). When mom wanders by to put away groceries, he shares his doubts about whether God really did create in just six days. "What if they're right, and we're wrong?" he asks, "I mean, the scientific evidence for evolution is pretty overwhelming. What if God...used evolution?" To answer his questions, mom takes us through another scene change, shifting back 20 years to modern day when she was still in school, listening to an origins lecture at a Natural History museum. When the speaker concludes and most of the other students leave the auditorium, the young mom-to-be stays behind to question, and eventually debate, the scientist/lecturer. That's where we stay, along with a few student stragglers, listening to a well-reasoned critique of the lecturer's evolutionary presentation. While Genesis Impact hardly has a plot, it still has plenty of drama as evolution and creationist go head-to-head over the next hour. Genesis Impact shouldn't be evaluated as a drama though. The acting is fine – solid enough not to get in the way, and better than many a Christian drama – but the young lady is far too knowledgeable, and the evolutionist lecturer far too reasonable (readily conceding her every good point) to be realistic. Fortunately, the filmmakers' goal isn't realism. They wanted to present a challenging, highly educational lecture on a pivotal topic, and they wanted to deliver it in a really unique and entertaining manner. Mission accomplished! Caution While the topic matter is the sort you might want to share with an atheist friend, that this is a staged debate – an acted out debate – provides the "out" any skeptic would take to dismiss it entirely, arguing that a real evolutionist would have had better responses, or wouldn't have conceded so many points. So one caution would be that this isn't one to win over an unsympathetic or hostile audience. Conclusion What makes it valuable is that the creationist critique is a really good one. Evolutionary proofs aren't so overwhelming as it seems, with guesses built on assumptions, stacked atop beliefs. Secular science presents their conclusions as being unassailable, though sometimes the hype is as much the fault of the media as the scientists. Even when researchers couch their guesswork with phrases like "could be" and "might" and "probably" the media is likely to trumpet "Evidence of life has been found on Mars!" in 36-point front-page headlines.  Still, the same sort of unwarranted certainty can be found in Natural History displays, and in university classrooms, so evolutionary arrogance isn't simply a mainstream media invention. Who should see Genesis Impact? It's best suited for bible-believing Christians who are interested in, or troubled by, evolutionary accounts. It'll be an encouragement and could serve as a leap-off point for further study. The depth of the material discussed also means this is best suited for college-age and up. You can watch it for free below, and visit the film's website to dig deeper: GenesisApologetics.com/Impact. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

Larryboy and the Fib from Outerspace

Children's / Animated 30 min / 1999 RATING: 7/10 Larry-Boy is no ordinary hero: first off, he's a cucumber, and secondly he's got super suction cup ears. And to complete the Batman spoof, he also has his own Larry-mobile, Larry-cave and asparagus butler named Alfred. In this, his first adventure, a tiny alien named Fibrilious Minimus ("You can call me Fib for short") encourages a kid named 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 – a good message wrapped in great jokes. If you like this video you may like a number of other "Veggietale" videos as well: Larry-Boy and the Rumor Weed, Madame Blueberry and Sheerluck Holmes. But not all the episodes in this Veggietales series are as admirable, with some tackling Bible stories in a way that just doesn't show the respect due God's Word. (For more on Veggietales see the Feb. 2001 RP article "Goliath is a Pickle?") You can get a taste of Larryboy by watching the official theme song video below. ...

Current Issue, Magazine

Sept/Oct 2020 issue

WHAT’S INSIDE: Ready to reason: is apologetics even necessary? / I believe in "theistic evolution" / Black Lives Matter – the slogan / Why we'll never run out of things to discover / Should a student's peer group be so important? / In praise of red lights: the case for bumper sticker Christianity / To be fully known / C.S. Lewis's apologetics: a Reformed assessment / Was St. Francis a sissy? / Flying Dutchmen / Documentaries that deserve to be watched twice / Biographies for young and old / Spurgeon on letting the Lion out / Free Christian films / Your sixth sense / and more... Click the cover to view or right-click to download the PDF ...

Book Reviews, Teen non-fiction

The Plot to Kill Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Spy, Unlikely Hero

by Patricia McCormick 184 pages / 2016 Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the youngest son in a large, loving, and intellectual family. When he, at a young age, announced that he planned to become a pastor, everyone was astonished. His father told him that it was a pity that he chose such “a quiet...uneventful life.” His brothers told him that his career choice meant a retreat from the big issues of the day. Little did they know that the gentle daydreaming Dietrich would one day challenge one of the most evil tyrants in history. The short chapters in this well-researched book contain aids to enhance the young reader's understanding of World War 2. Helpful also is the list of characters, and a time line. McCormick focuses our attention on Bonhoeffer’s fight against Hitler’s Nazi ideology, not on his struggle with his Christian beliefs so seemingly at odds with his chosen path of treason and murder. Nevertheless, if read in a classroom or family setting, this book could spur a lively discussion on the meaning of true discipleship. The question "Can we see evil and do nothing?" still resonates today. This book would be an excellent addition to our church, school and home libraries. Recommended for readers ages 12 and up....

News

Saturday Selections – October 10, 2020

3.5 billion miles of DNA in just little ol' you (6 min) We each have enough linear length of DNA in us to stretch to the sun and back again more than 18 times. Wow! Evolution examples are just examples of world's brokeness... Christians sometimes think that because evolutionists believe in natural selection, we shouldn't. The truth is, creationists also hold to natural selection, but what we don't hold to is the idea that mutation + natural selection = the path up from molecules to man. In the examples examined here we see instance after instance of a mutation that, while helping the creature in some fashion, is actually a loss of function. This might start a road from man down to molecules but could never explain the upward trend. How to love the co-worker you just can't stand C.S. Lewis has some helpful advice... Social isolation is damaging a generation of children Titles are often overwrought and that is the case here too, but were we to rephrase this as a question it would be well worth considering, is social isolation damaging a generation of children? Dutch euthanasia doctor warns the British against...euthanasia Dutch doctor Bert Keizer was euthanizing patients 20 years before it was legal. Now he's warning Britain about the slippery slope that comes with legalized euthanasia. Tim Challies on the problem with "love languages" (3 min) ...

Science - General

Pluto: Déjà vu all over again

Until the summer of 2015, we knew very little about Pluto. We knew that it was far away, 5 billion kilometers. We also knew it was very cold, at -223 degrees C or less, which is just 50 degrees C above absolute zero. And we knew that at 2,370 km across it was small by the standard of other bodies in the solar system. Earth's diameter, for example, is 12,756 km, while Jupiter's is 142,984 km and even our moon's diameter (over 3,000 km) is larger than that of Pluto. Planetary scientists had few expectations that this small, cold, far away body would show many unique features. Based on a mistake The fact that NASA was sending an expensive probe to study this remote body was remarkable in itself. Especially when we consider it was only as a result of a mistake that the planet was even discovered! Astronomers in the nineteenth century had an inaccurate understanding of the real mass of the planet Neptune, discovered in 1846. They thought it was heavier than it really was, and then the only way they could explain its orbit, and that of Uranus, was if there was a sizeable body beyond Neptune exerting a gravitational tug on these planets. So people went searching for this “sizeable body” and eventually discovered Pluto. However, the mass of Neptune was adjusted downward after the Voyager 2 flyby (launched in 1977) and when this new, more accurate, value for Neptune was plugged into equations for the orbit of Neptune and Uranus around the sun, it was discovered that these values fully accounted for the observed orbits. No need for any sizeable body nearby! So it was as a result of incorrect impressions of the nature of the outer solar system that American astronomers undertook an energetic search for the ninth planet. Regardless they did find something: Pluto. It was actually in 1930 that an amateur astronomer, Clyde Tombaugh, discovered this small moving object on the periphery of the solar system. Thus Nadia Drake (daughter of famous astronomer Frank Drake) wrote in the July National Geographic: Uranus traces a predictable boring path around the sun. There never was another large planet tugging at its orbit. But if not for the faulty math, and one man's prodigious patience , we could have waited decades to discover the little world that really is out there. This situation demonstrates that it depends on the questions one asks, whether one discovers a given phenomenon or not. If the Americans had not been searching for another planet, Pluto might not have been observed until only a few years ago. Demoted, but dynamic Pluto is most often the outermost “planet” but twice during each orbit it crosses Neptune's orbit as both bodies travel around the sun, making Neptune the furthest out. By the time NASA’s New Horizons probe arrived at Pluto in mid July 2015, this object of study had been classified as merely one of many "dwarf planets." When the probe left Earth on January 19, 2006, Pluto was still regarded as one of nine planets, but later that same year the International Astronomical Union (IAU) met to re-evaluate the status of Pluto, and downgraded it. It was now considered merely one of potentially hundreds of dwarf planets. NASA might not have allocated scarce resources to tackle a mere dwarf planet, but the New Horizons probe was already on its way. Few of the voting members of the IAU considered that study of Pluto would be relevant to study of the solar system planets. But what did they find in 2015? Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator, declared concerning Pluto: "n the initial reconnaissance of the solar system, the best was saved for last." Well! When we consider the amazing diversity of the planets already visited by our probes, what could possibly be so exciting about a cold, dark and remote body? The answer is, plenty! If there is one term that could best be used to describe Pluto, and its associated moons, that term is "energetic." This is very interesting and unexpected because there is no obvious long-term source of energy. It is "déjà vu" all over again! There are so many planets and their moons which exhibit unexpected phenomena. Many of these phenomena (like the rings of Saturn), require a lot of energy to keep them going more than a few thousand years. Astronomers do their best to explain how these phenomena could continue for long ages. The energy from the Sun, and from radioactive decay, and gravitational pull from larger bodies nearby, are all used to try to explain these observations. The interesting thing, in this case, is that none of these sources of energy appears promising as an explanation for the dramatic features of Pluto. Pluto close-up As we proceed toward Pluto, we first encounter five moons. Charon, the innermost and first discovered, is relatively large for a moon with about 11% of the mass of the parent body. Pluto and Charon form the only "binary planet" in the solar system. The two bodies, similar in size, orbit their common centre of mass every few days. There are also four tiny and more remote moons that display some astounding properties. The four outer satellites of Pluto display masses about 0.001% or less of the parent body. Their orbits take from 20 - 40 days to complete one revolution. In addition, the orbits of these moons are as close as they could be without disturbing each other's orbit through gravitational attraction. Scott Kenyon commented in Nature (June 4/15) on this situation: "These tightly packed systems place severe constraints on theories of planetary system formation." Indeed he continued: "How some systems end up with objects in closely packed orbit is an open question." What Dr. Kenyon is saying is that it would be very hard to propose convincing separate origins for these moons. Yet there are some striking differences. Named Hydra, Kerberos, Nix and Styx, three of the four moons are shiny and bright. However Kerberos is the exception. As Dr. Kenyon remarks: "Kerberos is as dark as coal and seems out of place with such bright companions." NASA scientists M. Showalter and D. Hamilton point out that the darker colour of Kerberos raises "questions about how a heterogeneous satellite system might have formed" (Nature June 4/15). Drs. Showalter and Hamilton discussed the moon system before New Horizons actually arrived at Pluto. They had already seen enough to realize that the system was unexpectedly energetic for such a cold and tiny body. Thus they declared: Independent of the new discoveries in store, we have already learned that Pluto hosts a rich and complex dynamical environment, seemingly out of proportion to its diminutive size. Spinning tops Once New Horizons closely approached Pluto, the full realization of the amazing action of the four outer moons was revealed. These small bodies spin at inexplicably high rates. Hydra (the farthest out) rotates once every 26 minutes. Ron Cowen, writing in Eos, quotes Mark Showalter of NASA and SETI, who declared: "This is unlike anything we have seen elsewhere in the solar system. No one has ever seen a moon that rotates 89 times during a single orbit." The other outer moons also exhibit fast rates of spin, with Kerberos rotating the slowest at once every 5.33 hours (Eos Nov.9/15). And Nix, not to be outdone in interest, rotates in the opposite direction from the rest of these moons. So these moons display unexplained energy, and properties that eliminate any common explanation for the origin of all four moons. And there is more of interest. Dr. Showalter further pointed out that: The fast spin rates are so surprising because even if the moons formed as rapid rotators, the push and pull of the gravitational tides of Pluto and Charon ought to have slowed down that motion (quoted in Eos Nov. 9/ 15). So where does all this continuing energy come from? Is the system of recent origin? If it’s old, why is it so energetic? Pluto itself displays a surface that seems to require the flow of a lot of energy. The source of this energy is very puzzling because there is no sunlight and no nearby large gravitational fields from large planets. Nevertheless Pluto displays "incredibly complex geology" "beautiful" and "strange" (Nature July 23/15). Scientists reflected on how Pluto displayed "much more geological activity than anyone anticipated" (Nature). Very large seemingly volcanic mountains, white plains with absolutely no craters, and dark plains with craters, suggest an active geology as far as planetary scientists are concerned. And an active geology requires energy. Based on the density of craters in the dark areas, and on the basis of assumed rates of crater bombardment, scientists estimated that Pluto might be four billion years old. Then they looked at other features and concluded that Pluto has remained geologically active up to the present. The planet, for example is losing nitrogen gas at a most unexpected rate (NASA July 17/15). How many billions of years could that continue? Where is the energy coming from to sublimate the frozen nitrogen?  Well, if it isn’t coming from the outside, then it must be internal, right? Ron Cowen quotes New Horizons scientist Kelso Singer who declared that, "Pluto has enough internal heat to maintain surface activity throughout the lifetime of this outer solar system body" (Eos Nov. 9/15). Some scientists suggest that radioactive decay may provide the energy required to keep Pluto geologically active (Nature July 23/15). With its small size, low density and watery ice exterior, this does not seem a promising explanation. And with every half-life of each radioactive element, the amount of radioactive element is reduced by one half. After several presumed billions of years, there would be very little radioactivity left. And radioactivity would not explain the fast spin rates of the moons, in any case. Scientists find themselves looking for unlikely sources of long-term energy because they want to explain how the system could have existed for long ages. Of course, with a recent origin, there is no need to look for energy other than that imparted to the system a few thousand years ago. Pluto is exciting because it displays unexpected characteristics.  Most informed observers expected something that was geologically frozen, but we found a fascinating and active world instead. Like the rest of nature, Pluto testifies not to processes which have continued for long ages, but to a recent creation. This first appeared in the December 2015 issue. Dr. Margaret Helder is the author of “No Christian Silence on Science.”...

Apologetics 101

When Lewis says it brilliantly: 7 key quotes

C.S. Lewis wasn't always orthodox (as Dr. Bredenhof explains in his article "C.S. Lewis’s Apologetics: a Reformed assessment") but what he got right, he expressed brilliantly. What follows are 7 slices of Lewis at his very best. On the problem with Materialism “If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents – the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s.  “But if their thoughts – i.e. of materialism and astronomy – are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milkjug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.” – God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics Shucks, a stiff drink can make you happy… When asked “which of the religions of the world gives its followers the greatest happiness, Lewis gave an unexpected response.  “While it lasts, the religion of worshipping oneself is the best. I have an elderly acquaintance of about eighty, who has lived a life of unbroken selfishness and self-admiration from the earliest years, and is, more or less, I regret to say, one of the happiest men I know. From the moral point of view it is very difficult! I am not approaching the question from that angle. As you perhaps know, I haven’t always been a Christian. I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” – God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics Abiding happiness is only found with God “What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’ – could set up on their own as if they had created themselves – be their own masters – invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history – money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery – the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy. “The reason why it can never succeed is this. God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” – Mere Christianity Homemaking as the pinnacle of all other work “I think I can understand that feeling about a housewife’s work being like that of Sisyphus (who was the stone rolling gentleman). But it is surely in reality the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, miners, cars, government etc. exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? As Dr. Johnson said, “To be happy at home is the end of all human endeavour”. (1st to be happy to prepare for being happy in our own real home hereafter: 2nd in the meantime to be happy in our houses.) We wage war in order to have peace, we work in order to have leisure, we produce food in order to eat it. So your job is the one for which all others exist…” – The Letters of C.S. Lewis Too earthly-minded to be of any heavenly use? There is an expression that “some folks are too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly use.” Lewis thought the problem was quite the opposite.  “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth "thrown in": aim at earth and you will get neither.”  – Mere Christianity  Being far too easily pleased “If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love. “You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. “The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and to nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. “If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and to earnestly hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I suggest that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – The Weight of Glory On being and becoming humble "Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all. "If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed." – Mere Christianity...

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

Just do something

A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will or how to make a decision without dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, open doors, random Bible verses, casting lots, liver shivers, writing in the sky, etc. by Kevin DeYoung 128 pages / 2009 What does God want me to do with my life? It’s a great question but not one we should get stuck on. Some folks sit around waiting for a sign from God, instead of using the brains they got from God. DeYoung wants Christians to stop contemplating whether this, that, or that other thing might be what God wants most for our lives, and wants us instead to “just do something.” Does that sound...flippant? Careless even? DeYoung's point is that God's will for our life isn't that hard to figure out. We are to: Live for God. Obey the Scriptures. Think of others before yourself. Be holy. Love Jesus. And as you do these things, do whatever else you like, with whomever you like, wherever you like, and you’ll be walking in the will of God. It’s that simple. But because we do complicate things, DeYoung spends another 100 pages, explaining why various approaches to fathom God’s will get it wrong, and then he outlines “the way of wisdom”: using Scriptures to rule out some options (don’t date pagans) and to establish proper priorities (will this job be near a good church?) turning to our parents and other wise counsel for advice asking God for wisdom in prayer proceeding in confidence that we are honoring God in whatever decision we then make There is an older book, a classic by Garry Friesen called Decision Making and the Will of God, that covers the same ground, but what takes Friesen almost 500 pages to tackle, DeYoung does in just 128 pages. It is that conciseness that makes this so very valuable: I've shared it with both young and old, and gotten rave reviews all around. So two thumbs up for a very readable, biblical, and helpful book for this most important topic. A version of this reivew first appeared in the February 2014 issue. Jon Dykstra also posts reviews at the Dykstra sibling book blog where you can find his brother Jeff's longer take on "Just Do Something." R.C. Sproul's "Can I Know God's Will" is another concise excellent book on this subject and while I think it not quite as good as DeYoung's effort, Sproul's is free as an ebook. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story

Documentary 91 minutes / 2012 Rating: 7/10 This is the amazing story of how a one-armed young man beats the odds to make it onto a Division 1 college basketball team. His disability alone would make Kevin Laue a "long shot" but then he also lost his dad at age 10. What the film celebrates is Laue's determination, but what it also captures is the enormous hole left when a father is missing. So much of what Laue does and wants to do is an effort to make his late father proud. Laue does have a father figure in the film, a fantastic high school coach in Patrick McKnight who was willing to just invest in the young man, and "put a foot in his butt" when Laue needed it. He also has a family that loves him, including a grandmother who calls him her "chickadee" and has to be in the running for his #1 fan. Cautions Language concerns would be a couple of f-bombs dropped by players and one "gosh." We see Kevin in the shower, shot from the other side of the somewhat opaque glass door so we don't see any details, but enough flesh-color to know he is naked. While the trailer below makes this look like more of an explicitly Christian film than it is - the Laues' trust in God only comes up in spots. And that's maybe the more notable caution: while the film highlights how important a father can be for a son, God isn't portrayed as nearly as significant. That might be more a matter of the filmmaker's editing decisions than the family's convictions, but either way it is an opportunity for a great discussion question for our kids: who do you think is being portrayed as the "god" – the most important person or thing? – in this film? Is it dads or God? Conclusion This is a fascinating film about young man who is admirable in many ways, and yet not so idealized here that he becomes fake and distant. It's a film that any sports fans and both parents and teens will enjoy. Check out the trailer below, and watch it for free here. ...

News

No, looting is not defensible

The first week after Vicky Osterweil’s book In Defense of Looting was published, its initial media coverage was positive, via an interview with US public broadcaster NPR. There the author made it clear that the title was not hyperbole, but accurately summed up the book’s message. Osterweil told NPR’s Natalie Escobar that looting was valuable because: Looting strikes at the heart of property, of whiteness and of the police. It gets to the very root of the way those three things are interconnected. And also it provides people with an imaginative sense of freedom and pleasure and helps them imagine a world that could be. ….in terms of potential crimes that people can commit against the state, it's basically nonviolent. You're mass shoplifting. Most stores are insured; it's just hurting insurance companies on some level. It's just money. It's just property. It's not actually hurting any people. Vicky is clearly confused about what happens to a business’s insurance rates after an insurance payout is made – that money has to come from somewhere. (Vicky’s confusion also extends to gender, as until recently he went by “Willie.”) That he was defending both theft and wanton property destruction is why, even as the NPR interview was generally positive coverage, most of the media storm that followed was not. Still, many Americans share Osterweil's confusion. In a poll taken shortly after George Floyd's death, after rioters had burned down the Minneapolis Third Police Precinct (where the four officers involved in his death worked), 17 percent of respondents said actions taken by protesters, including the burning, were "fully justified." How representative the poll was is hard to guess, but we need only look at the number of people holding "No Justice; No Peace" signs to know many do believe that two wrongs can make a right. So what's the best rebuttal to this sort of thinking? Might it simply be to put a spin on Matt. 7:12 and ask them if they'd be willing to have done to them what they are encouraging be done to others? Christian apologist Tim Barnett noted how Osterweil denounces property rights as “innately, structurally white supremacist” – property is racist! – but his book begins with the standard publisher warning against any unauthorized “scanning, uploading, and distribution” because it’s “a theft of the author’s intellectual property.” Why is Osterweil working with a publisher that makes such racist assertions? Then, even as he celebrates theft and denounces property rights, he’s also offering his own property on Amazon for $28 a pop.  This isn’t simply ironic. It highlights how unChristian worldviews are unworkable, with proponents unwilling or unable to apply to themselves the standards they've proposed for everyone else. ...

Adult fiction, Book Reviews

Chasing Fireflies

by Charles Martin 340 pages / 2007 This is part murder mystery, part adoption story (times two), and part...well, superhero epic. The murder mystery is an old one, and the person trying to solve is Chase Walker, journalist, and formerly a foster kid who bounced around from one house to another until he arrived on the doorstep of “Unc” and that's where he stayed. The murder victims are Unc's father and first wife, and while the police think the case is settled, Chase is not so sure. The adoption-story-times-two involves Chase, adopted by Unc, and a nameless boy who was so badly abused his vocal chords have been damaged, leaving him mute. With Chase all grown up, Unc has space in his heart, and in his home, for another boy in need. The super-hero of the story is Unc himself, a man so good as to be a bit unreal. That's the story's weakness, but also a lot of its charm. Unc is the father figure that us fathers want to be. He most often knows just the right thing to do or say. When Chase, as a boy, gets it into his head that his father is finally coming to get him, Unc does what he can to sooth the boy’s disappointment. Unc walked up next to me and hung his arms across the fence railing. In his hands he held an empty mason jar with holes punched in the lid. He stood there a long time turning the jar. Inside, a single lightning bug fluttered off the sides of the glass. Every five or six seconds, he’d light his lantern. Unc turned the jar in his hand. “Scientists say that these things evolved this way over million of years.” He shook his head. “That’s a bunch of bunk. I don’t think an animal can just all-of-a-sudden decide it wants to make light grow out its butt. What kind of nonsense is that? Animals don’t make light.” He pointed to the stars.” God does that. I don’t know why or how, but I am pretty sure it’s not chance. It’s not some haphazard thing He does in His spare time.” He looked at me, and his expression changed from one of wonder to seriousness, to absolute conviction. “Chase, I don’t believe in chance.” He held up the jar. “This is not chance, neither are the stars.” He tapped me gently in the chest. “And neither are you. So, if your mind is telling you that God slipped up and might have made one giant mistake when it comes to you, you remember the firefly’s butt.” Maybe Unc is a bit too wise, too patient and too good, but I was okay with that. That’s in part because the author is good at his craft and pulls it off. It’s also because there is something genuine about Unc – this is fatherhood as we want to practice it, this is sacrificial love the way it should be done, and this filling up a kid the way he ought to be. There is truth here. Finally, while Unc may not be entirely realistic, the world he inhabits is. There is some grit here. First off, several people are murdered. Also, one of the people Unc helps is an abused girl who later ran away to become an adult porn star. In addition, the physical abuse the mute boy has suffered is detailed and it included someone pinching and ripping his skin with pliers. That is about as descriptive as it gets, but these elements mean this is a book for adults only. Another caution would be about the hero's faith. While God is made mention of throughout the book, Unc doesn't attend church, though that is in part because he isn't welcome there. He also has a seemingly superstitious understanding of baptism, going to extreme lengths to get someone baptized shortly before their death. But those will be minor matters to Christians with discernment. Chasing Fireflies will likely make you cry, so if you don't like sentimental books, don't start it. On the other hand this is so much better than the average tearjerker because Martin's writing is simply remarkable. Jon Dykstra and his siblings blog on books at www.ReallyGoodReads.com....

News

Saturday Selections – October 3, 2020

What is hate speech, and why should we be leery of banning it? (5 minutes) Most everyone agrees that some sorts of speech need to be limited, with the obvious example being threatening speech. But there's a real danger in demanding that government – or social media platforms – regulate what can and can't be said. For a secular take, see the video below, and for a Christian perspective, click on the link above. FREE: A parent's guide to "Cancel Culture" Axis is a generally conservative Christian group trying help parents keep up with teen culture. They do so by writing short 10-20 pages guides – cheat sheets – to get us up to speed on everything from social media apps, to hit TV shows, the latest pop bands, trending teen books, or even topics like helping teens deal with failure. The guides go for $4 US, but they also give some of them out for free. To get their cheat sheet on Cancel Culture, click on the title link above. To check out their other guides go to Axis.org. Money in the first years of marriage "Many marriages have been ripped apart over riches. Many newly married couples don’t know how to handle their finances in a way that honors God. I don’t want you to be one of them. I don’t want you to be caught off guard." Man drops battle to force salons to wax his nether regions Common sense does sometimes beat craziness...especially when you have a good lawyer in your corner. If the future belongs to the fertile, we might not have one On average every women needs to have two children to keep the population stable from one generation to the next. Ten years ago New Zealand's birth rate was averaging 2.18 children for every woman, but today it is just 1.69. And the same type of drop is happening the world over. In a pandemic, dogmatism is the real enemy What does the science tell us about how to respond to COVID-19? John Jalsevac argues that if we think there is a clear scientific answer then we don't really understand how science works. Even as we can benefit from doing careful, cautious science, to look to it as the the one clear guide is to fall for scientism. Dismantled: new documentary shows how "the evolutionary model is getting more biblical" (2 minutes) A new documentary debuting in a week's time looks like it is going to be a good one. Dismantled shares new discoveries that highlight how even mainstream science is having to move towards the biblical model. There is a free one-time premiere Oct. 9-11 that you should plan for, available via the link above. ...

Politics

What is “political success”?

Stephen Harper’s mistaken understanding changed him from a principled conservative to a power-focused politician  **** People get involved in politics because they’re concerned about the future. They know certain principles need to be defended, for the good of all, even the good of those that oppose those very principles. However, in a pluralistic, increasingly relativistic, country like Canada, it’s hard to get elected while standing uncompromisingly on principle (just ask the Christian Heritage Party!). So compromise on principle and you might win, don’t and you’ll almost certainly lose. How then can we succeed? It’s a key question, but there’s a more important one that we need to answer first: how are we going to define political “success”? The dictionary tells us success is “reaching our goal” but it doesn’t offer any insight into what those goals should be in the political arena. The Bible does. We were created for the glory of God (Is. 43:7) and therefore, whatever we do, we should do it “all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Now the world defines political success as being elected to office. And because they do, principles are then seen as impediments that get in the way of achieving that goal. But if we define “success” as glorifying God, then we will publicly advocate for His principles, and we will speak out to honor God, and to educate people about what really is right. Then success will be had by having the loudest election campaign possible. Then we will speak out at every opportunity, and without fear, because whatever the election result, we will know we have already achieved God’s idea of success. Can both types of success be had? But what if someone could be principled and get elected? On occasion a man or woman associated with clear principles will seem to make strides towards electoral success. We do have some godly Members of Parliament. However, history seems to show that for a person to reach the highest positions of influence they will need to backtrack from their previous principles. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper is an example of this phenomenon. Early in his political career, Stephen Harper was considered to be a principled conservative. After serving one term as a Reform Party MP, he became president of the National Citizens Coalition (NCC) in 1997. The NCC is a conservative organization that promotes limited government and individual freedom. Harper pursued this objective passionately and effectively. However, after leaving the NCC in 2001 to become leader of the Canadian Alliance, Harper began to compromise his principles. Gerry Nicholls of the National Citizens Coalition One of the people most surprised by Stephen Harper’s compromise was Gerry Nicholls, a longtime staff member of the NCC. In his 2009 book, Loyal to the Core: Stephen Harper, Me and the NCC, Nicholls provided an account of Harper’s time as NCC president. Initially Nicholls was convinced that Harper was committed to conservative principles. That’s why, after Harper re-entered electoral politics, Nicholls helped Harper’s campaign and was willing to overlook Harper’s initial compromises. Eventually, however, Nicholls saw the writing on the wall. For Nicholls, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the Conservative government’s March 2007 budget. That budget involved what Nicholls describes as “an orgy of massive government spending.” “After that,” Nicholls explains, “I knew Stephen had no intention of providing Canadians with conservative government, or of even paying lip service to conservative ideals. He had turned his back on conservatism.” Professor Tom Flanagan That assessment might sound harsh, but it is shared by Tom Flanagan, a political science professor at the University of Calgary. Flanagan was, for many years, a close companion of Stephen Harper. Flanagan managed Harper’s successful leadership campaigns for the Canadian Alliance and for the new Conservative Party of Canada, and also played key roles in the Conservative Party’s 2004 and 2006 federal election campaigns. After a while, however, Flanagan became concerned about the change in Harper’s political direction. Eventually the two men had a falling out. In 2011 Flanagan wrote a letter to the editor of the Literary Review of Canada where he described Harper’s compromised political perspective as prime minister: Harper has adopted the Liberal shibboleths of bilingualism and multiculturalism. He has no plans to reintroduce capital punishment, criminalize abortion, repeal gay marriage or repeal the Charter. He swears allegiance to the Canada Health Act. He has enriched equalization payments for the provinces and pogey for individuals. He has enthusiastically accepted government subsidies to business, while enlarging regional economic expansion. He now advocates Keynesian deficit spending and government bailouts of failing corporations, at least part of the time. Flanagan, in fact, wrote this letter to reassure certain prominent Liberals that their policies still governed Canada. The “Liberal consensus lives on,” Flanagan wrote, “It’s just under new management.” Stephen Harper’s management. Conclusion In the 2015 federal election, Stephen Harper was clearly preferable to Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party and Thomas Mulcair of the New Democratic Party. He was the “lesser of evils” among the major party leaders. But that’s not a very high recommendation. In current Canadian politics, conservative principles and even more so, Christian principles, are most often a hindrance to electoral success. The career of Stephen Harper is a clear example of how conservatives and Christians can be tempted by the worldly sort of political success into jettisoning their principles. But the cost of this kind of “success” is very high. What’s the point of attaining power if principles cannot be the guidelines for governing? However, if our “success” is defined as glorifying God by publicly proclaiming truth, then doing so and facing the electoral consequences is a meaningful activity. By this standard, a loud and public Christian Heritage Party campaign that loses would be more successful than all the electoral wins of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. “I'd rather be right than be president,” said US Senator Henry Clay in 1838. That’s an admirable sentiment that Stephen Harper rejected. We must not make the same mistake. Photo credit: Mike Ridewood/iStockPhoto.com, Oct. 2008, Calgary....

News

Vancouver ads presume big families hurt the planet

Ads popping up around Vancouver, BC encourage couples to reconsider any plans for having a big or even medium-sized family. Some of the ads read: “The most loving gift you can give your first child is to not have another” “Traffic congestion begins at conception” “We chose one!” “Climate crisis? Think small.” The group behind the ads is the US-based non-profit “World Population Balance” which believes the planet is threatened by an overpopulation crisis. Their “One Planet, One Child” campaign features ads that go even further, celebrating “childfree” living. One Vancouver news outlet framed this as a freedom issue, with the interviewed passersby seemingly unanimous in their insistence that family size is nobody’s business but the couple’s. News 1130’s Kelvin Gawley went deeper, interviewing a disabled Vancouver writer, Gabrielle Peters, who put the campaign in a historical context. “By blaming overpopulation for climate change and environmental degradation, said the billboards revive a debunked theory known as Malthusianism, named for an 18th Century reverend, Thomas Robert Malthus, who warned humanity would soon outgrow its food supply. His dire predictions never came to pass, but that didn’t stop others – including Nazi eugenicists and the author of The Overpopulation Bomb, a bestselling 1968 book – from remixing Malthus’s ideas to bolster their beliefs, Peters said. “‘It’s based on bunk and it invariably leads into dark places,’ she said.” “Peters said that the theory of scarcity is especially alarming to disabled people, who ‘may not be highly productive in the eyes of capitalism’ while consuming medical and other resources. “This thinking has led some modern academics to call for forced birth control and government-mandated licensing for parenthood, she said. “But Peters said her fear of this philosophy backstopping real-world action aren’t merely hypothetical. She cited a new “frailty scale” used to determine eligibility for health-care services in Ontario.” That was some deep perspective for a secular news source, but there is deeper still we can go by highlighting the biblical truth these ads attack. God speaks of children as blessings (Gen. 1:28, Ps. 113:9, 139:13-16, 127:3-5, Prov. 17:6, etc.) while World Population Balance says the fewer the better. So how has that worked out where it's been tried? For decades China had a mandatory one-child policy and that's meant many a Chinese couple will be caring for two sets of parents, and four sets of grandparents without any siblings or any cousins to help them. As the Christian Heritage Party’s Peter Vogel put it in his article about the ad campaign: “Imagine there’s no uncles…no aunts, no cousins too. No siblings either. This is what young people today are being told to imagine for their grandchildren.“ While human beings' value isn’t based on what we can do (but rather on being made in the image of God – Gen. 1:27, Gen. 9:6), more kids does mean more hands at the ready, and imagine how helpful those extra hands could be in caring for aging parents! More children also means more creative thinking. Want to figure out cold-fusion, or safer fission? The more brains the merrier, right? Those family relationships, those extra hands to lighten the load, the multiplying impact on ingenuity that results when heads are put together – those are the blessing we’d forgo if we all did as these ads encourage. But what of the climate crisis that World Population Balance is afraid of? Their “solution” isn't one, so can we conclude the same is true of their problem? That doesn’t necessarily follow; that a group is wrong on one point gives us reason to question them in other areas, but we can’t rely on the foolish to be consistently so. We can't count on them to always get everything wrong. So when it comes to the supposed climate crisis, here is what we can know for sure: if children are a blessing (and they are) and each one comes with their own carbon footprint (which they currently do), then either that carbon footprint isn’t the problem it’s being made out to be or children don’t have to be accompanied by a carbon footprint. And what we can know for sure is that children are a blessing we will never have to reject for the sake of our planet....

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Uncle Tom: An Oral History of the American Black Conservative

Documentary 2020 / 106 minutes Rating: 8/10 "Uncle Tom" is an insult thrown at blacks by other blacks for supposedly being too eager to get approval from whites. It's leveled at Larry Elder, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Candace Owens, Allen West, and the many other black conservatives who aren't willing to unquestioningly back the Democratic Party and the policies that it pushes. This conservative group is a small minority – in the US, blacks are a cohesively liberal voting block, with 9 out of 10 casting their ballot for the Democratic presidential candidate in the last election. But, as this documentary shows, the conservative minority is willing to wear insults as a badge of honor. They aren't going to stay silent about the damage that's been done to their black communities by government welfare policies and by a victimhood narrative that tells blacks they can't succeed because the system is stacked against them. Uncle Tom is conservative commentator Larry Elder's project, and offers his perspective which is, ultimately, a very hopeful one. Yes, he details the bigotry that has existed and continues to exist but he also notes that real progress has been made, and that "this is not your grandfather's America." President Obama is shown echoing that point, speaking of Martin Luther King Jr. and his generation as being "the Moses generation" that "took us 90% of the way" and the task for today's "Joshua generation" is to work on that last 10%. Elder contrasts that hopeful message with the scaremongering Democrats (including Obama) are running with now, where Republicans are caricatured as so racist that electing them will threaten black voting rights. The argument Elder makes is that it isn't a racist system, or racist boogie men that are blacks' biggest enemy, but the victimhood narrative. And he counters that narrative by showing and celebrating the successes of a broad assortment of black entrepreneurs and leaders. Cautions Some of the exchanges we see are not polite ones, so there are language concerns, including the uses of the n-word (from blacks directed at other blacks), and quite a number of f-bombs, as well as some other words that we might not want our young children to know. Another caution concerns how this film might seem unfairly biased. Many of us have grown up in the church, read God's Word daily and heard it expounded each Sunday, and that has equipped us with fairly reliable sniff detectors – even when we aren't able to put it exactly into words why we don't trust what's being presented, we can still sniff out lies. But in this case, I suspect some folk's sniff detectors might register a false alarm. The alarm will go off because there is a clear Republican conservative bias here, but just as offering a Reformed perspective is a bias too and doesn't preclude a fair treatment of opposing views, I'd argue the bias in Uncle Tom doesn't get in the way of a generally fair presentation. The Democrats are given plenty of screen time, and while their clips usually don't show them in a good light, these are the real positions Democrats hold and there is nothing deceptive about sharing what they actually believe. So yes, there might be too generous an appraisal of Donald Trump, and other points that we shouldn't be swallowing whole, but the overall argument against the victimhood culture is a solid one. Conclusion While there are Christians in the film, and some Christian perspective is offered, we never really get a concise summary of why the victimhood narrative is sinful (though lots of clues are offered). Parents watching this with their older teens might want to discuss: Is the victimhood narrative about raising victims up, or about assigning blame and guilt? Can any forgiveness be found in a victimhood culture? The victimhood narrative is sometimes used to justify shameful behavior – the current rioting is supposed to be understandable because of systemic racism. But do two wrongs make a right? How is blame being assigned? Is it based on actual sins committed, or is it on the basis of skin color? What does the Bible say about that? Are the charges leveled about specific instances of wrong or are they often generalized accusations of systemic racism? Can we address unspecified wrongs? How about specific wrongs? How does the hope offered in this film – that if you work hard you can get ahead – deliver, and how does it fall short? Uncle Tom offers a conservative perspective that, even as it doesn't always line up with the Christian perspective, still offers genuine insight into much of what's going wrong in race relations. I'd recommend this for ages 13 or up, based primarily on language concerns. But it is a film that demands discussion afterwards – it has to be unpacked and cross-examined to be of any use. You can watch the trailer below, and rent the film for $8 US here. And if you enjoyed it, you can get a closer look at two of these black leaders in their own documentaries: Walter Williams: Suffer No Fools and the upcoming Thomas Sowell: Common Sense in a Senseless World. ...

Apologetics 101

Not all T-shirts are created equal

Christian T-shirts and the trivialization of God  ***** Green is not my color, and I'm not a real fan of fedoras either so if someone wanted to get me the worst birthday present ever, it would be a green fedora. Of course, if I saw someone else wearing a green fedora, I wouldn't go up and tell him what I thought of it, because I know my opinion is just my opinion. Some people hate green fedoras, and hey, maybe there's someone out there who likes green fedoras. To each their own taste. But fashion is about more than just taste. As Christian we know there are some things we just can’t wear, and some things we should, for the sake of decency, always wear. We can wear red shirts, yellow shirts, and even green shirts, but no Cardi B t-shirts or see-thru clothing for us! It might not be something we think about all that often, but we’ve should be wearing our clothes to God’s glory! Lisa Klassen took the idea of wearing clothes to God’s glory to a new level. Some years ago, when she was an ardent 16-year old, she was suspended from school for wearing a sweatshirt which read, “ABORTION IS MEAN.” On the back the shirt read: “You will not silence my message. You will not mock my God. You will stop killing my generation.” At a school where fellow students walked around wearing shirts promoting sex, alcohol and nihilistic rock bands, only Klassen’s shirt was deemed offensive. Her actions, and subsequent suspension prompted almost 50 other students to wear similar shirts. Her bold, brazen fashion statement got the whole school in an uproar. What a gutsy gal! This type of enthusiasm should be encouraged, admired and imitated. Lisa Klassen is not embarrassed of her God. She proudly proclaims Him and His message. Many other young Christians are eager to emblazon Christian messages across their shirts as well. But while their enthusiasm should be praised and encouraged, their choice of shirts can benefit from a little outside input. Youthful enthusiasms must sometimes be tempered with the wisdom of the old (just as the wise old people must occasionally get their butts kicked with a dose of youthful enthusiasm – do not forget your first love of Christ!). Let’s proudly proclaim Christ, but let’s not forget that there are standards, so not all T-shirts, even Christian t-shirts, are created equal. God is not cutesy The flaw with many a Christian t-shirts is that they trivialize God. We sometimes imagine God as some sort of safe Entity. We focus on His love and forget about His wrath and the justice He demands. Instead of an awesome, holy, and yes, even frightening God (it is only through His Son that we can dare approach Him), we imagine a cute, harmless Deity. That is a serious error to make on a personal level, to have such a flawed idea of God in our minds. But it gets worse when we wear Christian T-shirts that proclaim this flawed idea of God to others. Let me give you some examples. There is a whole series of T-shirts and bumper stickers that talk about hell, salvation and God in the context of popular brand names. For instance, one shirt mimicks Coca-Cola’s well-known font and red background with the words “Enjoy Jesus Christ – thou shalt never thirst.” Pepsi too is transformed. Their blue and red color scheme is used to proclaim “Jesus Christ – He is my Saviour and my refreshment.” The new words are true, but from a distance the shirts still look like Coca-Cola and Pepsi shirts. It is only when you get nearer that the differences can be noticed, and the altered text can be read. Now imagine for a moment, that a non-Christian reads one of these shirts. “Oh wait a second!” he might say, “These shirts aren’t advertising cola, they’re advertising salvation." Is God’s grace, in this cola context, going to be considered seriously? There seems to be an endless variety of shirts with this brand name focus. Sneaker manufacturer Reebok’s “Life’s short, Play hard” slogan becomes “Reeborn – Life’s short, Pray hard.” The clothing chain GAP has their brand transformed into “God Answers Prayers.” Even CREST toothpaste is not spared. Their “Proven cavity protection” slogan was changed to “CHRIST – Proven Depravity Protection.” While these shirts are cutesy, they publicly "out" the wearer as a Christian which not every Christian is willing to do. So yes, we want to fix the message – God is holy, not comic relief – but we don't want to dampen that enthusiasm so let's praise what we can praise and congratulate them for their courage. Better choices But the best Christian t-shirts have a depth to them – they have a real weight to their message. They are often confrontational, and even offensive, just like the shirt Lisa Klassen wore. One good shirt I saw had a picture of 6 pallbearers carrying a casket. The caption below read, “Don’t wait for 6 strong men to take you to church.” There is humor here, but more too – it's a shirt that could get a man thinking. Other shirts ignore humor altogether and go for clarity. When I attended university several students wore shirts that said “Pro-life” in big and bold letters. They weren’t very thought provoking, but a lot of other students certainly found them offensive. In a hostile setting like university, standing out in the crowd is a powerful statement in itself. Another shirt read, “Stop Divorce – The basis of Marriage is Commitment, not just Romantic Love.” It didn’t rhyme, and there was nothing funny about it, but it contained some food for thought. One of the most daring shirts I ever saw simply read, “Ask me about God.” I want that shirt, and might have to make my own – I haven't found it online. But it would be an intimidating shirt to wear. What if people actually did ask me about God? Wouldn’t that be wonderful and terrifying? Maybe that’s the shirt we should all get after we do our profession of faith. Maybe that’s the shirt we should all have to wear, each and every day. Some of the other good ones I’ve seen include: Chapter and verse please! Preach the Gospel at all times. Always use words. Former fetus Make Orwell fiction again. Life starts at conception, no perception Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter – Charles Spurgeon RPNT & BLV Luther nailed it Do you even exegete bro? The chief end of man it to glorify GOD and enjoy HIM forever God is Good Love God. Hate sin. Be killing sin or it will be killing you – John Owen Abortion is bad medicine Die daily I Bet the Pro-Choicers Are Glad their Parents Weren't Abortion - The Leading Cause of Death in America He who dies with the most, still dies Evolution Says Nothing times Nobody Equals Everybody Know Jesus, Know Peace – No Jesus, No Peace Lotteries: A tax on people who are bad at math. Some places I've found good shirts include Abort73.com, Missional Wear, Reformed Gear, Wrath and Grace, and Sola Gratia. If you know of others, please use the website contact form to let us know. Conclusion I hope I haven't come off as being negative about Christian t-shirts; my hope is that Christians will take up the opportunity to profess their faith using the clothes that they wear. My point is that if we are going to do it, enthusiasm is not enough. We also have to put some thought into the thoughts we are going to emblazon across our T-shirts. At the same time, older, more thoughtful Christians should hesitate before they criticize a younger brother or sister for wearing “cute” Christian T-shirts. Even as there is a need to uphold God as holy, it would be a shame if the younger brother or sister’s enthusiasm was stifled over something inconsequential. The last thing we need is another quiet Christian. A version of this article first appeared in the February 2002 issue....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Killing Calvinism

by Greg Dutcher 2012, 111 pages We can thank God that many "young and the restless" Christians are turning to Calvinism to find the rest they are seeking; however, Greg Dutcher's book warns us that being, or becoming, enthusiastically Reformed has its dangers. What makes Dutcher's cautions so effective is that he is humble enough to confess that he has not always been so humble in his embrace of Calvinist theology – something that we also can be guilty of. Like a former smoker, there is often no-one so obnoxious about his new life as the recent convert. Dutcher narrates how his own conversion to Christ humbled him, but his subsequent acceptance of Reformed theology, even as it increased his understanding (and even wonder), often did not increase his humility. Sadly, it is not only young Calvinists who lack humility. I know that I either personally have been guilty of some of the sins Dutcher identifies, or know of older members whose Calvinism leads to pride rather than humility. For instance, Dutcher describes how Calvinists often love Calvinism as an end in itself, identifying themselves as Calvinists before they identify themselves as Christians. We also need to guard against becoming theologians instead of disciples; we need to guard against mere head service instead of also heart service. Another issue that Dutcher deals with has also been raised extensively in many Reformed churches recently: the need to renew our love for the lost. One problem that I have seen of late on Facebook and other social media is one of our approach to non-Calvinists – scoffing at their hangups with Calvinism rather than lovingly seeking to understand the reasons for their resistance and deal with them with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). The above challenges are only some of the ways Dutcher shows how Calvinists often discredit the Biblical truth of Reformed theology (or, as the book’s subtitle puts it, this is how we are destroying “a perfectly good theology from the inside”). He deals with others but you'll need to check out the book to find out which ones! What makes each of the eight main chapters an even more winsome inspiration to self-examination is the fact that each ends with Calvin's own method of ending his lectures – a prayer that God will work in our hearts a willingness to truly love our neighbour and glorify God in our Calvinism. If you believe that a better presentation of the beauty of the TULIP would bring greater glory to God, and that this book will help you do that, you can get it at many an online retailer including the publisher, Cruciform Press....

News

Saturday Selections – September 26, 2020

A Christian take on Jordan Peterson the man, and the phenomenon (5 minutes) There's much to admire about Jordan Peterson...but we don't want to leave people where he's leading them. People deficient in vitamin D 54% more likely to get COVID-19 ...or to put a more positive spin, folks who get enough Vitamin D have a lower chance of getting COVID-19. There is also such a thing as getting too much Vitamin D, so this is a good one to bounce past your doctor. Texts to tell theistic evolutionists Gen. 1:29-30 and Gen. 9:3-4 are problematic texts for theistic evolutionists. Why are there so many wildfires in California, but not in the southeast US? Christians understand we are to steward God's creation – we are to actively take a role in managing nature – while the secular approach to the environment too often sees Man as only a problem, and therefore his absence as the solution. But that hands-off approach hasn't worked out well in California. WORLD magazine's Julie Borg also weighs in here. Legalizing "assisted dying" can lead to an increase in suicides Assisted-suicide proponents didn't expect that legalizing assisted suicide would increase the number of people taking their lives without assistance. But that's how it seems to be, and that shouldn't have surprised anyone: when legislation tells people that life is not sacred but disposable, people might just believe it. Embarrassing testimony (5 minutes) Tim Barnett offers up this interesting defense of the Gospel's trustworthiness: because they make the disciples look bad. ...

Science - Environmental Stewardship

Environmental Extremism: a one-world view

Christians know there is another Earth coming **** No intelligent and dedicated Christian wants to dispute the idea that we ought to be judicious about how we conduct ourselves with the planet that God has given us to inhabit and enjoy. Reasonable conservation is, of course, nothing more than good stewardship of those bounties. We applaud efforts at reforestation, preservation of Natural Wonders, and the like. We shouldn't think like the secular environmentalists But our views of the earth ought to collide with those of the environmental extremists who are more concerned about snail darters than about the livelihood of hardworking farmers whose efforts to earn a living are impeded by them. As believers, therefore, it is important for us to consider what God, Himself, has said about the matter. I want to suggest that, in passing, Paul makes an all-important statement in Colossians 2:22a that has been overlooked by many of our people. His words rest upon a worldview that simply is not shared by non-Christians. This dissimilarity in views leads to many of the differences that we find between ourselves and the environmentalists. Here are his words: “These refer to things that are intended to be used up and perish.” In the passage Paul is referring to “ascetic” injunctions concerning fasting, various uses of food, and so on, that unbelievers and Judaizers alike sought to impose upon Christians. Paul would have us refuse to follow them. So, in passing – as I indicated above – he says that the things that the world holds sacred, to the Christian, are but items that God has provided for our use. This Earth isn’t meant to last His point is that when they are “used up” that’s OK (assuming they were used in a responsible manner). It is no great tragedy to deplete the supply of fossil fuels, for a species of unusual fish to become extinct, or for the wolves to be banned from lands where they attack and destroy herds of cattle and sheep. “But that is a tragedy,” says someone. “After all, once they are gone – “used up” as your apostle put it – they are gone forever. To lose an animal species or a rainforest is to have suffered an irreparable loss!” Yes, in that objection, you detect quite a different philosophy of existence. Christians should expect outcries from environmentalists about oil drilling in the Arctic, logging in the West, the use of SUVs on our highways, and similar human activities that they believe will noticeably affect the environment. Such objections to these activities are perfectly in accord with the one-world view of the non-Christian. He would be inconsistent to his basic philosophy of existence if he didn’t raise an outcry. “What, then, are you saying,” asks a Christian? No need to cling Simply this. The unbeliever has but one world. He knows nothing of another world to come. He clings to every aspect of the present world‘s assets because, as he believes, once they “perish” they are gone forever. No wonder he is goes to lengths to preserve all that he can. But the Christian looks forward to a new heavens and a new earth that will be so far superior to the present one that he cannot stake everything on what now exists. He looks on the present world as a marvelous creation, in which God had provided all things for us to use and enjoy now – insofar as we can since it is under the curse of sin. Because of that curse, however, nothing will remain forever. Indeed, the book of Ecclesiastes was written to point out that nothing is permanent. And, in that book, like Paul, Solomon tells us to enjoy what we can so long as we are here and the deteriorating world in which we live continues as it is. The clash in opinions that occurs over various environmental issues is, in reality, a clash of a one-world and a two-world view of existence. Dr. Adams has written more than 100 books, on a variety of subjects. This article was originally posted on the Institute for Nouthetic Studies’ blog (www.nouthetic.org/blog) and is reprinted here with permission. Sidebar: Prioritizing the living over the hypothetical by Jon Dykstra Atheists have no future hope – no eternity to look forward to – so they are desperate to hold onto what they have now. That’s true for the unbelieving environmentalist, and equally so for the unbelieving health food fanatic: one is worried about the planet, the other his own well-being, but in both cases they are willing to go to extremes to preserve what they have because it is all that they have. A Christian knows better. We know that while life is precious and death is an enemy to be fought, we have another life coming. So we take good care of the body God has given us – we eat healthy and exercise when we can – but we don’t obsess about eliminating every last kettle chip from our diet, or worry about whether we’re getting enough of the latest superfood. We need to be good stewards of what God has given us, and that includes our life, but we don’t need to cling desperately to it. When it comes to our planet, Christians know that not only is another Earth coming, there is a chance it might come very soon. The unbeliever thinks this is it and there ain’t no more, so he’s willing to impose huge burdens on this world’s present population in the faint hope it will extend the Earth’s best before date. But what about the good that money could do right now? Consider this: if we knew the world was going to end in a decade – let’s say scientists saw a gigantic planet-killing comet on the way – would we spend trillions in the hope of making the planet a cooler place in 100 years? No, of course not. Then the choice would be obvious and even the unbeliever would want to spend those trillions on helping people right now. Well, we don’t know when the Christ is going to return, but we know it could happen any time. When we are weighing the needs of people today vs. the needs of people in the future, Christians need to place a very important and clarifying modifier before those future folk: we need to understand they are “hypothetical.” Jesus could come back tomorrow; we don’t know if there will still be children being born in one hundred years. Now, regardless of whether Christ returns this century or not, prioritizing the needs of real people over potential people is the right idea. That doesn't mean have no thought for tomorrow. It does mean the future is uncertain, and we don’t know what it brings. What we do know for certain is that there are millions of children today who are living in poverty, and dying from hunger and preventable sickness. If we seek to "save the future" by, for example, adopting carbon taxes to combat global warming, then we will make oil and gas more expensive, and that will increase the cost of food, shelter, medicine and more for the world's poor. We will hypothetically help the hypothetical populations of the future by actually hurting the actual poor of today. The point I'm arguing for here is a limited one. It could be caricatured as, rape and pillage the earth today, and who cares about the consequences for future generations, but that's not what I'm saying. I'm trying to counter a future-minded approach that wants to preserve the planet and does so by hurting the poorest today. But if that's the tradeoff – if it has to come down to hurting people today, or risking doing so to hypothetical populations of the future, then we should be standing up for the living, breathing, suffering, actual people of today even at an uncertain cost for the future....

History

Slip sliding away: a very different chapter in Dutch history

You can download or listen to the podcast version (5 minutes) here. **** Paul Simon once sang that the nearer your destination, the more you keep slip sliding away. While it’s a song about your journey through life and the places you visit, it’s also a sentiment that anyone in a northern, icy, country can understand. As a Canadian, I can confidently say we understand ice. It’s something that defines us in a way that’s hard to explain. The waters of the North are covered in ice much of the year. The ground in many areas is frozen with permafrost. The highways in the winter are either covered in treacherous black ice, or in some areas ice itself acts as the winter road. In the cities we learn to walk stiff legged like a penguin to avoid sliding on the ice. And we’ve even made ice our ally, playing hockey or figure skating to turn ice from foe to friend. Though we Canadians may know ice, we’re not the only ones. The Dutch have a reputation as speed skaters par excellence, having won bronze, silver and gold at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. In English literature, the familiarity of the Dutch with skating has survived as the tale of Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates. Though the Dutch may not know the snowfalls that can leave you trapped in your house for days, or the blizzards that can leave you unable to see more than a couple of feet in front of you, they do understand ice and maybe in a way the rest of us never will. Historically, for the Dutch skating has not been a sport or a playtime activity, but a practical way of getting around. Much of the Netherlands is located below sea level and large chunks of the country have even been reclaimed from the seas. This is a country with a lot of experience dealing with water. Not surprisingly, it’s also a land crisscrossed by canals because they’re necessary for drainage, and stopping the sea from taking back the land stolen away from it. Zip vs. slip Come winter, and especially the cold winters that the Netherlands frequently experienced in the 1500 and 1600s, these canals freeze. With that many canals, that’s a lot of ice. And since there are relatively few bridges spanning the rivers and canals, knowing how to skate gave you a really fast way to get around. You could get anywhere you wanted, and could get away from anywhere you didn’t want to be. Starting in the 1560s, the Dutch began to battle their colonial overlords, the Spanish.  With on-again, off-again battles raging over the years, the troubles came to a head near Amsterdam in 1572. The small Dutch fleet, highly maneuverable against the much larger Spanish vessels, was frozen into the ice in the port of Amsterdam. Though the Dutch fleet was immobile, the cold weather had brought the Spanish similar problems and they were unable to attack the Dutch city with their fleet. Forced to disembark, the Spanish started to cross the ice to the city on foot, and this was their fatal mistake. Walking gingerly in the penguin walk that natives of northern climates know well, the Spanish made slow progress towards the city. Yet as the Spanish struggled, coming at them with unbelievable speed were the Dutch soldiers. They would swiftly skate just within musket range, fire, and then skate away to reload. The speedy attack and retreat gave the Dutch incredible striking power and left nothing for the Spanish to fire at in return. The Spanish commander, the infamous Duke of Alva, was grudging in his respect for the Dutch. He ordered a swift retreat back to the Spanish boats (or as swift a retreat as the ice would allow), having suffered hundreds of deaths at the hands of the Dutch. The Duke did manage to kill a few Dutch soldiers and capture their skates. Acknowledging the innovative tactics of his enemies, he sent skates back to Spain and ordered that 7,000 pairs be made. From then on, soldiers posted to the Dutch frontier were all given skating lessons. It gave the Spanish increased mobility, but learning to skate and to skate well is not the work of a few lessons but of years of practice. The Dutch, as it were, could still skate circles around their foe. The ice-ing on the cake? While ice played a factor in the Dutch eventually winning their independence from the Spanish after 80 years of war, there were other factors, too. They formed alliances with other powers, and the women learned to shoot and guard the city walls while the men attacked the Spanish. But throughout that long war, strategic flooding of the lowlands, and its wintertime counterpart of skating played a role that the Spanish never could overcome. Though there were a lot of reasons that the Dutch beat the Spanish, it certainly helped that the Spanish learned a bit of what Paul Simon would later sing about: The nearer your destination, the more you keep slip sliding away. This article is taken from an episode of James Dykstra’s History.icu podcast, where history is never boring. Check out more episodes there or on Spotify, Google podcasts, or wherever you find your podcasts. For further reading… 80 Years War (Wikipedia) How Ice Skates Helped Win the War Ice Skates for Military Use The Dutch Army on Skates Unusual battle in the 80 Years Wars (Board Game Geek) The First Ice Skates Weren’t for Jumps and Twirls – They Were for Getting Around (Smithsonian Magazine) ...

Documentary, Family, Movie Reviews

A Lego brickumentary

Documentary 93 minutes / 2015 Rating: 7/10 If you have kids who are too young to watch anything with tension then that limits your viewing options. Yes, there are lots of shows they can watch, but very few that mommy or daddy will want to sit through too (I can feel my brain cells dying whenever Daniel the Tiger is turned on). But here's something different: a documentary the whole family can enjoy. The basic building blocks of the Lego story are simple. The Denmark-based company has been making these little bricks for 65+ years. They got off to a rocky start, with the first three factories getting burned down, and in the late 1990s lost their way as they started producing sets that had more and more specialized pieces and less and less actual building involved. The buying public didn't like this new direction, and sales took a plunge. But this shocked the company straight, and they returned to what made them great: selling a simple toy whose infinite combinations sparked the imagination. The film itself is a hagiography of sorts, looking at the company with the wide-open eyes of a fan. This is sure to get your kids building, but the target audience for the film is as much adults and children. In fact, the majority of the builders we're introduced to are adults, including both the "master builders" who work for the company, and the legions of AFOLs – Adult Fans Of Lego – who craft their own creations and show them off online and at Lego conventions. These creations are astonishing, including a full-size X-wing fighter (from Star Wars) and reproductions of classic artworks like the Mona Lisa and Michelangelo's David. CAUTIONS The only cautions for this G-rated film I can come up with is that there are about 10 to 20 seconds of evolutionary nonsense, accompanied by a depiction of primordial life emerging from the sea and turning into man (primordial Lego life turning into a Lego man). There is also a short 5 second clip Lego mini-figure recreation of the shower murder scene from the Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho. That sounds worse than it is - in both cases my kids didn't even catch what was going on. I'll also add that while there is a role for adults to play Lego with their kids, the obsession shown by the the AFOLs (Adult Fans of Lego) was disconcerting. Hobbies can be fun, but God calls Christians to balance, and any hobby that takes over your life is not a healthy one. Instead of encouraging our young men to hold on to their childhood we should be preparing them to put off childish things (1 Cor. 13:11). So Mom or Dad might want to raise the issues of balance and maturity after watching this. CONCLUSION A Lego Brickumentary is a fun film for the whole family. I liked it because I could watch something entertaining and kind of educational without worry about my children being traumatized. Our kids liked it because it was inspiring and the host, a Lego mini-figure, is charming and often funny. So far we've watched it twice, and I could see us watching it again, so if you can get it for a good price, this might be a documentary worth owning. Otherwise, it makes for a great streaming rental, or might well be at your local library. ...

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Chosen by God

by R.C. Sproul 1986 / 187 pages  While most Christians joyfully acknowledge God's sovereignty in His providence – his protective care – many are less eager to embrace His sovereignty in salvation. With some this is because they fear losing man's free will; others fear losing our sense of responsibility for our response to God's grace; and others want God to woo us rather than compel us. R.C. Sproul’s book deals with all these concerns. Each of the first eight chapters explores aspects of God's sovereignty, and ends with a summary of the ideas argued and a list of at least four supporting Biblical passages.  Several of those chapters deal with significant connections within the doctrine of predestination – like between Adam's Fall and Mine, between Rebirth and Faith, and between God's Foreknowledge and Predestination. The eighth chapter deals with possibly the most personal of the five points of Calvinism, the perseverance of the saints, whether you can really know that you are saved – renaming it the preservation of the saints to highlight both God's sovereignty and His steadfast mercy. The final chapter, dealing with questions and objections, ends with Sproul’s invitation to open "our eyes to see God's beauty" in His sovereign love for His people. May our eyes be so opened!...

News

Saturday Selections – September 19, 2020

Chickens are fearfully and wonderfully made too! (4 minutes) This incredible video shows how a fertilized egg becomes a chicken and it is amazing! Should parents spank their children? While spanking isn't the only tool in the discipline toolbox, Sam Crabtree of DesiringGod.org explains why it is an important one. Creation scientists debating their Flood models If you follow the creation/evolution debate you've come across creationist critiques of holes in evolutionary theory. But did you know creationists critique each other's theories too? This is an intriguing overview of some different Flood models creationists have proposed. The economic stimulus program that won't cost taxpayers trillions As the article explains, if President Trump (and Prime Minister Trudeau) would simply cut their tariffs on incoming goods, they could quickly and greatly increase their citizens' wealth and opportunities for investment and job creation. But doesn't cutting tariffs cost local jobs? Tariffs do protect some jobs but at the expense of other jobs. By making all of a country's consumers – including manufacturing companies – pay more for a good they could have bought cheaper from overseas, those extra expenses represent money that these companies can't use to invest in their own business. That's why tariffs cost jobs too. Tariffs are the federal government interfering in the economy to favor some companies at the cost of all consumers...which include some other companies. Would we want them to take from our company to favor another? Then Matt. 7:12 – do unto others as you would want done unto you – tells us we shouldn't be asking them to do it for our benefit either. RedeemTV.com offers free Christian films and TV shows RedeemTV is the latest free streaming service and while Christian films do often suffer from a lack of quality, there are a few offerings here worth checking out: C.S. Lewis Onstage: The Most Reluctant Convert  - a fantastic one-man stage production with Max Maclean as C.S. Lewis Tortured for Christ - a well-done drama about Pastor Richard Wurmbrand's stand against the Romania government Martin Luther - this 1950s film was nominated for an Oscar Francis Schaeffer: How Should We Then Live? – This 1970s documentary series remains very relevant today Torchlighers - this series about "Christian heroes" features some figures we might admire for their bravery even as we don't want to present them as "heroes" to our children. Another caution: though animated, some episodes are too intense for younger children, as sometimes martyr's deaths are depicted. Parents should be sure to preview. The Jenny Geddes Band: Hold your peace (5 minutes) Romans 9...with a beat. ...

Apologetics 101

C.S. Lewis's Apologetics: a Reformed assessment

Many Christians admire C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) and enjoy his writings. I was introduced to C.S. Lewis through my Grade 4 teacher who read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe out loud to us. I was hooked. Shortly thereafter I went out and bought my own set of the complete Chronicles of Narnia. That just got me started. I’ve long enjoyed his imagination and literary style and I’m by no means alone. But his influence goes further. He was a well-known and persuasive advocate for Christianity. Many people claim to have become Christians through the writings of Lewis. Books like Mere Christianity and Miracles are still widely-read and touted as powerful tracts promoting Christian truth. He was one of the most influential Christian apologists of the twentieth century. But what should a Reformed believer think about his method? Can we make use of his writings in Reformed apologetics? Some background Lewis was born in Ireland, but spent most of his life in England. He was a professor of English at Cambridge University. He wasn’t trained as a theologian, but did study and briefly teach philosophy. He’d been an unbeliever for much of his young adult life. He writes about this in his spiritual autobiography Surprised by Joy: I was at this time living, like so many Atheists or Antitheists, in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.1 In the early 1930s, Lewis abandoned his atheism and professed to be a Christian. He became a member of the Church of England. Today many Christians believe C.S. Lewis to have been an orthodox, evangelical believer. However, it’s important to realize that Lewis had some serious theological problems. For example, he didn’t hold to the inerrancy of the Bible. In his book Reflections on the Psalms, he insists that the imprecatory psalms (like Psalm 137) are “devilish.” In Mere Christianity, he affirms some form of theistic evolution.2 In the same book, he writes about the possibility of Buddhists belonging to Christ without knowing it: “…A Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believe) the Buddhist teaching on other points.”3 There are more such issues. On the basis of some of his statements, one might even wonder to what extent C.S. Lewis really understood the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ. For myself, I’m not sure. One thing that is certain is that Lewis has had a huge influence. In the last few years, this is definitely because of the Chronicles of Narnia books being made into films. As mentioned earlier, there are many people who claim to have become Christians because they read a book by C.S. Lewis like Mere Christianity or Miracles. Let’s briefly look at those books and the method Lewis uses. Mere Christianity Mere Christianity was originally a series of radio talks. It was an attempt by Lewis to argue for a basic (‘mere’) form of the Christian faith. Early in the book, Lewis uses the moral argument for the existence of a deity. He says that because there is moral law, there must be a law-giver. That law-giver must be a deity. At that point, he wasn’t arguing for the Christian conception of God, but only a generic divine being. His method becomes clear in what he says here: We have not yet got as far as the God of any actual religion, still less the God of that particular religion called Christianity. We have only got as far as a Somebody or Something behind the Moral Law. We are not taking anything from the Bible or the Churches, we are trying to see what we can find out about this Somebody on our own steam.4 Lewis was thus trying to reason to God apart from any revelation from God. He was asking readers to independently judge the existence of God on the basis of the arguments presented. This method is found elsewhere in Mere Christianity as well. Lewis tries to build up his case bit by bit. Eventually he gets to the question of what should his readers think about Jesus and his claim to be God: I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sorts of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.5 That’s a brilliant piece of writing, often quoted. You’ll sometimes hear it condensed down to the idea that people have to decide whether Jesus was Lord, liar, or lunatic. Yet note again that people are called to judge. You have to judge the claims of Jesus. C.S. Lewis wrote another book entitled God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics. In that book he gets to the heart of the problem with his own approach in parts of Mere Christianity. He writes: The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock…The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the bench and God in the dock.6 That’s exactly what Lewis did in Mere Christianity. He allowed man to judge God. He flattered the unbeliever. Lewis gave him a position of authority over God. That method was and is not unique to C.S. Lewis. Many others before and after him have done exactly the same thing. I should also note that it can sometimes be persuasive. These types of arguments can work to get people thinking about the Christian faith, and maybe even convince them. However, just because they work doesn’t mean they’re right or pleasing to God. Miracles In his book Miracles, we do find Lewis using a different method at times.7 He discusses the philosophy of naturalism, the idea that nothing exists besides nature. Against naturalism is supernaturalism, which allows for the existence of other things outside of nature, and therefore also allows for the existence of miracles. Lewis starts off by rightly noting how the disagreement between the naturalist and the supernaturalist over miracles is not merely about facts. One needs to spend time considering the philosophy of facts held by each side. Lewis is saying that presuppositions matter. He writes, The result of our historical enquiries thus depends on the philosophical views which we have been holding before we even began to look at the evidence. The philosophical question must therefore come first.8 That could have been said by Reformed theologians like Herman Bavinck or Cornelius VanTil. Lewis recognizes that people have pre-existing philosophical commitments which must be exposed and discussed. So when it comes to naturalism, Lewis does exactly that. He does an internal critique of this philosophy and how it fails to account for logic, morality, and science. To illustrate, let’s just briefly look at what he says about naturalism and logic or reason. Lewis demonstrates that the naturalist cannot consistently hold to his position without undermining reason itself. His philosophy cannot account for reason and cannot support reason. Even though the naturalist tries to talk highly of reason, he actually destroys it. This is because our reasoning powers are not explainable with naturalism. Naturalism is materialistic – all that exists is matter. But what is reason? Is reason material or non-material? Because reason is non-material, naturalism cannot account for it, we have no way for knowing whether it’s true, and our reasoning has no legitimacy. Lewis writes: A theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but which made it impossible to believe that our thinking was valid, would be utterly out of court. For that theory would itself have been reached by thinking, and if thinking is not valid that theory would, of course, be itself demolished. It would be destroyed by its own credentials. It would be an argument which proved that no argument was sound…which is nonsense.9 Naturalism collapses under its own weight when it comes to reason. Later in the book, Lewis shows that naturalism also collapses when it comes to morality and science. Instead of naturalism, Lewis argues that supernaturalism can account for everything. While he doesn’t get to the point of affirming that only the Christian worldview’s supernaturalism can account for everything, he comes close. Elsewhere in his writings, he did reach that conclusion. There is this famous quote from his book The Weight of Glory: Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality, and the sub-Christian religions. The scientific point of view cannot fit in any of these things, not even science itself. I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.10 That is very well said – completely in line with Psalm 36:9, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” Indeed, only Christianity can consistently account for everything. Christianity is true because of the impossibility of the contrary. Lewis didn’t always consistently work with this method, but when he did, he used it to great effect At the end of the day, Lewis is worth reading, not only to see some wrong ways of doing apologetics, but also to learn to use some right ways -- and brilliantly. Moreover, if you have non-Christian friends, reading Lewis with them might be a great way to bring Christian truth to bear on their lives. If you do that, I’d recommend Miracles over Mere Christianity. Endnotes 1) C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, New York: Walker and Company, 1955, 170. 2) C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, London: Fontana Books, 1952, 181ff. 3) Lewis, Mere Christianity, 173. 4) Lewis, Mere Christianity, 35. 5) Lewis, Mere Christianity, 52-53. 6) C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, ed. W. Hooper (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 244. 7) For this section on Miracles, I am indebted to an unpublished paper by Daniel R. Dodds, “Elements of Transcendental Presuppositionalism as Found in the Works of C.S. Lewis.” 8) C.S. Lewis, Miracles, New York: Fount Paperbacks, 1947, 8. 9) Lewis, Miracles, 18-19. 10) C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, 1980, 92 Dr. Bredenhof blogs at yinkahdinay.wordpress.com where this first appeared....

Culture Clashes

Black Lives Matter – the slogan

Since Christians must oppose the abortion-supporting, LGBT-agenda pushing Black Lives Matter organization should we still be embracing the Black Lives Matter slogan? **** This article is also available in an audio version on YouTube, and on the Focal Point podcast site. The death of George Floyd in May was met with chants across the US, and in other countries too, that: “Black lives matter!”This cry, being undeniably true, resonated with Christians, leading many to march, and others to “black out” their social media pages in solidarity. But as clear as it is that Christians must not be racist and must fight against this sin, what I am presenting in this article is why both the organization Black Lives Matter, and even the slogan itself, shouldn’t be embraced by Christians. Why? Accusations need to be specific to be actionable To begin, the entirety of the movement is based on the blanket assertion that by simply being Black, a person is oppressed. The claim is made that there aren’t just individual cases of discrimination, but there is “systemic racism” – it is a feature of, and built right into the whole fabric of our culture and institutions, public and private. It is important to understand that there could well be evidence of systemic racism or other individual racism, but the first step to addressing problems is identifying them…specifically. Where there are specific examples given of racial injustice, we can then work to find specific solutions. If police are targeting Black drivers in expensive cars, or for driving through a rich neighborhood, that would be racial profiling and would be wrong. This specific problem would require specific solutions such as restricting police officer’s ability to pull over vehicles without evidence of just cause or probability. If Black people are being killed in “no-knock” police raids – operations where the police break down the door without first identifying themselves – this specific problem could also be addressed with a specific approach that might involve completely re-examining this practice. To be sure, widespread systemic racism has existed, with laws in the US that restricted where Blacks could sit, or eat, or even what water fountains they could use. And examples could persist in certain institutions today. But those laws are now gone. And for many years there has been an effort towards affirmative action, both codified (by law) or de facto (local hiring policies), opening greater opportunities for historical minorities to have a better chance for post-secondary education or certain jobs. We could explore the pros and cons of affirmative action in a future article, but the point here is only to note it was certainly an effort to address systemic racism and to provide increased opportunities for those whose opportunities may have been lacking. Unspecified claims of systemic racism suggest that it is intentional and state-sponsored; that the cultural power elites have set up a system where they can continue to suppress any opportunity that Black people, or members of other racial minorities, could have of empowerment. How they account for the many successful and middle-income members within the Black community is not very clear. They don’t fit the victim narrative and their success seems to be either ignored, or they themselves are attacked as sellouts (as Larry Elder highlights in his new documentary Uncle Tom). The idea of systemic racism does not allow much room for individual success for Black people, and any example of such success isn't allowed to counter the narrative of oppression. The point I’m trying to make is that we can address specific problems with specific solutions. In contrast, it is impossible to fix nebulous unspecified problems, especially with riots and looting. The BLM organization is specifically anti-Christian Why we should not support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) organization becomes clear when we take a closer look at what that organization supports. This is from their website: We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence. It is not a societal “privilege” when your sexuality and gender match – it is healthy, natural, and normal. The Creator God made it so. It is possible that this division between gender and sexuality becomes normal language even among Christians, and we must resist this, entirely. We have to understand that we are up against a Great Deceiver, who is prowling around like a lion seeking to devour. There is a battle going on for us and our children and we need to equip ourselves and our young people with clear unambiguous language about the created order. Where there is evidence of gender dysphoria, then empathy, compassion, and help should be readily available; but by seeking to “dismantle cisgender privilege,” and “uplift Black trans folk” the BLM organization is attacking what is good, and celebrating what is broken. They boldly state: BLM foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise). The “Black Lives Matter” slogan has many people thinking this is about racism. To be sure, the organization addresses racism in its statement of faith, but the organization’s focus is fixated on sexuality and gender identity too. By using charged language of “freeing ourselves from the tight grip of…”, they are affirming that all those who are not part of the cultural elite (white, male, able-bodied, cis-gendered, etc.) are oppressed. They hate the idea that heterosexuality is normative, but as Christians, we confess its normative status from creation. We acknowledge, in humility, that there are Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction and the church needs to develop greater empathy for such brothers and sisters, but that does not take away from the norms that God has established in creation. As we look through their website their radical anti-Christian intent becomes more and more clear. We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable. The very foundational structure of civilization, all civilizations, is the family unit. It is the Christian worldview that highlights the importance of fathers and mothers, both. God created both male and female in his image; God demands that children honor both father and mother; the Triune relationship includes that of Father and Son, etc. While Christians express the importance of belonging to the communion of saints or the “extended family” and “village” that “collectively cares for one another,” we stress the biblical truth that the primary responsibility for children are parents, both fathers and mothers. It is the task of both parents to train up their children in the fear of the Lord. You’ll also notice that BLM mentions mothers and parents in this statement, but not fathers specifically. They are focused on ensuring they don’t make any allusions to anything that could be remotely close to patriarchy. They would object to orthodox churches refusing to allow women to serve in the office of elders and deacons. They would object to asking a wife if they would “honor, love, and obey” her husband. Any language that suggests that a husband is the head of his household would be forbidden. The BLM slogan is 100% true and still shouldn’t be embraced The brand “Black Lives Matter” was strategically chosen. Who can disagree with it? Black lives do matter, and all people, especially Christians, must fight injustices including racism. But we may not support in any way, shape, or manner the BLM movement which ties the slogan and organization so tightly together. We need to see that the driving force behind the Black Lives Matter movement is an organization that is entirely ungodly, unchristian, unbiblical, and wrong. It is a deceptive movement, seeking to deceive whole nations of people in an effort to portray all the things God teaches us are right and good, as being wrong and unjust. And their influence is seen everywhere, especially, these days, on the professional sports playing field. Might it be time for us to stop watching NBA basketball or NFL football, since these organizations have embraced the Black Lives Matter movement uncritically, and ideologically? Maybe it is time we stop cheering and spending money on BLM ideologues and their paraphernalia whether that is pro-sports or any other organization. Going forward, we will have to choose our words carefully. When we want to express how unjust racism is, we will have to find another way than to echo a slogan that is tightly linked to so much more than the words it says. Perhaps we can find a way to say that all people of all races are “image-bearers of God”? We can no longer use “black lives matter” because it implies that we agree with the organization and what it stands for, but we don’t, and we can’t. I want to conclude this article by suggesting that BLM is not the root of a new tree, but it is a fruit of a tree planted many years ago. The founders of BLM are synthesizing instruction from those who have gone on before them including Karl Marx and Saul Alinsky – one of the co-founders has even described herself and her colleagues as “trained Marxists.” In future articles, I hope to explore some of these foundational developments that have provided the fertile soil for BLM and other such causes. May the Lord help us to remain diligent in keeping his Word, using it as a light to our path, shining the light of His Word on the darkness around us. We are the salt and light in this world; let’s be sure we know what needs preserving and how to preserve it. ***** What could we say instead? If we can’t join in the chants of “Black Lives Matter!” what can we say instead? Imagine this: what if Christians who were upset with the seemingly cavalier death of George Floyd would have responded with “George Floyd was an image-bearer of God too”? That would have underscored the importance of treating him and everyone as persons with dignity and respect. It also would have been specifically targeted to George Floyd’s death. To address the larger challenge of racism, some have suggested “Black lives matter too!” The benefit of adding “too” makes it clear that the sentence itself is not racist. It highlights that racism against Black people is a problem while also recognizing that all races matter. Would a phrase like “Erase racism” capture the same point? Perhaps “Christians against racism” could be a phrase we “meme-ify.” It demonstrates Christians’ opposition to racism, while also confessing we are followers of Christ. Finally, a more wordy suggestion, but that would include the reason for why we oppose racism: “The New Jerusalem will be filled with a mosaic of peoples. Stop Racism Now.” Our anticipation of the perfection that is to come should motivate towards working towards the standards of perfection. As R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries remind us regularly, “Right Now Counts Forever.” So, right now, let’s do our best to hold up every human being, from conception to natural death, as the image-bearers of God that they are, and demonstrate our desire to help those who may be victims of racism. Chris deBoer is the Executive Director of the Reformed Perspective Foundation and the host of the Focal Point podcast. Picture credit: Shutterstock.com/Footage Force. ...

Adult fiction, Book Reviews

Ride Sally, Ride

by Douglas Wilson 294 pages / 2020 This might be the weirdest bit of fiction I've read, but the author's point is that this is no stranger than the bizarre non-fiction showing up in our news feed each day. One of the "characters" in the story is a life-sized sex doll, and that had some thinking that this was one of those books. It is not. It is, instead, a comic and admittedly PG-rated commentary on the gonzo culture that produces such things. The setting is the US of twenty years hence. A Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe vs. Wade has the interior states banning abortion once again and has Americans en masse  "reshuffling to states more conducive to their values." With Christians heading inland and liberals fleeing to the coasts, the country's outer edges have doubled down on sexual license and given the biggest of bear hugs to Big Brother, even as the heartlands are taking a sharp Godward turn and paring down the size of their governments. Our hero, Ace, lives in Colorado, one of the few inland woke states, where speech is monitored, and the orthodox Christian books are available only on the dark web. Christians are still allowed to circulate, but like the frog being brought to a slow boil, most are unaware of the decided change their innards are undergoing. The story begins with Ace's father Benson making the welcome wagon ready for a new neighbor who is just moving in. Cookies are baked, and Ace and Benson head on over to help bring in the heavy furniture, because that's what good Christians should do. But what should good Christians do when your new neighbor introduces you to his life-size robotic "wife"? Father Benson thinks he should invite "them" over for dinner because, after all, "they" need Jesus. Son Ace grants the point that someone sure needs Jesus, but wants to know why his dad keeps talking about them. One thing leads to another – we're still in the first chapter here – and Ace ends up trash compacting his neighbor's doll, and instead of getting charged with destruction of property, the woke prosecutor charges him with murder, because their neighbor had clearly identified the doll as his wife. It only gets crazier from there, and in a far too believable way. Cautions If it hasn't been made clear already, this is not your typical Christian novel. For instance, while many a Christian novel will take God's name in vain, this one doesn't. And while no Christian novel ever uses the word "pussy" this one does, twice, used by a non-Christian character who, in her defense, uses it as appropriately as it might ever be used. But that's about as problematic as it gets. While this certainly isn't a book for children, and despite its provocative premise, there's nothing titillating. This is a satiric commentary on our culture's dark turn, but that darkness is handled with delicacy. Conclusion Ride Sally, Ride is, at regular intervals, laugh out loud funny, and had me reading it to my wife to share the best bits. I'd recommend it for adults who appreciate satire, and while it isn't strictly dystopian (what with its happy ending) fans of that genre are sure to enjoy it too. The best test to see if you'll appreciate the book might be to see if you appreciate the trailer below. If it's too shocking, then Ride Sally, Ride won't be your cup of tea either. But if you laughed... ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - September 2020

When the pastor fell asleep Maybe you already knew that Charles Spurgeon was called the "Prince of Preachers," with more than 3,500 published sermons. But did you know he didn’t even stop when he slept?  Marshall Shelley shared the story of how, one Saturday night, Spurgeon began to talk in his sleep. “His wife, Susannah, heard the noise and awoke. She realized her husband was preaching, so she listened attentively and in the morning gave her husband a detailed summary. A few hours later, he preached that sermon to his congregation.” SOURCE: “From the editor: Sleepy Preacher” Relationships take time Jay Younts wants parents to understand that they won’t be the biggest influence on their children’s lives if they aren’t investing time. "If teenagers are listening to three hours of TV every day and averaging five minutes a day talking with their dads, who is winning the influence battle?" And as a Frank Viola points out, what’s true for parents and our children is also true for us and God. "In Willard Harley’s marvelous book on marital relationships – His Needs, Her Needs – Harley observes that in order for couples to stay emotionally connected, they need to spend 15 hours a week together. The point there is that for any relationship to flourish, there must be intentional time spent for communication and presence..... It’s no different with our relationship to Jesus. If we neglect Him, we’ll eventually shrivel up spiritually. Our lives will be overtaken by 'the cares of this life,' 'the lust/desire for other things,' and 'the deceitfulness of money' – all of which choke out God’s life (Mark 4:19)." The 7 deadly medical conditions In the August issue of Faith in Focus in his article "The sin of gluttony," Dr. Hans Snoek discusses how we've "medicalized" many a sin: “…the seven deadly sins were Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Wrath and Sloth. It is not for me to discuss the status of these sins as ‘deadly’ or otherwise but Scripture confirms that all of these characteristics of a human being are sinful….It is noteworthy that these seven sins have, in the 21st Century, become one virtue followed by six medical conditions! Pride is the 21st-century virtue, pride is being encouraged for all, raise your self-esteem is almost a mantra of the age.” Theistic evolution flips the script... “The Bible teaches that Adam produced death. The opposing view has to say that in some manner death produced Adam.” - Douglas Wilson Even the post-modernist knows there are absolutes Ravi Zacharias has a favorite story he tells about an encounter with a deconstructionist/postmodern building. As he describes it, “…inside you encounter stairways that go nowhere, pillars that hang from the ceiling without purpose, and angled surfaces configured to create a sense of vertigo.” What’s the point? Zacharias explained that when the artist was questioned the man answered: "If life itself is capricious, why should our buildings have any design and any meaning?” But as Zacharias went on to explain, this postmodern building, with its dead ends and useless pillars was still very well designed, because even as the designer pretended to flout all the rules of design, he had to acknowledge them and submit to them. “When the rationale was explained to me, I had just one question: Did he do the same with the foundation? “The laughter in response to my question unmasked the double standard espouse. And that is precisely the double standard of atheism! It is possible to dress up and romanticize our bizarre experiments in social restructuring while disavowing truth or absolutes. But one dares not play such deadly games with the foundations of good thinking.”  Evil isn’t just out there Right since Adam and Eve, mankind has been very good at the blame game – it's always someone else's fault, isn't it? But no, as the gents below highlight, the battle starts closer to home. “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human heart.” – Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago “Dear Sir: Regarding your article ‘What is Wrong with the World,’ I am. Yours truly.” – G.K. Chesterton Men ≠ women “A study in The Washington Post says that women have better verbal skills than men. I just want to say to the authors of that study: ‘Duh!’” – Conan O’Brien We honor God with obedience…not results Martin Luther is credited with saying, "If I knew that tomorrow was the end of the world, I would plant an apple tree today!" Whether the attribution is correct, it highlights that we don't know what tomorrow might bring, therefore it is the means and not the ends that are in our hands. It is only the means then, with which we can glorify God, and not uncertain results. Or as Mike Ratliff has put it: “…I had always assumed that when God gives us a message or lesson or sermon or counsel in which to write or teach or preach or give to those who need to hear it, He would also cause those hearing it to recognize it as the truth, believe it, and obey it. Reality hit hard. The principle I learned was that God is glorified when we obey Him whether the results of our obedience meet our expectations or not.”...

News

Saturday Selections - September 12, 2020

Who has measured the heavens with His fingers? (2 minutes) This video unpacks what's contained in an area of space that you can cover with just the tip of your finger. God's universe is bigger than big! <span data-mce-type="bookmark" style="display: inline-block; width: 0px; overflow: hidden; line-height: 0;" class="mce_SELRES_start"></span><span data-mce-type="bookmark" style="display: inline-block; width: 0px; overflow: hidden; line-height: 0;" class="mce_SELRES_start"></span><span data-mce-type="bookmark" style="display: inline-block; width: 0px; overflow: hidden; line-height: 0;" class="mce_SELRES_start"></span> Why Bibles given to slaves omitted most of the Old Testament While the Bible teaches we should be in submission to God – slaves even – His Word is all about freedom too, which seems to be why slaves that were given the Bible were given an abridged version. You need to know what your kids are listening to (10-minute read) The lyrics of the mega-hit WAP celebrate promiscuous, loveless sex in a ruder, cruder form than anything Madonna ever managed... and it is the #1 song in the world right now. So what are your kids listening to? Is it ethical to use data from Nazi medical experiments? The Nazis performed research on imprisoned Jews, and today we do research using the remains of aborted children. The justification given for this experimentation, in both cases, is that the subjects weren't fully human. If that is a reason not to use cruelly-derived  Nazi research – which is universally condemned and unlikely to ever be otherwise – isn't there all the more reason to steer clear of the results of experimentation on aborted fetuses? After all, abortion is an evil still with us. This is an especially relevant question today considering that some of the COVID vaccines in the works are being developed with the remains of aborted children. "Respectable sins" of the Reformed world "Respectable sins" are the ones that we justify and might even defend...if we talked about them at all. Tim Challies lists several specific to the Reformed world, including suspicion, gossip, and slander. The OT chapter Jews don't read: Isaiah 53 (10 minutes) Christians think Isaiah 53 is about Christ. But what do Jews think? This is a wonderful video, with the interviewer, a Jewish "Ray Comfort," sharing the chapter with Jews, and then lovingly confronting them with their sins and need for the Saviour. ...

Marriage

Is the Proverbs 31 wife an unrealistic supermom?

In his article "On being a Titus 2 young woman" Rev. Bouwman made a statement that likely had some readers blinking in surprise. He said of the Proverbs 31 woman: "This woman is not the proverbial 'super-mom' but simply a God-fearing woman..." Not a super-mom? Simply a God-fearing woman? Really? That runs counter to the popular understanding of her as so pure, so selfless, so hard-working as to be a completely unrealistic example of what godly womanhood looks like. Sure, it'd be great to be like her, but then again it'd be great to be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. But is either goal attainable? So who has it right? Is this woman simply unreal, or "simply a God-fearing woman?" To find an answer it will be helpful to grab our Bibles, turn to Proverbs 31 and then look at the passage in a more modern light. We could ask, "What would the Proverbs 31 wife be up to if she was around today?" and update the many tasks she takes on. If we do that, then what we find is a wife: who has her husband's trust at home and in business matters too (vs. 11,16) who honors that trust (vs. 12) who knows how to use a sewing machine (vs. 13) who makes regular trips to Safeway and Costco (vs. 14) who rises each morning, and before her kids are even awake, making their lunches and getting breakfast ready (vs. 15) who has arms grown strong from scrubbing pots, cleaning floors and hauling her children in and out of car seats (vs. 17) who has her own Etsy store, selling good she makes in the evenings (vs. 18-19,24) who makes meals for those in need and, after her kids were all in school, began volunteering at the local crisis pregnancy clinic (vs. 20) who finds good clothing for her family, for every season, and who dresses herself attractively (vs. 21-22) whose her hard work makes it possible for her husband to have the time to be an elder or deacon (vs. 23) who is wise, and confident about the future because she recognizes God is in control; and she is able to share her wisdom with others over coffee (vs. 25-26) who manages her household and doesn't spend her afternoons watching the soaps (vs. 27) whose children and husband can't contain their pride in her (vs. 28-29) who is praised not for how she looks, but for the God-fearing woman she is (vs. 30-31) This is certainly a remarkable woman. But doesn't she sound familiar? Isn't this someone you know? While this woman is amazing, we shouldn't dismiss her as unrealistic. That would be a mistake for two reasons. First, because it would be ignoring the God-pleasing example He outlines here – this is an example given precisely for instruction. That Christian women will regularly fall short of this standard doesn't mean it can be ignored. It only means that they – like their husbands – need to regularly go to God in repentance, and ask Him to continue to mold them and shape them to better take on the good works He has laid out for them to do. And, second, dismissing the Proverbs 31 woman as unrealistic would be to overlook what God has given us in the many women we know who bear a striking resemblance to the woman of this passage. As we read in verse 10, their worth is far beyond jewels! So we should never overlook the enormity of the blessing God has given us in these women! Jon Dykstra is the father of three and the husband of one, who is worth far more than jewels....

Pro-life - Abortion

Should we ask God to forgive Canada for all the babies being aborted? No.

A few years back I was busy preparing for a cross-country series of pro-life presentations. My research had me digging through some articles on what Scripture says about who or what the preborn child is, what our responsibility to the preborn child is, and what the law’s relationship to the preborn child ought to be. In one of piece I came across the following Bible text from Deut. 21:1-3a, 7-9: If anyone is found slain…and it is not known who killed him, then your elders and your judges shall go out and measure the distance from the slain man to the surrounding cities. And it shall be that the elders of the city nearest to the slain man will take a heifer…. Then they shall answer and say, “Our hands have not shed this blood, nor have our eyes seen it. Provide atonement, O LORD, for your people Israel, who you have redeemed, and do not lay innocent blood to the charge of Your people…” So you shall put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you when you do what is right in the sight of the LORD. The passage left me pondering: should we, as Reformed churches, be regularly praying for forgiveness for the shedding of innocent blood, as it relates to abortion? We know that the carcasses of dead babies can be found in nearly every hospital in every major city in this country. Ought we to be in specific prayer on this issue? Or would that be a misapplication of the text? No forgiveness without repentance I turned the passage and the text over to Professor emeritus of Old Testament, Dr. Cornelis Van Dam. He wrote the following. "What is striking is that although the murder was unsolved, and no one could specifically be held accountable, God teaches that there is nevertheless corporate responsibility. The people as a whole needed to respond to it through their elders. The elders of the two closest cities have to make atonement on behalf of Israel and pray for forgiveness. By making atonement, the people through the elders show remorse over this murder and thus provide a basis for asking for forgiveness. " there are some major differences with our current situation. Canada is not in a special covenant relationship with God, with special rules for affecting atonement in the land. However, the country’s rulers are ultimately responsible to God, also with respect to the sixth commandment (Rom 13:1-5). But, as a nation, we have not received special covenant regulations for making atonement. Atonement has been made in Christ and it is the church that has been given the duty to proclaim that gospel. Hence your question, does the church also have the task to pray for forgiveness? "Abortions are not unsolved murders and we certainly have corporate responsibility as a democratic society for the murders of those children not yet born that take place in hospitals. Abortion has become a taboo topic. Those who govern are determined to let abortions continue. Can we pray for forgiveness when there is no repentance? The biblical answer is 'no.' We can pray that God withhold his wrath from our decadent society, bless the proclamation of the gospel so that many repent, and bless the work of those who want to honor God’s rights in the land. But simply to pray for forgiveness would go against the biblical principle that repentance is necessary for forgiveness to be possible. Think, for example, of Christ’s words: 'If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him' (Luke 17:3). God only forgives us if we are repentant (Luke 13:3; Acts 3:19) and his forgiving is to be a model for ours (Eph 4:32; Col 3:13). If and when Canada repents of the sin of abortion, then the church should certainly pray that God also forgive that heinous crime. "The crime of abortion is extremely serious. Israel had to make atonement lest God’s wrath descend on the land. But Israel also had to repent in order for the sacrifices of atonement to be accepted. Without repentance, God rejected the sacrifices and – due to Israel’s continued sins – ultimately destroyed both the northern and southern kingdoms in accordance with the covenant curses. Even though Canada is not in a special covenant relationship with God, this country too faces God’s judgment and at some point it will happen unless there is repentance and the forgiveness that follows. After all, God holds all nations accountable, especially those who know or could know his will (cf., e.g., Luke 10:14)." But what of Jesus and Stephen’s prayers? Dr. Van Dam’s response was very helpful, but it did prompt one more question. If repentance must precede forgiveness, what should we make of Jesus’ plea on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do?” (Luke 23:34) And what should we make of Stephen’s prayer as he was stoned to death, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). Dr. Van Dam responded with the following: "In the light of what Scripture teaches, the late Dr. William Hendriksen, in his commentary on this passage, rightly paraphrased this prayer of our Savior thus: “Blot out their transgression completely. In thy sovereign grace cause them to repent truly, so that they can be and will be pardoned fully.” "In this way he interceded for the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12). Christ’s prayer was heard. Thousands of Jews believed in Christ after his death when they realized what they had done (Acts 2:37-41; 4:4; 6:7). At the same time, the nation as a whole stood condemned and the judgment pronounced on Jerusalem could not be averted (Luke 21:5-6). The city fell to the Romans in 70 AD with the resulting slaughter, enslavement, the sacking of the city, and the destruction of the temple. It was the end of the Jewish state. Stephen’s prayer can be understood in the same light as that of the Lord. It was a plea that those who were killing him would see and realize what they were actually doing and repent and so receive forgiveness." Conclusion As Christians then, we must be a shining light in this country darkened by the heinous crime of abortion. We must continue to work also to bring repentance to our decadent society so that, one day, our Father might forgive Canada our trespasses. As one pro-life apologist said to me, “May their sins of commission never be because of our sins of omission.” André Schutten is ARPA Canada's Director of Law & Policy. Dr. Van Dam is Professor emeritus of Old Testament at the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary....

Family, Movie Reviews

The Defense of New Haven

Children's 2016 / 82 minutes RATING: 7/10 This is a wonderfully bizarre adventure: a steampunk Christian allegoric comedy adventure, with every character played by a child actor, even though the characters are adults. Our hero, Alec, is a one-armed man who gets recruited by a fully-bearded six-year-old to carry a secret message to the city's miniature-steamboat-driving defensive forces so that they'll be able to stop gasmask-wearing raiders. That is a sentence I never imagined writing, but this is a movie I would have never imagined seeing. And it is both as cheezy and as fantastic. The kids deliver their lines like you'd expect children to do, and you either have to be okay with that or you won't enjoy a moment of it. But for its preschool target audience, this won't be a hindrance. That audience will be entranced by the set: the city of New Haven is proportioned perfectly for its pint-sized inhabitants, complete with narrow cobblestone streets, treacherous back alleys, medieval-style buildings, and canals for the miniature steamboats. It is amazing! I can't really think of any cautions other than this isn't a movie for older kids, or at least the sort that roll their eyes. If an older brother or sister can enjoy things vicariously, then they'll find it a treat to watch their little siblings hoot and holler all the way through this one. And that'll be the fun for mom and dad too. You can check out the trailer below. And if you enjoyed this, you may like the producer's earlier all-children film, The Runner from Ravenshead. ...

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Sexuality

Song of Songs: The Greatest Love Song

by Matthew H. VanLuik 210 pages / 2015 Way back in 1979, Victor Kiam coined a phrase in a Remington electric razor commercial: "I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company." This little quip came to mind when I decided to review Rev. VanLuik's commentary on the Song of Solomon. Here's my version: "I liked the book so much, I recommended it for my high school classroom." These will become textbooks in our Wisdom Literature course for either Grade 11 or 12, which means that every student in the high school would eventually use them… and, I am certain, benefit from them. What benefit will they receive? One of the greatest challenges today for both adolescents and adults in Christ’s kingdom is the world’s idolatrous focus on sex. As much as we need to tear down this idol, it’s just as important to work on the positive side of the issue – learning the responsibilities and rewards of Biblically guided intimacy. That is the goal of this book, a strongly Biblical, Christ-centered view of the Song of Songs that shows the ups and downs of love and marriage, both the day-to-day necessity to give of ourselves and the beauty of indeed being and becoming one flesh. The 16 chapters of this book take us from the couple’s initial attraction, through struggling with desire, through their wedding day and night, to marital conflict and reconciliation. At each stage, VanLuik also repeatedly demonstrates that one cannot have a truly fulfilling marriage without a living love for Christ, and stresses what is even more important, how the relationship portrayed in the Song parallels how the perfect love of Christ for His bride calls for His people’s passionate response (whether single or married). Of course, it is not only teens who could benefit from a clear Biblical view of sexuality courtship, love, and marriage. That means this is a great resource for parents, teachers, and preachers, and everyone who doesn't want to simply skip over the Song, but actually want to confront the foolishness of our sex-obsessed culture with the wisdom of God. Americans can find the print copy at Christianbooks.com and the Kindle version here. Canadians can find it on Amazon.ca here, or can order directly from the author via his email: ordersongofsongs@gmail.com....

News

Saturday Selections - September 5, 2020

Well-intentioned racism is racism still (5 minutes) Uncle Tom is a new documentary about how American black conservatives are ridiculed as being traitors to their race. Why? Because they don't think as the Left say they should think. Telling blacks how they should think is, of course, racist, but the irony is lost on the Left. What this deleted scene shows is that racism can come in all sorts of flavors, including a compassionate patronization. In biblical justice, there is a distinction between equality and equity "1 Kings 3:16-27 provides an excellent example of the biblical distinction between equality and equity. One woman wanted equality whereas the other woman wanted equity. King Solomon judged with equity, not equality, which meant that one of the women went home without a baby. Biblical justice is a matter of equity, not equality. Yes, there is a difference—and it’s not an insignificant one." Slavery was everywhere in the world. A white Christian man abolished it. "Every society on Earth in all of history had slavery. Every single one. The Europeans/ Americans had slavery. The Arabs had slavery, massive slavery. The word for black person in Arabic is “abeed” which means slave. That’s how common slavery was. Slavery in Asia, obviously. Slavery in Black Africa. Black Africans had Black Africans as slaves. Indigenous Native Americans had slaves. Every society in history had slavery. So the only question that is honest is not 'who had slavery?' It’s 'who abolished slavery?'" Was Jesus a socialist? The former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev declared "Jesus was the first socialist, the first to seek a better life for mankind." And many a Christian seems to agree... "Transitioning" doesn't seem to improve mental health after all The study, as it was first reported, showed that transgender folk who get surgeries feel better about themselves. And this got a lot of media coverage. Now a closer look at the data shows no such mental health benefit. And that is not getting the same coverage. Darwin's impact on society in under 3 minutes Sometimes apologetics is simply about clarifying the difference between what God tells us is true, and what the world says is true. Here we see how, in contrast to God's grace and sacrificial love, Darwin offers only meaningless. ...

Science - General

A sixth sense? Yup, it's true!

We all know about the standard five senses – taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing – but did you know some of God's creatures have a little something extra? In some animals that extra amounts to "super senses": hummingbirds can see in the ultraviolet range (their eyes' 4 types of color receptors is one more than we have), and elephants can communicate over long distances by using tones that are so low our ears can't detect them. In other animals that extra something goes beyond the standard five senses. Bumblebees seem to be able to use the positive electrical charge their bodies generate while buzzing around to help them detect flowers' pollen which has a negative charge. Meanwhile, sea turtles are able to somehow navigate across the ocean using variations in the Earth’s magnetic field to guide them on their way. Exactly how they do it is unclear, but scientists are closing in on how birds do something similar, and remarkably, it may involve quantum mechanics. It's theory at this point and a really complicated one at that, but just the gist of it is amazing enough. Scientists are speculating that some birds can "see" the earth's magnetic fields and do so by using particles in their eyes that are in a "quantum entangled" state. We don't need to worry about what that exactly means; here's one key point: that state lasts for just 1/10,000th of a second. That these birds might be processing information derived from a state lasting such a short time is pretty cool, but there's another incredible wrinkle, as detailed by PBS Nova's Katherine J. Wu. Even in ideal laboratory conditions, which usually involve powerful vacuums or astoundingly icy temperatures, artificial quantum entanglement can unravel in just nanoseconds. And yet, in the wet, messy environment of a bird’s eye, entanglement holds. “It seems nature has found a way to make these quantum states live much longer than we’d expect, and much longer than we can do in the lab,” Gauger says. “No one thought that was possible.” A nanosecond is a billionth of a second (yes, I had to look it up). This might have us tempted to say that the birdbrains are beating the brainiacs, but as amazing as the bird's performance is, to give the credit where it is due we should be singing the praises of its Designer! Humans beings also have a sixth sense, and we’re not talking about ESP. Proprioception is your sense of bodily awareness – the ability to know where all the bits of your body are without looking or feeling them. That might not seem as cool as "seeing" magnetic fields, but just consider what it allows you to do. When you close your eyes and can still touch your nose, that's proprioception enabling you to do it. This is also why a quarterback can throw the ball accurately, even though his overhand motion doesn’t really allow him to see his throwing arm until the ball is released. And proprioception is why you can be balanced (even on one leg!) and how you can walk, without having to look down at your feet. This is one important sense! So if you’ve ever thanked God for the wonderful flowers you can smell, the amazing sunrise you can see, the funky music you can hear, the delicious pizza you can taste, or the amazing softness of a newborn's cheek that you can just barely feel, now you know there’s also a sixth sense to marvel at and thank Him for!...

Parenting

Spanking on trial: how to make a public defense

If spanking were to be put on public trial how would the jury rule? In countries like the Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand and more than 40 others the verdict has come down firmly against – they’ve all instituted spanking bans. In Canada we could say the jury is out – we’re allowed to spank children over two. But what’s worrisome is that spanking opponents keep pushing the issue: since 1997 various members of Parliament have tried to pass anti-spanking amendments eight times, the latest happening just this year. In the court of public opinion spanking should win any test it’s put to because, after all, it works. It is a God-ordained means of discipline, and it is no coincidence that it is also an effective means of discipline. The trial is rigged But spanking never gets a fair trial. Just consider these three issues it has to overcome… 1) Mistaken identity The act of a raging drunken father beating up his son bears little resemblance to a loving calm dad giving his son a spanking. Unfortunately, members of the jury don’t seem able to tell the difference between the two. Some of this confusion is understandable. Raging fathers will call what they do “spanking,” but of course abusers often lie so the jury should know better than to trust their testimony. Another source of confusion is that many of the abused also use the term “spanking” to describe what happened to them. This is a horrible case of mistaken identity that we need to clear up if spanking is to win its day in court. 2) Witnesses intimidation The very same people who will publicly attest to their love of God by wearing a cross, or who will speak up for the unborn by wearing a pro-life T-shirt, or speak out against gay marriage via social media, don’t dare advocate for spanking. Why? Because we’ve all heard stories about how various child protection services have taken people’s kids. How’s that for intimidation? Spankings best witnesses don’t want to take the stand – we know this is an important discipline tool, but few of us see it as important enough to risk losing our kids over. So those who do it right keep that such a closely guarded secret that even their neighbors don’t know. The end result is that when claims are made that spanking is the worst sort of abuse, the witnesses that could best correct this case of mistaken identity don’t want to – we’ve been intimidated into silence. 3) Offers of immunity are rejected A second group of parents is staying silent for a different reason. They’re not intimidated; they simply feel too guilty. These are parents who have given spankings in anger and out of frustration. To be clear, we’re not talking about child-beaters – though the parent’s motivations are all wrong their actions still look quite like godly spanking. Restraint is still used in both where the spanking is directed – to the child’s back end, where no damage will be done – and in how much is administered. This is not a parent losing it. But it is a parent punishing rather than disciplining, a parent meting out justice without love. Some in this group know all about loving discipline, and sin anyway. That leaves them feeling guilty and then, when the topic of spanking comes up, they’d really rather talk about something/anything else. But this is no way to address our guilt – wallowing in it silently is no solution. If you’ve spanked the wrong way, God wants you to repent, both to Him and to your child, and to turn from your sinful behavior. And, praise God, He offers forgiveness! Other parents simply don’t know how to spank properly, though they can sense there is something wrong about how they are going about it. There is a need for repentance here too, but also education – to turn away from our sinful ways we need to know how to act. Parents who don’t know better need to dedicate themselves to finding out what God has told us, and there are some excellent resources to be found (including three I recommend here). It’s a given that Christian parents who do spanking right are also parents who at some point have done spanking wrong. We shouldn’t minimize our sin, but we also shouldn’t minimize the grace given us when God and our children accept our repentance. To hold on to guilt then, and let it silence us, is to reject what the grace we’ve been offered. Spanking needs its imperfect practitioners to speak up on its behalf, because if we won’t, there is no one else. Keys to a public defense These three issues put spanking in a tough spot, with accusers aplenty but few defenders. So even as we can be cautious about how we go about it, we do need to become public defenders of spanking. Or rather, we need to become public defenders of spanking done biblically. Spanking isn’t the sort of topic that can be addressed with “I spank my kids” T-shirt slogans or “Spanking is not abuse” bumper stickers. The extent of the confusion is more than can be addressed via those short-form mediums. What’s needed are conversations. Conversations over backyard fences. Over coffee. And maybe even over social media. And, more than we might imagine, conversations at church: Christians, too, are being swayed into equating this biblically-mandated practice with abuse. So what might such a conversation involve? And what might it look like? What follows is a mock conversation (based on real ones) between a Christian, Daniel, and two liberal-thinking friends who don’t spank and don’t really know anyone who does. Daniel understands that his position will be very new to his friends so he’s prepared to be repetitious – he knows he may need to make the same point a few different ways. He also knows that on such a contentious issue things could get heated fast, so he wants to, whenever possible, make his point by asking questions rather than making assertions. Questions also help when faced with an insulting point – an insult can be defused by simply asking the insulter to clarify their insult. “You’ve said spanking is abuse because both involve hitting, so do you think lovemaking is rape because both involve intercourse?” Another important technique is to use analogies whenever possible. Jesus taught using parables in part because stories can help make hard to understand points much more clear. *** Leo: I was raised in an era where they still practiced corporal punishment in schools. So I got hit at school and then my heavy-handed dad would beat me when I got home. Why would anyone think spanking is a good idea? Ariel: I grew up in a home where spanking and screaming were the norm and I remember how, even at 6 I said, “I’m not going to do this to my kids.” I felt ashamed. I just wanted my parents to love me. Now I do discipline by the golden rule: I treat my children how I want to be treated. There’s no way I’d spank my kids. Daniel: We do spank. It is important for a child to be taught limits - be taught to listen and submit to authority - but it is just as important that they know they are loved. So whereas my daughter is regularly given spankings, they are conducted calmly. Her mom or dad is controlled, and not angry, and after the spanking comes hugs and a talk. So there is no confusion about whether mom or dad still loves her. Meanwhile, the substitute that I've most often seen substituted for spanking is screaming. I’ve seen parents who would never consider smacking their child's bottom think nothing of yelling at their toddler. Now that can be confusing – on the one hand Mommy will say she loves them, and on the other hand she regularly screams at them. As the Bible says, we must discipline, but in love (Prov. 13:24). I think that can be done with calm spanking. I don't understand how it can be done with screaming. Ariel: Don’t call it spanking. It’s hitting. If you're going to hit a tiny, defenseless human, own it. Don't use cutesy euphemisms. Abuse is abuse. Daniel: Wow, this got nasty fast – you’re really going to call me a child abuser? Are you comparing a father who in a controlled measured way smacks his child on the bottom with a father who in a drunken rage punches his son in the face? Ariel: There’s a difference, but it’s still the same kind of act – in both cases it’s hitting. Daniel: Do you believe that shoving someone out of the way of an oncoming train is the same kind of act as shoving them in front of one? In both cases there’s pushing. Ariel: That’s different because in the first case the intent is to help the person and in the second it’s to hurt them. Daniel: Exactly. The different purposes of the pushing make them completely different acts. I spank my kids so that they will learn right from wrong, learn self-control, and learn to respect authority. I want to help, not harm. And since my intent is so completely different from that of an abusive father, the very act itself bears no resemblance to abuse – instead of punches to the face I give smacks to the bottom, where it will sting but not harm. How much more different could it be? Leo: I wouldn’t call it child abuse, but I do think spanking sends mixed signals. If I tell my child that hitting is wrong, but when he does something wrong he gets hit/spanked it tells him that when he feels wronged he can hit. Daniel: It’s important for children to learn there are some things that mommy and daddy can do that he is not allowed to do. For example, if I tell my child she can't watch a program, but I say it is fine for me and mommy to watch, it is clear I am setting different standards for us than for her. And when it comes to spanking, a child is able to tell the difference between when she tries to solve something with her fists, and when daddy, calmly and in control, spanks her for hitting someone. But what you say about mixed signals does come into play when a parent isn't controlled or calm. Then what the parent is doing would seem very much like what the child does when she strikes out at another child for annoying her. Leo: I’m not accusing you, but the majority of people that I know do not spank when they are calm and controlled. Daniel: Therein lies the problem - when a child is spanked in anger, this is vengeance, not discipline. As one pastor put it, "Discipline is corrective and is applied for the sake of the one receiving it. It is not punitive, and is not rendered for the sake of the one giving it....When you are highly motivated to discipline your kids, you are not qualified." Or to put it another way, if you want to spank your kids right now, that is a good reason not to do so. Ariel I just don't see how it’s not hypocritical to say, “Don’t hit anyone” to our kids, but then spank them. I don't see how that is logical. Daniel: I will, on occasion, drink a glass of wine in front of my children. And when they ask for a taste I tell them no. It is not hypocritical to have different standards for children than for adults. Ariel: Here is a thought to consider, if other non-physical options exists why use spanking? Daniel: The reason I spank is because God tells us corporal punishment is a helpful way of disciplining our child. And it’s no coincidence that the method God prescribes turns out to be an effective and quick corrective. All discipline (time outs, stern warnings, lectures, etc.) is going to involve "emotional trauma." But with a spanking it can often be brief: willful disobedience happens, the corrective is explained and applied, the child says she is sorry, forgiveness is given, hugs and kisses are exchanged and play then continues. I want to add, spanking is not the only discipline we use - we talk, we explain, we send them to their room, etc. But when our daughters do something they know they are not allowed to do - when the disobedience is clear (it isn't a matter of confusions, misunderstanding, immaturity) then we spank.  Leo: Does spanking always work? What about when it doesn’t work? Daniel: You’re right, spanking doesn’t always have the immediate result we’re hoping for. And that’s often when one of our kids has been up late a few nights in a row and now they’ve gotten themselves so worked up they are completely out of control. Then, instead of a spanking, the best thing might be to send a child to their room, or cuddle with them, so they can have time to regain their composure. The goal is always the same – to teach and guide them, and sometimes it is better to offer mercy than justice. It can be tough being a parent and trying to figure this all out. But I’m very thankful God has offered so much guidance in his Word on disciplining children and offered up the very effective, though not fool-proof tool or spanking. To answer your question, when spanking doesn’t work we’ll try something else. It isn’t the only form of discipline we use. Leo: Isn't the intent if spanking to cause pain in order to gain compliance? I fully acknowledge that spanking is not child abuse done properly, but its intent is still to cause harm whereas with timeouts the intent is to cause discomfort as well as help them figure out what to do better next time – it gives them time to think through things and improve their problem-solving skills. Daniel: “Discomfort” is a good word. The intent of spanking is not to cause harm (and no harm is done - that is why it is done on the behind - discomfort is done, but no harm). The goal is teaching. I talk with my daughter after a spanking, we work through what she could have done differently and what she should do in the future. So like your child, she learns problem-solving skills, and also what is wrong and what is right. The goal is to teach. Leo: Couldn’t you do that all minus the spanking part? Daniel: Ah, but why would I? Spanking is an effective form of discipline, and I have found it more so than many others. Ariel: How do you know for sure that the effective part of the ritual isn't the talking through? Leo: Ariel beat me to it… Daniel: Ariel, I’ll answer your question, but I also want to turn it around and direct it back at you. If you’ve never tried spanking, or tried it once, or tried it in ways that were not careful, considered and controlled. I want to ask you, how do you know that spanking, properly done, and implemented consistently, isn't more effective than the approach you use now? As for which part is the more effective, the spanking or the talking, well, both are necessary. So are the hugs, so is the repentance and forgiveness. But spankings occur when my words are being ignored. As I've shared spanking is not the only form of discipline I use, so I am able to contrast and compare for what works best with each one of my kids. Leo: But when do you stop? What age? Daniel: It peters out as they get older for a few reasons. First, it’s because the goal of parenting is to "graduate" a self-discipline adult, so the reins are loosened more and more as they get older. But when they are young things are a good deal stricter. Some people try the reverse – little discipline early, and then find themselves trying to get strict later and regulate their rebellious teen's every waking moment. Won't work – this is when he should be taking on responsibility, not when he should be treated like a 3-year-old. Another reason spanking stops is because there are other more effective ways of causing older children “discomfort” – taking away their driving privileges, or smartphone. A third reason spanking isn’t needed as children get older is because they do learn empathy and are better able to understand the wrong they have done. There’s no need to discipline a penitent sinner. Ariel: I bet if you asked a 3-year-old why she got a spanking, she would say it was because daddy was mad at her. Spanking equals control and dominance, not love! Daniel: You would lose that bet with my daughter. My children understand what God tells us in Proverbs 3: “…the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” My kids know that discipline equals love, and a lack of discipline would equal a lack of love. Leo: I’ve got to run, but I’ve enjoyed the discussion. Ariel: I’m going too, and I have to say I’m happy to be done with this conversation.  Daniel: It doesn't look like I've convinced either of you to take up spanking I do hope I've given you reason to stop equating a spanking done in a controlled loving manner with the abuse that happens when an enraged parent beats up a child. I hope you’ll acknowledge that the two are so very different that they really shouldn’t be spoken of in the same breath. *** Spanking is being tried in the court of public opinion and the trial is rigged. That's why we need to speak up. We can speak cautiously, and wisdom might dictate that those with an empty roost should take the lead because they have the least to lose. But we all need to speak, whether over the back fence with a neighbor, or more publicly in a political setting. Spanking is being equated with abuse, but God says loving fathers will use this corporal punishment. So speak out, and spank in love. Let us be a light to our friends and neighbors on this issue showing how in this – as in all things – God’s ways are better than anything the world has to offer. Spanking does have some public defenders, including ARPACanada, who in 2013 released an excellent policy report about corporal punishment which they sent to every Member of Parliament. You can find it here.  ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

The Secret World of Arrietty

Animated / Family 2012 / 94 minutes RATING: 8/10 This is a Japanese animated adaptation of the much loved English book series, The Borrowers. Arrietty is one of the Borrowers – the tiny people, just inches high, who live in our houses, in between the walls, under the floorboards, and in the ceilings. Now that she's 14, she's old enough to accompany her father on his "borrowing" expeditions. It's vital that these little people are never discovered, so even as they are creative sorts, turning leaves into umbrellas, sewing needles into swords, and clothespins into hairclips, they can't make their own goods. To create factories or farms would risk being discovered by the big people, the "beans." That possibility so scares the Borrowers that if a human ever sees them, then they will leave that house, never to return. But on Arrietty's first expedition, to get a single sugar cube, a young boy in the house discovers her. Shawn is a nice boy, newly arrived to the house because he is sick and needs care that his parents can't seem to provide. While he would never hurt Arrietty, or share the secret of her existence with others, the same isn't true of the housekeeper when she also discovers the tiny people, and hires an exterminator to help track them down. CAUTION The only caution relates to the "borrowing" that goes on. What do we call it when someone borrows without asking, and with no intention of ever giving it back? Stealing. In defense of these fictional thieves, they can't ask for permission because then they will be discovered, and they can't make these goods on their own for the same reason. Also, what they take is so negligible as to never be noticed. Still, this "borrowing" is a point parents should raise. In the Curious George TV shows it's noted that George is a monkey so he sometimes does things that we shouldn't. That seems a good warning about the Borrowers too. CONCLUSION While The Secret World of Arrietty was originally done in Japanese, Disney was so entranced by the film they took charge of the English release and did a wonderful job with the dubbing. It is a gorgeous film that many a parent will absolutely love too, especially if they read the Borrowers books in their childhood. And the slower pacing is perfect for any children who find other films too frantic or scary. Yes, there are some tense moments, but there is a lot of beauty and calm in-between as we explore the world as it looks through a set of tiny eyes. ...

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

Kitten Construction Company: Meet the House Kittens

by John Patrick Green 70 pages / 2018 The author of Hippopotamister is back with another charming treat for early readers. The story begins with "the city of Mewburg preparing for a big project..." They are building a new mansion for the mayor, and to get it started the city planner has to find the right architect. He has a few candidates to chose from, and the first up has a brilliant design. But there is a problem: the architect is a cute kitten! "Sorry," he tells little Marmalade, "I regret that you are just too adorable to be taken seriously." When Marmalade goes off to drown his sorrows in a saucer of warm milk, he meets another kitten dealing with the very same problem: no one is giving him a chance, because he's just so cute. The two decide that maybe they can team up. When they get hired on to help at a big construction project, they think that maybe their luck has turned. But they soon realize that they aren't being given actual work - just busy-work projects. That's when they decided that if no one else will take them seriously, they'll go out on their own. And that's how the Kitten Construction Company is born! The kittens get to show their talents when the official mayor's mansion falls to pieces, and they can then take the media and their mayor to see their own, gorgeous, and fully upright, version. That's when everyone has to acknowledge that cute isn't the opposite of capable. While most of the book's intended audience won't realize it, the author is kindly and gently poking fun at discrimination. He's making the lesson gentle, by making the source of discrimination "cuteness" rather than skin color or gender but what comes through is that treating people based on how they look rather than what they can do is ridiculous. He's also not hammering kids over the head with the lesson, feeling free to divert from the lesson to bring in some funny cat jokes. The sequel deals with a similar anti-discrimination theme when the kittens get the call to design and build a bridge. As everyone knows, cats don't like water, so they'll need some help with this job. And standing ready are...the Demo Doggos. Dogs? Marmalade isn't sure. Will that be, as the title asks, A Bridge Too Fur?...

News

Saturday Selections - August 29, 2020

50 Christians around the world sing Amazing Grace together This is something special, a glimpse of what it might sound like when "from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages" (Rev. 7:9) God's Church gathers to sing His praises. Spurgeon vs. Marx Karl Marx and Charles Spurgeon lived in the same city at the same time, engaged in "an epic battle for the souls of men in 19th century London." We must not become useful idiots for Erin O'Toole While the new leader of the Conservative Party, Erin O'Toole, is pro-choice he's said he'll allow pro-life members to bring forward bills. But as CHP leader Rod Taylor argues, that may not mean much. "In 2008, MP Ken Epp presented the Unborn Victims of Violence Bill, intended to protect pre-born babies from violent assaults perpetrated against their mothers. In 2010, MP Rod Bruinooge tabled his anti-coercion bill, Roxanne’s Law, meant to protect women from violent and abusive pressure to abort against their wills. In 2012, MP Stephen Woodworth presented Motion-312, his Personhood Motion, asking Parliament to establish a committee to explore when human life begins. Every one of these was defeated by a Conservative Prime Minister and a Conservative Government. When former MP Mark Warawa (now deceased) attempted to pass Motion-408, protecting babies from sex-selective abortion, his motion was deemed “non-votable” by the hand-picked committee. When a party leader or Prime Minister is not in favour of a bill, the chances of it passing are slim indeed." O'Toole's motivation for allowing pro-life bills is to secure pro-lifers' votes; that's what he gets out of this relationship. But what are we actually getting from him? If the answer is nothing, or next to it, then we are simply "useful idiots" helping O'Toole achieve his ends. Christians involved in the Conservative Party need to consider if – and then how – their involvement can further God's ends. No Christianity? Then no human rights There is no foundation for human rights apart from us all being made in the image of God. Have you heard of QAnon? (15-minute read) QAnon is a wide-ranging conspiracy theory, built around posts by an anonymous Q figure, which his expanding group of followers then pass along. Some of these posts have a Christian veneer, attracting Christians who know that there are indeed lies being spread by the mainstream media, whether that be transgenderism, evolution, socialism, or the denial of the personhood of the unborn. But that the media lies is not some great insight, and that a shadowy figure says it too doesn't make him credible. One appeal of conspiracy theories is that they are right about there being a malevolent force working behind the scenes. But it's not simply the Russians, or the bankers, or the Deep State; the real hidden force is the Devil...and of course our own rebellious hearts. And while the Devil might like to stir up conflict, is his agenda primarily world-domination? Or to get everyone vaccinated? 5G implementation? Or would he be happier still to have people worried about maybes, supposedlys, and possiblys, even as we ignore the actual tasks God has given us to do? The more credible overarching conspiracy might well be a devilish desire to distract us with things outside our control, rather than contend with our own envy, impatience, gossiping, and other sins. Joe Carter also weighs in on QAnon here. Can a short white guy be a tall Chinese woman? "It shouldn't be hard to tell a 5'9" white guy he's not a 6'5" Chinese woman..." ...

Amazing stories from times past

Archbishop Ussher and being fully known

It is a very special thing to be known, to have someone look at you and understand you and love you simultaneously. My father lost his father at the tender age of six. He was just a tiny boy in stature but he loved his father with all his heart. His father, by the grace of God, had been able to help to implant the love of God in his young son. My father recounted to me that he had not really understood death when it did occur. He had read a Psalm, at his father's request, as his father lay dying. Then his father's bed was suddenly empty and a host of people came to visit his mother. He told me that he recalled the livingroom being filled with people, and that he (being such a short, little guy) had been engulfed in a sea of legs. Strangely enough, he thought he recognized his father's legs. He ran up to those legs, grabbed them and tried to hoist himself up. When he had done that previously, his father had always lifted him up. But a strange face stared down at him. It was not his father. He had been mistaken. It can possibly be rather dangerous to be mistaken in identifying someone or something. There was a news item a number of years ago about a man who bought a snake from a neighbor. He was told that it was a python. After paying one hundred dollars for the creature, which was a good size, he took it home to the other pythons he owned. As he walked towards his door carrying the snake, it somehow fell to the ground. He bent down to pick it up and it bit him. Because the man assumed that the animal was a python, he was not worried about the bite when it happened. After all, pythons are not poisonous. However, about thirty minutes later, as his hand became very swollen and painful, he was concerned enough to head for the hospital. It turned out that the snake was not a python after all, but a copperhead. Anti-venom was given and what potentially had been a life-threatening situation was averted. The fellow was extremely thankful that he had not hung the new snake acquisition around his neck. But an unfortunate unawareness of identity can sometimes have a happy ending. There is the story of a little girl in England who was evacuated to the Welsh countryside during the Blitz – Germany’s WWII bombing campaign against the United Kingdom. She was placed with a family for quite a while and was constantly hopeful that her parents would arrive to convey her home again. The girl's surname was Knight. Back home she had a neighbor by the name of Mr. Wright. This neighbor was killed during an air attack. When the news of the neighbor's death came out, the names of Knight and Wright were mixed up. The child was mistakenly told that her father had died. Many tears were shed before it came out that there had been an error of identity. **** Archbishop James Ussher, (1581-1656), Archbishop of Armagh, and Primate of all Ireland, was a Calvinist. He lived in turbulent political times, times in which there was much tension between Catholics and Protestants. Much can be said about the man, but there is a story about him which deals with mistaken identity. The Archbishop was often about the country visiting his curates. He wanted to know how they were doing, whether or not they were well respected in their communities and if they were true shepherds of the flocks which had been entrusted to them. He did not want them to know, however, that he was checking up on them. So he became a master at disguising himself so that no one would recognize him. On various occasions, Archbishop Ussher dressed as a beggar and knocked on the doors of his clergy. One fine day, dressed as a vagrant, he knocked on the door of one particular curate. The man was out, and his wife answered the door. Seeing the rather unkempt figure of a man at her threshold, she took him in and offered him bread, porridge and water at the kitchen table. But she alongside this meal, she also served him a lengthy harangue. "For shame, old man, to go begging at your age!!" she began, "How can you be so lazy!" He did not answer, but regarded her thoughtfully above a spoonful of porridge. "Your sitting here is not the fruit," she went on, waving her finger at him, "of an honest, decent, industrial and hard-worked life." He still did not respond, but took a drink of the water she had placed by his plate. Thinking, perhaps, that she could aid in the education of this ill-looking specimen of a man, the wife questioned him. "Tell me, old man," she spoke a little gentler now, "how many commandments are there? Do you know the answer?" Ussher, pretending to be confused, stammered out, "Eleven." "Eleven?" He nodded. "Eleven," she repeated in a frustrated manner, and then went on, "I thought so. Not only are you lazy, but you are also unlearned and not knowledgeable in the ways of God." Ussher sat before her in silence, seemingly unresponsive. The wife walked over to the cupboard and took out a booklet. "Here, old man," she said, placing the booklet next to his food, "take this with you when you leave. Learn your catechism. And when you have learned it, you will find out that there are not eleven commandments, but ten. Ten, you hear? Put that in your bowl and eat it." Archbishop Ussher left that home and later made it known that the following Sunday he would preach in that very parish which he had just visited. When Sunday arrived the wife of the curate was among the congregants. She had no idea that the old beggar who had graced her kitchen table that week would be preaching. The text was announced. It was to be from John 13:34: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another". "It would seem," Ussher began his sermon, "from this text that there are eleven commandments." At this point of time, the Archbishop was recognized by the curate's wife. What she thought and what she felt at that moment is not known, but shame might have enveloped her. **** The most important person to recognize and know is, of course, the Lord Jesus. There is the story of Mary Magdalene, weeping for Jesus, and not knowing him. John 20:14-16 relates the incident of her standing by the tomb. "When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Because she thought he was the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She[turned and said to him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni’ (which means Teacher).” We are fully known. This is what 1 Cor. 13:12 tells us. “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” This is so good and so comforting. It is also good to realize that, because of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is always with us, constantly near us, even though we may not always recognize Him or be aware of Him. Our eyes might be filled with tears, or blind with worry and fear. Yet it is good to remember that He is omnipresent – everywhere and in all places. He might appear differently than we think, dressed in ways that take on an appearance we might not expect. At this point of time we see only a bit of His glory, and that imperfectly. But we are in the process of becoming like Him and we shall know Him fully. 1 John 3:2 gives us assurance: "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." Christine Farenhorst is the author of many books including “Katherina, Katherina,” a novel taking place in the time of Martin Luther. You can read a review here....

Science - General

Why we’ll never run out of things to discover

A few years ago National Geographic published a provocatively titled article: “Opinion: Science is running out of things to discover.” Author John Horgan’s view is a rarity, but not entirely unique – it was already popping up in the late 19th century. In Steven Weinberg’s Dreams of a Final Theory, he shares this recollection from famed physicist Robert Millikan: “In 1894, I lived…with four other Columbia graduate students, one a medic and the other three working in sociology and political science, and I was ragged continuously by all of them for sticking to a 'finished', yes, a 'dead subject', like physics when the new 'live' field of the social sciences was just opening up. There was an idea at the time that it would be possible to finish off a whole field of science because we’d discovered all there was to learn there. This was a minority view then and is today, but there’s a reason some scientists held it and a reason some still do. The new discoveries still being made are evidence against it, but when Horgan's view is evaluated from an evolutionary perspective, it’s actually the logical conclusion to draw. After all, if the physical universe is all there is then no matter how vast, it is finite. And if it was brought about by chance, and without purpose, then just how sophisticated and complex can the universe really be? Shouldn’t we expect to figure it all out eventually? Deeper and deeper In contrast, Christians have every reason to expect the discoveries will never end. We know the universe was crafted with purpose, and designed to reflect the attributes of our infinite God (Ps. 19:1-4, Roman 1:19-20). We should assume that no matter how deep we dig into God’s creation there’ll always be more to uncover. And that is, in fact, what we find. In the last decade, there has been a flood of discoveries related to our own DNA. Back when Darwin first published his book On the Origin of the Species, the individual cell was a “black box” – its inner workings were undiscovered and thought to be simple structures. That assumption served Darwin’s theory because the more complex that Man proves to be, the more obvious it is that we couldn’t have come about by evolutionary happenstance. But since then we’ve discovered that even a single one of our cells has a level of complexity comparable to that of a city, with its own microscopic vehicles traveling on its own highways, carrying material from manufacturing plants, supplied by energy from its power plants. Even after DNA was discovered and we started to get a glimmering of how much more was going on in the cell than Darwin had thought, evolutionists repeated their mistake – they underestimated the cell’s complexity. Again, that was only natural: how complex should something produced by unguided processes really be? So it was, that prior to about 2012, evolutionary scientists were writing off the 98.5% of human DNA that didn’t produce proteins as being “junk DNA” because they had no apparent function. As evolution apologist Richard Dawkins put it in his 2009 book The Greatest Show on Earth: The evidence for Evolution:   “it is a remarkable fact that the greater part (95% percent in the case of humans) of the genome might as well be not there for the difference it makes.” But just a few years later the ENCODE project discovered this “junk DNA” was active, getting transcribed into RNA, and may have a role in regulating protein production. There’s lots of maybes and perhaps still being tossed about, so there’s much more to discover, and in an area of the genome that was once thought to be unimportant. Still sticking with DNA, one of the more fascinating recent discoveries has been how the same section of our DNA can produce different proteins if read different ways. Or as Andrew Moore explained in his Nov 12, 2019 Advanced Science News article “That ‘junk’ DNA…is full of information!”: “One of the intriguing things about DNA sequences is that a single sequence can ‘encode’ more than one piece of information depending on what is ‘reading’ it and in which direction – viral genomes are classic examples in which genes read in one direction to produce a given protein overlap with one or more genes read in the opposite direction…to produce different proteins. It’s a bit like making simple messages with reverse-pair words (a so-called emordnilap). For example: REEDSTOPSFLOW, which, by an imaginary reading device, could be divided into REED STOPS FLOW. Read backwards, it would give WOLF SPOTS DEER. Once again, the deeper we dig the more we find there is to learn! No end in sight What's true for our DNA is true everywhere else too – Millikan's roommates couldn't have been wronger about physics being a dead science. But endless and ever more intricate discoveries present a problem to an evolutionary theory that says the universe is finite and unplanned. If they were right, there should be an end to it. But no such end is in sight. In contrast, these constant discoveries are an inspiration to Christians. Knowing our Creator to be inexhaustibly great, God's people can look forward to not only a lifetime of discoveries, but to an eternity of them!...

Christian education

Should a student’s peer group be so important?

…or can skipping or failing a grade be a very good thing? **** Let me tell you the tale of four students. Danny The first, Danny, had decided to better himself and become more flexible in the job market, given the prevalent economic uncertainty. So he went to the website of the Open University and looked for a course package that would appeal to him. After due consideration, he decided on a subject, whereupon he proceeded with his enrolment. The course involved a number of challenging assignments, all accompanied by due dates, and length and formatting requirements. Danny was not fazed. Full of enthusiasm, he started on the course work. He industriously complied with all the required readings, studied the assignment requirements, and set to work. Long before the deadline he finished the first homework assignment and sent it away. It was less than a week later that he received word back: he had failed his first assignment. Failed miserably. However, the kind lecturer gave many tips as to how to improve the work for resubmission. Disappointed, but not down, Danny set to work again. He carefully followed the lecturer’s suggestions and, with hope in his heart, resubmitted. The result, though slightly better, was still disappointment – Danny hadn’t passed, even on his second attempt. Danny was thoroughly disheartened. After honest and deep contemplation, he decided that he had overreached and that he needed to bite the bullet and quit. Perhaps he should have another look at the courses and take on something more realistic and in keeping with his current abilities… Shaun and Emily The family of little Shaun and Emily moved to a new district. The 7 and 9-year-old embarked on theadventure of a new school. They were kindly received, then tested on their abilities, and placed in a classroom with their peers. It was not long before both children became unhappy and unruly. Shaun could not care less whether he did his homework or not. Emily did not have any homework, because she finished everything in school time. She saidschool was boring. Meetings between the teachers and parents followed. It was agreed that Shaun struggled and required some remedial help. Emily needed no help at all; perhaps she could be given some extra work, expanding her challenges in that manner. The teachers would do their best, but with the large number of students in their care, it would be difficult. At the end of the year, Shaun was promoted to the next grade, even though his progress reports showed failure after failure. Emily was promoted as well, with straight A’s all over her list. Both children looked forward to the summer holidays and nagged their parents for a different school come the new year. The new school year commenced, and the children joined their peers. Shaun was looking at another year of discouragement and remedial treatment. Emily’s motivation was also at a low and she decided to do just what was necessary to get by… When peers aren’t the main concern, then ability can be Peers were not a concern for Danny so when he noticed his course was above his ability; he could simply quit it. He could adjust and find something more suitable. Shaun and Emily were locked in a system from which there was no escape. Shaun was forced to endure the ignominy of failure after failure; Emily was exposed to what she called “kindergarten material” which she considered humiliatingly unchallenging. However, as the Principal pointed out, it was important to keep the children in their peer groups. It would not do to place them with those older or younger than they, as this would stunt their emotional development. Caleb Now meet Caleb (not his real name). He was brought to this little Christian school. Dad and Mum said that Caleb was a problem student in his current school and did not perform well at all. In fact, the larger part of the day he was forced to reside outside the classroom. On his report card the teacher had written about his reading skills that Caleb needed to guess more! Caleb did not want to guess, he wanted to read! This nine-year-old was by now on the level of a six-year-old student, even though there was nothing wrong with his cerebral capabilities. He did not like school anymore. “And then to think how he started so full of enthusiasm,” Mum remarked. The long and short of it was that the Principal and the parents agreed that Caleb would start according to ability with the little ones, moving between different groups fluidly to tap into his present abilities. Being more mature, he would succeed at a faster pace and consequently move through the ranks ever more closely to his peers, all the while tasting academic success. Caleb finished high school within a year of his peers and went on to do a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at university. As an adult he wrote on Facebook how that little Christian school and its teaching approach had been the saving of him in terms of developing his abilities. Caleb was not forced to sit in class with his peers and be confronted with repeat failure. He was not singled out for remedial (often sensed as humiliating) lessons. He was successful in class and was able to join his peers outside class when playing games (during PE lessons he did join his peers, by the way, and outshone most of them). Why have we made this the priority? In Matthew 23:4 the Lord Jesus accuses the Pharisees of putting heavy and grievous burdens on the people with rules and regulations that they themselves wouldn’t bear. This text had me wondering if, educationalists – with the best of intentions – have placed burdens upon children that they would not place upon themselves! (We can think also of the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12.) An adult who enters on a course of study will do so within his capabilities. Should there be an error of judgment, the course will be discontinued and, perhaps, a more suitable one entertained. School children, as a rule, are not given that choice in the traditional system. We’ve deemed it as the first priority that they mingle with peers, even when they are to concentrate on cerebral pursuits. And we’ve done so, knowing that intellectually mismatched children who are being set the same challenges can be a hindrance to each other in class time! The discouraged girls might skulk away, or a frustrated boy resort to bravado, while the capable students are irritated by unwanted distractions. The net result is a teacher with a classroom harboring behavioral challenges. When considering the eagerness of the little five-year-olds upon entering “the big school,” it is a shame upon the education system to erode this eagerness by providing systemic failure on the one hand and systemic boredom on the other. Success is achieved by enabling children to punch according to their weight, not above their weight, or below their weight. A good school will strive to place just the right expectation (burden) upon each child’s shoulders, in keeping with capability and maturity, regardless of age. I would submit that many schools, including several Christian schools, unwittingly create educationally disenchanted children with the misguided concept of peer group education, and procuring motivation-eroded people. “One may miss the mark by aiming too high as too low.” -Thomas Fuller (English clergyman, 1608-1661) Dr. Herm Zandman has been both a schoolteacher and truck driver, writing on both, including his book “Blood, Sweat, and Gears.” A version of this article first appeared in the July 25, 2020 issue of Una Sancta. Questions for discussion Dr. Zandman raises the issue of age-based grades and how among adults we based schooling on ability, rather than age. It’s a topic seldom discussed, so to foster that discussion here are a few questions intended for a group setting. Peers, and fitting in, are the reason most kids don’t want to skip or be held back a grade. But this grouping-by-year exists only in school and disappears soon afterward. So are there ways that we can diminish the importance of this artificial grouping? Would skipping a grade be less of a big deal if we did it more often? How could we foster a school environment in which a student, held back a grade, isn’t worried about what his friends will say? In our churches, homeschooling is often viewed as an abandonment of the local covenantal school (which needs as many supporters as it can get). But homeschooling seems to better be able to accommodate children based on their abilities, rather than age. So for the sake of the students who don’t fit into age-based grades, do we need to re-evaluate our attitude towards homeschooling? After all, do our schools exist for the children, or are we now having to send our children for the school’s sake? Parents are ultimately in charge of their child’s education so what are ways that parents can add to the weight their child bears, should that be needed? Is it a matter of extra-curriculars like music lessons and art classes, or a part-time job, or even starting their own “side hustle”? What other options are possible? What are the historic roots of the grade-by-grade schooling that we do? In times past children in one-room schoolhouses might be taught via their “readers.” They would move on to the next level – the next reader – when they were done the previous one. But now age-based grades are the near-universal approach, also in our Christian schools. Seeing as this approach can’t be found in the Bible, might it be worth a reassessment? Are there other possibilities? Is what happened with Caleb, as Dr. Zandman described it, an option that exists in our schools? ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Space Buddies

Children's film 2009 / 84 minutes RATING: 7/10 If the sequel is never as good as the original, then what kind of expectation should we have for this, the eighth in the Air Bud film series? They should be low...if you're an adult. But my 6-year-old was laughing out loud! In this adventure five puppies end up stowed away on an incredibly advanced spaceship – so sophisticated even a dog could fly it – but which is short on fuel. To get back home they have to refuel at a Russian space station where they befriend a Russian dog, Sputnik, and have to contend with a crazy cosmonaut. The pups are the offspring of Air Bud, the dog that started it all back in 1997 when he showed some surprising skills on the basketball court. In the four Air Bud films that followed the star was incredibly clever, tackling a different sport each time, but he was still a pet, not a person. However, the old dog learned a new trick in the Air Buddies spin offs – now everybody and their dog can talk. If you read any other reviews you'll find the critics groaning at the pups' stock personalities: the only girl, Rosebud, likes pink, Budderball never stops eating, Mudbud always gets dirty, B-dawg is a rapper, and Buddha is a peacenik. But the critics aren't six-years-old. Sure these are cardboard cutouts, but that simplicity makes them easy to tell apart, and easy to understand for the preschool-aged target audience. Cautions The only notable concern would be a handful of dog fart jokes, one of which you can see in the trailer below. Conclusion This is not a film mom and dad are going to love but they likely won't mind it either. And if you have kids aged 5-8 who find most movies frightening, what might make this a treat is that it has some tension – there is a bad guy – but it isn't too scary. And then five cute puppy stars only add to the fun! I've taken a peek at the other Buddies films, and this strikes me as the very best of the batch. That's why, even though our youngest really enjoyed it, I've concluded this one is enough for us. ...

News

Saturday Selections - August 22, 2020

Stirring up trouble on behalf of the unborn (20 seconds) This week a pro-life group flew a "Black Lives Matter" banner over the site of the 2020 Democratic National Convention showing a giant picture of an aborted black fetus. A spokesman explained that sharing "victim photography" has long been a way of fighting evil and, since newspapers and other media won't allow them to share the graphic image, this group took to the skies. Two takes on masks and whether Christians need to wear them Both articles are intense, gracious, and biblically-grounded. In the first ARPA Canada's André Schutten answers a dozen mask-related questions, tackling topics like sphere sovereignty, Romans 13, and a Christian way of disagreeing with the government. In the second, one Reformed pastor and elder, Joseph Bayly and Brian Bailey, address the anti-mask arguments by another Reformed pastor, Douglas Wilson. This one is a little like coming in halfways on a conversation so at the start it is a bit hard to figure out what's going on. But the insight offered is worth the effort required. Socialism is force “'Why not socialism?' It’s force, pure and simple. If it were voluntary, it wouldn’t be socialism. It would be capitalism." On the art of dying well One of the ways Christians can be a light to the world is by dying differently. While the world hopes for a quick death, our goal can be a holy death. Our kids seem less safe but appearances are deceiving... Our children are a blessing from the Lord, and so we treat them as such. But there is a reason for moderation, even in protecting them. Bubble-wrapping them before they head out the door brings with its own harms: that we will raise fearful children who jump at every noise, shy away from every shadow, and are so risk-averse that they don't dare ask out that special girl, or start that company, or apply for that position...or venture out of the house at all. While this article is from a time before COVID, what it highlights – that our parental fears may not be a proportionate match with reality – is particularly relevant right now. Captain Literally When people misuse the word "literally" this superhero is here to save the day! And if you liked Captain Literally, you may also appreciate Captain Irony and the whole Grammar League. ...

Amazing stories from times past

The Gift of Flight: Two brothers' determined quest

As stories go, this one sounds as if it comes from Through the Looking Glass: and what Alice found there, the classic story by Lewis Carroll where everything is backward. That is how this plot goes: amateur technologists succeed with a few dollars of their own money while big science, with a big budget, fails. And the improbable scenario continues. Even when the amateurs succeed, establishment science and the national media refuse to acknowledge that fact. They don’t want it to be true, so it isn’t. Then, when belatedly everyone knows that the amateurs have indeed achieved what they have long claimed, the government honors the scientist who failed! This isn’t a nihilist plot by Franz Kafka, this is history. And these events have much to tell us about the impact of vested interests on scientific research and public honors. Langley gets the government onboard In hindsight, it is obvious that the time was ripe for a breakthrough in heavier-than-air flight. During the mid-eighteenth century Swiss mathematician Daniel Bernoulli had developed equations to describe the flow of fluids. Since air currents flow in the same fashion as fluids, similar equations apply. Thus it was as easy to study the flow of air over an object as it was to study the flow of water. In both instances, as the speed of flow increases, the pressure decreases. If a current moves over an object with a curved upper and a flat lower surface, then the flow above the object moves faster than the flow below. As a consequence, the pressure exerted on the upper surface is less than on the lower surface. With reduced pressure above, the object will move upward. Such theory, towards the end of the nineteenth century, provided the basis for the new science of aerodynamics. The object with the curved upper surface was an airfoil or wing, and this was the structure that would carry heavier-than-air flight into reality. Some scientists at the time insisted that such a phenomenon was impossible. There were others, however, like Samuel Pierpont Langley (1834-1906), who were actively involved in aerodynamic research. Indeed, this American astronomer and physicist had published a treatise in 1891 entitled Experiments in Aerodynamics. Five years later he designed and successfully flew an unmanned steam-powered model airplane. The machine flew 0.8 km (0.5 mile) in one and a half minutes. Based on this success, he applied for, and received, a grant of $50,000 to scale up his model to pilot-carrying size. That grant represented a huge fortune. Obviously there were influential people in government and science who believed that heavier-than-air flight was possible. Enterprising brothers Some bachelor entrepreneurs in Ohio also knew that heavier-than-air flight was possible. They had observed buzzards, and other feathered flight success stories (birds), and they decided that it might be fun to try their hand at this project. Wilbur and Orville Wright (born 1867 and 1871 respectively) were the third and fourth sons of Bishop Milton Wright of the United Brethren Church. Their Christian commitment translated into a joyous and lively curiosity about nature. They refused, however, to pursue any research or work on Sunday. Glider pioneer Otto Lilienthal (1848-1896) in 1894, about to test one of his glider designs. Although bright, these men never actually graduated from high school. Nevertheless, they loved a mental challenge. Their main source of income during the late 1890s was as bicycle shop owners. Not only did they sell machines, they also manufactured them. This business was somewhat seasonal in nature which left time during the off-season for the brothers to pursue other interests. Moreover, the tools and know-how from bicycle manufacture would prove useful for developing another technology. The Wright brothers’ interest in heavier-than-air flight was piqued by the news in 1896 that German Otto Lilienthal had been killed in a crash of one of his gliders. Since 1891 this man had experimented with various glider designs and everyone recognized that he had significantly advanced the science of aerodynamics. Lilienthal was the first person to ride an airborne glider and by the time of his death he had about 2,500 flights to his credit. On to Kitty Hawk By the summer of 1899, the Wright brothers had researched the topic and they understood what problems needed to be solved for success to be achieved. Next, upon inquiry, they discovered that the coastal sand dunes near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, were a promising place to fly gliders. This identification was based on the unusually strong and steady winds which were typical of that area. Kill Devil Hills near Kitty Hawk thus became the site of their early experiments. The Wrights set out, first of all, to find a glider design that was stable and reliable in the air. Others had made gliders before them, but none that were well controlled – balancing a “flyer” seemed easy but it really wasn’t. When the wings were arranged in a V pattern with the passenger at the lowest point, the system performed adequately in calm air but got knocked back and forth, oscillating in wind. Alternatively, when the center of gravity was located in front of the wings, there was constant up and down undulation. In view of these already identified problems, the Wrights determined to build a glider that would allow the operator to restore balance. They thus set out to design wings that could be manually warped – twisted slightly – when the pilot shifted his weight so he could make ongoing inflight adjustments, somewhat like birds do by twisting and tipping their wings. Their objective was to obtain from the wind, the forces needed to restore balance. When they tried out their design at Kitty Hawk in October 1900, they discovered that their device did not have enough lift to carry a man. These trials did however suggest that they were on the right track as far as balance and control were concerned. The brothers returned to Kitty Hawk during July of 1901. They now used a wing shape that Otto Lilienthal had developed, and also relied on his lift calculations to determine how big the wings should be. This design performed much worse than their previous year’s model. They rebuilt the glider and still it insisted on spinning. After further modifications, the balance was improved but the lifting capacity was still most disappointing. The Wrights realized that “the calculations upon which all flying-machines had been based were unreliable and that all were simply groping in the dark.” Even Samuel Langley’s data they concluded was “little better than guess-work.”  (All quotes are from “the Wright Brothers’ Aeroplane” by Orville and Wilbur Wright published in the Sept. 1908 edition of The Century Magazine.) World’s first wind tunnel The Wrights returned home to Ohio, determined to generate their own data. To this end, they devised the world’s first wind tunnel. This was a contraption six feet long that they set up in their bicycle shop. The brothers had taken up aeronautics “as a sport.” Now they reluctantly undertook real research. Soon they found the work so fascinating they were “drawn deeper and deeper into the project.” Using the wind tunnel, they made systematic measurements of standard surfaces, ...so varied in design as to bring out the underlying causes of differences noted in their pressures. Measurements were tabulated on nearly fifty of these at all angles from zero to 45 degrees, at intervals of 2.5 degrees. Based on these new data, they ran successful trials of a new glider during the fall of 1902. With a stable device, and with accurate data on lift, they were now ready to build a powered flyer. The two hurdles yet to overcome were propeller design and building a suitable lightweight engine. Early in 1903, they turned their attention to propeller design. It wasn’t as easy as they had expected. As they later reported: What at first seemed a simple problem became more complex the longer we studied it. With a machine moving forward, the air flying backward, the propellers turning sidewise, and nothing standing still, it seemed impossible to find a starting point from which to trace the simultaneous reactions. After much agonizing, they apparently sorted out the problems. The result of their calculations was highly satisfactory propellers. The last requirement was a small internal combustion engine. This they built in their bicycle shop. The cost of the entire flying machine was about $1000. It featured the propellers behind the wings, the rudder in front, and wings covered with “Pride of the West” muslin, a cotton fabric manufactured especially for ladies’ underwear. The fateful day Samuel Langley’s Aerodome was to be launched, catapult style, off the roof of a houseboat. But both his 1903 trial flights ended up in crashes. On October 7, 1903, Samuel Langley’s scaled up airplane design crashed. He asked for, and received, more government funds to try again, but on December 8 his device crashed again. Then on December 17 at Kitty Hawk, Orville Wright made the first successful powered flight. Five people witnessed the event. The fight lasted 12 seconds and extended only 120 feet. Later in the day, a flight of 852 feet was achieved. Heavier-than-air flight was now a reality and modern life would never be the same. The almost universal response of their fellow Americans was to deny that anything had happened. The media refused to take any notice of this achievement. By the fall of 1905 the Wrights were now airborne for one-half hour at a time. They practiced flying in Ohio, above a large field with public roads and a railroad nearby. Thousands of eyewitnesses testified to the reality of this success story. Reporters refused to believe firsthand accounts nor even to investigate for themselves. In January 1906, Scientific American insisted in print that the story of flight was a hoax since no newspapers had reported it. Finally, in 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt ordered flight trials at Fort Myers. As a result, the brothers signed a contract to deliver airplanes to the US Army. However, public acclaim only came after Wilbur carried out a “public” flight in France on August 8, 1908. Now the age of flight had really dawned. Within less than a year, on July 25, 1909, Louis Bleriot became the first person to fly across the English Channel. Wright Air Force Base? The relationship of the Wrights with the American scientific establishment was never cordial. After a dispute with the Smithsonian Institute in 1928, the only model of the original flyer was sent to England for display. There it remained until 1948, the year Orville Wright died. His older brother had died many years earlier. Meanwhile, significant honors were accorded Langley rather than the Wrights. Langley Air Force Base was established in 1916 to honor this “American air pioneer.” From 1931 to 1995 the world’s most prestigious wind tunnel operated at the Langley base. This site is also famous for its NASA research laboratory located there. In addition, the nation’s first aircraft carrier was also named after Langley. The world nevertheless remains deeply indebted to these two Christian bachelors who used their God-given talents for the benefit of their fellow man. Their objective was not fame and fortune, but rather the joy of discovery of God’s creation. Thus just over one hundred years later, Christians can give special thanks for the testimony afforded by the lives of these interesting men. Dr. Margaret Helder is the author of “No Christian Silence on Science.”...

Humor, Satire, Sexuality

Are you a transkindophobe?

Doctor Clive Gledhill looked down at his watch – 4:30. Only half an hour until the surgery shut and then he could head off home for the day to his family. He looked at the screen in front of him and saw that he had just two more patients booked in. Perhaps they might give him a more interesting end to the day than what had gone before. A few cases of stomach upset and flu – that was about it, so far as he could recall. “Yes, come in,” said the doctor as he heard a tap at the door. As it opened, he looked up to greet his patient, only to find himself startled. “You wanted interesting?” thought the doctor. “Well here is interesting.” The man entering the room was perhaps the oddest looking person the doctor had ever seen. The fabric that made up all his clothes – from his shirt all the way down to his socks – consisted of a series of irregular shaped brown patches, with white lines in between, rather like a mosaic. It seemed to be patterned like some sort of animal, though for the life of him the doctor couldn’t think what. He also had this same design tattooed onto his hands. Around his neck he wore a series of metal coils – the sort of thing worn by women in the Kayan and Ndebele tribes, which is wound around the neck in order to stretch it. His arms were hung long and loose in front of him, almost as if he were trying to reach down to the floor with them. But perhaps the oddest thing of all was what he was doing with his mouth. He was chewing, but not in the way people chew gum. Rather it was a slow and ponderous action, not too dissimilar to a ruminant chewing the cud. “Come, take a seat,” said Dr. Gledhill beckoning him to sit in the chair on the opposite side of his desk. “I prefer to stand,” said the patient, moving the words around his mouth slowly as he continued to ruminate. “As you wish,” replied the doctor. “Now tell me, how can I help you today?” The oddity shifted around somewhat apprehensively. He seemed nervous and reluctant to speak at first, but the patient manner of the doctor seemed to put him at ease. “Before I tell you of my condition, I would like an assurance from you. Tell me, doctor, do you consider yourself to be a tolerant man?” “Strange question,” thought Dr. Gledhill. Nevertheless he answered in the affirmative, adding that he considered himself to be a man of some high level of tolerance. “Good,” replied the man. “And do you think yourself to be completely open and non-judgmental.” “Well, I would say that I am fairly open,” replied the doctor. “I’ve practiced medicine for nearly thirty years now and I doubt whether there is much I haven’t seen. As for non-judgmental? I don’t suppose I am any more or any less judgmental than anyone else. We’ve all got our prejudices about something or other, but I suppose I try to be as impartial as possible. Can I ask to what these questions tend?” “Yes, you may,” answered the man. “Dr. Gledhill, I have now been to no less than five doctors about my condition. Yet not one of them has taken me seriously. In fact they have all more or less ridiculed me and sent me out of their surgery. I have been humiliated and left feeling emotionally wrecked by the treatment I have received by various members of your profession. Which is why, before continuing, I seek reassurance that you will not treat me with the same derision as I have received before.” “Okay,” said Doctor Gledhill pondering the request, “I promise that I’ll be as open-minded and fair as I am able. Now, what seems to be the problem?” The patient nodded approvingly at the doctor, before walking slowly around the room. As he spoke, every so often he would stand on tiptoes, straining as if he were trying to reach high up for something. “Ever since I was a young child I have felt different,” he said. “How do you mean different?” asked the doctor. “What I mean is that even when I was a small boy, I would look around at the other boys the same age as me, and I knew I just wasn’t like them. Ever since I was about six, I knew what I really was – and it wasn’t what people thought. And the problem has never changed. In fact it has just got worse and worse. For more than thirty years, I have lived a lie. I can hardly describe it to you, but the ‘me’ you see on the outside is completely and utterly different from the ‘me’ on the inside.” “Aha,” thought doctor Gledhill. “I think I know what is coming up.” “The effects on my life have been disastrous and I find myself almost friendless, doctor. My behavior is too much for most people, and I daren’t tell anyone why I am the way I am. That is why I am here. The real me has been trying to burst out for years, but until now I always thought too much of public opinion to actually do anything about it. But enough is enough and I must finally seek a solution.” Doctor Gledhill looked at the man for some moments, weighing up his response. “Look, I think I understand what you’re saying,” replied the doctor after some moments. “Ever since you can remember, you have felt more female than male and now you’ve come to me asking if I can put you forward for a sex change. I must say I’m surprised by the reaction you received from some of my colleagues in the medical profession. Sex changes are really quite common these days and there’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. If you like, I can refer you to a consultant I know at the hospital who specializes in these procedures.” “Oh no, you don’t understand,” said the man looking a little put out. “I’m perfectly happy with being male. I have no desire to become female and I did not come here seeking a sex change.” “Well, I’m terribly sorry if I have misunderstood you,” replied the doctor, surprised by the response. “It’s just that everything you told me sounded remarkably similar to other cases I have dealt with where the patient was seeking to change their sex. So then would you mind correcting my error?” “Yes of course,” replied the man. “Can’t you tell by looking at me? I’m not looking for a sex change. I’m happy with my gender and wouldn’t dream of trying to changing it. What I’m looking for is a species change.” Dr. Gledhill’s head jerked back sharply as if he had just received an electric shock. Had he heard the man right? He’d said he was looking for a species change, hadn’t he? Surely not. Better check. “Look, I’m sorry if I have misheard you, but did I hear you say you were looking for a species change?” “Yes, you did,” replied the man. “And what species are you looking to become?“ asked Dr. Gledhill warily. “Why surely that is obvious.” replied the man somewhat disdainfully. “Ever since I saw pictures of the Maasai Mara as small boy, I have wanted nothing else than to be a giraffe.” Dr. Gledhill quickly attempted to gather his thoughts. Surely this must be some sort of joke. Perhaps one of his colleagues was playing a hoax on him. Yet since the man looked in earnest and gave not the slightest hint of any prank being played, he decided that his best course of action would be to try and talk the man round to a normal way of thinking. “Look I understand that you may have issues and problems that perhaps need addressing,” said the doctor in a soothing tone. “But you do know that you can’t just become a giraffe, don’t you?” “And why not?” came a rather stern reply. “Well…” stumbled the doctor searching for the right words, “well…because you are human. You were born a human and that is what you are. You can’t change that.” “But you were happy to refer me for a sex change?” “That is entirely different,” answered Dr. Gledhill. “There is a world of difference between changing one’s sex and changing one’s kind.” “Oh there is, is there?” said the man cynically. “I’d love to know what that difference is exactly. Apparently my kind is fixed but my gender isn’t. Tell me doctor, you’re not a creationist by any chance, are you?” It took a lot to offend Dr. Clive Gledhill, but this comment hit a raw nerve. He most definitely was not a creationist and he was not about to let his patient off without letting him know this in the sharpest possible terms. “No I’m not a creationist, thank you very much,” he replied tartly. “I absolutely affirm the Darwinian theory of natural selection. But what of it?” “Then you believe in the mutability of species, you deny the fixity of kinds, and you affirm that we both evolved from apes all the way back to some kind of bacteria?” “Yes I do,” replied the doctor. “Well then since you affirm these things to be true,” replied the man, “why do you deny the possibility that I can change from a human to a giraffe.” “Why a giraffe? How about an ape, since they are our nearest cousins,” said the doctor sarcastically. “I was never very good at climbing trees – it makes me giddy – so I dread to think what swinging through them would do,” replied the man with total seriousness. “But you have avoided my question. Look, since you affirm that the gender of a person is not so fixed that it can’t be changed, an opinion which must surely be based on an evolutionary understanding of the world, and since you believe in the morphing of atoms into creatures and of kinds into other kinds, why would you then claim that humanness is so fixed that it cannot be changed?” “Well,” said the doctor, thinking as quickly as he could. “I’m not sure whether such a thing is even possible, but even if it were, would it be desirable? And even if it were both possible and desirable, we certainly do not have the capability of performing species change operations at present.” “Then might I suggest that the scientific establishment begin researching into this capability,” said the man indignantly. “They claim that they can make a man out of a woman or a woman out of a man by cutting bits off here and there and by the injection of various hormones. But if they are as serious about the mutability of species and kinds as they say they are, maybe they need to put their money where their mouths are – else I shall think that they neither understand nor fully believe the logic of their own convictions.” “And might I suggest that you go and see a psychiatrist and perhaps talk over your issues with them?” replied a clearly irritated Dr. Gledhill. “It doesn’t surprise me,” replied the man walking towards the door. “All of the previous doctors I have seen have told me pretty much the same thing. They all affirmed their belief in evolution, yet when push came to shove, they have backed off from the implication of their beliefs, which is that nothing is fixed and so everything is open to change – including a medically-induced species change. I see that you are no more open to change than any of them were.” And with that he walked through the door leaving Dr. Clive Gledhill somewhat shell-shocked at the conversation he had just had. After some moments he managed to pull himself together. “Species change indeed,” he muttered to himself. “Let’s hope my final patient just has an upset stomach.” Rob Slane is the author of A Christian and Unbeliever discuss Life, the Universe, and Everything ...

Apologetics 101

6 responses to 1 very angry atheist

British scientist Richard Dawkins may be the world’s most famous atheist. And he has garnered his fame from, and used his fame for attacks on God and his people. To that end he founded the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science in 2006 and, five years later, hired Sean Faircloth to be the Foundation’s Director of Strategy and Policy. Like his mentor, Faircloth is aggressively anti-Christian in his perspective. In 2012 he authored a book (with a foreword by Dawkins) called Attack of the Theocrats: How the Religious Right Harms Us All—and What We Can Do About It. The anti-Christian agenda Faircloth proposes is both monstrous and unsurprising. There is nothing original in the book, and that is why it is worth a closer examination – the vision Faircloth shares is one we have heard in bits and pieces for some time now. There are lessons to be learned from responding to his points. 1. Don’t assume the attack has any basis To lay some groundwork for his agenda, Faircloth tries to discredit the Bible by claiming it was written during a time in history “when guys could simply hit or rape any women who dared to talk back.” He then continues: “Don’t believe that was the case? The Bible tells us such acts are A-OK.” Of course, the Bible nowhere says it’s “A-OK” for men to rape and hit women. Faircloth just made that up. He then proceeds to attack Christians themselves, insisting that the Christian mindset leads its adherents to steal things, and to hurt other people. According to Faircloth, Christians are prone to anti-social behavior because their religion causes them to reason in the following manner: You can hurt others – and terribly so – and be forgiven for that sin simply by asking a supernatural being for forgiveness. With the “forgiven” card, it’s so much easier to say to oneself, “I will grab this food now. I will grab this money now. I will grab and grab and grab.” Concern yourself with long-term consequences later. You can always be forgiven—and then you live forever! A convenient belief system indeed. If you missed hearing that preached off the pulpit you aren’t alone. Notably, Faircloth does not cite any sources to support his claim that Christians think that way. It’s very important to remember that when a critic attacks the Bible we shouldn’t simply assume their attack has credibility. As Faircloth’s attack illustrates, sometimes the critic is so desperate to slam Christianity that he’s willing to make things up. 2. Turn the tables Faircloth claims that in recent years religion has acquired special legal privileges that are harmful to American society. Allowing churches and other religious organizations to hire people who share their beliefs and lifestyles is one of these special privileges that he wants to eliminate. When he argues this point he does so in a particularly twisted way. In his view, …religions enjoy legal privileges that corrode our most basic American values. In most states, religious groups can say in one of their child-care centers: “You’re a Jew? You’re fired.” Similarly, in one of their charitable organizations, they can say to the administrative assistant or janitor: “You’re gay? You’re fired” True, religious groups that run child-care centers or charitable organizations often only hire people from within their own group. It is a basic principle of freedom of association and freedom of religion that religious organizations select employees based on their own principles. Christian schools want to hire Christian teachers, for example. They don’t say, “You’re a Jew? You’re fired,” as Faircloth puts it. There are Jewish organizations that hire exclusively Jewish employees. Why would a Jewish school hire a Christian teacher? Should it be forced by the government to hire non-Jewish teachers? In Faircloth’s world there may be situations where it would. His solution is for the government to prohibit such “discrimination.” As a result, the employee qualifications for Christian organizations would be determined by the government. Allowing religious organizations to hire only people who share their beliefs is, in Faircloth’s words, a legal privilege that corrodes “our most basic American values.” But turnabout is fair play. If Faircloth thinks it discrimination to have a religious test for Christian schools, then what about his own employer, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science? Surely, in the name of tolerance, they should then be required to hire their share of Christians and maybe a creationist or two? We don’t need to be mind readers to know how Faircloth would respond to our suggestion. He would find a reason of some sort, very quickly, to explain that discrimination isn’t wrong in every circumstance, and, in fact, is sometimes the only reasonable course. 3. Highlight the conflict Faircloth is also very upset that Christian pharmacists are not compelled by the government to provide abortifacient drugs for women who want them. As he puts it, in the US: ...fundamentalist pharmacists in several states get special permission from state legislatures to ignore their professional duties and to even deny rape victims emergency contraception. In his view, Christian pharmacists should be compelled, against their conscience, by the state to provide such “emergency contraception.” This is justified because “Pharmacists work in the health-care profession, not in a church.” While little could be said to change Faircloth’s mind, we can, with a few pointed questions, highlight the severity of what he proposes. Will he let Christians who won’t violate their conscience have jobs? He wants us out of pharmacology, but what of the many other businesses where Christians’ conscience claims run up against other’s wishes? Would he want us out of the bakery business, wedding catering and photography, and bed and breakfast inns? What of Christian doctors and nurses who don’t want to be involved in euthanasia? And printers and T-shirt makers who want to refuse some jobs? Should they all be shown the door? Would the country be better or worse off if Christians were run out of these positions? We may not be able to change someone like Faircloth’s mind, but we can at least highlight his hatred, making it plain for even the most clueless to see. 4. Use the science Faircloth is further outraged by the fact that US foreign aid given to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) cannot be used to provide abortions or to advocate for or counsel abortion. Faircloth calls this prohibition on counseling abortion a “gag rule” and says it prevents women from receiving needed medical advice. In his view: Neither Congress nor the president should deny women accurate medical information. To impose a gag rule is to mandate a particular religious bias and to promote religious propaganda based on the views of specially privileged religious groups – and to use tax dollars to do so. Faircloth says the US government’s position is being based on “religious propaganda” and in one sense it is. The only reason the US has this overseas pro-life position is because of Christian voter’s influence. But God’s truth isn’t limited to the Bible. When we examine life’s beginning then we find the science backing up the biblical position: we find that the only real beginning we can talk about is conception. That’s when a new human life – genetically distinct from both parents – is started. It is smaller life, and with fewer abilities than adults, yes, but no less valuable because, as even an angry atheist knows, we don’t measure people’s worth by their size or ability. 5. Turn the tables again Christian schools constitute another problem for Faircloth. He objects to the Biblical Christian view that males and females have somewhat different roles. He claims such a perspective makes women subservient, and then asks, Why should even one child be taught that women should be subservient? Children make no adult choice to attend a sexist school. It violates their human rights to impose such views on them. Here we can, once again, turn the tables on this attack. God does call on a woman to submit to her husband (though not men in general) but is that the same thing as being subservient? Faircloth has to submit to the decisions of his employer, Richard Dawkins – would he equate submission with subservience in his case too? Does his submission to his boss mean he is less than his boss? I think Faircloth would agree, submission is very different from subservience. But let’s take this further. Christians know that whether male and female, we are all made in God’s Image. We know why women are equal. But on what basis would an atheist make that case? In a Darwinian, survival-of-the-fittest understanding, why would he view the generally weaker and smaller gender as being of equal worth? 6. Whence comes morality? Among other things, Faircloth is also against the corporal punishment of children in Christian schools. Interestingly, Faircloth acknowledges that all law is based on morality. As he puts it, You’ve heard the phrase “you can’t legislate morality.” In fact, the only thing you can legislate is morality. Legislative decisions embody the moral choices of a society. At last Faircloth gets something right. He understands that the policies he supports amount to an imposition of his morality on society through law. Yet he objects to Christian schools imposing their morality on students. But on what basis does an atheist speak of morality? Christians know that the moral code has its origins in the very character of God. Atheists dispute this but disputing is easy; coming up with a godless basis for an objective, applies-to-everyone moral code is difficult. Sometimes an appeal is made to consensus, as if morals are simply what we as a society agree is moral. But by that reasoning racism is only recently wrong, and a convincing PR campaign could make any evil good. When an atheist makes use of words such as “morality” and “right” and “wrong” we should demand from them the basis of their own supposedly superior moral code. Conclusion Sean Faircloth’s attacks on God’s people are unfair and unremarkable and far from unusual. We should expect to seem more like this in the years ahead. That’s why, for the glory of God and for the encouragement of his people, we should equip ourselves to offer a ready response....

Book Reviews, Children’s non-fiction

Pro-life kids!

by Bethany Bomberger 48 pages / 2019 What I most liked about this book is that my kids just picked it up and started reading it. This is the sort of book they really ought to read – it is educational, teaching them about the unborn, about what they can do to stand up for these babies, and about how the unborn are being dehumanized by those that want to kill them – but educational doesn't always mean enjoyable. So it was a very pleasant surprise to find out this one hit both marks. Illustrator Ed Koehler’s bright colors got them to open it in the first place, and then author Bethany Bomberger’s rhyming text kept their attention. One example: Sadly there are those who don’t understand That life has a purpose whether planned or unplanned Throughout history many believed a lie. “You’re not a person! No way!” they cried Today many people think that lie is still true That babies in wombs aren’t people too…. After describing the problem, the book concludes with a rallying cry for all the readers to be …pro-life kids ‘til injustice ends! We are pro-life kids. It’s life we defend! I’d highly recommend this for every school or church library!...

Animated

The Gruffalo

Animated / Family 27 min / 2009 Rating: 8/10 How can a mouse meet up with a hungry fox, snake, and owl, and live to tell the tale? It helps that he has a monstrously big friend who is just about to meet him. And a fox, or a snake, or an owl, wouldn't dare eat a small mouse who has such a big friend! But...what if they found out what the mouse knows: "There's no such things as a Gruffalo"? Or is there? This short film, based on the book of the same name, is a clever tale about a mouse who thinks his way out of trouble. It is beautifully rendered, visually and musically, with the only concern being that everyone wants to turn this little mouse into a little morsel. So in our household the pause button had to be used a few times to calm some anxious viewers. For those under eight, especially if they don't watch much TV, there is a little bit of tension here. In fact, kids under three might find it just too scary. But it does all work out in the end, and reassuring any little ones of that might help them make it through. So, two thumbs up for this short, fun, and clever story. Who could ask for more? There is a sequel, The Gruffalo's Child, about the title character heading off to search for the "big bad mouse" that so terrified his father. But it loses the charm of the original because now it is a father who lies to his child, rather than, as in the original, a mouse lying to predators. While we can justify lying to predators it is quite another thing for a parent to lie to their child. Also, the moody music, and the uncertainty about who we should be cheering for (the Gruffalo child, all on his lonesome searching through the woods, or the mouse that he is, basically, hunting?) make this one a good bit scarier than the original. That's why our family is going to give it a miss. ...

News

Saturday Selections - August 15, 2020

Thomas Sowell on the benefit of the 10th Commandment While Thomas Sowell doesn't mention the Bible, the point he makes here is a biblical one. Correcting "income inequality" requires us to do as the 10th Commandment forbids - it makes a virtue out of looking over the back fence and making plans for what our neighbor has. It's only when we forget about redistributing his wealth that we are free to mind our own business, and use and invest and grow what God has entrusted to us for our own good, and the good of 4 principles for talking to your kids about sex (3-minute read) Talk positively, talk often, talk freely, and talk soon... Netherlands contemplating assisted suicide for any over 75 who are "tired of living" While there probably isn't enough time to pass the bill before the next election, it is significant that there is now a push for euthanasia of the healthy. And once it is allowable for those over 75 what reason would there be to refuse it to those under 75? What reason is there for any limits once we ignore that life is created by God, and is not ours take? Morally speaking, not all COVID vaccines will be alike Some of the perspective offered in the article is specifically Roman Catholic, but the problem it points out – that some vaccines are being developed using cells from aborted children – should concern us all. 3 questions to ask before we fill up the family schedule again The summer break, along with COVID craziness, have cut into family busyness: we aren't running from soccer practice to piano recital to playdate pickups like many a family is when the school season is on us. So before all the busyness arrives once again Lauren Miller has 3 questions for us to consider before we add an activity on to our weekly schedule. Even cell death is amazingly designed! (10-minute read) Over the course of 7-10 years, every cell in your body gets replaced. That's amazing, but it also presents a problem: what to do with all the dead cells that are being replaced? Well, it turns out, your body has an amazing recycling system! While this is a somewhat technical read, even just skimming it over will give you a deeper appreciation for God's brilliance. Upcoming documentary on the Red Sea crossing This looks like it will be really interesting. The team behind this film has made three others about Israel's time in Egypt, and in an interesting wrinkle, a secular expert they consulted in the first film, who thought the Bible a great archeological text, in this film thinks the Red Sea crossing must have happened somewhere shallow because he assumes it must have occurred via natural (even if unusual) circumstances. He rules out miracles because he has ruled out God...even as he knows the Bible to be validated by archeology time and again, and believes, therefore, that Israel's crossing did happen. But what happens when we go searching where only a miracle could have permitted the crossing? The trailer seems to show there is evidence of chariots on the seafloor.  ...

Current Issue, Magazine

July/Aug 2020 issue

WHAT’S INSIDE: Keeping our kids safe online / Angry? But I'm not the type...right? / More birds than believers in church / The hidden meaning of the Chronicles of Narnia / A parable for children on COVID / Are bans on conversion therapy actually bans on religious conversion in drag? / Two atheists walk into a bar... / Movie and book reviews / An excerpt from "Christ's Psalms, Our Psalms - Study Resource" / Beware Netflix's "Baby Sitters Club" / Even heroes carved in marble will have feet of clay / Reformed college causes wonderful fuss / and more... Click the cover to view or right-click to download the PDF ...

Science - General

We’ve all got rhythm – internal clocks in plants, animals, and people too

To my husband, the idea that all humans are able accurately to measure time without recourse to clocks, seems laughable. For if this is so, why is it that I am so consistently late? To that question there may never be an answer. It is nevertheless a well-documented fact that some people can estimate time with an error of less than 1% even after 3 or more days. Clocks here, there, and everywhere This phenomenon, the ability to measure time, is extremely widespread among living creatures. The only exceptions appear to be bacteria, mosses, embryos, and creatures that live in constantly dark environments. A variety of functions in plants and animals such as enzyme activity vary in intensity with time of day. These cycles appear to be the source for biological clocks. In humans, for example, 20 functions have been shown to vary with time of day. These include wakefulness and body temperature. Processes in plants or animals which show a regular pattern of increase and decrease every 24 hours, are called circadian rhythms. The term comes from the Latin circa (about) and diem (day). To be a true circadian rhythm a process must take about 24 hours to complete. Moreover, the force driving the process must originate inside the organism. That is, the process must continue for several days at least, even when conditions are constant. In many plant species, for example, flowers are already beginning to open before dawn. It is almost as if they “know” the sun is about to rise. Even in constant darkness these flowers still open at the correct time. It is an interesting feature of biological clocks that they cannot be reprogrammed to cycles shorter or longer than approximately 24 hours. Studies on humans and test animals in space have shown that they do not adjust well to external cycles which deviate too much from 24 hours. While the length of a rhythm cannot be altered, the rhythm can be shifted. Organisms can adapt to new time zones but the adjustment may take some time. When the pattern of living has been reversed in humans, as for night work, rhythms such as body temperature may take as much as 9-10 days before inversion is complete. No wonder we experience jet lag! Even algae have it! In nature, the variety of organisms able to give off a glow of light include some bacteria, some fungi, and some marine crustaceans. The only photosynthetic organisms able to emit light, however, are tiny one-celled marine algae called dinoflagellates. In these organisms the capacity to glow follows a circadian rhythm. They give off light when they are jostled at night. When there is wave action the glow from concentrations can be seen for miles. In one such species the brightest luminescence occurs about 6 hours after night fall, and the dimmest flashes occur 12 hours later. Even in the laboratory where there is no change in the surrounding darkness to indicate passage of night and day, luminescence during the night phase may be as much as 14 times brighter than during the day phase. Biological clocks which measure tidal rhythms (12.8 hours) and lunar cycles (29.5 days) also occur. Certain diatoms (algae with glass walls) emerge onto tidal flats at low tide. They retreat down into the sand just before the tidal waters return – otherwise they would be washed away. This rhythm continues in the laboratory under constant conditions. How are these organisms able to anticipate the changing tides? Most famous of the organisms which measure lunar rhythms is the palolo worm of the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. It reproduces only twice a year, during the neap tides of the last quarter moon in October and November. Quite the mystery Although ability to discern tidal and lunar rhythms clearly enhances many organisms’ ability to survive, the same cannot be said for many circadian rhythms. It is a curious fact that many circadian rhythms lack obvious selective value. That is, the possession of these rhythms does not seem to enable the organism to survive better. If these capabilities came about by natural selection, as evolution theory demands, then they should confer those possessing the ability with some kind of advantage over those lacking it. Even more frustrating for the evolutionist is the question of the mechanism driving these rhythms. Experts assume the driving force must be physical rather than chemical, as temperature changes do not affect the clock. Temperature changes do affect chemical reactions, so these cannot be involved. What evolutionists would like to find is a driving force which is the same in all organisms. Conclusions about common ancestry would then be easy to draw. The evidence however seems to point away from such a common mechanism. It seems the different organisms keep time in different ways. Not only that, but different rhythms within one organisms, seem to run independently of each other. Such apparent independence of origin bodes ill for evolutionary theory. This article is a classic from Creation Science Dialogue, Volume 8, Number 2, 1981. For a fun sequel published last year, see “Celebrating Rhythm!” from Creation Science Dialogue, Volume 44, Number 3, 2017....

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Henry says good-bye

When you are sad by Jocelyn Flenders edited by Edward T. Welch 32 pages / 2019 This book is part of an excellent series put out by the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF) called "Good News for Little Hearts." Each title addresses an area of counseling that might be of use to "little hearts" and in this one the issue is grieving the loss of a loved one. Of course, they don't tackle it head-on – that would be abrupt, and too distressing for the very children the book is intended to help. So instead of a person, we have Henry, a little hedgehog, and instead of the loss of a relative, he is trying to deal with the death of his pet ladybug Lila. Sad and angry, and he doesn't want to be around his other friends, whose pets are all still alive. But what his parents model is how to take our grief to God. Henry's dad shares relevant Bible passages, pointing his son to the God who has promised to one day dry every tear. It is a wonderful book, and brilliantly illustrated. It would probably be most useful if read before there was a need, but even after the death of a pet, or of a loved relative, the book's Scripture citations, and instructions for parents found in the back, will be incredibly helpful. Overall I would recommend it to parents of children 5-10. ...

Apologetics 101

Ready to reason: is apologetics even necessary?

A surge of pious agreement overcame me the first time I heard someone confidently assert that: "The word of God no more needs defense than does a lion in a cage. Just let the lion loose, and it will take care of itself!" There seemed something very right about that sentiment. It almost appeared irreverent to disagree with it. Well, something about that assertion is indeed right. God is certainly not in need of anything - much less the puny efforts of any particular man or woman to defend His word. He is the Creator of heaven and earth, almighty in power, and sovereign in controlling all things. The Apostle Paul, when reasoning with the Athenian philosophers, made that very point: he declared that God is not worshiped with men's hands "as though He needed any thing, seeing that He gives to all life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:24). If God were ever to hunger, for instance, He would not need to tell us since the fullness of all creation is His (Ps. 50:12)! He depends upon nothing outside Himself, and everything outside of Him depends upon Him for its existence, qualities, abilities, accomplishments, and blessings. "In Him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). So it is obvious that God does not need our inadequate reasoning and our feeble attempts to defend His word. Nevertheless, the pious-sounding remark with which we began is still mistaken. It suggests that we should not concern ourselves with efforts at apologetics because God will directly take care of such matters Himself. Need? No. Require? Yes. The remark is just as mistaken as saying that God does not need us as evangelists (He could even make the stones to cry out, couldn't He?) – and therefore efforts at evangelistic witness are unimportant. Or, a person might misguidedly think that, because God has the power and ability to provide his family with food and clothing without "help from us," he does not need to go to work tomorrow. Thinking like this is unbiblical. It confuses what God Himself needs from us and what God requires of us. It assumes that God ordains ends, but not means to those ends (or at least not the instrumentality of created means). There is no need for God to use our evangelistic witness, our daily work for a paycheck, or our defense of the faith – but He chooses to do so, and He calls us to apply ourselves to them. The Bible directs us to work, although God could provide for our families in other ways. The Bible directs us to evangelize, even though God could use other means to call sinners to Himself. And the Bible also directs us to defend the faith – not because God would be helpless without us, but because this is one of His ordained means of glorifying Himself and vindicating His truth. Christ speaks to the church as a whole through Jude, commanding us to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). False and heretical teaching was threatening the church and its grasp of gospel truth. Jude very well knew that God was in sovereign control, and indeed that God would in time directly deal with wicked teachers, consigning them to everlasting condemnation. Still Jude also urged his readers themselves to contend with the error of false teaching, not sitting back and expecting that God would simply take care of it Himself. Paul wrote to Titus that overseers (pastors and elders) in the church are required to be especially adept at refuting those who oppose the truth of God (Titus 1:9). However this is not merely the assigned task of ordained men. All believers are commanded to engage in it as well. Addressing himself to all members of the congregation, Peter penned the following command: "sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to give an answer to anyone who asks from you a reason for the hope that is within you, yet with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15). It is God Himself, speaking through Peter's inspired words, who calls upon us as believers -- each and every one of us -- to be prepared to defend the faith in the face of challenges and questions which come from unbelievers -- any one of them. The necessity of apologetics is not a divine necessity: God can surely do His work without us. The necessity of apologetics is a moral necessity: God has chosen to do His work through us and called us to it. Apologetics is the special talent of some believers, and the interested hobby of others. But it is the God-ordained responsibility of all believers. What 1 Peter 3:15 isn't We should look at 1 Peter 3:15 again and notice a few things that it does not say. 1) Not a call to arrogance It does not say that believers are supposed to take the initiative and start arrogant arguments with unbelievers, telling them that we have all the answers. We do not have to go out looking for a fight. We certainly should not sport or encourage a "I'll prove it to you" spirit, an attitude which relishes refutation. The text indicates that we offer a reasoned defense in answer to those who ask for such from us, whether they do so as an opening challenge to the integrity of God's word or as the natural response to our evangelistic witness. The text also indicates that the spirit in which we offer our apologetic answer is one of "gentleness and respect." It is not pugnacious and defensive. It is not a spirit of intellectual one-up-manship. The task of apologetics begins with humility. After all, the fear of the Lord is the starting point of all knowledge (Prov. 1:7). Moreover, apologetics is pursued in service to the Lord, and "the Lord's servant must not strive, but be gentle toward all, apt to teach" (2 Tim. 2:24). Apologetics is not a place for vain flexing of our intellectual muscles. 2) No guarantee of persuasion Another thing that 1 Peter 3:15 does not say is that believers are responsible to persuade anybody who challenges or questions their faith. We can offer sound reasons to the unbeliever, but we cannot make him or her subjectively believe those reasons. We can refute the poor argumentation of the unbeliever, but still not persuade them. We can close the mouth of the critic, but only God can open the heart. It is not in our ability, and not our responsibility, to regenerate the dead heart and give sight to the blind eyes of unbelievers. That is God's gracious work. It is God who must enlighten the eyes of one's understanding (Eph. 1:18). "The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot know them because they are Spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14). Until God in His sovereign grace changes the sinner from within, he will not see the kingdom of God or submit to the King. Jesus taught this to Nicodemus, reminding him that "the wind blows where it will... So is every one who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8). Our task is to present a faithful and sound witness and defense. The task of persuasion is God's. That is why apologists should not evaluate their success or adjust their message on the basis of whether the unbeliever finally comes to agree with them or not. 3. Not based on a supposed "neutrality" Yet another thing that 1 Peter 3:15 does not say is that defending the faith has a different ultimate authority than does the task of expounding the faith. It is a common mistake among evangelicals to imagine that the authority of God and His word is the basis for their theology and preaching, but the authority for defending this faith must be something other than God and His word -- or else we would be begging the question raised by unbelievers. Accordingly, believers will sometimes be misled into thinking that whatever they take as the ultimate standard in apologetical thinking must be neutral and agreed upon by believer and unbeliever alike; and from here they go on to make the second mistake of thinking that something like "reason" is such a commonly understood and accepted standard. These ideas are quite obviously out of accord with Biblical teaching, however. Does apologetics have a different epistemological authority than expounding theology? Our theology is founded upon the authority of Christ, speaking by His Spirit in the words of Scripture. 1 Peter 3:15 teaches us that the precondition of presenting a defense of the faith (apologetics) is also that we "sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts." It would be a mistake to imagine that Peter is speaking of the "heart" here as though it is our center of emotions over against the mind with which we think. In Biblical terminology the "heart" is the location of our reasoning (Rom. 1:21), meditation (Ps. 19:14), understanding (Prov. 8:5), thinking (Deut. 7:17; 8:5) and believing (Rom. 10:10). It is just here – in the center of our thinking and reasoning – that Christ is to be consecrated as Lord, when we engage in apologetical discussion with inquiring unbelievers. Thus theology and apologetics have the same epistemological authority – the same Lord over all. Reason and reasoning Believers who aim to defend their faith make a serious mistake when they imagine, then, that something like "reason" should displace Christ as the ultimate authority (Lord) in their thinking and argumentation. They also fall into very sloppy and confused thinking due to misunderstanding over the word "reason." Christians are often befuddled about "reason," not knowing whether it is something to embrace or to eschew. This is usually because they do not pinpoint the precise way in which the word is being used. It may very well be the most ambiguous and obscure word in the field of philosophy. On the one hand, reason can be thought of as a tool – man's intellectual or mental capacity. Taken in this sense, reason is a gift of God to man, indeed part of the divine image. When God bids His people "Come let us reason together" (Isa. 1:18), we see that we, like Him, are capable of rational thought and communication. God has given us our mental abilities to serve and glorify Him. It is part of the greatest commandment of the law that we should "love the Lord thy God... with all thy mind" (Matt. 22:37). Reason not ultimate On the other hand, reason can be thought of as an ultimate and independent authority or standard by which man judges all claims to truth, even God's. In this sense, reason is a law unto itself, as though man's mind were self-sufficient, not in need of divine revelation. This attitude commonly leads people to think that they are in a position to think independently, to govern their own lives, and to judge the credibility of God's Word based on their own insight and authority; more dramatically, this attitude deified Reason as the goddess of the French Revolution. "Professing themselves to he wise, they became fools," as Paul said (Romans 1:22). This view of reason does not recognize that God is the source and precondition of man's intellectual abilities – that reason does not make sense apart from the perspective of God's revelation. It does not recognize the sovereign and transcendent character of God's thought: "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are. . . My thoughts higher than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9). Reason as God's gift Should Christians endorse the use of reason? Two equal but opposite mistakes are possible in answering that question. Believers can recognize the appropriateness of using reason, taken as their intellectual faculty, but then slide into endorsing reason as intellectual autonomy. Believers can recognize the inappropriateness of reason as intellectual autonomy, but then mistakenly think this entails rejecting reason as an intellectual faculty. The first group honors God's gift to man of reasoning ability, but dishonors God through its rationalism. The second group honors God's ultimate authority and the need for obedience in all aspects of man's life, but it dishonors God through anti-intellectual pietism. Paul counterbalances both of these errors in Colossians 2. He writes that "all treasures of wisdom and knowledge are deposited in Christ" (Col. 2: 3). Accordingly we must "beware lest anyone rob you through philosophy, even vain deceit, which is after the tradition of men, after the elementary principles of the world, and not after Christ" (Col 2:8). This exhortation is not a diatribe against the use of reason or the study of philosophy. Paul makes it clear that believers have the advantage of the best reasoning and philosophy because Christ is the source of all knowledge – all knowledge, not simply religious matters or sentiment. Moreover, if there are many philosophies which are not "after Christ," there is also that philosophy which is. Anti-intellectualism throws the baby out with the bath. It destroys true wisdom in the name of resisting foolishness. On the other hand, it is equally plain from Colossians 2 that Paul does not endorse reasoning and philosophy which refuse to honor the ultimate authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is in Christ that wisdom and knowledge must be found. Any alleged wisdom which follows the traditions of men and elementary principles of the world – rather than Christ – is to be rejected as dangerous and deceitful. The Bible teaches us, therefore, that "reason" is not to be taken as some neutral authority in man's thinking. It is rather the intellectual capacity with which God created man, a tool to be used in serving and glorifying the ultimate authority of God Himself. Sharpening the tool Reason properly understood (reasoning) is to be endorsed by believers in Christ. In particular it is to be employed in defending the Christian faith. This is one of the things which Peter communicates to us when he wrote that we should always be "ready to give a defense to anyone who asks from you a reason for the hope within you" (1 Peter 3:15). A word of explanation and defense is to be offered to those who challenge the truth of our Christian faith. We are not to obscure the glory and veracity of God by answering unbelievers with appeals to "blind faith" or thoughtless commitment. We are to "cast down reasonings and every high thing exalted against the knowledge of God" (2 Corinthians 10:5), realizing all along that we cannot do so unless we ourselves "bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." In 1 Peter 3:15 Peter uses the expression "always ready." This is significant for those who wish to honor the Biblical necessity of engaging in apologetics. What the Lord asks of us is that we be prepared to offer an answer in defense of our faith, whenever anybody asks us for a reason. We are to be "ready" to do this – indeed, "always ready." And that means that it is imperative that we reflect on the questions that unbelievers are likely to ask and challenges which are commonly laid down to Christianity. We should study and prepare to give reasons for our faith when the faithless ask. Christians need to sharpen the tool of their reasoning ability so as to glorify God and vindicate the claims of the gospel. We should all give our best efforts in the service of our Savior, who termed Himself "the Truth" (John 14:6). Every believer wants to see the truth of Christ believed and honored by others. And that is why we, need to be "ready to reason" with unbelievers. This study and those which follow are intended to help us become better prepared for that necessary task. Endnotes 1) Apologetics is the term commonly applied to the defense of the Christian faith against the intellectual opposition and objections of unbelievers. 2) Epistemology refers to one's theory of knowledge (its nature, sources, limits). When we ask "How do you know that to be true? (or how could you justify that claim?)," we are asking an epistemological question. 3) Whatever originates beyond man's temporal experience or exceeds that finite experience is said to "transcend" man. This article was first published in the December 1990 issue of Penpoint (Vol. VI:12) and is reprinted with permission of Covenant Media Foundation, which hosts and sells many Dr. Greg Bahnsen resources on their website www.cmfnow.com....

Animated, Movie Reviews

The Boxcar Children

Animated / Children's 2013 / 81 minutes Rating: 7/10 The Boxcar Children is the first title in a popular and still expanding children's series of books. And just like the book, the film is about four children - three brothers and one sister - who have lost their parents, and have been told they will have to live with their grandfather. But Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny don't know their grandfather at all, and imagine that, because he never came to visit, he must be a cruel man. So they run away. The first part of the story is about how they get by, day to day, all on their own. It's when they find an old, long abandoned, railway boxcar that things start looking up for them. Then the older brother can go into town to do odd jobs, and the other three can start setting up the boxcar as a real home for them. This is a children's story so, of course, it has a happy ending. And I don't think I give away too much to say it involves their cruel grandfather not being cruel at all. CAUTIONS The only cautions would concern language: in one instance a character says "holy mollie" and in another someone utters "oh my gosh" but that is the extent of it. CONCLUSION While there are a few moments of tension – especially early on when they are being chased by a couple who wants to put the children to work in their bakery – this is a pretty gentle movie. The plot is also simple, and I say that not as a criticism, but only to note this is more of a children's film than something the whole family will enjoy. Mom and dad won't mind too much, but I don't expect teens will enjoy sitting through it. But if you children who have been reading the Boxcar Children series, then this will be a treat. The first book in the series, The Boxcar Children, was published in 1924, but the series really started gaining in popularity in 1942, when it was reissued. The author, Gertrude Chandler Warner, went on to write a total of 19 stories about the four siblings (and I've been told that these 19 are much better than the more than 100+ that have followed). There's no Christian content in the book or the film but as you might expect from a story written almost 100 years ago, there's nothing all that objectionable either. So it is a good safe film that kids will love, and parents won't mind. And now there is a sequel, The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island, which we review here. ...

News

Saturday Selections - August 8, 2020

Our Kids Online: Porn, Predators & How to Keep Them Safe A new documentary making the rounds is an eye-opener and can be rented for $5 US at the link above. Read our review here. What do you believe? The value of knowing...in words "You say one picture is worth a thousand words? Well, let’s see about that. You give me one thousand words and I’ll give you the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm; and the Hippocratic Oath; and a sonnet by Shakespeare; and the Preamble to the Constitution; and Lincoln’s Gettysburg address; and I’ll still have enough words left over for just about all of the Boy Scout oath. And I wouldn’t trade you those things for any picture on earth." Why science and atheism don't mix "Science proceeds on the basis of the assumption that the universe is, at least to a certain extent, accessible to the human mind. No science can be done without the scientist believing this, so it is important to ask for grounds for this belief. Atheism gives us none, since it posits a mindless, unguided origin of the universe’s life and consciousness." While John Lennox is not a six-day creationist he does solid work here pointing out this gaping hole in atheistic evolutionary thinking. Two fantastic responses to racism Black conservatives are frequent targets of racism. These two Christians show how to respond with grace and power. The most frightening text in the Bible? Michael Kelly weighs in on Matthew 7:21-23, and the Church's role in addressing self-deception. When they say "Assisted Suicide is compassionate" (6 min) Why is suicide wrong? For the same reason that murder is: because we are taking the life of an image-bearer of God, and that is His, and not ours to take. This video overlooks this Christian foundation, and lists four practical problems that often result when a nation accepts Assisted Suicide. The four points are fantastic, and the video important viewing. But when we miss out on the Christian foundation, then any arguments we build won't have a firm footing. If it is only practical problems that prevent us from supporting Assisted Suicide, then that is where the debate will be had, and the other side will offer practical solutions. So, for example, if "sometimes a terminal diagnosis is wrong" there is an easy solution to that: a second opinion (or even a third, and fourth). Practical problem solved! Why won't such a practical solution actually work? Because once we think life something that is ours to take, then we won't value it enough to protect it this adamantly. The core problem is not a practical one, but whether we are going to treat life as given by God. When we understand that is the core issue, then we can point out the practical problems that result from seeing life as anything short of sacred. But those practical arguments will only stand if they rest on a foundation of Rock (Ps. 78:35). This post has been edit to correct a wrong link for the Michael Kelly article, which in its original mistaken form, took readers to what seems to be a cult's page. So, yeah, not the intended destination. Our thanks to the reader who caught this mistake - it is now fixed!...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - August 2020

What would King Solomon do? A policeman arrested two men and confiscated a pair of loaded dice. In court, each man accused the other of owning the dice. “Constable,” said the magistrate, “did you take these dice without a warrant?” The policeman nodded sheepishly. “You had no right to,” said the magistrate. “Give them back immediately.” One culprit stuck out his hand to retrieve the dice. The magistrate promptly sentenced him to three months and freed the other. SOURCE: Based on a joke from "The Bedside Book of Laughter, with jokes selected from Reader’s Digest" Why parents have to be teachers Our grandparents never had to be taught that homosexuality was wrong, or that there are just two genders. Now those two points are cultural battlegrounds. But are we, as parents, actively engaged in this fight? Two telling quotes, below, illustrate why we need to teach our children what God has said on these subjects, and more, and not simply assume they understand. “One generation believes something. The next assumes it. And the third will forget and deny it.” – D.A. Carson “What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace.” – commonly attributed to John Wesley Penguins are super cool! Did you know Emperor Penguins can hold their breath for as long as 18 minutes, and fast for up to 115 days waiting for their eggs to hatch? The devil in stocking feet A friend recently shared an expression his grandfather used to say: in a compromising Christian school “the devil walks around in stocking feet” while in the public school “he walks around in wooden shoes.” His point? The public school's dismissal of God is a heresy easy to spot, but a compromised Christian school might cover over their errors with out-of-context Bible verses, making them hard to discern. That had this gentleman more worried about children being sent to that sort of "Christian" school than to the obviously unchristian public school. Thankfully, many of us have option #3: an uncompromisingly Christian school. Pops top profs “One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.” – George Herbert C.S. Lewis on being far too easily pleased “If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love. "You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. “The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and to nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. “If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and to earnestly hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I suggest that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – “The Weight of Glory” in the Weight of Glory An original sin Three-year-old Linda watched excitedly as her visiting aunt unpacked her suitcase. The little girl was waiting eagerly for the present she knew was coming. At long last two bouncy balls were produced, one green, the other yellow. “One is for you, and one for your brother Timmy,” her aunt explained. “Which would you like?” Quick as a wink Linda replied, “I want Timmy’s” SOURCE: Based on a joke from "The Bedside Book of Laughter, with jokes selected from Reader’s Digest"...

Sexuality

The ethical issue of transsexuality

Editor’s note: though this is 25 years old, it is just as relevant today as when it was written. A correspondent recently requested that I share some Biblical insight on the issue of transsexualism, an increasing and bizarre phenomenon of our sex-crazed and sex-confused age. Only recent medical technology has made it possible for a male to undergo surgery which will change "him" anatomically into a female (and vice versa). Does the ancient law of God help us draw any ethical evaluation of such a thing? The correspondent asked whether such surgery changes a person's standing in terms of God's commandments. (Is "he/she" free to marry? Should "he/she" be encouraged in the newly assumed sexual role?) Should a post-operative transsexual be counseled from Scripture to restore "his/her" former status? How should the church be involved? In reply, I pointed out that although my book, Homosexuality: A Biblical View (Baker Book House, 1978), does not directly address the issue of transsexualism, it does offer us by implication an ethical evaluation of such a thing. Scripture clearly teaches us that it is an abomination in God's eyes to pursue or even to desire sexual relations with a person of one's own gender. Such a desire is in effect a desire to be a member of the opposite sex (who would, as such, properly qualify as a sex partner for one's own gender). Thus the condemnation of homosexuality would reasonably apply to transsexual desires and behavior as well (as they pertain, at least, to sexual conduct and interests). But Scripture speaks more directly to the ethical issue of transsexuality as well. We can see this by first taking note of the fact that a male does not truly become a female by means of any surgical procedure now practiced. Part of one's sexual identity as a male or female is one's biological part and function in bringing about children. "Male and female created He them.... and God said unto them, 'Be fruitful and multiply'" (Gen. 1:27-28). This is only part of one's sexual identity, to be sure. And sadly, for some individuals this aspect of their bodily identity does not function in a healthy or normal fashion (e.g., impotent males, barren females). Moreover, one may have the normal function and choose to keep it from coming to issue (e.g., abstinence, vasectomy, tubal ligation). Nevertheless, speaking as to the nature of the gender classification, to be a male (ideally or according to divine intention) entails the ability to impregnate, and to be a female (ideally) entails the ability to bear a child. Those who undergo sex-change operations do not fundamentally "change" their sexuality since they do not acquire impregnating or child-bearing abilities, as the case may be (this having nothing to do with a voluntary choice not to do so). What are we to think of someone who has undergone a surgical change of anatomy, then? At best, the person who has a sex-change operation is involved in an elaborate and extreme game of "dressing up" as the other gender (acquiring bodily parts which facilitate an outward costume). Here we have a bizarre biological masquerade. Now then, when transsexualism is seen in this perspective, the Bible all of a sudden speaks directly and obviously to it as an ethical issue. Deuteronomy 22:5 declares: "A woman shall not wear what pertains to a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment; for whosoever does these things is an abomination unto Jehovah your God." If true in the lesser case (items of clothing), how much more in the greater (items of biology)! The condemnation of cross-dressing covers crossing over sexually as well. A person who has undergone a sex-change operation but the later comes to Christian conversion needs to repent of this (as any other) sin and do the works appropriate to repentance. This would involve "getting back" to where they belong sexually (thus seeking a reversal operation), hating all desires to be other than what God has made them sexually, and seeking to live in a godly fashion as the male/female they were created to be. The church must counsel and support the converted transsexual in these things, as it helps all other kinds of sinners. This article was first published in the June, 1995 issue of Penpoint (Vol. VI:6) and is reprinted with permission of Covenant Media Foundation, which hosts and sells many other Dr. Bahnsen resources on their website www.cmfnow.com....

Assorted

Was Saint Francis a Sissy?

One hundred and fifty thousand children had been on the brink of starving to death, but thanks to the kind gift of a very generous billionaire, every child now had enough food to keep him alive. That gift had arrived in the form of one big check. The horror was now over. It was finished. It was just a matter of distributing the food using the few relief workers we had. Without them to get the food to the children, there would have been many more deaths. Some days later, a frantic worker burst into the camp and cried, “Some of the relief workers have stopped distributing food. Masses of children are dying!” Why would the workers stop when there was plenty of food? It didn’t make sense. The distraught man said, “It’s because one of them held up a sign that said, ‘Feed the starving children. Where necessary, use food.’ That has caused some of the workers to simply befriend the starving children without giving them food. It’s insane!” **** I’m sure you have heard of Saint Francis of Assisi. The first time I ever heard him was back in 1965. It was during the surf movie The Endless Summer. Four surfers who were chasing the sun discovered the perfect wave, at a place in South Africa called “Cape Saint Francis.” The sight of the perfect wave excited me beyond words. The next time I heard of him was when I heard that he said: “Preach the Gospel at all times. Where necessary, use words.” That statement upset me beyond words, because it was a philosophy that I knew sounded deeply spiritual... to those who were spiritually shallow. It made as much sense as “Feed starving children. Where necessary, use food.” On July 16, 1228 Francis of Assisi was pronounced a saint by Pope Gregory IX. That’s a long time ago, so it’s a little late for questions, but if I could I would like to find out why anyone would say such a strange thing? Was it because he was fearful to use actual words to preach the truth of the Gospel? Or was it because he thought that people would see that he had good works and hear the message of salvation without a preacher, something contrary to Scripture’s: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14). Whatever the case, 800 years since Francis we have many who profess faith in Jesus, and are no doubt using this popular philosophy to justify being speechless. To them salvation truly is an “unspeakable” gift. Recently someone told me about a conference where 100,000 Christians gathered to worship God. When I asked if they were exhorted to go out and preach the Gospel to every creature, it was no surprise to me that they weren’t. Instead, they were exhorted to live a life of worship. Again, that sounds spiritual, but you can’t worship God without obedience to His Word, and His Word commands us to preach the Gospel to every creature. I regularly meet those who think they can obey the Great Commission without using words. When they hear the Gospel preached they are usually offended and say things like, “I appreciate what you are saying, but I don’t like the way you are saying it.” With a little probing, they are the relationship folks, who think preaching the Gospel means building relationships with the lost, and never mentioning words like “sin,” “Hell,” and “Judgment Day.” They think that real love is to withhold the Bread of life from those that are starving to death. Remember that Jesus said, “Whosoever, therefore, shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). According to the dictionary, a “sissy” is “a timid or cowardly person.” From what I understand of Saint Francis, he was no sissy. He was a loving man who was not afraid to use words when he preached. He wasn’t frightened to preach repentance to a sinful world. However, there have been times when I could have been called that name. I have felt the grip of fear and have wanted to drop words such as sin, Hell, repentance and Judgment Day when I have preached to sinners. I don’t want to come across as being unloving or judgmental, but I fear God more than I fear man. So when God’s Word tells me to use words, I use words, despite the consequences. Listen to the Apostle Paul’s sobering warning to his hearers: “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20: 26-27). Perhaps he spoke about being free from their blood because he was familiar with God Himself warning Ezekiel of his responsibility to warn his generation: “When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.” (Ezekiel 3:18). When someone thinks that they can feed starving children and not use food, that’s their business. But when their philosophy spreads throughout the camp, it becomes an unspeakable tragedy. If we become passive about the Great Commission because we are more concerned about ourselves than the eternal well-being of others, we may be able to hide our motives from man, but not from God. He warns, “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?” (Proverbs 24:11-12). There’s an interesting irony to this story. After a little research I came across a quote about the famous saying. It is from someone who had been a Franciscan monk for 28 years—and had earned an M.A. in Franciscan studies. He contacted some of the most eminent Franciscan scholars in the world to try and verify the saying. He said, “It is clearly not in any of Francis’ writings. After a couple weeks of searching, no scholar could find this quote in a story written within 200 years of Francis’ death.” So if it wasn’t Saint Francis who said not to use words, who was it? Who is it that would like to see the truth of the Gospel hindered from being preached to every creature? That doesn’t need to be answered. The time is short. The laborers are few. Please, cast off your fears and equip yourself to preach the Gospel with words. They are necessary. “Was Saint Francis a Sissy?” is Copyright 2020 by Ray Comfort, LivingWaters.com, and is reprinted here with permission....

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Noah: A wordless picture book

by Mark Ludy 60 pages / 2014 Mark Ludy's wordless account of Noah's life will fascinate young and old. There's so much to see on every page, and the wordless nature of it invites parent and child to discuss all that's going on. The danger with such an account is that for some it might come to replace the original biblical version. As children pore over this picture book's pages repeatedly, they could easily forget that even as it is reasonable to believe Noah might have made use of the strength of a dinosaur or two, the Bible doesn't actually say he did. But what such a book can also do is help us re-evaluate some other non-biblical assumptions we might have inadvertently adopted. Noah's wife is shown here as a lighter colored black, while Noah himself is looking more Grecian, Roman, or perhaps Sicilian. What both most certainly are not – and what they most probably were not – is a British or Scandanavian sort of white. That might bring questions for the many a child and adult who, having grown up with picture Bibles that have a white Adam and Eve, and a white Jesus too, have presumed Noah was white as well. But it is more likely that Adam, Eve, and maybe many of the generations that followed had some sort of middle brown skin, as that genetic coding can contain within it the possibility of both darker and lighter skin in the generations that follow. Another corrective: while evolutionary theory portrays Man as being much simpler back in history, the Bible details some big advances being made from one generation to the next (Genesis 4:20-22). They weren't primitive so it is helpful to see Noah shown as living in a fairly advanced level of industry and technology. They aren't in a rocket age, but they also aren't living in caves either. Finally, we also get a good idea of the sheer magnitude of the Ark, correcting the silly bathtub toy picture some might have stuck in their heads. We shouldn't let this book overshadow the biblical account, but when we put Ludy's Noah in its proper place – like that of a commentary that helps us reflect on what Genesis 6-9 is actually saying – then it can be a wonderful aid. I'll offer a couple of critiques: while there's a dinosaur and some mammoths to be seen working on the ark's construction, neither can be found in it. Also, while animals two by two can be seen making their way to the ark, there don't seem to be any groups of 7 (Genesis 7:2). Of course, we don't see every animal arrive, so maybe we just missed those, (and maybe they'll be found in any expanded future edition of the book!). So who is this for? We probably all think of picture books as being for children, but I really think everyone will love it, from ages 3 on up to 103! You can take an extended peek below. https://cdn.plough.com/-/media/files/plough/lookinside/n/noahenlookinside.pdf...

Animated, Movie Reviews

Curious George 3: Back to the Jungle

Animated / Children 81 Minutes / 2015 Rating: 7/10 We might wonder why it hadn't happened sooner. The third film begins with the unflappable man in the yellow hat finally getting tired of the trouble George keeps getting himself in. He wants everyone's favorite monkey to learn a new word: "caution." But when an opportunity comes up for George to head up into space on a rescue mission, caution goes out the window. Off he goes up, up, up into space, and then, when the space capsule has an equipment malfunction, down, down, down he falls, crash-landing in the jungles of Africa. While the man in the yellow hat thinks "jungles are no place for a monkey," George has a great time meeting all sorts of animals and making friends of them all. Those friendships will serve him well when George and his best friend join forces and have to make their way through the forest's most treacherous areas. CAUTIONS There is a brief scene in the museum where, in the background, we see a display touting the evolution of man. It's a line up with a model of a modern man on one side, a large monkey-like creature on the other, and a few caveman-like creatures in-between. My children didn't understand what it was all about, but George does bring it to notice by jumping into the line-up, falling in behind a large monkey creature. The whole thing lasts just a few seconds. Another more notable caution is a scene in which the man in the yellow hat takes the role of "dumb dad." This is a pretty common theme in film and on TV, with the kid (or, in this case, monkey) portrayed as wiser than his parents who just don't get it. But unlike some films, in which this disrespectful (and running right up against the fifth commandment) attitude is a key element in the whole movie, this is just one scene. I brought it to my kids' attention because this is a mild example of something they'll see again and again, which made for a good teaching moment. CONCLUSION This is quite a good film, but not a great one, striking me as being more like an extended episode of the TV series than a feature film. But if your family loves George then they are sure to love this too. It's a rollicking, silly, goofy adventure – very much the typical Curious George fare. ...

News

Saturday Selections - August 1, 2020

Why this valedictorian regrets finishing on top (6 minutes) It took him a whole year to learn this lesson, and he's happy to share it. Free episode from Tim Challies' new documentary EPIC (25 min) In his 10-episode documentary EPIC, Christian blogger extraordinaire Tim Challies takes us around the world to investigate Church history by looking at a variety of key historical objects. In this first, free episode, we head to Israel to see what may (or may not) be Jesus' tomb, and go to Italy to see some ancient anti-Christian graffiti. NBA player wanted his jersey to highlight the national debt Now that the NBA has resumed play, we're seeing jerseys that, instead of the player's name, feature one of several approved "social justice" messages. A message that didn't make the cut was Spencer Dinwiddie's request for "trillion" which, coupled with his jersey number 26, would have been the current US national debt. 8 lessons from a friend whose life (and death) preached Christ A young pastor who was never famous passed away this past month. Part of his legacy was teaching a small group of men how to be godly men. "No Justice, No Peace"? Do two wrongs now make a right? (10-minute read) A 70-something-year-old waving a "No Justice, No Peace" sign at a BLM protest probably doesn't understand the threat implicit in that slogan. But the rioters do. Intent on burning down the system, they are acting as if two wrongs can make a right. But as Hendrik van der Breggen explains, that simply isn't so. Pornography is harmless. What would you say? (4 minutes) This is a great video laying out some practical problems that result from pornography use. But where the video falls short is that, even as it is produced by Christians, it fails to address pornography as the spiritual issue it is. The real problem with pornography is that it breaks the 7th Commandment (do not commit adultery). Sinning does bring with it practical problems, but if that was all there was to it, then we could address those problems with practical solutions. For example, if porn use makes someone lonely, only using it with someone else. Practical problem solved! What we need to do, then, is to stack these practical objections on top of a solid Christian foundation. Then our argument might sound something like this: Pornography isn't harmless; it's a sin against God. As a sin, it is destructive, causing – as this video describes – loneliness and sexual disfunction. ...