Life's busy, read it when you're ready!

Create a free account to save articles for later, keep track of past articles you’ve read, and receive exclusive access to all RP resources.

Browse thousands of RP articles

Articles, news, and reviews with a Biblical perspective to inform, equip, and encourage Christians.

Get Articles Delivered!

Articles, news,and reviews with a Biblical perspective to inform, equip, and encourage Christians delivered direct to your inbox!


Most Recent



The Rest


In a Nutshell

Tidbits – January 2022

On books “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx When we ask, “Why Lord?” Scottish preacher Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661) was well acquainted with suffering: he lost his wife to a lingering illness, and lost two children during the same period. He had to endure frequent sickness, and was persecuted because of his faithful preaching of the Word, eventually being sent into exile. Why did this steadfast servant have to endure so much hardship? Rutherford saw God’s plan in it all: “If God told me some time ago that He was about to make me as happy as I could be in this world, and then had told me that He should begin by crippling me in all my limbs, and removing me from all my usual sources of enjoyment, I should have thought it a very strange mode of accomplishing His purpose. And yet, how is His wisdom manifest even in this! For if you should see a man shut up in a darkened room, idolizing a set of lamps and rejoicing in their light, and you wished to make him truly happy, you would begin by blowing out all his lamps; and then throw open the shutters to let in the light of heaven.” When we are devastated by loss, will we respond as faithfully? Can we continue to praise God even when we are laid low? John Piper (1946- ) responded to Rutherford’s example by turning to the LORD and asking Him for help: “Oh how I pray that when God, in His mercy, begins to blow out my lamps, I will not curse the wind.” World’s toughest riddle Here's a riddle that 99 percent of adults won't be able to answer in 5 minutes, but most children can. Can you? I turn pink flamingos white and I will make you cry. I make elephants hum and girls comb their hair. I make celebrities look silly and normal people look like celebrities. I turn cookies brown and make your soft drinks bubble. If you squeeze me, I'll pop. If you look at me, you'll pop. Can you guess the riddle? Scroll to the bottom of the page for the answer the kids give. T-shirt truth I'm Canadian, but know enough about US politics to dismiss most anything a Democrat says – they are, after all, the party that brought in gay marriage, that supports partial-birth abortion, that supports “artistic” pornography, and that insists more government – and lots of it – is the answer to any problems the nation encounter. So when I saw a T-shirt that, in big bold letters on the front, blurted, “God is not a Republican...” it just seemed a silly Democrat jab. But there's something to this slogan. The Democrats may be the Devil's own party, but that they are so very bad doesn’t mean God is a Republican. It seems almost silly when we say it out loud, but Christians in the Republican Party do make the mistake of thinking God is on their side. However, as God makes clear in Joshua 5:13-14a, He’s not on anyone’s side: When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord…” God doesn’t pick sides; what’s important, instead, is that we pick His side! God is not a Republican, and American Christians should never make the mistake of blindly supporting a party that has not declared itself to be on His side. So that T-shirt spoke truth... and it turns out, the back side was even more profound. In even bigger block letters the reverse shouted, “…but He’s definitely not a Democrat!” 6 do's and don't for raising a reader In Gladys Hunt's Honey for a Child's Heart, she lists a half dozen ways to keep your offspring illiterate... Schedule your children for every activity you can think of so they won’t be bored. Never talk about ideas while eating meals. Keep your house neat – no books or literary magazines in sight. Never read stories out loud past age two. Keep the lights low – buy only 40-watt light bulbs. Absolutely no reading in bed! ...and another half dozen to get them reading. Restrict television watching drastically. Keep the computer usage under control. Don’t allow too many hours on pointless computer games or in chat rooms. Have books and other good reading materials within easy reach. Let your children see you reading. Talk about books together; play games together. Visit the library often, and listen to books-on-tape when traveling. Experience times 27 CBS’s The View is one of the last places you’d expect to see a common-sense defense of spanking. But some years back, when Rose Rocks, a mother of 10 and foster mother of 17 appeared on the morning show and started talking about her approach to discipline, no one was going to question her qualifications. In raising her 27 children she has made a restrained use of spanking because she found a momentary smack on the bum was far less painful, and left less scarring than yelling at children. Spanking and yelling are not the only two options for disciplining children, but if parents refuse to ever do the former they may find themselves doing a lot of the latter. Self-referent humor I was thinking about promising that you’ll enjoy the self-referent quips that follow but I never make predictions. Never have and never will. Some of the quotes that follow are anonymous; others are by people I don’t know. - It's like déjà vu all over again –Yogi Berra - Nostalgia isn't what it used to be. - Repeat after me. We are all individuals. - Graham Chapman - There are 10 types of people: those who understand binary and those who don't. - I've felt like a goat, ever since I was a kid - James Demastus - I want to join the Optimist's Club, but they probably won't accept me. - David Cervera - Aibohphobia: the fear of palindromes - The two rules for success are: 1. Never tell them everything you know. The insanity of assisted-suicide I was looking through my old files and came across this, a May 12, 2008 article in The Guardian that showed just how heartless assisted suicide is. It was about how documentary filmmaker Jon Ronson had originally set out to make a movie advocating for assisted suicide, but after following around “right-to-die” advocate George Exoo for several years, Ronson changed his mind.  The incident that had the biggest impact on Ronson happened when he got to meet Exoo’s new assistant who was being trained to take over Exoo’s role. “Susan lived alone, a middle-aged lady with a collection of plastic lizards. While we waited I asked her how they met. ‘I was bitten by a brown recluse spider in 1993,’ she replied. ‘It was so painful I wanted to die.’ She said she called the official right-to-die groups, ‘but they wouldn't help me.’ ‘Because you weren't terminally ill?’ ‘Yeah, they rejected me,’ she said. ‘But then somebody said, “You might want to call George.” Kind of like under the counter.’ Susan said she would have killed herself with Exoo's help – he was perfectly willing – but she couldn't find anyone to look after her pet snake. Eventually, they got talking. If she wasn't going to be his client, perhaps she should be his assistant.” Susan once wanted to die, but then found a reason – a very perverse reason – to go on. She wanted to commit an irrevocable act to end her own life, but then changed her mind. And yet she is now traveling the world helping people kill themselves. It’s ironic and it’s insane. May God open their eyes. Quote of the month “I dream of a better tomorrow, when chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned.” – Author unknown Kindergartener's answer to the world's toughest riddle The answer that children will give to the question "Can you answer this riddle?" is a very quick "no,” which is the only right answer for this otherwise unsolvable riddle. Meanwhile, adults will keep puzzling over it to the point that they don't give an answer in the allotted five minutes (adapted from a riddle making the Internet rounds)....

Science - General

Half duck, half beaver: the astonishing platypus

In recent years a strange assortment of animals, some familiar and some obscure, have enjoyed a brief moment of scientific attention. In each case, the occasion for this special fame was the publication of the genome – the complete DNA sequence - of that organism. In May 2008, the genome of Australia’s platypus was published. This creature is justly famous anyway, but the genome studies have helped focus attention on why this is so. Not a hoax When British naturalists first saw a pelt of a platypus, they were sure it was a hoax. With its thick fur, webbed front feet and duck bill-like snout, it certainly did not resemble any other animal known at the time. Further study showed however that the animal is perfectly genuine. Eventually, naturalists discovered that this animal lays eggs, but yet it suckles its young with genuine mother’s milk. It seemed as if this creature was a strange jumble of bird, reptile and mammalian (feeds milk to young) characteristics. More careful study however reveals that this organism is actually a beautifully designed entity. The duckbilled platypus remains a highly unusual creature. Not only its appearance, but many aspects of its biology are unique. These small animals (up to 60 cm long) spend most of their time underwater. Indeed they are able to find food only when submerged. Amazingly, however, they swim blind, deaf and without the normal opportunity to detect odors since flaps cover their eyes, ears and nose while they are submerged. Recent research however has revealed that they have some unique abilities to compensate for lack of sight, hearing and smell. Once the genome data has been collected, there is nothing obvious to show what stretches of DNA contain genes of interest. The number of nucleotides in the platypus genome is 2.3 billion, quite close to the 3 billion contained in the human genome. The number of protein-coding genes thus far identified in platypus is also similar to the number in humans: 18,600 for platypus compared to about 25,000 for humans. Faced with endless arrangements of nucleotides, how do scientists “read” the information contained therein? What scientists did was to start slowly in their early genome studies with attempts to identify sections coding for certain basic genes. Gradually they built up a computerized repertoire of DNA coding which identifies important genes in at least one organism. Then when they wish to study a different organism, they use huge computers to look for similar stretches of DNA in the new organism. Fancy mathematics allows the computer to decide whether similar sequences are close enough to represent the same gene or not. Since the genomes of many organisms have now been documented, scientists now have a large collection of nucleotide sequences that code for important genes.  The interesting thing then is to compare how the new organism resembles other creatures and ways in which it differs. Does it have similar genes or different ones? This analysis certainly reveals interesting things about the platypus. Gender and reproduction Genome analysis shows that gender determination in platypus is unique among milk-producing organisms. Rather than X and Y chromosomes such as we normally see in milk producers, gender in platypus is determined by chains of tiny chromosomes. Females have five pairs of tiny X chromosomes, while males have 5 pairs of X chromosomes plus five tiny Y chromosomes. The really interesting thing is that the genetic information on the X chromosomes is nothing like that in other milk-producing creatures. The information, in fact, is faintly similar to the Z chromosome which determines gender in birds. Scientists are totally astonished by this feature of the platypus genome. Unlike other milk producers, platypus and echidnas have just one opening at the rear end of the body. Other milk producers have an opening from the digestive system plus a combined one for urine and reproduction. Platypus and echidnas have one combined opening for everything called the cloaca (like birds and reptiles). But platypus has a unique way of producing young, not at all like birds or reptiles. The female keeps the fertilized eggs inside her body for 21 days. Meanwhile, she seals herself into a small chamber lined with vegetation at the end of an 8-meter long tunnel dug into the bank of a lake or stream. There she lays 1 or 2 tiny sticky, leathery eggs. These she incubates until they hatch in about 11 days. Initially only about the size of jelly beans and lacking developed organs and an immune system, the young suckle milk through pores on their mother’s abdomen. After 4 months, the young become independent. The eggs, it is well known, divide in a manner similar to birds and reptiles and as a result, contain a yolk. However recent genome research reveals that the milk is very similar in composition to that of other mammals. Underwater navigation Recent research has revealed how the platypus is able to find food despite the fact that its ears, nose and eyes are closed underwater. Obviously the creature needs special hardware and talents designed for navigation. Thus it was that in 1985 German scientist Henning Scheich discovered some highly unusual properties of the platypus. This animal reacts to weak electrical fields in water. What this scientist did was bury a small charged battery under a brick in the water. In addition, he placed a similar, but dead battery under another brick. The platypus dislodged the brick sitting on top of the charged battery, but it ignored the other brick/battery site. Later, the platypus avoided a mesh screen placed in front of a charged battery, but it collided with a screen placed in front of a dead battery. Further studies have amply confirmed that platypus have electroreceptors in their bills. As sensitive as a star-nosed mole Since the late 1980s, scientists have discovered that there are two kinds of electroreceptor and one type of touch receptor in the platypus snout. At the front edges of the bill, there are tiny pores containing a membranous receptor. Moreover, over the main surface of the bill there are oblique stripe-like arrays of pores which are mucous-filled. The mucous serves to enhance transmission of a signal to the nerve at the bottom of the pit. The bill of the platypus has 40,000 electroreceptors, while in comparison the 2 species of its closest cousin, the echidna, boast only 2000 and 400 respectively. Mapping of sensors was conducted on anesthetized animals. Electrical sensors were attached to the exposed cortex of the brain, and electrical and mechanical stimuli were applied to the bill. The resulting signals in the cortex were duly noted as were the locations in the bill where the sensitive pores were located. The push-rod mechanical (touch) receptors in the bill are remarkable in their own right. Inside the pore is a compacted column of skin which can rotate about its base or move up and down. These very sensitive touch receptors are similar to the highly unusual touch receptors in the nose of the star-nosed mole. The organ of touch in the snout of the star-nosed mole is so sensitive, that the information obtained from it is almost as detailed as vision. This animal also spends most of its time foraging for food in the water. Until recently, scientists knew of no other creatures with as sensitive a sense of touch. Now it appears that the mechanoreceptors in the bill of platypus are of even more sophisticated design. There is yet another interesting feature of these sensory pores on the bill of the platypus – each is surrounded by petal-like skin flaps which open when the animal is underwater. When the animal emerges from the water, however, tiny sphincters around each pore close the flaps so that the sensors will not dry out. The food which the platypus seeks are small animals living near or in the bottom sediments of lakes, ponds, or rivers. These animals favor some larvae of insects, worms, small crustaceans and other invertebrates. Apparently, these small creatures generate weak electrical fields as they move or simply maintain the processes of life in their bodies. With its electroreceptor capabilities, it seems that platypus can detect the field generated by a freshwater shrimp that is 10 centimeters away. Scientists suspect that the platypus knows how far away an electrical source is, whether it is moving, and in what direction it is proceeding. More and more talents The remarkable thing is that these sensory talents of platypus are so unique. As far as electrical sensing of the environment is concerned, some fish also exhibit this ability. However, in the case of fish, the sensors are all over the body and they are not nearly so sensitive. But platypus has more talents yet! One might have imagined that platypus would not need much in the way of a sense of smell since their noses are closed under water. This conclusion is partly right and partly wrong. As far as genes for normal smell (chemical receptors) are concerned, the genome project shows that platypus has a reduced number of receptor types (only about half of what most mammals exhibit). However, there are chemical receptors called vomeronasal receptors which may be located in the mouth or the nose and surprise, surprise, platypus has the largest variety of vomeronasal type 1 receptors known. At 950 different variations on the vomeronasal type 1 receptor (V1R) the platypus has 50% more than the mouse. Compare this to the chicken, which has no such receptors. Nor, for that matter, do people. The platypus thus has very special electrical, touch and chemical (taste) receptors. The article on the platypus genome published in Nature (May 8/08) discusses the large number of genes which code for the special chemical receptors (V1R). But the article makes no mention of genes for electrical and touch receptors. Obviously, there must be quite a number of genes in the platypus coding for components of these sophisticated sensors. However, the sequence (order) of nucleotides does not come with labels identifying which sections code for what. Scientists need an already established standard order of nucleotides coding for such genes from another, not too different creature. Since these talents are highly unusual, however, no comparison with a similar gene in a similar creature can as yet be made. Thus we don’t hear about how many genes code for electrosensory abilities and for extremely sensitive touch. Defense: immunity and venom Besides food and reproduction, an animal in nature needs to defend itself against larger animals and against microbes. The newly hatched young have only partially developed organs. They have no spleen, no thymus and no killer T and B cells which provide acquired immunity. They do, however, exhibit a very unusual number of natural killer receptor genes. A natural killer is a precisely shaped molecule which is able to recognize other types of molecules characteristically produced by disease-causing organisms but not by the host organism itself. This capacity to stop a large number of common disease agents in their tracks is programmed into the genes of platypus and most other organisms as well. However, since the platypus young are so small and vulnerable, it makes sense that these animals are provided with an unusually large variety of natural killer-type molecules (coded for on appropriate genes). The platypus thus has 214 genes for different variations on the natural killer theme compared to only 45 for rat, 9 for opossum and 15 for humans. In addition, platypus is unusual among mammals in that the male is able to deliver a venom potent enough to kill a dog. There are only a few mammals which are venomous, but all of the others transmit the venom by means of a bite. The platypus, on the other hand, has spurs on its hind legs which deliver the venom. That venom is a cocktail of at least 19 different substances which exert various nasty effects on the victim. God’s creativity and intricate design Secular scientists have long declared platypus to be a strange blend of reptilian, bird and mammal (milk producer) characteristics. Such people consider that the genome study has further confirmed this view. They are wrong. What that study has shown is that this animal is not a jumble of features from a broad assortment of organisms, but rather a wonderfully integrated collection of unusual anatomy and attributes. Certain features may remind us of birds and reptiles, but the similarities are merely superficial. The platypus truly is unique in its navigational abilities and in all the other features. Obviously, this unusual creature was designed to pursue its unique but effective lifestyle and designed to delight us in yet another aspect of God’s amazing creation. So give three cheers for a weird but wonderful inhabitant of Australia!! This first appeared in the September 2008 issue under the title "Awesome Aussie: the platypus looks fascinating from the outside, but a look at its inside – its DNA – is just as intriguing." Dr. Margaret Helder is the President of the Creation Science Association of Alberta and the author of "No Christian Silence on Science." For more on the platypus, check out the great video below. ...

News

Saturday Selections – Jan. 15, 2022

Who is the minimum wage really protecting? (3 min) Governments will tax some products to deliberately increase their cost to then discourage consumption of those products (i.e. cigarettes, soda pop, gasoline). So what is the government doing when it increases the cost of labor via a minimum wage? Find meaning and beauty as a fast-food worker "God uses the work of our hands, no matter how simple, no matter how mundane, to connect with hearts and minds." Erasing women John Stonestreet notes that in rejecting the reality of sex – in rejecting that God made us male and female – the trans movement can only stereotype men and women. A creationist confession? Dr. Wes Bredenhof reports on efforts nearly three decades ago to write a common confession among Presbyterian and Reformed churches around the issue of creation. Some familiar names were in the mix including RP contributors Dr. Margaret Helder and Dr. John Byl. Dr. Greg Bahnsen wrote the creation confession, and another on hermeneutics. Secular film shows the emptiness of secularism Unbelievers rarely dare ask themselves deep questions. It's curious then that a new film, Don't Look Up, asks what the purpose of our lives would be if we all knew the world was going to be destroyed in two weeks. It's no surprise, however, that the secular film can't answer the issue it raises. Spider-Man's multiverse The concept of a "multiverse" – that there are more universes than just this one – figures prominently in the latest Spider-Man movie, and viewers might conclude there must be some sort of scientific basis for believing in the multiverse's existence. But did you know the only "evidence" for other universes is that this one is too finely-tuned to foster the existence of life for scientists to be able to explain it as just a chance happening. It's just too unlikely... unless they presuppose that there might be millions (or an infinity!) of other universes. If that were so, then it would, they argue, be less remarkable that in one of those universes – our own – all the dice rolled just right for things to line up so perfectly. The only evidence for a multiverse is that godless science needs it to exist. Everyone's a criminal? (6 min) This is an American presentation, but a much more widespread problem – countries have so many laws that everyone could be found guilty of something. This excess of laws gives the State the ability to punish whomever they don't like, and sometimes they do. Too many laws actually take us from the Rule of Law to the Rule of Men – instead of all being equal before the law, it's about who you know or which party is in power. ...

Articles, Book Reviews

The RP 52 in 22 challenge

If you're a reader, there's a good chance you have a stack of books somewhere that you've really been meaning to get to. But, what with the busyness of life, that stack might well be growing as it is so hard to set aside the time. Wow then, can we get to the reading that we really want to do anyway? The answer, for a trio of competitive lads, was to get a challenge going. So a lawyer, a minister, and an editor all agreed that they would read 52 books by the end of 2022. This "52 in 22" challenge is a race of sorts, and to up the motivation, the three will keep a public running total of their progress, posting short reviews of each book here on this web page (with selections appearing in each issue of the print magazine). Finally, to add a mildly punitive element to it, each agreed, at year's end, to donate $20 for every book they didn't complete to a charity of their choice. Our hope is that the challenge might spur others on to read more great books, including, perhaps, some of the suggestions listed below. Follow it on MeWe, Facebook, and Gab under the hashtag #RP52in22 The tally The lawyer – André Schutten: 2 The minister – Jim Witteveen: 2 The editor – Jon Dykstra: 2 Reviews JANUARY 20 John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678/187 pages) is a series of theological debates and discussions wrapped inside an epic journey. Our hero, the Pilgrim, is setting out from “the City of Destruction” to find a home in the Good King’s “Celestial City” and the journey serves as a metaphor for the Christian life. Bunyan has many challenges and encouragements to offer, but the main one is that “the bitter must come before the sweet.” He wants readers to understand that turning to God won’t make our life easy, and might even make it much harder. But God is worth it! So, along the way, the Pilgrim has to contend with many trials including false friends, doubt, a corrupt judge and lying witnesses, depression, all sorts of temptations, and persecution. He is also strengthened along the way by “Shining ones,” faithful friends, and good counselors who show him what the Lord has done for other pilgrims. There’s loads of wisdom packed in here, which is the reason it was the English world’s most influential novel for at least a couple of centuries. Readers should take some care in finding a good version as there are many to avoid. For example, the Amazon Classic version kept the original language but omits “all the conversations and arguments concerning subjects belonging to the field of doctrine.” Most modernizations also cut out meat or sections that offend modern sensibilities. A fantastic exception is that done by C. J. Lovik, which only lightly – but effectively! – modernizes the text, and includes very helpful explanatory endnotes, with wonderful illustrations every ten pages or so. If you want to read it in the original, there is a great free version by three Johns: written by John Bunyan, introduced by John Newton (the former slave ship captain who wrote the song “Amazing Grace”), and including a biography of the author by John Piper. For those that want more, Bunyan wrote a sequel, this time describing the journey of the Pilgrim’s wife, called “Pilgrim’s Progress Part II: Christiana” – Jon Dykstra JANUARY 18 Presbyterian pastor Dane Ortlund's Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (2020/224 pages) is a beautifully written book on God's heart for his people. A handful of people recommended this book to me and, since I received it as a Christmas gift from the ARPA Canada board, I decided to read it as my morning devotional. If you've ever struggled with the question of whether God might love you despite your sins, read this book. If you've ever thought that God's attitude toward you is one of exasperation, read this book. It literally brought me to tears (in chapter 6, quoting John Bunyan), and encouraged me many times in the past couple weeks. I highly recommend the book for personal devotions or as an evening devotion for a couple, or as a dinner-time devotional for families with older children. It will provoke discussions of wonder, amazement and praise at how great God's love for us really is. – André Schutten JANUARY 14 Written from a Christian perspective, Carol M. Swain and Christopher J. Schorr's Black Eye for America: How Critical Race Theory is Burning Down the House (2021/152 pages) is readable and brief – just 79 pages, plus glossary, notes, appendix, and index. That makes it an insightful introduction to Critical Race Theory (CRT) going back to its roots in Marxism, specifically the cultural Marxism of Antonio Gramsci and the Frankfurt school of critical theorists. Each chapter concludes with a list of discussion questions, making it ideal for group study and discussion. Although written specifically for the American context, the book’s suggestions for engaging with and opposing CRT’s influence are easily applicable to readers in other countries as well. – Jim Witteveen JANUARY 13 Frank Abe and Tamiko Nimura's We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American resistance to wartime incarceration (2021/160 pages) is a graphic novel account of the tens of thousands of Japanese Americans who were imprisoned in the US in World War II based solely on their ethnicity. They lost their jobs, businesses, and even their homes. Despite the obvious discrimination against them, the vast majority went without protest, believing that quiet acceptance was a way of showing their patriotism. However, some did dare to protest, and We Hereby Refuse shares three of their stories. One inescapable lesson: the government is powerful, and with power comes the need to use it with great restraint. What happens when it doesn't act with restraint? We can get victims by the thousands, as happened here. Another? The need for brave individuals to challenge government abuses, in the hopes of reducing the number of victims. – Jon Dykstra JANUARY 8 Harvard professor Michael Sandel's Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? (2010/310 pages) is an excellent introduction to the major philosophical theories of justice, covering Aristotle, Mill, Kant, Rawls and others. It's an easy read: Sandel uses very interesting stories and cases to highlight how the theories of justice work and what their failings are. Here’s the caveat: the book is not written from a Christian perspective. By the time you get to the end, you’ll be wishing for one more chapter, to accurately present a distinctly Christian theory of justice, which also critiques the other theories. Sandel himself gets close by his final two chapters (his point about being part of a narrative and community is compelling) but lacks the objective, transcendent standard by which to judge human action as just or unjust. Highly recommended to anyone interested in wrestling with theories of justice and how individuals, institutions, and governments should decide what the right thing to do is in any given situation. P.S. a fun exercise to do while reading the book is ask yourself which theory of justice is being employed by the government as it makes decisions around Covid-19 and what would the other philosophers say about it. – André Schutten JANUARY 7 John McWhorter's Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America (2021/224 pages) is by an African-American who is himself not a believer. But he makes the case for thinking about the new anti-racism (based in Critical Race Theory) as a religious system, and its supporters ("the Elect") as religious adherents. Highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn more about the worldviews that form the foundation of Critical Race Theory, with the caveat that the book is not written from a Christian perspective, and does contain a bit of rough language. – Jim Witteveen...

Assorted

All's well with the Earth

"I'm so glad that my parents never experienced such a time as this, such a time of uncertainty." "I'm so glad they did not have to endure this period of trial during which churches and other places are closed." "I'm so thankful that they did not have to live through these past two years because it would have broken their heart to know that I would not have been able to visit them in their old age home or sit at their bedside in a hospital." *** Presently many people quote and identify with such sentiments as are stated above. There are those who have become terribly angry; others are reduced to tears of depression because of increasing loneliness; there are many others who are extremely frustrated about being denied access to restaurants, theatres and vacations; and there are those who fear the ongoing Covid death tolls announced daily in the news media. Is it true that our parents, our ancestors, or any people in times past, had no idea about such hardships or deprivations? Or have past generations undergone their own distressing circumstances and severe affliction? And does history give us accountings of such circumstances? Consider Charles Spurgeon, (1834-1892), who lived with much pain a great part of his life. His wife was bedridden for the greater part of their marriage. Spurgeon had smallpox, he had gout, as well as rheumatism, Bright's disease (an inflammation of the kidneys) and was afflicted, from time to time, with severe depression. It is recorded that he spent nearly a third of his last twenty-two years not even able to preach. Still, this preacher freely confessed that his distress and hardship drew him closer to God. He is quoted as saying, speaking to a number of ministers and students: "I daresay the greatest earthly blessing that God can give to any of us is health, with the exception of sickness... If some men I know could only be favored with a month of rheumatism, it would by God's grace, mellow them marvelously." Since the Fall, suffering and distress have been part of humanity. Perhaps, being caught smack in the middle of a discouraging time period, it would seem that this twenty-first century is undergoing an especially calamitous and catastrophic time. Yet going back only a little in time, as little as the last century, we immediately glimpse turmoil, confusion and unrest in that time period as well. And yet our parents lived through it – lived through it and were blessed. My father and mother, for example, were born in the first decade of 1900 – a time rife with many tragic and disastrous events. An extremely limited but worthwhile overview follows, listing a few of those events. *** At the onset of the twentieth century, concentration camps were being operated by the British in South Africa. This was during and after the Second Boer War (1899-1902). Whole regions in South Africa were targeted and depopulated. Systematic destruction of Boer crops and livestock went alongside the burning down of homesteads and farms to prevent the Boers from returning there. Tens of thousands of men, women and children were forcibly moved into these concentration camps. Originally set up as refugee camps for displaced people, epidemics of measles and typhoid killed thousands interred there. Hygiene was terrible. Eventually, there were a total of 45 camps for the Boers and 64 more camps for black Africans. Of the 28,000 Boer men who were captured as prisoners of war, 25,630 were sent overseas. Approximately 26,000 women and children died in these camps. In 1906 there was an earthquake in California. This 7.9 earthquake ranks as one of the most significant earthquakes of all time. Its epicenter was near San Francisco, and it spawned devastating fires in its wake. More than 3,000 people died and over eighty percent of the city was destroyed. In 1907 a Peasants' Revolt in Romania, caused by inequity in land ownership, was squelched by the Romanian military. At least 11,000 were killed. 1908 saw another destructive earthquake. It took place in Italy. Measured as 7.1 in magnitude, it caused the death of between 75,000 and 82,000 people. The city of Messina's shoreline was greatly altered, as large sections of its coast sunk several feet into the sea. Houses, churches, palaces and monuments collapsed. Without distinction, railway workers, priests, sculptors, historians, politicians, ambassadors, policemen, writers, singers and attorneys were struck down in one small moment of time. In 1912, the ship Titanic sank after striking an iceberg. Fifteen thousand of her passengers died. The ship carried some of the wealthiest people in England as well as hundreds of immigrants from Great Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia – people who were seeking a new life in the US. In 1912-13 the First and Second Balkan Wars ravaged southeastern Europe. These resulted in huge casualties. The Bulgarians lost approximately 65,000 men, the Greeks 9,500, the Montenegrins, 3,000, the Serbs at least 36,000 and the Ottomans as many as 125,000. As well, tens of thousands of civilians died from disease. In 1914 WWI began, resulting in the deaths of 40 million. From February 1918 to April 1920 the Spanish Flu or the Great Influenza Epidemic seemed to reign. A deadly global influenza pandemic, it was caused by the H1N1 influenza A virus. With 500 million suspected cases, this pandemic engendered an estimated 25-50 million deaths. *** Often, we think we are in control, or we want to be in control, in total control… and then something happens. It might be an accident, job loss, a war, a broken relationship, or a pandemic. But these things have always been and will be until Christ returns. Another quote from Spurgeon puts it in this way, a very good way: "I am afraid that all the grace I have got of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours, might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my sorrows, and pains, and griefs, is altogether incalculable.... Affliction is...the best book in a minister's library." Isaiah, the great prophet Isaiah, totally concurs with Spurgeon and calls out the words of our providential God and Father: I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me,  that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other.  I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things. – Isaiah 45:5-7...

Animated, Drama, Movie Reviews

The Toy Story franchise is for adults

Animated / Drama 1995, 1999, 2010, and 2019 / 81, 92, 103, and 100 minutes Rating: 8/10 Animation is usually for kids. And a story that's all about toys would seem best suited to children too. That’s why, when I saw the original Toy Story in the theater with a group of my college-age friends, we all thought it was kids’ fare...though the sort that adults could enjoy too. When I tried watching it with my own kids 25 years later, I came to a different conclusion: that this movie franchise has always been directed first and foremost at adults. All the evidence is there: a children’s film has children in the main roles, and a film for adults stars adults. What about Toy Story? In the original, there’s Andy, the little boy who owns the toys. He’s a child, but the film isn’t really about him. It turns out Toy Story is populated almost exclusively by adults…or, rather, toys, as voiced by adults. Woody is front and center, a Western sheriff with a pull string on his back that makes him say “Reach for the sky, pardner!” He and his fellow toys are limp and lifeless when people are around, but spring to life – as every child has always suspected – the moment we leave. Some of the brilliance of Toy Story is in the toy casts’ very different personalities: we’ve got a timid Tyrannosaurus Rex, a wise-cracking Mr. Potato Head, a loyal Slinky-Dink Dog, and a flirtatious Little Bo Peep lamp. Shucks, even the Etch-a-Sketch is quite the character, trying regularly to “outdraw” Sheriff Woody. The biggest personality of them all is the newest arrival. For his birthday, Andy has gotten a Buzz Lightyear – a spaceman action figure – that replaces Woody as his favorite. Woody is jealous, but what really drives him nuts is that Buzz doesn’t even understand that he’s a toy. Buzz thinks he’s landed on an alien planet, and that the other toys are the friendly locals. Woody is normally a pretty stand-up toy, but in a bout of exasperated jealousy, he gives Buzz a shove. He meant to bump Buzz off the bureau, where he’d get stuck (and maybe forgotten for a while) in the gap between the bureau and the wall. But instead, he sends Buzz right out the second-story window into the bushes below. Woody, more concerned with what the other toys will think of him than actual concern for Buzz, tries to rescue the spaceman. But things just go from bad to worse and they end up in the next-door neighbor’s house, in the clutches of Sid, a boy whose parents don’t supervise him like they should. Why is it dangerous to be around Sid? Because he blows up his toys… and now Woody and Buzz may be next! That’d be quite the problem for a bunch of children to solve. Fortunately, all these toys are, in as far as toys can be, adults. Woody, Buzz, Little Boy Peep, and Mr. Potato Head are voiced by adult actors and have adult personas (as most toys do). Their problems are also adult problems, as becomes increasingly evident in successive films. In the first, Woody has to teach Buzz his purpose in life: to be there for their owner. In the follow-up, Woody wrestles with what it means to grow old and start to break down. In the third, the gang is wondering what they’re meant to do, now that Andy has grown up. This is ultimate-meaning-of-life, material, which is pretty heavy, even if it’s only on a toy scale. The films also feature events that, if viewed through the eyes of a child, would be downright traumatic. Adults don’t flinch when Sid blows up one of his army men. But for kids, who have watched these toys come to life, this is too close to seeing somebody getting blown up. The second film actually begins with Buzz dying – the evil emperor Zurg has gotten the best of the space ranger, hitting him with an energy beam that disintegrates Buzz’s top half, leaving only his legs still standing, but now smoking. It turns out that this is only Buzz Lightyear, the video game character, getting blown up, and the toy version is still fine. But kids don’t know that when it happens. Even more adult, in film #3 the whole gang, facing their certain incineration, are forced to come to an acceptance of death (though they are rescued at the last possible moment). Finally, in the franchise’s most recent chapter, a pretty but psychotic doll wants to rip Woody’s voice box right out of his stuffing. Finally, add in some minor innuendo throughout – when Mr. Potato Head travels down the Barbie aisle in a toy store he has to remind himself “I’m a married spud, I’m a married spud.” It’s tame, and infrequent, but not kid stuff either. Toy Story is meant for adults. Cautions If I was recommending this for children, there would be all sorts of little nits that could be picked. For example, when one toy talks about how much he trusts Woody, Mr. Potato Head takes off his lips and presses them to his butt – adults understand, though my kids missed it. A bunch of alien toys in one of those coin-operated toy dispensers view the claw that comes down as “our master” and speak of it in a worshipful manner. They’re basically a cult, and make for a weird, if fortunately brief, addition. And for kids, it'd be important to note the overall tension throughout. If you're watching any of them with children, there could be parts where you'll need to hit the fast-forward button because it'll be simply too much for the under ten crowd. (The scariest moment of all might be in the first film, when we discover that Sid, in addition to blowing up his toys, has spliced a number of different toys together. After Woody and Buzz get trapped in Sid's bedroom, they get surrounded by his freaky creations, including the creepiest toy you’ll ever see: a mute Mechano spider topped with a shaved doll’s head. We soon learn that these monstrosities are all friendly, but for a while there it's downright disturbing. I think even adults could get the kreebles in this scene.) But as far adults are concerned, the only caution would regard the company behind the franchise. Pixar films spent a couple of decades making films that were artistic, entertaining, and still generally safe – language and sexuality concerns were minimal, and violence was of the cartoonish sort. But the Pixar of the 199os and early 2000s has now transitioned into a woke company that encourages homosexuality and transsexuality. So the warning is, don't presume that what Pixar creates next will be generally safe. Conclusion Twenty-five years ago Toy Story was groundbreaking: it was the first feature film to be animated entirely by computer. Successive films continued to push animation advancements, however, Toy Story's success was never about the spectacle. What made Pixar special (before it became woke) was the attention to detail in every aspect of their storytelling. They knew their cinematic history and borrowed from the best that had gone before. So, for example, Buzz and Woody are a classic odd couple, and it doesn't matter that we all know right from the start that they're destined to become the best of friends by film's end – the joy is in the craftsmanship of the journey. Throw in some loyalty and love, daring-do, and more than a little nostalgia and wistfulness, and what's delivered are films to savor, at least in the moments when the action slows down. And while these are best appreciated by adults, I'd recommend them for as young as 12. Look below for the trailers for all four films. ...

Book Reviews, Children’s non-fiction, Children’s picture books

Corrie ten Boom: the courageous woman and the secret room

by Laura Caputo-Wickham 2021 / 24 pages For such a short one, this picture book sure fits a lot inside. We meet Corrie ten Boom as a child sitting with her watchmaker father at work, see the whole family's love for the Lord evident in their devotions together, and then transition to World War II and witness the family's eagerness to hide and protect Jews from the Nazis. Finally, we see her capture, time in the concentration camps, and a glimpse of her life afterward. Corrie ten Boom was a brave woman, but others have been brave before her, so what makes her "picture book worthy"? It was the foundation for her courage that set her apart. She feared and loved the Lord, which is why she didn't fear Man, not even Nazi soldiers armed with guns. It was her wisdom – her understanding of how things really are – that allowed her to act when so many others, Christians among them, were too frightened to. As even this short picture book makes clear, she understood that God had her, no matter what. This is a very good picture book, but it can't match her glorious autobiography The Hiding Place, so children should be told that when they get older, they really need to hear this remarkable woman's story again, and this time in her own words. You can see the whole book below, as the author reads and shows her work. ...

Resources, Science - Creation/Evolution

Dinosaurs and dead bodies

If Lenin’s body can't last, how could dinosaur tissue have lasted millions of years? ***** In a Russian laboratory, a team of highly trained Russian scientists is leaning over a dead body. The body is that of a man who has been dead for over 90 years, and these scientists are being paid $200,000 a year to keep this man looking alive. They are good at what they do, such that some people consider this body to be the best preserved corpse in the world. These are the earthly remains of the infamous Vladimir Lenin, socialist revolutionary and founder of the Soviet Union. It is estimated that he killed 3.7 million of his own people during his bloody reign of terror. He was an avowed atheist and declared that “there is nothing more abominable than religion,” and “all worship of a divinity is a necrophilia.” He was responsible for the mass killing of thousands of Christian in Russia. When Lenin died in January of 1924, the first embalming efforts began at a Moscow location that would later be termed the “Lenin lab.” It might seem like it should be an easy task to preserve a body for a long time, but it is actually very difficult. There were times when up to 200 scientists were employed at the Lenin lab, researching and testing the best ways to preserve Lenin’s body. They have partially succeeded. If you go to see the body of Lenin today, lying in his glass sarcophagus in Red Square you might think he looks in fairly good condition.  The reality is that it has been a huge task to keep him looking like that. The sarcophagus is cooled to 61 degrees, with the humidity between 80 and 90 percent. Underneath his clothing there is a double-layered rubber suit that keep a thin layer of embalming fluid continually covering his body. The body gets re-embalmed once every other year, using a process that involves submerging the body in baths of glycerol solution, formaldehyde, potassium acetate, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, acetic acid solution and acetic sodium. Each session takes about 45 days. After the re-embalming Lenin is carted back to his sarcophagus, but each week he is visited by scientists who carefully examine his skin using precision, scientific instruments to detect any change in moisture, color and contour. Dehydration and time are the main enemies. If any fungus stains or mold spots are detected on Lenin’s face they are carefully treated with a mild bleach solution. A doctor who worked on the body from 1934 to 1952 said that with current preservation techniques, the body could last "many decades, even for 100 years.” It is now getting close to 100 years, but despite the best efforts of hundreds of scientists and over 90 years of research Lenin’s body is still deteriorating; the best of modern science has not been able to stop the downward march to dust. Artificial skin has been created to replace what is deteriorating, and his nose, face, and other parts of his body have been resculpted to restore their appearance. A moldable material made of paraffin, glycerin and carotene has been used to replace much of the skin fat to maintain the original shape of the body. It has been estimated that only 23% of Lenin’s original body tissue still remains. The rest has been replaced by artificial materials. So the famous body of Lenin is becoming more and more of a “wax” sculpture and less and less of a real body. Another well-preserved body Let us now leave Russia and visit another location, this time on the other side of the world. Once again a team of scientists is bending over the remains of a body. This time they are not in a high-tech laboratory. They have just finished removing these remains from the dirt. Once again it is a very old body, but this time all they have is the skeleton. It’s the bones of a T-rex dinosaur, and a paleontologist named Mary Schweitzer is about to take one of its bones back to her laboratory for careful study. It’s there that she places the bone in a solution of EDTA, to dissolve the bone matrix.  To the astonishment of the scientific community, she discovered that there was still soft tissue inside – blood vessels, red blood cells, etc. At first some of the other scientists ridiculed her because they said, “These fossils are millions of years old and we know that biological material doesn’t last that long!” But she finally proved that it was the soft tissues of the dinosaur itself, and the majority of the scientific community accepted her discovery.  As time went by more and more fossils from all over the world were tested and found to still contain soft tissues. If you saw some of the microscope pictures you might easily think you were looking at a piece of meat from the grocery store. The level of preservation is quite amazing! Even the microscopic structures of veins, red blood cells, osteocytes, and nerves have been preserved! Young earth or old flesh? Now the scientists had a problem. Most of them believed the dinosaurs had died out 65 million years ago, and previous experiments had shown that soft tissues should not last for millions of years. But they weren’t willing to let go of their belief that evolution happened over millions of years, so they started scrambling for answers to explain why the dinosaur bones still had soft tissue in them.  Scientists who believed that the fossils formed in a worldwide flood about 4,400 years ago, like the Bible describes, didn’t have a problem with this discovery. Like so many other discoveries in recent science, it matched very well with their belief that the earth is only about 6,000 years and the fossils formed during the flood. This was exciting news for them, but not for the evolutionary scientists! Mary Schweitzer next did an experiment by soaking ostrich blood vessels in concentrated blood plasma for two years to see what would happen. She reported that after two years the blood vessels were still recognizable. She suspected that the iron in the blood acted somewhat like a preservative. So she put forth the theory that maybe the soft tissue in the dinosaur bones had been preserved for millions of years by iron in the blood of the dinosaurs. She compared it to the action of formaldehyde, except not as strong. The scientists who believed in Darwinian evolution immediately grabbed onto this explanation as the answer to their dilemma. They said that this experiment must explain how dinosaur soft tissue could last for millions of years. But does it really? Many of the bones Mary Schweitzer tested are dated by evolutionists at 145,000,000 to 199,000,000 years old. Can a 2-year experiment in a climate controlled laboratory be extrapolated to explain 145,000,000 years of preservation under harsh environmental conditions? Animals die all the time. We’ve all seen them dead beside the road. Does the iron in their blood act as a preservative to keep their tissues from decaying? Ninety years of research and the combined knowledge of up to 200 scientists has not been able to stop the decay of Lenin’s body. They are using the most advanced preservation techniques and the best embalming chemicals, including formaldehyde, but that is still not enough to stop the slow, but steady decline into dust. “For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3:19). It appears that iron molecules do have some preservative qualities that act in a similar way to formaldehyde, except that they are weaker than formaldehyde. And we can see that even formaldehyde itself, combined with other strong chemicals cannot preserve tissue indefinitely. A large portion of Lenin’s body is already gone after only ninety years. It is even surprising to find that fragments of soft tissue have been preserved in dinosaur bones for over 4,000 years since the flood buried these fossils. But it is quite inconceivable that iron molecules could preserve tissue for 145,000,000 years.  In order to grasp the vast difference between the evolutionary time scale and the Bible time scale, let’s try converting them to seconds. If the 4,400 years since the flood was converted to 4,400 seconds or 1.2 hours, and the 145,000,000 years (the supposed age of the bones) was converted to 145,000,000 seconds or 4.5 years, we can see the huge difference between the two. What a little over an hour is to four and a half years, the evolutionary time scale is to the creation time scale. Evolutionary scientists believe these soft tissues are almost 33,000 times older than creation scientists do!  Rejecting accountability doesn’t work Evolutionists are willing to believe something extraordinary rather than accept the thought that maybe God created the earth only 6,000 years ago and the Bible record of the flood is true and accurate. Why do they rule out God, even as they struggle to find other explanations? Well, if there is a God in heaven, then we are accountable to Him for what we do and how we live our lives. And they don’t like that. However, it also means that if we give our lives to Christ and ask his forgiveness for our sins, then we can have eternal life with Him in the earth made new! Lenin asserted that there is nothing more abominable than religion, yet his decaying body is unmistakable evidence that soft tissue contained in dinosaur bones cannot be millions of years old. We can imagine that if we had lived under his Red Terror in Russia, he would have said to us, “You Christians will spread your religion over my dead body!” Indeed! Check out the great 5-minute video below with more on dinosaur soft tissue. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

The Creation Adventure Team

A Jurassic Ark Mystery Family / Children 45 min / 2001 Rating: 7/10 Six Short Days, One Big Adventure Family / Children 38 min / 2002 Rating: 7/10 The folks at the creationist organization Answers In Genesis have created two frenetic kids' videos that feature a robot dinosaur sidekick and comic hijinks. What more could you want? In the first episode, Jurassic Ark Mystery, the Creation Adventure Team is out to discover when the dinosaurs died, how they lived, and whether there were any on Noah's Ark. We are treated to non-stop action, decent special effects, a number of clever spoofs, and a talking robot dinosaur named Proto. Renowned dinosaur sculptor Buddy Davis, his teenage friend Ivan, and of course Proto, explore a dinosaur museum and show how these “terrible lizards” did indeed fit on the ark. A Jurassic Ark Mystery is one of the most entertaining creationism videos available for children. The only video that might be better is the sequel: Six Short Days, One Big Adventurer where the crew helps a student give a presentation to her public school classmates about how God created everything. The videos come with a pile of extras. Our family spent at least half an hour afterward looking through them all, with our favorite being the features on how they brought the robot Proto to "life." Caution The only one I can think of is that, as is pretty typical for a Buddy Davis production, the action here is a little on the frantic side of things. Davis is clearly focused on keeping the kids engaged, but I've heard a parent or two complain about just how hyper this all seems. Conclusion This is a video that would be fantastic for parents to watch with their kids – it is informative and entertaining! But for parents who can't deal with too much hyperactivity on the big screen, you'll want to steer clear. They say this is for ages 7-12, but our 5-year-old really liked it too, and even our 3-year-old was content enough to stick around for the whole show. While these are available on some Christian streaming services (and on DVD), Answers in Genesis has made both available for free online viewing, though they've broken them up into several chapters. That isn't the best way to watch them but it is a great way for parents to get a preview – watch them for free at the links below: A Jurassic Ark Mystery Six Short Days, One Big Adventure ...

Animated, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

The Harriet Tubman Story

Animated / Family 2018 / 30 minutes Rating: 7/10 This is an action-packed overview of Harriet Tubman's life (c. 1822-1913), an escaped former slave who helped other slaves flee the American South to live free in the Northern US and Canada. We get introduced to the "Underground Railroad" during Tubman's initial escape. No trains were involved; this railroad was simply a series of homeowners (or "conductors") along an established escape route, who were willing to hide fleeing slaves, and take or direct them to the next railroad "stop." Sometimes slaves would travel by horse and cart, hidden among the hay or goods on the back, and other times they would have to trek through the woods with a guide, or maybe on their own. After gaining her own freedom, Harriet went back more than a dozen times to help her family and others slaves also escape. She gained the nickname Moses, because she was bringing her people to "the Promised Land." Her willingness to take these risks was because of her love for the Lord and trust in Him. In the going and coming she would constantly pray to the Lord, and the Lord kept her and her charges safe. Cautions This is a children's half-hour video, so there isn't time to have any sort of lengthy discussion about slavery. But I still think it problematic that there is no distinction made between US slavery and the slavery God allows in the Bible. That's a problem because I suspect most children watching this will leave with the impression that slavery is entirely condemned in the Bible... and then be unsettled when they discover otherwise. Another theological concern happens when a fellow slave comments on Harriet's constant prayers, Harriet explains that she's just doing as the Good Book says, to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17). She keeps praying because "I'm hoping will just get tired of hearing me and set me free." One of my daughters compared her approach to that of the persistent widow of Luke 18:1-8 when faced with the unjust judge. But does God need to be worn down? There are problems with Harriet's understanding of God here, so parents should hit the pause button and discuss the reasons we are to ceaselessly pray. Conclusion While this animated production mutes the horror of slavery, the lesson would be lost if it did so entirely. So there's trauma to contend with, starting with the opening scene where an older Harriet is being chased and shot at as she helps her parents escape. More traumatic still is the next scene, where a juvenile Harriet witnesses the break up of a slave family – their master has sold two of the daughters, and the girls are being taken away while they cry out for their weeping mama. That means that even as this is a powerful introduction to Harriet Tubman, it'll be too much for preschool children to handle, and others, even up to 10, may need to be guided through with a few timely uses of the remote's pause button. This would be best for a family movie night when your kids are a bit older. You can watch The Harriet Tubman Story for free below. ...

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American resistance to wartime incarceration

by Frank Abe and Tamiko Nimura 2021 / 160 pages After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, tens of thousands of Americans of Japanese descent were rounded up and placed in detention camps around the US. They lost their jobs, their businesses, and even their homes, not because of any crimes committed, but simply for their ethnic roots. This same indignity wasn't forced on German or Italian Americans, even though Germany and Italy were at war with the US. Just Japanese Americans. And despite the obvious discrimination against them, the vast majority went without protest, believing that quiet acceptance was a way of showing their loyalty and patriotism. What the graphic novel We Hereby Refuse recounts are the stories of Japanese Americans who did protest, in very different ways. One protester was an otherwise quiet young lady. Mitsuye Endo was a 21-year-old typist who lost her job when she was ordered to report to the internment camp. A lawyer asked her to sue the government for causing her job loss. He recruited her because she seemed the ideal candidate at a time when everyone was scared of Japan: she did not speak Japanese and didn't follow a Japanese religion like Buddhism or Shinto. She even had a brother serving in the US army. And she had also done everything the government had ordered her to. She was quiet and still she stood up, her case eventually going all the way to the Supreme Court, where she won. Another story shared is that of Jim Akutso, who repeatedly tried to sign up for the Army but was refused because of flat feet. After he was imprisoned in a detention camp he was found out he'd been drafted, but now he refused. His reasoning was that if his country wasn't willing to let him live freely, then he wasn't going to fight to protest the freedoms he didn't even have. His refusal was condemned by many other Japanese Americans, who thought his actions cast them all in a bad light. He was convicted of draft dodging, and moved from the camp to a regular prison, and given a sentence that extend past the end of the war. Cautions I'm not familiar with the history here, so I can't really assess how fair the presentation is. I suspect that certain historical figures, particularly the Japanese Americans who acted as go-betweens for the prisoners and the US government, might dispute the way they are portrayed. However, the broad overview seems to be reliably done. I don't generally recommend books that take God's name in vain, but I'm making an exception here because this is not simply entertainment but educational, sharing an event that needs to be more widely known. For Christian parents or librarians who might like to strike a line through it, the abuse occurs just once, on page 128. Another caution concerns age-appropriateness. Near the end of the book, an older woman kills herself in despair. She's shown beginning to wrap a lamp cord around her neck, and while it doesn't get more graphic than that, the act itself isn't something young children need to read about. I'll also note that I've seen the authors making appearances on podcasts sharing their personal pronouns, so I rather suspect their politics and worldview do not line up with my own. But that difference wasn't evendent in the book itself. Conclusion This was compelling, but I didn't find it an easy read. Some of that was due to my unfamiliarity with Japanese names, which had me confusing different characters so that I'd have to flip back and forth to keep things straight. But I was happy to keep flipping because it's a story worth knowing. We Hereby Refuse is a reminder that the government is powerful, and with power comes the need to use that power with great restraint. What happens when it doesn't act with restraint? We get victims by the thousands and tens of thousands, as happened here. Another lesson? The need for brave individuals to challenge government abuses, in the hopes of reducing the number of victims. This would be a great purchase for Christians schools, and for parents to buy and read with their children. The serious subject matter means this is probably for 14 and up. The 4-minute video below, offering some local news coverage, gives a good overview of the book. ...

News

Saturday Selections – Dec. 25, 2021

Is Christmas a pagan holiday? (14 min) In this podcast from the folks at Creation Ministries International, the answer given is no, and it wouldn't even matter if it started that way. People we should know better: Dr. John Sanford This is a great profile of an atheist-turned-Christian and geneticist of renown, who is now using his expertise to highlight how the evidence points to a recent creation. Win-win denial: the false justification for economic envy Is the only way to get ahead by pushing others back? Do society's winners win only by making others lose? To illustrate by way of analogy, if Sally buys a shirt from Tony's store, is only one of them better off? Is one of them worse off? Or did both of them "win"? Potential solutions to the plastics problem? Our oceans are full of plastics, but Justin Trudeau's single-use plastics ban won't help since it won't stop the flow of trash entering the oceans over in Asia and other developing countries. His approach comes with a cost and creates its own plastics problems. But if doing nothing would be an improvement over Trudeau's approach, applying our God-given brains to bring some creativity to the issue is an even better idea. And that's what some folk are doing right now. A creationist take adds further context. Canada's conversion therapy law commits six secular sins The first and foremost problem with a law banning conversion therapy is that it runs right up against God's Law – it bans what God commands, that we tell and help sinners to repent and believe. Another problem with this ban is that it doesn't even live up to secular standards, which is the focus of Dr. Hendrik van der Breggen's article here. Teach us to number our days Why do we waste so much of our time? One reason might be that we always overestimate how much we have. "Our mind tells us to estimate a full eighty years or so; our heart tells us 900, give or take." As Greg Morse writes in this article: Some have fifteen years left; others more; others less. Will you live them? Will you receive normal days as spectacular gifts from a good God and spend them in his service? Stop subsidizing sports (5 min) In Samuel's warning about kings (1 Samuel 8:10-22), God teaches us that those in charge tend to be overbearing, as we can see with our own governments taking over entire sectors like healthcare, insurance, and education. So should we be asking it to get into the entertainment industry too, using its taxing power to take from Paul so that Peter can be amused? A government that is involved in everything is also a government that can use that reach and influence for its godless agenda. Yes, even when it comes to sports stadiums. The Western Australian gov't has since backed down, but they were going to use their investment in sports facilities to discriminate against Christians. One reason Christians should want smaller government is to diminish the power it can then use against us. ...

News, Politics

Conversion therapy and silence in Canada

Many concerned readers will remember the federal government of Canada’s effort to ban conversion therapy throughout 2021. The Liberals began their efforts in the spring, with a bill that would ban any therapy that was intended to help change a person's sexual preferences from homosexual or transexual to heterosexual. There were many hearings, some of which I watched, and I was astounded by the clear articulation by so many participants who spoke against the government's broad definition of conversion therapy. The hearings included horrific stories of tortuous attempts of conversion therapy (and these tortures should indeed be banned), but it became clear that the legislation also sought to ban conversations and advice that, for example, a pastor might offer a parishioner who requested their help. While it seemed inevitable that the legislation was going to pass, it would have to do so with much opposition. In June 2021, 62 Conservative MPs voted against this bill at Third Reading, and it moved on to the Senate. However, before they could deal with it, a federal election was called, and the business of Parliament came to an end. The next elected government would have to start all over. That meant there would be another opportunity to continue fighting against bad definitions, godless intentions, and government overreach. Sadly, on December 1, a Conservative Party motion to fast track the government's latest "conversion therapy ban" legislation (Bill C-4), was unanimously approved by the House of Commons. No debate, no discussion, no hearings, no fighting for care and caution. Mr. O’Toole was one of the 51 Conservative MPs that voted for the Bill originally, and he suggested that there were many different ways to expedite the legislative process for the Bill. What’s worse, as reported by the Globe and Mail, we learned: Earlier this week, the Liberal government reintroduced a bill banning conversion therapy. The legislation was wider reaching than a previous version. It was intended to ban the practice entirely for children and adults. Before, the proposed legislation left open the possibility that an adult could consent to conversion therapy. The new bill closes that loophole. (Ian Bailey, Dec. 1 – Surprise Conservative motion sends conversion therapy ban bill through Commons). Silent MPs There are so many different implications with this move that it is hard to comment on them all. What is most disconcerting is the silence with which this Bill was passed. Three members of the Conservative Party, Arnold Viersen (Conservative MP clarifies his stance on “conversion therapy” ban | The Bridgehead), Cathy Wagantall (Second Conservative MP clarifies stance on unanimous vote for “conversion therapy” ban | The Bridgehead), and Ted Falk (Conservative MP explains what happened with unanimous Bill C-4 vote), have expressed regret in not speaking up at that moment, objecting to the unanimous passage of this Bill (can we anticipate more such commentary?). Had only one person done so, the Bill would have had to go through the regular legislative procedures. I appreciate the humility and transparency of Viersen, Wagantall, and Falk and I believe they are sincere in their expression of regret – they are consistent with their previous actions and comments on this topic. Christians excusing silent MPs Another disconcerting phenomenon flowing from this event has been the social media commentary by many Christians dismissing or even endorsing the silence of these and other parliamentarians as being “sheep in the midst of wolves” and thus, being “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16). I understand the very real challenge of being a Christian politician, and I would not want to be judgmental. However, if we won’t take a stand on this issue, with relatively little at stake, what issues do we stand up for? One person considered this a lost cause, so “pick your battles.” Sure, there is truth in both statements, but it isn’t that we were going to lose the battle that concerns us, but how we lost it – capitulation and silence; acquiescing and standing by. Today, it is officially the case that there is not a single Member of Parliament who objects to the definition of Conversion Therapy in Canada. A few months ago there were 61. We are going to lose most moral battles moving forward – we don’t have a great track record of wins – but for righteousness’ sake we fight the battles. If we don’t fight because we know we’re going to lose, then whenever there is a Liberal government with support from the NDP and others, we may stop fighting altogether. Rather, let us recognize that some are fighting on the front lines, where the battle is most fierce, tiring, public, and hard – they need our support and encouragement. And when they lay down their weapons in a moment of weakness, we can still be behind them spurring them on to pick up the armory and keep on fighting – they haven’t lost all our support for such a moment. But neither should we say to the frontline fighters, “drop the weapons, stop fighting, late us take this blow so we can fight the next onslaught.” Such a strategy will not work. After repeated capitulation like this, it will only make those in the supporting roles look for others to support. The ban on conversion therapy legislation passed in silence and was celebrated with loud clamor. This was a sad day in Canada’s history and we pray that the Lord will stem the growing tide of secularism that is filling our land. May he also continue to grant strong men and women who can fight these battles where they are placed, to his honor and glory. May he also forgive all of us when we fail to do so. Postscript: Conversion therapy definitions The Bill (needing only Royal Assent now to be law) defines Conversion Therapy thusly: “Conversion therapy means a practice, treatment, or service designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual; change a person’s gender identity to cisgender; change a person’s gender expression so that it conforms to the sex assigned to the person at birth; repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour; repress a person’s non-cisgender gender identity; or repress or reduce a person’s gender expression that does not conform to the sex assigned to the person at birth” There is one point we need to understand. There is nothing in this law that would prevent a practice, treatment, or service designed to change person’s sexual orientation to homosexual; there is nothing in it banning attempts to change a person’s gender identity from heterosexual; it raises no objections to treatments, practices, or services intended to change a person’s gender expression so that it no longer conforms to their biological sex; it does not stand in the way of attempts to repress or reduce heterosexual attraction or heterosexual behavior, etc. It becomes clear then, that this Bill is not about banning conversion therapy, it is about allowing conversion therapy in only one direction – the unbiblical direction. Being gender fluid, transgender, homosexually active, etc. are celebrated and promoted in so many different ways in public schools and communities. There is a strong effort to promote sexual conversions through SOGI 123, and other similar curriculum. This isn’t about creating a safe space for struggling youths – it is about creating a cultural revolution where the standards of God’s Word are continually being tossed aside. ARPA Canada (C-4: Conversion Therapy) and others have commented on the implications of this legislation elsewhere. The next steps, as outlined by Cathy Wagantall, include “working with parents, pastors, and legal experts to develop legislation that protects parents’ and faith leaders’ ability to have conversations with individuals seeking clarity on their personal life decisions.” May the Lord bless these efforts!...

Adult fiction, Book Reviews

Once upon a wardrobe

by Patti Callahan 2021 / 285 pages The year is 1950, and an eight-year-old George Henry Devonshire has finished a book, just published, called The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. And now he wants to know Where does Narnia come from? George is old enough to know Narnia is not real, and yet at eight, he's somehow already wise enough to know that this story is about something very true. So where did it come from? Born with a weak heart, the young George has been confined for most of his life to his own room, and, on better days, to the rest of his house. But his older sister Megs loves him fiercely and comes home every weekend from university, so George is sure she'll help him figure this out. Megs, after all, goes to Oxford, where the creator of Narnia teaches. She should just ask him! It turns out though, that Oxford isn't simply one college, but dozens, and Meg is at an entirely different school than where Lewis teaches. She sometimes sees him walking about, but the quiet girl doesn't want to intrude on the great man with bothersome questions. And yet, for her brother, she promises to try. In the end, Megs doesn't so much manage to introduce herself to Lewis, as Lewis's brother Warnie introduces himself to her... and invites her for tea! What follows is only the first conversation of many. Megs keeps coming back because Lewis and his brother never seem to offer the simple answer that young George is after. Instead of sharing where Narnia came from, the two tell Megs stories about their growing up. Megs isn't into stories the way her brother is – her studies in math and physics don't leave her a lot of time, as she might put it, to waste on fiction – so even as she enjoys her time with the two men, she doesn't understand why they won't give her a more direct answer to relay to young George. Her brother loves the stories she brings home, but he keeps sending her back for more. George is aware, even though his parents and sisters have tried to shelter him from the knowledge, that he does not have long to live on this earth. So there's an insistent edge to his questions: he needs to know where such beauty and truth comes from. Patti Callahan has married careful research with simply wonderful prose to create a fictionalized biography of both Lewis and his best-known book. I loved this so much I've given it to my mom and my wife, and I can't really give it higher praise than that. If you're looking for the serious sort of biography that tells you what the subject ate for breakfast on his 43rd birthday, you'll need to look elsewhere. But if you enjoy learning a little something from the fiction you read, or if you've ever wanted to know more about the man who gave us Narnia, you won't find a more charming introduction....

News

Top 10 RP articles of 2021

Free films featured prominently in this year's Top 10 with three entries, but there wasn't an identifiable theme for the rest. Or maybe that diversity was the theme: all of God's universe, from doctrinal discussions on baptism, to history, Christian fiction, the World Wide Web, and more, God created it for us to explore. These, then, are the most popular articles of 2021! You can click on the titles to check them out. #10 – 3 simple reasons we believe misinformation In an era of fake news, you'd think we'd know better than to fall for it again and again. So why do we? Chris Martin offered this much-appreciated explanation. #9 – In His Image: Delighting in God's plan for gender and sexuality Gender and sex will be hot topics for the next decade, and this free documentary was the go-to for thousands of RP readers who wanted to get a good grounding. #8 – Calvin's Institutes: Which edition should I read? There are three main translations of this pivotal work. So which should you read? #7 – On mandatory vaccines and "My body, my choice" Chris deBoer offered up this topical take on how Christians might have different thoughts on the Covid vaccines, but we should all agree to be against mandatory vaccines. #6 – Why do we suffer? Buddhism vs. Christianity There are some similarities between the way Buddhism and Christianity respond to suffering. But there's a big difference too! An article that didn't make the top ten the year it was posted comes in at #6 in 2021. #5 – A Return to Grace: Luther’s life and legacy It's another free film, and what makes this a must-see is its unique mix of drama and documentary. Other great Luther documentaries exist, but the most engaging of “talking heads” can’t really grab the attention of a broad audience. Drama might be more gripping but it can’t go into the same depth as a documentary. However, A Return to Grace is a docudrama – half documentary and half drama, making good use of the strengths of each. And it is free to see at the link. #4 – The hidden meaning of The Chronicles of Narnia This article was actually more popular in 2021 than when it was first published in 2020, when it was only #10. Cap Stewart explains how we've only recently discovered that C.S. Lewis – for his own private amusement because he seems to have never told anyone – linked each of his famous Narnia books to one of the 7 planets as medieval cosmology understood them. #3 – The Marks of a Cult: a biblical analysis This fantastic free documentary was very popular, and with good reason: it boils down a big topic into just two hours. If that's a bit long, it works equally well broken up into four separate chapters. And did we mention it's free? #2 – The impact of saying "I'm so busy!" This was an article for businessmen that we could all benefit from: sometimes it's a point of pride, being so busy. But what does being busy say about our leadership? And what opportunities does it limit? #1 – Infant baptism vs. believer's baptism: what's the main difference? The most popular article this year is a short but sweet piece by Pastor Garry Vanderveen. He asks, "The fundamental difference between the two positions is revealed in how one answers this question: Is baptism primarily God’s action or is it a human response?"...

Theology

The Father’s gift: His people are of inestimable value

While all gifts are special, there are some we absolutely treasure. This greater attachment might be due to the occasion, the thoughtfulness, or the giver of the gift. I remember receiving a digital keyboard from my parents for one of my birthdays, and it wasn’t a cheap little thing. I had demonstrated an affinity for playing music on the home organ or piano, and they wanted to encourage me with this special gift. I still have it and my children use it to this day. A precious gift There is, of course, no better gift-giver than our heavenly Father, and when we think about our heavenly Father’s best gift, we think of Christ who was God’s gift to us. There is no bigger gift! However, in this article, I want to explore another precious gift the Father has given, this one to his Son. And that gift is you! When we consider the Father’s great love for us, we need to pause a moment. Why does God love us? I am inclined to say, “because Christ died for us,” but isn’t that backward? Consider John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son.” God’s love for us is what caused Him to send his Son. Or consider Romans 8:5: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Because He loves us, He sent Christ to die for us. Christ’s suffering, Christ’s death is the ultimate expression of God’s love for us. We are very precious in the sight of our Father. We are a great treasure to Him. But He will not let us remain miserable and stained by sin – He loves us too much for that! That is why He sent his Son. When He was on earth, the Lord Jesus understood his mission and purpose. The Father had a people whom He loved from before the foundation of the earth, but they had become wretched sinners. In order for these beloved people of the Father to be declared holy, righteous, and acceptable in his sight, the Father needed them to be washed. And this was accomplished through the blood of Christ. From Father to Son But the Father gifted his treasured possession to his Son. Let’s consider John 6. In this chapter, Christ has fed approximately 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. It was a miracle. He then teaches those who followed Him across the sea, that He was the greater bread from heaven. Using metaphor and analogy, the people would not understand what Christ was saying when He told them that they had to eat of his flesh, etc. Now, consider what He says in verse 37: “All that the Father gives me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out.” Jesus makes it clear that He receives those whom the Father gives to Him. He says it again in verse 39: “And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” Christ understands his purpose. What He is doing on earth has everlasting consequences – even the resurrection of the dead! Let’s also consider John 17: 1-2, the opening words of Christ’s high priestly prayer: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given Him.“ Christ has come to earth as God’s gift to his beloved, and to receive the Father’s gift of those very same people. Christ came to save, redeem, and receive specific persons: the ones whom the Father loved and gave to his Son. John 17:9-10 reads: “I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.” Both Gift and Gift-receiver And finally in John 17:24: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” Christ delights in being the gift of the Father and receiving us as gift from the Father. All true believers need to consider the significance of this truth. The Father loves us so much that He sent his Son, to humble Himself, taking on the form of man and suffering on the cross. And the Son does this because He loves his Father, and He loves us! He died for us, while we were still sinners, while we were still unclean and unworthy. It is only by his death that we have been made worthy, made alive to live in that loving fellowship with God! Christ is not the only gift of the Father. Yes, Christ is the greatest gift, together with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but you and I also are gifts from the Father; gifts sent from the Father to his Son. That’s how precious you are! It is my hope that we truly understand how precious we are in the sight of our Triune God. For the Spirit loves us too, and causes us to love God rightly. In Romans 15:30 we read, “I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit…” More of the working of the Spirit could be written, but my point here has been to focus on the precious place we have in the relationship between the Father and the Son. If we struggle with a sense of worthlessness, or a sense of insignificance, we must call to mind that in the sight of God we are precious and of inestimable value. If that weren’t the case, why would the Father have sent his Son? Indeed, our value is not rooted in who we are, but in Whose we are! That makes all the difference! I hope we can be encouraged by this great truth that the Father loved us so much that He sent his Son to suffer and die for us, and He shared his very treasured possession (you) with his Son. Let’s live a life excelling in thanksgiving! Dr. Chris deBoer is host of the Focal Point podcast....

News

Saturday Selections – Dec. 18, 2021

The #Psalm124Project The #Psalm124Project is all sorts of churches and groups singing this same Psalm, separated by time and space, but united in praise for God. You can find their other videos at the link above. When crickets stop singing, that isn't evolution Hawaiian crickets have gone silent to avoid the notice of a parasitic fly. It’s been hailed as evolution. But losing an ability isn't an example of evolution, but devolution. The pro-choice case against IVF This pro-choice author calls out pro-lifers for not demonstrating outside IVF clinics, where many more children are killed, their bodies donated to medical science. While there is a way to use IVF that doesn't produce "excess embryos," or which even saves some of these frozen children ("snowflake adoption"), the way it is commonly done is monstrously evil.... and many Christians are unaware. The importance of the family dinner table This is a secular defense of the necessity of families to set aside time in their day to just be together, and the best time might be around the dinner table. Brave New World or 1984? Two books written within a couple decades of each other proposed two very different ways we could become enslaved. The one approach was likened by George Orwell to "a boot stomping on a human face – forever" and the other more akin to Netflix binging. It's slavery forcibly imposed, or slavery by default, accepted without resistance by those too apathetic to care. Which way are we heading? Might it be both directions at once? Is Capitalism only about greed? In the video below, Milton Friedman gets it wrong: "greed is not a good idea to run with." But he's right that all economic systems involve greed. The contrast is that in State-run economies like China and the former USSR, that greed involves those in power taking what they would by force. Meanwhile, under free markets, people can only get what they want by offering something of value in exchange – something the other person values more. What makes the free market remarkable is that it allows us to provide for our family while doing good for our neighbors. Joseph Sunde has more in the linked article above. ...

News, Politics

Bill C-4: the Conservatives did this to Canada

On November 29 the Liberals introduced a bill to ban "Conversion Therapy" that they'd twice before failed to pass. But what the Liberals couldn't do, Conservative leader Erin O'Toole promised he would get done. What was the bill about?  Under the pretense of protecting homosexuals from getting forcibly "converted" from their same-sex attraction, Bill C-4 targeted Christian pastors and counselors and others willing to help those who want out of the homosexual lifestyle. As Jonathon Van Maren wrote: "there were concerns that the deliberately broad definition proposed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals would ban pastoral conversations between clergy and their parishioners and leave adults with unwanted same-sex attraction unable to receive the counseling they desired. In fact, in some instances parents could be prevented from opposing sex changes for their own children." This was actually the third time the Liberals had introduced such a bill, but the previous two had been derailed by the months-long process that it takes to get a bill approved. The previous attempt, then labeled Bill C-6, was introduced on September 23, 2020, and took nine months, until June 22, 2021, to pass through the committee hearings and the three readings required in the House of Commons. It was then given to the Senate for their own three-stage assessment process, but they didn't have a chance to pass it before the Prime Minister called an election on August 15. His election call meant that Bill C-6 (along with all the other bills not yet passed) "died on the order paper." Bill C-4 might have had to go through this same process, and in the months and even years that it could have taken, who knows but that God might have derailed it yet once more. But on Dec. 1 Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole told the media that his party was going to "accelerate passage" of the government's bill. Later that same day Conservative MP Rob Moore put forward a motion to skip all the House committees and readings, and send the bill directly and immediately to the Senate. His motion required unanimous approval to pass – if a single MP had voiced a nay, the motion wouldn't have passed. How could the Conservatives have expected to get that unanimity when there had been 63 MPs willing to vote against Bill C-6 earlier this year? Of that number 62 were their own Conservative MPs. So why would they expect to have no opposition this time around? Their confidence might have been, in part, due to the timing of their motion. Conservative MP Garnett Genius was the most vocal opponent of the previous Bill C-6, launching the website “Fix the Definition” to put a face to the people this bill would harm. But on December 1, Genuis was out of the country, attending a NATO conference in Latvia. The Conservative strategy also involved pulling a fast one on their own MPs – the motion was made and passed in approximately one minute. They were able to do it so quickly because no one actually had to vote for the motion: the Speaker of the House only asked to hear from those opposed to it. When no one spoke up, it was passed.  While many of the Conservatives were clearly in on this maneuver – as evidenced by the wild clapping immediately afterward – any MPs unaware of what Rob Moore was about to do could have blinked and they would have missed it, it was over that fast. The CPAC coverage of the vote shows that some of the Conservatives were not clapping, and remained sitting and the most downcast of them might have been Arnold Viersen (blue jacket, red tie, three rows from the back on the right side) In a statement he posted to Facebook nine days later, Viersen explained that: "...it was a surprise that caught me and some of my colleagues off guard. I am opposed to C-4 as written and should have said no, but I did not react fast enough. I'm sorry." The comments below his post were filled with thanks for his apology. For almost two weeks it had been a mystery as to why a bill that criminalized the presentation of the Gospel would pass without any Christian MPs objecting. Now we had a partial explanation for the MPs' silence: this had been sprung on them. But even as surprise can be an explanation for what happened in the House, no such explanation was possible for the senators – they has the advance notice of seeing what was pulled in the House, and it made no difference. There, too, it was the Conservatives who put forward the motion to get the bill past all of the usual steps. And once again, not a single representative spoke up. Curiously, in his Facebook post, Viersen suggested that: "Had we won the election we would not be in this situation." In a message fellow Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall sent to ARPA Canada some days later, and let them share publicly, she borrowed this same phrase: "Had we won the election, we would not be in this situation." Let's consider that for a moment. Who was it, that pulled this on us? Wasn't it the Conservatives? We can be relieved that Garnett Genuis and Arnold Viersen have some sort of explanation or apology for why they didn't stand up against this bill, but the Conservative Party overall has no such excuse. Trudeau's Liberals introduced this bill, but it was O'Toole's Conservatives who accomplished what the Liberals never did: the Conservatives got it across the finish line. It bears repeating just how wicked this bill is. As Jojo Ruba noted, while an earlier version of the bill at least "could not prevent consenting adults from having conversations about sexuality with their clergy or their counselor, as long as the counseling was free" this latest version removed even that protection. That's what the Conservative Party has accomplished under O'Toole: they've made the compelling case that they are not the lesser of two evils, but rather the more effective. So where are politically-minded Christians to turn? Aren't the Conservatives still our only option? They are, after all, the only major party to tolerate pro-life Christians. That's true enough, but as the passage of this law highlights, tolerating Christians is very different from siding with them. If Christians are to be involved in the Conservative Party, it cannot be to further the party's agenda. We cannot let them use us for their ends, as happened here. If Christians are to continue in the Conservative Party then they have to do so with their eyes wide open, involving themselves in the party only to use it for our own, godly ends. If it becomes impossible to do that, then that should be the end of our involvement. Christians should have no loyalty to a party that has no loyalty to God, and, indeed, in this latest act, stands in direct opposition....

Drama, Movie Reviews

C.S. Lewis: the most reluctant convert

Biographical drama 93 minutes / 2021 RATING: 9/10 If you already know Lewis you're going to love this film; if you don't, this film will soon have you loving Lewis for the way he could put into words the wonder God works in his and our own hearts. This is the story of Lewis's conversion from ardent atheist to "the most reluctant convert," bowing his knee to God not because he wanted to, but because he couldn't do otherwise. It's also a story superbly told. There are three different actors playing Lewis, one as a boy, another as Lewis in his twenties, and the third, portrayed by Max McLean, as Lewis in his fifties. McLean's Lewis, the Christian Lewis, is actually the film's narrator, "breaking the fourth wall" by talking directly to the audience and explaining the thoughts being thunk by the other younger still-kicking-against-the-goads Lewises. It's all shot on location, so we're able to walk along with the older Lewis through the halls of Oxford as he takes us, for example, to a pivotal discussion his younger self is about to have with J.R.R. Tolkien. What an absolute delight! The showing I went to with my brother-in-law started with a 12-minute documentary, The Making of the Most Reluctant Convert. It was an odd way to begin, and a friend mentioned that this featurette was likely supposed to come afterward. But because the film itself has a non-stop intensity – not from car chases or explosions, but from the young Lewis's constant wrestlings with God – it was a help to have this slower introduction. Like the blurb on the back cover of a book, the featurette summed up what was to come, prepping us before we were launched right into it. Whether intentional or not, front-loading the featurette was brilliant, and if it doesn't come that way on the DVD, I'd recommend heading to the special features to begin with the documentary first. Lewis fans will quickly notice that the dialogue is taken almost entirely from his books, all stitched together seamlessly by McLean himself. The dialogue is similar to the script he wrote for his one-man play C.S. Lewis Onstage which was the seed for this film version. But while the play is very good, the fully fleshed-out film is downright fantastic. What makes this an amazing film is that the excellent acting, writing, and craftmanship are put in service to the more excellent work God did in Lewis's heart. God took a man angry at God and determined to run from Him, and transformed this rebel into the foremost Christian apologist of the twentieth century. And then He used that man as a spark for many thousands (millions?) more such transformations. Cautions The closest thing to a caution I can offer is that Lewis doesn't offer complete answers to the theological difficulties his atheist self raises. That might be disconcerting to some, even as it is also one of the film's strengths. The fact is, there is no completely satisfactory answer to, for example, the problem of pain, and the film doesn't pretend otherwise. God has given us reason to trust Him, but He hasn't told us all, so sometimes we do indeed need to trust Him. I'll note also that Lewis was no 5-point Calvinist. However, his conversion story makes him sound almost like one: the account he shares is of God grabbing hold of him. Lewis takes no credit for it himself. Conclusion From the twist right at the start to a conclusion that left us wanting more, this was a story superbly told. Add in a subject worthy of this craft and creativity, and I can't imagine how this could have been better; it is certainly one of the best films I've ever seen. And, lest you think I'm getting all gushy, I'll add that my brother-in-law liked it even more. Watch the trailer below, and check out the movie website here to see how you can rent it online, from now until January 2. It's $20 which might seem a bit steep, but not so bad if you make it a group movie night. ...

Assorted

Suffer Annie Spence

The smooth money resting in John's calloused hand equaled his small plot of land; a few acres lay on a roughened palm. It had only been a barren, untidy patch at best really – just enough to keep some geese and, when times were good, a cow. It had yielded enough to keep one from starving – not enough to keep one satisfied. It had been a way of life for John's father and grandfather. And they had survived. The land divided into strips and was owned by very poor farmers, by verge-of-poverty peasants. Inevitably, big, neighboring landowners coveted these strips – these pieces of thin but still independent existence. For a few guineas, John Spence had given up his meager plot, his paltry inheritance. Those guineas lay in his weathered palm. The money wasn't much, yet it was more than he'd ever had. But it wasn't enough to buy more land, no, not enough to buy more land. John regretted the agreement almost as soon as he was sober. The facts, however, which had driven him to drink and to the sale of land, were still just as compelling: his wife big with another child and food scarce. There was also another reason. A seemingly small enough reason, to be sure, but a reason that nevertheless had taken root and had given the final push to the matter. That reason was a tiny whisper of greed in John's heart of hearts. There is, the whisper said, money to be made in factories – city factories – London factories; much more money than you'll ever pull out of your half-penny patch. The drinking in the taproom had tempted him with this thought many times before. But never until now had it been so inviting and so obviously right, and never until now had he acted on it. Now that the deed was done, the possibility of work on the bigger farms as laborer for a shilling a day also existed. But a shilling was a pittance. Kate could work the fields too, but she'd nearly died at the last birthing. No, right or wrong, John's heart had sold itself to what he thought the city could offer. So they moved – John Spence, Kate Spence and Annie, their only surviving child, twelve this mid-summer. And such was the weight of their poverty, that they wore all they owned. *** "Just you wait, girl." John spoke as he supported his wife, as they picked a slow path over the ruts and puddles of bad roads. "London will 'ave us sittin' fine and proper. Why this babe will 'ave that silver spoon in his mouth. Just you wait, girl." If Annie listened avidly, Kate didn't hear a word John said. She was too weary, too heavy and she hated sleeping in the hedges. "There's many a job to be 'ad," John went on, looking at Annie when Kate didn't respond. "I 'urd from one lad they're just cryin' for strong labor." His spirit was hopeful and his mind entertained thoughts of fortunes. Annie believed every word he said. "Can I git a job too, Da? Can I?" She danced in front of him, her soft, brown hair waving, minding him of a young foal. "Well, Annie girl, I've 'urd of basket weavin' and work at mills and such. We'll see." Annie laughed. Da and she – they'd make a home for Mum and the new babe. And they kept on walking, Kate Spence great with child between them, paving the way to London with good intentions. *** London could be smelled before it was seen. The stink hit the Spences before their feet touched its intimate roads. Then they were caught up in the noise and crowds that flooded the city's muddy streets. Aimlessly they were moved about. A motley assortment of people and things jostled them as they walked – bearded Jewish old-clothes vendors, organ grinders, cabmen's wheels, costermongers selling their wares, and flower girls bawling at the top of their lungs. Overhead smoke rose, darkly coiling from a few million chimneys, while St. Paul's Cathedral's bells bonged overhead. And not a green patch in sight, but the small patch in John's memory. John Spence was confused. He did not know the ways of London and did not recognize its throb of misery and clamor. “We'll see if we can't find a place to sleep for the night.” He stumbled, weary with the days of travel. Foul water and refuse ran past them in a gutter down the middle of the road. “Buy! Buy!” The cry of the vendors was deafening. Kate leaned against him helplessly. "There are no 'edges here, John. Wot will we sleep in tonight?" "Da! Da!" Annie pulled John's hand. "There's a lad 'ere says 'is mum 'as rooms to let." John turned to look. A boy, face streaked with dirt, grinned at him. "Foller me, sir." They followed him. There was little choice. Mazes of alleyways coughed up houses more rough and tumble at each turn. They avoided the beggars hunched forward in doorways. They stepped past the sick lying next to the gutters. They breathed in the smell of turpentine, leaking gas, sewage and sweat. In the back of John's mind the barren strip of lost land became more fertile and the smell of growing things flooded his soul, but he could not undo time as one undoes a knot. So he walked on and his family walked with him. And the boy walked ahead of them. Kate was slower than ever now, clinging to John for support. Clusters of tumbledown houses were built around filthy courts. The boy stopped in one of them. "Ere's where I live. I'll call me mum." He disappeared up a flight of rickety stairs and came back a minute later with a limping, tall, fair-haired woman. Her voice was low. "Ear you're looking fur a place to stay. I've got rooms." She took in all three of them with a curious look. "Can you pay?" John nodded confidently and reached into his pocket. He withdrew his hand seconds later with a look of horror on his face. "Kate!! The munny... it's nowt 'ere!" But Kate didn't hear him. She was too tired, too hungry and slowly crumpled to the ground in a heap. *** Susan Jarrett was shrewd in the ways of the poor. She took the Spences in on what she termed “trust.” Besides, her son was a virtuoso in pick-pocketing and the contents of John's pockets had already been counted out on her table. Had she not taken them in, the Spences would have had to huddle together for warmth under a bridge, or in a churchyard, or perhaps in a shop doorway. And with Kate so near her time, it would have been murder. Not that Susan Jarrett would have had qualms about that, but she instinctively felt there was more money to be made and she wanted her share of it. The room Susan showed the Spences was bare, but it did provide a roof over their heads. A few flour bags furnished a scanty mattress. There was a tiny window, but no water or any other convenience. The only water tap available was a few doors down and this had to serve all of the thousand-odd tenants who lived in that particular court. As for toilet facilities - fifty to sixty people shared two earth-closets. *** John was quiet that next morning. Brooding in a corner of the room, his back was hunched against the wall. More than once he had rechecked his pocket, unable to accept the fact that now his money, as well as his land, was gone. His usual cheer had shriveled up in this skyless place. Moodily he surveyed Kate sleeping on a flour bag and thought of the children they had lost. It wasn't likely this babe would survive either. As for the silver spoon, he grimaced bleakly to himself. All he wanted presently was shelter and food in exchange for some hard work – no more. Was that wrong? Or, and his mouth worked nervously at the thought, had he sold away their very lives? He got up suddenly and moved towards the door. Annie eyed him questioningly from her place on the floor. "Where are you off to, Da?" He forced a smile. "Got to git sum work to feed you and your Mum, Annie girl." He was gone before she could ask more. Kate moaned. It would be her time soon. Annie had helped before. *** John walked and walked. He kept his bearings, determined to find his way home again later. Passing along the polluted edge of the Thames, he watched “mudlarks” – boys who waded into the filthy mud at low tide searching for scraps of iron and lead to sell. If they were lucky, they'd make a few pence to take home to their families. He saw them crouch under the bridges, scraggly, skin-and-bones scarecrows. And he took note of other children sweeping the road clean for any lady or gentleman who wished to cross a begrimed spot, hoping for a charitably thrown halfpenny. What kind of life was this? John clenched his farmer's fists, yet again cursing the day he had sold his land. But it was a helpless curse, as indeed, all human curses are helpless. Black words which do nothing to change a situation. It was always the poor against the rich and who was he? And what now? Kate hungry and cold – Annie hungry and cold – and he, who was he? The streets, full of sellers and buyers, seemed to jeer at him. And he walked all day without finding work. There was no joy in the thought of going back to Kate and Annie – Annie with the hope shining clear out of her eyes. He had no desire to retrace his steps through the winding alleys back to the naked room. And then the evening dusk coughed up a tall, black-bearded man in a dark frock coat and wide-brimmed hat. The man was standing directly in front of the tavern that John had unconsciously been heading for. There was no money. There was only the desire for other men's company – for those who, like himself, were also without work, without food, without money and without hope. The bearded stranger pulled out a book and began speaking. Faces appeared at the pub's windows. "There is a heaven in East London for everyone," he cried, "for everyone who will stop and think and look to Christ as a personal Savior." The words did not mean much to John but the deep voice did carry warmth and conviction. From the pub's doorway a rotten egg flew through the air, almost hitting the wide-brimmed hat. The man stopped speaking and walked on. Bystanders howled with laughter. John's curiosity had now been aroused. Clapping someone on the shoulder, he asked who this man was. "Ey, watch out! Tryin' to pick me pocket, ain't you?" Drunken, sour breath hit him, disgusted him and bitterly reminded him once more of the land he had lost. The wide-brimmed hat was coming his way. John regarded the tall figure intently. To risk being heckled and hit with rotten eggs, the fellow must surely believe in whatever it was he had been trying to say. But then, people were always talking, always bent on persuading others of their point of view. His gaze dropped. What was this man to him, or he to the man, for that matter? Unaware of John's thoughts, however, the man stopped when he reached John, his eyes kind and penetrating. "You're hungry." It was said in a matter-of-fact voice even as his hand reached into a deep pocket, coming out with sixpence. "There's a place where you can buy dinner with this. I'll walk with you." And there was such persuasive authority about the man that John went with him. They passed a number of pubs. By the light of gas jets, men's inflamed faces drifted by. Jeering and drunken women stood propped up against soot-drenched houses. The reek of gin and sweat mingled. Even in the shadow of a benefactor, John felt discouragement descend on him like a heavy, suffocating cloak. Where was he going and how would he ever manage to take care of Kate and Annie and the new baby in this place? The man did not speak as they were walking. Yet a certain affinity was established as they trudged side by side. Every fifth shop they passed was a gin shop. Glancing in John noted the special steps most of these shops had to help even toddlers reach the counter where penny glasses of colored gin could be ordered. Small, misbegotten tykes lolled about on the floor of some of these shops – by-products of alcoholic parents who had nothing else to live for. "Here's where you can eat." "Thank you." John did not know what else to say. "Are you hungry for peace of mind too, man? Are you tired of drinking and such?" John looked at his benefactor doubtfully. Sure he was tired of drinking and wanted peace and food and work and shelter and... he could go on and on. But there was surely more to it than just saying “yes.” Answering shortly, he summed up his whole life in just a few sentences. "I'm new in London. Walked in from the country yesterday. I 'ave a pregnant wife and a small dotter." Rather hopelessly he added a last bit of information. "And all the munny I 'ad was stolen." "What's your name?" The stranger regarded John keenly as he spoke. "John Spence." He almost spit the words out. They sat like gall in his throat. He so despised himself for what he had done. "Well, John Spence, would you like to come to a meeting tonight that might change your life?" As he spoke, he pointed to an empty pub across the way. "I hope to see you there after you eat." Then he shook John's hand and disappeared down the road – vendors, fog and houses alike swallowing him up quickly. *** The dinner was good. John wolved it down even as he guiltily thought of Kate and Annie with every bite. But he'd have to keep up his strength in case there was work to be had. He put a hunk of bread into his pocket as he washed down his last mouthful. He could see that a crowd had gathered across the road in the pub and appeared to be listening to a speaker. John wandered over, curious to hear what was being said. Listening cost nothing and would put him under no obligation to anyone. There was no one who took special notice of him as he took his place on an empty bench near the back. The speaker's piercing voice cut through the room and a long finger pointed convincingly to the door John had just passed through. "Look at that man going down the river." The voice had risen a decibel, ringing the length of the pub. John turned to look, as did everyone else, even though all knew there was no river. "Look at him going down in a boat with the falls just beyond. Now he's got out into the rapids... now the rapids have got a hold of the boat... he is going, going..." The voice rose again. "He's gone over – and he never had a chance." There was a dramatic pause before the finish. "That is the way people are damned. They go on; they are caught by the rapids of time; they don't think; they neglect God; and they are damned. Oh, you who are the Lord's, seek Him while He may be found. Call on Him while He is near." *** Through the maze of alleyways John found his way home late that night. The different twists and turns all looked and smelled alike in their filth and squalor. As he finally trudged up the stairs, he was met by Susan Jarrett. "Your wife 'ad 'er little 'un." Pushing past her, John ran the length of the miserable corridor. The smell of birth met him. Kate lay on a filthy sack in the corner and by her sat Annie, on the floor, holding a small bundle wrapped in a coarse cloth. Annie did not look up as her father came in. It was only when he touched her shoulder that she moved her head. Then it was woodenly. And her voice cracked when she whisper-said, "Mum's dead and so's the babe, Da." Then John cried. It was a bitter, raw cry – a loud, wailing cry – and it brought the other tenants to his door. But they could not help. Every room in the court housed a poor family, and they were all dirty and hungry. Brief in their sentiments, they were briefer in their stay. The only one that remained behind in the end was Susan Jarrett. She wanted to know if the rent was going to be long in coming. Tonelessly John replied, "I'm off fur some work tomorrow." "Your dotter'll 'ave to stay 'ere." There was finality in her tone. "It's all right, Da." Annie's voice was soft. She stroked his arm. "It's all right." He looked at the small bundle she was still clasping and at the inert form of Kate on the sack. There was no world anymore. Or was there? Annie's soft, brown hair hung about her oval face. Incredibly she smiled at him. Flooding over him suddenly was the memory of the man who had given him sixpence and who had spoken kindly. *** The tiny window glimmered faint light that next morning. Annie woke up with a strange sensation within her deepest self. It was not hunger. She knew hunger – it could gnaw in her stomach and hurt. No, this was different. This was grief and this pulled at her heart, weeping and tearing at her soul. It was agony - agony that could not be abated or turned into gladness. Annie swallowed thickly and peered through the thin darkness for Da's form. But there was no one in the room with her. Da had told her last night that he would be up and away early trying to find work. "Rest easy tomorrow, girl," he had said, "I'll be back. Don't you fret! I'll be back." Someone had taken Mum's body and the babe's too, tiny though it was. And Susan had taken away the sacks, hardened with Mum's blood, Mum's life. And now there was nothing. Annie sat up. She was cold. Da had given her a hunk of bread last night and she fingered it absently. It was like that for the next three days. Annie stayed in the room by herself. She walked about a bit, filtering sunlight between her fingers when sunlight hit the tiny window. And she cried often, sleeping between tears, weary with an immense burden of grief. She ate the scraps of food that her father brought her from his haunts around the city. He was not much for talk in the evening. Annie tried to read his face as he sat dejectedly against the wall. Sometimes she would rub his arm, as a kitten might rub up against a leg, she was that starved for affection. Then John would start, looking at Annie with a mixture of guilt and love. "Never mind, Da," she would whisper, "we'll manage. I'll take care of you." There was a pain in John when she mouthed this and he ran his rough right hand through her fine, brown hair and pulled her close with his left. She snuggled by him, feeling somewhat comforted, yet also aware that she was being a comfort herself. *** It was on the morning of the fourth day that Susan came into the room unexpectedly. Annie's heart thudded. Susan had not bothered overly much with them. But they were in her debt; they owed her the rent. Susan spoke from the doorway: "There's a lady downstairs says she might 'ave a job for the likes of you. Wants to 'ave a look-see at you and a small chat." "A job?" From her spot on the floor Annie looked up at Susan dumbfounded. "Right. A job I said. Now get up then and come down with me." "What sort of job?" Annie shook the ragged garment that had once been her mother's dress and then wiped her fingers on the edge of her skirt as she stood up. Susan didn't answer but motioned for her to come, turning back into the bleak corridor. Although apprehensive about offending, Annie repeated her question as they walked down the stairs. "What sort of job?" "'elpin' with 'ousework. Easy work, that. And you get plenty to eat." Annie hadn't been eating much and her small stomach revolted when she walked into the cramped, one-room living quarters where Susan managed with her three children. A smell of fried onions and fish hung about nauseating her whole being. There was a woman in the room, a handsome woman in a rather coarse sort of way. Looking steadily at Annie, she suddenly smiled. "My name is Mrs. Darcy." Swallowing down the bile that had risen to her throat upon entering the room, Annie smiled back. She had to force the smile. She missed Mum and hadn't talked to anyone for days. "I hear you've just come in from the country?" "Yes." Mrs. Darcy, who wore a brown ulster and had a lace shawl draped over her hair, smiled again. Annie thawed under these smiles. With but little prodding Annie told both Mrs. Darcy and Susan her life's story, which took only as long as it takes a dog to wag its tail before it gets a bone. "I need a girl to help with some light work around my house, Annie," Mrs. Darcy said when the girl had finished, "Do you think you'd care to have the job?" Seeing Annie's hesitation, she added, "Of course, you'd be earning a wage. Fair's fair, right? How does four shillings a week sound?" Still Annie wavered. "Me Da," she began. "Listen," Susan said from where she stood in the doorway, "wouldn't it be fine to surprise your poor Da? Suppose Mrs. Darcy comes for you tomorrow mornin'. I'll make sure it's fine with your Da when 'e comes 'ome tomorrow night. See, 'e might not want you to work, girl, 'im being such a good Da and all, but I know you want to 'elp 'im out." Annie took a deep breath. "Can I see 'im Sundays?" Her voice was soft. The two women glanced at each other. "Sure, and I'm sure you could. Why don't you 'ave all your belongin's packed together in a bundle and be ready for Mrs. Darcy in the mornin'." "I 'ave no belongin's except this." Annie indicated her threadbare, thin frock. "Well then," and Mrs. Darcy responded as if it were a normal thing, "we'll just have to see about getting you something better." Annie moved towards the door, ready to go back to her room, but Susan stopped her. "Why not go out and sit on the steps for a bit. You've been in such a long time and you're such a good girl, Annie. I'm sure your Da, 'e wouldn't mind." The sunshine was pleasant. Annie squinted in the bright warmth of the day. Wouldn't Da be surprised and right pleased to hear that she had a job. And new clothes! Although maybe the woman would only get her an apron. But even that would be pleasant. Wouldn't Mum have been proud to see her in something decent! She fingered her worn skirt absently. Perhaps today Da would come home and tell her that he had a job too. That would be even better. With deep intuition she knew that Da needed to have a job more than she did. He needed it to keep his self-respect. The sun shone warmly and at this precise moment she was sure that things would end well. She surveyed her surroundings, soaking up the rays. Ah, but things were dirty here in the city. The gutter carried slop and there was a small nipper crawling in it. They had been poor as long as she could remember, but Mum had always made sure that she was clean and Mum had never let her muck about in the dirt like that. "'Ello." Annie startled. There was another girl at the bottom of the steps quietly eyeing her. "'Ello," she offered back with a timid smile. "Your new 'ere then? My name's Eliza. What's your name?" "Annie." "Wot your doin', Annie, sittin' 'ere in daylight. Got no work then?" "I'm startin' work tomorrow." There was so much pride in Annie's rejoinder that the other girl laughed. "That so? I work in a factory. That is, I did work in a factory. It shut down. Wouldn't mind so much but the munny see, we need the munny." Annie nodded. She understood that. Eliza continued. "We used to live down south of 'ere. It was in a coal-minin' town. Mum took us, Tansy, Maude and me, down into the pit early in the mornin'. Carried baskets on our shoulders. When we got way down the men would fill our baskets with coal, big 'eavy pieces they was, and we'd go up agin. Dark it was in them pits." Eliza shivered involuntarily. Annie did too and asked, "'Ow did you see in them dark pits?" "Oh, me Mum, she'd 'ave a candle between 'er teeth. We'd foller 'er. At the top we'd empty the coal and then go down fur another load. We weren't allowed to rest ever." She emphasized the last word and spit on the ground after she said it as a gesture of contempt. Annie took a hunk of bread out of her pocket. Da had given it to her the night before. "Want to 'ave sum?" Eliza's troubled look disappeared. She grinned broadly. "Sure." *** Da was quiet again that night. Annie was sorely tempted to tell him about her job but remembered what Susan had said and did not. She did kiss his stubbly cheek telling him things would be better, no matter what. She told him too that she'd been allowed to sit on the steps and that she'd made a friend. She could see Da begin to relax a bit and thought of how happy he would be when she gave him her first wages. "I've been goin' to sum meetin's." Not looking at Annie at all, John spoke softly, almost to himself. "What meetin's Da?" Annie was interested. Her father rarely informed her as to how he spent his days. "Well," John shifted his position against the thin, cardboard wall, coughing and thinking simultaneously. He wasn't too sure about his subject matter. "Well, meetin's where they tell you about Jesus and 'ow to live." "You mean your goin' to a church, Da?" Annie was awed. Back home church had only been for the rich – only for those who had proper clothes to wear. Mum had told her a bit about how God wanted people to live. She understood that God wanted you to do things that were right – things like not stealing, not cheating and not using bad language. Her father's voice stopped her train of thought. "No, Annie. No." Shaking his head, not at all familiar with the vernacular on which he was about to embark, John continued hesitantly. "Not likely the church back 'ome would allow sum of the men I've seen in these meetin's to come. The people that go are poor, Annie. Just like us." "Where's these meetin's, Da?" "Well, I've been to three and they've all been in a hall." He grinned a bit as he spoke and went on. "They call it a hall, but it's really a pub." "A pub?" Annie was incredulous. "Why, Da? That's not a real church." "Annie," John Spence turned his head to face his daughter directly, "many's the time I thought God cared nowt fur me. I didn't blame 'Im. I didn't care fur 'Im either. I cared fur drink. But I did work 'ard on the land." He stared down at his hands and went on.   "But I just warn't important. I 'ad no munny. Anyway, munny don't count, Annie." He stopped, not certain of the point he wanted to make. Annie's eyes were glued to his face. Speaking haltingly, he ended the discourse. "Anyone can talk to God, Annie, anytime and anywhere. That's prayer, Annie. God wants us to talk to 'Im. 'E loves to 'ear us speak to 'Im and 'e always wants to 'elp us fur 'e loves us. And you can't 'elp prayin' if 'e loves you." Looking at his daughter rather helplessly, John Spence wanted to say more, wanted to impart the change he felt had come over his heart. It was a long speech he had made, and he wasn't at all sure he had told Annie these things properly – things that were becoming more and more important to him every passing day. But he comforted himself with the thought that he would tell her more as time went on, and that he would soon be able to take her to the meetings. "Aren't you lookin' fur work no more Da?" Annie's voice was perplexed. She had not understood what he had just said. "Annie, at the meetin' I met this man. 'Is name is Will Marley. 'E's thinkin' that a gardener, 'andyman of sorts, is needed at this place 'e knows. "E'll tell me tomorrow." He smiled at her and Annie was sorely tempted to tell him that she had a job too. But the thought of the surprise come Sunday, when she would lay her wages in Da's hands, was even more tempting. "I'm so glad, Da," she whispered, "I knew you would get a job." "I got summat fur you, Annie." John pulled out a small book. "I got this from Will. I was shamed to tell 'im I couldn't read. But you kin read – leastways a little bit." Annie took the book and looked at it curiously. Turning the pages she saw verses and songs. "Why, Da, this 'ere's a songbook. Do you sing songs at the pub?" "Lots of singin' there, Annie. I'm goin' to take you soon – as soon as the job's settled and we've paid Susan." *** Susan came to the room to fetch her down the next morning. Mrs. Darcy, imposing in the severe, brown ulster and lace shawl, was waiting like a sentinel at the bottom of the stairs. She smiled at Annie again. It was rather a stiff smile but it still made Annie think of her Mum. Leaving Da behind wihtout a word was hard. But Susan had assured her again on the landing that it was for the best. "I'll tell 'im - don't you make a fuss now! I'll tell 'im about what's 'appened, and 'e'll thank 'is good fortune fur your common sense." "Ready, Annie?" The brown ulster moved towards the door. Annie moved too, a little uncertainly. Outside, on the feeble flight of the entry stairs, she breathed in the morning air. Eliza was sitting at the bottom of the steps. Mrs. Darcy avoided touching her by holding her skirts to the side as she passed, walking quickly ahead. "Ello, Annie. You're off then?" "Yes." Annie was stiff in her nervousness. "Your off with the likes of 'er?" Eliza pointed a thumb at Mrs. Darcy who was already about twenty feet down the alley. "Yes," Annie whispered, "she's goin' to buy me sum new clothes." Almost running to catch up with her fairy godmother, she threw one more sentence over her shoulder, "'Ope I see you agin, Eliza." But Eliza began running too and tugged at Annie's ragged skirt. "Annie!" Annie turned. Eliza's face was contorted – funny-like. It almost seemed as if she were going to cry. "Don’t go Annie." Annie smiled. "It's nowt to bother yourself about, Eliza. I'm comin' back to see Da on Sunday and I'll see you too." Annie didn't turn again. She visited heaven that morning. Mrs. Darcy took her to a dress shop where a lady outfitted her from head to foot: a reddish frock, a cape and a hat. The only thing that puzzled her was the fact that these did not appear to be working clothes. When she asked Mrs. Darcy about this, she did not receive a clear answer. "Mr. Darcy, he's what you might call a little fastidious. He likes to see girls neat and trim." Annie didn't know what fastidious was, but on the whole she gloried in the feel of the new material on her body. Wouldn't Mum have been proud. And that almost brought the tears. It was early afternoon when Mrs. Darcy hailed a cabby and holding on to Annie's hand, stepped up into the carriage. Annie felt quite the lady in the four-wheeler. She'd ridden in a neighbor's cart before, and that on bumpy country lanes. The sky had been the canopy and the trees and the grass had waved. And Mum and Da had laughed. There were those tears again. She felt the new frock's warmth and fingered the material for comfort. "Where are we 'eadin' now, Mrs. Darcy?" Mrs. Darcy hadn't said much all morning. Annie had caught blue eyes staring at herself several times with a most peculiar expression. It frightened her. She had expected to be in a kitchen by this time, perhaps scrubbing pans or dusting shelves or sweeping some steps. "Mrs. Darcy, please, where are we 'eadin' fur now?" Mrs. Darcy's eyes slowly focused on the girl. "To another lady, Annie – a friend of mine. She's a doctor of sorts. She's going to give you an examination." The word examination scared Annie terribly. She shifted away into the cabby's corner unconsciously eyeing the door. Mrs. Darcy went on. "You see, when you work for people that, well, that are a little more well-to-do, you have to be healthy. So she'll check you over. Make sure that you're not sick." She paused and her voice rose a little as she continued. "So, you're to do what she tells you. Do you understand, Annie?" Annie nodded. She was confused and not at all happy anymore. "Number 36 Millwood." The driver opened the cab door and they alighted. Annie felt her hand being taken again, firmly, and the hint of unease which had overtaken her in the cabby turned her stomach sour. "Is this where your friend lives, Mrs. Darcy?" "Yes, Annie. And please remember what I told you. Do everything she tells you." *** It was dark and dank in the room. Heavy drapes hung on the windows. In spite of her new clothes, Annie shivered. "Annie, this is Mrs. Broughton, the lady who will examine you." Annie regarded a heavy woman whose wheezing breath came quickly. She had no smile, but only pointed to a screened-off partition in the far corner of the room. Annie rigidly moved towards it feeling awkward. There was a bed behind the partition. The examination lasted less than five minutes. As Annie re-arranged her clothes, she did not hear Mrs. Broughton's low aside to Mrs. Darcy. "You got your money's worth. She's a virgin." In a louder voice the woman carried on, "That'll be twenty shillings, if you please." Mrs. Darcy paid. Annie would not look at Mrs. Brougton as she unsteadily made her way towards the door. In the hall she somberly stated: "Your friend is a dirty, fat woman and I wouldn't 'ave come if I 'ad known what she was goin' to do. I don't think my Da would like it either." Mrs. Darcy took her hand. "Now, Annie – an examination is never pleasant. But it's over now and we'll go for another ride in a cab. You like that, don't you?" Annie didn't answer. And the new frock began to feel hot and heavy. Outside she shakily took in great gulps of air. The cabby was still there, waiting. In the shadows of the bushes by the side of the road, Annie thought she saw the form of a girl. It very much minded her of Eliza. She peered and would have walked that way, but Mrs. Darcy's hand imprisoned her own, pulling her strongly towards the cabby. "Come on, Annie. Don't dawdle!" The cabby drove briskly through the warmth of the summer afternoon. Loud cries of vendors selling their wares stridently grated past them. Annie could see calico blinds on the windows of the many tenements they passed. Some windowsills held penny flower bunches in cracked vases. These were all homes and belonged to different families that had Mums and other children. "Ave we long to go?" Mrs. Darcy turned her shawl-wrapped face towards Annie. "We're almost there, Annie." There was something in her eyes which made Annie refrain from asking any more questions. *** There was a garden. Annie could see it straightway when the cabby stopped, and in spite of the high walls which surrounded the house, and in spite of her growing discomfort, this garden made her glad. She had been born and bred outside the city and the sight of green was like an old friend waiting. But the dwelling itself was foreboding and scowlingly large in dimension. Indeed, it seemed quite too large for just two people like Mrs. Darcy and her husband to occupy by themselves. The cab-driver opened the carriage door and, after stepping down, Mrs. Darcy paid the man. "Do you live 'ere alone?" Annie's timid inquiry brought a strange smile to Mrs. Darcy's face. She did not answer Annie's question, but took her by the hand again, through the gate, up a stone walk to a big front door. There was no one behind the door. Somehow, taking into account the size of the immense house confronting her, Annie had expected several people behind the door – people like butlers, maids and housekeepers. But there was no one. Immediately behind the door was a steep, thin stairway. And the whole area smelled faintly of gas mixed with something sweet, minding her of dying flowers. Mrs. Darcy pushed Annie towards the stairs. "Up you go, Annie. I'll show you to your room." "You mean I'm to 'ave a room?" The child was overcome with amazement. Where she came from entire families lived in rooms, not single Annie Spences. Behind her Mrs. Darcy grinned. She slapped Annie's small behind playfully. "Yes, you get your very own room." The stairs led to a long, narrow hallway with many doors. The hallway was not empty. Several girls, all in silk dresses, stared at Annie. Some eyed her with curiosity, some with apathy and some with pity. Annie felt uncomfortable. Did they all work here? She suddenly wanted to leave and abruptly turned, only to find Mrs. Darcy right behind her – Mrs. Darcy, suddenly a wall, like the wall around the garden. "I'll show you your room, Annie." It was not an invitation but a command. She walked on even as one of the girls tittered. Then several laughed out loud. One bowed to another, saying in a falsetto voice, "Your room, your majesty – your very own room." Determined, Annie turned around once more encountering the cold eyes of Mrs. Darcy. She swallowed audibly before speaking. "Mrs. Darcy, you can 'ave your clothes back. No disrespeck intended but I'd rather talk to Da furst." But even as her mind formulated the words and her mouth said them she knew inside herself with a deep, desperate fear, that there was no going back – perhaps not ever. There was no response. There was only a firm push towards the first door in the hallway on the right. The room behind the hallway door held a bed, a dresser and a chair. Staining that bed was a red, silk dress. Mrs. Darcy closed the door behind them and moved towards the bed. Taking off her gloves slowly, she sat down heavily on its edge. The dress lay next to her. "I want you to listen to me very carefully, Annie Spence. Annie stood with her back against the wall and saw that Mrs. Darcy's penetrating eyes had turned an icy-blue. They were totally devoid of the smile which had initially won Annie's confidence the day before. "You're a big girl now and you can't go back to your Da. I want you to put on this pretty, red dress and in a little while I'll bring you up a bite to eat. This evening a gentleman friend will come up to visit you." A horrible realization came over Annie. She was only twelve, but through the years she had seen her mother bear child after child. "I want nowt to do with no gentleman," she whispered hoarsely. Mrs. Darcy just regarded her. Annie's hands nervously twisted together and she footslogged over to the chair. The dress appeared as repulsive to her as Mrs. Darcy. Her thin hands unclasped and clutched the arm of the wooden chair. And a great anger overcame her: anger at the lies she had been told, anger at her own foolishness for believing them, and anger at Mrs. Darcy for telling them. Before she knew it, she had lifted the chair above her head and had heaved it with all her might at the woman sitting on the bed. But Mrs. Darcy ducked and came at her, pulling a white kerchief from her pocket as she did so. Managing to grab Annie's arm and snatching her close, she pushed the kerchief against Annie's face. There was a sickly-sweet odor. It nauseated the girl. Slowly losing consciousness, she was oblivious to the fact that Mrs. Darcy summoned another girl from the hall into the room. She was also entirely unaware that between the two of them they undressed her, slipping her childish, inert body into the red dress. "She might be a touch one," Mrs. Darcy declared thoughtfully, "Maybe I can frighten her with... well, I'll see... a little hunger and loneliness won't hurt. We'll give it some time. *** John came home fairly early that evening, his step more buoyant than it had been for the last few days. Will had said after the meeting today that he could bring his Annie over tonight and that the job was sure. "Ere, man," he'd said, “'ere's sum munny to get that Jarrett woman off your back." When John had stared at him in a somewhat bewildered way, he had added, "A room cums with the job, John. Yourself and your Annie can share it – and I'm certain the Morrows will 'ave sum work about the 'ouse fur Annie too." The meetings were becoming less and less foreign to John. Tonight he had watched a newly-converted man roll a beer barrel from his house and tip its contents down the gutter. He'd also seen others, risking ridicule, confess their sins up at the front, kneeling down at what was called the “Penitent form.” Perhaps all these things wouldn't have made such an impression on him but that Will Marley had been such a friend. Every day asking him how was he doing and how was Annie? Every day sharing his bread, and what he had wasn't much. Every day promising to look out for work. Will was a chairmender. He rolled his barrow through the streets of London crying “chairs to mend – chairs to mend.” He'd given John a detailed account of how he'd been a chimney sweep as a lad of six. "Me Da, 'e died of the cholera when I was a tad. Mum needed the munny. The advertisement asked for small boys to fit narrow flues. I was small all right. Only got one meal a day. 'Ad to start work at four every mornin'. The master sweep would put a calico mask over me face and a scraper in me 'ands. Then 'e'd push me up the chimney where I'd 'ave to loosen soot fur 'im. If I fell, and I did that, the sweep would put me 'ands in a salt solution to 'eal and 'arden them. Oh, John, the sting of it! I can still feel it. Then I began to drink. Me poor Mum saw little of the munny I earned. Then I quit the sweepin' and started snatchin' dogs from people, wealthy people mind you, and sellin' them. Then I saw a man 'ang outside Warwick gaol. And it came to me that that man could be me. Then I 'eard this fellow, Elijah Cadman, speak. 'E used to be a fighter – a regular boxer like – and 'e spoke about 'eaven and 'ell as if they were over in the next alley. Anyway, I got the call. God moved me, you might say, and I got into a straight business, chair mendin', and 'ere I am.” John didn't quite understand the rationale behind all of Will's story. But he did understand that Will was helping him, was feeding him, and would put Annie and himself up for the night. He'd reached Susan Jarrett's place. It would be the last time that he'd run up these rotten stairs. "Annie's Da?" A small voice called to him from below. There was a girl with red hair and she looked to be about Annie's age. It came to him that Annie had spoken of a friend last night. Maybe this was the girl. He smiled. "You know me Annie?" "Well, she's not 'ere any more. She was taken away." The girl's voice was breathless, shaking a bit in the telling. John walked down the stairs again, towards her. "Wot's your name, child?" "Eliza." She faced him candidly, blinking at the fierceness of his rising voice but not backing away from it. "Wot do you mean, Eliza, by wot you just said?" "I mean that Annie, your girl, she's gone. Left fur a job. She told me yesterday that she 'ad a job. So I came out this mornin' to say goodbye and she left with this woman and, and..." Eliza stopped, swallowed and then haltingly continued. "The woman, the woman – well, she was bad." "Bad?" John's knuckles showed white as she gripped the edge of the splintered railing, leaning closer towards the girl. "She was no good. I know when someone's no good. She 'ad this walk. I tried to tell Annie, but this woman told 'er to come." "Why would Annie leave without tellin' me? She always tells me wot she's about. Wait 'ere, Eliza." John turned and ran up the steps to the Jarretts' room. Susan met him in the hall. "'Ome are you, John?" "Susan, where's Annie?" "Annie? Why, in your room, I suppose." "'Ave you looked?" She stared him straight in the eye, lifting her eyebrows in a perplexed way, and John was puzzled. Was Annie there after all and was the girl outside leading him on? He ran past Susan up the steps, three at a time, to the second floor. The wood creaked and moaned under his weight. The flimsy door opened and stayed where he flung it against the wall. There was not even a hint of Annie in the room. There was only the bareness of the place. The cracks in the wall - the small, dingy window – the lingering odor of death – but no Annie. He turned and walked back, walked slowly this time, thinking. Susan was still in the hall. "Did you find Annie then?" "No." His answer was short and terse. "Where do you suppose the girl would go?" Susan's voice was sympathetic and once more he wondered. She had, after all, let them stay here and they owed her. "Eliza says a woman came and took 'er away today." "A woman?" "Yes." "Didn't see no woman come 'ere. But I told Annie she could sit on the steps. Maybe sum woman come by. I wouldn't rightly know." John changed the subject. "Got your rent, Susan, and maybe sum besides." Her eyes never left his face. "That so, John. Well, I reckon it's about time." Her expression didn't change, but her heart thought of the two pounds Mrs. Darcy had given her and how it was hidden away in the torn part of the chair in her room. John counted out the money into her palm and walked away. "If you 'ear," he said and she nodded again smiling all the while, but condemning him for a fool in her heart. Eliza was still standing where John had left her. He sat down on the bottom step, his eyes on her face. In a cracked voice he mumbled, "She's gone. You spoke true." "I know." Eliza's tone was soft and she stood by him quietly. "I got me a job today. A decent job and I took the pledge too. I'm not goin' to drink any more." The girl sat down next to him. "Annie's da," she divulged slowly, "I know wherabouts she is." Incredulously he lifted his head and turned to face her. "You know where me Annie is?" She nodded and continued, "I follered 'er and that lady today. She got sum new clothes and then I 'ad to run quite 'ard to foller because they took a cabby, but I know the street and the 'ouse they stopped at. And then they got back in the cabby again and I follered again to another 'ouse. It's a big place she's at." John gaped at her. "Will you take me there, Eliza?" "Can't now, Annie's Da. Me Mum's always in a dreadful 'uff if I ain't 'ome in time at night. But tomorrow I'll take you." "Thank you, Eliza." There was a faint glimmer of hope in his eyes. "First think in the mornin'?" "I'll be 'ere, waitin' fur you, Annie's Da." There was not a shadow of a doubt in John's mind as he walked out of the alley, that he could trust Eliza. There was that about her, just as there was not that about Susan Jarrett. He'd go to Will's place now. There'd be a corner for him there. He knew there would be. *** Annie woke uneasily in the bed. The ceiling overhead leered at her. Pink it was, and the plaster was peeling dreadfully. Her head was sore and her mouth felt dry. She ran her tongue over her lips. "Awake then, are you?" Mrs. Darcy's voice brought it all back to Annie. She raised her head painfully, suddenly aware that she was wearing the scarlet dress. It was unpleasant to her touch and she shrank from herself. Mrs. Darcy stood up. "I hope that you've calmed down a bit, Annie. I stayed with you just to make sure you're all right." Annie studied her distrustfully. "I want nowt to do with you. I want to go to me Da." "Your Da's a poor man, Annie. He's not got enough to feed you properly. Besides, he won't want you back once you're spent time here." "Me Da always wants me." Annie's voice rose in defense. "Do you know where you are, Annie?" "I'm, I'm...." She stopped, confused. "You're in a brothel, Annie, in a house of ill repute, a house where bad girls stay. Do you understand, Annie? Once you've stayed here, everyone will think that you're bad. No one will want you anymore." "Me Da will, 'e ...." "Your Da thinks you're lost and after a few days he won't bother looking any more. He'll think you've drowned in the Thames or some other river. He'll give up looking for you, Annie. Do you understand?" Annie put her head down, turning her body away from Mrs. Darcy. She hated the woman with her whole being. "Annie, if you don't do what I say, the same thing will happen to you that happens to other girls who don't do what I say. You will be doped, put to sleep, and put into a coffin. I have coffins downstairs, Annie. The lid will be nailed down right on top of you. Then you will be shipped to another country where you might not know the language and you will never come back here. I would sell you as a slave, Annie." Mrs. Darcy's voice dropped.  "Imagine that trip in a coffin, Annie. Close walls suffocating you and you not able to move, maybe not for days. And you'll claw at the wood around you and scream. But," and she paused dramatically, her voice dropping another decibel, "no one will hear you and no one will care!" Annie listened in horror. Clenching her thin fists, she buried her face in the bedspread. "I see that you're thinking things over." Mrs. Darcy's voice was smooth as the silk on Annie's dress and twice as repulsive. "I'll be back in the morning and we'll talk some more." As soon as the door clicked into its lock behind Mrs. Darcy, Annie was off the bed. She padded over to the window and peered down into the dusky garden. How glad she had been to see it initially. It so made her think of the country. She pulled at the latch to open the window but it stayed fast. She turned, surveying the room, her very own room, and grimaced. Bending low she peeked under the bed. There was nothing there, barring the dust. The clothes that Mrs. Darcy had bought for her that morning were gone. The chair held nothing. She stepped towards it and the silken dress rustled as she went. But then her right foot struck something. It was the songbook Da had given her, lying by the chair on the floor. It must have fallen out of her pocket as they undressed her. She picked the little volume up, cradling it in her hands. Da had carried it and it was like touching him for a moment. Weakly Annie walked over to the chair and sat down, all the while clutching the small tome. Da had really wanted her to have it. He had changed since they'd come to London. It wasn't just the grief he felt over Mum. No, he was changed in a different way. And somehow, it had to do with this book. She caressed it with her hand, feeling its cover, feeling Da's rough hand holding her own. Then she opened it. There was something written on the flyleaf. She spelled out the words slowly: I call on you, O God, for You will answer me. What strange words! What exactly had it been that Da had said to her about these meetings anyway? There had been something about talking to God. But what was she sitting here for, thinking about these things, when she should be figuring out how to get away. It was dark already. Would Da be home now and coming into their room? And what would he think with her gone? Susan Jarrett would tell him that she had a job – or would she tell him something else? That part was muddled in her mind. Da would likely miss her and come searching for her. Wouldn't he? Annie got up and walked back to the window again. Her hands explored the latch carefully. She pulled and poked. Her nails scraped around the edges to possibly loosen things a bit. But nothing moved – nothing gave way. There was not even a hint of a creak to suggest that perhaps in time the window might open. She turned and went over to the door. Gingerly her hands touched the handle. It came down a little, but then stopped. The lock was secure. She bent to peer through the keyhole, but there was only darkness. Then hopelessness gripped Annie so that her whole being became ill with fear. She threw herself onto the bed and wept and wept. And no one came to comfort her. Annie finally fell asleep. It had been a long day and she was exhausted. But her sleep was fitful and she continually whimpered in her dreams. She saw Da walking away from her, his form exuding disappointment. She saw Mum, tired and heavy, walking the road to London. Mum wouldn't raise her eyes to Annie's face, wouldn't give her even a bit of a smile. She felt the weight of the dead infant in her arms again and then Susan Jarrett shoved her about with a broom, shouting all the while, "You're a wicked girl – a most wicked girl." *** It was almost dawn when Annie opened her eyes. She turned her head slowly, fearing to see Mrs. Darcy back on the chair guarding her. But there was no one. Her hands felt cold and cramped and, looking down at them, she discovered that she was still clasping the songbook. She had done so all night. "Anyone can talk to God, anytime and anywhere. That's prayer, Annie. God wants us to talk to 'Im. 'E loves to 'ear us speak to 'Im and 'e always wants to 'elp us, for 'e loves us. And you can't 'elp prayin' if 'e loves you." It was as if her Da was in the room with her. The words resounded in her mind. And a great desire was born in her to speak with Da's God. "Wot will I say, Da?" she whispered, "Wot will I say? Can I say wotever I've a mind to say. Can I ask 'Im anything?" Sitting up in the bed, she shivered and turned her head towards the closed window. Then, swinging her feet over the edge, she cautiously began to speak. "Ello, God. Me name's Annie Spence. I'm locked up in this room and this is a bad place to be in." She stopped and sobbed. Saying the way things were sounded harsh and she was afraid of this morning. Then she stopped crying and went on. "Me Da, 'e told me this was prayin' - leastways I think that's wot 'e meant. So if I'm not doin' it right, I'm sorry. I'm so scared, God, of Mrs. Darcy and I shouldn't 'ave gone with 'er without tellin' Da. Maybe I'll never see 'im again." She stopped to blow her nose into the bed covering. "I don't know wot to do, God. And I don't know 'ow to end talkin' to You neither. Maybe I can talk to You agin sometime." A bird sang faintly outside. Annie got up, stretched her arms and legs and plodded over to the window. She put her hand up to the pane, hoping to maybe catch a glimpse of feathers. Lightly her left hand rested on the pane as she peered, and noiselessly the window slid open towards the outside. The small book felt warm and alive in her right hand. The bird sang again – louder this time. Annie smiled. "I love You, God. Can You 'elp me jump down too, please?" The distance down below to the garden was frightening. Annie swallowed audibly, her eyes widening at the drop. It was high – a good twenty feet at least. She turned and brought the chair over to the window. Climbing onto it, she was able to scoot onto the sill, advancing her feet precariously over the outside edge. There were voices in the hall. Annie shut her eyes and felt herself drop. Then everything went black. *** "Annie! Annie! Wake up. Annie, please, we ain't got much time." Annie moaned. Her eyes opened half-way. A face swam into focus – a friend's face. She knew who it was but could not think of the name. "Annie! It's me, Eliza." The voice carried great urgency. "Eliza?" The name crept around in Annie's mind. She didn't understand what had just happened. "That was some jump, Annie. I shut my eyes when I saw wot you 'ad in mind to do. But it's time to get up now. We've got to get goin'. Your Da's so worried." Annie mind cleared a bit. "Da? Is me Da 'ere?" "Your Da's comin' fur you this mornin', but not if you don't get up." Exasperated Eliza pulled at Annie's arms. "Ere, I'll 'elp you." Annie half-sat up, still unsure of what to do. Eliza supported her under her armpits when she tried to stand. "Me leg! I've 'urt me leg, Eliza!" Annie almost sat down again. "If you don't walk soon, sore leg and all, they'll nab you and put you back in, Annie. Please try to walk! 'Ere, put your arm about my neck then." Annie did, but she almost gagged when she took the first few steps. "Eliza, 'ave we got far to go?" "Soon's we're out of sight of the 'ouse, Annie, we'll find a place to rest. But we got to move quickly, see, or they'll be after us." They moved through the garden – Annie hobbling and leaning heavily on Eliza. The gate was open and the street lay before them. Early vendors trudged about. A flower girl, bare, dirty feet showing under an equally dirty, tattered skirt was setting up a stall. A few women, clad only in soiled petticoats, were on their way to factories. Pitiless morning light showed their faces dull and devoid of emotion. They simply walked. The hot-baked-potato man was doling out breakfast to a group of sweeps. "Ey there!" one of them called out as Eliza and Annie passed, 'Aint you out a bit early fur business!" They all guffawed and Eliza's arm about Annie tightened protectively. "Eliza, your a good friend. And I only just met you yesterday. I'm so glad you 'elped me." Eliza shrugged. "I 'ad nothin' better to do anyway." "Wot did me Da think, Eliza, when 'e found out I warn't 'ome?" "'E went in and talked to Susan and she told 'im that she didn't know where you were. That you were sittin' on the porch and most likely wandered off." "But she told me she'd tell Da I was workin'." Annie stopped walking. Indignation blazed out of her eyes. "She told me..." Her voice trailed off. Eliza prodded her with her shoulder to keep on walking. "She got paid, Annie. This woman you went with...." "You mean Mrs. Darcy?" "Whatever 'er name was. She pays people. She pays nursemaids, charwomen and others like Susan Jarrett, to tell 'er about lost, young girls that might be good prospects for 'er 'ouse like. Me sister, she was spoken to by this lady dressed up as a nun. Real sweet-faced lady she was. But she warn't no nun. And she doped up Maude, that's me sister, and when she come to there was this man in a room with 'er...." Annie gasped. "Wot 'appened, Eliza?" "You don't know our Maude, Annie. She made like she was crazy. Foamed at the mouth. Tore at 'er 'air. The man thought she'd escaped from an asylum and 'e left. They let 'er go after that." Annie sighed. "I threw a chair at Mrs. Darcy, but it didn't 'elp much. Can we sit a minnut, Eliza?" Annie's leg throbbed more at every step. Eliza anxiously looked over her shoulder. "I suppose we'd 'ave known by now, 'ad they come after you. Sit then, but only fur a minnut or so." Gratefully Annie sank down at the side of the road. The red dress was ripped and soiled. She felt unclean in it. "Me clothes are gone, Eliza." "Not to be 'elped." "'Ow did you know where I was?" "I follered you yesterday. You sure traveled! I was about wore out with follerin'. I told your Da I'd take 'im over as soon as it was light, but I couldn't sleep last night, worryin' they might take you somewheres else. So I spent part of the night in the bushes in the garden. Lucky I woke to see you swingin' your legs over the edge of the winder. Lucky too, you didn't break your neck." Annie squeezed Eliza's hand and got back up. *** It took them two hours to reach Eliza's place. Annie's wrenched ankle was swollen out of proportion by this time and Eliza was half carrying her. It was the same alley that Susan Jarrett lived in. The room Eliza shared with her family wasn't much better than the one Annie had shared with her Da. There were two straw mattresses in a corner on the floor and the small wooden table held a cup with a small bunch of mignonette. The greenish-white flowers welcomed Annie as she gratefully sank onto the straw. "I'll go and look for your Da now, Annie. Why don't you sleep a bit?" Annie didn't even hear the admonition. She was already asleep, sore leg stretched out in front of her. *** John Spence was sitting on the bottom steps of Susan Jarrett's stairs, head leaning heavily on his hands. He did not hear Eliza coming and startled to hear the sound of her voice. "Annie's Da!" He jumped to his feet directly. "I'm ready to go when you are, Eliza." "No need, Annie's Da. She's at my place, sleepin'." John stomach lurched. "She's all right then? Me Annie, she's all right?" "Well, she's 'urt 'er foot a mite. But fur the rest I think she'll do fine." "Where do you live, Eliza?" Eliza glanced up at the stairs. In the morning dawn, she thought she detected a shadow figure on the landing. Motioning John to follow her, she told him all that had happened in the small hours of the day, but only after they had put some space between themselves and Susan Jarrett's house. *** Annie was sleeping soundly. The red, besmirched dress covered her childish form poorly. John knelt down on the floor and touched her arm. She opened her eyes slowly and made as if she were about to cry. "Da! Oh, Da! I've lost the book!" He gently stroked her hair. "Wot book, Annie?" "The one you gave me, Da. I lost it when I jumped and now it's gone." "Never mind, Annie! Never mind!" John had never been one for hugging. He'd never been able to say much about love. But now words tumbled from his mouth as if they had always been there. And maybe they had. "Annie, girl, when I come 'ome and you were gone I cried... and I prayed...." Annie touched his hands. "I know, Da. I know. I understand wot you meant about prayer, Da." Her eyes were shining, full of understanding. "'E opened the winder fur me, Da. And now we can begin agin." Mrs. Darcy, bird, and songbook pictures are by Charity Bylsma. Christine Farenhorst has a new book out, “Listen! Six men you should know,” with biographies on an intriguing selection of famous figures: Norman Rockwell, Sigmund Freud, Samuel Morse, Rembrandt, Albert Schweitzer, and Martin Luther King Jr. You can find it via online retailers including Dortstore.com....

Politics

Chief Concern With Conversion Therapy Law

Drawing on history and imagination, André Schutten “interviews” former Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker about Conservative Party failure to properly oppose the new legislation. ***** On December 1st, I watched in stunned disbelief as the Conservative Party of Canada proposed, and then unanimously supported, a motion to expedite the Liberal’s Bill C-4, an act to amend the criminal code in order to ban conversion therapy. In less than 30 seconds, a bill that will profoundly impact religious communities and members of the LGBTQ community, and threatens to undermine fundamental freedoms in disturbing ways, skipped over the entire Parliamentary procedure of the House of Commons: second reading and debate, Justice committee study with experts and stakeholders, report stage, final debate and the third reading vote. Six days later, the Senate – that supposed chamber of sober second thought – repeated the gimmick, with Conservative Senator Housakos, the acting leader of the opposition in the Senate – putting forward a motion for the unanimous consent of the Senate to pass the bill without any study or deliberation. To my knowledge, never has a piece of criminal legislation sailed through both houses of Parliament without any study whatsoever. In reflecting on the past week, one of my thoughts is how far the leadership of this conservative party has fallen from more principled days in opposition, like those of the Right Honourable John Diefenbaker. I could only imagine him angrily chastising the party he led from December 1956 to September 1967 for what they had done (or more accurately, what they had failed to do) in the House of Commons in the late afternoon of December 1st, 2021. So, I decided to posthumously interview the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition (1956-57, 1963-67) and former Prime Minister (1957-1963) to get his thoughts. ***** André Schutten: Mr. Diefenbaker, thank you so much for agreeing to this rather unconventional sort of interview. It’s not my regular habit to interview or consult the dead. The Right Honourable John Diefenbaker: You ought to be careful young man. King Saul didn’t fare so well after consulting the ghost of Samuel. But I really don’t mind being disturbed this time. I was rolling in my grave anyway. AS: I can only imagine. For the benefit of our readers, let me set the context. On Monday, Justice Minister David Lametti tabled Bill C-4 in the House of Commons. This bill proposes to criminalize a practice known as conversion therapy and expands on two previous bills from the prior Parliament (Bill C-8 and Bill C-6). Many critics of the bill, including feminist groups, doctors, religious leaders, and freedom advocates, have winsomely engaged in the debate over this issue for the past two years. The big issue with the bill is not whether to ban conversion therapy. All agree on that point. The issue turns on the definition: the definition of conversion therapy in the bill is very broad and goes well beyond capturing the coercive and tortuous practices that have been long discredited. Fix the definition, say the critics (and I am one of them), and you fix the bill. JD: Yes, I follow. But I overheard some of the Conservative Members of Parliament saying – a pathetic excuse, honestly – that they were only returning the same bill to the place in the Parliamentary proceedings that it was at when the election was called? AS: It is a little unnerving that the ghost of John Diefenbaker is listening in on Conservative caucus deliberations. JD: It would be good for them to know. Most of them would do well to consider the afterlife… AS: Indeed. But yes, the excuse that they were just returning the bill to where it was before the election is misleading for two reasons: first, this is a new Parliament, so any government that wants to retable a bill always starts over. But more importantly, this isn’t the same bill. The Liberal government fundamentally changed this bill, increasing the breadth of the ban, even banning spiritual counselling for consenting adults and banning “wait-and-see” approaches to gender dysphoria in young kids. This bill tramples freedom: freedom of expression, freedom of religion and conscience, freedom to pursue the medical or spiritual care one as one sees fit. JD: “Freedom includes the right to say what others may object to and resent... The essence of citizenship is to be tolerant of strong and provocative words.” You know, probably my most oft-quoted statement (and it’s a good one, if I may say so), is that, “I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” AS: That’s a bold and visionary statement Mr. Diefenbaker. And I agree. Sadly, your party didn’t uphold that pledge this week. The topic was just too sensitive for some of them. Some of them tell me they were “taking too much heat.” JD: “You can't stand up for Canada with a banana for a backbone.” AS: JD: “We must vigilantly stand on guard within our own borders for human rights and fundamental freedoms which are our proud heritage......we cannot take for granted the continuance and maintenance of those rights and freedoms.” AS: I agree. I’m not sure the Opposition members understand just what they’ve done. I am most concerned about the kids and other Canadians struggling with deep, existential questions about who they are, how they should live, and how to square their deep feelings and questions of identity with their spiritual commitments. This bill bans access to one set of answers. But the Conservatives also sold out on that heritage of freedom. Look, I’m a constitutional lawyer and I’m telling you, this bill tromps all over freedom of religion for pastoral counsellors, freedom of conscience for medical professionals, freedom of expression for preachers and teachers, freedom of association for communities of faith, and – perhaps ironically – the equality rights of members of the LGBTQ+ community. JD: The what community? I always took a stand for an end to hyphenated Canadians. Have we replaced hyphens with acronyms? AS: Well, the LGBTQ+ community developed a little after your time, I guess. Anyway, for those who are gay or lesbian, or who are attracted to the same sex but want and choose to live according to their spiritual or religious convictions, they are prevented by the government (with the applause of the opposition) from accessing the kind of help and services that you or I would be able to access. JD: That is ridiculous. AS: What surprised or shocked me most was that the Opposition motion in support of the government bill was unanimous. Not one MP or Senator stood against it even though some 60 of those MPs had voted against a more mild version of the bill just six months earlier. Judging by the reaction on the floor, there were a small number of that caucus who were coerced to keep their mouth shut or lose their job, despite that same morning their leader having pledged a “free vote” on this issue. A few good men and women seem to have been threatened by their fellow Conservatives to keep quiet. JD: “One moment is a cathedral, at another time there is no words to describe it when it ceases, for short periods of time, to have any regard for the proprieties that constitute not only Parliament, but its tradition. I've seen it in all its greatness. I have inwardly wept over it when it is degraded.” AS: I am inwardly weeping this week. I’m guessing a few good MPs are as well. I see this, first and foremost, as a failure of leadership. But let’s talk about the role of the Opposition in Parliament some more. JD: “The Opposition that fulfills its functions makes as important a contribution to the preservation of the Parliamentary system as does the government of the day.” AS: Well, what is that function then? Can you expand on that? JD: “If Parliament is to be preserved as a living institution, His Majesty's Loyal Opposition…” AS: Actually, it’s Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition now… JD: Okay. Well, I was quoting from the speech I gave in October of 1949 to the Empire Club of Canada. And at that time the Head of State was King George VI. And so I said, “If Parliament is to be preserved as a living institution, His Majesty's Loyal Opposition must fearlessly perform its functions. When it properly discharges them the preservation of our freedom is assured. The reading of history proves that freedom always dies when criticism ends. It upholds and maintains the rights of minorities against majorities. It must be vigilant against oppression and unjust invasions by the Cabinet of the rights of the people. … It finds fault; it suggests amendments; it asks questions and elicits information; it arouses, educates and molds public opinion by voice and vote. It must scrutinize every action by the government and in doing so prevents the short-cuts through democratic procedure that governments like to make.” AS: I love that line: “Freedom always dies when criticism ends”. Brilliant. And I completely agree with how you ended that: the Opposition “prevents the short-cuts through democratic procedure that governments like to make.” Well said. Sadly, the Opposition this week did the exact opposite. They gave the government a short-cut! JD: “Parliament is a place where in full discussion freedom is preserved, where one side advances arguments and the other examines them and where decisions are arrived at after passing through the crucible of public discussion. The Opposition that discharges its responsibilities becomes the responsible outlet of intelligent criticism. Indeed, most, if not all, authorities on constitutional government agree that Britain's freedom from civil war since the development of the party system is due in the main to the fact that the Opposition has provided an outlet and a safety-valve for opposition.” AS: You used the phrase “intelligent criticism.” I like that. And I saw that in the last Parliament with Bill C-6 (the previous iteration of this bill). I saw 62 MPs speak winsomely, thoughtfully, carefully, on a sensitive issue, giving intelligent criticism. Parliament can criminalize tortuous, coercive conversion therapy without going too far, without violating fundamental freedoms. But then this week, due to fatigue, laziness, cowardice, I’m not sure what, but they caved. JD: “he experience of history has been that only a strong and fearless Opposition can assure preservation of our fundamental freedoms and of the rights of the individual against executive and bureaucratic invasions of those rights. Quintin Hogg, an outstanding member of the British Parliament has given the answer in these words: ‘Countries cannot be fully free until they have an organized Opposition. It is not a long step from the absence of an organized Opposition to a complete dictatorship.’” AS: So true. So, would you say that the Opposition must oppose in each and every instance? JD: “The Opposition cannot oppose without reason. Its alternative policies must be responsible and practicable for it has a responsibility to the King to provide the alternative government to the one in power. Without an Opposition, decision by discussion would end and be supplanted by virtual dictatorship for governments tend to prefer rule by order-in-council to Parliament and bureaucrats prefer to be uncontrolled by Parliament or the courts.” AS: This is definitely a big issue that I’ve been tracking especially in the last two years. The executive and bureaucratic branch is almost wholly untethered by the legislative branch. We sometimes say we have “responsible government” but I feel like it’s in name only. JD: “The responsibility of the Opposition has been greatly increased, for in the last few years the Cabinets in the various Parliaments of the British Commonwealth have recovered most of the powers lost two hundred years ago. It must not be forgotten that Parliament gave up many of its rights during the days of war and allowed fundamental freedoms to be abrogated. These rights were given up as security for victory. These freedoms must be restored and only with a strong Opposition is restoration certain.” AS: History is repeating itself! Parliament (and the provincial legislatures) have allowed fundamental freedoms to be abrogated in many ways in the face of a pandemic, and these freedoms were given up as security for safety. But here too, the criticism from the opposition in any province or in Parliament seems only that the government has not abrogated freedoms enough. JD: “It is human nature for governments to find the Opposition distasteful and the longer governments are in power the more they become convinced that they govern by Divine Right and that their decisions are infallible. Only a strong Opposition can prevent a Cabinet with a commanding majority from ruling without regard to the rights of minorities.” AS: Tell me about it. We have drifted a long way in the last few decades Mr. Diefenbaker. JD: “The absence of a strong Opposition means a one party state. A one party state means an all-powerful Cabinet. It is as true in the 20th century as it was in the 19th century when Lord Acton wrote, ‘All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.’” AS: Actually, he said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” JD: Watch your sass, son. AS: Sorry sir. Please go on. JD: “There have been tremendous changes in government in the last fifty years but it is nonetheless true now as it was at the beginning of this century that only with an organized and effective Opposition can democracy be preserved. Canada's freedom and destiny is in the custody of the Opposition no less than it is of the Government. Government has become so complex and its ramifications so extensive that no matter how industrious a member of Parliament may be, it is impossible to master all the problems that come before Parliament and more so in that there are not available to the Opposition the trained civil servants who are at the disposal of the government at all times.” AS: This is a really good point. I remember meeting once with the official opposition’s justice critic. He told me he had two policy staffers. That’s it. His counterpart on the government side has 3,000 lawyers at his disposal within the Justice Department. The justice critic was outgunned and appreciated any extra advice I could offer for that reason alone. JD: “In my opinion the Opposition will not be able to discharge its duty unless it has available to it trained and outstanding research experts whose salaries will be paid by the state.” AS: I guess, in the meantime, this is where groups like my employer ARPA Canada come in? JD: Yep. That’s exactly right. The more you can help and the more your community can support you, the more impact for good you will have. AS: Thank you. I’ll make sure our constituents hear that too. They have been incredibly supportive in the past decade, I must say. JD: “While Parliament has its short-comings it remains the bulwark of our freedom. … Parliament must continue to be the custodian of freedom. To that end it must constantly change its procedure to meet the changing needs of a modern world but must be changeless in its concept and tradition. Parliament will only remain the guardian of freedom and our free institutions so long as His Majesty's Loyal Opposition is fully responsible and effective in the discharge of its functions.” AS: That’s a great note to end this interview on, Mr. Diefenbaker. JD: You should really get your readers to read my whole speech on the role of the opposition. It was quite a good speech, if I do say so myself. AS: It is an excellent speech and should be mandatory reading in every grade 10 civics class and a prerequisite for anyone to serve as a Member of Parliament. I’ll post a link to the speech Mr. Diefenbaker. JD: Post a what? AS: Never mind. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and your vision for the role of the opposition. And thank you for being a principled leader in your time, one to whom others who follow in your footsteps ought to aspire. May you rest in peace. André Schutten is General Legal Counsel with the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada since 2011. This article first appeared in Convivium.ca, “an online space that brings together citizens of differing convictions and religious confessions to contend for the role of faith in our common life.” It is reprinted here with their gracious permission. ...

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Finding Winnie

by Lindsay Mattick 56 pages / 2015 It turns out that Winnie the Pooh, a teddy bear who had fantastic and entirely fanciful adventures, was named after a real bear whose adventures were quite something too, and of the genuine sort. Just as Winnie the Pooh starts with a father telling his son a story, so too Finding Winnie beings with a parent telling her child a bedtime tale. In this case, the storyteller is the great-granddaughter of the man who gave the first Winnie his name. Harry Colebourn was a vet living in Winnipeg. When the First World War began Harry had to go, so he boarded a train with other soldiers and headed east. At a stop on the way, he met a man with a baby bear, and ended up buying the little beast. To make a long story shorter, this bear - named Winnie after Harry's hometown – ended up in the London Zoo where a boy named Christopher Robin, and his father A.A Milne came across him and were utterly entranced. It is a wonderful story, but what makes it remarkable is the charming way it's told. This is brilliant, and a homage of sort to A.A. Milne's stories. It's true, so there is quite a difference between his Winnie tales and this author's, but the same gentle humor, the same whimsy, that same charm, is there throughout. This will be a treat for fans of Winnie the Pooh no matter what age. Both my daughters and I were entranced! Winnie by Sally M. Walker 40 pages / 2015 The same year a second picture book came out about the bear behind the bear that was also very good, very fun, and different enough that after reading Finding Winnie it is still an enjoyable read as well. Compared to most any other picture book Winnie is remarkable - really among the best of the best - but it does lack a little of the Milne-like charm of Finding Winnie, and so ranks second among these two books....

Current Issue, Magazine

Nov/Dec 2021 issue

WHAT’S INSIDE: Chief concern with Conversion Therapy Law / Bill C-4: How the Conservative Party did this to Canada / Why history matters / The art of the apology / The Father's gift / What is Freedom of Conscience? / Censorship isn't Christians' biggest social media problem / Suffer Annie Spence / In praise of blunt / A free documentary about End Times / and more... Click the cover to view in your browser or click here to download the PDF (4 mb) ...

News

Saturday Selection - Dec. 11, 2021

Conservatives allow Canada’s conversion therapy ban to pass with zero opposition On November 29 the Liberals introduced a bill to ban conversion therapy. Under the pretense of protecting homosexuals from getting forcibly "converted" from their same-sex attraction, what the bill actually targeted was Christian pastors and counselors and others who are willing to help those who want out of the homosexual lifestyle. As Jonathon Van Maren writes in the article linked above: "there were concerns that the deliberately broad definition proposed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals would ban pastoral conversations between clergy and their parishioners and leave adults with unwanted same-sex attraction unable to receive the counseling they desired. In fact, in some instances parents could be prevented from opposing sex changes for their own children." This was actually the third time the Liberals had introduced such a bill, but the previous two had been derailed by the months-long process that it takes to get a bill approved. The previous attempt, then labeled Bill C-6, was introduced on September 23, 2020, and took nine months, until June 22, 2021, to pass through the committee hearings and the three readings required in the House of Commons. It was then given to the Senate for their own three-stage assessment process, but they didn't have a chance to pass it before the Prime Minister called an election on August 15. His election call meant that Bill C-6 (along with all the other bills not yet passed) "died on the order paper." Bill C-4 might have had to go through this same process, and in the months and even years that it could have taken, who knows but that it could have been derailed yet once more. But on Dec. 1 Conservative Leader Erin O-Toole told the media that his party was going to accelerate the passage of the government's bill. Later that same day Conservative MP Rob Moore put forward a motion to skip all the House committees and readings, and send the bill directly and immediately to the Senate. His motion required unanimous approval to pass – if a single MP had voiced a nay, the motion wouldn't have passed. How could the Conservatives have expected to get that unanimity when there had been 63 MPs willing to vote against Bill C-6 earlier this year? Of that number 62 were Conservative MPs and the other was former Conservative Derek Sloan. So why would they expect to have no opposition this time around? Their confidence might have been, in part, due to the timing of their motion. Conservative MP Garnett Genius was the most vocal opponent of the previous Bill C-6, launching the website "Fix the Definition" to put a face to the people this bill would harm. But on December 1, Genuis was out of the country, attending a NATO conference in Latvia. The Conservative strategy also involved pulling a fast one on their other MPs. As the video below shows, the motion was made and passed in approximately one minute. They were able to do it so quickly because no one actually had to vote for the motion: the Speaker of the House only asked to hear from those opposed to it. When no one spoke up, it was passed. While many of the Conservatives were clearly in on this maneuver – those clapping wildly afterward clearly knew what was going on – any of the MPs unaware of what Rob Moore was about to do could have blinked and they would have missed it, it was over that fast. The same video shows that some of the Conservatives were not clapping, and remained sitting – the most downcast of them might have been Arnold Viersen (blue jacket, red tie, three rows from the back on the right side). In a statement he posted to Facebook ten days later, he explained that: "...it was a surprise that caught me and some of my colleagues off guard. I am opposed to C-4 as written and should have said no, but I did not react fast enough. I'm sorry." His post's comments were filled with thanks for his apology. It had been a mystery as to why a bill that criminalized the presentation of the Gospel would pass without any Christian MPs objecting. Now we had a partial explanation for the MPs' silence: this had been sprung on them. Curiously, in the same post, Viersen suggested that: "Had we won the election we would not be in this situation." Let's consider that for a moment. Wasn't it the Conservatives that just pulled this on us? We can be relieved that Garnett Genuis and Arnold Viersen have some sort of explanation or apology for why they didn't stand up against this bill, but the Conservative Party overall has no such excuse. Trudeau's Liberals introduced this bill, but it was O'Toole's Conservatives who accomplished what the Liberals never did: the Conservatives got it across the finish line. It bears repeating just how wicked this bill is. As Jojo Ruba noted, while an earlier version of the bill at least "could not prevent consenting adults from having conversations about sexuality with their clergy or their counselor, as long as the counseling was free" this latest version removed even that protection. That's what the Conservative Party has accomplished under O'Toole: they've made the compelling case that they are not the lesser of two evils. So where are politically-minded Christians to turn? Aren't the Conservatives still our only option? They are, after all, the only major party to tolerate pro-life Christians. That's true enough, but as the passage of this law highlights, tolerating pro-life Christians is very different from siding with them. If Christians are to be involved in the Conservative Party, it cannot be to further the party's agenda. We cannot let them use us for their ends. If Christians are to continue in the Conservative Party then they have to do so with their eyes wide open, involving themselves in the party only to use it for our own, godly ends. If it becomes impossible to do that, then that should be the end of our involvement. Christians should have no loyalty to a party that has no loyalty to God, and, indeed, in this latest act, stands directly in opposition. Is A Christmas Carol a capitalist story? Karl Marx was a self-professed fan of Charles Dickens, so many have labeled Dickens a socialist and have used his ever-popular seasonal classic A Christmas Carol as a condemnation of capitalism and consumerism. But Jacqueline Isaacs says it just isn't so. "Science says" can be more about ideology than facts The police, businessmen, and politicians aren't trusted like they once were, but we're still told to "just follow the Science." However, as John Stonestreet highlights in this article, Science can be driven more by ideology than the facts. For proof, we need to look no further than the gender debate. Here we have a self-evident truth – that we are created male and female – that "Science" denies and the Bible affirms (Gen. 1:27). The proper use of biblical theology in preaching "...sermons should not always (and probably should only rarely) recount the history of redemption. Rather they ought to be moments in which a preacher presents to a congregation some particular from that history in a focused and concentrated way in order to enable them by God’s grace to love God and their neighbor better." – Jay Adams How I want to die Gary North suggests looking forward to what sort of life lessons we'd want to share on our 70th birthday. Johnny the walrus (4 min) Matt Walsh is reading his new book about a boy who identified as a walrus and the mother who took him way too seriously. If you don't believe that God has a sense of humor, consider what He arranged. On Amazon, it was slotted in the LGBTQ+ category where it then topped the best-selling list. That allowed Walsh to then tweet: "I now have the number one LGBT book in the country. Any further criticism of me or my book is now homophobic. Checkmate." ...

Assorted

God wants young men to be brave, not crazy

Bravery, like most things in life, is learned. To develop it, one must practice. However, it is the very rare young man who wants to practice being brave. Many will be eager to prove that they are already brave, which is why young men do crazy, dangerous, reckless things – to prove to themselves and others that they have no fear. So they drive motorcycles too fast, and drive cars too fast, and drive motorized vehicles of various other sorts and sizes too fast. But this isn't brave. Brave and reckless both involve confronting danger, but there is a difference. The brave man confronts danger because he must, or because he should. There is a reason to do it: a damsel to be defended, a child to be saved, a principle to be upheld. Brave is daring all because it will honor God. A reckless young man risks life and limb for no reason at all. It's courageous vs. crazy. And no matter how many times a young man might do wild dangerous things, it won't help him learn how to be brave. Bravery has a purpose to it, and to develop bravery a young man must confront danger with the right aim in mind. This is bravery  So how can a young man practice being brave? By doing brave things for the right reasons. God wants us take risks, so long as they are the right sort. He wants us defending what is true, and beautiful, no matter the opposition. So a young man can practice being brave by asking out that godly girl he's always been interested in. She might say no, and that is quite a danger to face. But she might say yes, and that's reason enough to risk it. He can tell his friends he isn't going to go drinking with them this weekend, but that if they want to come over they can shoot hoops. Or go rollerblading. Or watch the game together. Or watch the game and then at halftime play an epic match of rollerblade basketball (being brave can involve some creativity too). Proposing ideas risks having them shot down and labeled "lame." That could happen, because being brave doesn't mean everything will go your way. A brave man understands that failure is possible, and sometimes even likely. He knows there might be a cost. But he also knows that his peers' wrath doesn't compare to God's pleasure. A young man could also practice bravery by wearing an explicitly Christian shirt on his secular campus. This is provocative, but not foolhardy. Some students and professors are sure to hate it, but other Christians will be encouraged to learn they aren't alone on campus after all. Maybe he could volunteer as a firefighter. I know two young men who are ready to put their lives on the line for a very good reason indeed: to save the lives of others. And a young man who wants to grow and develop his bravery could volunteer at a public pro-life event. In recent years dozens of young men have been among those setting up massive pro-life flag displays across Canada. They know abortion is an issue that gets some people angry, yelling, and hysterical. It takes courage to be involved. But they understand this is important. They are ready to risk anger to advocate for the defenseless. Conclusion We want our young men to learn how to be brave, but we don't want them to be reckless with the life and limbs God has given them. So to foster their bravery let's encourage our young men to do dangerous, risky, important things. A version of this article first appeared in the October 2014 issue...

Culture Clashes

A beginner’s guide to fighting the Culture War

For decades there has been talk of a “culture war” in North America. This is the ongoing battle we’re having over which beliefs our society will use as its foundation, to build atop them our institutions, laws, customs, and even our art and literature. Many books and articles have been written about this war, explaining it in various ways. Some people probably just tune out the controversy, not fully understanding its implications. However, it is possible to provide a summary of the main issues at stake, so that everyone can understand the basic conflict and react appropriately. Such a summary has been written by Peter Kreeft, a professor of philosophy at Boston College. He offers it in his 2002 book, How to Win the Culture War: A Christian Battle Plan for a Society in Crisis. While Kreeft is a Roman Catholic, and his theology openly affects his analysis, he gets the key issues right. 2 major fronts, 1 central issue Since the late 1960s, the two major fronts in the culture war have involved abortion and homosexual rights. There are related but less salient conflicts over pornography, divorce law, and sex education.  Strange as it may seem, all of these matters, in one way or another, involve sexuality. Why is that the case? It all comes down to the traditional family and the “progressive” or left-wing campaign to fundamentally change society. As Kreeft explains: “The most powerful means to destroy society is to destroy its one absolutely fundamental building block, namely the family.” The best way to destroy the family is by destroying its foundation, stable marriage. And the best way to destroy stable marriage is, Kreeft notes, “by loosening its glue: sexual fidelity.” Commitment to sexual fidelity is destroyed by characterizing traditional Christian sexual morality as repressive or confining. The Sexual Revolution of the last few decades has been a campaign to “liberate” people from their obligation to sexual fidelity. Thus the central element of the culture war is a conflict over society’s ethical norms for sexuality – recognizing that is the key to understanding the ongoing culture war. The Culture War is a religious war        In the West our traditional norms have often been rooted in Christianity. The norms of the so-called progressive Left are religiously based too, though some will undoubtedly dispute it. But it is religious in the sense that it a belief system through which they understand the world around them and everything in it. It is in this sense, Kreeft argues, that “sex is the effective religion of our culture” It is this all-encompassing religious basis of the progressive sexual norm that explains its enthusiasm for the murder of unborn children. As Kreeft puts it, the progressives: “don’t defend murder, except murder in the name of sex.... Abortion is backup birth control, of course, and birth control means the demand to have sex without having babies.” This is a key point to remember, especially with the current high-profile controversy over pro-life laws in some American states. The progressives, Kreeft writes, “are now even willing to murder to defend their so-called sexual freedoms. And to murder the most innocent among them, the only innocent among them. And the most tiny and weak and defenseless of all. And in the teeth of nature’s strongest instinct: motherhood!” Of course, humanity’s weakness for sexual temptation has always been a problem and it has led to a multitude of sins over the centuries. It’s not like the Sexual Revolution initiated rampant sexual immorality for the first time: Sodom and Gomorrah were perverse millennia ago. But something has changed in the last few decades. Until relatively recently, sex outside of the confines of traditional marriage was considered to be immoral, even by those who participated in it. Today, engaging in sexual behaviors that were deemed abominable just a few decades ago are considered to be very respectable, even something to celebrate with parades. The Enemy In order to properly fight the culture war, it is vital to recognize the enemy. Kreeft identifies two. “Our enemies are demons. Fallen angels. Evil spirits.” We are in a spiritual war, so naturally we have spiritual adversaries. As Ephesians 6:12 puts it, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (ESV). The second enemy is even worse, and that is sin. It is our own depraved tendency towards evil that must be fought most of all. The greatest enemy lies within each one of us. From this fact Kreeft explains that if, “…sin is the enemy, then the Savior from sin is the answer, and He is infinitely more powerful than his enemy. The weapon that will win this war – this war’s atomic bomb – is saints.” In other words, the key weapon consists of Christians who will commit themselves to live truly holy lives in obedient service to God. Saints Our normal tendency as individuals is to see the political problems we face as somebody else’s fault. The other guy needs to change. He needs to correct his bad behavior and live right. But that’s the wrong way to think about it. We each need to focus on our own sinfulness, not somebody else’s. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can become the people God can use to bring victory for His cause. As Kreeft explains: “Can you imagine what ten more Mother Teresas would do for this world? Or ten more John Wesleys? No, you can’t imagine it, any more than anyone could imagine how twelve nice Jewish boys could conquer the Roman Empire. You can’t imagine it. But you can do it. You can become a saint.” Kreeft uses the word “saint” to describe a Christian who is fully committed to living a holy life in service to God. This is how he explains what is necessary to be a saint in his terms: “Give Christ one hundred percent of your heart and life one hundred percent of the time, holding nothing back, absolutely nothing at all, anywhere, ever. This means martyrdom – and for most of us, a more extended and difficult martyrdom than that of the noose or execution block. It means the martyrdom of dying daily, dying every minute for as long as you live, dying to all your desires and plans, including your pet plans about how to become a saint.” The best way to fight the culture war, in other words, is for every Christian to be the very best Christian he or she could be. Victory will not be found in certain political parties or laws that get passed. Those kinds of things may be necessary at various times, but the focus must be on how we can live holier lives, not on how we can get something else to change. Conclusion The culture war is essentially a conflict over sexual morality that began with the Sexual Revolution of the late 1960s. Left-wing forces have sought to fundamentally transform Western society by undermining the monogamous, heterosexual family. Liberating people from the strict confines of traditional Christian morality requires legalized abortion on demand and same-sex marriage, with all that they entail. Peter Kreeft explains that the best way to fight the culture war is for every Christian to be the best Christian they can be, by the power of the Holy Spirit. There are no special political strategies that can bring victory, just old-fashioned holy living and service to God. That’s not to say that political and social activism are of no value. Rather, it’s that our first priority must be on dealing with the sin in our own lives. Good things will flow from that. Michael Wagner is the author of “Leaving God Behind: The Charter of Rights and Canada’s Official Rejection of Christianity,” available at Merchantship.ca....

Family, Movie Reviews

The Incredible Journey

Family 1963 / 80 minutes Rating: 8/10 What do Elsa and Anna, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, Pollyanna, and even Huey, Duey and Louie all have in common? If you said, they'd all been featured in Disney films, you'd be right, but that's not the answer I was looking for. They all lack, and what many a children's story protagonist lacks is, parental supervision. Dead or otherwise departed parents are pretty common in children's fiction and films, and it isn't as nefarious as it might seem. Parents need to be out of the picture because otherwise the story would end before it even got going. How could Peter, Lucy, Edmund, and Susan have explored the wardrobe if they'd been back in London with mom and pop? Parents still home when the Cat in the Hat stops by? He'd never make it past the front door. And Jack and Jill would never have tumbled if their mom had been there to tell them: "You're not old enough to climb the cliff face– it's dangerous! How many times do I have to tell you to use the path on the other side of the hill?" In The Incredible Journey the parents are once again missing, but this time there is a twist: the Hunters aren't so much parents, as owners, and their "children" are two dogs and a cat. While the Hunters are heading to Oxford, where dad is going to teach for a semester, family friend John Longridge has volunteered to take care of their pets back at his own cabin, some 200 miles away. But then he leaves too, heading out on a long hunting trip, and entrusting the animals' care to his housekeeper Mrs. Oakes. Then, when the note he leaves her falls into the fireplace and gets burned up, she thinks he has the animals. The result: when the trio head out on their own, no one is missing them. Luath, a Yellow Labrador, is the leader of the group. He wants to go back to their family, and convinces the other two, Siamese Cat Tao, and Bodger, an English Bull Terrier, to start off with him. While Luath knows the right direction, he doesn't realize that home is more than 200 miles, and a mountain range, away. That's the set up for their incredible journey. On the way, they have to contend with hunger, whitewater, bears, a lynx, and, unfortunately for Luath, a porcupine! Cautions The big caution here would concern the tension. At one point it seems like that cat has been swept away by the river to her death, and the two dogs are left mourning. The only way my kids could get past that was with the reassurance that the dogs were wrong and the cat would actually be okay. Conclusion There's a 1993 remake, where the animals are voiced by big-name celebrities. I like this version better, where a narrator explains what's going on in the different animals' minds. It's a more realistic approach, almost akin to a nature documentary, where we're observing something that could really have happened. Despite what you might read elsewhere, this didn't happen – it is not based on a true story. There's been some confusion on that point because the author of the book that inspired the film said the pets were based on her own – they are based on true pets – but her pets never went on any such journey. What makes this such a wonderful film is the loyalty the animals have for one another. Bodger is old, and a drag on the group, but that only means that he gets to set the pace – Tao and Luath would never think of leaving him behind. Our whole family, from 8 on up really enjoyed it. The appeal for the kids is the pets – our girls love pretty much any story with dogs or cats in it – while the appeal for the adults was the uniqueness of it. This is an old-school Disney film, so it was easy to predict that everything would turn out fine in the end, but these animals took us on quite the journey with twists and turns that weren't so easy to predict. And that sure was fun! ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

The John Newton Story

Animated / Drama 2021 / 30 minutes Rating: 7/10 We know John Newton (1725-1807) as the former slave ship captain who repented and then wrote the amazing hymn Amazing Grace. In this Torchlighters episode, we get to hear the rest of his life story from the man himself. When an anti-slavery bill is brought to the British Parliament, one of the members goes to Newton to ask him to speak out on the issue. In response, an old Newton starts to share his dark history. It is a story of constant rebellion – this was a sailor so salty that the other sailors complained about the filth coming from Newton's mouth. It is also a story of a transformation wrought over many years: when Newton first became a Christian he stayed in the slave trade, going on to captain two slave ships for three voyages, transporting thousands of slaves in shameful conditions. This, it turns out, is why the Member of Parliament (MP) has come to Newton: since Newton captained slave ships as a Christian, the MP thinks he can convince Newton to speak out in favor of slavery. The MP has another reason to think Newton might help his cause: after attending the church that the older Newton now served as a pastor, the MP had never heard Newton preach against slavery. Newton realizes that not only can he never speak for slavery, he must now, finally, begin to speak against it... no matter what it might cost him and his church. His congregation was made up of many who had ties to the slave industry. Cautions While the brightly-colored animation style might have parents thinking this is all-ages viewing, the topic matter means it is not so. The toughest scene is right at the start, where we're shown a happy African village, and then the slavers come to kill and steal. It's brief, lasting only a couple of minutes, serving as the visual background to a parliamentary speech given by Christian politician William Wilberforce on the evils of slavery. Man-stealing – a crime God punishes with death (Ex. 21:16) – is so brutal there's no way to entirely mute the wickedness of it, so parents will need to watch the first few minutes to best judge whether their children will be able to handle it. I wouldn't show this to my under tens. There is one picture of Jesus briefly shown, in a book the Member of Parliament is reading. I'll also note the video leaves viewers with the impression that a young Wilberforce and the older Newton both saw the end of slavery in Britain. They did, together, help end British involvement in the slave trade – that happened in 1807 – but it wasn't until 1833, many years after Newton's death, that the slaves in Britain were finally freed. Conclusion My favorite part was the William Wilberforce speech, which bookends the presentation, beginning and ending it. Would that we could one day hear a Christian politician give such an impassioned speech in Parliament in defense of the unborn! This is one to watch with the family, or with a class, and discuss how we can and must rise to the defense of the unborn, never being afraid to raise their plight in the public square. You can watch The John Newton Story for free at RedeemTV.com though you will have to sign up for an account. Check out the trailer below. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

Life at the Pond

Life at the Pond is a series of five videos that have a lot in common with VeggieTales. Both combine simple animation with sophisticated humor – these are children's videos that parents can appreciate too. Both teach moral lessons that line up with what God teaches. But while many of the VeggieTales videos "sanitize" familiar biblical stories (ex. David's descent into murder and adultery is turned into a story about wanting someone else's rubber ducky) The Pond steers clear of any disrespectful treatment of Scripture by setting their stories in the present day. (I'll note , though, that the original audio programs do sometimes have 5-minute news-type reports from biblical times, with, for example, an on-the-scene report of Jonah's time in the belly of the whale. Our family has enjoyed these otherwise fantastic audio programs, but we hit "next track" whenever it gets to these bits.) The stories all take place at, of course, a pond, and the four stars are all aquatic: • Bill the Duck is a regular joe; we are Bill the Duck • Tony the Frog fills the role of wisecracking comic relief • Floyd the Turtle is the most child-like, and often the straight man setting up Tony's zingers • Methuselah the Alligator is older, and a voice of biblical wisdom This is aimed at the pre-school set, but there's enough humor for parents and elementary-aged kids to enjoy too. I'd break these into two age groups, with There's Something Funny in the Water and The Little Things good for even the youngest children, and the others, with more tension, would be 5 or 6 and up. There's Something Funny in the Water 27 minutes / 2004 Rating: 8/10 In the first video we get two 15 minutes stories. Bill the Duck hides the fact that he is afraid of heights, because he doesn't want to be made fun of, and then Bill, Tony and Floyd all learn that it is important to keep our promises, even when doing so cuts into our fun time. These are stories kids can relate to, and parents can appreciate too, right from the get-go. The video begins with the familiar FBI warning against copying the film and Bill and Tony walk in from the sides to take a look. Bill: Has the video started? Tony: No it's just the FBI warning. Bill: And after this, what? CIA warning? FDA? NRA? Tony: The NRA puts up a warning, I pay attention! Big Mouth Bass 32 minutes / 2005 Rating 7/10 This time around Sarah, a big-mouth bass, is swimming off with whatever toys land in the water. She's taking them because "toys lead to noise!" and she wants quiet! This bass is a grouch, and scary too. So when she goes missing – a bear has taken her away as a pet fish – the Pond friends don't know whether to "save her ...or celebrate!" It's a lesson about loving your less than lovable neighbors, and reaching out beyond your friends group (Luke 14:12-14). Our three-year-old found the fish here too scary. Even though the bass turned nice by the end it didn't matter – she started off mean, so this video was deemed too scary (the accompanying Jaws music probably didn't help). However, what's scary for a three-year-old wasn't for our five and seven-year-old. Tony the Frog is my favorite character, and as he goes looking for Sarah he mutters some good lines to himself: "After I find Sarah I can go look for the bully who pushed me around last year. And then, if there's still time, a quick trip to the dentist to have some teeth removed. Anesthesia? Not today Doc, not today." The Little Things 29 minutes / 2007 Rating 8/10 When the carnival comes to town all the Pond friends get jobs. Three of them get great jobs (running rides or the food stands) but Floyd the turtle has to do the clean up. He wonders why he got the worst job, and eventually realizes it's because the circus owner saw the careless way he treated his toys. And because Floyd wasn't good with caring for "the little things" the circus owner didn't want to trust him with anything bigger. So, as the Dove review put it, for younger children the lesson is simply, don't break your toys, while older children can apply that more broadly to: “If you can’t be trusted with the little things then you can’t be trusted with the big things either.” The only caution would be that in the song at the end it mentions how you will "reap what you sow" and while that is a thoroughly biblical thought (Gal. 6:7-8, 2 Cor. 9:6,  Prov. 22:8) our kids also need to know that by God's grace His children will not get our just desserts in the end. The Alligator Hunter 29 minutes / 2007 Rating: 7/10 There are two stories again. In a parody of The Crocodile Hunter, Methuselah the Alligator is nabbed by a reality-show crew of kangaroo, so they can release him later somewhere far away. While Methuselah gets away, the kangaroos then capture his friends! Methuselah saves the day by returning and shaming the kangaroos into letting everyone go. This was way too tense for our youngest, and wasn't that popular with our older kids either (kidnapping doesn't seem the best subject for a children's show). The second episode is much calmer and funnier. Floyd the Turtle turns out to have selective hearing: whenever someone tells him to do something he can't hear them. He doesn't even hear it when his friends tell him to get out of the way of a falling tree branch.! Selective hearing is, of course, a malady common to many a child, so this can make for a fun illustration when the malady next strikes. The Rise and Fall of Tony the Tiger 29 minutes / 2009 Rating: 8/10 When Tony the Frog starts a paper route, it isn't long before his ambitions turn it into a business empire. He ups his speed by first adding a bike, then using a machine gun mounted on a HumVee to fire them at subscribers, then dropping them from an F-18 fighter jet. It's all going to his head and his friends realize he's made his business an idol...but how can they get Tony to realize? The F-18 sequence is quiet frantic and might be a bit much for younger kids, but Tony's friends, eager to help, and happy to forgive him, makes this a sweet one. ...

Drama, Family, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Time Changer

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

News

Saturday Selections - December 4, 2021

Diving deep into a leaf This is worth watching twice, once with the closed captions on (hit the "CC" button" and the bottom right of the screen) which will explain what we're seeing. But then, because the captions do obscure the visuals at times, it's worth watching again without the captions to get a glimpse of God's amazing design on the smallest scales. While the non-scientists of us won't understand all that's going on, just the gist of it is fun enough, especially when we keep in mind that this is a greatly simplified overview. Does "X-mas" take Christ out of Christmas? No, it really isn't so. In fact, it's just the opposite by creating an opportunity to talk about who that "X" represents. Conservative intellectuals silent on the scourge of homosexuality Fascinating article about a panel discussion at an American "National Conservatism Conference" earlier this month. Though the issue of same-sex "marriage was raised, the panelists – or at least the straight ones – refused to talk about it. What was showcased here was how if "conservatism" is founded on anything other than God's Truth, it soon enough will endorse the lie... even if only by silence. The "blurred lines" of the sexual revolution Instead of sex within the bounds of marriage, our culture insisted the only limits on sex should be consent. But how well does that standard work? As John Stonestreet highlights the #MeToo movement is highlighting that the world's only safeguard for sex is no safeguard at all. How obsession with "carbon" left us woefully unprepared for the Fraser Valley Flood of 2021 Former CHP leader Ron Gray has had a front row seat for the flooding in BC, and has some thoughts on the root cause. It's worth noting that the experts he cites have an evolutionary timescale of hundreds of thousands or millions of years built into their assumptions, though that's true of most secular experts. What separates these experts from the other secular sorts is that these follow at least one biblical principle, placing man as the pinnacle of creation (Gen. 1:26-28, Ps. 8:3-9). Thus they measure environmental efforts not by their supposed benefit to the planet in the future, but by how they impact people living on that planet right now. That makes these experts more insightful than all who want to save the planet with policies that make energy more expensive, which has the effect of hurting the poorest. How to get everything from nothing (10-minute read) "The only...evidence that the universe came from nothing is the well-documented finding that the universe is expanding. If the expansion event is reversed, it brings us back to the primordial egg that started it all. The conundrum then is, where did the primordial egg come from? The solution accepted by many leading cosmologists is, it came from nothing. Thus the reasoning is that nothing ultimately created everything." How much is Facebook censoring? (7 min) Most are aware that Facebook acts as a censor but do you know the extent of it? During the recent US trial of a Kyle Rittenhouse – a man accused of murder but who the court found was acting in self-defense – Facebook took down pro-Rittenhouse posts and programmed their search engine so that it would return no results on searches for his name (though one clever friend got around that by searching for a misspelled version of his name Rittenhose which Facebook then auto-corrected and returned results). While we appreciate that Facebook filters some (though certainly not all) of the filth on the Internet, it's one thing to shut down pornography, and another to limit debate on the big issues of the day. In the video below, John Stossel digs into it. (While Facebook is still one of the more effective promotional tools for Reformed Perspective, we know it's a matter of when, and not if, we're eventually censored too. That's why we've started up a MeWe page and continued a presence on Twitter, and it's why RP's editor is also experimenting with Gab.) ...

Human Rights

What is Freedom of Conscience?

Whether they’re happening inside the Church or out in the public square, debates about how far freedom of conscience extends can be confusing. Should Christians be compelled to take a vaccine that’s been tested on the fetal remains of an aborted child? Should Christian business owners have a right to refuse a service that would violate their conscience, like baking a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony? How do Christians respond to government mandates or policies that they cannot follow in good conscience? And how do we deal with conscientious disagreement within the Church? The specifics of freedom of conscience can be complex and nuanced and are often misunderstood. Abraham Kuyper called the conscience: “the shield of the human person, the root of civil liberties, the source of a nation’s happiness.” Why is it so important? To answer that question, let’s begin by looking at what the conscience is and is not. What is “conscience”? Definitions of conscience vary, but they center around the idea of what someone believes to be right and wrong. The conscience is a moral compass that helps direct people’s actions. In that sense, conscience is personal and subjective because it condemns or excuses one’s own conduct, not that of another person – after all, you don’t get a guilty conscience because of someone else’s behavior. However, conscience is also based on an objective and general standard. The Bible explains that the conscience is given by God to both Christians and non-Christians and it helps people apply their knowledge of right and wrong to their behavior, both past actions and decisions about future actions. The New Testament also speaks of the importance of having a good conscience by following its direction and doing what is right (see Rom. 2:15, 1 Tim. 1:5). Christian political scientist David Koyzis, in his book We Answer to Another, tells a story about the Milgram Experiment which relates well to conscience. The experiment was a study designed to look at how people respond to authority. The experimenter would select two participants and assign one the role of teacher, while another volunteer would be given the role of student. The person selected as the teacher was instructed to apply an electrical shock of increasing voltage to the other person – the student – who was in a different room. Now, unbeknownst to the teacher, the other person was actually an actor being paid to play the part. Although the teacher could hear the apparent pain experienced by the person in the next room, most individuals would continue applying electric shocks – despite increasing screams and pleas to stop – when instructed to do so by the experimenter. However, two participants were unwilling to keep going along with the instructions. Both were Christians. They followed the experiment instructor’s commands for a time but stopped sooner than most other participants, knowing that they were responsible for their actions and stating that they were answerable to a higher authority. When asked to do something wrong, we too are responsible for our actions and answerable to a higher authority. Ultimately, the foundation for freedom of conscience is found in the sovereignty of God. Every human being has various authorities in their lives, such as parents, employers, church leadership, or civil government. Each of these has legitimate authority over us, but that authority is also limited. The only One who is sovereign over the conscience is God, and if another authority commands us to do what we believe is sin – what we believe violates how God wants us to act – then we can appeal to freedom of conscience. The conscience is a shield that protects against the abuse of authority and points instead to the one Higher Authority. Conscience and the public square Debates around conscience are becoming increasingly relevant in our society and are most noticeable within certain vocations. Can medical professionals refuse to help a patient access abortion, assisted suicide, or sex-change surgery? Can marriage officiants refuse to marry a same-sex couple? Can a photographer decline a request to take photos at a same-sex ceremony? Can a publisher decline to print pro-abortion pamphlets? Increasingly, our society answers “no.” To allow people to conscientiously object is seen as simply discriminatory and bigoted. Our society needs to understand that a conscientious objection in these cases is not a rejection of an individual person, but a refusal to commit what the objector believes to be a sin or to participate in sinful activity. Today it’s often Christians who are being pressured to violate their conscience. However, there are others who seek the same protections for their conscience. It’s this freedom that an atheist doctor appeals to when he determines he cannot participate in euthanasia, based on his oath to do no harm. And what of the fashion designers, back in 2016, who had principled objections to designing an inauguration dress for First Lady Melania Trump? When these designers announced they would not make the dress because they didn’t want to be associated with newly elected President Donald Trump’s administration, many celebrated their decision as taking a principled stand. Likewise, some in our society want abortion-supporting publishers to be allowed to decline print orders for pro-life material, or for a gay business owner to be allowed to refuse to rent a hall for an event that promotes biblical marriage. Yet increasingly, the same people want to see Christians reprimanded for acting according to their beliefs. For Christians, the answer to the questions above might be easy. But we have our own disputes about conscience within the Church as well, such as what kind of entertainment is permissible or what it looks like to honor the Sabbath Day outside of corporate worship. When conscience pricks Of note, the strongest commands of conscience are often negative, in terms of what you are not permitted to do, rather than what you may or must do. For example, if you use foul language, your conscience will likely bother you more than if you fail to correct someone else using such language. Or, if a publisher prints pro-abortion pamphlets that he objects to, his conscience will make him feel guilty more than if he fails to promote life as he believes he ought. When the conscience commands a person not to do something, the command is about a very specific action. Alternatively, if the command is instead to act on something good, there are often various ways of pursuing that good. Conscience and the Church Because of sin, no person’s conscience is perfectly aligned with what God commands in His Word. The chart below is based on one from a helpful book titled Conscience: What It Is, How To Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ, by Andrew Naselli and J.D. Crowley. The authors used it to explain the difference between two people’s consciences, and how they compare to God’s will. The letters within the chart refer to different rules or principles of right and wrong. Both Arnold and Zoey have added rules to their conscience that are not commanded in Scripture. For example, perhaps Arnold has a history of alcohol abuse in his family, so he adds letter ‘C’ which commands him not to drink alcohol to avoid temptation. Maybe letters ‘D’ and ‘E’ are Arnold’s belief that he must not play cards or any games involving dice. Arnold and Zoey have also both failed to include letter ‘B’ in their conscience. Perhaps this is a failure to consistently honor the Sabbath Day, and their consciences no longer accuse them for it. However, Arnold and Zoey’s consciences are both aligned with God’s will in letters ‘J’ through ‘M,’ where they have rightly applied biblical principles and commands to their lives and consciences. The natural tendency is to think that if another person has more rules than us, they are legalistic. Alternatively, if they have fewer rules, they are failing to live as Christians. However, Scripture remains the standard to which we must seek to align our conscience. The conscience can easily become oversensitive by including rules that are not matters of right and wrong. We see examples of the Pharisees in the New Testament who created additional rules for the Sabbath and wanted everyone to abide by them. We might feel unnecessarily guilty if we do not abide by similar rules on the Sabbath. Alternatively, conscience can become desensitized. Perhaps you use or tolerate foul language that would have shocked you a decade ago, or you consume entertainment that you would have been ashamed of years earlier. Our conscience does not always accurately tell us what is sin and what is not. While it might not always make sense to follow conscience in relation to other authorities, we have a duty to obey it because we cannot commit what we believe is sin. At the same time, we should be careful when dealing with the consciences of other people. In 1 Corinthians 8, the Apostle Paul talks about whether believers can eat meat offered to idols and refers to consideration for brothers and sisters with a weaker conscience. So, if we believe a brother or sister has a weaker conscience, we must not be a stumbling block to them and cause them to disobey their conscience. On disputable issues, we may realize that someone has a weaker conscience, and we can discuss the biblical principles that apply. Or perhaps they have a stronger conscience, and they can help us understand where our conscience is not aligned to Scripture. Again, conscience is not meant to be some wishy-washy idea where everyone can believe what they want, like in the time of the judges of Israel, when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” There are direct, objective commands and principles that can be taken from Scripture. There are many issues which should not be disputable for Christians and are clear in the Bible. However, there are also issues where serious Christians can come to different conclusions about what God commands. For example, what activities are not permitted on the Sabbath? Or perhaps more current, how do we navigate government restrictions and the call to honor our authorities versus our callings to obey what God demands of us? What about masking, vaccines, etc., both within the public square and the Church? Christian conscience differs on these issues, and believers can have biblical arguments for why they think God commands or prohibits different actions. What isn’t conscience? Some of us might react to the idea that conscience is a kind of subjective belief that is not accountable to other people. We can’t simply say, “well, what’s right for you isn’t necessarily right for me.” Conscience is not merely a personal preference like your favorite food or music. It is also not license to do whatever you please and ignore other authorities. Rather, freedom of conscience refers to moral beliefs that respect a limited sphere of individual authority while still recognizing other legitimate authorities that can impose obligations on us. As such, the conscience is not unlimited. Some people might abuse the ability to claim conscientious objection out of self-interest or to simply justify their actions. Authorities such as the civil government, church government, employers, or parents do have power to compel or deny certain actions. However, if the civil government (or other authorities) limits conscience, they must provide good justification for doing so and seek to accommodate conscientious objectors as much as they are able, such as through exemptions for freedom of conscience. Abraham Kuyper again shows the importance of conscience, stating that: “Ten times better is a state in which a few eccentrics can make themselves a laughingstock for a time by abusing freedom of conscience, than a state in which these eccentricities are prevented by violating conscience itself.” Conclusion Ultimately, conscience belongs to an individual and is accountable to God. However, it should also be rooted in Biblical commands and principles. Increasingly, we encounter disagreements in the Church about various issues, while in the public square some Christians’ jobs are threatened because the State fails to recognize conscience. On many matters, Christians will refuse to do something they believe is evil even if others do not believe the action is wrong. The Church has an opportunity to continue to show our society what it means to live according to moral standards based on the will and Sovereignty of God. Wherever we find ourselves, let’s seek to say, “I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men” (Acts 24:16). Daniel Zekveld is a policy analyst with ARPA Canada and the principal drafter of ARPA’s latest policy report on Conscience in Healthcare....

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – December 2021

Seasonal dad joke When a hotel sponsored a chess tournament they held it in their main lobby. That was a mistake, as it turned out the players did a lot of loud trash-talking, and no one really likes "chess nuts boasting in an open foyer." – adapted from a joke winding its way around the Internet I guess fossils do bleed There once was a man who was convinced he was dead. His doctor tried everything to convince him otherwise, but the man remained sure that he was dead. Then the doctor had an idea. He asked, "Do dead men bleed?" The man pondered the question for a few moments. "Well doctor, dead men haven't got any circulation so they could hardly bleed now, could they?" The doctor then pulled out a pin and pricked the man's finger. "You're bleeding - what do you have to say about that?" The astonished man looked down at his finger and exclaimed: "Well what do you know? I guess dead men do bleed!" It's an old joke, breathed new life when, in 1997, scientist Mary Schweitzer discovered what seemed to be red blood cells in inside a fossilized T. Rex leg bone that had been dated as 68 million years old. Creationists celebrated the find and evolutionary paleontologists tried to discredit it, both, for the same reason. The two sides agreed that 68 million year old dinosaur bones simply don't "bleed" – all such soft tissue would have been long ago degraded if the bones were really that old. Creationists knew this was evidence that dinosaurs roamed the Earth mere thousands of years ago, not millions, and that's why these red cells had survived. Evolutionists, trying to discredit the find, speculated that the cells were from a recent contamination of the fossil, that they were part of a biofilm that had grown on it recently. But further research by Schweitzer, published in 2012, has made it harder and harder to deny that traces of soft tissue can be found in dinosaur fossils. So are evolutionists ready to concede the fossils aren't as old as they claim? Not at all. Instead, Mary Schweitzer has many of her critics now saying, "Well what do you know? I guess 68 million-year-old dino bones do bleed!" The Apostle Paul on pretty Blogger Wil Ramsey on the shallowness of us menfolk: “Sometimes when people tell me how pretty their girlfriends are, I think I kinda know what Paul felt like when he was talking about tongues. I'm like, ‘Dude, not only is pretty the lowest of gifts a girl can have, and not only is she not as pretty as she is kind and compassionate and selfless and other things that are important, but my girlfriend is still better looking than yours.’” On using words “Telepathy in marriage doesn’t work any better than it does anywhere else” – Douglas Wilson in For a Glory and a Covering ...and that's theistic evolution Three geologists were standing at the foot of Mount Rushmore staring upwards. "The faces we see here of these four US Presidents certainly must be the work of a Master Sculptor!" said the first. To this, the second geologist sneered: "You call yourself a geologist? We investigate how natural causes form mountains and rocks – causes like volcanoes, plate movement, and erosion from water and wind. That's science. So let's get to work and figure out how these faces were formed through the forces of geophysics." The third geologist nodded in agreement. "Of course, you're right. That's the only way to do good science." Then he turned to the first geologist and added, "Clearly no Master Sculptor carved these faces, but I'm sure He enjoyed watching what the wind and water could do." –  adapted from a joke winding its way around the Internet. Dat is Dutch? A Canadian lass who married a Dutchman and is now living in the Netherlands has had some fun getting acquainted with Dutch culture. She is using her blog to both celebrate and mock "Stuff Dutch People Like." Of the 60+ items she lists some are predictable – bicycles, hagelslag, the color orange – but there was also a handful of items that don't seem particularly Dutch...except upon reflection. #4 Directness – Apparently in some cultures they don't like being told when they "couldn't be wronger." #10 Birthday congratulations –  Is it really only the Dutch who congratulate the birthday boy's brother, or the birthday girl's aunt? #18 Bringing your own cake – We're accused of being cheap, but no one else brings treats to work for their birthday. #24 Dairy + #41 Being tall – The Dutch are among the tallest people on earth, and among the most avid consumers of dairy. Coincidence? #25: Going camping – There's a reason everyone you know loves camping. #34: "Dat kan niet" – This is negative, opinionated and popular phrase is used to end discussions in the Netherlands. There is no equivalent phrase in North America, but the attitude behind it does seem familiar. #37: The Birthday Calendar – A handy little device that is unknown in other cultures, but now been co-opted by Facebook. Stranger danger “My family has an unwritten rule: if you wouldn’t spend time with someone in real life, then don’t let them into your living room via the television set either. It seems simple, but these days we’re not just letting these people into our living rooms, we’re letting them right into our kids’ bedrooms.” – Glenn Beck Good point G.K. Chesteton once wrote: “The word ‘good’ has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his mother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.” Pop is pretty important Randy Patten believes you can’t overstate the importance of the father’s role in raising good kids. At an Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) conference some years ago, the pastor illustrated this point by telling his audience about an initiative a greeting card company tried at a prison near their printing plant. They offered inmates a choice of cards to send to their mothers for Mother’s Day. The cards would be free and the greeting card company would even pay the postage. The response from the inmates was so enthusiastic the company representative had to go back to the plant to get more cards. This success prompted the company to make the same offer for Father’s Day. But this time they didn’t get even a single response – no one took them up on the offer. Almost to a man these inmates loved their mothers but none of them seemed to have any sort of positive relationship with their fathers....

Christian education - Sports, Marriage

Does God picks sides in sports and politics...and marriage?

The reason most people tune into the NFL playoffs is to watch large men fight over a small ball. But in 2015 there was also another battle going on, of interest even to those who can’t tell a pass from a pick. After their January 18 semifinal game that year, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a debate of sorts about whether God chooses sides in sporting contests. Though they were down most of the game, Seattle won by outscoring Green Bay 21-3 over the final six minutes. Afterward an ecstatic Russell Wilson credited God for his team’s remarkable comeback: “That’s God setting it up, to make it so dramatic, so rewarding, so special.” Wilson’s statement seemed to imply that God wanted Seattle to win – that He was on Seattle’s side. As might be expected, losing quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a different perspective: “I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome.” So does God pick sides in football games? Is God on our side? A few thousand years back a similar sort of question was asked right before a different sort of contest. Israel was about to attack Jericho when Joshua saw a man with drawn sword standing in front of him. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Neither? It’s a curious answer – why wouldn’t the commander of God’s army side with God’s people? Because that would be getting things backward. Yes, there are two sides, but the dividing line isn’t drawn where we think it is – it isn’t a matter of us versus them. No, it’s all about God. Instead of expecting God to back our team we should start trying to be a part of His. Aaron Rodgers had it right: God isn’t for or against any football team. He doesn’t pick sides; He is the dividing line. The question we’re faced with is only, are we for or against Him? What does that look like? That’s the real question, and one we’re to consider any time we’re called to battle. In the political arena, many a Christian candidate has lost his way by asking God to support their campaign rather than ensuring their campaign sides with God. It’s only when getting elected becomes something secondary that siding with God can become our first priority. In marriage, we’re not called to battle, but battles do come, and it gets that much the worse if one spouse, or both, thinks that God is on their side. No, God isn’t going to side with your stubbornness. He doesn’t think you’re being principled; He knows you’re just self-centered. So stop thinking of yourself, and start thinking about Him and what it looks like to play for his team in your marriage. Then you’ll forget about being right, and worry about being biblical: being forgiving, submissive and self-sacrificial. There are also battles in basketball, baseball and every other sport too. When our kids are playing for their Christian school’s team they need to understand that God has a team out there on the floor, and there might well be a team opposing Him too, but that division won’t be shown via uniform colors. Players who want to side with God will make his priorities their own. So they can set their sights on scoring 20 and winning the championship game but that can’t be their ultimate goal. What’ll be more important is trying to do all that God’s way: playing with self-control, hearing the coach, respecting opponents and, despite the mathematical difficulties, giving 110%. Conclusion So God wasn’t siding with the Seahawks. That’s getting it backward. We are called to be on His team and called to play, and to campaign, and to love, and to battle His way. Let’s see things rightly and live our lives seeking His way. This originally appeared in the March 2015 issue under the title "On whose side? Battling Christians should pick the right team"...

Book Reviews, Children’s fiction, Teen fiction

The Bark of the Bog Owl

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

News

Saturday Selections – November 27, 2021

Education without Jesus? "You would never go to a Vacation Bible School run by Mormons or spend your Sundays in a Muslim Temple. Still, many Christian high school students decide to spend their formative college years attending godless, public universities and colleges." Birth control documentary shares the Pill’s dirty little secret This review of The Business of Birth Control is itself very informative about the risks of the birth control pill to the women who use it. And it doesn't even get into the risks the pill presents to the unborn. Why Jack Phillips wouldn't bake the cake A Christian who has had to deal with a firestorm of controversy explains why he had to refuse to bake a wedding cake for two men who made the request. The short answer? As a Christian, he didn't want to help celebrate (and therefore be a part of encouraging)  two men pledging themselves to a lifelong rebellion against God. Our infant mortality rate is worse than in 1900 In the USA in the year 1900, one out of every ten babies died. In the year 2018, it is two out of ten babies. And the situation is similar in Canada and most Western nations. If that's a shock to you, it's because you've forgotten the reason why things are so much worse today. The unintended consequence of Universal Childcare A Swedish mother reports on her experience that when the government takes on more responsibility for childcare, parents have less options and less control. 39% of young Americans identify as  LGBT, rebutting "born this way" "...today, most Americans either believe that sexual orientation is something not chosen or that it is something that should never be questioned. However, polls like this one should make us question what many in our culture now take for granted about sexual orientation. Otherwise, how can the explosion in self-identified LGBTQ youth be explained?" Smeagol resets his personal pronouns Some ideas should be debated. This idea should be mocked. (For guidance on why, see Prov. 26:4-5 and also "The don't and do's of answering fools"). ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Hidden Heroes

Documentary / WWII 50 min /  1999 Rating: 8/10 Among the “hidden heroes” of World War II were the thousands of Dutchmen who opened their homes to Jews and others who were hiding from the Nazis. They did this at great personal risk, and yet they did this in huge numbers. They were ordinary Dutchmen, but they displayed extraordinary courage. Where did this courage come from? As this film chronicles, in many, many cases it came from their Christian convictions. This is truly an extraordinary documentary and it should be shown in all of our schools on Remembrance Day – it tells in short, compelling interviews and quick docudrama clips what our parents and grandparents lived through and what they did to oppose the evil of the Nazis. This is an inspiring movie for anyone, but for those of Dutch descent, it is a must-see. And you can watch it for free below. ...

History

Why History matters

It’s not surprising people aren’t that interested in history. The evolutionary perspective that’s dominated the West for decades now, undermines the significance of knowing our past. How so? Well, if life started out simple and became more complex over time, then what exists now is superior to anything that came before, and what’s older is outdated and inferior. Now is much more important than anything recorded in the history textbooks, and thus there’s little reason to learn about our past. A person’s worldview affects how he or she views history. This is a point made by Stephen Mansfield in his book, More Than Dates and Dead People: Recovering a Christian View of History. Those with an evolutionary worldview will have little incentive to study history aside from trivial interests. Christianity, however, views history much differently. We know God controls everything, so historical events are not random and meaningless since they all have a purpose in God’s plan. As Mansfield puts it, “God has a destination for history that gives everything else in history its meaning.” Your history shapes you One way history affects our lives involves how we see and understand ourselves. Your own family’s past will influence your personal identity and if your ancestors were notorious criminals, that’ll impact you differently than if they were war heroes or great philanthropists. Mansfield writes, “…the way you see your past has a lot to do with the way you see yourself now. And the way you see yourself, good or bad, determines the way you live. This is why we say that history has the power to impact a sense of destiny. Your view of your past will shape your view of your future, and this is not only true of individuals, but even of nations – in fact, of any group of people.” Everyone’s parents are part of a particular nation and culture. Thus, everyone has a specific heritage from the time of their birth. Often this heritage will contribute much to their sense of identity, and to their sense of meaning and purpose. History shapes our time Studying history also provides perspective that helps people to better understand their own era. This can be an experience similar to traveling to a different country: seeing how other people live causes us to become aware of how our own society differs from others. It makes us conscious of things we haven't thought about before, simply because they were so familiar. Learning history can provide us with a similar experience, because we see how differently people lived in the past, even within our own country. In many respects, life is easier now than in the past. The higher standard of living today is due to the hard work of our forebears. However, we can’t truly appreciate what those people have done for us unless we actually know what they’ve done. The accomplishments of previous generations profoundly affect our lives today. Without victories in particular conflicts, for example, we would be living in completely different circumstances. Consider how things would be different if the Allies had lost the Second World War. As Mansfield explains: “every generation is living in the wake of the generation that precedes it…. We all live in the world that our ancestors have left us.” Religious history shows the why behind what happened History shows what people have done in the past but a key question is, why did they do what they did? Generally speaking, people are motivated by what they believe. Therefore, to understand history it’s necessary to know what a community believed that would lead them to do what they did. In other words, much of history is motivated by people’s religion. To explain this properly, Mansfield relies on a robust definition of religion as “ultimate concern.” As he explains more fully: “A man’s ultimate concern is what dominates his thoughts and passions, what he regards with unconditional seriousness, and what he is willing to suffer or die for. This is his religion, his god, his faith – regardless of what he says he believes.” Many think of religion in a narrower sense of believing in a particular god and attending some house of worship. They would say that they don’t have a religion and that society should be non-religious. In their view, people can practice religion as part of their private lives but should keep it out of the public sphere. However, when religion is understood as “ultimate concern,” it is clear that every society is religious because everyone has fundamental beliefs about the meaning of life that motivates their actions. In recent decades, North American society has turned away from Christianity. But the secular or progressive ideals that have replaced Christianity are just as “religious,” even though secularism isn’t a traditional religion where people attend an assembly of co-believers to worship a particular deity. As Mansfield summarizes this point: “When we look at the lives of people in history, we have to realize that each person’s life has been shaped in large part by faith. Whatever people believed – their ultimate concern – was their religion, even if they claimed to be completely opposed to religion.” This point is important with regard to understanding history because, Mansfield writes: “Faith is what powers the human side of history. Find out what people believe and you’ll know who they are. History shows how God blesses countries that obey One notable example of the influence of religion on history is how Protestantism led to the greatest degree of individual liberty among nations. While Christianity introduced the idea of a transcendent authority (God) above the state, the Reformation refined the concept of political liberty even further. This was particularly the case in Calvinistic countries. In 17th century Britain, individual liberty became a key emphasis of political theory. As the British Empire expanded across the globe, these ideas were carried with emigrants who settled new lands that became the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. These countries, along with some of the Protestant nations of continental Europe, have offered their citizens the greatest degree of freedom in history. Capitalism – the economic side of individual freedom – generated tremendous prosperity in these countries as well. Thus, both liberty and relatively high standards of living were the direct fruits of Protestantism. Legislative history reflects the heart of a nation Although there is a popular slogan that “you can’t legislate morality,” the opposite is actually true: all law is the enacting of morality into legislation. Murder is illegal because it is considered to be immoral; theft is illegal because it is considered to be immoral, and so on. Therefore, examining a community’s laws will reveal what that community values most strongly. Mansfield puts it this way: “Laws, all laws, are statements of value, of belief, of higher principles. This is why we might define law as ‘religion codified’ or religion set into a series of statements about right and wrong.” With this in mind, it is possible to see when a particular society’s religious beliefs are changing. Any substantial change in laws reveals a substantial change in their religion Just such a legal and religious change was noticeable in North America during the 1960s. For example, Mansfield notes that: “the United States Supreme Court, in the 1962 Engel v. Vitale case, told 39,000,000 American school children that the twenty-two word prayer with which they started their day was a violation of the Constitution.” This was one of the most controversial Supreme Court decisions in American history, and it indicated that the country was moving in a sharply secular direction. A few years later, the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 legalizing abortion throughout the U.S. contributed further to this change. The 1960s were also a major period of change in Canada. In 1969, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau legalized abortion (to a certain degree) and homosexuality at the same time. Clearly, the country was moving away from its Christian foundation. Trudeau went even further by adding his Charter of Rights and Freedoms to the constitution in 1982. That document would ultimately lead to the elimination of any restrictions on abortion whatsoever, as well as extend homosexual rights to the point where the federal government legalized same-sex marriage in 2005. Again, the change in law reflected a change in religion. Canada was becoming less Christian and more secular. We can see this from the history. We can understand the present political and cultural situation of our country only by learning this history. Conclusion Contrary to the evolutionary view that learning history has little value, the Christian perspective recognizes that history is the outworking of God's plan that provides meaning to our lives. It affects how we view ourselves and our purpose in the world. Without some knowledge of history, we cannot properly understand our own society and the significance of major cultural and political events. Given that religious beliefs are the primary motivator for people's behavior, history provides a record of how different religions have affected the world for better or worse. What history also teaches us then, generally speaking, is that those countries most aligned with God’s Truth – Protestant Christian nations – have been the freest and most prosperous....

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Microcosmos

Documentary / Nature 80 min / 1996 Rating: 9/10 Have you ever wondered what it’s like for bugs when it rains, getting hit by water droplets bigger than their bodies? If so, then this is the film for you. Winner of the 1996 Cannes Film Festival technical grand prize for its cinematic brilliance, this documentary delves into the world hidden beneath our feet. The bugs are the stars, so there is practically no narration – perhaps a hundred words over the whole film. We see trains of caterpillars strung out, nose to butt by the dozens, a spider capturing air bubbles to drag down to his underwater lair, the emergence of winged ants as they jostle down the tunnel towards the opening en masse, and a millipede in exquisite detail as it walks over undulating tiny, tiny hills. Parents who watch this with their children may have to do a bit of explaining about the birds and the bees (well, just the bees in this case) as a few scenes touch on sex. But as there is no narration parents who want to evade the topic for a bit can tell their kids that, “those two snails are just kissing.” ...

Internet

Proverbs: 3,000 years ahead of its time

Solomon did not have a web page. He didn’t blog. He didn’t tweet. He wasn’t on Snap Chat or Instagram. But he can still help you navigate the seas of social media. Here are three important terms to know when using the Internet: Verify, Verify, Verify! In the world of social media, little is as it seems. You must verify that what you read and see is not just a half-truth or flat-out deception. Proverbs 18:17 says: The first to present his case in a dispute seems right, until his opponent comes and cross-examines him. It is easy to accept texts, tweets, posts, emails, etc., at face value. Don’t! This isn’t cynical, but just realizing that the Bible warns about the deception of the human heart.  The online chat can be with a predator. The text or email can sound like a real need, but it may well be only half of the truth. Someone who is struggling may be telling you only one side of the story. Remember what is important about internet communication: VERIFY what you hear or read by way of another source. Just because one person or source says something is true, doesn’t make it true. If verification is not possible then you must withhold judgment about the truth of what you read. Also, verify the identity of whom you communicate with. Predators are a serious threat! VERIFY that the person you are communicating with has nothing to gain from the information you receive. Is the person trying to gain your support in a dispute? Are you being asked for information that could compromise you in some way? Is someone else being put in a bad light by what you hear? Are you being intentionally or unintentionally misled? VERIFY that the person you are communicating with has done their due diligence in verifying what you are being told. Simply asking “how do you know that” is a great way to avoid gossip. Someone reading this might well ask, “Well this article is online, how can I trust what you are saying?” That is exactly the right question to ask! In this case, you know the source of the article, ShepherdPress.com. You can know who the author is by checking out the webpage. You have the ability to communicate and ask for verification either by comment or via email from the Shepherd Press web page. You have the ability to check out the background and beliefs of Shepherd Press by checking out that same page.  This is the sort of verification you should engage in with any information gained via social media. Protect yourself and your children by acting on the truth of Proverbs 18:17. Solomon may not have had internet access. But his wisdom is timeless! Jay Younts is the author of “Everyday Talk: Talking freely and Naturally about God with Your Children” and “Everyday Talk about Sex & Marriage.” He blogged at ShepherdPress.com, where this article (reprinted with permission) first appeared. This was featured in the Jan/Feb 2018 magazine issue....

Economics

The art of the apology

In the middle of a leaders’ coaching session, focusing on how they engaged in difficult conversations with their teams, I began to notice a theme. These leaders were frustrated with the lack of ownership for bad attitudes on the part of some of their team members. I was also not “hearing” much, if any, sense of ownership regarding their own attitudes with these frustrating team members. I asked a couple of questions: Have you ever delivered a “bad” attitude in response to a team members’ “bad” attitude? What did you do when you realized your error (assuming you did)? Most in the group had not done anything regarding their own gap in attitude. Another question was asked: When is the last time you offered an apology to someone with whom you made a mistake?  To my very great surprise over half of the group had never apologized – EVER!! Even the boss isn't perfect This was a group of leaders with spouses, kids, involved in the community and entrusted with the leadership of people in the business they were helping to lead. How could this be? This was a group in which almost all claimed faith in Christ and yet most had never owned up to their mistakes at work, home, or in their communities. It became clear that something was really wrong! The lack of character in this group was troubling. The feeling of unease became palpable as they realized the hypocrisy of what was just confessed. I felt for them. The planned agenda was dropped and I proceeded to “teach” this group the “Art of the Apology.” Until they were willing to model the way and “own” an error in judgment or attitude, there was little sense in teaching anything else. Before going further, I admit that in teaching the “Art of the Apology” it is not because I have it all figured out or find it easy to do. To be authentic and consistent has required much inner work on my part – and this work is surely a lifelong journey! Our egos, left to their own devices, crave being right, being in charge, being in control. However, the way of our God & His kingdom is so very different. His way is one of letting go of those human drives and humbling oneself before Him and others. His way is one of fully embracing one’s identity in Him. When we find ourselves in Him our sense of security and significance is bolstered. Our capacity to love, and not operate with fear, is strengthened. Because of Him we can own our mistakes and take the needed steps to apologize, forgive and potentially reconcile. 9 important words On June 15, 1985, my good friend Luch Delmonte spoke at my wedding. In his charge to me and my bride, he included 9 words. He repeated these same 9 words at the weddings of each of our 4 kids. How’s that for a legacy!! Here are the 9 words that can change your life should you choose to live them: “I am sorry, I was wrong, Please forgive me!” These 9 words have provided such a wonderful framework to help ensure relational ease at work and at home.  I cannot imagine the impact on me and on others without them.  Can you? A Deliberate application When is the last time you apologized for an attitude, words, and/or actions that were “offside”? How did you know they were “offside”? Describe what you were sensing in you and between you, God, and the other person? What does your internal conversation sound like when you work at avoiding an apology? What keeps you from living out Romans 12:18 – from taking responsibility in helping ensure peace between you and others? If you are responsible for any part of a relational disconnect, what is your part? When will you approach the person and offer the 9 words? This is the 7th in a series on “Leadership of People and Culture” that have been appearing on the DeliberateU.com blog, and it is reprinted here with permission. DeliberateU is a Christian business leaders mentorship group. ...

Lists, Movie Reviews

100+ documentaries that make learning a joy

Whether you loved school or hated it, most of us were blessed with at least one teacher that showed us learning could be exciting. That's what a good documentary is like, getting us eager to learn by introducing us to new places, creatures, or ideas that we've never encountered before, then boiling down complex and important issues into bite-sized chunks we can actually understand and discuss. It's libraries worth of information, presented by leading experts with decades worth of study, packaged up in just an hour or two. God has placed us in an enormous world that's part of an even bigger universe, and if we're going to explore as much of it as we can, we are going to need guides. That's what's on offer in the films that follow. Some of the guides are fellow Christians who make the connection between creation and Creator clear, and some of the guides are not Christian, but that connection will still be clear to God's people, even if the guide himself doesn't quite get it. There are more than 100 recommendations, divided into a dozen categories. 87 of them have reviews linked to via their titles, while 40 can be viewed for "free online." (If you're more into dramas, be sure to check out "200+ Movies King David Might Watch.") ANIMALS (8) Whether secular or Christian, these documentaries highlight the genius of the Great Designer by diving deep into the wonder of His creatures. FLIGHT OF THE BUTTERFLIES – 2012, 44 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE FLIGHT: THE GENIUS OF BIRDS – 2013, 63 minutes – 9/10 LIVING WATERS – 2015, 69 minutes – 8/10 MARCH OF THE PENGUINS – 2005, 80 minutes – 7/10 METAMORPHOSIS: THE BEAUTY AND DESIGN OF BUTTERFLIES – 2011, 64 minutes – 8/10 MICROCOSMOS – 1996, 80 minutes – 9/10 THE RIOT AND THE DANCE: EARTH – 2018, 83 minutes – 8/10 THE RIOT AND THE DANCE: WATER – 2020, 84 minutes – 8/10 APOLOGETICS (3) All the titles below are demonstrations of presuppositional apologetics, though only not all would use that terminology. COLLISION: CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS vs. DOUGLAS WILSON – 2009, 93 minutes – 9/10 – FREE ONLINE THE FOOL – 2019, 65 minutes - 8/10 – FREE ONLINE HOW TO ANSWER THE FOOL – 2013, 85 minutes – 8/10 –FREE ONLINE ASSORTED CHRISTIAN (23) The very best documentaries pack books' worth of knowledge into a short hour or two. And these are just that sort. AS WE FORGIVE – 2010, 54 minutes – 8/10 Amazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism – 2004, 257 minutes – 8/10 AMERICAN GOSPEL: CHRIST ALONE – 2018, 139 minutes – 8/10 American Gospel: Christ Crucified – 2019, 176 minutes – 8/10 BEYOND THE GATES OF SPLENDOR – 2005, 96 minutes – 7/10 THE BIBLE VS. THE BOOK OF MORMON – 2005, 66 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE BY WHAT STANDARD? GOD'S WORLD...GOD'S RULES – 2019, 110 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE CALVINIST - 2017, 89 minutes - 8/10 EXPEDITION BIBLE: JERICHO UNEARTHED – 2010, 34 minutes – 8/10 FACING DARKNESS – 2017, 99 minutes – 8/10 The God Who speaks – 2018, 92 minutes – 8/10 THE GREEN PRINCE - 2014, 101 minutes – 8/10 How Should We Then Live? – 2005, 360 minutes – 7/10 IRREPLACEABLE - WHAT IS FAMILY? – 2015, 104 minutes – 8/10 LOGIC ON FIRE – 2015, 102 minutes – 7/10 THE LONG GOODBYE: THE KARA TIPPETTS STORY – 2019, 88 minutes – 10/10 THE MARKS OF A CULT – 2005, 115 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE THE NARNIA CODE – 2009, 59 minutes – 8/10 NOTES FROM THE TILT-A-WHIRL – 2011, 51 minutes – 10/10 ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN – 2020, 112 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE RETURN TO GRACE: LUTHER'S LIFE AND LEGACY – 2017, 106 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE SPIRIT & TRUTH: A FILM ABOUT WORSHIPPING GOD – 2019, 87 minutes – 8/10 The Truth Project – 2006, 800 minutes – 9/10 WAIT TILL IT'S FREE – 2014, 82 minutes – 9/10 ASSORTED SECULAR (6) Not knowing God means the world doesn't have a full grasp on truth. But they can often spot problems, even if they don't know the solutions. Or they can discover beauty, without giving credit to Who they should. That means we can still benefit from the best of the work, adding to it what they have left out.  Cool It: Are We Saving the World or Just Burning Money? – 2010, 88 minutes – 8/10 CITIZENFOUR – 2014, 113 minutes – 7/10 DEMOGRAPHIC WINTER – 2008, 56 minutes – 7/10 LONG SHOT: THE KEVIN LAUE STORY – 2012, 91 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE The Question of God – 2004, 225 minutes – 8/10 UNCLE TOM – 2020, 106 minutes – 8/10 BABIES, BORN AND UNBORN (9) We have contributions from incrementalists and abolitionists below, as well as one secular offering.  180: FROM PRO-CHOICE TO PRO-LIFE IN SECONDS – 2011, 33 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE BABIES ARE MURDERED HERE – 2014, 54 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE BABIES ARE STILL MURDERED HERE - 2019, 102 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE – 2015, 49 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE HARDER TRUTH – 2003, 9 minutes – 10/10 – FREE ONLINE In the Womb – 2005, 89 minutes – 8/10 RESCUED: THE HEART OF ADOPTION – 2012, 62 minutes – 7/10 THE MISSING PROJECT - 2019, 75 minutes – 8/10 - FREE ONLINE UNPLANNED – 2011, 62 minutes – 7/10 CREATION, EVOLUTION, AND DESIGN (22) Evidence of all sorts, to the genius of our Creator... ALIEN INTRUSION – 2018, 109 minutes – 8/10 DARWIN: THE VOYAGE THAT SHOOK THE WORLD – 2009, 55 minutes – 8/10 DISMANTLED: A DECONSTRUCTION OF EVOLUTION – 2020, 93 minutes – 8/10 DNA BATTLES: WERE ADAM AND EVE HISTORICAL? – 2018, 59 minutes – 7/10 DRAGONS OR DINOSAURS? – 2010 / 84 minutes – 7/10 EVOLUTION'S ACHILLES' HEELS – 2014, 96 minutes – 9/10 EXPELLED: NO INTELLIGENCE ALLOWED – 2008, 95 minutes – 8/10 GENESIS IMPACT - 2020, 67 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE GENESIS: PARADISE LOST – 2018, 109 minutes – 8/10 GOD OF WONDERS – 2008, 85 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE Icons of Evolution – 2002, 52 minutes - 7/10 INCREDIBLE CREATURES THAT DEFINE DESIGN – 2011, 62 minutes – 7/10 IS GENESIS HISTORY? – 2017, 100 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE The Master Designer: The Song – 2014, 76 minutes – 7/10 MOUNT ST. HELENS: MODERN EVIDENCE FOR A WORLDWIDE FLOOD – 2012, 36 minutes – 7/10 NOAH'S ARK: THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX – 2008, 35 minutes – 8/10 Patterns of Evidence – 2014, 115 minutes – 8/10 THE PRIVILEGED PLANET – 2005, 60 minutes – 8/10 REVOLUTIONARY – 2016, 60 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE SCIENCE UPRISING – 43 minutes, 2019 – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE UNLOCKING THE MYSTERY OF LIFE – 67 minutes, 2003 – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE What you aren't being told about Astronomy Vol 1 – 2009, 110 minutes – 7/10 ECONOMICS (3) An important, but sometimes dry subject is made downright scintillating!  LOVE GOV – 2015, 28 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE Poverty Inc. – 2014, 94 minutes – 8/10 THE PURSUIT – 2019, 77 minutes - 7/10 EDUCATION (2) Public education is a problem, as this secular and Christian documentary agree. INDOCTRINATION – 2011, 102 minutes – 8/10 WAITING FOR SUPERMAN – 2010, 111 minutes – 8/10 FOR KIDS (10) Documentaries aren't generally targeted to children, but these are, and will be a hit with the younger crowd. BUDDY DAVIS' AMAZING ADVENTURES: – I Dig Dinosaurs – 2011 – 26 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – Swamp Man – 2012, 45 minutes – 7/10 – Extreme Caving – 2013, 58 minutes – 7/10 – Alaska – 2015, 25 minutes – 6/10 – Ice Age – 2017, 25 minutes – 7/10 DUDE PERFECT: BACKSTAGE PASS – 2020, 84 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE PATTERNS OF EVIDENCE: YOUNG EXPLORERS – 2020, 190 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE INCREDIBLE CREATURES THAT DEFY EVOLUTION I – 2006, 47 minutes – 7/10 A LEGO BRICKUMENTARY – 2015, 93 minutes – 7/10 THE WILD BROTHERS (8 episodes) – 2015-2020, 28-30 minutes each – 7/10 INTERNET SAFETY (4) With screens everywhere, how do we keep our children safe? Here's some help.  CAPTIVATED – 2011, 107 min – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE CONNECT: REAL HELP FOR PARENTS... – 2018, 70 minutes – 8/10 OUR KIDS ONLINE...HOW TO KEEP THEM SAFE – 2020, 88 minutes - 8/10 RAISED ON PORN – 2021, 37 min – 8/10 - FREE ONLINE SEXUALITY (4) Tackling homosexuality, transgenderism, and more, THE FREE SPEECH APOCALYPSE – 2015, 89 minutes – 8/10 HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW? – 2016, 88 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE IN HIS IMAGE: GOD'S PLAN FOR SEXUALITY – 2020, 104 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE TRANS MISSION: WHAT'S THE RUSH TO REASSIGN GENDER? – 2021, 52 minutes – 7/10 -FREE ONLINE WORLD WAR II (10) To help us remember... GOODBYE HOLLAND: THE DESTRUCTION OF DUTCH JEWRY – 2004, 90 minutes – 8/10 HIDDEN HEROES – 1999, 50 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE THE RECKONING – 2006, 96 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE Why we fight – 1943-45 – 7/10 – Prelude to War / The Nazis Strike – 95 minutes – FREE ONLINE – Divide and Conquer / The Battle of Britain – 106 minutes – FREE ONLINE – The Battle of Russia – 83 minutes – FREE ONLINE – The Battle of China / War comes to America – 131 minutes – FREE ONLINE...

Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Grandma’s Boy

Silent / Comedy 56 min; 1922 Rating: 7/10 While Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton are still famous today, there were actually three comedic stars of the silent film era. The largely forgotten Harold Lloyd was every bit as popular at the time, and with many of his films now entering the public domain and free to view online, he may have a chance of being so again. In Grandma's Boy, Lloyd plays a mama's boy twice over, too timid to stand up to the town bully even when that bully is trying to steal his girl, and so cowardly he'll rely on his little old grandmother to come to his rescue when a big burly tramp threatens him. That protective grandmother has surely contributed to his cowardice, but she's also determined to help fix it. When the tramp she chased off starts robbing stores and shooting at the townsfolk, the sheriff deputizes a posse to go after him. Grandma's boy is deputized too, but he ends up running home in terror. That's when grandma intervenes. She concocts a story about a magical charm that will protect anyone who holds it, then passes  off what's actually her umbrella handle as that charm. The now fearless young man grabs a firm hold of it and takes charge, braving car chases, gun battles, and fist fights to get his man. Cautions The magical charm is the supposed creation of a witch, but as is made clear at the film's end, there was no witch, and thus no magic, and the boy's superstitious belief was nonsense. Children might need to be told that despite the good result, grandma's "little white fib" was still wrong. The only other warning would be not to mistake this for the crass 2006 film of the same name. Conclusion Acting in the silent film era was intentionally overdone, because the actors had only their body language and facial expression to communicate with. For a modern audience, that means all the acting comes off as over-acting, and that's quite the flaw in a drama. However, it isn't the same problem in a comedy like this, where the overacting can just add to the hilarity. Another problem with older films is that the pacing is far slower than we're used to today. That's a flaw that YouTube can help fix. Just click on the settings (the little gear icon at the bottom of the frame) and change the playback speed from "normal" to 1.5 times. That's something you couldn't do in a talking picture, but for silent films it is a great option, sure to improve the experience for most audiences. What's a little long at 56 minutes becomes a unique experience of cinema history when it is just 39 minutes. My kids came in at about the halfway mark, stayed to the end, and gave what they say two thumbs up. But even with that positive feedback I knew this one wouldn't cut it as a family movie night selection when none of them asked to see it again from the start. This is best appreciated as the educational experience it is, a time travel trip to see films as they used to be. Watch Grandma's Boy for free below and if you want more Lloyd, Safety Last, his most famous film, is also free to see online. ...

Book Reviews, Teen fiction

Echo Island: the silence holds a secret

by Jared C. Wilson 251 pages / 2020 After celebrating their high school graduation with one last group camping trip, four friends return home to find the streets empty. The same is true of the sidewalks, the stores, and all of their homes – everyone is gone, and there's no sign of where they went, or what made them go. Bradley, Jason, Archer, and Tim have the whole town to themselves and they can go wherever they want and take whatever they want. But what they want is to solve the mystery in front of them. Of course, this isn't something they can just Google...even if their phones did work. So how are they going to find answers? And maybe the more important question is, are they really alone? I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I started Echo Island. The publisher has this in "Survival stories" and  "Action & Adventure" categories, and that sure doesn't capture it.  "Mystery" or "Christian allegory" are getting closer, but this one is hard to nail down. Is "Twilight Zone" a fiction genre? Maybe it isn't that the book defies description, but more that any proper description would have to include spoilers. So I'm going to leave the description there and move on to who would like Echo Island. Author Jared Wilson said he was writing for teens who liked C.S. Lewis's Narnia series or his Space Trilogy. That's helpful, but I'll add that a 12-year-old who's only just figured out Aslan is a Christ-figure is going to find this frustratingly mysterious, whereas a 16-year old who has been chowing down on The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, and The Hideous Strength will find it intriguingly so. So get it for your older avid-reading teen, and then be sure to borrow it yourself. ...

Book excerpts, Book Reviews

In praise of blunt

Christians want to present the gospel is a nice polite manner. But in a world that is increasingly treating Christian truth as inherently offensive, we're facing the reality that we can either be perceived as polite, or we can clearly state God's Truth. In this excerpt from Ichabod Spencer’s A Pastor’s Sketches, the author shows there are real benefits to be had in clarity. The excerpt begins with Rev. Spencer (1798-1854) at a revival meeting where people have come specifically to seek God. ***** It was on one of those evenings, when about seventy persons were present, and I was passing rapidly from one to another, that I came to an individual who had never been there before. Said I: “What is the state of your feelings on the subject of your salvation?” “I feel,” said he, “that I have a very wicked heart.” “It is a great deal more wicked than you think it,” said I; and immediately left him, and addressed myself to the next person. The arrow driven deeper I thought no more of it till a few days afterwards, when he came to me with a new song in his mouth. He had found peace with God, as he thought, through faith in Jesus Christ. Said he: “I want to tell you how much good you did me. When I told you that I had a very wicked heart, and you answered that it was a great deal more wicked than I thought, and then said nothing more to me, I thought it a most cruel thing. I expected something different. I thought you would say more, and my soul was wonderfully cast down. I did not believe you. I was angry at your treatment. I thought you did not care whether I was ever saved or not; and I did not believe you knew anything about my feelings. But the words rung in my ears, ‘A great deal more wicked than you think.’ I could not get rid of them. They were in my mind the last thing when I went to sleep, and the first when I woke. And then I would be vexed at you for not saying something else. But that was the thing which drove me to Christ. I now know it was just what I needed. I thought, when I went to that meeting, my convictions were very deep. But I have found out they were very slight. You hit my case exactly. If you had talked to me, my burden would have been diminished. But you fastened one idea on my mind. You drove the arrow deeper, when I expected you to do just the contrary; and I could find no relief till I gave up all into the hands of Christ. I know you read my heart exactly.” After some few minutes’ conversation with him, he said to me, “I want to ask you a question. I have been thinking of it a great deal, and I cannot conceive how you know what to say to each one, where there are so many. We have been talking about it some of us, and we cannot understand how it is that you can know our thoughts and feelings, when nobody has told you. How can you know what to say to one after another, when there are so many, and some of them you have never seen before, and they say so little to you?” Conspire with the Holy Spirit “I have only one rule on that subject,” said I. “I aim to conspire with the Holy Spirit. If I perceive any one truth has impressed the mind, I aim to make its impression deeper; because the Holy Spirit has already made that impression, and I would not diminish it by leading the mind off to something else. If I perceive any error in the individual's mind, I aim to remove it; for I know that the error is of sin, and not of the Holy Spirit.” “But,” said he, “our impressions are so different.” “No matter. They are of the Holy Spirit if truth has made them; and he can choose the kind of truth which is appropriate to any sinner, better than I can. I just aim to conspire with the Holy Spirit.” Said he, “I am confident if you had said much to me, or anything, to turn my mind away from that one thing, it would have done me hurt. You have no idea how much you increased my trouble that night. I somehow wanted you to lighten my burden, - you made it heavier. Then I was soon led to see that none but God could help me. I had partly begun to think my heart was improving. I found out the contrary, and turned to God in despair. He gave me peace, through Jesus Christ.” Questions Pastor Spencer’s approach is truthful, but might it be said to lack grace? Did he have to deliver it so bluntly? And why didn't he stick around to talk some more? Can we say his is a good approach simply because the man repented? Or might God have used Pastor Spencer despite his bluntness, and not because of it? How does Pastor Spencer's bluntness measure up against the prophets declarations in the Bible? More blunt or less? Was Jesus ever blunt? He is said to be full of grace and truth (John 1:14) so how should that impact our understanding of what it means to be gracious? What does it look like to be both gracious and truthful? Do today’s church often acts graciously, but at the expense of stating God’s Truth clearly? Or is it the other way around? Which danger is the Church most in danger of: being too blunt to the point of being graceless, or being too nice to the point of obscuring the truth? What are you in most danger of? "A Pastor’s Sketches" contains an account of Rev. Spencer’s numerous home visits, and his other evangelism forays. Originally published in 1850, this unique book is available at www.solid-ground-books.com....

News

Saturday Selections - November 20, 2021

The "A word" (1 min) As has been said, our culture wars are really battles over the dictionary. Whether it's the euphemisms offered in place of the "A-word," or the "redefinition" of terms like marriage, gender and even love, the devil's strategy is to confuse people. Our role? To share God's definitions, revealing the world as God has actually made it. Life inside a woke company (10-min read) Rod Dreher talks with two Christians on the pressures that exist in big companies for Christians to stay quiet and promote the company's latest woke (and maybe LGBT) initiative. Decades ago, pressures to join God-opposing unions prompted many Reformed folk to start their own businesses. We need that entrepreneurial spirit again. Intelligent Design without God Some will credit anything – chance, multiverses, or now, super-intelligent aliens – except God for the fine-tuning of the universe. Why many "Great Books" of the 20th century were by suicidal authors Jonathon Van Maren examines the authors' worldviews from a "50 greatest books" list and finds a whole lot of nihilism. For a better top 50 list, see one on our website here. What happens when Democrats have all the power? What's might be most interesting here is that the warning being issued here is being given by perhaps the most influential of all leftwing publications, the New York Times. Was life discovered on Venus?!? We regularly hear that this or that could be evidence of life on Mars, or on a meteorite, or, as happened late last year, on Venus. And when clarifying information comes in months later disproving the notion, there aren't the same-sized headlines offering up the correction. So, as Spike Psarris explains, looking back at the Venus hype one year later, we can see how the same old mistakes were made again. Commentators do their best "Who's on first?" Whether this was an intentional bit or not, it's a hilarious homage to Abbot and Costello's classic (and Babylon Bee has recently also paid tribute). wow. Abbot and Costello got nothing on @IngrahamAngle.pic.twitter.com/kuqxaFSyuD — ken olin (@kenolin1) November 16, 2021 ...

Assorted

“You too?” What friendship is, and why it’s so hard to find

Finding good friends can be a daunting process. Oh, sure, some people seem to slide quickly and easily into friendship in only a matter of days. But for the rest of us there’s questions and more questions. How do good friendships begin? At what point do acquaintances officially become friends? How can you quickly move to that “comfortable stage” where you can just relax around each other? And, why is making friends so hard? When I thought about my own approach to friendship, there was something very specific I was looking for in the initial stages of meeting a new person. I was searching for some sort of magical moment of “connection.” C.S. Lewis put into words what this connection feels like: "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” You know what it feels like when you’ve been acquainted with someone for years, and done all sorts of activities with them, but still don’t feel like you really know them? And then there are others you feel connected to right away? That’s because with some people you reach that “You too?” moment right away, and some people you never do. When it happens, this connection is such a gift. Who doesn’t feel lonely sometimes? And who wants to face life’s ups and downs by their lonesome? So it comes as unimaginable relief to find out other humans know what you’re talking about. About your deep loneliness despite being constantly surrounded by people. About your guilt at not being as good a parent as you thought you would be, or not being as patient a husband or wife. About your spiritual doubts that you wrestle with. To walk side-by-side with another through anxious times can make the path appear a little smoother. Too much emphasis? However, it is possible to put too much emphasis on this connection. I’m making it sound like the discovery of common ground is essential to friendship, so how can a person place too much emphasis on it? The answer is, yes. It’s easy to think you don’t have anything in common with someone before you reach this “You too?” moment. I certainly feel this way at times. When I’m staring at a stranger, I can’t imagine what possible experiences we might share that could lead to a conversation. It’s too easy to give up before ever reaching the stage of a relationship known as “friendship.” And I don’t think I’m the only one who overemphasizes finding this moment of connection. It’s been stated more than a few times that, despite having more technologies to connect us than all generations before us could have dreamed of, we are one of the loneliest and most isolated generations. And it’s not only that technology discourages us from meeting face-to-face – it also teaches us to seek out that “You too?” moment. We join groups of comic book fans, narrowing them down to the most obscure character in them all. We connect with like-minded cooks, sharing recipes with others who are passionate about our non-GMO, paleo, carb-free diet. Or we discuss the narrowest point of Calvin’s Institutes on message boards of people who agree with us. But in real life, facing real people, we can’t imagine what on earth we might share in common. Christian connection As Christians, perhaps we should consider if our friendship is really meant to rely solely on an ability to relate to each other. The first reply to this thought might be that with brothers and sisters in Christ we obviously have Christianity in common, and we need to keep that at the forefront of our minds. But this neatly sidesteps the issue of searching for this moment in general. There may be a reason the Bible talks more about our neighbors than our friends. We are not meant to only interact with those we find something in common with. We are to seek this connection with everyone we interact. We may not connect with everyone on a friendship level (and we know even Jesus had closer relationships with some of his disciples than others), but our knowledge that each of us is created in the image of God demands we give such a relationship a chance. And, perhaps, even if we're not feeling it, the least we can do is treat each person we meet as a person with unique experiences that are shared with at least some human beings, and relatable in a way that could add value to some other person’s life, even if not ourselves. We may not be able to be friends with every single person, but we do know who our neighbors are supposed to be (Luke 10:25-37). It does take work Think about a friend you now know well. When you first met them, did you realize they would one day be one of your closest friends? You may have at least one friend that, if you‘d focused on only the easily discoverable similarities, you would have missed out on them. When Christians talk of love, they often talk about going beyond the externals to seek unfading qualities inside a person. In friendship – which is a type of love that isn’t recognized enough – we do similarly, in going beyond our initial impressions of “they’re so different” to seek out all the ways that they’re not. The upshot of all of this is that building a friendship will require work, and you'll sacrifice time perhaps on a level similar to that time you invest in family relationships. There may be long, tedious, awkward moments spent with a human being who feels as distant from you as if they stood across a canyon opposite you. They may not feel safe enough yet to expose the vulnerable experiences that you might discover they shared with you, and you might need more time before you’d share such an experience with them too. It may feel like hard work. But that should not surprise us, because we already expect to be called to sacrifice for each other. Conclusion This does not necessarily make building friendships appear less daunting. I still sit here intimidated by it, or perhaps even more intimidated than before. But there is freedom in knowing your weaknesses, and in knowing Who to turn to for help. After all, there is someone who promised us friendship even when we’re at our very worst. “No longer do I call you servants,” Jesus says in John 15, “for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” We have a friendship that strengthens us to reach out and make friends with others. A version of this article was first published on HarmaMaeSmit.com and is reprinted here with permission of the author....

Drama, Movie Reviews

To save a life

Drama 120 minutes; 2010 Rating: 7/10 To Save A Life is about teen suicide... and also premarital sex, abortion, underage drinking, cutting, bullying, divorce, divorce's impact on children, adultery, drug use, gossip, and Christian hypocrisy. It's a realistic look into the teen party culture, and consequently, we see some students smoking pot, a couple about to engage in sex, lots of drinking, and a lot of immodest dress. This description might make the film seem too much like today's typical teen fare - partying kids, and the fun they have. But here's the twist: To Save A Life is about being willing to stick out instead of fit in, being willing to reach out, to walk our talk, to take responsibility for our sins, to be willing to forgive, and to take God and what He says in his Word seriously. High school senior Jake Taylor is the star guard on the school's basketball team. He has what everyone wants: the looks, the friends, the prettiest girl in school. Roger Dawson is on the other end of the social spectrum. He wonders if anyone would even notice if he just disappeared. In despair, he walks into school and pulls out a gun in a crowded hallway. As he swings the gun barrel towards his own head, only one student speaks up - Jake - but it's too late. Roger kills himself. That's how the film begins, and the rest is about how Jake reacts to Roger's suicide. It haunts him because the two of them used to be friends. But Jake ditched Roger soon after they both started high school, when Jake got in with the popular kids. Roger needed a friend. Jake was too busy pursuing the "high school dream" to care. Guilt-ridden, Jake first turns to alcohol, and then to sex to try to forget. But those are only short-term diversions. Eventually, he ends up in a nearby church, attending the youth service. But here, too, he isn't finding what he hoped - the group is full of youth who aren't walking their talk. He knows many of these same church kids are smoking pot during school, or are part of the same party scene he's running from. In disgust, he shouts out a challenge to the group: "What is the use of all this if you aren't going to let it change you?" Sure, some of the kids aren't genuine, but some are, and Jake's angry challenge stirs things up. They start meeting for lunch at school and start reaching out to others on the outside to come join them. They befriend the friendless. Cautions When this was first released it was quite a controversial film in Christian circles. Not many Christian films earn a PG-13 rating. But while the film's realistic portrayal of teen depravity means this is not a film for children, this "grit" has been used with care and restraint is evident. Still, there are reasons parents might want to preview this film before watching with their teens. In addition to the intense topic matter, here are some more specific cautions to consider: Immodest dress. Some of the girls are wearing outfits that would look much nicer, and much warmer, with a coat on. One student says "dammit" and another says "hell" There may be another instance or two of such curse words, but no one takes God's name in vain. A couple, with the boy shirtless, are shown on a bed kissing, clearly about to have sex (which is not shown). One boy is shown cutting his arm (not much gore, but we do see a little blood). A boy kills himself by shooting himself in the head. We see no blood or gore, but it is an emotionally intense scene. This is a complex movie because of the sheer number of issues it takes on and because it takes on so much, it does breeze over some issues, and deals with some others in an overly simplistic way. This includes God's gospel message. Viewers might leave with the impression that God's gospel message is meant as good news for this life - that if we follow what He says, things will start going better for us here and now. This is the "Gospel as a self-help guide" error common to many Christian films and novels. It isn't explicitly stated in To Save A Life so I don't want to dwell on it. The truth is, things do often start going better for us when we follow God's will. His law can act as a fence around us; when we stay within its bounds we are safe from many things that might otherwise harm us. At the same time, serving God can come at a cost - think of the many martyrs around the world. And in the high school setting, especially in a public school but even in Christian ones, serving God can cost you friends and popularity. That's a point that To Save A Life touches on, but also glosses over. Conclusion This would have rated higher if the acting had been better – sometimes it is quite good, but the star himself is decidedly average. (It may interest some that commentator Steven Crowder, in a minor role here as best friend, does a pretty solid job.) What this is, first and foremost, is a message film, and on that front, it is powerful. How do Christians do high school differently?  As To Save A Life shows, oftentimes we don't do it differently at all - we're involved in the same drunkenness, the same rebellion, the same quest to fit in. Our peers matter to us more than our parents, and more than God. But what if we lived as lights? What if God, and what He thought, mattered more to us than what our friends thought of us? What if we did unto others as we would like them to do unto us? Then we might do high school quite differently. To Save A Life explores what that difference might look like, and while the film is gritty at times, it is a great resource for parents and their teenage children. It is an enjoyable film, but more importantly a challenging one. Parents: use it to challenge your kids. ...

Book excerpts, Book Reviews

Let Justice and Righteousness Prevail - an excerpt

The following speech, titled "Suffering, selfishness, and sacrifice," was delivered by Pastor Winston Bosch at a pro-life prayer service before the 2020 March for Life in Ottawa. After sponsoring such services for 15 years, ARPA Canada had a collection of great content, and teamed up with RP Press to publish 20 of these speeches in a book. ARPA staff have been working through Let Justice and Righteousness Prevail: Sermons and reflections for the pro-life Christian during their weekly devotions, and our hope is that you can be blessed by the book too. You can order it at Press.ReformedPerspective.ca. ***** As we consider the topic of abortion, my mind goes to the prayer of Solomon in 1 Kings 3:1-28. In this chapter, the Lord God asks Solomon what he would like the Lord to give him and Solomon prays this prayer: “Give your servant an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil.” That’s a beautiful prayer, and isn’t that also a prayer we should pray for our own government? Our sincere prayer should be that God would give our government an understanding mind to govern the people of this land, that the Lord would give the government discernment between good and evil, also in terms of life and death, of life and abortion. The author of 1 Kings 3 notes this prayer of Solomon, and then goes through the legal records of his day and finds evidence of how the Lord answered Solomon’s prayer. That legal courtroom transcript is found in 1 Kings 3:16-28. Then two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. The one woman said, “Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. And we were alone. There was no one else with us in the house; only we two were in the house. And this woman's son died in the night, because she lay on him. And she arose at midnight and took my son from beside me, while your servant slept, and laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, behold, he was dead. But when I looked at him closely in the morning, behold, he was not the child that I had borne.” But the other woman said, “No, the living child is mine, and the dead child is yours.” The first said, “No, the dead child is yours, and the living child is mine.” Thus they spoke before the king. Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; and the other says, ‘No; but your son is dead, and my son is the living one.’” And the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought before the king. And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.” Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.” Then the king answered and said, “Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother.” And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice. This example is undoubtedly one of many that could have been chosen, and it vividly illustrates how the Lord gave Solomon the gift of great wisdom, an understanding mind to govern, and discernment between good and evil, right and wrong. This is a passage of Scripture that the author has recorded under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. What I'd like to do is take this story and use it as a springboard for prayer to help us pray concerning abortion in the country of Canada. Suffering The first thing that I would like to note from this story is the existence of both suffering and selfishness. The passage starts, “Then two prostitutes came.” When you hear the word “prostitute,” the first thing that should come to your mind is suffering. Prostitution is violence against women. Prostitution is intrinsically exploitative and anti-women. Research has shown that 90% of women involved in prostitution would like to escape it, but can't figure out a way to do so and still survive. So, when we read “two prostitutes” we ought to think of suffering. These women suffer at the hands of men, and here they both become pregnant – and the fathers are, of course, nowhere to be seen. They’re pregnant and alone. I think that suffering is a good place to start as we think about what to pray when we pray that abortion might end in Canada. It helps us to think of the suffering that many women undergo at the hands of men. Many women are impregnated by men who do not want to take responsibility for children. Some women are pressured into abortions, or abused or abandoned by men. There is so much suffering behind abortion. Women feel like they have no choice, no other option, like they're being forced down a road that ends at an abortion clinic. Once there, women are suffering at the hands of a big abortion industry that is, at its very heart, anti-women. The abortion industry tells women that being a mom is a weakness, and that killing your baby is a strength. It is an industry that profits off of suffering. Abortion doesn't help women out of the surrounding problems of their life. Abortion doesn't help women to leave abuse. Abortion doesn't help women with the financial insecurity they experience, or their general feeling of being unsupported. What abortion does is get men off the hook while making women suffer the physical, the mental, the emotional scars that abortion often leaves in its wake. As we pray, we who are pro-life must remember and pray for women that are suffering. Women that feel trapped. Women that feel like they have nowhere to go, that they're pressured on all sides, that they've been abandoned by men, that can see no way forward with a baby. Women that are suffering and about to abort their baby. Selfishness But as we read this story, we move quickly from suffering to selfishness. This selfishness is represented in the story of the second woman. She awakes in the night and finds that she has accidentally smothered her baby. She takes the limp, dead child, sneaks into her housemate’s room, and exchanges her dead baby for the live baby. While there is certainly sadness and suffering here, it results in a horrific sin of selfishness: a cruel act of kidnapping, a lie, the stealing of the joy of motherhood from another and giving the devastation of infant death. And then the horror of her selfishness takes on a new depth when she is confronted by the king. The selfish act that she committed against another woman now becomes a selfish murderous act committed against a baby. You can see the scene: the soldier holds the living baby, brandishing a sword as the wise king seeks to discern between good and evil, and evil shows its face. Selfishness shows its face. And in its ugliness, it hisses from the lips of the second woman, “He shall be neither mine nor yours. Divide him! Cut him in two!” This is where the sin of selfishness leads us, doesn't it? It leads us also today to men and women so consumed by their own agenda, men and women so consumed by their own plans, men and women so insistent that nothing will defy their will, that nothing will stand between them and their desires, their wants, their plans, their comfort, their convenience, that they're willing to say, “This living baby shall be neither mine nor yours. Cut him in two.” It's a horrific and realistic picture of the selfish horror inherent in abortion. “My plans come first. My life comes first. My desires must be first. Cut him in two. Rip her apart with a vacuum suction device. Use a clamp to dismember him, cut her into pieces. Remove this child from my womb, for this baby shall be neither mine nor yours.” We rightly shed compassionate tears and say compassionate prayers for the many women that are suffering as a result of abortion and its impacts. But we must also be willing to speak truth and to pray truth against the selfishness of men and women who leave a wake of dead babies behind them. “He shall be neither mine nor yours. Cut him in two.”¹ Pray for the suffering, and for the selfish, that they might see a Saviour and turn to Him. Sacrifice This text speaks of suffering and selfishness, and we see those all around us – and inside of ourselves – in the world in which we live. But now we move from suffering and selfishness to sacrifice. We see this in verse 26: “Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, ‘O my lord, give her the living child and by no means put him to death!’” This prostitute whose child was alive, this woman’s heart understood that love and life are bound tightly together. This woman knew that children ought to be yearned for, and protected. This woman teaches us something about the sanctity of life and about the sacrifices to be made to keep babies alive. “Give this living child to another woman! Don't allow this child to die.” From this prostitute, this suffering woman, we hear no selfish talk come from her mouth. There's no reasoning that, “Well, this child can live if it suits me. The child can live, but on my conditions.” There's none of this talk that, “The child can live if I can provide them a good home,” or “The child can live only if I can be the mother that I want to be.” Instead, selfishness is replaced by sacrifice. “Lord, King, give the child to another woman if it will save a life. Give my child to my lying brothel roommate. Let her adopt him, only let the child live!” Only let the child live. This woman is willing to sacrifice her right of motherhood, her right of parenthood, if only the child can live. This is love for life. Pray that the Lord would teach us sacrifice, that we would want to learn from the good prostitute. There's so much suffering in this world. There's so much sin and selfishness in this world. But when it comes to the sanctity of life, when it comes to the life of little unborn children, it's sacrifice that must win over sin and suffering. Is that not the Jesus way? That is the example that our Lord Jesus Christ set for us at great cost – suffering is won over and sin is beaten by sacrifice. So, as believers who treasure the sanctity of God-created life, it's important for us to realize that when we speak about the sanctity of life, sacrifice is needed to overcome the suffering and sin that lead to abortion. It's easy to say that it's the pregnant moms, the distressed dating couples, or the overwhelmed parents who don’t want another child that must sacrifice their selfish dreams in order to save a child. And that's true, of course. But it's also you and me, we who live in the shadow of the cross of Jesus, who must be ready to sacrifice. We must be ready to sacrifice our time, and our money, and our reputations, and our plans, and our comfort for the sake of the unborn. The sin of abortion must be met by the church's willingness to sacrifice. The suffering and the sin of abortion must be met by the sacrifice of adoption and fostering, and homes and churches that provide safe places for pregnant women to have their children. Our cry must be, “Lord, I'm willing to take up my cross and I'm willing to open my home and I'm willing to extend my table if only you let the children live! If only the child will live.” Governance and God This gripping story in 1 Kings 3 ends beautifully with these words in verse 27: “Then the King answered and said, 'Give the living child to the first woman and by no means put him to death. She is his mother.'” Solomon recognizes that the essence of motherhood is unselfish, sacrificial love. In awarding the baby to the woman willing to sacrifice her interest for the baby’s welfare, Solomon embraces the sanctity of life over self. And so, we pray that we might see in our day an understanding mind and a discernment between good and evil in our government. And we can pray for the same wisdom and discernment for ourselves. We have seen that this is a prayer that the Lord delights to answer. We pray that our government would be willing to help the suffering, but not indulge the selfish. We pray that our government would recognize the sanctity of life and not support the termination of life. We pray that they would support and encourage sacrifice, not sin. In 1 Kings 3 we have a court record, a legal record concerning a child in danger, a child whom one woman is willing to have cut in two. The court record ends with the king’s wise ruling, “By no means put him to death!” That is what we pray for when we pray to end abortion – that we would hear those words from our government: “By no means put the unborn to death!” We pray that we might one day hear and have written before us a legal record, an official proclamation of Parliament stating, “We recognize the pre-born child as a human being and we have amended the Criminal Code to say abortion is illegal. By no means put the children to death!” That is our prayer, a prayer for God to move in a way that only He can. Until the Lord answers our prayer as He answered Solomon's prayer, we continue to give our lives as living sacrifices so that, in this world of suffering and selfishness, the sanctity of life might not be ignored. Because this, brothers and sisters, is the Jesus way. It was Jesus who, in Matthew 12, said that He was greater than Solomon. The great messianic king came to earth as an unborn child in His mother's womb. Jesus, who came to this earth to suffer. Jesus, who loved and befriended and ate meals with and taught prostitutes as His own disciples. Jesus, who denounced selfishness with His sacrificial love on the cross. Jesus, who maintained the sanctity of life against murder and yet willingly gave Himself up to be murdered, nailed to a cross. Jesus, who rose again to sit on the throne as the greater Solomon, where He sits today, that we might all be in awe of the king, perceiving in Him the wisdom of God to do justice. Jesus, who knows the plight of every aborted child. Jesus, who will judge with justice. Jesus, who governs from heaven today with goodness and grace. And Jesus, who one day will return to demonstrate conclusively that, through sacrifice, sin and suffering will be no more. Jesus, who one day will issue the order, “By no means put those children to death.” Our Lord Jesus Christ is our guarantee that one day all abortion will come to an end. Prayer points Pray for those who are suffering and feeling trapped in difficult circumstances, especially women facing an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy Thank God for His example of great sacrifice, and pray for His strength to live a sacrificial life in His service Pray for the blessing of courage to defend and support life Pray that God would give you words to speak with grace and truth, that others would be called to true repentance from selfishness and so bring glory to God Discussion questions Read 1 Peter 2:1-25, and consider verse 21 in this context. To what have we been called, and how does that impact how we use our voice in the public square? The theme of sacrifice runs throughout scripture. Meditate on what Christ was willing to sacrifice in order to save us from our condemnation. Think of other Biblical examples where selfishness was overcome by sacrifice. Consider everything we are asked to be willing to sacrifice in order to let the children live – home, time, privacy, money, reputation, comfort, etc. Which of these are you most resistant to sacrificing when you consider how you could be involved in pro-life action? Many today are focused on self, and what they get out of their relationships. How has this attitude impacted us as Christians in relationships? How can you practice love that puts sacrifice before selfishness in your own life, for example as a friend, co-worker, client, sibling, parent, or spouse? Endnote ¹ In 1989, there was a case where this played out in our modern courts. In Tremblay v. Daigle, the couple had ended their brief relationship when Ms. Daigle was 18 weeks pregnant. She decided to abort the child. Tremblay, the child’s father, wanted to keep the baby and tried to prevent her from having an abortion. A court initially granted an injunction to stop the abortion, but this was overturned by a higher court in favor of Ms. Daigle, saying the court could not permit a man to veto a woman’s choice. Ms. Daigle who went ahead with the abortion, essentially saying, “This baby shall be neither mine nor yours. Cut him in two.”...

Animated, Movie Reviews

PAW Patrol: The movie

Animated / Children / Family 2021 / 86 min Rating: 8/10 While our kids had never seen the TV series this is based on, we'd all seen enough of the PAW Patrol lunchboxes, toys, and commercials to understand the premise: talking puppies, each with their own expertise, team up to help whenever there's an emergency. Puppies meant our daughters were sure to like it, so the only question was whether this was going to be good enough to keep the parentals awake. It turned out, yes – there was more than enough action and intrigue to keep me bright-eyed the whole way through. It even opened with a bang (and a screeeeeeeech, and an "oh no!"): a semi-truck driver narrowly misses a baby turtle crossing the road, but his emergency maneuvers cause him to veer all over the road and crash right over the edge of a bridge, leaving driver and truck dangling precariously over the bay hundreds of meters below. It's as tense as a G-rated film can be, and had our daughters on the edge of their seats waiting for the rescue pups to spring into action. What I most appreciated was when the story headed to Adventure City where a new cat-loving, dog-hating politician had just won the mayor's race... but only because the other contestant had to drop out. There's some political satire here, as the power-mad Mayor Humdinger tries to transform the city into his own vision of utopia, which, of course, goes disastrously. I don't know if the writers were purposely trying to mock big government but, regardless, they did a good job, as everything the arrogant mayor touches goes comically amuck. A major subplot has PAW Patrol's top dog, Chase, struggling with a crisis of confidence after he makes a mistake during a rescue – that's the story's drama. Comic relief comes from all directions, maybe most notably in the form of a sassy new Patrol member, named Skye. Caution A heads up if you have an adopted child: Chase's struggles are due in large part to a traumatic experience in the city right before he was rescued and then adopted by Ryder, the team's only human member. So if your son or daughter had traumatic experiences before their adoption, this might hit them too close to home. I'll also note, this is an action-packed movie, which makes it exciting, but maybe also a bit much for some younger kids. Other than that, the only caution would concern a "wedgie drone" as seen in the trailer below. It's just 15 seconds of questionable silliness, the end result leaving the mayor pantless, though wearing long boxers. There's nothing indecent in this scene, but the film could have been improved by its absence. Conclusion I was pleasantly surprised by just how much good old-fashioned fun this film was from beginning to end. I've read a review where this was said to come out of a "lightly Christian" worldview/morality, and I get why they would think so. I don't know if the producers were Christian, but they sure could have been. While this is just fluff – there's nothing all that deep here – there's also no poison pill mixed in with the cotton candy. It's just fun fluff all the way down. I'd recommend this for the 8-11 crowd – it is a children's film. But for a first viewing, this could be one for the whole family. Older teen children won't like it nearly as much as their younger siblings, but even if the film doesn't grab them, they should get a kick out of all the little ones' giggles and gasps. ...

Drama, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Extraordinary

Comedy / Drama 2017 / 88 minutes Rating: 6/10 If you're looking for a quiet Hallmark-ish film to watch with your spouse, the two of you all snuggled up on the couch, this might fill the bill. Extraordinary is based on the real-life story of Liberty University professor and ultra-marathon runner David Horton. This is a fellow who runs not simply for hours, but for months, taking on challenges like a Mexico-to-Canada race (which puts a whole new meaning to "cross-country running"). While his athletic exploits have made him a legend to his students, these runs have come with a cost for Horton and his family: bleeding feet and knees, and swollen joints for him, and for the children, a dad who has been missing-in-action for their recitals and baseball games. Meanwhile, his wife Nancy has had to run their household on her own for months at a time and, when her runner returns, then she's had to nurse her utterly spent husband back to health. When Horton's doctor says he needs knee replacement surgery and it'll put an end to his competitive running career, Horton still wants to do one last race. But unbeknownst to him, his wife Nancy has been busy planning a surprise vacation for the whole family, sure that her husband's knee pain (and recent heart surgery) will keep him home with them this summer. It's not to be: in a comedic twist what Horton is still thinking about – running the TransAmerican race from California to New York in 64 days – is announced as fact to a stadium of students, and then Horton feels like has to go, to live up to their expectations. Horton is played by Leland Klassen, a gifted physical comedian, who brings a quirky charm to the role. That charm is much needed to make us care about Horton, who, if he wasn't so likable, would otherwise come off as a doofus, leaving his wife at alone for the summer. My wife and I both enjoyed it, but concluded that a problem with Extraordinary is that it attempts more than it actually delivers. This is the story of a man whose identity has been completely tied up in his running – he's done it his whole life, achieved things others can't even dream of doing, and he's even managed to make running a huge part of his daily work because as a professor he teaches running in his physical education classes. Now he's been told that a needed knee replacement surgery is going to sideline him for good. So this is a middle-aged man struggling with his sense of identity, and his own mortality – that's fodder for a great film. But because Horton is blissfully unaware of what his wife is going through, we feel more for his wife than for Horton and don't really feel for him in his struggles. What makes this still worth watching is that it is a doofus who (finally) learns his lesson. He told his wife that he thought God wanted him to use his running ability to inspire others one last time, and by movie's end he realizes that he may well have attributed to God only what he himself wanted. Horton learns that God has more than the role of runner in mind for him; father and husband should actually be taking precedence. This gets a 6 out of 10 for its somewhat contrived plot – much of the conflict comes from husband and wife just not talking to each other. While I don't normally review films that score just 6, I made an exception this time because even as this is not great art, it is nice....and you can watch it for free. I also appreciated that there's nothing objectionable here, and that includes even the theology, which isn't deep, but also isn't dabbling in the heretical as frequently happens in other Christian flicks. Overall, Extraordinary is a lightweight comedic drama about a doofus husband who takes a while to get his priorities right but who figures it out in time for a happy ending for all. That's all it is, and on some evenings that's really all we're looking for. Watch the trailer here and watch the film for free below. There's also a 4-minute bio here if you want to know a little something about the real David Horton. ...

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

Manga Classics: Anne of Green Gables

by L.M. Montgomery adapted by Crystal S. Chan 308 pages / 2020 Anne is an orphan girl living in the Prince Edward Island of the 1870s, sent by mistake to the home of an aged brother and sister who need help with the farm work. The mistake is, they asked for a boy. Instead, they got the imaginative, effusive, emotional, red-head Anne. And once they meet, they can't let her go. While Lucy Maud Montgomery was a Canadian author, and Anne of Green Gables (first published in 1908) a very Canadian story, it's always been incredibly popular in Japan too. So it makes sense that her story would be given a manga treatment. Thankfully, the adaptation is faithfully done, and at 300 pages, given the space it needs to tell the story well - only a very few scenes are given an abridged treatment. If you're unfamiliar with manga, the style does take some getting used to, in the first place because the Japanese read right to left. That means what would be the back of the book to us, is the front of the book to them. Even though this is in English, it's still formated in that "reverse" style. Another feature that will strike readers as unusual is the way manga will sometimes depart from a semi-realistic style of drawing to something much more cartoonish, and then go back to realistic all in the space of a few frames, or even in the same frame. So, for example, while Anne's strict and controlled adoptive "mother" Marilla is depicted with realistic eyes, the emotional Anne has eyes in all sorts of styles. Most often they are doe-sized, but when she is angry or perturbed, they become big black dots, and sometimes she is drawn with no eyes at all. If that strikes you as very strange, just consider how a Western reader will know that a lightbulb over a character's head means they have an idea. That's a bit of cartoon "emoticon shorthand" to let readers know something without spending a lot of words on it. Manga has its own, different cartoon emoticons, and they do need to be learned. But just like the lightbulb, they aren't hard to figure out. Cautions Cautions here are only the same ones that we'd have for the original source material. At one point Anne is being taught how to pray, and her first prayer, while not exactly disrespectful, certainly isn't what it should be. But the point is, she doesn't know how to talk to God, and still has to be taught, so I don't think this should be much of a concern. Then there's also Anne's stubbornness. When a classmate, Gilbert Blythe, calls her "Carrots," Anne breaks her chalk slate over his head. You'd think that would make them even (or put Anne in need of apologizing to him) but Anne resolves to never speak to Gilbert again. And she keeps to that pledge for years! The book shows this to be ridiculous, and I only mention it here because this comic format makes Anne accessible to a younger audience that may need a little parental guidance to recognize just how bad Anne's stubbornness really is. Finally, in an afterword to the story, the adapter Crystal Chan notes that she is a feminist who "loves the elements of feminism in Anne of Green Gables." "Feminist" is sometimes synonymous with supporting "a woman's right to choose" so that might have parents concerned about whether this ideology is hidden within. But there is no need for worry: whatever sort of feminist the adapter might be, she has stuck closely to the original 100-year-old material (unlike the recent Netflix adaptation). Conclusion This is a fantastic, faithful, adaptation of a great book. Teens should skip straight to the original, but for younger readers, or the reluctant sort, this will be a great way to introduce them to this dynamic lass. If you do intend to get a copy, be sure you get the "Manga Classic" version, as there is another comic, that one by C.W. Cooke and Tidalwave Productions, that only tells part of the story, ending abruptly and with no conclusion coming. I've included its cover image to the right here, to make it easier to identify what not to get. Don't accidentally get that one while you're searching for this manga adaptation....

News

Saturday Selections - November 13, 2021

Though you slay me (6 min) John Piper teams up with Shane & Shane in this must-listen. On Christian conscience and vaccination (5 min read) Larry Taunton has a bone to pick with John Piper about vaccines. Soft flexible nerves found in Triceratops "If these fossils were millions of years old, we would not expect to find any actual soft tissue or biomolecules." Fewer children because of climate anxiety? Some people are having no or fewer children to save the planet. They've got it dead wrong, John Stonestreet explains. How to prepare for the Metaverse (10-minute read) Facebook recently announced plans to rebrand themselves as "Meta" but they aren't the first to speak of a coming "metaverse." It's not just an online world, but online worlds, all of them linked and providing users the opportunity to represent themselves digitally however they want to be seen. Ian Harbor outlines the challenges the Church may face, but also presents the opportunities, and how this may sharpen the antithesis between God's people and the world. Great article! Teens are lonelier than ever: what do smartphones have to do with it? "In theory, this connection should bode well for teens’ well-being — in particular, they should feel less loneliness, an emotion that occurs when we feel alone and disconnected from others. But has it boosted teen well-being? Do teens feel less lonely?" Happily divorced vs. unhappily married? (6 min) The video below and article above present a practical case against divorce and offers it up to a world that too often looks too quickly at divorce as a solution for marriage problems. So, this is a corrective to myths the world pitches that a happily divorced is clearly better than unhappily married. But it is important to put such a practical case in a biblical context where we see that God says that He hates divorce (Mal. 2:16, Matt. 19:6) but does also allow for it (Matt. 19:8). ...

Parenting

Gel-Pen faith

Not too long ago a young woman was over at my house for some reason that I cannot remember. Now on a typical day at my house you would find dishes in the sink, junk on the floor, a baby unloading a drawer, laundry on the stairs, and about 410 things on my to-do list. Children are always coloring, wielding scissors, and gluing things on the window when I’m not looking. Hopefully, you would also find me running around in the midst of it, because long experience has taught me that giving up on it won’t get results. I don’t remember what exactly was going on when she came by, but at some point she commented that she was the sort of person who liked things to be really orderly. It wasn’t a criticism and it wasn’t offensive, although it did make me laugh. Because, hello, me too. When the choice is to laugh or cry The thing is, when I look over my past I feel that God has written it on the wall here, there, and everywhere that He doesn’t care about that. That part of my personality that used to seem like a positive attribute is something that God didn’t treasure. He has asked me to put that on the altar. When push comes to shove and it is either the house or the kids, God chooses the kids, and He tells me to. When it is the laundry all done or the kids all loved, it had better be the kids. When it is mom as an uptight dictator about the shoe placement or the mom who is laughing at the huge spill in the kitchen, I know which one God wants me to be.  He wants me to be joyful, hard-working, full of gratitude, laughter, and above all He wants me to have spit-spot closets. Wait. Does He? All but that last bit. Of course God is honored when I am combining joy with closet organizing. Laughter with clean floors. Gratitude with getting all the dishes done. But you know what? If something has got to go at our house, it better not be my attitude. Because that is the one thing that God actually told me to keep track of. Obedience in weakness As I look back at my life I can see that almost every time that there was something that I felt good at, or capable of, or confident in, God would give me a wonderful opportunity to lay it down. There is a way of looking at it that says, “God just keeps not letting me be happy! He just makes the conditions perfect for me to be miserable! He knew that I need a certain amount of alone time every day and He keeps not giving it to me!” But this is the way that I see it. Those things that I consider part of my personality – loving to decorate, loving to cook, wanting things to be beautiful and organized and perfectly crafty and satisfying. I believe in these things. But I believe in them as things that I can use to honor my Creator. Back in the days when I wasn’t being challenged, these things came naturally, and I believed in them because I could cobble together reasons that they were good. But they primarily came from my own strength. I could be that way without really any pushback. So God brought the pushback. He made it take more than the capacity I think I have to do these things. He said to me, “I know you like it, and you think you believe it. Now I’d like to see you do it without yourself.” God isn’t interested in my strength. He is interested in my obedience in weakness. Do you hear that? God said enough with my hobbies and my preferences. Lets see about her obedience and her faith. When we believe something, we can sign our cute little names on the dotted line. Children are a blessing? Check! You should be full of joy? Check! You should honor your husband and love your children? Check! Enjoy all the days of your life? Check! Watch me go with my cute little gel pen in my journal! So then God gives us those children. And now we believe something that He has told us, but we are not dancing around ready to sign our names on it anymore. Why not? Well, because we feel like fussing about the laundry. Because it is messing us up to believe this, because now our faith about this is not abstract. So we feel broken. Like the things that we believe aren’t coordinating with our emotions anymore. Like we can’t find ourselves. Like the old us with the journal and the gel pen had a much better grasp of motherhood than this weird lady we have suddenly become.  Why so much brokenness? Doesn’t God love us? God does give us more than we can handle God has brought me through this time and again. It is like He holds up my little statement of faith from my youth and says, “cute.” But He doesn’t want me to sign my name on it.  He wants me to put myself on the altar. Enough with this chit chat. God wants to see action. Take that belief, and live it. Not when you have all the emotional strength to do that, but when you don’t. Do it when it must be all His strength. Do it because you believe, not because you feel. Do it in faith. This has been happening to me long enough now that I can see His hand in it. I can see the tremendous mercy that it was for me (the wedding coordinator for other people) to be the sick bride. I remember standing at the window in my parent’s room looking out at all our wedding guests arriving. I didn’t want my dress on because it would make me throw up again. And as I saw them all coming, I could also see that God was giving me a chance to walk in joy down that aisle. I knew I believed that the wedding was just about the vows, and about honoring them for the rest of my life. That all the rest was just superficial. God didn’t want me walking down the aisle in superficial joy. He didn’t want me to be buoyed up by the fun, and the dress, and the flowers. He wanted me to take His joy and walk with it. And if that was all I had, it would be enough. This is a pattern. I felt capable of being a mother, back before I was. God gave me more to handle than I could possibly handle on my own strength. I felt capable of keeping house. I’m sorry. I don’t know if I can stop laughing about that. Anything that I felt capable of doing, God will both make it seem impossible and simultaneously ask me to do it. And there I am – in the sweetest place you can ever be – relying on Him. Walking in faith. Living in joy. Seek his joy This broken feeling is only broken if it stays there. If it stops in self-pity. If it wallows in grief about the lost emotions of our journaling days. But this is richer. When we seek His joy instead of our own, when we lay our best on His altar, and we have nothing left for ourselves, that is when we are truly accomplishing His purpose in our lives. We are not broken. We are being healed. We are not alone. We are in His hands. We are not overwhelmed. We have a champion. We are not stupid. We are being made wise. We are not weak. For He is not weak. We are not hopeless.  For we are His. This article was reprinted, with permission from Femina Girls. Rachel Jankovic is also the author of "Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches" and "Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem and the Joys of Motherhood"...

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Nicky & Vera: a Quiet Hero of the Holocaust...

by Peter Sís 2021 / 64 pages Nicholas Winston never set out to be a hero but he also knew what needed to be done. When the Germans were taking over Czechoslovakia in chunks, before World War II has officially begun, Jews in the country were trying to get their children out. Winston knew how to get this done, pushing the paperwork, bribing the right people, and arranging for families in England where the children could stay. He ended up saving 669 children, most, or all of whom, were Jewish, and he didn't have to brave bullets to do it. That is the important lesson of this book: that there are quiet ways to do vital work. It was quiet work, but no less life-saving than what Allied soldiers did fighting to end the Nazi reign. And in its quiet manner, Winston's actions were more like the important work we are called to do today – our fights are not in the trenches, but writing our MPs, or making donations to the right organizations. We can, for example, save lives by donating to pregnancy crisis centers, and do so at no risk to ourselves. But we need to be persistent, seizing opportunities when they come, creating them when they don't, and working around obstacles as they appear. Winston was not Christian so far as I can tell (it doesn't come up in the book), but his example is still one we can benefit from. This would be a great picture book for a school library, to be pulled out and showcased around Remembrance Day each year....

Culture Clashes

The problem with pacifism

“Wars are not abnormal; peace is abnormal” *****   The 20th century was the bloodiest in history. It started badly with the 1914-1918 conflict, which was called "the war to end all wars." People sincerely believed that after that terrible event a halt would be put to war preparations. An effort was made – in the years after this World War there were many proposals and negotiations for disarmament. In 1928, for example, the “Treaty Providing for the Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy” known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact, promised to "outlaw war." In 1931 the influential Dutch Reformed (GKN) pastor S.G. De Graaf wondered if the time had not come to condemn every war as sin. In Canada such interchurch groups as the Fellowship of the Christian Social Order strongly opposed war. And the United Church of Canada was heavily in support of the pacifist position. But all their well-meant efforts had dismal results. And all the duly signed peace treaties neither produced disarmament nor were able to prevent World War II. But the world keeps on trying. The United Nations Charter (Article 2) outlaws both the threat and initiation of war. But we still face entrenched dictatorships and totalitarianism on every side. Disease, poverty, and disorders are found in wide areas of the globe. Pacifism Pacifism - the belief that all disputes can be settled peacefully – was a strong movement in the 1930s. Many then believed that historical progress was inevitable and believed that human perfectibility was possible here on earth. The dream of a perfect society, a utopia on earth, seemed within reach. The famous Russian author Leo Tolstoy's (1828-1910) idealistic-pacifist ideology had a great impact on the liberal mindset. He believed in the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth rather than anticipating it in an afterlife. Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) was for Tolstoy the key to achieving this end. This sermon expressed the essence of love and the guidance for conduct that must follow it. And love admits no exceptions. Tolstoy wrote, "The Christian teaching in its true meaning, recognizing the law of love as supreme, and permitting no exceptions to its application to life, ruled out any form of violence and consequently could not but condemn the whole structure of the world founded on violence." He looked for a world where "men who practice daily in preparation for a universal war of extinction no longer hate those whom they must fight, and not one of the leaders has the courage to declare war." However, while he preached progress through a gradual evolution of moral self-perfection, men, women and children were being slaughtered on the streets of Russia. Tolstoy's most lasting influence was in India. He and Gandhi had begun a correspondence in the early years of the twentieth century, with Gandhi referring to himself as Tolstoy's "humble follower." In fact, Gandhi’s campaign of civil disobedience and passive resistance owes much to Tolstoy. For many Americans, Gandhi, with his rather successful resistance of British "imperialism," became the grand exemplar of the Christian "way,” the "strategy of love,” the "politics of the Cross." The American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) didn't share these utopian illusions. He abandoned pacifism to oppose Hitler, trying to persuade the Protestant church that military intervention was necessary. He regarded most Christian pacifism as not only a deplorable political strategy but also a pernicious heresy. He stated that it reduces the "good news" to a "challenge" and to a gospel of "we must try harder." But the heresy of the goodness of man seems to have a life of its own. Of all people who should know better, the famous South African Archbishop, Desmond Tutu, sounded more like Tolstoy than the apostle Paul when he addressed a crowd in Grand Rapids in March 2003. He said that after watching enemies in South Africa reconcile themselves with the past, he was more convinced that goodness prevails in the human heart. "At the end of the truth and reconciliation process, I came away exhilarated by the fact, that yes, we have this capacity of evil, but we have this remarkable glorious capacity of good. It is quite extraordinary. We are fundamentally good!" Sin But we are not "fundamentally good." The Bible paints a realistic picture of human nature. It plainly states that "there is no one who does good, not even one" (Rom. 3:12). "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). We live in a fallen world where evil people do dastardly things. We are all capable of doing real harm to our neighbor. We confess with the Heidelberg Catechism the brutally frank truth about ourselves that we have a natural tendency to hate God and our neighbors (Q&A 5). Human nature, therefore, may not make war inevitable, but it does make war difficult to avoid. Far from the world being a safer place than in the past century, terrorist groups have access to weapons that were previously restricted, or not even imagined. Wars are signs that we cannot and will not live in peace and harmony in this present age. We cannot be trusted to keep the peace. John Calvin said the Anabaptist pacifist position would be right "were we angels in this world." But the sad fact is the world is full of "cruel monsters and wolves and rapacious men. The rise of the sword will therefore continue to the end of the world." In his sermon in response to the war in Iraq, Philip Jensen, dean of Saint Andrew's Anglican Cathedral in Sydney, Australia, stated that wars and rumors of wars are normal in the last days. "Wars are not abnormal; peace is abnormal." Pacifism is a mistaken ideology. It is an impossible position to hold in a fallen world. The horrors of World War II led many pacifists to change their minds. German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) became deeply involved in the German resistance movement, which to him was more important than his natural inclination to pacifism. He saw how war exploits the baseness of the human heart. His deep commitment to Jesus Christ led him to do his utmost to oppose the barbaric-pagan tyranny of the Nazi regime. For his participation in the plot against Hitler, he was hanged at Flossenburg concentration camp, within a month of the end of the war. Bonhoeffer observed that the French Revolution revealed the true nature of man. He wrote, "The French Revolution was the laying bare of the emancipated man in his tremendous power and his most terrible perversity." Since the French revolution, the western world has become essentially hostile to the church. When people turn their backs to God, people will risk all for their own gain. As Bonhoeffer put it, "It is only when Christian faith is lost that man must himself make use of all means, even criminal ones, in order to secure the victory of his cause." So how can we expect a peaceful world when violence in the movies and on television is tolerated? How can we expect peace among nations when many families cannot keep peace among themselves? What are we doing to improve conditions for peace? How many in our Western society would be willing to lower their standard of living for the sake of the suffering people in the Congo, Ethiopia, or Haiti? Instead, in our consumer society many appear convinced that the good life can be bought. As one reads the newspapers and watches television, one can hardly avoid the impression that the interests of many people largely concern jobs, strikes, houses, inflation, prices, entertainment, sports, and cars. What is peace? What do we mean by peace? The horrors of modern warfare have made this question a matter of agonizing daily concern for every sensitive spirit. It has always thrown the Christian community into a fundamental struggle over the nature of the Gospel itself. It throws into clear relief our understanding of salvation, the nature of man and history. When we hear the word peace, we immediately think of it as the absence of war. But peace can also refer to war. Augustine said that those "who fight for peace" may do so because this is a way to ending an armed conflict. But real peace can only come when rebellious sinners become reconciled to God through Christ's shed blood on the cross (Col. 1:20). One cannot be a peacemaker until first he finds peace for himself. Reconciliation with God enables us to be reconciled with ourselves and with people from every race, nation, or background (Cf. Eph. 2). True peace then is not the result of human enterprise or transaction, but it is received. It is a gift of God. It is Christ Himself. "He is our peace" (Eph. 2:14-17; cf. Rom. 5:1). Peace means salvation from sin and death, from the devil and hell, being surrounded by the goodness of God, and living under the Lordship of Christ (cf. Luke 1:79). But peace with God does not guarantee a tranquil life. In fact, it is accompanied with warfare against the demonic powers still at work in our world (Eph. 6:12). Wherever the Gospel is preached, the devil opposes. We are sheep among ferocious wolves. Jesus warned His disciples about the cost of following Him, but also of the coming victory. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). So in the midst of tribulation we can have amazing peace. In this fearful world, Jesus' message for His people still is, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27). But this peace is an active peace that we have to manifest in our daily lives and in the public square. Positive peace True peace then, is more than the absence of war. The Bible describes it as shalom. Shalom seeks the good and opposes evil (Jer. 29:11). Shalom brings joy to life (Isa. 55:12) and brings harmony. It means everything that is needed by the individual and society for wellbeing and happiness. It makes life worth living. But this “positive peace” is costly. It calls for responsible action. To be a peacemaker means more than sitting on a study committee to discuss peace; it requires more from us than demanding the Western world right the wrongs in underdeveloped nations; being a peacemaker means much more than demonstrating against the war in Iraq or elsewhere. As Christians we are to live in peace. It is the fruit of Spirit (Gal. 5:22). The Bible exhorts us to "live in peace," to "be in peace," to "seek peace with all." Furthermore, the Bible does not allow us to take refuge in our private little world and in our private virtues. We may not be blind and deaf to the wrongs we see and hear in our world. We have been given the word and deed ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:20). And positive peacemaking is an implicit part of it. Peacemaking calls for loving your neighbor. As Christian this cannot be some type of abstract love – we can’t merely talk about our love. Talk is cheap, so deeds are demanded! Think of the many missionaries, for example, who have been called idealistic, unrealistic, and so on, but who use their talents, their resources, and accept cheerfully untold difficulties as positive peacemakers. They proclaim the liberating Gospel, feed the hungry, seek justice for the oppressed, not because they are do-gooders or taken in by a social gospel, but out of gratitude for what God has done in their lives. The history of missions tells us how during the 19th-century explosion of missionary activity, peacemaking often arose out of an encounter with immoral religious practices and unjust social structures. In India, for example, missionaries focused on sati, the burning of Hindu widows on the funeral pyres of their dead husbands, infanticide, and the caste system. In China, missionaries and mission stations were the main providers of modern medicine and care until the state began to take over the function in the 1920s. Millions of Chinese were treated. Hundreds were given medical training in Christian schools such as Peking (Beijing) Union Medical College. Missionaries were also among the leaders of the movement to abolish the horrible practice of footbinding. The toes of girls, usually aged between seven and eight, were bound under their insteps until the arches of their feet were broken. A crippling experience, it left women with short pointed feet that Chinese men found erotic. In her book The Small Woman, Alan Burgess tells the true and amazing story of Gladys Aylward, a London parlor maid who became an effective and courageous missionary. She did not only bring the Gospel in word. When she saw injustice, she spoke out. When she was asked by the Mandarin of Yangcheng to become a Foot Inspector to break down the centuries-old custom of footbinding, she accepted this position for the sake of the Gospel. Universal peace But despite all the best efforts of Christians, an ideal society will never be achieved. Many will continue to dream about a world without violence and war, with everyone living in peace and harmony, but it will remain a dream. We will have to live with wars and rumors of wars until the end of time. There is never any time or place for saying: Peace - when there is no peace (Ezek. 13:10)! The coming universal peace is bound to the coming of our Lord. The earthly city of self-love and rebellion against God will be replaced then by the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem. In the new heaven and earth (Rev. 21), there won't be any more wastage of the earth's resources for war preparation, no more fear of nuclear proliferation, no more terrorist attacks, no more sickness, no more death, and no more senseless luxury of some or senseless poverty of others. The followers of Jesus, therefore, look forward to the end of time when God will intervene to bring about peace, "when nation shall not take up sword against nation, nor will train for war anymore” (Isa. 2:4). While the Church waits, prays, and longs for the Lord's return, she has the responsibility to proclaim "the good news of peace by Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all" (Acts 10:36). Rev. Johan Tangelder (1936-2009) wrote for Reformed Perspective for 13 years. This article first appeared in the December 2003 issue....

Family, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

The Gospel Blimp

Satire / Drama 38 min / 1967 Rating: 8/10 It may be 40 years old now, but this understated satire still ranks among the better Christian films ever made. It begins with a group of enthusiastic Christians having a barbeque in their backyard, and discussing how they can evangelize the unconverted next-door neighbor. They all know the conventional ways of doing it, but they’re looking for something… special. As they’re relaxing, sitting back in their lawn chairs, a blimp flies overhead, and that’s when it hits them – that’s what they need to do! Buy a blimp so they can fly it over the neighbor’s house, and over the entire town, and throw down gospel tracks. That’ll get people’s attention. What a brilliant plan! That they miss the obvious alternative is only part of the film's point, but it's this satiric take that makes this both cutting and memorable. Their plans just keep getting bigger and bigger! The Gospel Blimp is based on a book of the same title by Joseph Bayly that cuts even deeper (and there was also a comic book adaptation that did so a little less so). What allows this version to be just as engaging four decades later is its still relevant point – that we make evangelism harder than it needs to be – and the clever way it was first filmed. This is home movie-esque, and as a home movie we don't expect car chases or explosions, and we aren't put off by the grainy film. Like The Blair Witch Project famously did, the producers took what would otherwise have been a weakness – less than high definition camera work – and have turned it into a strength by making it a sign of authenticity: the home movie feel lets us know we're getting an intimate, up-close, look and this group's evangelistic efforts. This would be a great short film to share with any group of Christian friends and then talk about afterward – it offers lots of fodder for discussion. You can watch it for free below. ...

Book Reviews, Teen fiction

Journey Through the Night

by Anne De Vries 372 pages / 1951 (English version reissued 2001) Christian writers these days, they just don’t know subtlety. They write miraculous stories where the miraculous occur with a regularity that robs it of all wonder. And instead of pitting the Christian character against worldly temptations, they have the hero wrestling actual demons, or even Satan himself. But back when I was a kid, authors like Piet Prins wrote stories that could have actually happened in the real world. Though no actual demons made an appearance in their books, the demonic presence was felt in a much more powerful way, through the actions of human underlings. In Anne De Vries' Journey Through the Night we meet John De Boer, a Dutch boy soon to become a man... if only he survives the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. When the Germans first took over, the De Boer family weren't actively trying to resist. However, as German persecution increases, John and his father are compelled by their conscience into helping Jews and others wanted by the authorities. Our heroes enter into their work for the Dutch underground in an almost grudging manner, but they do the work because they know it is what God wants them to do. When I first read this as a child I wondered why they weren’t eager to jump into the work, into the adventure! I read this part of the book quite differently as an adult, wondering whether I would have had the same courage. That is one of the strengths of this book, I think. It tells a story about the bravery of our fathers, and grandfathers, as they fought against an evil that we too might face one day. Of course, it won’t be the Nazis in our case, but it seems likely we will be similarly tested in one way or another. We can draw courage reading about how God was with his people in this war, whether they were caught by the Nazis, or survived until the Liberation. This story is particularly compelling for teenagers since it focuses on the life of sixteen-year-old John, and his adventures among older soldiers and underground members. But I also know a number of adults who have reread this story and enjoyed it immensely, so I would recommend it for anyone 10 years old and up. As C.S. Lewis said, if a children’s book isn’t worth rereading as an adult, it isn’t much of a book at all. Older folks might remember that Journey Through the Night was originally a four-book series. This new version includes all four books in one pretty sturdy soft-covered edition. Kids probably aren’t going to ask for these books themselves so maybe parents and grandparents out there should consider giving this one as a gift. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be asked to read it out loud to your little descendants. Journey Through the Night really is children's fiction at its very best. Canadians and Americans can buy a copy at Inheritance Publications....

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Don't let the pigeon stay up late!

by Mo Willems 2006, 34 pages My kids and I love this for two very different reasons. They love it because they get to interact with the book. Pigeon desperately wants to stay up late. But a sleepy-looking fellow at the start of the book (the bus driver from the previous book Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus) asks us to make sure the pigeon goes to bed. But the pigeon, like many a child we all know, doesn't want to go to bed and has all sorts of excuses as to why he just has to stay up a little while longer. "I'm not even tired!" "How about five more minutes?" "Can I have a glass of water?" "Pleeeeeeaaaasssseeeeee!" "I'll go to bed early tomorrow night instead!" "My bunny wants to stay up too!" He has all sorts of strategies - sulking, whining, begging, reasoning - but it's the children's job to respond to each one with a firm "No!" They love laying down the law! I love the book because it gave me a helpful word to sum up my children's bedtime behavior. "That's enough guys," I'll tell them, "You're being pigeons and it is time to stop." They know exactly what I mean, and on a good night pointing out what they are doing in this quick and clear way is all I need to bring bedtime to a close. I'm not going to say it works every time - this isn't magic - but I do think any parent will benefit from having this bit of verbal shorthand in their parental toolbox. ...

News

Saturday Selections - November 6, 2021

Safe spaces should be about being safe to share ideas, not being safe from ideas (5 min) CNN host Van Jones wouldn't be called a conservative by anyone so it was interesting to hear him take on the idea of "safe spaces" on university campuses  7 marks of a good apology, 8 marks of a bad one This would be a good review for all of us! One lesson of the pandemic? Humility We have limitations in knowledge, time, and ability... but is that how we act? RP contributor Hendrik van der Breggen advocates for humility too in his article "We need some healthy skepticism about science and medicine." The great chromosome fiasco "Follow the science" is a phrase often heard, but seldom considered. Who decides what the "science" says? Is it science when some say men can become women? Or when some say that the unborn are not alive? When it comes to evolution, no one can show how life could come from non-life on purpose, and yet science supposedly says it happened. So nonsense can get passed along in the name of "following the science" and this short article shows how it sometimes happens. What Jordan Peterson taught us about the Holocaust "Dr. Jordan Peterson is frequently moved to tears as he begs his listeners to realize that it was so-called 'good' people and 'normal' people and 'nice' people that allowed the Holocaust to happen—and in many cases, even facilitated it. We must all realize, Peterson says with a passion that demands attention, that it was people like us who murdered the Jews, and it is essential that we understand why that happened, and how that happened." Serious or satire? The Babylon Bee, a Christian satire site, and its sister site Not the Bee, which reports the news of the day, have crafted a 10-question quiz where you get to guess what's fact and what's farce. It says something about our culture's crafters when the real and the ridiculous are so hard to tell apart. Taste and see (5 min) Shane and Shane with an amazing song based on Psalm 34. ...

Apologetics 101, Science - Creation/Evolution

Wrong questions lead to wrong answers

Why don’t brilliant scientists see evidence of God’s design in Nature? Because they deliberately limit the questions they are willing to ask. ***** The conflict between Biblical revelation and some aspects of modern science is a longstanding issue, and Christian young people can’t avoid being impacted by this dilemma. What should they believe? Should they accept that creation took place in six literal days, or should they seek some sort of accommodation of Scripture with the teachings of science? Many have anguished over this choice. The appeal of trying to accommodate to the popular scientific view – the appeal of bundling the Bible with the Big Bang – is clear. After all, don’t objective scientists know what they are talking about? So don’t we need to listen to what they are telling us they see? Christian vs. secular agendas In this context, what everyone must understand is that there are no objective scientists. Everyone has starting assumptions. The Christian naturally confesses that God exists, that He is omnipotent and omniscient and has communicated with us. Nature is God’s handiwork. Thus the Christian confesses that we see testimony to God’s work and character when we look at nature. For example we read in Psalms 19:1-3: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Another famous passage about the testimony of nature is Job 12:7-9: But ask the beasts, and they will teach you, and the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you, or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you, and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? When we study biology, we see that God is the creator! The secular position contrasts sharply with the Christian view. Mainstream scientists maintain that natural explanations can be found for everything. No supernatural input will ever be evident. For example, an editorial in the journal Nature (March 12, 1981) remarked concerning the definition of science: “…one prejudice is allowable, even necessary – the preconception that theories can be constructed to account for all observable phenomena.” Thus the Christian expects to see God revealed in nature, while the secular person says God will never be revealed in nature. Different expectations prompt different questions How does a square melon get square? Newly sprouted watermelons are placed in plastic boxes, and as the melon grows it fills in the available space until this unique shape results. With different expectations come different questions – there is a big difference between what secular scientists and what some Christians will ask about natural systems. And their different questions will result in very different answers obtained. How does a square melon get square? Newly sprouted watermelons are placed in plastic boxes, and as the melon grows it fills in the available space until this unique shape results. For example, suppose somebody showed you a photograph of three unfamiliar objects, green in color and square in shape. If you were to ask that person “How did Nature form that?” the only possible response would be some sort of natural process. However, if you were instead to ask, “Did Nature form that?” then the person has the opportunity to investigate whether or not these square watermelons (which is what the objects turn out to be) had a simply natural origin. Only then could they discover that no, they did not. Similarly, if a scientist asks, “How did life come about spontaneously?” then the only possible answer is a natural process. If the same scientist were to ask “Could life come about spontaneously?” in this case he has the opportunity to examine what cells are like and what the biochemical processes in cells are like, and thereafter conclude that life could not have come about spontaneously. Thus the answers obtained from the study of nature depend upon what questions are asked. No results There is no issue that more clearly demonstrates the impact of what questions are asked of nature, than the discipline of origin of life studies. Specialist John H. McClendon’s summary of the situation was as follows: “Since we know that life did arise, we are obligated to find mechanisms to accumulate enough organic matter to start life.” Scientists may feel themselves obligated to find such a scenario, but they are having a difficult time finding one nonetheless. The difficulties of proposing and defending a reasonable scenario for the origin of life were further highlighted by Simon Conway Morris in 2003 in a chapter entitled “The Origin of Life: straining the soup of our credulity” from his book entitled Life’s Solution. Of these chemists who are not discouraged by the results of their experiments, he remarks: …chemists have devised reaction pathways that can produce reasonable quantities of ribose , but the sheer complexity of the process and the careful manipulation of the many steps during the reaction make one wonder about its applicability to the origin of life. Dr. Morris is telling us that the kind of chemical reactions that require fancy manipulation by a chemist do not occur spontaneously in nature (apart from in living cells). Scientists were still looking for support for the “RNA world” in 2014 when the following description of a possible process was printed in Nature: After ten rounds of selection and amplification of catalytic molecules; pruning of superfluous sequences; insertion of another randomized segment to create a new pool; and then another six rounds of selection and amplification, a D-ribozyme was isolated that could perform template-directed joining of L-substrates about a million times faster than the uncatalyzed reaction. One would have to be very gullible indeed to believe that any of this could happen spontaneously. Indeed the article referred to the process as “engineering” which presupposed that an intelligent agent (the chemist) carried out the process. An article in Nature five years previously had similarly highlighted the difficulties of the RNA world hypothesis, the most popular explanation today for how life could have originated in spontaneous fashion. Matthew W. Powner et al declared: At some stage in the origin of life, an informational polymer must have arisen by purely chemical means. According to one version of the “RNA world” hypothesis this polymer was RNA, but attempts to provide experimental support for this have failed (italics mine). The determination of the mainstream scientists to keep looking for a spontaneous solution to the origin of life, even when the results are totally contrary, has long been recognized. But they do not see this situation as a problem. Thus David Deamer remarked in a book review on origin of life theories: Harold argues that, notwithstanding the vast literature, progress has gone little beyond the findings of Soviet biochemist Alexander Oparin and British polymath J. B. S. Haldane more than 80 years ago, when they independently argued that Louis Pasteur’s dictum “All life from life” was wrong. Note that the “findings” of Oparin and Haldane that Pasteur was wrong, were not based on any evidence, (they still aren’t), but on a choice to believe that life can come from non-living chemicals. Their bias blinds The secular scientist approaches the study of nature with a specific agenda. Nature is to be interpreted only in terms of matter, energy, and natural processes, even if the results look ridiculous. A prominent geneticist, Richard Lewontin (b. 1929) actually stated this very clearly. In a famous review of a book by Carl Sagan, he wrote: Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science…. because we have an a priori commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. What Dr. Lewontin said, was that scientists bias their studies so that only natural explanations will ever be obtained. Similarly astronomer Robert Jastrow (1925-2008) equated such an approach as almost a religion for scientists: Scientists…. believe that every event that takes place in the world can be explained in a rational way as a consequence of some previous event. If there is a religion in science, this statement can be regarded as its main article of faith… Nothing to do with the truth It is certainly reasonable to ask how legitimate it is to restrict science to only naturalistic hypotheses. The answer you’ll get to that question depends upon whom you ask. Biologist Leonard Brand (b. 1941) replies that such restrictions are not legitimate. Our research only answers the questions we are willing to ask, naturalism allows only certain questions to be asked… Naturalism has a powerful biasing influence in science, in steering scientific thinking, and, in many cases, deciding what conclusions are to be reached. Others point out that secular scientists may restrict what explanations about nature qualify for the term “science” but they cannot at the same time claim, that what they are dealing with is truth. For example, philosophers of science Stephen C. Meyer (b. 1958) and Paul A. Nelson (b. 1958) point out: Restricting science to naturalistic hypotheses is not an innocuous methodological stratagem which nevertheless leaves science free to pursue the truth. God, after all, may not have been away on other business when life originated, or humankind came to be. These men declare that the secular assumption that God did not intervene directly in nature does not make it so. Similarly Calvin College (in Michigan) philosopher of science Del Ratzsch points out that: If nature is not a closed, naturalistic system – that is, if reality does not respect the naturalists’ edict – then science built around that edict cannot be credited a priori with getting at truth, being self-corrective or anything of the sort. What Dr. Ratzsch has pointed out is that wrong questions will always elicit wrong answers. Scientific explanations may change (and indeed they do) but the answers will never be any closer to the truth if the wrong questions are being asked in the first place. It is often said that science is “self-corrective” i.e. that errors are exposed and better explanations developed. However, the term “self-corrective” is meaningless when the studies are biased from the beginning. Conclusion Secular scientists, with their expectations of never seeing God in nature, have confined themselves to mechanistic explanations and interpretations. Such, of course, is the theory of evolution. As Dr. Ratzsch remarks: “… materialists have no viable choice but to view the world through evolutionary spectacles of some sort.” Similarly Dr. Brand tells us: “The evolutionary theory is based on the philosophy of naturalism, and does not consider any hypotheses that involve divine intervention in the history of the universe.” Influenced by their secular colleagues, many Christians choose a theistic evolution type of explanation for origins. For example, Clarence Menninga (b. 1928, science professor emeritus at Calvin College), wrote in The Banner: But it is presumptuous and arrogant for us to restrict God’s options by claiming that he could not have used natural processes to bring about certain complex structures and functions, even if we do not understand in scientific terms how that was done. Thus Dr. Menninga explains the appearance of living creatures in terms of an evolutionary process. He assumes that this is so, contrary to what the Bible says, even though he is unaware of a scientific explanation for the process. It is evident that if such scientists were to ask different questions, based on the expectation of seeing God’s work and character revealed in nature, they might not necessarily come to any evolutionary conclusions at all. In addition, the concept of long ages is a necessary ingredient in any evolutionary scenario. If there were no process of gradual change (evolution), if organisms were created directly, then there is no need for a long period of past time other than the few thousands of years for which we have historical records. This is an extract from Margaret Helder’s book "No Christian Silence on Science" which you can buy at the Creation Science Association of Alberta website...

Book Reviews, Children’s fiction

Wambu: the Chieftain’s Son

by Piet Prins 182 pages / 1981 This is a book about cannibals – what more could any male reader want? Wambu is a young boy living in the deep jungles of New Guinea before the arrival of the white man. His tribe is a small one and hasn’t been able to eat any people for quite some time now so when Wambu and his father come across a strange girl wandering through their part of the forest their first inclination is to eat her. Fortunately they have second thoughts and instead adopt Sirja, the girl, into their family. The main thrust of the story starts here, since Sirja is a new Christian convert. Her Christianity is sharply contrasted with the village’s paganism. Though Wambu likes listening to Sirja’s stories of Moses and Abraham and Jesus, he also likes going hunting with his father and learning about all the evil spirits in the forest. Sirja tells him that the white missionaries are wonderful, but the village’s witch doctor insists that white men are evil spirits who have taken on flesh. Who is Wambu to believe? When Wambu’s village is attacked by a rival headhunting tribe he escapes and goes for help…to the white man! This is a fast-paced book, with loads of interesting information about what it’s like to live in the jungle. Did you know that some people find caterpillars delicious? Or that they eat the insides of trees? Fascinating tidbits like this are thrown in throughout the book and make the story all the more compelling as we, the readers, are taken into the depths of a very foreign world. The Chieftain’s Son’s only fault is that it doesn’t have a proper conclusion. It is the first of three books in the Wambu series and the story is incomplete without the other two books so when you buy the first you simply have to buy Wambu: In the Valley of Death, and Wambu: Journey to Manhood as well. And you’ll want to order them all at the same time, because once you start reading you won’t want to have to wait for the other books to arrive. The series is for boys, maybe ten and over, and are just the sort that fathers could enjoy reading to their children – there is enough action in them even for Dad! They are available from Inheritance Publications....

Book Reviews, Children’s fiction

Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective

by Donald J. Sobol 1963 / 88 pages Idaville is a small town with a very impressive record - no one, absolutely no one, gets away with breaking the law. Most of the credit goes to Police Chief Brown, but if people would believe it, he would let them know that the town's most puzzling crimes are solved at the Brown's dinner table by his ten-year-old son Leroy! His son, known as Encyclopedia by his friends, also runs his very own detective agency, charging 25 cents a case, plus expenses. The Encyclopedia Brown series are great books that each include 10 mysteries for readers to solve right-along-side our pint-sized detective. In this, the very first one, all the information needed to solve the mystery is included in the story, and the solution is found in the back. And though the mysteries are simple enough that boys and girls in the 9-14 range will be able to solve many of them, they are still subtle enough to present a challenge to adults (I have to admit I had to peek at the back to figure out 2 of the 10). As you might guess from Encyclopedia's pay rate, this is an old book. It was first published back in 1963, so even though many more books have followed, the whole series has an old-fashioned feel and appeal to it. For example, Encyclopedia often has run-ins with the Tiger gang, but this is very much a 1960s sort of boys' gang - they run minor scams, try to trick kids out of their allowance, and might even start a tussle or two, but the very worst that would result is a black eye, or fat lip. I read these as a kid and loved the mini-challenge of each mystery. I was happy to see the series was still in print, and that new ones were being written, but I did notice when I checked out one of the latest ones, Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret UFOs, that two of the ten mysteries required the reader to know a little something that wasn't included in the story (for example, "The case of the giant shark tooth" could only be solved if a reader knew that sharks constantly replace their teeth). So the earlier titles are just a bit better than the most recent - no outside knowledge needed. There are 30 in all, though the series is often listed as having just 29. The extra one is a mystery/cook book, with all the stories related to food called Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake. Since all the main characters but one are boys, these are intended as boy books. That said, all my girls have enjoyed them. They are great for anyone, boy or girl, who likes wrestling with problems. Older teens and parents who find these too easy can graduate on up to Donald Sobol's similiar but more challenging Two Minute Mysteries....

Book Reviews, Teen fiction

Bell Mountain

by Lee Duigon 267 pages / 2010 Jack and Ellayne are two children on a mission from God: they are going to ring the bell that King Ozais built on the top of Bell Mountain. But there are a few things in the way: They’re just kids who don’t know anything about mountain climbing, traveling through the woods, or living off the land. They’re not sure there really is a bell on the top of Bell Mountain – no one alive has ever seen it. An assassin has been sent to stop them. They think the end of the world might happen when they ring it. It’s quite the mission, and quite the opening for this, the first book in author Lee Duigon 13-going-on-14 book series. The setting seems to be a medieval one: travel is conducted by horse and oxen, people live in walled cities and villages, and they fight with swords and spears. But when Jack and Ellayne meet a little squirrel-sized chirping man-creature named Wyyt it becomes clear this is not our world. Here Man once had the power to fly through the skies, but no longer – something happened long ago that left behind destroyed cities and set technology back a thousand years. In this post-apocalyptic world the national "church" (or Temple) has become so corrupt that no one reads the “Old Books” anymore but instead only the Temple’s interpretation of the Old Books is shared (if this makes you think of the pre-Reformation Roman Catholic Church, I’d agree that the author’s Reformed bona fides are showing). As the author puts it, people have forgotten how to listen to God. They don’t even know how to pray – that’s something the priests do for them. Now God is going to use two little children to rectify the situation. This is definitely a children’s story. The heroes are children, the tension level is appropriate for ten and up – lots of peril but nothing nightmare-inducing – and the plot, while nicely layered, is simple enough for children to follow. But there is a depth that will make them enjoyable for adults as well. Lee Duigon is simply good at what he does. I knew from the get-go this was a quest story, but I was always eager to find out what was going to happen next and so were my girls. I've read each of the 13 books in the series to them them, and they've always been eager for the next one to come out. The only way to purchase this series in Canada seems to be via the Chalcedon Foundation website store (chalcedon.edu/store). The Chalcedon Foundation is Reformed, as is our readership, but they are also Christian Reconstructionists, which most in our readership are not. It might be worth noting, then, that anyone who objects to Christian Reconstructionism would not find that a reason to object to anything in these books – it doesn’t come up. I'd recommend these for Grade 3 and up if they're reading them, but if dad is doing the reading, then they'd be good for kindergarten-aged children too....

Remembrance Day

Operation Manna

When two enemies collaborate for the common good, could it be anything less than a miracle? **** You can download or listen to the podcast version (6 minutes) here. It was a bad time to be Dutch. The winter of 1944-1945 was a particularly difficult one. Not only were there the usual difficulties of occupation that the Dutch had grown used to during the war, but food was in short supply. The northwestern Netherlands, especially the provinces of North and South Holland, were under siege by Allied forces. My grandmother told me that her family had nothing to eat for six months but turnips, morning, noon and night. After that experience, she didn’t eat another turnip for the next 60 years until the day of her death. My grandmother, however, was one of the lucky ones. Many were reduced to eating tulip bulbs, and 20,000 people died during the months that are known as the Hunger Winter. The situation became desperate enough that the German forces occupying the Netherlands went looking for help. Since they couldn’t supply the food, they needed someone who could. Operation Bad Penny The Dutch resistance sent a message to the Canadian army claiming that German commander, General Blaskowitz, wished to talk about the desperate situation. That’s the kind of message that seems like an obvious trap. The enemy wants to talk to us face to face? What could go wrong? But intelligence operatives Major Ken Cottam and Captain Farley Mowat decided it was worth the risk. On April 26, 1945, the two of them, along with Mowat’s aide, Sergeant “Doc” MacDonald headed off for the German-occupied region of the Netherlands in a risky and perhaps foolish mission. Somehow they got through. The men had a large white flag flying from their jeep, and along with that and the Major’s knowledge of German, a lot of bravado, and a very vague invitation to talk to the General about food supplies, they were allowed through and even escorted to the German headquarters. By the 27th, the men sent a message back to their own headquarters that they had negotiated a truce to allow the Allies to drop food to the Dutch civilians. By April 29, the first plane was loaded with food and ready to test the Germans’ goodwill. The Lancaster bomber took off with a crew of 7, five of them Canadians, and a lot of food where normally the plane would carry bombs. The Germans hadn’t officially agreed to a ceasefire at this point, so this mission was dubbed Operation Bad Penny. While a bad penny is an object that you don’t want, according to the saying it’s also one that keeps coming back. The plane flew very low to the ground, at about 50 feet, since the food was not parachuted but dropped in large gunnysacks. As the bomber climbed back into the air, the message “mission accomplished” was sent out.  Faust too... With this success behind them, the effort to drop food began in earnest. It was dubbed “Operation Manna” in reference to the Biblical story where God sends the Israelites food that literally falls from heaven. Flight after flight, in fact 3,298 of them, dropped food to the desperate Dutch.  Because the planes were insufficient, they were supplemented by convoys of military trucks that the Germans also let through in what was labeled Operation Faust. Faust is a character in literature who made a deal with the devil to get what he needed. The flights kept coming in very low in order to prevent damage to the food being dropped, so low in fact that one pilot described waving up to Dutch civilians on the balcony of a windmill. In total, Operation Manna dropped 6,680 Imperial tons of food. The related American Operation Chowhound dropped a further 4,000 tons. It was one of the most incredible operations in military history, for one military called on its enemy for assistance in helping the civilian population. Two mortal enemies laid aside weapons to feed the hungry population, dropping manna from heaven, as it were. Conclusion As for Captain Mowat, one of the intelligence agents who helped make Operation Manna possible, he went on to lead a remarkable and often exciting life. He became one of Canada’s best-known authors, with books like Never Cry Wolf, The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, and Owls in the Family. But the fighting he’d seen in the Second World War seemed to have scarred him, and he spent much of his life tilting at windmills, “in search of something to give him hope in mankind.” He said of his experiences in the war that “It made me consider that perhaps we weren’t the greatest form of life on Earth, not the absolute work of God, but perhaps some kind of cosmic joke, and a rather devilish one at that.” And maybe he has a point. In this broken and fallen world, man’s inhumanity and his capacity to hurt his fellow humans can be staggering. But what Mowat didn’t see and we shouldn’t lose sight of, is that in that misery we aren’t alone. There is hope, there are miracles, and, sometimes, there’s even food falling from heaven. This article is taken from an episode of James Dykstra’s History.icu podcast, where history is never boring. You can check out other episodes at History.icu or on Spotify, Google podcasts, or wherever you find your podcasts. To dig deeper... History-April 27 1945: The crazy trio who helped a starving war-torn Holland" NewsHolland Operations Manna and Chowhound Operation Manna | Ina Farley Mowatt, OC, 12 May 1921–6 May 2014. Life of a warrior and death of an icon Canada’s Liberation of the Netherlands: The Hunger Winter! Article Stories of Remembrance: Farley Mowat Operation ‘Manna’...

Animated, Movie Reviews

Peppa Pig: The balloon ride

Animated / Children's 52 minutes/ 2014 Rating: 7/10 Peppa Pig is a lovable little pig, big sister to her toddling brother George, and daughter of Mommy and Daddy Pig. She's probably best known for her love of jumping in muddy puddles, which, of course, is natural behavior for pigs (and many a little boy too, especially after watching this show). Her adventures are of an ordinary kind, going on a bicycle ride with her parents, or trying to learn how to whistle. It's about as gentle and safe a show as parents could hope for, as of yet untouched by the LGBT lobby. In this collection, Peppa has a series of 12 short adventures, all about 5 minutes long, that see her take a hot air balloon, in a new car, and even lace up a pair of ice skates. For parents, the biggest attraction might be that the short stories make this an easy one to turn on for only a brief time. Cautions During the Covid lockdowns, some US children were developing British accents and using British words like "optician" instead of "eye doctor." Teleworking parents were turning to Peppa as an electronic babysitter. We probably don't care if our kids start sounding British – it might bring a little class to our dinner table discussions – but it highlights how a little Peppa is different than a lotta Peppa. The problem here is more with TV as a babysitter than with Peppa herself. No matter how "safe" the material, our young children need their parents to help them digest the stories they ingest. They need to be taught what to swallow, and what to spit out. So, for example, in large doses, Daddy Pig's occasional cluelessness starts coming off as yet another TV bumbling father. That's not a problem with parents around to point it out, but becomes an issue if our kids unknowingly take it in. Another example: in large doses, Peppa's occasional bossiness and bad sportsmanship aren't that occasional anymore. Another caution would involve select episodes that are likely to preach a secular perspective, such as their Earth Day episode. But I don't actually know how bad or harmless it might be, because our family skipped that one. Conclusion While a lot of Peppa might be too much, a little Peppa is delightful. The target audience here is pre-school children up to Grade 1 or so. This is too child-ish to be all-ages viewing for a family movie night but will be a great choice for young kids who don't like much tension or conflict. A lot of episodes are available for free on their YouTube channel here, and you can check out the trailer for this collection below. ...

Adult biographies, Book Reviews

Out of the depths

An Unforgettable WWII Story of Survival, Courage, and the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis 208 pages / 2016 by Edgar Harrel, USMC In 1944 Edgar Harrell served on board the USS Indianapolis until the “Indy” was sunk by a Japanese torpedo on July 30, 1945. Her last voyage was to the island of Tinian carrying the component parts for the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Because of the secrecy of the mission, no one missed them when they were sunk, and so no one started looking for them. The survivors ended up in the saltwater where they spent five harrowing days plagued by shark attacks, dehydration and saltwater poisoning, paddling in kapok-filled life jackets trying to keep their heads above water. It was only because of a miraculous sighting by a surveillance airplane (whose crew was not even aware of the sinking of the Indy) that the 316 survivors, out of the original crew of 1,195, were finally plucked from the waters. The theme throughout the book is the great faith of Harrell, who was able to spiritually encourage them while in the water. The Holy Spirit brought Scripture passages to his mind. His group of 17 were brought to the bare bones of their faith, and to the acknowledgment that they were completely dependent on God. This is a short memoir with a powerful message of faith, trust and dependence on our Creator and could be included in the biographical section of any church library....

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – November 2021

Chesterton on whether love is blind  The world tells us that we shouldn't try to change those we love, that if we really love them then we will be able to look past their faults. Love, we are told, is blind. G.K. Chesterton knew better. As he explained in Orthodoxy: "Love is not blind; that is the last thing it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind." If we love only because we believe our spouse to be perfect, then what will happen when their faults are found out? That sort of "love" will fall to pieces. But if there is commitment – if the two are bound tightly as one – then there is no need for blindness. Then we can acknowledge our flaws, and as a couple work together to fight them. In love, we can help one another's sanctification. Bound is so much better than blind. "...if I can find the time" Harry Chapin was a one-hit-wonder with his 1974 top-of-the-charts single Cat's in the Cradle. That makes it an oldie, but one that continues to resonate with non-Christians; this song is a soundtrack staple for many recent sitcoms. This cautionary tale is also worth a listen for the many busy men in our churches. My child arrived just the other day He came to the world in the usual way But there were planes to catch and bills to pay He learned to walk while I was away And he was talkin' 'fore I knew it, and as he grew He'd say "I'm gonna be like you dad You know I'm gonna be like you"  My son turned ten just the other day He said, "Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let's play Can you teach me to throw", I said "Not today I got a lot to do," he said, "That's ok" And he walked away but his smile never dimmed And said, "I'm gonna be like him, yeah You know I'm gonna be like him" Well, he came home from college just the other day So much like a man I just had to say "Son, I'm proud of you, can you sit for a while?" He shook his head and said with a smile "What I'd really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys See you later, can I have them please?" I've long since retired, my son's moved away I called him up just the other day I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind" He said, "I'd love to, Dad, if I can find the time You see my new job's a hassle and kids have the flu But it's sure nice talking to you, Dad It's been sure nice talking to you"  And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me He'd grown up just like me My boy was just like me Weird fact of the month Identical twins have exactly the same DNA…but different fingerprints. Every year God reaches out Genesis 22 is a strange chapter – in it God seems to ask Abraham for a human sacrifice, Abraham’s son Isaac. But have you ever considered how much stranger this chapter would be to a Jew? On an edition of the old CNN talk show Larry King Live, Jewish Rabbi Harold Kushner was asked for his thoughts about this chapter and he couldn’t provide an explanation: “The story of Genesis chapter 22 about the command to sacrifice Isaac is one I have never really been happy with. I’m sorry that we read about it every year at the High Holidays because I can never make sense of it….no, I don’t know what to do about that story…” Fortunately, another guest on the show, Protestant pastor John MacArthur, was there to provide a proper explanation: “I think the reason that, if all you accept is the Old Testament, you have a problem with this story of Isaac is because the story of Isaac is a picture of God giving his son Jesus Christ as an offering for sin.” We Christians can understand this passage as a foreshadowing of what was to come, and can see how God offered up what Abraham was never required to – His Son. But to a Jew this passage is inexplicable, and yet every year on the High Holy Day of Rosh Hashonah Jews read this passage aloud and ponder it. Of all the passages they could read, the one they do read every year, year after year, again and again, is a passage that makes no sense outside of Christ. Our God is a loving God. Have to be crazy to hate kids Since 1965, the world’s fertility rate – the number of births per woman – has dropped from an average of 5, to just 2.4. The United States and Canada come in at just 1.7, and 1.5 respectively, which is below replacement level – anything below 2 will eventually lead to a declining population, as two parents having 1.5 children are half a child short from replacing themselves. Immigration to the West will keep us from a population drop in the short term, but so long as Canadians and Americans prioritize their careers, income, and independence over the having of children, a decline is inevitable. That is both a curse for our country and an opportunity for Christians. If we act contra mundum – against the world – and embrace children as the blessing they are, we could present quite the illuminating contrast. But that would necessitate a change in our own priorities. Sure, Reformed couples are having more children than their secular counterparts, but are there as many 12-passenger vans in the church parking as there used to be? “While pro-abortion liberals are pushing the abortion and contraception wagon, Christian conservatives with their large families could dominate the culture in a generation or two if they believe and act in terms of ‘In God We Trust.’” – Gary DeMar “Those who have no love for children are swine, stocks and logs unworthy of being called men and women; for they despise the blessing of God the Creator and Author of marriage” – Martin Luther “When we had two kids, people began to ask ‘Are you done now?’ When we had three, they began to say ‘You are done now. Right?’ When we had four, some folks began to be rude. ‘Don't you know what causes this?’ When we had five, we faced the most reproach from folks. They could not wrap their minds around how we could be responsible adults when we demonstrated such an obvious lack of self-control. When we had number six, people mostly shut their mouths. When we had number seven, it was more raised eyebrows, but still silence. When we had number eight, it has been open-mouthed astonishment, over and over. And many admiring and incredulous questions, the most common one being ‘What?!? I only have two kids, and they are driving me crazy!’ I have been told this so many times that I have come to the conclusion that having two kids is the hardest job in the world.” – Jamie Soles Quote of the month "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." – C.S. Lewis...

News

Saturday Selections - October 30, 2021

Do intersex people prove there are more than two genders? We live in a broken world, and that means that sometimes people are born with disabilities or disorders and that happens with our reproductive systems too. Without Luther, there would be no Bach (10 -minute read) Luther was born into a church culture that celebrated religious work above all else. But by time Bach was born, he was able to recognize that all of his music — whether sacred hymns or secular cantatas — should be and could be to the glory of God. We're all in a video game? Elon Musk seems determined to prove the adage that when you don't believe in God, you'll fall for anything. Tesla's founder isn't the only one proposing we might be "in the Matrix" so what's the attraction of supposing things to be so? As the article notes the appeal is that it, “gives atheists a way to talk about spirituality,” or something like it. It offers “a source of awe.” It even brings up similar questions for our simulators that one might ask of God: “Why did they create us? Why did they allow evil in their simulation?” “Why are we here?” And perhaps even, “Do they love us?” For a short read see the article above, but for an hour-long discussion on the same topic (between filmmaker Eric Hovind and astronomer Spike Psarris, creationists both) tune in here. Keeping our kids off porn (10-min read) "...delaying children’s private access to screens is the top piece of advice I heard from experts. " Did Calvin murder Michael Servetus? Jonathan Moorhead offers a short answer above, a medium answer in this interview, and a longer answer in his book The Trial of the 16th Century. Will Islam become the world's largest religion? That's what some are predicting will happen by 2050, but a closer look at the numbers gives us quite a different understanding. What's involved in throwing a strike? (2 min) There's a lot more going on than we might have realized. ...

Internet

Censorship isn't Christians' biggest social media problem

...but we usually act like it is. ***** Not so long ago, I was having a conversation with someone about why I write so much about Christians’ concerning relationship with the social internet. This person has some insight into Christian organizations, how they are led, and why they often focus on the issues they do. He said to me, in paraphrase, “It’s a lot easier to get Christians to care about and give money to combat social media censorship than it is to get them to care about how social media is forming our hearts.” I was frustrated by what this guy said, but I couldn’t refute it. I’ve been on the radio every other week for the last seven years, most of that time to talk social media, and I’ve been privileged to speak to groups on these topics too. What I’ve found is that lots of Christians are concerned about social media censorship. Too few are concerned about social media discipleship. This isn't surprising. We are more interested in the ways we can form the world than we are with the ways the world is forming us. This isn’t to say social media/internet censorship isn’t a problem. It certainly is. But I worry that we as Christians are more interested in protecting our expression than we are our hearts. Outrage sells Frankly, if I’m being 100% honest, I think a lot of Christians/Christian organizations focus on social media censorship and alleged suppression of Christian ideals because it raises more money than the alternative. But I’m more cynical than I should be, so that perspective could just be the cynicism talking. But it makes sense doesn’t it? People get more fired up about the “oppression of censorship” than they do a discipleship crisis. And when people get more fired up, they’re going to give more money. Just a couple of weeks ago, the MIT Technology Review reported Facebook’s internal data that 19 of the top 20 Christian Facebook pages are actually not run by Christians trying to encourage other Christians with gospel truths – they’re troll farms run by Eastern European internet mobs that use encouraging Christian(ish) messages to manipulate and deceive Christians who don’t know any better. The Internet is making fools of us. It’s leading us to hate one another more than love one another. It’s warping our understandings of authority and truth and beauty and love and purpose. It’s ripping churches, families, and countries apart. In the face of all of these harsh realities, why are we so much more concerned with a platform suppressing our opinions about social issues? Because we want the world to adhere to a standard of faith we are increasingly neglecting ourselves. What’s wrong with the world? I am Christians’ biggest social media problem isn’t censorship – it’s discipleship. But the oppositional posture afforded by the image of fighting the secular, Jesus-hating culture and their efforts to suppress the issues Christians care about most is too lucrative to ignore in an effort to address the ways our relationship with social media is warping our own hearts. In short, “the culture” makes for a better enemy than does our own heart. “They” are out to get us by suppressing our speech, nevermind what we’re doing to ourselves by scrolling Facebook for four hours a day. It’s like we’re hyper vigilant about the possibility of our homes being broken into as we burn them down ourselves. This originally appeared in Chris Martin’s "Terms of Service" newsletter and is reprinted here with permission.  “Terms of Service” looks at the social internet from a Christian perspective, and you can sign up at www.termsofservice.social. “Terms of Service” the book will be published on Feb. 1, 2022, and you can pre-order it here....

Family, Movie Reviews

Odd Squad: The movie

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

Current Issue, Magazine

Sept/Oct 2021 issue

WHAT’S INSIDE: Why and how the Nicene Creed came to be / Improving the elders' home visits / Big reads in small books / Are we trying to create polite pagans? / Operation Manna / Why marriages last / Gezellig: cozy, restful / The hidden tax of inflation / US homeschooling grows by a million / Squirrel wonders and the failure of evolution to explain them / The problem with Pacifism / You will be offensive (and need to speaking loving truth anyway) / Christian fathers are coaches / David Wiesner: weird and wonderful / Cornelis Van Dam's In the beginning: listening to Genesis 1 and 2 / Paganism strikes back / and more... Click the cover to view in your browser or click here to download the PDF (3.8 mb) ...

News

Saturday Selections - October 23, 2021

"Who's on first?" gets a modern update At the risk of killing the joke, it's worth a moment's reflection on what makes this funny. In Abbott and Costello's original, the confusion was caused by the unlikely names of the players. This time the confusion is caused by people who want to unhinge pronoun usage from the biological reality of sex, and instead tie it to the social construct of gender. And because a social construct is, well, constructed that means it can be reconstructed, right? And not just once either. That's how we get to individualized pronouns, which can change on a whim. The benefit of this approach? What it lacks in clarity, it might make up for in hilarity. Except "they" don't really have a sense of humor. The other alternative? To ignore gender as the ill-defined, meaningless social construct that it is, and use pronouns to refer to an unchanging biological reality instead. As always, it is Christ or chaos. Atheists and agnostics who admire Christianity (10-minute read) Jonathon Van Maren on the notable unbelievers who've come to believe that much of the good in the world springs out of a Christian worldview. Gratitude is good for you But as John Stonestreet notes, secular folk don't know Who to be grateful to. Covid vaccines, fetal cells, and ethical concerns Pro-life advocate Randy Alcorn shares his careful research. On Christians celebrating Halloween "...This obviously can (and should) include kids dressing up and getting boatloads of candy, but I would strongly urge that no one have their kids dress up as members of the other team — witches, ghosts, devils, imps, or congressmen.... So if you take your kid around to grandma’s house dressed up like a red M&M, or like Theodore Beza, don’t have them say trick or treat the same way some ghost or witch would. Of course, repent or perish or sola fide probably wouldn’t work either. Let’s do this differently, and intelligently, and still have fun. So have them say trick or treat the way a cute M&M would." More ground-breaking research evolutionists won't do Were the layers in the Grand Canyon folded soon after they were laid down by the Flood, or did it happen later, as the evolutionary account presumes? This is testable... Should there be racial quotas at university? Ophelie Jacobson asked University of Florida students if they supported "diversity quotas" (a form of affirmative action) where students are identified by their race, and admitted in proportion to the local racial make-up. In other words, if the local population was 35% white, 30% black, 25% Hispanic, and 10% Asian, then that's the percentage of whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians that should be let into university, irrespective of their grades. The students were generally in favor... until Ophelie asked if that would also be a good approach for their beloved football team (and she was asking this on Game Day!). Diversity quotas have meant Asians need to score higher than whites and blacks on admissions tests to get into some universities. Why? Because there are, by diversity quota standards, too many Asians on campus. So some colleges lower their numbers by specifically raising the requirements for Asians. Do two wrongs make a right? If it was wrong to discriminate against blacks in the past (and it was) then how can the fix be to discriminate against Asians now? The Bible condemns discrimination, whichever direction it goes (Ex. 23:2-3, Lev. 19:15). ...

Soup and Buns

How to approach a porcupine

Some Christians seem quite like porcupines. They are so bristly and sharp that people are reluctant to come close to them for fear of getting hurt. It seems wise to the onlookers to practice self-preservation. Who among us enjoys unpleasantness? Who craves the company of a Negative-Nancy, a Whining-Wilfred or an Angry-Anderson? Who runs out into the street when Mack-truck-Maggie is barreling right at them? Most are not so brave. “In my heart,” said one porcupine Christian, “I wanted so much for everyone to come and hug me and tell me that they cared. Once, a woman told me that she had really wanted to, but she was afraid that I would lash out at her in my pain. How I wished she could have overlooked my weakness and reached out to me.” How do people turn into porcupine Christians? That path starts with lack of forgiveness or misunderstanding. Unrecognized selfishness and envy accrue, leading to confusion, pain, futility, resentment, anger, and bitterness. The church experience seems to be the opposite of what Paul says in Philippians 2:5: “Let this mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus….” In the porcupine's mind, the opening verses of Philippians 2  might seem the reverse of what they should be: There is no encouragement from being united with Christ, and not likely to be any comfort from His love around here, let alone fellowship, tenderness or compassion. Nobody is going to try to please Jesus by acting like He would, showing love like He would, or working together in the same spirit or purpose. What you want is more important, and your opinion is as worthy as anyone else’s, so make sure you follow your dream and make everyone else do as you want. After all, nobody else is better than you are, and no one else will do it right. And, if your busy family has things to do, you only need to take care of yourselve, and let everyone else take care of their own interests. Really, who wants to be a servant in this day and age? Such is the porcupine's perception... but in all honesty don't these thoughts, at times, live in all of our hearts? The initial distress is like a little pile of dried mud on the rug that gets swept underneath that rug. It might start with taking offense at a word or action. Or it might start with being criticized for taking offense, so that one believes that there is no way to resolve the problem. It might begin with someone saying, “Oh, he’s always like that – don’t bother trying to talk to him.” Sweep, sweep, sweep. If someone’s words or actions have caused us to feel angry, we are not allowed to sweep! Jesus said we must go and talk: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over” (Matthew 18:15). Hopefully, you will either receive an apology or discover your misunderstanding. Both parties, in love, must notice their own sins, and attribute to the other the highest of motives, “Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (Philippians 2:3-4). This first step must not be neglected! Otherwise, years may go by, with quills of bitterness growing and no one knowing where and why everything went wrong. People begin to avoid the porcupine and the pain just deepens. Fear controls behavior as everyone stays away rather than run the risk of facing an angry retort. But inside, the porcupine longs for comfort and peace, even while consumed with bitterness. Difficulty with emotions does not stop the desire for the warmth of brotherly Christian love; it just makes it nearly impossible to obtain. Sin continues, unchallenged by mercy, due to fear. Before we take the easier path of thinking, “I’m not going to say anything to him,” or “you could never hug her,” let’s determine whether we might be at fault in the situation, and remember that Jesus also told us: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). And if we are not at fault, but are just brothers and sisters in the Lord, let us cease our fear, because a soft word and a loving gesture will do more to smooth down the quills than avoidance ever will. Squeeze that hand. Give that hug. Say a word. Drop off that cake. Write that note. Today....

Theology

What leads to true repentance? Godly vs. worldly sorrow

A child caught stealing a cookie may burst out in tears. But what is it that they are crying about? Is it for their sin? Or is it for getting caught? And even if they are sad about what they've done, is that any assurance that they won't be back at the cookie jar once their guilt feeling fades? Adults, too, feel sorrow when they are caught sinning. But is this sorrow evidence of true repentance? Charles Spurgeon addressed these questions in a July 31, 1881 sermon exploring what God tells us in 2 Corinthians 7:10: "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death." There we learn that there are two kinds of sorrow for sin, and that only one of them produces true repentance. What follows is a modernized excerpt from his sermon. ***** Some seem to think that merely being sad about a sin is repentance; but it is not. Read the text, and you will at once see that it is not. "Godly sorrow produces repentance." It is an agent employed in producing repentance, but it is not itself repentance. Sorrow is not repentance We see that out in the world, where there is a great deal of sorrow on account of sin that is certainly not repentance, and never leads to it. Some are sorry for only a time; they are convicted of guilt, but that soon passes. Others are sorry for their sin because of the consequences it will have on their lives here on earth, while many more are brought to grief thinking about sin's eternal consequences – they are afraid of hell. This last group would be delighted if it could be proved that there is no God. They are actually fond of their sins and would love to keep on committing them, but they sorrow because they know how a just God will deal with them. That kind of sorrow is also not repentance. A moth may burn its wings in the candle, and then, full of pain, fly back to the flame. There is no repentance in the moth, though there is pain; and so, there is no repentance in some men, though there is in them a measure of sorrow on account of their sin. Do not, therefore, make the mistake of thinking that sorrow for sin is, or even necessarily leads to, repentance. No repentance without sorrow Next, do not fall into the other mistake, and imagine that there can be such a thing as repentance without sorrow for sin – there can never be such a thing! I heard a person say, quite flippantly, that it was a great thing to know the Greek language because then you could discover that repentance "simply means a change of mind." Yes, it does mean a change of mind, but what a change of mind! It is an entire and total change of mind, a turning of the mind right around, so that it hates what once it loved and loves what once it hated – it no longer puts bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter; darkness for light, and light for darkness. It judges righteous judgment, for the change of mind is thorough and complete; I therefore say that there is no repentance, that is worth anything, which is not accompanied by sorrow for sin. Just consider the matter for a moment. Here is a man who says, "I repent." But are you really sorry that you sinned? "No," he replies. Then, my dear sir, you cannot have truly repented, for even someone who has not yet repented will often still be sorry for having done wrong. So much more then, when a man is convinced that he has transgressed against God, he ought to be sorry. So if you tell me that there can be such a thing as spiritual repentance, and yet no sorrow for having broken the law of God, I tell you that you do not know what you are talking about. The thing is clearly, on the very face of it, impossible. There must be a deep hatred of the sin that you have committed, and even of the thought of ever committing that sin again. There must be sincere sorrow that you should ever have transgressed against God, and that you should be liable to transgress again. If there is no such sorrow as that in your heart, one of the things which are necessary to a genuine repentance is absent. No threshold that must be met I have tried so far to correct two mistakes, but there is a third that I must point out to you. Some seem to think that we must reach a certain point of wretchedness, or else we are not truly repentant. They imagine that we must grieve up to a certain level, or we cannot be saved; and they watch the convicted sinner to see when he gets near to what they consider to be a sufficient measure of brokenness of heart. But there are different methods of measuring this state of the spirit and some apply a very long measure indeed to all cases of this kind. I remember that one young friend, after I presented the gospel to him plainly and simply, said to me, "But is that all I have to do? I have only to believe in Christ in order to be saved? Why, my father was troubled to the depths of his soul for six long months before he could find the Savior, and part of the time he was so bad off that he had to be put in a lunatic asylum." Yes, that is the kind of notion some people have: that there is a certain amount of alarm, distress, apprehension, and fear which a man has to feel before he is up to the mark in this respect; but there is nothing at all in the Word of God to support that idea. I will not waste time by dwelling upon it, because it is altogether a baseless supposition. We are not saved by any feelings or alarms that we may have. The source of eternal life is yonder, on that cross; and he who looks there shall find salvation. So away with the notion that there is a certain degree of wretchedness we must feel before we can come to the Savior! It isn't just one-time Then, again, there is another mistake made by many: that this sorrow for sin only happens once, as a sort of squall, or a hurricane, or thunderstorm, that breaks over a man once, and then he is converted, and he talks about that experience all the rest of his life, but he has nothing more to do with it. Why, dear friends, nothing could be a greater error. For myself, I freely confess that I have a much greater sorrow for sin today than I had when I came to the Savior more than thirty years ago. I hate sin much more intensely now than I did when I was under conviction; I am sure I do. There are some things that I did not know to be sin then, that I do know to be sin now, and therefore I strive to be rid of them. I have a much keener sense of the vileness of my own heart now than I had when first I came to Christ, and I think that many other believers here will say that it is the same with them. It is a sweet thing to be sorrowful for sin, to be sorrowful for impurity, to be sorrowful for anything that made Jesus sorrow; it is not a thing that happens once, and then is done with; the godly sorrow of a believer lasts throughout his life. Godly sorrow is no misery I want also to correct another mistake, namely, that sorrow for sin is a miserable feeling. The moment the word "sorrow" is mentioned, many people suppose that it must necessarily be grief of a bitter kind. Ah, but there is a sweet sorrow, a healthy sorrow! In honey, there is a sweetness that cloys after awhile. We may eat too much of it, and make ourselves ill; but in repentance there is a bitter sweetness, or a sweet bitterness – which shall I call it? – of which the more you have the better it is for you. I can truly say that I hardly know a diviner joy than to lay my head in my Heavenly Father's bosom, and to say, "Father, I have sinned, but you have forgiven me; and, oh, I do love you!" It does not spoil your happiness, my brother or sister, to confess your sin; the unhappiness is in not making the confession. The older ones among us can recollect that, when you were boys at home, and you had done wrong, you sometimes said, "I won't own up to it." And all the while that you hardened your heart against repenting, you were miserable – you know that you were! You missed your father's goodnight kiss and your mother's smile; and although, as long as you stubbornly held out you thought yourself very brave, yet you were very miserable. But do you also remember what it was like, afterwards, to go and say, "Father," or "Mother, I was very wrong to do what I did, and I am truly sorry"? Then, as you received the kiss of full forgiveness, I do not suppose you ever felt more happy than after that. That is the way for God's child to always act: whenever you have done wrong, go at once to your Heavenly Father, with godly sorrow for that sin, and receive again the sweet kiss of his forgiving love. That is not misery; it is happiness of the highest kind! Godly sorrow is concerned with God We are told there is a godly sorrow, which "produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted." This is the sorrow that recognizes the enormity of what has been done, because this sin has been committed against God. That is the very heart of godly sorrow, as penitent David cried, "Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight;" and as the prodigal said, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight." Any hypocrite is sorry for sin that hurts his own interests, or which may damage his reputation among men. But men do not generally trouble much about wrong done to God. A crime is usually a wrong done to man, so we think it is a horrible thing. But a sin, inasmuch as it is against God, is something many people don't care about at all. Let me illustrate further – if I were to say, "You are a sinner," you would reply, "Yes, that is true." But if I were to say to you, "You are a criminal," you might become angered. After all, a criminal is one who offends men, and that is, in our view, a very horrible thing; but a sinner being only one who offends against God, that is not, according to most people's notion, anything in particular, so they do not care much about it. However, when a man is really awakened, he sees that the enormity of offense is that it is an offense against God; that is the worst part of the offense, as he rightly judges, and he therefore sorrows over it. This is a sorrow which is to be cultivated by us, the mourning over sin because it is committed against God. SUMMARY: Godly vs. worldly sorrow Godly sorrow that produces repentance leading to salvation is:   sorrow that recognizes the enormity of the offense done to God (Luke 18:13) sorrow that understands no payment is sufficient, but seeks to repair what has been broken and heal the harms they have done, so much as they are able sorrow arising out of an entire change of mind sorrow which joyfully accepts salvation by grace sorrow leading to future obedience sorrow which leads to perpetual perseverance – the sinner now flees from sin The sorrow of the world that produces death is: sorrow that is self-centered, despairing at the consequences faced (either here, or in the hereafter) rather than the harm done (1 Sam. 15:30) sorrow that seeks forgiveness from, but not healing for, those they have injured sorrow arising from the shame at being found out sorrow which seeks self-justification, by pointing to the sin of others (Gen. 3:12, 1 Sam. 15:24) sorrow leading to a return to their folly (Proverbs 26:11) sorrow which does not concern itself with fleeing from temptation Spurgeon's collected sermons amount to more than 20 million words, or the roughly the equivalent of the complete Encyclopedia Britannica. This sermon has been abbreviated and modernized by Jon Dykstra, and cut from its original 7,000 words to just under 2,000. If you want to read the original (including some very good material that had to be cut only for space reasons) you can find it at here....

News

4 times as many Canadians died from abortion as Covid

Official estimates are that approximately 30,000 Canadians died from Covid over the last 18 months. To combat the illness, provincial governments locked down businesses for weeks going on months, and also kept people from church, from funerals, from seeing their aged relatives, and from seeing much of anyone else. Masks were mandated in most public settings, and vaccines went from being offered to being required to travel on trains or planes. And at the federal level, the government was spending almost $1 billion a day on Covid. The point here isn’t to question these impositions and costs, but to contrast them with what’s being done for the unborn. We don’t even know how many unborn babies were murdered over the same 18-month period because that toll isn’t being printed in our daily newspaper. Their deaths aren’t thought important enough for figures to be kept current, so we have to go back to 2019 to get any statistics. The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada reports 83,576 unborn children were killed that year though this number only includes hospital and clinic abortions, which means the overall toll could be much higher. So, over the same time period that we’ve been dealing with Covid, a conservative estimate would put the abortion death toll at well over 120,000 Canadians.  We can be grateful that there are signs Covid may be abating, but the same isn't true of abortion: long before Covid hit our shores, abortion was already ending the lives of one in five Canadian babies and it continues to do so. Christians should pray for our governments to take action to protect the unborn, but the contrast presented here is one for God’s people to consider too. If the deaths of 30,000 concerned us enough to shut down the country, and got even our Liberal Prime Minister arguing that when there are other lives at risk then "My body, my choice" shouldn't apply, how should we respond when we learn that another plague is killing four times that number? What sort of attention should we give, and what sort of time, energy, and money should we devote, to fighting abortion?...

Family, Movie Reviews

The Sword and the Rose

Family / Drama 1953 / 92 minutes Rating 7/10 When I first found this film and read in the description that the hero was Mary Tudor, that was too much for me. Mary Tudor was a Roman Catholic queen of England in the year 1553 to 1558 who gained her nickname, Bloody Mary, for her vicious persecution of the Protestant Church. This was the Hollywoodization of history gone too far, and I had no interest in watching a film about her romantic life. But then I realized that this Mary Tudor wasn't that Mary Tudor. This film was about the sister of Henry VIII, rather his devilish daughter. And so I took a look. As the sister to the king, Mary has some gumption, and is much admired by all the young men of the court. But as the sister to the king, her marriage prospects are tied up with her brother's political machinations, and there's no advantage to him, to marry her off to an Englishman. He wants her to marry the aged King of France. She, however, is a very stubborn lady, so it's an open question as to whether she'll do as he says. It's only when she falls in love with the Captain of the Guard, and tries to sail off to the New World with him, that the king gains the upper hand. The couple is caught, and her knight in shining armor is going to be hung for treason... unless she submits to her brother's wishes and marries the French king. There are some exciting twists and turns in the plot that I won't give away, but I will note there is, ultimately, a happy ending for all. Cautions The broad outlines of the story are based on history, and if that is how the film is enjoyed – as very loosely based on a true story – then it is quite a tale. But for those who are more concerned with accuracy, they may object to Henry VIII being portrayed as a rascal more than a rogue, or to the unsympathetic portrayal of his first queen, Catherine of Aragon, who was later treated shamefully by him. There are some sword fights, but this is an old-fashioned Disney film so there is no blood or gore. Conclusion Our whole family quite enjoyed it, though our youngest, at 7, needed the film to be paused at times, so we could explain the historical context of what was going on. (She didn't get how a brother could decide for a woman who she would marry.) This is a "Disneyfied" version of history, and that is both its strength and weakness, suitable for all ages, but kinder and gentler than the events really were. ...

Graphic novels, Teen non-fiction

Luther: the graphic novel

by Rich Melheim illustrated by Jonathan Koelsch 2016 / 72 pages I’ve reviewed other “comic biographies” and never enjoyed one more. Luther is scripted like a movie, has witty dialogue with actions scene interspersed, and the artwork is of the same quality you would find in Marvel or DC comics – it is fantastic! Educational comics, as a genre, are valuable in that they make learning history a lot less painful. But very few of these educational graphic novels are the sort that a teen would just pick up and start reading. Luther is the exception. I don’t want to over-hype it – a kid who reads nothing but superhero comics will still find this a bit of a stretch – but it really is as good a comic as you will find. Cautions Since this is intended for teens, I’ll note a few cautions. The word “crap” is mentioned three times, “ass” once, and “old fart” once. But when you consider this is a comic about the notoriously potty-mouthed Luther, this is really quite tame. I’ll also note there is a depiction of Christ on the inside back cover of the book that is not part of the story, but rather part of an ad for other comics by the same publisher. Also: the comic treats as fact, the famous conclusion to Martin Luther’s speech at the Diet of Worms where he is said to have declared: “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” There is some dispute as to whether he ever said these words. Conclusion The comic has several strengths including the overall picture it gives of the happenings going on in the broader world that made it possible for Luther to both spark this Reformation and live into old age and die a natural death. I’ve always wondered why the Emperor didn’t just have him killed. Perhaps it was because, as we learn in this comic, Charles V was busy contending with Turkish expansion and might not have wanted to risk alienating any of his German princes. Another strength is that while this account is sympathetic, it does note one of Luther’s weaknesses: that sometimes Luther’s pen got the best of him and he could write some “terrible and hateful words” denouncing Jews, Calvinists, and Anabaptists alike. Overall this is a comic that teens and adults (who aren’t embarrassed to be seen reading a comic) will certainly enjoy. It is available at Faith Inkubators....

Science - General

Why animals don’t get lost (and no, it’s not because they’re willing to ask for directions)

Since the advent of global positioning satellites, or at least since their availability for civilians, scientists have found many uses for these devices. One of the more interesting applications is to track animals. Of obvious popular appeal are programs such as “fish with chips.” A multimillion-dollar "Census of Marine Life" project fitted marine animals in the Pacific Ocean with electronic surveillance tags. As of 2005, about 1,800 sharks, tuna and turtles had been fitted with transmitting devices which relayed information to a satellite when the animal surfaced. By this means, a bluefin tuna was tracked as it crossed the Pacific Ocean three times in 600 days! This fish swam 40,000 kilometers (km) with an average of 66 km/day. More dramatic still, were the exploits of Nicole, a 3.5 meter long great white shark. This specimen swam 11,000 km from South Africa to Australia and back within three months. Nicole averaged 122 km/day! She swam in a straight line, never less than 5 km/hr, and 60% of the time she stayed within one meter of the surface. It's obvious she knew where she was going. Scientists have been astonished to discover how far these and many other animals migrate. Another interesting study involved young fingerling salmon emerging from 16 river systems on the Pacific coast of North America. The tags on several thousand of these fish were scanned as they passed over special receivers placed on the ocean floor from Washington State up to Alaska. This study revealed that the young salmon follow precise migration paths which vary depending upon their river of origin. The results of these tracking studies intensify the question, long pondered, as to how animals navigate long precise routes through the oceans or skies. As our tools for study become ever more sophisticated, our insights might be expected to increase too. This may be, but the more famous cases still abound in unanswered questions.  Sea turtles Most of the seven species of sea turtle can be found throughout the world’s tropical and subtropical seas. Despite this wide range, local populations exhibit very specific nesting site preferences and sometimes even a specific preference in feeding sites as well. This might not seem remarkable, until we realize that the nesting and feeding sites may be thousands of kilometers apart. After decades of ecological studies, scientists still have only a poor understanding of the wonders of sea turtle navigation. Green turtles are a rugged, long-lived species (up to 70 years). As is typical with sea turtles, the female lays her eggs at night in the sand of a wide beach along the seashore. She digs a pit and lays as many as one hundred eggs. After covering the eggs, the mother then retreats into the sea. Several weeks later, all the eggs hatch at the same time. The hatchlings emerge from the sand and head straight for the ocean. Once immersed, they swim straight out, farther and farther from land with its multitude of avian, crustacean, and human predators. Only about one in one thousand hatchlings survives long enough to mature. Once in the open sea, young turtles apparently set out for the feeding grounds. Green turtles hatched on beaches of Costa Rica later turn up in Spain, Chile, and Brazil. Then, once mature, females return to the very same beaches from which they hatched fifteen to thirty years previously. Tagging programs with young turtles have never revealed an adult female nesting on a beach other than the one from which she emerged. How do these turtles, out at sea, navigate towards the appropriate beach? Ascension Island One of the more remote destinations on earth is Ascension Island. Situated in the mid South Atlantic Ocean, this island of 88 square kilometers lies about 1100 kilometers northwest of Saint Helena, itself an island famous for its remote location. (Napoleon Bonaparte spent his last days on Saint Helena, a site chosen as his prison because its distance from everywhere made escape impossible). However Ascension Island is even more isolated than Saint Helena. Nevertheless green turtles, feeding in shallow waters along the Brazilian coast, and others in similar habitats near Gabon (Africa), swim due east or west (respectively) to nest on the beaches of Ascension Island. The journey from Africa to the island is 2,500 km and from Brazil to the island is 2,250 km. It is like finding a needle in a haystack. Nevertheless adult female turtles make the journey once every three to four years. Moreover, they do not eat at all during the entire eight month return trip. Leatherback Amazing skills in navigation are not unique to green sea turtles. Studies on the largest turtle of all, the leatherback, reveal some interesting details too. Unlike the green turtle, the leatherback forages for food in the deep ocean so they are less tied to specific feeding grounds. Nevertheless, there are only a few dozen places in the world where these turtles lay eggs. Of these, only four beaches attract large numbers of nesting leatherbacks. One of these four beaches is Playa Grande Beach on the west coast of Costa Rica. Tagging studies have revealed that these turtles travel 2,500 km west from Costa Rica toward the Galapagos Islands and beyond into deeper waters. They confine this travel to a narrow corridor up to 480 km wide. The females return to Playa Grande to lay eggs up to ten times per season. The females of another leatherback population, which feeds on jellyfish in the waters off Canada’s Nova Scotia coast, later proceed to beaches within the Caribbean Sea in order to nest. Studies on turtle navigation have revealed that young hatchlings react positively to wave direction, the earth’s magnetic field, moonlight, and perhaps chemical gradients. Nobody has, however, established precisely how adult turtles navigate thousands of kilometers in the open ocean, or even why they do so. Even if turtles are able to orient themselves in a specific direction, how do they locate the particular beach from which they hatched so many years previously and on which they spent so short a time?  Freshwater eels Eels are long snake-like fish which can grow up to 3 meters long. While some might consider such creatures ugly, many in Europe and North America consider them very tasty snacks. However, there was one longstanding mystery concerning the freshwater eels of eastern North America and Europe. Why were no young eels ever observed? Did they spring fully grown from their parents, like the mythical goddess Minerva who was imagined to have sprung mature and fully clothed from Jupiter’s brain? A Danish biologist solved the problem early in the twentieth century. Johannes Schmidt discovered that freshwater eels from both sides of the Atlantic spawn in a remote region of the Atlantic Ocean east of the Bahamas Islands. As is typical when one mystery is solved, this answer raised many new questions. How and why do all these eels navigate so far? Sargasso Sea The Sargasso Sea, a region of the Atlantic Ocean where water currents slowly move in a gigantic gyre (whirlpool), is roughly the size of Australia. Its existence is a byproduct of the Gulf Stream which carries warm water north along the eastern coast of North America and then eastward toward Europe, and the North Equatorial Current which carries cold water south towards Africa and then west towards the Caribbean. It so happens that this sluggish whirlpool region of the Atlantic is very rich in mineral nutrients. Sargassum, a distinctive floating brown seaweed, grows so thickly there that the sea surface sometimes looks more like a meadow than like open water. Naturally this region is a wonderful habitat for sea life and there the eels go to mate. In the fall, eels which are about ten years old, undergo physical and physiological changes. They stop eating as their stomachs shrink, and their reproductive organs expand. These mature specimens then move from their preferred freshwater habitats down streams to rivers, and from rivers to the sea. They proceed from far inland along the Atlantic coast from Mexico up to Labrador, from Greenland’s coast and Iceland, from the British Isles, from Scandinavia and from lands bordering the Mediterranean and Black Seas. As these eels converge on the Sargasso Sea, they show no specific preference to mate with specimens from their part of the world. Each female then lays up to twenty million eggs. These hatch into thin, flat, almost transparent creatures about one half cm long. As they move north in the Gulf Stream, those which mature first, apparently stop off in the fresh waters of North America. Others may take longer to mature, up to two or three years and these drift towards Europe. The American and European populations look different, but biologists think that genetically they may be almost identical. It is apparent that we know some of the story concerning eels but there are obviously many blanks yet to fill. What causes the eels to migrate to a common area in the open ocean? Why do they not spawn closer to their feeding grounds? Drifting towards coastal areas is obviously easy enough, but how do the eels navigate their way back to the Sargasso Sea? There obviously is more to freshwater eels than a tasty snack. Monarch butterflies One of the most amazing examples of navigation is that of the monarch butterfly. During the spring, these insects leave tiny stands of trees in Mexico where they spent the winter. They fly northeast to destinations throughout eastern North America. Then in the fall, several generations later, these butterflies head back to the very same stands of trees from which their great great grandparents had emerged the previous spring. Several questions naturally arise. It may be that day length triggers the instinct to fly southwest in the fall, but how do these tiny brains identify the appropriate direction? Laboratory studies have shown that adult butterflies emerge at dawn from the chrysalis. This time is apparently internalized within each insect’s 24 hour physiological clock. (Your own physiological clock tells you, for example, when it is time to sleep and time to eat.) It is the insect’s awareness of passing time which allows these butterflies to navigate with the sun as their reference point. As the sun moves across the sky, the butterflies automatically adjust their orientation to the sun according to the time of day and thus they maintain a constant southwest direction. If any butterflies are artificially caused to emerge from the chrysalis at a different point in the day, they cannot navigate according to the sun’s position and consequently they get lost. Imagine a navigating system that automatically adjusts for time of day! This is a fancy computer to cram into a very small insect brain. Obviously the whole system was designed to function in a sophisticated manner while using on a few simple cues. In the spring after over wintering, these very same butterflies will fly toward the northwest. Arctic birds In certain instances a much simpler navigating system than that of the butterflies may suit the needs of an animal. This situation applies to arctic birds on their annual migration south. Navigation apparently is most difficult near the poles since many useful parameters, like magnetic field, all converge. During the late summer of 2005, scientists carried out a study of arctic bird navigation. As flocks of birds passed over the Bering Strait between Alaska and Siberia, scientists briefly tracked them by radar. From hundreds of such tracks, the travel trajectories (direction) could be calculated. The scientists had calculated the various routes that birds would follow if they were using one or other navigational cues. If the birds were navigating by means of a magnetic compass, for example, they would proceed towards the northeast (not an ideal direction). If they used the sun as their reference point, adjusting their calculations according to time of day, they would proceed towards the east. However if they followed the sun without adjusting direction for time of day, they would proceed in a southeast direction. This was indeed the path these birds appeared to follow. The end result of this strategy is that their route then traces an arc, part of a great circle. Such a route is by definition the shortest distance connecting two points on the globe. For people relying on technology, a great arc requires continuous changes in compass direction. Navigating by compass (magnetic field) is longer but much easier. Obviously, however, one expends less energy on a shorter route. In the case of arctic birds, lacking complex computer programs, they nevertheless manage to follow a sophisticated path out of the arctic. Scientists cannot refrain from asking how these birds learned such a navigational strategy. Conclusion There is no doubt that tracking studies have revealed exciting details about animal navigation. In addition, physiological studies continue to give us glimpses into methods that these creatures use to plot their routes. But none of these environmental cues would be any help at all without senses designed to perceive them, and brains to interpret the data correctly, and to act upon it. Secular scientists may eventually describe the tracking mechanisms ever so precisely, but they will never be able to tell us why or how these remarkable designs were conferred on these creatures. Christians know. Dr. Margaret Helder is the President of the Creation Science Association of Alberta. This article first appeared in the January 2006 issue....

News

Saturday Selections – October 16, 2021

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

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

Horton hears a Who!

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

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Raised on Porn: The New Sex Ed

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

Assorted

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

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

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Metamorphosis: the beauty and design of butterflies

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

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Expelled: No Intelligence allowed

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

Adult biographies, Book Reviews

Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson

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

News

Saturday Selections – October 9, 2021

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

Theology

Did Adam have enough time to name all the animals?

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

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – October 2021

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

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

On Earth as it is in Heaven

Documentary 2020 / 112 minutes Rating: 8/10 This is a great, free, introduction to Postmillennialism, a particular view about how God will bring about the end of the world. In talking about "Postmil," the documentary also compares and contrasts it with other popular "eschatological" or "end times" views, including Amillennialism and Premillennialism. There are big differences between these three, but they all get their names from the Millennium, a thousand-year period mentioned repeatedly in Revelation 20, starting with the chapter's opening verses: "Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while." In brief what the three camps believe is: Premillennialists: Christ will return before (or "pre") this thousand year period. There are two main divisions in this group, between Historic premillennialists (which would include John Piper) and Dispensationalists which include Tim LaHaye, author of the Left Behind series. Postmillennialists: Christ will return after the Millennium (which may or may not be literally 1,000 years), when the whole world has been Christianized. Amillennialists: Also believe Christ will return after the Millennium, but believe it is symbolic period (the “a” in Amillennial means “not”) so it isn’t a specifically one-thousand-year period. It is understood to be happening right now, with Satan bound after Christ’s resurrection, and it will end with Christ’s return. That doesn’t contrast all that much with the Postmil position, so maybe the biggest difference is that the Amil typically see a future for the Church that involves persecution rather than a gradual global Christianization. Of these three, the most popular is Premillennialism, though not in our Reformed circles which is split between the other two, with the larger group being the Amills. I don't have a poll to back this, but I think it'd be safe to say the largest group of Christians don't really hold to any end times view, with most of us skipping over the Book of Revelation altogether. That's what makes this documentary essential viewing. God has a lot to say about his plans for this Earth and how He will bring about His triumphant return, so even if some confusion exists, we should be eager to listen. On Earth as it is in Heaven has at least three major themes. 1. Postmillenialism is a historic understanding In making the argument for Postmil, the documentary spends most of its against time addressing Dispensationalism, a subset of Premillennialism. In one clip from Larry King's CNN show, we see Dispensationalist Tim LaHaye argue that his view is the literal view. Many readers are likely young earth creationists who would also describe themselves as holding to a literal view of the Bible. Does that mean we should be Dispensationalists too? Well, what LaHaye means by literal isn't what we mean by literal. Kenneth Gentry explains that reading the Bible literally shouldn't mean interpreting the Bible's 66 books all the same way – it would be a mistake to read poetry, parables, allegory, hyperbole, and other genres the Bible uses, all in a literalistic fashion. We'll treat the opening chapters of Genesis as literal history, but when Wisdom is referred to as a woman in Proverbs 8, we understand her to be a symbol. One problem with Dispensationalism is that it frequently treats what is meant to be symbolic as being literal. Another problem is that while there is a historic type of Premillennialism, the more popular Dispensationalism has a very recent origin, going back just a couple hundred years. In contrast, we're told of Postmil's historic roots, and how it was popular among the Puritans. Other notable Reformed theologians like Jonathan Edwards, and more recently, James White, are also postmillennial. 2. It's an optimistic outlook The film delves into a lot of texts, including the one its title comes from in the Lord's Prayer. Matt. 6:10 reads: Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On Earth as it is in Heaven. One way to summarize the film is as an exploration of how this petition is to be understood. Jesus instructed us to pray this, but why then are we often pessimistic about God's kingdom, and His will, being accomplished here on Earth? Yes, we know His kingdom will reign eventually – at Christ's final coming Heaven and Earth will both follow God's will perfectly. But is that all that this petition is about? Or is it a request that we're making to God about now too, and the future, and at Christ's return? To put it another way, do we believe we are living in a post-Christian age or a pre-Christian age? Most believers seem to think things are getting worse and worse. However, as texts are explored, the film provides a biblical basis for an optimistic understanding of how God's Gospel will triumph here on Earth. Rather than living among the last vestiges of a formerly Christian culture, God's good news will be preached and will spread, disciples will be made, and the world will turn to God in repentance. 3. It's God as King, not the Church On Earth also offers an important clarification about the Postmil expectations for this coming Kingdom of God. The particular sort of Postmillenialism being discussed here believes it is not going to be the Church ruling the State. It will instead be the Church teaching and discipling Christians, and those Christians then seeking to serve God and obey His will in every aspect of their lives… including the civic realm. So after a country turns to God they would forbid abortion because God says “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13). But this wouldn’t be the Church ruling the State, but rather God’s rule over the State finally being recognized. Caution While the film tries to be fair, it is making a case for one particular view. So if this is your first exposure to end-times discussions, you should note the advice Prov. 18:17 presents, and seek out further information. One great resource, as mentioned in the film, is Steve Gregg's Revelation: Four Views, A Parallel Commentary, in which commentary for four different end-times views are listed for each verse of Revelation. Another helpful introductory book is Darrell L. Bock's Three Views of the Millennium and Beyond, where he's enlisted defenders of Pre, Post, and Amillennialism to debate and discuss their differing views. If you'd prefer audio/video to a book, then you'll like "An Evening of Eschatology" that John Piper hosted about a decade back. His two-hour round-table talk featured three different end-times views: Jim Hamilton for Historic Premillennialism (the view that Piper also shares), Sam Storms for Amillennialism, and Douglas Wilson for Postmillennialism. Conclusion Will you be convinced? Well, in my own case this is the start of an exploration and not the end, so I certainly appreciate the many texts cited. This is a documentary to watch with your Bible in hand, and your remote's pause button at the ready. My own interest in eschatology is related to the fruit I've seen that follows the different views. As the film shows, the pessimistic Dispensational view lends itself to only short-term thinking. If the world could end at any moment, then why spend time building Christian institutions and infrastructure for the future? Or as was said, who polishes the brass on a sinking ship? I remember a story about a Bible college president explaining why they had built their campus with wood, rather than stone – they didn't want to give the pagans stone buildings. His presumption was that his institution would eventually be lost to the world. The Amil view most prevalent in my own Reformed churches is generally pessimistic but hasn't abandoned Kingdom-building projects. That might be most evident in the Christian schools we've built everywhere we have a congregation. They might not be stone, but there's a lot of sturdy cinder block being used! However, if we think the world is going to get worse, then why are we "polishing the brass"? Maybe the answer is our assurance of Christ's ultimate victory. It might also be in keeping with a thought, attributed to Martin Luther (probably incorrectly), that if the Lord was returning tomorrow, it would still be worth planting an apple tree today because it could still be done to God's glory. If we're keeping God's glory first in our minds then there is a sense in which our end-time views don't matter nearly as much. Whether pessimistic Amill or optimistic Postmill, if either are focussed on glorifying God they may well engage with culture, build businesses, and start up schools in ways that are nearly indistinguishable from each other. And yet, the fruit of Postmil's optimistic outlook can be seen in the lives of a David Livingstone, who explored Africa with the thought of preparing the way for the missionaries that would follow him years later. His work was for a future he expected to happen – God's Word spread and gratefully received throughout Africa – but which he knew he wouldn't live to see. His goal was to be a small part of a long-term strategy for successful Kingdom building. Where our end-time views might also be relevant is in our weakness. Humanly speaking, if a fight comes to us, and we're convinced we're bound to lose, doesn't it make sense to delay the fight for as long as we can, to put off defeat for as long as possible? That's where pessimism can take us, to a shameful "peace in our time" approach that hands off our battles to our children. That's the temptation we'll need to watch out for any time government or other cultural forces come after our churches, our schools, or our families. Instead of defeatism, we'll need to fix our eyes on God and realize that we can glorify Him by fighting for what is right, whether we win or lose. Of course, the Postmil believer has his own sinful tendency to watch out for. Believing that Christians can actually win some or most of these battles, he might be liable to start unnecessary fights. The most important point then is to never lose sight of God's glory: that is the reason we were created, and it is our privilege to proclaim His Gospel. Whatever we think of the end times, all Christians should be ultimately optimistic, knowing that Christ has already paid for our sins, already conquered death, and presently sits triumphant at the right hand of God the Father....

News

Saturday Selections - October 2, 2021

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

News

China takes a pro-life turn

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

Documentary, Watch for free

Unlocking the Mystery of Life

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

Christian education, News

US homeschooling grows by a million

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

Adult fiction, Book Reviews

Chasing Shadows

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

News

Saturday Selections – Sept 25, 2021

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

Drama, Movie Reviews

End of the Spear

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

Assorted

Gezellig: cozy, restful

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

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

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

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

Adult biographies, Book Reviews

Dancing Under the Red Star

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

News

Saturday Selections – Sept 18, 2021

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

Theology

Should we baptize infants? Resources that make the case

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

Animated, Movie Reviews

Balto

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

Economics

The hidden tax of inflation

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

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Tikki Tikki Tembo

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

Book Reviews, Teen fiction

The Phantom Tollbooth

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

News

Saturday Selections – Sept 11, 2021

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

Theology

Heaven-bound: What will it be like?

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

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

Listen! Six Men You Should Know

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

Drama, Movie Reviews

Freedom

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

Parenting

A Tale of Two Fathers

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

Science - Creation/Evolution

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

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

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Ella's big chance: a fairy tale retold

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

News

Saturday Selections – September 4, 2021

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

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Beyond the Gates of Splendor

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

Drama, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

The Jackie Robinson Story

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

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

A Family Secret

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

News

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

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

Gender roles

When Steve wants to be called Sue

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

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – August 2021

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

News

Saturday Selections – August 28, 2021

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

Magazine, Past Issue

July/Aug 2021 issue

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

Parenting

Christian fathers are coaches

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

Media bias, News

"Conservative" media fails the test

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

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

In the Beginning: Listening to Genesis 1 and 2 

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

Church history, Theology

Why and how the Nicene Creed came to be

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

History, News

Residential schools: what worldview is to blame?

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

News

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

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

News

Saturday Selections – August 21, 2021

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

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood

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

Assorted

Neither poverty nor riches? Making God our priority in prayer

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

Apologetics 101, Book Reviews, Teen non-fiction

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

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

Family, Movie Reviews

Pride and Prejudice (2003)

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

Book excerpts, Book Reviews

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

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

Book Reviews, Teen fiction

The Revolt: a novel in Wycliffe's England

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

Book Reviews, Teen non-fiction

Nero

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

Book Reviews, Teen fiction

In the hall of the Dragon King

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

News

Saturday Selections – Aug 14, 2021

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

Economics

What does a Reformed entrepreneur look like?

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

Church history, Theology

How and why the Apostles’ Creed came to be

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

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock

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

News

Saturday Selections – Aug 7, 2021

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

Humor, Theology

What is humor?

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

News, Pro-life - Abortion

On mandatory vaccines and “My body, my choice”

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

Adult biographies, Book Reviews

Come Back, Barbara

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

News

Saturday Selections – July 31, 2021

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

Family, Movie Reviews

The General

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

Theology

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

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

Adult biographies, Book Reviews

The Wright Brothers

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

News

Saturday Selections – July 24, 2021

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