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Documentary, Movie Reviews, Recent Articles, RP App, Watch for free

Incredible Creatures That Define Design

Documentary 62 min / 2011 Rating: 7/10 The folks who brought us the 3-film series Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution are back, and with a fun new twist on the incredible design we can find in God's creation. This time they are looking into the field of biomimicry – this involves engineers applying the innovations and creativity they find in the natural world to help them solve challenges they face in the civilized world. So, for example, a fan manufacturer looking to make a more powerful, but quieter, model decided to look into the way that an owl can travel quickly but silently through the air. The closer they looked at the design of its wings, the more they found there was to learn and imitate! Other examples of brilliant design in creation that the documentary explores include: sticky burrs spirals found everywhere in nature the glue used by mussels the aerodynamics of the boxfish and the strange way that butterflies can give off such beautiful colors even though some have no pigment in their wings. In one instance after another, even as engineers use Nature as their inspiration, they're forced to admit that their best efforts can't match the genius they find there. CAUTIONS Unlike the Incredible Creations The Defy Evolution series, in this film God is never given the credit that is His due. Instead, this is more like an Intelligent Design presentation, in which the genius found in creation is celebrated, without any specific mention made of Who that Genius is. The only other caution concerns a scene in the section on mussel glue. Here we see a brief enactment of a man having a heart attack at a restaurant. He then presumably receives care using glue, rather than stitches. It's not all that shocking, but more so than anything else in the film, and might alarm some small children. CONCLUSION This is one that will most intrigue the science geeks among us. I think families with older kids – maybe 12 and up – could enjoy this together, particularly if they have watched documentaries together before. But it does require some knowledge to fully appreciate what's being explained – younger children simply won't know enough about aerodynamics, or about how loud fans can be, or what pigmentation is, to really appreciate how "Nature" – God! – has done it all so much better than even our best and brightest can do (even after being given an example to imitate). You can watch it below for free (with some commercial interruptions). ...

Articles, Book Reviews, Children’s picture books, Recent Articles, RP App

Virginia Lee Burton: Queen of nostalgia

One of the funnest things about Virginia Lee Burton's books is the history behind them – these are classics! A mom reading Katy and the Big Snow to her daughters might remember her own parents reading the same book to her. Since they first came out in the 1940s, Virginia Lee Burton's books have been enjoyed by three generations. But there's more to the nostalgia, because even when they were brand new, they likely had a timeless feel because, rather than being about Burton's present, they were a look back, celebrating a not-so-distant past that seemed calmer, simpler, better. The idyllic yesteryear that Burton presents is just a bit before her own childhood, in the transition period between the late 19th and early 20th century. It's a curious time to pick as the wistful pinnacle of civilization. It's an age in which mechanization is already in place, so why is Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel worth celebrating, but the diesel shovels that followed are somehow threatening? But that is the pinnacle she picks, not only in Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, but Maybelle the Cable Car, and then again in The Little House. While these are quiet laments at the technological advances that were revolutionizing the Western way life, they are also a hubbub of activity, with all sorts of machines at work, and so much to see on every page. This busyness is then contrasted by the happy, calm conclusion to each story. While it's fun to take a peek at the past from someone who really appreciates the age she's depicting, parents might remind their children of what the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes 7:10: "Say not 'Why were the former days better than these?' For it is not from wisdom that you ask this." To romanticize the past can sometimes be to overlook the many blessings God is showering on us right now. Recommended Her four most popular are available separately and also in a compendium together. They are wonderful! Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel 1939 / 48 pages Mike Mulligan and his beautiful red steam shovel, Mary Anne, do a lot of digging in this story: cutting canals, lowering hills, straightening curves. But as technology advances, and new electric, diesel, and gasoline shovels come along, no one wants to hire a steam shovel. But instead of sending Mary Anne to the junkyard, Mike takes her to a small town looking to dig the cellar for their new town hall. He tells them that Mary Anne can do the job in a day, or they won’t have to pay him. The real fun here is not in finding out whether she gets the job done in time, but in the sweet way the story ends, with Mary Anne and Mike finding new jobs to keep them both busy. The Little House 1942 / 44 pages The story starts with a solid little house in the country that can just see the lights of the city on the horizon at night. But as the decades pass, the city approaches and then engulfs the little house, making her sad. But when the first owner’s great great-granddaughter comes across, she decides to move the solid little house to a new spot, out in the country once more. Katy and the Big Snow 1943 / 40 pages A big red crawler tractor named Katy can push dirt in the summer, but when winter comes, she’s the only one strong enough to push through all the snow. When a Big Snow hits, and all the plow trucks get stuck, and the snow piles up to three feet, five feet, and even more, then it’s time for Katy to save the day. She clears roads for ambulances, fire trucks, the police, the mailman, the phone and electric company, and then even clears the runway for a plane that otherwise would have crashed. Katy saved the day! MayBelle the Cable Car 1952 / 52 pages Maybelle is a cable car who spends her days going up and down San Fransisco’s steepest roads, and she's been doing so for decades. But now the city wants to do away with all the cable cars and replace them with big new busses. Will Maybelle be out of a job? No, because a campaign by citizens to keep the money-losing cable cars wins the day. Yay? What this presumes is that, so long at the majority rules, it's okay to use tax dollars for non-neccesities of all sorts, including wisful ones. So parents might have to talk their children through this one, to ensure little ones don't walk away with that lesson. Take it or leave it Fun to read once or twice, these don't need to make the cut for personal or school library shelves. Calico, the Wonder Horse 1941 / 67 pages A peaceful Western county is disrupted by a gang of bad guys. The wonder horse Calico disguises herself with a black mud bath so that Stewy Stinker, leader of the gang, will mistake her for his horse. When he does, she gives him a wild ride to jail. He escapes and makes plans to hold up the stagecoach only to discover that it is full of presents for the town’s children for Christmas Eve. Stinky starts crying because “I didn’t know I was that mean… holding up Santa on Christmas Eve. I’m never going to be bad anymore.” So the bad guys all decide to be good. This is a fun exciting story, but this people-are-only-bad-because-they-are-misunderstood turn at the end obscures that there is real evil in the world, fully determined to be wicked, and they must be fought and not coddled. Choo Choo 1937 / 48 pages A hard-working train engine, Choo Choo takes a bratty turn and decides she wants to go out on her own, so she runs away. After a misadventure, causing all sorts of mishaps as she flies through crossings and even leaps over an open train drawbridge, Choo Choo eventually runs out of steam and is left all on her own at the end of an abandoned line. Fortunately, her conductor, engineer, and fireman go after her, find her, and bring her home, much to Choo Choo’s relief – she’s learned her lesson and pledges never to run away again. Don't bother The second book below made this category on, admittedly, a bit of nitpick, but the first earned its spot, being nothing but propoganda. Life Story - At 80 pages, this is Burton’s biggest book by far, and all of it a godless evolutionary account of how life on earth originated. We move through millions of years of history until, in the concluding pages set in Burton’s time, there is on display, her wistful longing for a simple, country life. The Emperor’s New Clothes - Burton illustrated this Hans Christian Anderson classic. As much as I like the story, what I’m looking for in an illustrated version for children is for the Emperor's nakedness to be strategically and artfully obscured. Burton almost pulls it off, but on the last page we have a naked butt, and yes, it is a cartoonish naked butt. However, she's already shown in previous pages that this nudity is unneeded. For this tittering age group, one naked butt is one too many. Conclusion If one could overdose on Virigina Lee Burton that might lead a child to romanticize the past, and maybe even take an anti-progress, almost Luddite turn. But Burton didn't write all that much, so this isn't much of a concern. Instead we can just enjoy her timeless books for the lovely look back that they are. We can dig up our own old copy, and point out all the action going on, the favorite bits that we recall from so many years ago "when your grandpappy used to read this to me." Burton at her best offers up stories that will endure at least long enough for you to read them to your grandchildren too....

News

Saturday Selections - August 6, 2022

The Great Escape? (8 min) Might God be using technological innovations to grant His people freedom from government tyranny? That's not quite how this fellow puts it, but that is the interesting possibility he's presenting. While this is a libertarian, rather than Christian perspective, we share in common with libertarians the understanding that Man is limited and fallible. That gives us both every reason to oppose centralized government proposals, predicated as they are on those at the top having near-omniscient powers to know what's best for everyone else. Christians know world leaders aren't God, and don't have His omniscience, and thus they shouldn't put themselves in a position that requires them to be god-like. To that insight, Christians can add our awareness of Man's sinful nature, and Lord Acton's adage that power corrupts. So, like this libertarian, we should want government powers to be limited. 5 things you might not know about Eve Did you know that Eve wasn't her real name? Only the rich can "afford" to be godless It's no secret that certain Christian values, like stable marriage, sex within marriage, and abstaining from drug abuse, "strongly correspond to long term success." So why do so many of the richest hold to more "progressive" views on marriage and sex? It might be, because they can afford to. They can use their money to pay the price for their unwise lifestyles. But for the millions of others who admire and imitate them, they are not able to afford these "luxury beliefs." When are you really dead? Though this seems a Roman Catholic writer, he brings insight to an issue that is of growing importance "as doctors’ ability to transplant organs grows." Do we die when our heart stops, or when our brain function seizes? This article doesn't raise the issue of euthanasia, but in the context of transplants, the importance of knowing when a person dies becomes all the more important in a society that has no ethical objection to killing patients. Deut 22:5 is a help to confused Christians  Genesis 1:27 should have been enough, with God declaring that He "assigns" our gender, and no one else. But to His Church, knowing how easily we are influenced by the world, He has also given us Deut 22:5. Everybody loves Jesus until they understand who He really is (1 minute) When the Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses come knocking the way to get to the heart of it is to ask them what they think about Jesus. ...

Internet, Recent Articles, RP App

Is our curiosity controlling us, or are we controlling it?

Curiosity can be downright lethal... and not only to cats. In our Internet age, curiosity can quickly take us where we must not go. But curiosity can also be a force for good. This investigative itch can drive us to discover more about God, digging deep into His Word, or heading out into His creation, magnifying glass in hand, to see all there is to see. In Curious: the Desire to Know and Why your Future Depends on It Ian Leslie makes a useful division between two main sorts of curiosity – epistemic and diversive. There isn’t simply “good” versus “bad” curiosity but more a matter of “focused” versus “unfocused," though as you might guess, the focussed sort is generally the more helpful sort. Diversive curiosity “Diversive curiosity” is, as Leslie puts it, an “attraction to everything novel” and it “manifests itself as a restless desire for the new and the next.” Leslie explains: The modern world seems designed to stimulate our diversive curiosity. Every tweet, headline, ad, blog post, and app at once promises and denies a satisfaction for which we are ever more impatient. This quest for the “new and next” isn’t necessarily bad – this is why new questions get asked, new interests are discovered, and new people are met. But Leslie argues that while “unfettered curiosity is wonderful; unchanneled curiosity is not.” What problem is there with unchanneled curiosity? It doesn’t fix itself on anything. It lacks purpose or discipline – diversive curiosity might start off well-intentioned, but if it has nothing to focus on then a search for “Calvin’s thoughts on art” can quickly turn into hours spent on “The art of Calvin and Hobbes.” Leslie recounts a question that was posted to Reddit: “If someone from the 1950s suddenly appeared today, what would be the most difficult thing to explain to them about today?” The favorite answer was: “I possess a device in my pocket that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and get into arguments with strangers.” We have access to an inexhaustible source of knowledge, right in our back pocket. Want to study Economics, or read Calvin's Institutes, or learn how to change the oil on your Toyota sequoia and it's all just a few key taps away. And when it comes to collaborations, we can call on people in the next town, the next state, or the next continent! But so long as we let our curiosity run free – flitting from one tweet, one game, one photo, one video to another – then this incredible potential will be unrealized. Channeled curiosity Here is where the second sort of curiosity comes in. “Epistemic curiosity” is curiosity with a purpose. Leslie describes this as a “deeper, more disciplined, and effortful type of curiosity.” This sort of curiosity pushes us after reading an intriguing blog post headline to go seek books on the same subject. It’s sustained curiosity. It’s directed curiosity. It’s the sort of curiosity that drives a boy to collect beetles and butterflies, and then when he wants to know more he heads to the library for books. It’s this sort of curiosity that has a girl trying out crayons and pens and pencils and paints to figure out how best she can draw a horse. To get good she’s going to need to sustain this appetite for paper and pen, but more importantly, she’ll need to steer clear of the constant stream of YouTube cat videos and other curiosities that are competing for her attention. Godly curiosity is fettered While Ian Leslie values unfettered curiosity, God expects our curiosity to be not only channeled but fettered too. There is every reason for Christians to be curious – God is infinite, and He’s given us a near-infinite universe to explore. But there are corners of it that we should not investigate. Article 13 of the Belgic Confession warns that we should not: …inquire with undue curiosity into what God does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. Some of what God has done is too great for us to understand (election, for example) and when it comes to those matters we need to actively constrain our curiosity. We need to put on some fetters. There are also more earthy matters that we need to not investigate. We need to fetter our curiosity when it comes to: gossip – whether about people we know, or celebrities we don’t our rich neighbor's income sexuality – within marriage epistemic curiosity about sex can be a very good thing, but outside of, or before marriage, it can only cause trouble In other words, we shouldn’t be curious about matters beyond us, or matters that should be beneath us. Freeing us from distractions When it comes to diversive curiosity – the attraction to the new and next – there are no biblical texts telling us how many cat videos in a row are too many in a row. God hasn’t told us how many times we can check our Facebook newsfeed in an hour, or what time of night we need to turn off our phone. There are no stated limits as to how many tweets we can read, how many Instagram pictures we can view, how many blog posts we can click on, each day. So how can we know how much is too much? The Westminster Shorter Catechism gives us a clue when it explains that Man’s purpose here on earth is "to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." How does that help? Well, if we’re too busy to pray, too busy to read the Bible, too busy to be a part of the communion of saints, too busy to act as God’s hands and feet here on earth, too busy with all sorts of distractions to glorify God, and too busy enjoying these distractions to enjoy God, then wherever the line might be, we can be sure we’re way over it! So how can we free ourselves from these distractions? Part of it will involve putting down the smartphone, tucking away the tablet, and turning off the computer. We could consider: Putting tight limits on family members’ screen time each week, with more severe constraints for the very young (many doctors suggest children under 2 shouldn’t watch TV at all) and for out-of-control kids. Shutting down the Internet for the evening (which still allows kids to use their devices to read) or the afternoon, or only having it on for weekends or for homework. Going on a month-long technology fast to allow your family to get proper priorities back in place – this is an option that most children will hate (and many an adult) but the more passionate the resistance, the stronger the case for this intervention. While these practical suggestions will be helpful they also aren’t enough. We need to address this as the sin problem that it is. When we can’t control our curiosity, when it controls us, we’re enslaved. When our curiosity doesn’t direct us to God, but distracts us from Him, we’re committing idolatry, making YouTube videos and Instagram pics our first priority. Instead, we can seek ways to direct our curiosity in a God-honoring fashion. Our God is infinite, so there’s no shortage of wonders to explore, whether that’s God Himself, His Word, His world, the bodies He gave us, the family He placed us in, the talents He chose for us, the friends He provided, or the communion of saints He surrounded us with. There’s no shortage of wonders to wonder about. May God help us control our curiosity, so that in this too all we do can honor Him....

Parenting, Recent Articles, RP App

Children's games that mom & dad can play without going batty

I grew up with board games of all sorts, playing 5-6 hour "train games" with my brother and his friends, or Settlers of Catan back when it was only available in German. So when my wife and I were blessed with children I was already looking forward to playing games with them. But if my kids and I were going to play games, I wanted to be able to actually play them. I was on the hunt for games which would involve some skill, and yet allow for a bit of competition between a dad and his preschool daughters. It wasn't like I was going to try my hardest, but I also didn't want to just be pretending to do my turn. I wanted games where I could try, at least a little, or perhaps level the playing field by attempting tougher moves than my daughters. I wanted to play too. I soon found out that was a tall order. Most children's games are entirely chance, or either mind-numbingly simple, or even more mind-numbingly repetitive. But after some searching I was able to find five games that proved to be a challenge for both dad and daughters. ANIMAL UPON ANIMAL by HABA 10-20 minutes to play 2-4 players Ages 5 and up This is a stacking game, with the wooden pieces all shaped liked various animals. The variety is interesting: it has penguins, snakes, sheep, and monkeys – not animals that normally hang out – and at the bottom of the pile is a big long alligator that everybody piles on. Players start with seven pieces and take turns adding one or two animals to the stack, trying to make sure not to knock any down. The first one to get rid of all their animals wins. Of course the little beasties are going to come tumbling down, so one nice feature of the game – especially for youngsters whose fingers aren’t yet so nimble – is that if you do end up starting an animal avalanche you only have to put a maximum of two of them in your own pile. So no player is going to fall too far behind. Our oldest daughter really enjoyed this, but while the game says it is for 4 to 99, our four-year-old found it just a bit too hard and frustrating yet. However, I'm thinking that by the time she hits five this will be a real hit. Animal upon Animal is a good one for the whole family. COOCOO THE ROCKING CLOWN by Blue Orange 5-10 minutes to play 2-5 players Ages 4 and up This is a balancing game, with players taking turns adding a “ball” (actually a wooden cylinder) to one side or the other of CooCoo’s outstretched arms. Put too many on one side and he’ll tip over! That’s all there is to it – simple enough for 4 years olds to play, but there’s still enough here to keep adults challenged too. I can play this with my kids and try my best; I just leave the easy spots for them and challenge myself by going for the harder ones. Though it isn’t in the rules, it works both as a competitive game (placing your ball so it will be hard for the next person to find a good spot) and as a collaborative effort (How many balls can we work together to get on CooCoo?). All the pieces are wood, which is wonderful. The only downside to this solid construction is that CooCoo himself is heavy enough that, if he manages to fall off the table, he may well chip (our CooCoo has a few bits broken off from the tips of his fingers). So don’t place him near the edge of the table! This is great fun in half hour doses, and mom and dad may even find themselves playing it when the kids are in bed. QWIRKLE by Mindware 30-45 minutes to play 2-4 players Ages 6 and up Qwirkle is a great strategic game, which takes less than a minute to explain. It comes with 108 solid wooden tiles, coming in six different shapes, in six different colors. Points are scored by laying out a line of tiles that match each other either by color or by shape. So, for example, I could lay out a line of three that was made up of (see the left side of the back of the box picture): an orange sun, an orange star, and an orange diamond. That would get me three points. Next turn someone could expand off of my orange diamond by laying a yellow, green and red diamond beside it. Simple, right? True, but this is also an intriguing enough game for MENSA to endorse too. I’ve tried this with my four-year-old, and while she enjoyed it, I had to help her every turn – I was essentially playing against myself. Six seems the lowest age for a child to be able to play on her own. It says it’s for groups of two to four but we’ve done it with as many as six successfully. Everyone we’ve played this with seemed to enjoy it. That’s probably why it has sold millions, spawned several spin-offs and even has its own app for Apple products. SPOT IT JR.! by Blue Orange 5 minutes to play 2-6 players Ages 4 and up On a turn the dealer will lay down two of the round cards and then players race to spot and call out the name of the one animal that is shown on both cards. Every card has pictures of six different animals, shown in various sizes, and somehow they’ve managed to arrange it so that whenever you flip two cards over there will always be one, and only one, pairing. The first to name it gets to keep the set, and the person with the most sets at the end wins. This is a simplified version of the adult Spot it!, with the only difference being that the adult game has more items per card. I found I did sometimes have to go a bit easy on my kids – I couldn’t try my hardest – but already my six year old is hard to beat. It says it is for 2-6 players, but I’ll add that with my younger daughter this is a fun game only if it’s just me and her. In the larger group she just can’t compete and it’s no fun. I appreciate how fast it is – five minutes or less – which means there’s always time for at least one round! GOBBLET GOBBLERS & GOBBLET by Blue Orange 2-5 minutes to play 2 player AGES 5 AND UP Our oldest, on account of being the oldest, wins most games our girls play. She’s a fairly gracious winner, but I wasn’t so sure she was a gracious loser. To give her some practice I picked up Gobblet Gobblers, a quick game that takes some skill that I could play with her. That way she would get lots of practice at losing. Or at least that was the plan. This is tic-tac-toe with the added feature that some pieces can eat others. Each player gets three big gobblers, three medium sized ones, and three small gobblers. The big ones can stack on top of (or "eat") the medium and small gobblers, while the medium gobblers can eat only the smaller ones. And the smallest gobblers are stuck at the bottom of the food chain: they can’t eat anyone. It’s a very fun and very short game: it takes just a couple minutes to play. That means in just ten minutes of competing against her dad my daughter got a chance to lose – and practice doing it the right way – a half dozen times. It is a children’s game, but not a childish game – parents don’t have to turn their brains off to enjoy playing it. In fact I’ve played this with my wife. Some of my nephews and nieces, ranging in age from 5 to over 20 have all found the game quite addictive too. It’s about $25, with solid wood pieces that will stand up to good use. I should add that my 6-year-old happened upon a winning strategy that, if she starts with it, will win every time! It took her dear old dad quite a while to figure out why she had started winning every time, so I also got some good practice at losing graciously. (This was not going quite as planned!) So, we later upgraded from the 3-by-3 Gobblet Gobblers board to the adult version, Gobblet, which features a 4-by-4 board, and 12 pieces per player instead of 9. And it seems to have no guaranteed way to win. Both games are being put to regular use in our home even now more than a year after we bought. All these games are readily available through Amazon or other online stores. This article first appeared in the May 2016 issue....

News, RP App

Saturday Selections - July 30, 2022

State or parents: whose child is it? (2 min) The case made for home school here is one Christians – even those of us with our own Christian schools – can and should get behind: God made parents responsible for our children's educational, social, and moral upbringing, not the government (Eph. 6:4, Prov. 1:8-9, Heb 12:7-11, Prov. 22:6, Deut. 6:6-9). The "Distant Starlight Problem": 3 answers If Creation is only thousands of years old, how come we can see light from stars millions of light-years away? This is one of the questions the creationists at Creation Ministries International get asked, and here's a three-pronged answer. National Review's publisher is "married" to his husband  One of the most influential conservative magazines in the US has thrown in the towel on same-sex "marriage" and no wonder, considering the publisher is, himself, in such an arrangement. But they're far from the only purportedly "conservative" media group to embrace the LGBT sexual agenda. The Daily Wire’s Spencer Klavan is "engaged" to a man. Glenn Beck's BlazeTV network features the Rubin Report, where host Dave Rubin announced that he and his "husband" were going to have two children via surrogates. In Canada, Rebel News is using the wrong pronouns for men in dresses. What we're seeing here is that if a media organization doesn't explicitly stand on God's Word, then they will stumble when the culture brings pressure to bear. Help when anxiety keeps you up at night When this pastor's daughter had unexplained seizures, he went to God in prayer and meditated on the truths about God's character and faithfulness described in Psalm 4. Kids, let's talk about sex A pep talk for parents, with tips on how not to make it awkward. For some book-length tips see here and here. Signs you might be a woman The differences can be subtle, but if you're paying attention to the signs, you might just be able to figure it out. And if you're having problems figuring out if you're a man, check out Signs You Might be a Man. ...

Parenting, Recent Articles, RP App

The high cost of fatherhood: being a blessing to your children is hard work

Sociologists and politicians on the right of the political spectrum often tell us that one of the biggest problems facing society is the lack of fathers. Very often they will present the problem merely in terms of sheer numbers and statistics: “The number of households where there is no father present has risen from X to Y in 40 years.” “The number of teens with their parents still married is now just X, compared to Y just 30 years ago.” “Children who grow up in homes with a mom and dad are X times more likely to get better grades than those children who grow up in homes where this is not the case.” These sorts of things are perfectly true and valid. It’s perfectly true that there has been a massive increase in fatherlessness and that this has had devastating consequences for children, families, and society as a whole. It’s perfectly true that the explosion in the divorce rate over the last half century has sown a vast number of problems which are perhaps only just coming to fruition. Not simply a matter of more, but better However, there is a danger with this kind of statistical approach that can lead us to believe that the problem is simply one of a lack of fathers. Or to put it another way, we can come to see the problem of fatherlessness as simply a quantitative problem – lack of fathers – and then tend to see the solutions in the same terms – more fathers needed. Yet much as the quantitative side of the fatherlessness problem is true, it is not the be-all-and-end-all of the issue and in fact it only really scratches the surface of the fatherhood problem. In addition to the quantitative issue of fatherhood, there is also a qualitative issue that often seems to pass conservative analysts by. Of course a father is better than no father (unless of course the father in question is actively abusing his children, in which case the child will be better off in a home where he is not present), but there is more to it than this and we ought not to suppose that fatherlessness, per se, is the only problem that needs solving. Rather, there is also a much deeper issue of what fatherhood actually is. Here’s another way of looking at it. You will no doubt have heard politicians and employers bemoan the fact that there is a skills gap in the workforce. Often, it will be in areas such as engineering, and they will claim that we need X amount of engineers to fix the engineering skills gap. No doubt we do need more engineers, but the question that rarely gets asked is “which type of engineers do we need?” In other words, although there may be a shortage of engineers in the workforce, if we were to train up masses of civil engineers in a region, only to find that the real needs of that regional economy are actually for chemical engineers, we wouldn’t have solved the problem. A similar principle is true in the realm of fatherhood. The problem isn’t just one of a lack of fathers in homes – crucial as this is – rather, it is also about the type of fathers we have. I think it almost certainly the case that one of the many reasons we now have an epidemic of fatherlessness is that back in the day, when fatherlessness was not the problem it now is, many fathers failed to grasp what fatherhood should really look like. Certainly most men grasped that being a father meant providing for their family and protecting their family – which is well and good – but unfortunately many men didn’t go beyond a superficial interpretation of what this means. Failing fathers and feminism While children are the obvious victims of fatherlessness the damage isn’t limited to them. Their children’s mothers, and women in general, are also hurt when men won’t take up their role as family head. Now, I have no desire whatsoever to defend feminism. It is an unbiblical ideology, “liberating” men from their responsibilities as the heads of their families. Yet it must be recognized that its success did not appear out of a vacuum. It came from somewhere. Where? Many answers might be given, and the role of Government and Big Business – with their promises of a better, more fulfilling life for women via career success – are certainly well worth a study or two in themselves. But behind all this, feminist ideology is at heart basically parasitical, feeding on the discontent of women. Where does this discontent stem from? Unfortunately, much of it grew out of the failure of many – perhaps even most – men to fulfill their roles as husbands and fathers, above and beyond the basics of providing and protecting. As a general rule – and I do emphasize the word general – a woman who has a self-sacrificial husband who loves, devotes, and really gives himself to their children, is not going to be discontented enough with her lot to want to embrace an ideology that sees marriage and motherhood as a curse. Yes, there might be exceptions, but they will be rare. As I say, none of this is to defend feminism one iota, but it is simply to recognize that it has its origins in something, and that something is to a large extent due to the failure of men. Don’t look to the government All this is to say that simply fixing the numbers – upping the number of fathers – if that were possible, won’t work… although of course it would be way better than the train wreck we have now. Nor is there any no point in looking to government solutions to fix fatherlessness either. The State is both parasite and host in all this, feeding off the discontent of women to grow fatter and fatter. One way the State has done this is by embracing egalitarianism, and aggressively promoting it everywhere. So they talk about a glass ceiling in the workplace. They continually pump out statistics on men getting paid more than women, without ever being honest enough to bring the word "baby" into the conversation. On a more general level, they have legislated for no-fault divorce, the very existence of which is bound to lead to people allowing their discontent to drive them to divorce, rather than seeking to address it. All these things have helped to create a situation where women are no longer content with raising their own children. They want another life. And when this causes them difficulties or problems, who comes riding in on the white stallion again? Why the State, with it's promises of free childcare. I should add that I am in no way blaming the State for everything. The other big culprits are Big Business, Media and Advertising. But it is the State we turn to for solutions, and we need to understand why there will be none coming from that direction. They have no motivation – they sow discontentment among women, and then reap the reward of more taxes and more control of our day-to-day lives. The high cost So State is not the solution. The real answer is to be found on the micro level and it involves every father out there striving every day to become a better father. It involves every father out there not contenting himself with being merely provider and protector on some superficial level, but rather having a deep desire to bless his children through his words, his character, and his way of living each and every day. It involves every father out there striving to understand what God – the Father – is like and through His grace striving to reflect this towards his children. To extend the last point, Doug Wilson has brilliantly argued that all fathers are images or reflections of God the Father to their children. Each and every father is constantly speaking to his children through his words, character and behavior about what fathers are like, and thus are constantly teaching their children about the Father all the time. So, in the way he acts, a father will either be speaking the truth or telling a lie to his children about the Father. That’s a challenging mirror for those of us who are fathers to look into. Of course we are not going to see perfection, but are we telling the truth about God the Father in our life towards our children, or are we telling a lie? Are we telling the truth about the Father by reflecting His generous, benevolent, loving, forgiving, just, merciful, gracious nature? Or are we teaching our children a lie about the Father through our harshness, our indifference, our aloofness, our coldness or our absence? We could put it this way: True Fatherhood is costly. The cost of God’s mercy and love being shown to His children was the death of His only begotten Son at Calvary. If you are a father, how much does fatherhood cost you? Generosity, benevolence, love, forgiveness, mercy and grace are far costlier than harshness, indifference, aloofness, coldness or absence. They require daily prayer and struggle against sin. They require humbling ourselves to say sorry to our children when we’ve wronged them. They require listening patiently to them and taking pleasure in what for us may seem trivial, but what for them are really important. And a whole lot more. I don’t know about the fathers who are reading this, but I struggle with these things. They are not easy requirements for a sinful and selfish human being. Yet they are part of a struggle that all fathers should delight to be in the midst of, since victory in this struggle means blessing to your children. And if enough fathers engage in the struggle, ultimately it will bring blessing to our society too. Paul on engaged fathers The Apostle Paul has the uncanny ability to pack more into one sentence than most of us can pack into several thousand words. How does he instruct fathers to behave towards their children? Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Is that it Paul? Is that all you have to say to fathers? Don’t make our kids angry and bring them up in God’s ways? Not really. Paul’s one-liners are like the opening of a treasure cave and we need to dig deep if we are to get to the heart of his teaching and mine the gold. As he often does, Paul begins with a negative, moves it to a neutral, and then takes the whole thing over to a positive. An example of this is Ephesians 4:28 where he says this: Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Imagine a dial with three markings. On the left hand side is stealing. In the middle is not stealing. And over on the right hand side is laboring to give. Moralistic Christianity only sees the need to turn the dial from the left to the middle. “Don’t do this,” and “Don’t do that.” As if the absence of stealing is all that is required. But Paul says no, that’s not all that’s required. God doesn’t just want “non-stealers”; He wants cheerful givers. Paul does the same with the father passage. The notch on the left is marked Provoking, Exasperating, Frustrating, Angering your children. And there’s a whole range of different ways that this can be done. Paul says to turn the dial. Where to? To the “no longer provoking, exasperating and angering my children” spot in the middle? No, he says, dial it all the way to the right hand side. So just as the antidote to stealing is not “not-stealing” but rather giving, the antidote to provoking our children is not “not provoking our children,” but rather nurturing and admonishing them (some versions have this as training/discipling and instruction/correction, but the sense is roughly the same). Berating vs. admonishing What might sound odd here is that having turned the dial from the negative notch – provoking to wrath – to the positive notch, we find Paul speaking of admonition (or correction). But isn’t admonishing (or correcting) a negative action? Of course it can be, and I’m sure we can all think of examples of ways fathers can rebuke their children in a wholly negative manner (if you’re anything like me, you will have done this yourself). And if such a way of rebuking becomes the norm, then it can clearly lead to exactly what Paul tells us to avoid – exasperating and provoking our children to wrath. So how can admonition or correction be positive? It’s surely a question of why we do it and how we do it. If our whole wholehearted desire is to see our children corrected and restored, and if we deliver the admonition or correction in a way that reflects that, then it is an undoubtedly positive thing and our children will generally respond positively to it. What does nurturing look like? What of nurturing? That has a more positive ring to it than admonition, but what does it mean? Perhaps an illustration might help. At a home education co-op recently, some of my children and their friends did an experiment where they put six different seeds into six different jars, subjecting each seed to different conditions. The first was given air, water, soil, light and warmth, whilst the others had one of these elements missing. Some didn’t grow at all. Others grew a little, but very weak and stunted. No prizes for guessing which one grew properly! Just as the nurturing of plants needs all the elements in order to grow properly, so too do our children. And just as the seed that is deprived of one or more of the elements will either not grow at all, or perhaps produce stunted growth, so is the case with our children. Although I don’t want to labor the analogy too much, there is a fairly close correspondence to some of the elements that are needed for the seed to grow, and that which we need to be nurturing our children with. For instance, it is possible to give them the light of God’s word, both in the home and at church, and think that this will suffice. But if the environment at home or in the church is frigid, or if we so stifle their characters, gifts and creativity that they feel suffocated, they may well come to despise the teaching. There are countless “testimonies” out there of people who have gone through that. Nurturing is about making sure our children have all the elements they need to so that they thrive and grow up into men and women who really love God and who have a genuinely loving, servant spirit. So we need to aim not just to teach them from God’s Word, but to do so in an environment that is warm and wholesome. We need to produce a home where Christ is honored, both in teaching and example, but we need to do so making sure that we do not stifle our children or place heavy burdens on them. They need air to thrive, and I’ve seen a good many people reject the faith of their parents chiefly because their parents tried to squeeze them into a particular mold of what they thought Christians ought to look like. Fathers, can I urge you to strive to get closer to your children? Cuddle them more (especially girls). They need to feel wanted and secure, even the ones that don’t communicate this very well. Talk to them more. Be interested in them and their lives. Speak kindly to them and well of them. Get rid of any hindrances in your life which might be a stumbling block for them, or which might breed resentment and create a distance between you and your children. Strive to teach them from God’s Word, both by words and example. Seek their forgiveness, not just God’s if you have wronged them, or shouted at them, or failed them. Make them know that you would give your life for them. Fill your home with love and with grace. When we fail… Having said that, the wind seems to be taken out of my sails somewhat. Thinking of what nurture and admonition ought to look like is one thing, but if your house is anything like mine, the reality is often a far cry. Occasionally I might approximate to some of these things, but there are too many times of miserable failure to recall. What then? The things I have listed above are hard things which require self-sacrifice, determination and above all the Spirit of God. We are bound to mess up; bound to fail. But this should make us press on, not give up. Christianity is not a religion of beating ourselves up over such failures. Rather, it is a religion which says get down on your knees, seek God’s free and full forgiveness through Jesus, and then ask for his Spirit to enable you to be a better father to your children. Fatherhood is the most important social issue of our day, and the lack of good fathers is behind so much of what has gone wrong in our society. So if you don’t already, will you join me in making it a regular prayer to pray for fathers? Pray that every child in the land would know their father throughout their childhood. Pray for every child to know the love and the warmth of a good father. Pray for fathers in your church to be enabled to lead their families, and to “nurture and admonish their children in the Lord” with love and grace. Pray for good fathers to become better fathers. Pray for absent or poor fathers to repent and be given God’s grace to succeed where they have previously failed. And above all pray that God would reform our churches, our communities and our society by turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers. Rob Slane is the author of A Christian and Unbeliever discuss Life, the Universe, and Everything....

Book Reviews, Children’s fiction

Medallion

by Dawn L. Watkins 1985 / 213 pages This will be a fun one for Grade 4/5 boys. Young Trave plans to be king one day, but in the meantime, the current king of Gadalla, his uncle, won't even let him learn to ride a horse. Trave's life takes a turn when a rider comes to warn his uncle of an impending war, and tries to recruit him as an ally against the "Dark Alliance." His uncle dismisses the warning but allows Trave to head off with the departing rider, happy to be done with this annoying boy. But why does the rider have any interest in Trave? Because the rider turns out to be the king of the neighboring nation of Kapnos, and he knew Trave's father back when he was the fighting king of Gadalla. This King Gris is eager to help Trave become the king not simply that Trave wants to be, but that the neighboring nations need him to be, to stop the Dark Alliance. And while Trave appreciates being rescued from his uncle, he doesn't like being treated like a schoolboy in need of lessons. He mistakenly believes that being a king means fighting and giving orders, rather than serving. And that makes him susceptible to the flattery of the Dark Alliance's leader, who wants Trave on his side. This is a quick tale, that has some depth to it, because of the three kingly lessons that Trave needs to know, not just by heart, but in his bones. He finds out, the hard way, that a king needs: to learn what is true to believe what is true to act on what is true While the author is Christian, that's more notable in the lack of any new age or woke weirdness, rather than the presence of any spiritual dimension to the book. The only diety-mention of any kind is that the bad guys worship and are also terrified of owls. Boys will love the story, and appreciate the twenty or so great pictures, including one of the evil king riding what looks like a miniature (yet still large) T-rex. That's a reason to get the book all on its own! Another highlight is the curious creature Nog, who lives under a bog, and his every line, is always spoken in rhyme. While this is a little too simple for teens, it's one that'll really appeal to the 9-12 set, and younger even, if Dad is reading it as a bedtime book. This works well as a stand-alone, but I was initially excited to learn there is both a sequel and a prequel. However, the sequel, Arrow struck me as having too many characters to keep track of, and there was an added mystical dimension thrown in, where a queen and princess used a mirrored portal to unexplainedly travel to another realm. Mysterious can be good when the mystery is eventually revealed, but this magical turn is left unexplained, and that bothered both me and my oldest daughter too when she read it. The original was good enough that I still checked out the prequel, Shield, and while it might have also suffered from too many characters, it was much more like the original. Good, if not quite as great. So I'd recommend just the two - Medallion and Shield – while noting that the content in Arrow is "safe" enough (there's nothing problematic) for any child who wants to complete the series....

Parenting, Recent Articles, RP App

Chores are good for our kids, and the earlier the better

Something parents have long suspected but few children have believed has been verified by research: chores are good for kids. The research that backs this up isn’t new. According to a Wall Street Journal article by Jennifer Breheny Wallace, these findings came in 2002 when Dr. Marty Rossmann of the University of Minnesota analyzed data to discover that: "young adults who began chores at ages 3 and 4 were more likely to have good relationships with family and friends, to achieve academic and early career success and to be self-sufficient, as compared with those who didn’t have chores or who started them as teens." Yet, as Wallace notes, a survey of US adults in 2014 found that while 82% grew up doing regular chores, “only 28% said that they require their own children to do them.” Why? It seems like parents are making piano lessons, and homework, and dance recitals and hockey practices the priority, and letting their children slide when it comes to pulling their weight at home. We think these others things are important, but they don’t compare to the joy of having a helpful daughter or son who becomes a responsible young lady or man. One other reason we tend to put off training our children to do chores is because the payoff for parents is very long term. A three-year-old who helps empty the dishwasher is going to cause much more work than she saves (especially when she drops a dish every now and again). But then we need to remember that the point of getting them to do the dishwasher is not to help us, but to help them become good helpers....

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Recent Articles, RP App

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.” ...

News, Recent Articles, RP App

Saturday Selections - July 23, 2022

Wikipedia's bias (8 min) One of Wikipedia's founders now describes it as propaganda for the leftwing. The passive husband A passive husband can come off as likable enough, because he isn't actively working at anything bad. He may even be quite the hard worker outside the home. He's just checking out when he gets home A sentence to bring down abortion (10-min read) We are amazed by stories of individuals who risked their lives to do what is right. But more remarkable still is that a whole village made the same decision to, en masse, to save Jews? What motivated them? How can they inspire us? Free markets bring shalom The least economically free countries have an infant mortality rates almost seven times that of the most free. While Christians know that material prosperity isn't an end in itself, we also know longer life, and happy babies are blessings worth sharing, and we can do so by encouraging economic freedom. New York Times proposing better rules for sex? As a recent NYT article highlighted, some in the world "are realizing how sex without restrictions leads to personal and social chaos. ....Our job is to take it one step deeper, and to point with our words and our lives to a better way." The amazing flying frog...and its evolutionary critics (2 min) In the video clip below, a BBC naturalist highlights just how amazing the Wallace Flying Frog is... but then he criticizes it as badly designed for only being able to glide, and not fly. This type of fault-finding is common among evolutionists, and it blinds them to the amazing reality right in front of them. As the linked creationist article above highlights – and this evolutionist also concedes – this little frog is brilliantly equipped for the treetop environment it inhabits. The criticism that it can't fly is petty, akin to faulting the Mona Lisa for not showing us some teeth. ...

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

The Arrival

by Shaun Tan 2007 / 128 pages I am an immigrant of sorts, having moved across the border to the US, and while it was easy enough to adapt it did give me a small bit of insight into what my parents and grandparents must have experienced when they moved from the Netherlands to Canada decades ago. While I didn’t have to learn a new language, my children are going to learn an entirely different history. They say “zee,” not “zed.” And almost everyone I know seems to have a gun in their home. Small differences. My parents had to deal with much bigger ones, and for their parents it was stranger still. It was hard to ask for help because they didn’t know the language. And they needed help because things were done so differently here. Fortunately, they weren’t the first – others from the “old country” had come before, so there was some help to be had. This may be an overly long introduction to a book that has no words. To cut to the chase, Shaun Tan’s graphic novel may be the very best possible way to share the immigrant experience with the second and third generations. It tells the story of a father who leaves his country, his wife, and his daughter, to head overseas to find a better place for them all. It is a very strange world that he finds. One of the first things we notice is that even the birds look different. In fact, the reader will notice that these birds don’t look like any birds anyone has ever seen. It only gets stranger in the pages that follow: the man encounters a mystifying immigration process, and documents that are written in a language that doesn’t look like any that the reader will know. The buildings, the food, the transportation – there is a uniqueness to it all. This new country looks like no real country on earth. So what is going on here? The first time I read this graphic novel I didn’t understand what was happening and stopped reading about halfway through. This time around a helpful niece alerted me to the fact that this was about the immigrant experience, so what the artist was doing, by making everything just slightly peculiar, was creating a world where the reader would feel the same sort of discomfort and confusion that a new immigrant would feel upon arrival. That little insight was a big help, and turned this from a mystifying, even frustrating story, to an absolutely brilliant one. I will admit to being a bit slow on the uptake here, as the title, The Arrival, should have provided me the only clue I’d have needed. But in my defense, Shaun Tan’s creation is utterly original so I have not ever read anything like it. We follow the father as he sets out to find a job, finds an apartment, tries to get the coffee machine (if that’s what it was) to work, and tries to figure out where to find food and what sort of food he likes. Along the way he meets several helpful people, including people who had immigrated years before, and were happy to help someone newly arrived. So the book is, on the one hand, about the immigrant experience, and on the other is a story about the impact we can have in helping strangers. The young father would have been lost but for the kindness of strangers. This is a large book, both in the number of pages, and in the size of the pages – 128 pages and about a foot tall – with scores of details to discover on every page. So even though it is wordless, this is a good long read. I would recommend this to immigrant grandparents as a gift they could give to the grandchildren, and one they might want to "read" with them. I would also recommend it to anyone who loves art - this is a beautiful book. Finally, I would also recommend it to students who are struggling readers. This is a book with dimension and depth, even though it doesn't have words. So it requires something of the reader - it can stretch them - even as it makes things a bit easier by doing away with dialogue....

Internet, Recent Articles, RP App

The smartphone stack

You're out with some friends having a nice dinner. But one has been talking on his phone for the last ten minutes, and a second is managing to fork food into her mouth while still using both hands to type text messages. And the fourth member of your party is preoccupied with tracking down some YouTube video he just has to show everyone. So you're out with your friends for dinner but it seems an awful lot like eating alone. We've all experienced something similar... and put our friends through something similar. So how can we return a little decorum to our dinners-out? One suggestion making the rounds is something called "The Phone Stack." After everyone orders their meals all smartphones are placed in the center of the table, one on top of another, face down. Though the course of the meal it's simply a given that one of these, or all, are going to buzz, bing, or sing, but here's the kicker: no one is allowed to grab their phone until dinner and dessert is done. If someone feels they just have to pick up their phone, that's okay, but then they also have to pick up the check for the night! Can there be exceptions made? Maybe someone is a doctor on call, or a volunteer member of the local fire department, and just needs to check their messages. Yup, allowances for that kind of thing can be made. But for the rest of the group this is a fun way of ensuring we all connect with one another, rather than with our devices. And for those dining-in nights, a variation can be done involving who is going to do the dishes!...

Apologetics 101, Recent Articles, RP App

The don't and do's of answering fools

In Proverbs 26:4-5 God says we shouldn’t argue with fools…except when we should. Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. Don't get in flame wars The danger in responding to fools is in descending to their level. If a fool is a dishonest questioner – peppering you with one after another, but with no interest in interacting with or listening to your answers – stop responding. In these situations the longer we talk, the more we make it look like the fool has a legitimate point. And if an online troll hits you with an ALL CAPS EXCHANGES, don't indulge in any sort of flame war. Here the louder we talk the more we end up looking like just another angry fool. Shouting matches aren't going to glorify God. All they do is make it hard for anyone listening to tell the difference betwixt the two combatants. Do answer real arguments The danger in not answering a fool is to leave his foolishness standing. When a fool offers an argument – misguided, shortsighted, naive, but genuinely offered and open to response and rebuttal – we need to answer him. Our goal is to show him his folly by explaining where his argument will logically take him. After that we can point him to real answers. Here’s how this looks in real life. In an online forum an abortion advocate wrote: "I don't get why a human that lives 80 years with modern medicine is more important than a tree that lives 500 years." A tree rates above people? How do we expose this for the folly it is? There are three keys: Do follow his argument to its logical end - What would it be like if we actually lived that way? Do contrast his foolishness with God's wisdom - How does his position compare and contrast to what God says? Do end on a question - This isn't must, but it is a good idea. Greg Koukl says a good question can be like putting a stone in someone's shoe: it's not big, but it sure is hard to ignore. A question can challenge them to think through what you've said. And it can be more winsome than ending on a statement. "Aren't you wrong?" is challenging enough, but it sure sounds nicer than "You are wrong." How that looks When it comes to our tree and abortion-loving debate partner, our response might look something like this: "God says that man is the pinnacle of creation, but you place us somewhere behind trees. Do you live your life consistent with that belief? How do you treat trees? Do you read books? (You do know what those are made of, don’t you?) Have you sat around a campfire and enjoyed watching the flames dance over countless wooden carcasses? What is your home made out of? Your coffee filters? Do you use tissues? How about toilet paper? "God says we matter more than trees. You say trees matter more than us. But if, in your day-to-day routine, you’re participating in the slaughter of trees, doesn't your lifestyle show that even you don’t believe what you're saying?" Now how about a more common example, say someone railing against the 1% not because of anything wrong these rich folk have done, but simply because of how much money they have. God says we should help the poor, but He doesn't want us looking at our neighbor's goods - He calls that covetousness. You argue that because someone has much more than you, that's obscene, and their wealth should be "redistributed." But do you live your life consistent with that belief? If you make more than $35,000 US you are a part of the global 1%. Just consider how much more wealth you have someone in Venezuela; when are you going to redistribute your wealth to them? God said we should help the poor, so redistributing our own wealth is a wonderful idea. But it's not our job to redistribute other's wealth. If you think others having more is a reason to take it from them, then what reason can you give that it shouldn't start with you? It's not likely you'll have someone do an immediate about-face, but you'll have exposed his foolishness to any others listening in. And you've given him something to chew on. Who knows but that God might use this seed you sow today to bear fruit at a later date?...

News

Saturday Selections - July 16, 2022

Dude Perfect Jr.? These kids are likely to inspire your own with all their ballon-popping trick shots. The myth that sports stadiums create new jobs and tax revenue The Kansas City Chiefs have reportedly been thinking of moving. But why? Because another city is willing to give them more, under the presumption that having the Chiefs will help their city. But is that really so? There's lots of reasons to think it isn't. "...people who go to home games are mostly people from in-town. Those people don’t spend additional money in town when they go to a sporting event. They spend money that they would have spent elsewhere in town. Instead of a nice lunch, people go to a ballgame and get a hotdog. In other words, this is substitutionary spending—not new spending. And what about out-of-town visitors? Well, given the data shows no impact, it must be the case that this spending just isn’t very significant. Perhaps it’s outweighed by die-hard Chiefs fans spending their money in other cities during away games." What lowering the voting age would do There's a push on in some countries to lower the voting age to 16, or even younger. That's only natural in a culture that worships youth. But would a younger voting age actually help those it's supposed to? No, as J. Budziszewski writes: "It would only mean increasing the political clout of those who have influence through the young. Pop stars. Sports coaches. Schoolteachers. Writers and editors of media aimed at teens. Especially people in such groups who have no children of their own to take up their time and attention." Is the human shoulder badly designed? Some folks will look at a brilliant diamond and search it out for a fault, no matter how imperceptible. So it is with our amazing design, and the way evolutionists assess it - they want to find fault, even if they have to get inventive to do it Preach Christianity's weird stuff "...reimagining Jesus and Christianity to appeal to skeptics and unbelievers is nothing new. The result is always the same: We end up with a Jesus who looks nothing like the Jesus of history but looks an awful lot like the person doing the reinventing." Is secular education safe for Christian? Is there anything "neutral" about public schools? Were a teacher to say anything about God, or about how God meant marriage for one man and one woman, we know that teacher would be fired in an instant. Yet the opposite view can be presented and promoted. As Shafer Parker explains, secular education has always been anti-Christian. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Darwin: The Voyage that Shook the World

Documentary 55 minutes, 2009 Rating: 8/10 This must be the most expensive documentary ever made by creationists and it is certainly the best looking. Creation Ministries International (www.Creation.com) spent more than $1 million staging and filming key events in Darwin’s life, including his time on the HMS Beagle and his visit to the Galapagos Islands. The production values are simply astonishing: solid acting, slick computer graphics, gorgeous close-up shots of the Galapagos wildlife - and a narrator with the perfect classical British accent. The producers wanted to make this as good as anything you might see on the Discovery Channel, or on a PBS or CBC documentary because they aimed to get it shown on public TV around the world. However, that aim also impacted how they presented the content. If they wanted to get it shown on a channel like CBC they certainly couldn’t make it explicitly Christian(!) so rather than being a defense of Biblical Creation, the documentary limits itself to critiquing Darwinian Evolution. The end result, then, is a persuasive, gorgeous, tactful, hour-long takedown of Darwin – the lie is exposed. The downside is that there isn’t much here pointing people to the Truth. Some have criticized this as a job only half done. That might be, but the half that it does do, it does brilliantly. And you can watch the trailer below. ...

Recent Articles, Theology

What is Grace?

Through sheer repetition, some Christian words seem to blend into each other and we forget their distinct meanings. That's why the word grace is sometimes used as a synonym for niceness – "Oh, she is such a gracious lady" we might say. Now, in our Reformed circles we know this word, grace, is important - we regularly hear that it is only through the grace of God that we are saved, but what does the word mean in this context? Would the word “niceness” be equally applicable here? Or if we were going to use a more theological term, could we substitute in mercy as a replacement? But no, grace is much more than “niceness” and while God is indeed merciful, mercy is very different from grace…and the difference between these words really matters if we are going to start to understand the extent of what God has done for us. So to better understand what God does for his people, let’s take a look at four key theological terms – grace, mercy, justice and persecution – and provide three short definitions that cover all four. JUSTICE is about getting what you do deserve. God’s justice requires that sinful man be punished. Jesus took our deserved punishment on himself and thus fulfilled God’s requirement for justice. MERCY is about not getting what you do deserve. God is merciful when He doesn’t punish for our sins. We deserve to go to hell, but due to God’s mercy we His children do not get what we do deserve. Both GRACE and PERSECUTION are about getting what you don’t deserve. But obviously, the two are very different. Recall that justice is about getting punished when you deserve it – when you’ve done something bad. Well, persecution is about getting punished when you’ve done nothing wrong, or done something good (like handing out a Bible in China). Persecution is, therefore, getting something bad that you don’t deserve. Grace is getting something good that you don’t deserve. God in His grace rewards us with eternal life, even though we have done nothing to merit this reward. We deserve Hell, but we get Heaven due only to God’s grace. We did nothing to deserve this, but Jesus has covered everything, dying for our sins on the cross, and taking our punishment on Himself so that He could have us as His sheep. So what is grace? It is getting good in return for evil. It is the embrace given by a loving parent to a disobedient child. It is Christ the King dying to save the rebels who oppose his rule. It is deserving Hell, but getting Jesus....

Assorted, Recent Articles

Holding on to wisdom: What would a younger you tell you to do?

I've written on marriage and headship in the past but when a friend asked me for my “expert take” on a marital matter he had concocted I had to tell him that as a newly married man, I'm no longer an expert on marriage. But, I added, as I haven't yet had any kids I was still in a position to offer him some great expertise on parenting. It was a joke, of course. But there is something to developing a well-thought-out “take” on marriage and parenting, and other big issues in life, long before we are ever in those situations. I wrote on headship and marriage before I had any personal experience so what I wrote might have been simplistic and even wildly naïve in parts. However, I did aim to tackle the subject biblically, so though as a bachelor I might have had little insight into how marriages do work, by going to Scripture I did have some idea about how marriages should work. And as a bachelor, I was able to write on the matter in a way that no married man could – I could preach without worry of anyone evaluating my practice. Now that I am married I'm sure those written words are going to be hard to live up to. Should my wife ever come across those words she'll notice I am already not (or perhaps I should say, “not yet”) measuring up to the standards I outlined. So my earlier writings might just end up haunting me. But I think that is a very good thing. A firm grip In family devotions we've been tackling the book of Proverbs and though we are only a dozen chapters in, one theme is becoming quite clear: God wants us to not only seek after wisdom, but to clench tightly to it and never let it go (7:2-3). Wisdom is something that once found can be lost. We might know God's will for a given situation but unless we bind this bit of wisdom to our heart, and tie it around our neck (6:21), we will soon forget it. That's how, for example, a Christian young man who knows he should not be “unequally yoked” can still, if he doesn't constantly keep this in mind, find himself increasingly attracted to an unbelieving young lass. There is a real value then, in wrestling with big issues like dating, marriage, and parenting long before we're ever in those situations, and even writing down whatever God-given wisdom we think we've discovered on these topics. Some years ago I bought a copy of a book called All About Me. It was, as the title suggests, a rather narcissistic tome, asking the book's purchaser to record in the provided blanks their favorite color, movies, food, sports team, pop star, and clothing store. But the part that interested me was a chapter in the back where bigger questions were asked: What are your thoughts on abortion? Do you believe in spanking? What are your thoughts on God? What would you do if you were given a million dollars? The chapter included dozens more of these big questions, and asked for explanations – it wasn't enough to say you were against abortion; you had to explain why. The only way a person could complete this whole chapter was if they took the time to develop, and then record answer by answer, some sort of comprehensive worldview. What an intriguing idea! Just imagine if something similar existed that had been adapted for Christian use. The questions might include: While dating, what limits do you think are appropriate when it comes to physical intimacy? How much should you tithe? What does headship involve? What factors would determine who you vote for? (List them, in order of importance, and explain your list and its order.) What are your thoughts on organ donation? How are men and women different, and how do their roles differ? How many times should we attend church each Sunday and why? Why are you a member of your church and not another? How do you think God has gifted you? What qualities are you looking for in a spouse? And if you were given a million dollars, what would you do with the money? Some of the questions would be fun, others would require a lot of study to answer in any sort of intelligent, biblical manner, but the end result would be nothing less than a booklet-sized personal profession of faith that could be kept, and referred back to repeatedly. The value A Christian All About Me doesn't actually exist. But if it did, what would be the value of such a book? It wouldn't be in any of the specific answers – a young person tackling these questions for the first time might give some superficial and maybe even some silly answers. When we are young we are only beginning to grow in wisdom and haven't got much of it yet. The value would come in establishing a baseline to measure our thoughts against later. Take the million-dollar question as an example. A dozen years ago I know just how I would have answered that question – I would have taken the million dollars and started my own provincial political party. Today I have family responsibilities and consequently a new perspective. But I can't just dismiss my earlier thoughts – as a young man I learned the importance of defending God, and His Law, in the public realm, and because I've captured that bit of wisdom down on paper I'm not liable to lose it. By tackling big questions early we're putting down an anchor – one that might still be pulled up and placed elsewhere, but which still provides us some stability now, so that we aren't swayed every which way. Our thinking on many of these important issues will change as we study Scripture further, but if we've taken the time to think through our initial answers, and even written them down, we'll be forced to evaluate our new thinking against our old. Then if a change is made we'll have to provide good, solid, biblical reasons to rebut our earlier self. Conclusion Tackling the big questions early is, then, a way to hold onto the wisdom God reveals to us in our youth, when life is simpler, and we aren't plagued with being able to see so very many shades of gray. But holding onto wisdom is not just a task for the young. As we age, and study the Scriptures we may grow in wisdom, but as God makes clear repeatedly in Proverbs, we have to hold fast to wisdom (3:18) and guard it (4:13) closely, or we will lose it. So big questions then, are worth asking, early, often, and repeatedly. This article first appeared in the October 2008 issue of Reformed Perspective. Jenni Zimmerman suggests another approach to address the same issue - holding on to wisdom - in this article (offsite). ...

Adult non-fiction, Recent Articles

Top 3 marriage books

Over my years in the ministry, I’ve taught many marriage preparation classes.  From time to time, I’ve also counseled couples with marriage problems.  In my preaching, I’ve had many opportunities to speak about marriage.  Besides all that, I’ve been married myself for what’s going on to 23 years.  All these things give me a vested interest in good books about marriage.  I’ve read a few.  Almost all of them have something worthwhile, but there are some that really stand out.  Here are my top three, in order of importance, first to third: When Sinners Say “I Do”  Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage  by Dave Harvey 190 pages / 2007 This one tops the list because of the author’s relentless focus on the gospel.  Written in a warm, personal style, Dave Harvey helps couples come to terms with the biggest problem that all marriages face and the solution to this problem.  Along with some of the other topics one would expect in a marriage book, he also discusses one you don’t often encounter:  death.  If you’re going to read just one book about marriage, make it this one. Strengthening Your Marriage by Wayne Mack 208 pages / 1999 Are you ready to get to work on your marriage?  Then this is the book you’re looking for.  It’s not just a review of biblical teaching about marriage, but a very practical workbook.  It contains a variety of exercises for husbands and wives to complete.  The idea is that they would be done with a pastor or counsellor, but certainly couples could benefit from doing them on their own too.  I use Wayne Mack’s book Preparing for Marriage God’s Way for my marriage preparation classes and I appreciate his biblical approach. Each for the Other Marriage As It’s Meant To Be by Bryan Chapell with Kathy Chapell 224 pages / 2006 I really like this one for three reasons.  One is that it includes the perspective of a woman.  Another is that it has great stories and illustrations to drive home the points of the authors.  Finally, I value the clear explanations and applications of biblical submission and headship.  This book also includes discussion questions to go with each chapter. Dr. Wes Bredenhof is the pastor of the Free Reformed Church at Launceston, Tasmania and blogs at Bredenhof.ca. ...

News, Recent Articles, RP App

Saturday Selections – July 9, 2022

Great moments in unintended consequences (4 min) When governments don't have even a basic understanding of economics, many unintended consequences can result. What I learned about my writing by seeing only the punctuation This is about an intriguing analytical tool for writers or aspiring writers - copy and paste in a piece of your writing and it strips out all the words leaving behind only the punctuation. So what sort of punctuation patterns will emerge for you? Do you overuse question marks? A lot? Or maybe you like to really emphasize your points!!! Fighting addiction with brain surgery? An experimental surgical intervention may help combat addiction, but, as John Stonestreet warns, "any theory of treatment that treats the physical and medical side of a person, at the expense of the moral, interpersonal, or spiritual side misunderstands the human person." Six things I hate about small churches This title is misleading, but the points are good: 6 features of small churches are presented, like: "You will not be able to hide." Why pro-aborts are so committed "To abortion supporters, the prerogative of women to violently hinder the gender-specific ability of their bodies to bear children is central to their humanity. If we believe the biological realities of our bodies oppress or even limit our feelings and desires, we must force our bodies to comply in order to be fully human. Anyone who wants to stop us may as well be killing us." Dr. Jordan Peterson promotes homosexual "marriage" and parenting This is an important and curious article. It highlights how the conservative movement is making a fatal compromise with homosexuals, using as a specific example Jordan Peterson's endorsement of homosexual podcaster Dave Rubin's lifestyle. "'...our culture appears to have decided that gay marriage has become part of the structure of marriage itself,' Peterson stated at the outset of the hour and a half discussion, waving an enormous white flag of surrender." But in appealing for the rejection of this takeover, the article appeals to timeless principles, an immutable definition, a biological truth, eternal principles, ideas tethered to the permanent things, and an enduring moral order. But whose timeless principle are they? Whose enduring moral order is it? Who created this biological truth? We are never told. There is a surrender here too, in defending God's principles, but conceding to the other side their position that God Himself isn't relevant to these debates. Arguments that creationists should not use Do men have one less rib than women, going back to Adam giving up his rib for Eve? Did Darwin recant on his deathbed? No, and no. While biblical creation is true, not all the arguments used to support it are good. The folks at Creation Ministries International have created a list of 40-some arguments Christians sometimes use, but really shouldn't. For an 18-minute podcast on this same topic, click here. Is transgenderism logical? (5 min) God made us male and female, but the world denies there is any difference between the two. But if male and female can't be objectively distinguished, then it is impossible to be born into the wrong body. ...

Drama, Movie Reviews, Recent Articles

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 Reviews, Teen non-fiction

Solomon Says: Directives for Young Men

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

Human Rights, Recent Articles, RP App

A Christian perspective on freedom of speech

This was first published in the June 2010 issue To say American author and columnist Ann Coulter is “outspoken” is rather like saying Solomon was  “a smart fellow.” Both statements are correct, in so far as they go, but they really don’t go far enough. Ann Coulter can, in a single sentence, be brilliantly insightful and insulting, and that – along with out-of-context quotes broadcast in five-second clips on the nightly news – has made her controversial. So when she was scheduled to speak March 23, 2010 at the University of Ottawa it was predictable that there would be protests. What wasn’t predictable was the escalation of hype and hysteria that caused the speech to be canceled. The hype was started by a letter written the previous week from the University of Ottawa’s provost, Francois Houle. He warned Coulter that she should be careful what she was going to say, or else run the risk of criminal charges. On the evening of the 23rd a mob of two thousand students surrounded the speaking venue, preventing many from entering. Those that did get in were subjected to screams from a handful of students who also made it inside. “There were five of us in there. We were loud,” one of the students told Global TV, “It was amazing that five of us could shut it, could just have them stop speaking.” Another admitted that, “Yes that was our aim, to stop Ann Coulter from speaking.” Outside students banged on the doors while others screamed: “This is what democracy sounds like! This is what democracy looks like!” Forty minutes after the speech was scheduled to start it was canceled over safety concerns. There were three ironies evident that night. The first, that this happened in a country that prides itself on being polite and peace-loving. To that point Coulter had done more than 100 speeches on college campuses in the US and never before been prevented from speaking by an angry mob. That only happened in Canada. Freedom to hear Then there was the painful irony of many in the censorious mob insisting they were only exercising their “freedom of speech.” They misunderstood it as a freedom to screech, as if they had the right to shout down anyone they disagreed with. But of course, freedom of speech means very little if it doesn’t also include a freedom to hear – screaming at the top of your lungs just to make sure others can’t be heard is not a form of free speech, but censorship. Here is where the media failed us – reporters did ask the mob’s leaders why they thought they had the right to stop Coulter from speaking but the students were never asked why they thought they could stop so many others from hearing. It should have been made clear that this presumptive bunch wasn’t just stepping on one woman’s freedom to speak but rather on the freedom of hundreds to hear her. That line of questioning would have made clear the astonishing arrogance of the mob; this was a group of twenty-something-year-old students telling people old enough to be their parents, grandparents, employers and professors that no, you might want to hear this woman, but we’ve decided we know better than you what you should hear. This line of questioning would have made it clear how condescending, how disrespectful, how elitist this group of self-appointed censors was being. But sadly reporters never brought up the crowd’s “freedom to hear.” Legitimate limitations The evening’s final irony was that the mob’s victims also seemed to be confused as to what free speech entails. One older woman interviewed by Global TV talked about Ann Coulter’s “right to freedom of speech” as if it were an absolute right, as if it didn’t matter what Coulter said, she should still have the right to say it. But we know that isn’t so. There are legitimate limits to free speech. The most famous example is that you shouldn't be allowed to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater (unless there is a fire). Other legitimate restrictions include a ban on slander, libel, false advertising, and passing on state or military secrets. One student leader said Coulter had to be silenced because her speech would violate  “safe spaces for students.” It was a baseless accusation (it’s her opponents, not her supporters, who cause riots) but if Coulter really did incite violence that would have been a good reason to restrict her speech. However, while there are reasons to restrict speech, even in those instances it is the properly appointed authorities who have the right to do the restricting…not an angry mob. Christian basis Coulter’s visit to the capital revealed how confused people are about free speech. Both sides said they believed in it, but one side would only grant the freedom to people of whom they approved, while the other side seemed to be arguing for speech without restrictions – it was the censors versus the anarchists. But if the world is confused about free speech, Christians needn't be. We support free speech for two simple reasons. 1) Free speech helps us seek the Truth The reason free speech matters is because Truth matters. And if we are going to seek after the Truth we need to be able to talk freely. If we're going to find Truth, verify it, hold on to it and share it with others, we may just need to say all sorts of wrong, crazy, incorrect and offensive things. How is a Muslim ever going to learn the Truth if he can't first explain his incorrect understanding of Jesus? How can we preach to and debate with the atheist if he can't publicly and freely express his doubts about God's existence? Though Thomas was wrong to doubt (John 20:24-31), how could his doubts have been answered if he wasn't allowed to question whether Christ rose? And how foolish would the Bereans (Acts 17) have been if they turned Paul away without hearing him? Instead they risked hearing something offensive so they could test Paul's words against the Word, and find out if he spoke the Truth. We support free speech because it is by talking, discussing, preaching, and teaching freely that the Truth is known. 2) Censorship is most often used to oppose the Truth Lord Acton's dictum that "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" is grounded in both Scripture and history. Scripture teaches us that Man is depraved and on his own cannot resist temptation (and absolute power is quite the temptation!) while history teaches us again and again that dictators are indeed corrupted by their power. So Christians know better than to trust any king, president, prime minister, bureaucrat, panel, tribunal or judge with the awesome power of being able to decide for everyone else everything that we can and cannot read, see or hear. We can't trust that sort of near-absolute power to anyone. We learn from Scripture that we would be incredibly naive to believe we can entrust a man with such enormous power, and we learn from history that whenever broad-ranging censorship power is given, it is abused and used to suppress the Truth. The Bible, after all, remains the world's most censored book. Conclusion As Christians we know that any freedom Man is given will be misused and abused so it is certain that on some occasions people’s speech will need to be stopped. But that isn’t a path we are going to want to go down too often because we know free speech aids in the spread of the Truth. Not everyone is so tolerant, as the incident in Ottawa shows. So let’s make use now of the freedoms we still have to speak freely about God to our neighbors, our coworkers… and maybe even to a university student or two. Picture by Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com...

Adult biographies, Book Reviews, Recent Articles, RP App

Prairie Lion: The Life & Times of Ted Byfield

by Jonathon Van Maren 2022 / 256 pages God works in history through people, some of whom have a particularly significant impact. In Canada, one such person was Ted Byfield. Although best known as the founder and editor of Alberta Report magazine, there is much more to his life and accomplishments than that. This book is an impressive biography of Byfield, written by Jonathon Van Maren who is no stranger to readers of Reformed Perspective. The foreword is by Preston Manning, founding leader of the Reform Party of Canada. The book does a wonderful job of outlining the major events of Byfield’s life and explaining the impact he had. Newsprint in his blood Ted Byfield was born and raised in Toronto. One of his uncles, Tommy Church, was mayor of Toronto and later a Conservative MP. His father was a respected newspaper reporter, but also an alcoholic. That vice led to his parents’ divorce, which had a profoundly negative impact on young Ted. Like his father, Ted became a reporter. He moved to Winnipeg in 1952 to work for the Winnipeg Free Press where he was incredibly successful, including winning the National Newspaper Award in 1957. One of his new Winnipeg friends was a devout Anglican who eagerly evangelized him. Through reading books by major Christian apologists, especially C.S. Lewis, Byfield and his wife became committed Christians. Subsequently, he co-founded the Company of the Cross, an Anglican lay organization that would operate three private Christian schools (the St. John’s Schools in Manitoba, Alberta, and Ontario). In 1965, Byfield became something of an apologist himself. That year, legendary Canadian writer Pierre Berton released a book entitled The Comfortable Pew: A Critical Look at Christianity and the Religious Establishment in the New Age criticizing Christianity from a secular, leftist perspective. In response, Byfield wrote a defense of historic Christianity called Just Think, Mr. Berton (A Little Harder), published by the Company of the Cross. Van Maren notes that it “easily constituted the most effective response to both liberalization within the Church and those urging liberalization from outside it.” Like Berton’s book, Byfield’s became a bestseller. The man behind that magazine In 1973, Byfield began using the St. John’s School of Alberta as a base for producing a weekly newsmagazine called the St. John’s Edmonton Report. In 1977, a Calgary edition was added and these two magazines combined to become Alberta Report in 1979. Other editions of the magazine (Western Report, BC Report) appeared later in the 1980s. It was through the magazines that Byfield had his greatest impact. The Report magazines were not overtly religious, but their fundamental purpose was to convey the news from an underlying Christian perspective. As Van Maren explains: “The Report magazines became known as championing two primary causes: Christian values and the Canadian West. The primary enemy of both could be found in the personage of Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, the man responsible for decriminalizing abortion, ushering in the sexual revolution, and—at least as Ted and legions of likeminded Canadians saw it—declaring war on the West.” With the magazines as a platform, Byfield played a major role in the formation of the Reform Party of Canada in the late 1980s, which subsequently had a profound impact on Canadian politics. Looking forward to the coming Christian age Ted turned over the major duties of the magazine to his son Link, and spent the next twenty years or more creating two multi-volume history book projects. First was the 12-volume Alberta in the 20th Century series (completed in 2003), and secondly came the 12-volume The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years (completed in 2013). Needless to say, the second set was history from an explicitly pro-Christian perspective. Of course, throughout Byfield’s lifetime, conservative Christianity was losing cultural and political influence in Canada. Nevertheless, he was optimistic about the future, and, as Van Maren explains, he “remained convinced that the post-Christian era was merely a pre-Christian era, and that a new dawn might be just around the corner.” Byfield was, of course, correct to see fighting the culture wars as worthwhile despite the losses, and as his son Link put it, “Think how much worse it would be if we had not fought the fights we fought.” This book is definitely worth getting. For those interested in political and cultural matters in Canada, it is essential. For others, it can be an encouragement to see how one person’s dedication to Christianity made a profound difference in the country. Prairie Lion: The Life & Times of Ted Byfield is published by SEARCH (Society to Explore and Record Christian History) and is available from the publisher’s website at TheChristians.com/product/PrairieLion....

News

Saturday Selections – July 2, 2022

A fish that shoots its prey (2 min) God's craftsmanship is on display in the Archer Fish and Velvet Worm (and it might get you curious about how such effective predators designs came about). How thick is your Bible? How do we tell the right from the almost right? The world speaks of justice, love, tolerance, and equality, and it all sounds so good. But to know if it is actually good, we need to be able to test their definitions against God's. And to do that, we'll need to have "thick Bibles" - we'll need to know, not just a verse or two, but really understand what He has said through and through. This article is intended for Christian counselors but is highly relevant for us all. Will we work on the New Earth? Christians sometimes think work is the result of the Fall and the curse that followed. But God had work for Adam to do right from the start... Christian school caught teaching biblical truth This reads like satire - a parent surprised that the Christian school assigned their child the task of writing a loving and compassionate explanation of the Christian truth about homosexuality to an imagined friend struggling with same-sex feelings. But it's real, and as Albert Mohler notes: "That moment of truth is coming for every school, and every Christian institution had better be ready for it. But I just can’t stop thinking about the parents who are upset because they are getting what they paid for: a Christian education for their children. It appears the greatest enemies of Christian education are not the secular powers outside the schools but the spineless agents of surrender within. "The fact that all this started with a parent upset about an assignment upholding Biblical truth leads me to offer this word of advice to the teacher: Evidently, some of your students need to write that letter to their parents." Sidenote: do many Christian schools assign this kind of task to middle school students? Impressive! An FAQ on the overturn of Roe vs. Wade The US Supreme Court has overruled Roe vs. Wade, but why, and how exactly did it happen? If you've got questions, this FAQ article has the answers. Another weak link in evolutionary theory This is a short read that'll reward the close attention it requires – this is an important one! The gist? One of the arguments for evolution has been common features in different species: both human hands and bat wings have five "fingers" and, so the argument goes, that might indicate a shared five-fingered ancestor deep in the two species' past. But imagine now, if similar traits were discovered to be programmed for in very different parts of the genome. That's what has been recently discovered: "...the functions necessary to sustain life are carried out by different molecules coded by different genes in different species." What is the basis for equal rights? (4 min) Even atheists have acknowledged that the only basis for equal human rights is found in Christianity. After all, in what sense are any of us equal, from a secular perspective? I might be bigger than you, you may be faster than me, and that person over there might be smarter than us both. So in what sense are we equal? As Nancey Pearcey and Greg Koukl explain, the only sense in which we are equal is that we are all made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). And when secular folk talk of equal rights they are "freeloading" from the Christian worldview. ...

Book Reviews, RP App, 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 have 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 were 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 surrounded 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"! ...

Recent Articles, Science - Environment

Environmentalists: How to tell the bad ones from the good

In 1997, while completing a science fair presentation, 14-year-old Nathan Zohner devised a way to test for bad environmentalists. The first part of his presentation was on the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide. He noted this chemical: is a major component of acid rain can cause severe burns accelerates corrosion of many metals is often lethal when accidentally inhaled. After explaining these risks, Nathan surveyed his listeners and asked how many of them would support a ban of this hazardous chemical. Of the 50 students surveyed, 43 supported a ban, 6 were unsure, and only one realized that dihydrogen monoxide is H2O, or water. Yup, 43 students wanted to ban water. Nathan Zohner had exposed them as bad environmentalists. Marks of a baddie Some might object that these students weren’t actually bad environmentalists – they were just tricked. But how were they tricked? Nathan never lied to them, and never even exaggerated the truth. He told them the chemical’s true hazards: water is a major component of acid rain, it can cause severe burns in its gaseous form, and drowning (accidentally inhaling water) is often lethal. True, they wouldn’t have banned water if they had known it was water, but the point is they were willing to ban a very useful chemical based on very limited information. And they aren’t the only ones. Bad environmentalists abound, and some of them are very influential. Before Christians side with an environmental initiative, we need to sure the people we're listening to are good environmentalists. Telling the difference between the good and bad ones can often be very hard, but the “baddies” have at least a couple of flaws that Christians can be on the lookout for. 1. They make decisions based on one-sided information These students were ready to ban a chemical after only hearing about its hazards. Would they have come to a different conclusion if they had also heard about dihydrogen monoxide’s many benefits? Just imagine if Nathan had told them that yes, it can be lethal when inhaled, but on the other hand, if Man is deprived of it for as little as three days, he will die. And that without it, plant growth is impossible. Hmmm…this dihydrogen monoxide sounds like a pretty important chemical, doesn’t it? They wouldn’t need to know it was water to come to a different conclusion; they would just need to know about its benefits. The problem was, they made a decision based on a one-sided presentation. In Proverbs 18:17 God speaks to this very issue. There we read: "The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him." When we hear just the one side, we simply don't have enough information. Based on what the students heard, it made sense to ban water. However, they didn't have all the information. They needed to hear the other side.  Far too often we will find environmentalists emphasizing only the one side. A classic example involves the chemical DDT. It has been vilified for the last number of decades and yet since its commercial introduction in 1944 it has been credited with saving millions of lives (some estimates put it between 100 million and 500 million). Though it is useful as a general insecticide its most impressive results came when it was used to stop mosquito-born diseases like malaria. In 1948, for example, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) had 2,800,000 reported cases of malaria. In 1962 large-scale DDT programs had reduced that to only 31 cases. Results like this garnered Dr. Paul Muller – the Swiss chemists who patented DDT as a contact insecticide – the Nobel Prize in medicine. But the odds are, when you hear the word DDT, you don’t think of a beneficial chemical. You are more likely to recall the accusations leveled against the chemical in the 1960s. Environmentalists back then tried to get DDT banned, claiming it: 1) was harmful to bird populations, because it caused a thinning of their egg shells, 2) was persistent in the environment and didn’t break down quickly 3) was a cause of human disease since it built up in human fatty tissues. There was some merit to these claims, particularly the first one, but there was a good deal of hype as well. Even as US bird populations were supposed to be suffering due to DDT spraying, the Auduborn Society was noting an upward trend in the numbers of most birds. The persistence of DDT in the environment was both a hazard as well as a benefit, as it meant the chemical didn’t need to be sprayed as often. It was true that DDT did build up in the fatty tissues of animals and humans, but only to very low levels that hadn't been shown to be hazardous. The point here is not to argue that DDT is harmless. Its use does seem to have some impact on birds and here in the western world we were able to afford other methods that are safer to our avian friends. But the move to ban this chemical was a worldwide movement. In 1963, the last year Ceylon had wide-scale DDT spraying, malaria cases had dropped to 17. Then they stopped and by 1969, only 6 years later, the number of cases had risen back to 2,500,000. India used DDT to bring their cases of malaria down from an estimated 75 million in 1951 to only 50,000 cases in 1961. But then they reduced their use of DDT and by 1977 the number of malaria cases had risen to at least 30 million. Even if you accept all of the claims made about the hazards of DDT, even if you believe it does cause harm to birds and may even be a contributing factor in some cancers, DDT was still a cheap and effective means of fighting malaria. If you factor in both the hazards and the benefits DDT was a clear winner. But of course, if you just focus on the hazards even water should be banned. Nowadays we see this same sort of one-sided presentation when it comes to the global warming debate. I was just reading a 2005 Christianity Today editorial by Andy Crouch, where he presented the idea of adopting all the global warming restrictions as akin to Pascal's Wager: "Believe in God though he does not exist, Pascal argued, and you lose nothing in the end. Fail to believe when he does in fact exist, and you lose everything. Likewise, we have little to lose, and much technological progress, energy security, and economic efficiency to gain, if we act on climate change now—even if the worst predictions fail to come to pass." Little to lose? Global warming initiatives like carbon taxes, and restrictions on the development of oil and gas, and the increasing rejection of coal, are all raising the cost of energy. And higher energy costs impact food prices, housing costs, access to medicine, the ability to heat homes, and much more. How are those with the most to lose – the world's vulnerable poor – going to deal with these increased costs? What Crouch's argument overlooks is that there is a real and enormous cost to implementing what the global warming catastrophists are demanding, and such a one-sided presentation is no basis for making responsible decisions. 2. They view the world as a closed system with limited resources In 1980 two prominent environmentalists, Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich, made an interesting bet. Simon bet Ehrlich that any 5 metals that Ehrlich chose would, in ten years time, be cheaper than they were in 1980. Lots of people make bets, but there was something important at stake here. Simon and Ehrlich had two very different views of the world’s resources, and the bet was a way for them to wager on whose view was right. Ehrlich thought the world’s resources were finite and limited, and as we used them, we were getting closer and closer to the point where we would run out of them. The predictions of doom you frequently hear in the media are usually based on this worldview. As resources became more and more rare, they should become more and more expensive, so Ehrlich was sure the 5 metals would be more expensive in 10 years' time. Simon, on the other hand, had a much more optimistic view of the situation. Rather than running out of resources, Simon was sure the opposite was true. He was so optimistic he let Ehrlich choose the metals (copper, chromium, nickel, tin and tungsten) they would wager on. It didn’t matter what the specific resources were, he was confident they would be more plentiful, and therefore cheaper in 10 years. Well, when 1990 rolled around Simon emerged the winner. All five metals had dropped in price, chromium by 5 percent and tin by an amazing 74 percent. But even as Simon emerged the winner, it was less clear how he won. Ehrlich for example, conceded he lost the bet, but refused to concede that Simon’s view of the world had beaten his worldview. Simon’s optimistic worldview just didn’t seem to make sense. How can the world’s resources keep increasing even as we keep consuming nonrenewable resources? It comes down to Man. Ehrlich, and those who think like him, see Man as a consumer – they view each new person on this planet as yet another mouth to feed. But in Simon's worldview, we recognize Man as not just a consumer, but also a producer; so yes, each of us is one more mouth to feed, but we also come with two hands to create and craft and produce with. Of course, it is not our hands, but our brains that are our biggest tools. The world’s resources can keep increasing because Man can use his brain - his God-given creativity – to create new resources. For example, in Alberta there are huge oil sand deposits that were absolutely useless to mankind until quite recently. Then someone figured out a way to separate out the oil and suddenly Alberta had vast new oil sources. Yes, the oil was always there, but it wasn’t a resource until man’s ingenuity figured out a way to get at it. Man can create resources in another way as well. One of the more interesting examples of this has to do with copper, which was an important component of phone lines. As the number of phones, faxes and computer modems increased, the number of phone lines increased as well. The cost of the copper in all these phone lines started becoming a concern for phone companies, so they began to investigate cheaper ways of transmitting the phone signals. Now, instead of copper, many phone systems use fiber optic lines made of glass. And glass is made of sand. Man’s ingenuity turned common sand into a resource that can be used to replace the more limited resource of copper. And these “sand” telephone lines can now be used to transmit hundreds of times more information than the old copper lines ever could. So the ultimate resource on earth is Man’s ingenuity and it is limitless, growing with each new person born. But, the critic might ask, is it truly limitless? Sure, we might replace copper with sand, but it's only a certain sort of sand, and what if we run out of that? The world is finite after all. Maybe Ehrlich was wrong about how many the earth can support, but surely even Simon would agree it can't support a trillion. Or even a 100 billion. Right? Can the world support 1 trillion? Not at the moment, no, but we haven't put our God-given minds to this challenge yet. Shucks, the moon is only a hop, skip, and a jump away, and Mars could be next, so who knows what we might be able to turn them into. Unimaginable? Not with millions of little problem-solvers being born each year. We went from learning to fly, to landing on the moon in just 66 years – how's that for unimaginable? – so let's not buy into any sort of overpopulation hype. Instead, let's use our brains to explore what other resources we can create. Besides, there is no reason to believe Earth's population will reach anywhere near 100 billion, with most saying it will top out at 15 billion or so. Countries like China and Japan and Russia are facing problems caused by already occurring or coming declines in population. Many Western nations are only staying steady due to immigration. Those nations that have treated children as a curse to be avoided, rather than as a blessing to be received (Prov. 17:6, Ps. 127:3-5) are going to have problems in the near future when there are not enough young people to care for the elderly generation. Whereas those that see children as a blessing will focus, not on limiting their numbers, but on providing for them. Creative thinking might have us mining meteors, or, in some other fashion, continuing to create resources. Lest I belabor the point, here's just one more example. In Washington State farmers used to use sawdust as bedding for their cows. It was a waste product from the lumber industry that they put to productive use. But then someone else realized they could turn this waste product into wood pellets for wood-burning stoves. So the price of sawdust went up and farmers had to look elsewhere for bedding. So what did they do? Someone invented a process by which they could turn cow manure into bedding – it would be heated, the germs killed, and then the end product served the purpose well – manure was turned into mattresses. That’s what happens when Man imitates his Creator, and creates resources where they didn’t exist before. That we get this right is more important than many Christians might realize. It was bad environmentalism, looking at the earth as a closed system, that was behind the push for restrictions on population. That in turn was an impetus behind the legalization of abortion and consequently the death of millions around the world including, but certainly not limited to, China with its one-child policy. Conclusion God calls us to be stewards of the earth, and in fulfilling that calling, there will be times when we can work alongside a number of secular environmental groups. After all, while they may not know the Lord, they do want to care for His planet. But it's important that we, as Christians, seek to discern the good environmental efforts from the bad ones. Bad environmentalists do abound: groups that see Man as more of a problem than a problem-solver, or neglect to consider the poor in the plans they propose, or only offer a one-sided perspective. This is no small matter - the DDT ban cost lives by the thousands and maybe millions. The global warming debate could impact food prices in ways that harm millions more. Overpopulation hysteria led to the abortion of millions too. We need to be able to discern good from bad because environmental issues really can be matters of life and death. A version of this article was first printed in the October 2001 issue of Reformed Perspective....

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Pro-life - Abortion, RP App, Watch for free

180: from pro-choice to pro-life in minutes

Documentary 2011, 33 minutes Rating: 7/10 The trailer for 180 showed people being interviewed on the street declaring their support for “a woman’s right to choose.” But then each of these interactions was fast-forwarded – anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes - to the conclusion of the interview where each of these same people then declare they have changed their mind and are now pro-life. Wow! So what prompted this sudden and dramatic switch? In the 33-minute documentary interviewer Ray Comfort makes use of an illuminating comparison to the Holocaust and follows it up this clarifying question: “It’s okay to kill a baby in the womb when… ?” What Comfort is doing is confronting people with the incoherence of their own views. Though our culture is becoming more and more calloused to evil, most still don’t believe it is okay to kill human beings...and yet they make an exception in the case of abortion. When Comfort asks them to explain what circumstances make it permissible to kill a baby, each of his interviewees is brought short. They don't want to say we can kill a human being simply because they might grow up poor. Or because they are unwanted. Or because they are inconvenient. Their conscience convicts them with the knowledge that these are not good reasons to murder someone. By asking his pointed question Comfort makes them realize that they have never really thought through the issue of abortion before. It is worth noting that Comfort's approach will not work with any who have hardened their conscience, and who, fully knowing it to be a baby, have no objections to murdering it anyway. But for the ignorant or confused, what Comfort presents is incredibly clarifying. The documentary does have some graphic content – specifically pictures of Holocaust victims, and aborted children – so it is not appropriate viewing for the very young. For the rest of us, this is a fantastic film that can inspire us to clarify the abortion issue for the many millions who are pro-choice only because they are confused. To date, it's been viewed by over 5 million. You can watch it below, or by visiting 180movie.com. In 2019 Comfort and his team released a sequel, 7 Reasons in which they address 7 of the more common justifications for abortion. You can also watch it for free, right here. EDIT: YouTube just added an age-restriction to the video, so it's not displayable below, but can be viewed by clicking on the link below "Watch on YouTube" or by clicking here. ...

News

Saturday Selections – June 25, 2022

Economics 101 in 7 great quotes (6 min) David Bahnsen's company manages more than $3.5 billion in client assets but, in Reformed circles, he might be best known as the son of presuppositional apologist Greg Bahnsen. Here he gives a fantastic primer on economics using seven key quotes. (For more check out his book There's No Free Lunch: 250 Economic Truths.) Why a seven-day week? Years come from the rotation of the Earth around the Sun, and months come from the lunar cycle, so where does the week come from? Christians know it springs from the Creation Week, of course. The world has tried to tinker with seven days, trying from 5 to 10 day "weeks" but 7 keeps winning. How well are we fulfilling God's original command? ARPA Canada asks, how well are Canadians doing with God's "be fruitful and multiply" command (Gen. 1:28)? Their answer? Not so good – were it not for immigration, our population might be shrinking! Their solution? We need to better foster an appreciation for children, which includes not aborting 75,000+ of them each year. That's a very good suggestion But another is less clearly so. While acknowledging "changing the cultural conversation about children isn’t primarily the task of the government" they do suggest government child benefit cash transfers and more generous parental leaves. But were parental leaves first put in place to enable families to prosper, or to encourage women to get out of the home? These leaves increases the tax burden, making them one more reason it's difficult for families to get by on a single income. The secular world demands cradle-to-grave care from their government, turning to it as a stand-in for the God they deny, but Christians who know the government to be limited, fallible, and flawed, should ask for much less. So yes, to pressing for protection of the unborn, but let's say no to more government programs aimed at "supporting" the family. This Texas teen wanted an abortion. She now has twins. (10-min read) Something to celebrate: Texas has passed one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the country and the Washington Post just shared the story of a teen couple the law prevented from aborting their twins. They didn't mean to share a pro-life story. However, when they contrast what these two gave up, with the two living babies and a pro-choice mom who is grateful for them and wondering what would have happened to them but for this new law, it is pro-life indeed. The CRC takes a stand on sexuality More to celebrate: "Last week, the Christian Reformed Church in North America’s 2022 Synod overwhelmingly voted to uphold its historic confessional position that the Bible permits sexual activity only within a marriage between one man and one woman. ....This move came as a surprise to many outside the denomination, though a very welcome one.... p to a third of the professors at Calvin University opposed the decision. By contrast, the vote at Synod was not close. The motion carried 123 to 53." How to greet the end of Roe vs. Wade 49 years after the Roe vs. Wade US Supreme court decision made abortion legal in the US, it has been overturned. It's a moment to thank God... and get to work. The overturning of Roe vs. Wade doesn't make abortion illegal but simply makes it possible to do so. New restrictions will mean more living babies and a need for more adoptions and more crisis intervention to enable these children to stay with the mothers who do want them. So there will be a need for more generosity from God's people. Click on the link above for what the Church can do. Watch the video below to see just how demonic the opposition is outing itself to be. If they can't murder babies, they're going to turn to violence and vasectomies! A word of warning about language - specifically f-bombs - that are mostly but not entirely bleeped. ...

Politics, Recent Articles

Political tactics 101: reframing the aggressor

The concept of self-defense is easy to understand and its validity is recognized by most people, whether Christian or not. If somebody is attacked, it is easy to understand that fighting back is a proper and even moral thing to do. That’s why people sympathize with the victim in these situations – self-defense seems naturally just. I’m a victim! That’s also why when a political debate is being framed, each side wants to be seen as the side that is being attacked – they want to be the side that is simply fighting back, rather than the bully who is picking fights. So it should come as no surprise then that whenever Christians get politically active, they are portrayed as the aggressors. Every since the 1970s when today’s conservative Christian political movements first began to take shape, Christians have been accused of trying to force our morality on other people. Why, oh why can't we just leave others alone? But it just isn’t so. Christian political activism has been a defensive response to secularist attacks. If we look at things in their proper historical context, it leads to the question, “who was forcing what upon whom?” Did groups of Christians suddenly decide to organize politically to force other people to adopt Christian styles of living? No. The fact is, it was social movements on the Left that began forcing changes that led Christians to respond with social and political action of their own. The other side was (and is) on the offense, and Christians are simply responding. Reactions This was pointed out as far back as 1982 by a prominent American sociologist, Nathan Glazer. He wrote an article at that time explaining the efforts of the then newly-formed Christian political groups that had played an important role in the 1980 American election that saw the rise of President Ronald Reagan. His article was called "Fundamentalists: A Defensive Offensive" and was republished a few years later in a collection of essays entitled Piety and Politics: Evangelicals and Fundamentalists Confront the World. (Don’t be confused by the word “fundamentalist.” It is a common term used to describe conservative Protestants, although in many contexts it is meant in a disparaging way.) Glazer lists the various issues that were (and still are) of primary concern to conservative Christians to show that they are fighting defensive battles. “Abortion did not become an issue because Fundamentalists wanted to strengthen prohibitions against abortion, but because liberals wanted to abolish them.” Pornography did not become an issue because Christians suddenly decided to ban adult literature, but because by the 1970s porn was becoming ubiquitous and prominently displayed in stores. Homosexuality didn’t become an issue because Christians suddenly became obsessed with it, but because the homosexual rights movement began to make big political and legal strides. Feminism also emerged as a powerful political force leading to a Christian response. In each of these cases, the Christian activity was a response to a political offensive from the other side. This leads Glazer to write, “What we are seeing is a defensive reaction of the conservative heartland, rather than an offensive that intends to or is capable of really upsetting the balance, or of driving the United States back to the nineteenth century or early twentieth century.” Due to the initial surge of Christian political activity, many people viewed the Christians as being on the offensive. But even if their activity did amount to an offensive of sorts, its whole purpose was ultimately defensive. In this respect, Glazer calls it a “defensive offensive.” But it’s vitally important to keep the defensive nature in mind. “This ‘defensive offensive’ itself can be understood only as a response to what is seen as aggression—the aggression that banned prayer from the schools, or, most recently, the Ten Commandments from school-house walls, that prevented states from expressing local opinion as to the legitimacy of abortion, and that, having driven religion out of the public schools, now is seeking to limit the schools that practice it.” Conclusion Every society operates within some code of morality. All laws are based on a concept of morality, even traffic laws which protect people from the careless driving habits of others. Conservative Christians have not taken it upon themselves to introduce some new rules upon society but simply to defend the rules that have served well for hundreds of years. It is the other side that is trying to force a new morality onto society, and then accusing the Christians of doing so. Thus not only is their accusation false but it is also hypocritical. Christian activism is a form of political self-defense. Christians didn’t start this fight. They are responding to changes launched from the other side. This first appeared in the February 2011 issue under the title "Political self-defense: some people find Christianity quite offensive – it just isn’t so."...

Pro-life - Abortion, RP App

Pro-life memes and cartoons to share

Through the years Reformed Perspective has created a number of pro-life comics and memes, and this is where we are going to collect them, so that they are easier to find, to grab, and to share. Right click on the picture to copy it. Or, to put it more pointedly, murder is not a solution... This is an answer to the complaint that, if not for abortion, so many more children would be in foster care, or would be poor, or would be unloved. But if killing people is the best way to address those ills, then, why aren't we extending the principle and murdering the already-born kids who are also in those situations? Because we know murder is not a solution, and we know that's not what compassion looks like. My body, my choice? There are any number of answers to the most popular of all pro-abortion slogans, "My body, my choice," most noting that there isn't simply one body involved. But it is important to note, it isn't that the unborn have a head, heart, or legs that make them valuable, as, early on, they didn't have those things. Rather, what makes us valuable (and what is also the only basis for equality) is not what we have or what we can do, but in Whose Image we are made (Genesis 1:27). No one knows when life begins? This comic was inspired by a hunting incident involving former Vice President Dick Cheney, and an interview with Barack Obama back when he was still Senator Obama. In a 2008 interview, the man who would become the next president of the United States said that he didn’t know when life began – it was above his pay grade – and that regardless he still supported abortion. But back in 2006 Vice President Dick Cheney had already illustrated why, when we have doubts, it is immoral to kill. The Vice President made his pro-life case while out on a hunting trip with a man by the name of Harry Whittington. Admittedly, Cheney wasn’t trying to score pro-life points – he was trying to shoot birds. But what was a bad day for the birds, and for his fellow hunter, turned out to be an unforgettable defense of the unborn. Things took a pro-life turn soon after the two hunters separated –Whittington was searching for a bird they had previously downed. As Whittington returned to the group, a bird popped out of the bushes behind Cheney, and Cheney, without checking first where Whittington was, fired off a shot. That shot may or may not have hit the bird, but certainly impacted Whittington, spraying his chest and face with birdshot. Fortunately, the 78-year-old Whittington survived his wounds. Cheney went on to become the butt of many, many jokes, including one from President Obama, who said that Cheney’s memoirs were going to be titled, How To Shoot Friends and Interrogate People. Everyone, including President Obama, understood that what Cheney had done was foolish. A cardinal rule in hunting is that you can’t fire your gun unless you’re sure people aren’t in your line of fire. Pleading ignorance is no excuse – you have to know no human life is being endangered or you can’t fire. It’s that simple. Obama mocked Cheney for proceeding with deadly intent, not knowing whether or not he was endangering human life. But Obama’s justification for abortion is just as foolish. His plea that when life begins is above his pay grade means that he doesn’t know one way or the other whether what’s in the womb is human life. But as Vice President Cheney reminded us that if we’re unsure, we can’t kill. Same thought as above, is expressed another way down below. Supposing we didn't even know when life began, that would only be another reason to ban abortion. Because if we aren't sure whether or not what we're killing is human, then we shouldn't kill it! ...

News, RP App

RP's Summer Photo Contest: Enjoying God!

Whether this summer has you exploring new places, or staying in your own community, we can all experience joy in the Lord. The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks “what is the chief end of man?” The answer is “to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” Scripture urges us to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4) even amidst challenging circumstances (Hab. 3:17-18). We can have joy in salvation, in revelation (both Scripture and in nature), in communion with God and His saints, and even in tribulation (James 1:2). Our theme for this photo contest is to capture ways in which we enjoy God. It could be through a hike in the forest, at a summer camp with children, peaceful time in a garden, a beautiful sunset, and so many other ways. Take a picture and share your joy! Categories: Children and youth (under 18) Adults (18+) Rules: Maximum 3 entries per person Must be an original photo, taken this year Include a line to explain how the photo relates to the theme (max. 100 words) Provide permission to RP to publish your photo online and/or in print if selected • Include the name of the photographer, age, and photo title Prizes: Winner and runner-up for both categories will be printed in Reformed Perspective • Winner of each category will receive a $100 gift certificate to ChristianBooks.com; runner-up will receive a $75 gift certificate. Deadline: Send your photo (high-resolution) to [email protected] before Aug 31, 2022 ...

Drama, Movie Reviews

The Hobbit: the film trilogy

AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY 2012 / 169 min (also a 182-min version) Rating: 8/10 THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG 2013 / 161 min (also a 186-min version) Rating: 8/10 THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES 2014 / 144 min (also a 164-min version) Rating: 7/10 Bilbo Baggins was quite content puttering around his garden, sitting in his armchair, and reading his books – he wasn’t looking for adventure. But then a tall wizard and a dozen dwarves asked this small hobbit to come help them battle a huge dragon. It was the sort of offer any respectable hobbit would refuse...and Bilbo did. “An adventure?.... Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things. Make you late for dinner….We do not want any adventures here, thank you!” But something was stirring inside this quiet soul. Might he be an adventurous sort after all? The next day Bilbo surprises even himself by taking the dwarves up on their offer. Off he goes, on a long journey to the Lonely Mountain where the fearsome dragon Smaug guards his stolen hoard of treasure. On the way the company meets trolls, giants, horse-sized spiders, orcs – lots and lots of orcs! – and a kingdom’s worth of elves. But why did they want this little hobbit to come with? The dwarves don’t know; they agreed because the wizard, Gandalf, insisted. And Gandalf isn’t entirely sure himself. The is the best explanation he can offer: “I don't know. Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I've found it is the small things; everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay... simple acts of kindness, and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I am afraid... and he gives me courage.” Book to film This is the second time that director Peter Jackson has adapted a J.R.R. Tolkien story to film. The first, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, was one of the few movie adaptions to live up to its source material: three exceptional books became three of the best movies ever made, even as they remained quite loyal to the original story. This time around a great book has been transformed into three films, and while the films are quite good, they hardly resemble the book. Oh yes, all the major plot elements are still there, but because Peter Jackson had to stretch the book into three films he added lots of extra bits. A few of those bits are sweet like a love story between elf and dwarf, but most are violent: two enormous battles have been added and numerous skirmishes. The Hobbit was a children’s tale, a sort of kinder, gentler version of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings adventure. But there is nothing kinder or gentler about this film version – children shouldn't see it. So anyone loyal to the book will have good reason not to like the films. But if we forget the book they came from, and think of these films simply as adventure movies, then they are rollicking tales! Cautions The biggest caution concerns the violence because there's lots of it. It is mostly of a bloodless sort, which is why, despite the films’ enormous death toll, they still managed a PG-13 rating. But there is just so much of it! Fearsome villains are one reason this is not a film for children! Very little of it is realistic – it struck me as being video game-ish – but the most disturbing aspect is when it is played out for comic effect. When the this band of brothers fights because it must, that is brave and heroic, and we can cheer them on. But what are we to think when Gandalf slices through an orc’s neck so cleanly his head remains in place? We get a quick look at the orc’s confused, distressed facial expression before Gandalf gives his head a tap to send it rolling off. This is meant to get a laugh, but it just gave me the creebles. Death as comedy? I should also note that while I haven’t watched the extended versions, I have heard that the violence in the extended version of the last film, The Battle of the Five Armies, would be enough to get it an R-rating. I could add some cautions about the occasional bit of juvenile humor (there are a couple of snot jokes, etc.) but since no child should be watching this anyway, and teens and adults aren’t going to be impacted, that will suffice. The only other caution concerns the magic that pops up throughout the film. Some of it is of the dark sort. The villain behind the scenes, causing many of the company’s problems, is the Necromancer, who had nine undead soldiers doing his bidding. He is demonic-looking. Now God condemns witchcraft (Deuteronomy 18:10-12, Leviticus 19:26, 20:6) and the casting of spells, so it’s not a big deal to show a villain making use of magic – they are supposed to be bad! More problematic is when the heroes do it too, and a lot of them do, with Bilbo Baggins even dabbling in what seems to be the dark arts after he finds a magic ring that turns him invisible but which also whispers wickedly – once the ring even tries to convince Bilbo to murder someone! So what should we think of heroes who use magic? That would be a discussion worth having with your kids. Bilbo's use of the ring highlights the dangers of dark magic - in The Hobbit we get only a glimpse of the sort of temptation this ring will pose in the later Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it's enough to know this ring is not some cute play toy but rather an ever-present and enticing lure. Conclusion There is also a lot to love here: the company is courageous, and Bilbo Baggins grows in bravery through the film. Our heroes are quite heroic! Many of the themes are admirable, and even biblical, like: money can corrupt a man has no greater love than that he is willing to lay down his life for another loyalty doesn’t mean blindly following love can require us to confront a friend vengeance can blind us bravery doesn’t mean not being afraid A small weak fellow putting bigger stronger sorts to shame (1 Cor. 1:26-29) It wouldn’t be hard to find many others. So overall I’d rate this as an above-average action-adventure that isn’t suitable for children, but might be enjoyed and discussed with older teens. For a film version of The Hobbit that you can share with children, consider the animated one which I review here. ...

Current Issue, Magazine

June/July/Aug 2022 issue

WHAT’S INSIDE: Rev. Christopher Gordon's The New Reformation Catechism on Human Sexuality / Reviewing Matt Walsh's documentary What is a Woman? / Don't let the culture train up your children in the way they should go / Canada's beaver / I'm a six-day evolutionist? / After Evolution: 4 Reformed figures who accepted evolution and kept on moving / 8 tips for traveling with the family / Let's get loud: pro-life memes to use and share / Infant baptism and the unity of Scripture / A beginner's guide to contending / The pope who hated black cats / Parents, you are your child's best protection against online horrors / 20 Scriptures to guide our online speech /  5 eye-opening documentaries / Jerry Pinkney: making the classics kinder / RP's 52 in 22 challenge: 3 gents, 1 book a week, for 1 year / Nancy Pelosi steals communion / News that inspires action / and more... Click the cover to view in your browser or click here to download the PDF (5.4 mb) ...

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Internet, RP App

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place

by Andy Crouch 2017/ 220 pages Did you just binge multiple seasons of that show everyone is talking about over the weekend? Do you feel guilty for doing it? Do often lay on the couch and scroll Instagram and TikTok from the time you get home until you crawl into bed? Does your family see the back of your phone more than your face? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to read The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch.  Crouch’s approach to technology is “almost almost Amish.” He does appreciate the many ways that technology has improved all aspects of our lives, but is wary of the “easy-everywhere” lifestyle that technology offers, especially within our homes. Technology may give us unlimited access to information, but it does not make us wise. It gives us a platform to speak, but it does not give us the conviction and character to act. Wisdom and courage can only be nurtured and grown with the help of our family, and of course the Church.  Worship is the most important thing we can do, as Deuteronomy 6 reminds us, that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our might. True worship with our brother and sisters in Christ calls us out of an “easy-everything” world back to “the burden of bearing the image of God” which brings us ultimate joy. Technology can derail this by addicting us to instant gratification. Crouch challenges readers to 10 commitments to detox from this “easy-everywhere” lifestyle, a detox my family and I have just begun.I would encourage anyone struggling with putting technology in its proper place to read this book. While not everyone lives in a single-family household, we are all part of the family of God, making these 10 commitments relevant to all.  You can read an excerpt of the first 30 pages here and listen to a 6 minute interview with the author below. ...

News

Saturday Selections – June 18, 2022

Can our kids be salt and light in government schools? (2 min) Maybe... if they were trained. But in a government school who is training whom? A 4-year-old can run an errand This NPR article has a good dose of common sense but mixes it with evolutionary psychology so it isn't something to swallow whole. Its value lies in its counter-cultural pitch: giving our children more responsibility at younger ages. The world wants to selectively give children more responsibility but in reckless ways, leaving them unguided and unprotected when it comes to sexual activity, or whether they actually are the gender God made them. We aren't to abandon our children that way... but we also aren't to coddle them. This is an eye-opener on how our children may be able to embrace responsibility at younger ages than we might have considered. It can start small, like getting a small one to go track down the milk by themselves the next time you're in the grocery store. Most men don't have real friends (but need them) "One hundred years ago, men were far more comfortable showing each other everyday physical affection: draping arms over shoulders, sitting close to each other, even holding hands.... The typical ways men have shown each other affection for all of human history are so foreign to us that, when we see them, we don’t recognize them. That’s the exact phenomenon C.S. Lewis wrote about in The Four Loves, when he said that “those who cannot conceive friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a friend.” The continuing importance of Thomas Sowell (10-min read) Never heard of Thomas Sowell? This 91-year-old economist has continually made the case against public schools and does so again in his latest book Charter Schools and their enemies. "Schools exist for the education of children. Schools do not exist to provide iron-clad jobs for teachers, billions of dollars in union dues for teachers unions, monopolies for educational bureaucracies, a guaranteed market for teachers colleges, or a captive audience for indoctrinators." God has the Left fighting itself (30-min read) One of the ways God protects His Church is by having His enemies reap what they sow (Gal. 6:7, Prov. 22:8, Luke 6:38). This lengthy article provides example after example of the groups pushing the cancel agenda being sent into turmoil when their employees apply that same standard internally. The Saviour-less Left still believes in sin, but not forgiveness, leading to a constant state of dissatisfaction at what's being done. And that leads to ironies like the abortion-pushing Guttmacher Institute being criticized internally by its staff for being too abortion-focussed, and not caring enough about reproductive justice. We can only pray that they'll continue to distract themselves so. This is a long read, but for the many who are distraught at what seems to be an endless flow of bad news what an encouragement it will be to see how God is fighting for us. That said, this reporter isn't offering a Christian perspective – he's reporting here as a friend of the Left. But those with eyes to see will have something to celebrate. We aren't in these groups, so we can't take credit for any of their implosions – this is the Lord fighting for us; we need only be still. 5 cool things about fish Did you know some fish can: 1) regrow their teeth, 2) "see" with their skin, 3) out"run" Usain Bolt, "4) and incapacitate a horse? Paul Tripp with 5 questions parents should ask their kids (12 min) To discipline their children parents will often turn to fear, bribery, and shame. But these generally only work short-term. If we're going to be on "Team Little Johnny" to help him become a more godly man, we need to help him see what he's doing rightly. And we can help him do so, not so much by lecturing as by asking good questions. ...

Marriage, Recent Articles, RP App

The surprising secrets of highly happy marriages

What research and the Bible say about the best marriages **** Marriage is meant to mirror Christ and the church. One can scarcely imagine a higher calling than this, yet all marriages fall far short of the ideal. Thus we not only misrepresent Christ and the church but also experience sadness and disappointment. As we all know, the Bible has quite a few things to say about marriage. Unfortunately, both the secular culture and much of the Christian culture read the relevant passages through ideological glasses. This leads to endless controversy but brings about very little improvement to marriages. Shaunti Feldhahn’s book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things that Make a Big Difference, is a refreshing addition to the conversation. Feldhahn does not offer yet another opinion on what the Bible says but instead gives a research-based answer: this is what has been shown to work – try it. Not surprisingly, the results of her research mirror what the Bible says. WHAT HAPPY COUPLES DO DIFFERENTLY Feldhahn and her team, experienced researchers, studied almost 1,000 people, both Christians and non-Christians, to understand what the happiest couples did differently. The research showed that there are many “learnable” things that can make a big difference in a marriage, regardless of other challenges a couple may be facing. In other words, by learning what the happiest couples do, those in moderately happy or struggling marriages can improve their own relationships, although the most troubled couples will likely need other help besides this book. Before we act on anyone’s suggestions about anything, we need to verify that they agree with the Bible. Thus this discussion of Feldhahn’s research results also notes how, as expected, the truth about the happiest couples is in line with biblical principles and admonitions. First of all, “A handful of simple day-to-day actions increases the likelihood that our spouse feels that we care deeply about them, instead of feeling that we don’t.” These are little things, so seemingly insignificant that people are tempted to shrug them off, but people who adopt them will have a big impact on their spouse’s happiness. A man tends to be happier if his wife: Notices his effort and sincerely thanks him for it. Says you did a great job at_______. Mentions in front of others something he did well. Shows that she desires him sexually and that he pleases her sexually. Makes it clear to him that he makes her happy. A woman tends to be happier if her husband: Holds her hand. Leaves her a message during the day to say he loves and is thinking about her. Puts his arm around her or lays his hand on her knee when they are sitting next to each other in public. Tells her sincerely, “You are beautiful.” Pulls himself out of a funk when he’s morose, grumpy, or upset about something instead of withdrawing. From a biblical point of view, it is not at all surprising that these powerful, gender-specific actions involve respect, appreciation, kindness, and caring. The happiest couples have also discovered other individual little things that make their spouse feel loved. Usually what matters to men are things that make them feel appreciated, and what matters to women are actions that communicate, “I care about what matters to you.” From a practical point of view, these things are simple, learnable, and doable and have a huge impact on marriages because they communicate care in a way the other person values. Believing that your spouse cares about you changes everything. It turns out that over 95% of people, even in difficult marriages, sincerely care about their spouse and want the best for them. However, in struggling marriages almost half think that their spouse does not care about them. Feldhahn’s research shows that this is flat wrong. As mentioned above, there are things we can do to help our spouse believe they are cared for. On the other hand, spouses also need to choose to believe the best about each other — that our spouse does care and that when they cause hurt it is unintentional. We need to choose to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things, and to think about things that are true and honorable. A worthwhile sentence to ponder is, “He/she must not have known how that would make me feel, or he/she wouldn’t have done it.” The research shows this is almost always true. EPH. 4:26: “DO NOT LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON YOUR ANGER…” Another research result, surprising to Feldhahn who is a Christian, is that while many think the Bible instructs us not to go to bed mad, the happiest couples often do. Rather than staying up, exhausted, debating until they agree on a topic, they reconnect (i.e. assure each other that the relationship is okay even if they still disagree), put the issue aside until the morning, and go to bed. A careful reading shows that the biblical principle in Eph. 4:26 isn’t about delaying bedtime, but involves not allowing anger to drag on. This principle is part of the lifestyle of the happiest couples, whether they are Christian or not. Emotional reconnection, often a personal bit of sign language, needs to be both initiated and accepted, something that very happy spouses excel at but struggling spouses do not practice. 1 COR. 13:5 “LOVE…KEEPS NO RECORD OF WRONGS” In unhappy marriages, spouses tend to keep score of the bad things the other person does and the good things they themselves do. The happiest couples keep score, too, but differently. They focus on the good things the other person does and intentionally show gratitude. They also notice and express more kindness, admiration, respect, and forgiveness. Closely related is that the happiest couples actively work to change their negative feelings and responses. This countercultural idea of replacing unhappy or angry thoughts and actions with positive ones, instead of venting, has an enormous impact on marital happiness. The research is simple: Stop focusing on, thinking about, or speaking about what irritates you; rather, honor the other person in your thinking and base your responses on that instead. In fact, if you do and think what is right instead of what you feel like, then your feelings will change. Or in the words of a happy couple, “We have found that when we act loving, then eventually, wow, we are loving!” The happiest couples not only adjust their attitudes, feelings, and opinions, but also adapt their expectations of each other. A clear factor in unhappy marriages is a longing for the other spouse to be or do something that they find difficult or impossible. The happiest spouses, on the other hand, are grateful for the ways their spouse is able to meet their needs and do not ask for the impossible. In other words, they do not tell themselves, “If he/she really loved me, he/she would_____.” Closely tied to this, happy couples tell each other what they need, but struggling couples assume the other person can, and should, figure this out on their own. TOGETHER TIME Research shows that “Not only do happy couples spend time together because they are happy; a big part of the reason they are so happy is that they are spending time together.” They prioritize hanging out together and doing things together even during seasons of travel, busyness, or marital difficulty. What does this look like? It can involve romantic dinners, but more often it’s something simpler, like going for a walk, watching the kids play sports, or carving time out of a busy schedule just to be together. The happiest couples all see the other person as their best and closest friend, a friend they want to stay close to no matter what, and their actions reflect that. Finally, the happiest couples are kind, gentle, and self-controlled in how they talk to each other. Yes, they bring up all sorts of topics and they are honest with each other, but they do so without disrespect and they carefully avoid hurting each other. What’s more, they are at least as considerate in private as in public. “If you wouldn’t say it that way to a close friend, don’t say it that way to your spouse,” seems to sum it up. MANY OF THE HAPPIEST COUPLES ARE CHRISTIAN Feldhahn found that the happiest couples focus on something greater than their marriages and that many of them are Christian. In fact, couples who agree that “God is at the center of our marriage” are twice as likely to report that they are very happy than others. Many of the happiest couples worship together, share key values, focus on serving their spouses instead of being served, look to God for power to be selfless, and trust God for the outcome. They emphasize they do not look to marriage for fulfillment and meaning, but to God. The happiest couples are fully invested in their marriage and do not hold back emotionally, financially, or in other unhealthy ways. They do not have a secret stash of money “just in case,” they are open with each other, they trust each other, and they work at their marriage. In biblical words, they act as though they are one, even though the world says that is a dangerous thing to do. In most highly happy marriages, each spouse credits the other for the happiness in their marriage, “and they live in regular, conscious gratitude as a result.” They are amazed that things are so good, as this one quote from a grateful wife sums up, “The fact that I get to live with him over the course of my lifetime is one of the biggest scams I’ve pulled off.” Many spouses feel this way, but the happiest ones make a conscious effort to let the other person know. So, in a general overview, what do the research results suggest? Although Feldhahn does not discuss this, the happiest couples tend to be the ones who live according to biblical principles. They accept the fact that marriage means oneness and that divorce is not an option. They aim to show gratitude, kindness, respect, and consideration. They accept the biblical view that feelings are not the standard by which they must operate but rather adjust their feelings by adjusting their thoughts and actions. They do not expect happiness and meaning from their spouse but look to God instead. Conversely, research suggests that struggling couples are much more likely to be self-centered, seek meaning in their spouse or marriage, have unrealistic expectations, hold back, criticize, avoid each other, be nicer in public than private, and be negative. THE CHANGES ARE SIMPLE The good news in Feldhahn’s research is that, once people know what behaviors and attitudes are good for a marriage, once they understand how biblical principles apply, they can make an effort to change. They are no longer left wishing they knew what to do in practical, everyday terms. Now they know. What’s more, it turns out that even if only one person commits to change, the marriage will benefit. Feldhahn gives ten suggestions for implementing her research results, but the basics are simple: Rely on God, build only one or two new habits at a time, and set up daily reminders so you won’t forget them. Above all, be grateful for success and patient with setbacks; in this broken world learning godly habits and attitudes is no easy matter. How does this all apply to those who are not merely hoping to improve a good marriage but are struggling in a very difficult one? Struggling couples and those who help them can find hope in the statistics shown in the sidebar, especially #4 which emphasizes that these principles of a happy marriage are simple and can be learned. It may also help to note #2, that many of the happiest couples in Feldhahn’s research were deeply unhappy before they learned how marriage works. THE CHANGES ARE HARD Do note that, although the principles suggested by the research are simple, they are not easy for anyone, whether happily married or struggling, to apply. Change is never easy, nor are repentance, apologies, and forgiveness. The research reminds us that a good marriage requires the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We not only need to pray for the fruit of the Spirit, but we also need to make every effort to add virtue, godliness, self-control, affection, and more to our faith. In other words, we need to live close to God and humbly immerse ourselves in his wisdom instead of the world’s. This, one of the blessings of marriage, brings us closer to God as we seek to understand how He wants us to live with the spouse He has graciously given us. Although all of this is a work of the Holy Spirit, it also involves our deliberate, thoughtful effort, and in the case of struggling couples, it may require outside help. Our marriages are important and we need to obey God in them. Feldhahn’s research, reflecting the Bible, helps us make wise daily choices about our attitudes and actions that will simultaneously enhance our representation of Christ and the church and increase the joy in our marriages. May God bless us all as we strive to have better marriages to his glory and for the benefit of our spouses, children, churches, and communities. For a thorough explanation of Feldhahn’s research and results, please read her book “The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages.” For those who wish to work through these ideas systematically, some very helpful worksheets, great for thinking this through on your own, or with your spouse, are available here at AnnieKatesHomeschoolReviews.com. This first appeared in the Jan/Feb 2018 issue....

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Life's Story: the one that hasn't been told

Documentary 2004 / 58 minutes Rating: 7/10 This is a gorgeous investigation of how Creation evidences its Creator. Life's Story was filmed in more than ten countries and it takes us under the ocean waters too. We're introduced to lions, parrotfish, dolphins, giraffes and so many more critters, exploring the genius apparent not only in their bodies, but in their instincts, and even in their relationship with other animals. So, for example, we learn how the parrotfish feeds on the algae that grow on coral formations – this fish needs the coral to serve as its shelter and food source. But the coral also needs the parrotfish to clear away the algae, which otherwise might grow unchecked, and choke off the coral. This symbiosis – two creatures needing each other in order to survive – is a testament to God's intertwined design. It's also a problem for evolutionists to explain, because if each needs the other, then which evolved first, the coral or the parrotfish? God's genius is showcased with one illustration after another, even delving into the creative ways different animal babies are born. Did you know a giraffe baby is born with its mother still standing up, and the afterbirth functioning as a kind of elastic cord to slow the baby's 6-foot descent to the ground? How cool is that? And there's loads of knowledge bombs like that spread throughout. Caution At one point early on the narrator declares the "debate over the origins of life has raged for 150 years, but now, finally, the debate is over." Though he states it quietly, and his British accent adds some gravitas to it, this is hyperbolic. Evolutionists still exist, so the debate continues, even if it really shouldn't (Rom. 1:20). Other overstatements like this mean that as fun as this could be to watch with your family (while pointing out the hyperbole to the kids), it is not the film you'd show your college classmate who's skeptical about the case against evolution. They'd be better off watching Evolution's Achilles' Heels and Dismantled instead. Conclusion A handful of overstatements are what demote this down to being a good, not great, documentary. In its favor it has impressive footage – we're getting close enough to count the lion's teeth, and diving down deep into an underwater world we'd otherwise never see. Viewers will also love all the insights into the intricacies of these critters which are sprinkled liberally throughout. The narrator's calm voice is at times almost sleep-inducing, but the stunning visuals will wake you back up, so I'm excited to check out the sequel: Life Story 2: the reason for the journey. Another mark in its favor? You can watch it for free below. ...

Assorted, Recent Articles, RP App

Truth requires you to love and love requires you to be truthful

Contrary to popular opinion, love and truth don’t stand in opposition to one another. In fact, you can’t really have one without the other. To love truth, you have to be committed to love, and to love love, you have to be committed to truth. The most loving person who ever lived, so loving that he died a cruel and bloody public death for crimes that others committed, was at the same time the most forthright and honest truth speaker that the world had ever known. It was not just that the love of Jesus never contradicted his candor and his candor never inhibited his love. No, there was something more profound going on. His commitment to truth speaking was propelled by his love. The biblical call to love will never force you to trim, deny, or bend the truth, and the biblical call to truth will never ask you to abandon God’s call to love your neighbor. We see this graphically displayed in a very well-known moment in the life of Jesus Christ. It is recorded in Luke 18:18–30. A rich ruler comes to Jesus to ask him about eternal life. It is a very good question that gets a very hard and honest answer. As you read the conversation, it doesn’t look like Jesus is engaging in very successful evangelism by modern standards. In a moment of complete honesty, Jesus doesn’t work to make the gospel attractive. Rather, he hones in on and exposes the central idolatry of this man’s heart. Jesus tells this man the bad news he needs to hear if he is ever to want the good news he desperately needs. So Luke is recording something very important for us. In the face of Jesus’s honesty, the man walks away, and as he does, Jesus looks at him with sadness. You see, Jesus isn’t being cold and indifferent. He doesn’t lack love. The hard words are motivated by love, and Jesus’s sadness at the end of the conversation exposes the love that motivated the words he had said. There is no mean-spirited condemnation in the words of Christ. Those hard words are words of grace, spoken by the Savior of love, spoken to redeem. Truth isn’t mean and love isn’t dishonest. They are two sides of the same righteous agenda that longs for the spiritual welfare of another. Truth not spoken in love ceases to be truth because it gets bent and twisted by other human agendas, and love that abandons the truth ceases to be love because it forsakes what is best for the person when it has been corrupted by other motives. Today you are called to loving honesty and honest love. You will be tempted to let one or the other slip from your hands. Pray for the help of the One who remained fully committed to both, even to death. His grace is your only hope of staying true to his righteous agenda. For further study and encouragement: 1 Corinthians 13. Taken from “New Morning Mercies” by Paul David Tripp, © 2014, pp. August 6th Entry. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org. This was first posted on Oct. 11, 2017....

Documentary, Movie Reviews, RP App, Sexuality

What is a Woman?

Documentary 2022 / 95 minutes Rating: 9 /10 What is a woman? That’s the question that confounded US Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson earlier this year, and it’s the same one that Matt Walsh tried to get someone – anyone – to answer in his new documentary. Whether it was a college professor, a surgeon, a counselor, or even the thousands of attendees at the National March for Women – they’d rather walk away than give wrestle with this doozy of a stumper. But what the smartest folk in the West couldn’t answer, African tribesmen could. And Walsh’s wife. And your toddler. And that, right there, is the reason our young people need to see this documentary: to see the wisdom of the world exposed for the arrogance that it really is. When our kids head off to college or go straight to the workforce, smart people they meet might say bizarre things, whether it’s “men can have babies too” or “no one know when life begins.” It’d only be natural, if they have any humility in them, to start to wonder, Am I the only sane one…or is everyone else right? What an encouragement it’ll be then, to see Matt Walsh stand up against the nonsense, and do so completely unflustered. Walsh's deadpan delivery turns many a moment from simply illuminating to downright hilarious. How can you not laugh when Walsh poses his "What is woman?" question to a lady identifying as a gay man (i.e., a woman attracted to men, who is pretending to be a man attracted to men). She was scoffing at him right from the start for even having the gumption to ask such a question of her... since she said she was a he. Confused woman (CW): "You should be asking women what it means to be a woman..." Walsh: "I'm asking all kinds of people. Can't anyone have an opinion about it?" CW: "Only people who are a woman. Gay men don't know nothing about what it means to be a woman." Walsh: "...So you're saying if you're not a woman you shouldn't have an opinion?" CW: "How does a guy get a right to say what a woman is? Women only know what women are!" Walsh: "Are you a cat?" CW: "No." Walsh: "Can you tell me what a cat is?" Faced with either pretending she didn't know what a cat was, or backing down on her notion that one can only identify something if you are that something, she chose C and hoofed it out of there. This is how Walsh dismantled the opposition, with pointed questions, and it's a tactic worth noting. When your opponents are spouting nonsense, the very best thing you can do is ask them to explain themselves. This is also an apologetic tactic with a long pedigree: by one count Jesus, though He was the very source of wisdom Himself, still asked more than 300 questions in the Gospels. He wasn't asking because He was looking for information; His questions were designed to uncover others' ignorance. Cautions While He liked asking questions, Jesus did also offer answers. The one glaring flaw to this film is that Matt Walsh doesn't, or at least, he doesn't give viewers the answers they most need. Fortunately, what Matt won't explain, God does. In the Bible's first chapter we hear that God assigns gender, and no one else (Gen. 1:27). Further on we read that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov. 9:10a). That, there, explains these dumb geniuses – they've rejected God's Truth, so all they have left to offer is foolishness. Why doesn't Walsh offer God's Truth? As he has explained elsewhere, Walsh doesn't believe it's effective to offer biblical answers to people who don't hold to the Bible. However, Walsh does keep pitching logic and reason even though the Left doesn't hold to those either. So why does he bother then? In Romans 10:14, we see that the Apostle Paul knew how to use pointed questions too. He asks: How then are they to call on Him in whom they have not believed? How are they to believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? The world is caught up in some crazy lies, but how can they ever turn to God's Truth if we aren't willing to share it with them? This isn't about screaming Scripture at people. What it would involve is acknowledging God – Walsh could have improved his film immensely by adding as little as a line or two to the effect of "Our sex is assigned by God, and when you deny that fundamental reality, then you descend into all these sorts of insanity." It's not enough to expose the lie; the world needs to be pointed to the Truth! Other cautions are of a more minor sort. There's some language, with a horde of women at the National Women's March chanting "Asshole, asshole" at Walsh. There's also an interviewee on a street corner in San Francisco who is wearing only a strategically placed sock. After the initial distant wide-angled shot, the rest of the interview is mercifully shown closer and higher up. There's also a page of sex-ed material shown from a distance that includes a cartoonish image of two naked guys on top of each other (this is part of a curriculum meant for kids 10 and up). Finally, the overall topic matter is often... perverse. While the evil being done is generally discussed with restraint, it's still too much for our younger children to hear. This is only for adults and older teens. Conclusion Walsh balances out the perverse with some comedic moments. These are laugh out loud, whether it's Walsh at the National Women's March futilely canvassing the crowd of thousands for anyone who might be able to tell him what a woman is, or his interaction with African tribesmen who want to be polite, but don't know what's wrong with the clueless American who doesn't even know what a woman is. By the end of the film, Walsh has only gotten a handful of answers to his title question, but one of the best comes from Jordan Peterson. What is a woman? "Why don't you marry one and find out?" It's a fantastic acknowledgment of the wonder that is the male/female divide. God made us different, then has the two become one, and tells us it is a great mystery (Eph 5:32). Sure, we have different chromosomes and genitalia but what a woman is, is so must more than just that. That there is mystery means marriage is an opportunity for investigation, discovery, and more wonder. But that there is mystery doesn't mean there's any confusion about whether a man can become a woman, or vice versa. Why watch? So our young people can understand just how much of what we're up against is simply intimidation and scorn. There is nothing substantive to transgenderism, and the other side can only win the debate by avoiding it at all costs. Young people heading off to university need to know that though your professors might be brilliant, that's no guarantee that they are wise. What is a Woman? is only available to "Insiders" at The Daily Wire (DailyWire.com). I became an Insider, chose the monthly billing option, paid my $14, watched the film, and now I'll cancel before I get billed again for next month. I figured $14 isn't too bad (it's the price of an in-theater film and very few of those rate a 9 out of 10). You'll probably want to watch it again with friends, which makes that $14 all the more palatable. You can watch the trailer below, and check out some of the Christian responses to the film here: Apologia Radio (with Jeff Durbin) hits the highs but also notes the low (85-min listen) Martin Iles offers a concise answer to the question (9 min listen) Samuel Sey of "Slow to Write" gives it two thumbs up (10-min read) Babylon Bee has responded with their own documentary, What is a Man? (2022, 99 min)  Discussion questions What is the transgender position? What are their best arguments for it? How does Walsh attack their position? What’s a takeaway – a tactic – we can borrow from his approach? A common defense of transgenderism is the statement, said by a parent whose child wants to “transition”: I’d rather have a living son than a dead daughter. What are the assumptions and problems with that statement? US Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson couldn’t define what a woman was, explaining that “I’m not a biologist.” Walsh does better but offers what’s basically a biological answer. Is that sufficient? Why/why not? What are Walsh’s objections to transgenderism? Can you think of any ways the other side might counter his objections? What does God have to say about male and female, transgenderism, and gender identity? Why didn’t Matt Walsh ever mention God? Leading question: If the world doesn’t recognize logic and reason, should we stop presenting logical arguments too? How can we best help a world that is so very confused on this issue? ...

News

Saturday Selections – June 11, 2022

Discovered: new mode of flight! Have you heard of a beetle with feathers? It wasn't so long ago that scientists thought that the beetle in this article didn't fly at all, but just got carried along by the wind. But it turns out this little guy uses feathered wings to fly. To read about this, and two other remarkable beetles, click on the link above. Or check out the 4-minute video below. Kevin DeYoung on the pretense of Pride month DeYoung makes two key points: 1) that by marketing their movement on "pride" – on feelings of self-worth – the homosexual movement evaded a rational evaluation of their agenda, and 2) Pride month might be an indication that they dost protest too much. "If you need the worlds of sports, entertainment, education, media, and government to celebrate your sexuality in order to feel proud, maybe your conscience is trying to tell you something." Pro-life MP kept out of Parliament for not disclosing her vaccination status On April 25, 2020, the The Globe and Mail ran a column headlined "We are giving up our freedoms in the fight against COVID-19. The question is will we get them back?" Over two years later, Cathay Wagantall's exclusion from Parliament shows that's still the question. Jesus' response to massacres - why? " answer today would seem rather abrupt and terse. He made sure first that they understood that such human disasters are not always correlated with some particular sin on the part of the victims.... But, what does he say? I tell you 'unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish.'...” Don't say "they": Why pronouns matter Pronouns may not seem like a fight worth having, but as Chesterton said, “The Church and the heresies always used to fight about words, because they are the only thing worth fighting about.” Man kills 6; Supreme Court rules 150 years is "cruel and unusual" (1o-min read) ARPA Canada weighs in on a recent Canadian Supreme Court decision that says "rehabilitation is the basis upon which all criminal law is based." Really? How does that compare to biblical justice? Homeschooling movie in US theaters June 13 and 14 The Left is getting increasingly brazen about declaring our children as being the State's. Christians need to stand together and make clear that God has given us parents the responsibility and privilege to be our children's primary educators (whether that is with some help from a private school or not). This new film from Kirk Cameron looks like it could be a great encouragement. It's playing only in American theaters this next week but is sure to be released soon for online streaming, so be sure to check out the trailer below. ...

Recent Articles, Theology

What a cross-continent trek taught one pioneer about Sunday rest

My town of Lynden, Washington has a mother, Phoebe Judson, who founded our city, arriving here in 1871. She promoted Sunday closure. Here’s why. In May, 1853, Phoebe and her husband Holden joined a covered wagon train near Kansas City hoping to reach Washington Territory by mid-October, a distance of more than 2,000 miles over the rough Oregon Trail. Like all wagon trains, they elected a captain. His word was the law. Well, they chose Rev. Gustavus Hines, only to be surprised one Saturday night when he announced the train would never travel on Sundays. Phoebe was shocked. They had half a continent to cross, at oxen pace (15-20 miles per day on a good trail), with at least four mountain passes and innumerable river crossings ahead of them. She sat in her wagon and just fumed. One family deserted the train and joined another. On their first Sunday, while they stood still, one train after another passed them by. But, being the daughter of a minister herself, Phoebe felt they had no choice but to honor their captain’s scruples. They started out again on Monday, bright and early, only to reach their first river cross on Tuesday evening. A long line of wagons stretched out ahead of them, waiting for the single “ferry” to carry them across. They waited 3 days. On Saturday they resumed the journey, only to be told they would still rest the whole next day. Phoebe was livid. This made absolutely no sense to her. Still, the minister’s daughter obeyed. Then, a few weeks later she began to see scores of dead oxen, mules and horses along the trail. They had been driven so relentlessly, they had collapse and died. She grudgingly admitted that perhaps the animals needed a day of rest. A few weeks later, she ruefully admitted that maybe the men needed it too, since they walked most of the time. Then she slowly began to notice that as they worshipped, ate, rested and even played together on Sundays, it had a remarkably salutary effect upon people’s spirits. There was less grumbling, more cooperation. She even noticed that they seemed to make better time the other six days. Finally, what totally sold her on the value of the Sabbath happened one Sunday evening: the family that had deserted them came limping into their campsite, humbly asking to rejoin them. She had assumed they were at least a week ahead; in fact, they had fallen behind. Their own wagon train had broken down! Of course they welcomed them back. And so it happened that they reached their destination in plenty of time, as friends, and out of the 50 head of cattle with which they began, only two were lost. This an excerpt from a Pastor Ken Koeman's longer article on the 4th Commandment which you can read here: Practicing the Sabbath. This first appeared in the Jan/Feb 2018 issue....

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, Instagram, and Gab under the hashtag #RP52in22 The tally The lawyer – André Schutten: 24 The minister – Jim Witteveen: 23 The editor – Jon Dykstra: 24 Reviews JULY 28 Linnet is a five-year-old Dutch girl who, we discover, knows absolutely nothing about God. Her ignorance is so profound that when the Nazis invade, and an occupying soldier tells little Linnet about the wonderful family that "God has given" him, she wonders, Who is this God he is talking about? and Is God German? For our own children, who may take always knowing God for granted, it will be eye-opening to follow what it's like, and how wonderful it is, for someone to be introduced to God for the first time. Linnet has the same wonderings any kid might have, but her wartime experiences also have her asking deeper questions, including a child's version of "God are you really there?" Christine Farenhorst's The New Has Come (2022, 262 pages) is that rarity that will appeal to all ages: the World War II setting and charming protagonist will grab your children; moms and dads will appreciate Linnet's questions and the opportunities they present to talk about God with our kids, and grandparents will get more than a little misty-eyed at just how beautifully this tale is told. I could not recommend it more highly! – Jon Dykstra JULY 1 Dated to something like 500 BC, Sun-Tzu's The Art of War is probably the second oldest book I’ve read, exceeded only by portions of the Bible. It is a military stratagems book, with many of the outlined principles applicable to today’s “fields of combat” like business, politics, and even love. An example: “When surrounding an army, leave a passage free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.” To paraphrase: someone with nothing to lose is dangerous indeed, so don’t back a person into that kind of corner. That’s both common sense, and not necessarily so common, which is the value of this ancient classic. I’d previously read a couple of different translations, but when I saw a comic version was available I had to check it out. Pete Katz’s Sun Tzu’s The Art of War: A Graphic Novel (2018, 128 pages) seems to contain all the original text. But now there are pictures, and a story arc of an old general teaching Sun Tzu to a boy, which ties everything together. That’s a fun wrinkle, and allows the general to offer a little commentary on Sun Tzu’s wisdom, making this a really accessible version. One caution would be that the pictures are occasionally a bit gory – arrows in necks, swords coming through someone’s chest – but aren’t too bad considering the topic matter. Another caution would just be the need to evaluate this ancient general’s common sense in light of the Bible.  – Jon Dykstra JUNE 30 Chances are high that you are reading this review on your phone. Perhaps you are even in the presence of other people, who are scrolling through one news feed or other on their particular mobile device. Smartphones have become a near-permanent fixture in the lives of many, a companion, a lifeline, or even an obsession. In Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age (2015, 436 pages), Sherry Turkle explores the ways in which our ever-present electronic gadgetry has influenced our culture, often in a negative way. Turkle, a clinical psychological, spent five years researching the effects that our attachment to our electronic devices have had on the way that we relate to and interact with one another, and this book is a result of that research and what is clearly a great deal of serious consideration of the issue. She structures the book using 19th Century American poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau's image of "three chairs" to examine how the lives of so many have been seriously impacted when they are alone, when they are interacting individually with another person, and in their relationships with broader society. Our phones leave us unable to enjoy quiet solitude, they get in the way of in-person communication with family and friends, and drastically change the way in which we relate to the world around us. Using a multitude of examples (some of which could probably have been excluded to make the work more concise), Turkle reveals what many of us already know from our own personal experience – we need to control the technology that we use, or that technology will end up controlling us. If you're at all like me, reading this book will lead to some healthy self-examination (if not serious guilt feelings) that should itself lead to deliberate consideration of the place that technology has on your life, and then to change. Silence and solitude (that is beneficial and not unbearable), genuine moments of conversation (especially in the home) in which all of the participants' attention is focused on the other parties in that interaction, and an upbuilding and positive way of relating to the broader "on-line world" are possible if we seriously and carefully consider the place of technology in our lives, and whether that technology has become our idol. I highly recommend this book as a useful tool for those who are already concerned about this issue, and also for those who aren't, but should be!  – Jim Witteveen If you’re looking for some meatier Christian fiction this summer, I recommend the novel Fatherless, by Dr. James Dobson and Kurt Bruner (2013, 448 pages). Dr. Dobson is the founder of Focus on the Family and of Family Research Council, and as such he is a natural fit to co-write a dystopian novel (the first of a trilogy) on what the future looks like if our social and political trends continue. The novel is set in 2042, and the elderly outnumber the young, leading to massive economic disruption. Euthanasia (called “transitions” in the novel) are applauded as heroic by policy makers and the public, women who have more than one child are derisively referred to “breeders,” and children with disabilities are routinely terminated in utero. Sexual liberation has allowed men to take very little responsibility, leading to mass fatherlessness. The plot to the novel is engrossing, making the book a page-turner. And what makes this novel well worth reading is how it animates important policy issues (demographics, euthanasia, selective abortion, economics, the role of the press, and more), showing the true human cost if Christians remain ignorant or apathetic around issues of public importance. – André Schutten  One question that I have been seriously considering over the past several years is, "How did we get here?" It's a question that informs many of my reading choices, as may have become obvious from the list of books that I've reviewed so far this year. How did our society get to a place in which Biblical morality has been largely rejected, issues which concern tiny minorities (such as transsexualism) have seemingly become vitally important, relationships between ethnic groups have seemed to worsen instead of improving, human life (both before birth as well as in its final stages) has been so badly devalued, certain individual "rights" have taken centre-stage at the expense of the God-given rights that were so highly valued by previous generations, and our culture has been subjected to such rapid and negative change? In 2020, Christopher Caldwell, senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, set out to answer this question. In The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties (342 pages), Caldwell focuses on the effects of the civil rights legislation of 1964 as an important turning point in the history of the U.S. He examines the way in which the Civil Rights Act became a kind of "second constitution," and how it impacted not only race relations, but also relations between the sexes, economic policy, international relations, and issues such as abortion, marriage and family, crime, and drug abuse. In the final two chapters Caldwell deals with the "winners" and the "losers" in this struggle, and although writing as a conservative, and presumably a Republican, his work is not a hit piece on the Democratic Party; one of the strong points of this book is his unflinching examination of where the so-called "conservative" movement has failed to actually "conserve" much at all, and why that failure seems to be a constant in the American political landscape. While I write this review from north of the border, and this book focuses specifically on the country to the south of us, a famous quotation by former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau shows why this American focus does not at all make a book like this irrelevant for non-Americans: "Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt." In the end, these are movements that, in our shrinking world, affect us all. And while Caldwell's focus is limited, he provides some very helpful answers to the question that many of us have: "How did we get here?"  – Jim Witteveen JUNE 29 For any reader who adores C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, particularly if you love the allegorical aspects of the children’s novels, let me recommend to you Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis, by Michael Ward (2008, 400 pages). This was a fascinating (though at times academic) read. For decades, critics of the Chronicles (including J.R.R. Tolkien) have argued they are disorganized or lack coherence. Ward makes a very convincing case that the unifying theme to the seven books of the Chronicles is medieval cosmology. C. S. Lewis was always fascinated by medieval astrology, and wrote about it in his academic writings, his poetry, and his fiction (the Space Trilogy is explicit). Ward shows that each of the seven books corresponds to the seven medieval planets: Jupiter, Mars, Sol (the sun), Luna (the moon), Mercury, Venus, and Saturn. Each of these planets have characteristics and symbols which play out in each book’s plot, in various ornamental details, and in how Aslan (the Christ figure) is portrayed. I won’t give the direct connections away here, because the joy of reading about each planet’s correspondence to which book is like unwrapping seven presents. There were moments reading this where I wondered if Lewis was dabbling with syncretism but, on further consideration, I think the concern has little merit. Rather, the cosmological elements work well to highlight different aspects of reality, and different aspects of the person and work of Christ, accentuating those aspects in different ways. Having finished this book, I’m now eager to revisit the Chronicles to see it with new eyes. For those considering picking up Planet Narnia, I recommend first reading the entire Chronicles (ideally multiple times), as well as Lewis’ Space Trilogy to better appreciate this academic work. – André Schutten  JUNE 28 To find a series for kids that's actually worth recommending involves starting, and then stopping, a lot of unworthy contenders. But every now and again, you find gold, like Dawn L. Watkins' Medallion (1985, 213 pages). This will be a fun one for Grade 4/5 boys. Young Trave plans to be king one day, but in the meantime, the current king of Gadalla, his uncle, won't even let him learn to ride a horse. Trave's life takes a turn when a rider comes to warn his uncle of an impending war, and tries to recruit him as an ally against the "Dark Alliance." His uncle dismisses the warning, but allows Trave to head off with the departing rider, happy to be done with this annoying boy. But why does the rider have any interest in Trave? Because the rider turns out to be the king of the neighboring nation of Kapnos, and he knew Trave's father back when he was the fighting king of Gadalla. This King Gris is eager to help Trave become the king that the neighboring nations need him to be, so that together they can stop the Dark Alliance. And while Trave appreciates being rescued from his uncle, he doesn't like being treated like a schoolboy in need of lessons. He mistakenly believes that being a king means fighting and giving orders, rather than serving. And that makes him susceptible to the flattery of the Dark Alliance's leader, who wants Trave on his side. While the author is Christian, that's more notable in the lack of any new age or woke weirdness, rather than the presence of any spiritual dimension to the book. Boys, 9-12, will love the story, and appreciate the twenty or so great pictures, including one of the evil king riding what looks like a miniature T-rex, which is reason enough to get the book! Another highlight is the curious creature Nog, who lives under a bog, and his every line, is always spoken in rhyme. This works well as a stand-alone, but a prequel, Shield, is also quite good, even as the sequel, Arrow, is not. – Jon Dykstra JUNE 22 They say that the three most important rules of Biblical interpretation are "Context, context, and context." In The Maker Versus the Takers: What Jesus Really Said About Social Justice and Economics (2020, 141 pages), Jerry Bowyer examines the Biblical, historical, geographical and political context of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus. Bowyer is an economist, and this is specifically an "economic" commentary, focusing on the economic and political implications of the message of the gospels. Bowyer's thesis is that Jesus' approach to economics placed him at loggerheads with the Judean authorities, who were oppressing their Jewish brothers and sisters, exploiting the poor, and blatantly disregarding God's law. It was specifically this element of the Lord Jesus' ministry that led to his betrayal and crucifixion. Bowyer takes pains throughout the book to emphasize the fact that he is not attempting to replace the theological interpretation of the gospel story with his economic interpretation. He argues that a false dichotomy between the two kinds of interpretation can lead to a hyper-spiritualization of the gospel message, a one-sided emphasis on the "eternal truths" of the gospel that neglects the historical realities that the Lord used to bring his plan to fruition. The gospel story is rooted in history, and the atoning work of Christ is the historical outworking of God's eternal plan of salvation. Bowyer makes a very important point when he highlights the necessity of taking every part of the Biblical text seriously, including the inspired authors' choice to use particular words and include specific geographical and historical details. He seeks to avoid the kind of interpretation that seeks to discover "some vague, subjective 'main idea' of the text," a process that often leads interpreters to limit their focus to a self-defined central thought, rather than dealing with every aspect of what the text actually says. In his effort to study the text in this way, Bowyer provides the reader with helpful and often surprising insights into the economic parables, the Sermon on the Mount, the story of the Rich Young Ruler, Jesus' cleansing of the temple, as well as the overarching story of the gospels. This is not a technical commentary, and Bowyer has done his best to make his work accessible to non-specialists. Those who are looking for a deeper insight into the message of the gospels, or who may have specific questions about what the Bible has to teach us about the issues of social justice, business, and various political systems and theories will find much food for thought in The Maker Versus the Takers. – Jim Witteveen JUNE 20 The Christian social critic Os Guinness has delivered a punchy defence of liberty in his book A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future, (2012, 224 pages). While the book is focused on the American context, it is applicable for Canadians too. Christians should give Guinness’ argument serious consideration. He begins by outlining a paradox: the greatest enemy of freedom is freedom. Freedom needs to be both protected by a constitution and cherished by the population. If either fail, freedom is lost. He explains the difference between “negative freedom” (freedom from government intrusion), and “positive freedom” (freedom to accomplish particular goals) and is emphatic that we need both. The core of the book is built around his golden triangle of freedom: freedom requires virtue, and virtue requires faith, and faith requires freedom, and freedom requires virtue, etc. While I concur with nearly all of what he writes, I did feel that the author clouds the issue around which faith in particular is needed to inculcate the type of virtue that sustains freedom. From my perspective, it’s not just any faith or religion that will produce the virtue required for freedom to flourish. Nevertheless, I do recommend the book. – André Schutten  JUNE 18 "An original and mesmerizing book." "This book amounts to a kind of key to the times we are living in." "A tour de force." "The sort of book that forever changes the way one looks at the subject." So say the reviews printed on the back cover of Joshua Mitchell's American Awakening: Identity Politics and Other Afflictions of Our Time (2020, 255 pages). It's not unusual for the writers of back-cover blurbs to use hyperbole to promote the work that they're praising - after all, that's why they're there on the back cover! But in this case, the effusive praise is entirely warranted. This is the twentieth book that I've reviewed for RP's "52 in '22" challenge this year, which means that I have 32 to go to reach the goal that we've set for ourselves. And I have to say that one of those next 32 books will have to be truly exceptional to dislodge this book from my "Best book of the year" category. In America Awakening, Joshua Mitchell, professor of political theory at Georgetown University, makes the argument that the ascendancy of identity politics in the United States (and the West in general) is the result of a new religious movement that is supplanting Protestant Christianity as a dominant force in society. As he writes in his preface, "Americans have not lost their religion. Americans have relocated their religion to the realm of politics." Mitchell describes identity politics as a kind of Christian heresy that distorts Biblical concepts of sin, judgment, substitutionary atonement, and salvation in an attempt to achieve a twisted version of "justice" in this world. According to identity politics, an individual is either a transgressor or an innocent; the ultimate transgressor is the white heterosexual male, while the category of "innocent" is more flexible. People are defined by their identity with a homogeneous group, and their assumed level of "purity" depends on the nature of the group with which they identify. The transgressor becomes the scapegoat, the source of all ills, and the purpose of politics (which comes to encompass all of life) is to purge society of his stain. Mitchell concludes by examining two of the "other afflictions" mentioned in the book's title. "Bipolarity" is the first affliction, and Mitchell uses this word to describe a state of affairs in which the individual is at the same time "selfie man" (the centre of the world, deserving of attention and craving recognition and praise) and a faceless interchangeable member of "management society." The second affliction is addiction; while Mitchell's examples of the addictions that plague our culture are probably not what you would expect, they reveal a deep understanding of the nature of our society. In conclusion, American Awakening is a profound examination of one of the defining issues of our time, theologically and culturally astute and very well written. While it may not be an easy read, the effort required to digest everything that Mitchell has to offer will certainly pay off in the end. – Jim Witteveen JUNE 17 For anyone looking for a relatively short, and yet comprehensive, Reformed Christian articulation on the role of the civil government, I highly recommend Ruler of Kings: Toward a Christian Vision of Government, by Joseph Boot (2022, 211 pages). The book is both a necessary critique of the government’s encroachment into areas of life where it ought not to, as well as a positive vision of what the civil government ought to be, as an entity instituted by God, under the lordship of King Jesus. I found Boot’s historical approach to the philosophies behind the expansive state helpful for understanding how we got to where we are today. He is rigourous in his defence of the absolute authority of Jesus and what that means practically for government and society. I also found his discussion about the difference between the kingdom of God and the church as institute very helpful and clarifying and, once grasped, it does away with the straw man argument from fellow Christians that too readily dismisses his thesis as “theocracy.” I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to better understand what a reformational view of the place of the state in society is. – André Schutten JUNE 14 If you've heard Neil Postman's name, it was probably in connection with his best-known (and excellent) book Amusing Ourselves to Death, published in 1985. Postman, who passed away in 2003, was known as an insightful social critic, and his work continues to be cited by Christian theologians and authors, despite the fact that Postman himself was not a Christian. Upon his death, one commentator argued that the reason for Postman's popularity among Christians (especially confessional Reformed believers) is the fact that "he knew a golden calf when he saw one." In Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (1992, 222 pages), Postman takes on one of the most influential golden calves of the modern age, technology. He begins with his outline of the historical developments that have led to our becoming a technopoly, a society in which technology is no longer a tool to be used, but a master to be served. He examines the impact of technology on medicine, on the widespread use of computers in every part of life, and also discusses what he calls 'invisible technologies" – things like language, statistics, polling, and intelligence testing – all of which have only grown in importance with the technological advances of recent decades. In his chapter on scientism, which in my view is particularly important, Postman examines the claims of the social sciences, which have themselves become another of the most influential idols of our age. Postman was not "anti-technology," and does not argue that technological advancements are inherently negative. However, he rightly concluded that modern society has not given sufficient attention to the inevitable downsides that accompany every technological development. Because of our lack of critical reflection, we are becoming the slaves of technology instead of its masters. The technopoly is an impoverished society, and will remain so until our dedication to technological progress is re-evaluated and successfully challenged. I highly recommend this book, especially for the insight it offers into forms of technology that often go unconsidered because they have become so embedded in our culture. It's an eye-opener, and well worth reading. – Jim Witteveen JUNE 9 The God Who Is There by Francis Schaeffer (1968, 226 pages) is a must-read for any Christian teacher, pastor, parent, elder, post-secondary student, entrepreneur, artist, or journalist! I have been tracking and reading about cultural developments from a Christian perspective for well over a decade and had a decent grasp on the religious-cultural problems in the West. This book just turned the bright lights on in a big way. Schaeffer explains how the ideas of philosophers, then visual artists, then musicians, and then theologians all devolved into postmodernism, falling below the "line of despair." He traces the problem back to a break in the concept of truth, that for some intellectuals there are things that require "a leap of faith" – things like purpose or morals – thus breaking any unifying sense of knowledge. His discussion on antithesis is simple and brilliant (A is A, and A is not non-A), and he works this basic theme throughout the book. His explanation of faith versus faith was also helpful: is faith a leap of belief into the irrational (the modern conception of faith) or is the value of faith dependent on the object towards which the faith is directed? Christian faith is the latter, and depends on the God who is there, the Christ in history who died upon the cross, rose from the dead in space and in time. The Christian faith is open to discussion and verification. There is much packed into this volume and I wholeheartedly recommend it. – André Schutten JUNE 8 In 2021, as Canada's federal government promised $9.2 billion in annual spending on child care programs, Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development, was quoted as saying: “Child care is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. The past year has made it abundantly clear that we need affordable, accessible, inclusive, and high-quality child care, and we need it now. Leaders in the private, social, and labour sectors all agree that a Canada-wide early learning and child care system will drive economic growth, help women get back into the workforce, and give every child across Canada the best start in life. Together, I know we can get this done.” In his book Day Care Deception: What the Child Care Establishment Isn't Telling Us (2003, 222 pages), Brian C. Robertson explains the forces that are at work behind the decades-long push for universal, government-subsidized child care, and why this movement is so destructive to families and society in general. Robertson describes the coalition of interests that are hard at work promoting the institutionalized care of children, and what their motivation is. He argues that the impetus behind the universal day-care movement comes from corporations (which serve to benefit from having more women in the workforce), governments (which benefit politically and also financially via the taxes paid by working mothers and growth in GDP), social scientists (whose ideology devalues the importance of stay-at-home moms and the "traditional" family structure), the day-care industry, and professionals in all of these fields who are seeking to justify their own choice to subject their children to institutionalized care. Forces which emphasize economics have united with ideologues to pressure women to enter the workforce and "contract out" the care of their children, and, Robertson argues, the resulting trends have been disastrous. Day Care Deception presents a detailed, well-supported case for abandoning the "social experiment" that has brought so many mothers into the workforce at the expense of their children's well-being. While the book is somewhat repetitive and could have benefited from some judicious editing, it is a valuable resource that I wholeheartedly recommend. – Jim Witteveen JUNE 7 If you're looking for an easy, fun summer read for the campfire, beach, or cottage, let me recommend The Inimitable Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse (1923, 224 pages). The book is a collection of mini-escapades centered on Bertie, a clueless aristocrat in British society, and his clever butler Jeeves. If you enjoy British humor, a clever turn of phrase, some right rummy characters, and poking playful fun at the pomposity of the upper class in early 1900s Britain, this book will have you chuckling in no time. If you need to save a penny, the benefit of reading older books is that they are in the public domain: a free version is available here: www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/59254. – André Schutten JUNE 6 In our "connected" world, we are being bombarded with more advertising than ever before. A multi-billion dollar industry uses increasingly sophisticated techniques to convince us that we desperately need any of a vast array of products or services. And those techniques work. But how do they work? Answering that question is an important part of "propaganda-proofing" ourselves and our children. Vance Packard's 1957 book The Hidden Persuaders (223 pages) is a classic investigation of the psychological techniques that the marketing industry had only recently begun to employ to impact consumer decisions. Packard explores subjects like motivational analysis and subliminal techniques that are used to sell products from soap ("The cosmetic manufacturers are not selling lanolin, they are selling hope") to political figures and their platforms. While this book is 65 years old and its examples are dated (Packard's references to cigarette advertising may confound younger readers who have never seen such a thing!), the techniques he describes and the ways in which they were used form the foundation of an industry whose influence and reach has only grown astronomically over the intervening years. Packard argues that we are being manipulated (often without our knowledge) to become cogs in the consumerist machine, and that codes of conduct should be implemented to govern the use of "depth manipulation" techniques. It is difficult to imagine how such a code of conduct could ever be developed, let alone enforced, so the onus is on us, the objects of the advertisers' work, as Packard admits. His conclusion is an apt one, and explains why I'm reviewing and recommending this old book: "We still have a strong defence available against such persuaders: we can choose not to be persuaded. In virtually all situations we still have the choice, and we cannot be too seriously manipulated if we know what is going on." It was Packard's hope that this book would contribute to the general awareness; it does, and we would do well to learn its lessons and put them into practice. – Jim Witteveen JUNE 5 I feel a little sheepish reviewing this book, but it's worth talking about. Piet Prins' Scout: The Mystery of the Abandoned Mill (1982, 127 pages) is a book for all ages. It's the sixth in a series of seven Scout books written by the Dutch author soon after World War II. It tells the story of three teen boys and their trusty canine Scout, a smart, loyal, and strong companion. In this particular story, the boys are trying to find a lost treasure, hidden from the Nazis during the occupation of the Netherlands, in order to return the treasure to its rightful owner. But they are competing with a ruthless villain who wants the treasure for himself. What I love about reading the Scout books (I read it aloud to my eight-year-old son, who begs me each night to please, please, pretty please keep reading just one more chapter?!) is that not only are they great page-turning adventures, they are also saturated with Christian references: going to church on Sunday, praying at mealtimes, thinking about God's oversight and providence, praying to God when afraid, being ashamed for prideful actions, etc. Each of these references become an easy opportunity to pause and discuss with my son these concepts. So, I recommend this book to dads or moms who want a good book for – and good discussions with – their 6-12-year-old children. – André Schutten JUNE 4 Fredrik Backman's A Man Called Ove (2015, 304 pages) is a touching novel about a neighborhood curmudgeon, whose backstory is slowly revealed over the course of the book. The author skillfully flips back and forth in Ove's timeline, making the reader fall in love and sympathize with this cranky, stubborn man. The book drew out different emotions in rapid succession: I found myself on more than one occasion choking back a lump in my throat in one instant and then chuckling out loud the next. However, I wrestled with whether to recommend this book due to a major downside: there are about a half dozen instances of blasphemy in the book, as well as multiple cuss words. There is also a short (and approving) reference to a same-sex marriage at the end of the book. That said, the themes of the book are timely for our cultural moment and worthy of consideration by a Christian reader: our society's increasing problem with social isolation, suicidality, and fragmented neighborhoods and communities, as well as a bureaucratic state that pushes aside family to make life and death decisions for elderly or sick citizens (think government long-term care homes, or euthanasia), what does this look like from the perspective of a senior citizen? The examples of the various characters in this novel - especially the pregnant Iranian living next door to Ove - provide a good launching point for critical self-reflection: are we ready to do the uncomfortable but necessary work of loving our (senior and crotchety) neighbor as ourself? And can we see their love, purpose, and dignity despite their unlovable qualities? For this reason, I recommend the book to a Christian audience with the caveat that, as you will likely encounter in your neighborhoods, so you will encounter in this book objectionable language. – André Schutten MAY 25 This was so good I had to share bits of it with my wife as I worked through M.I. McAllister's Urchin of the Riding Stars (2021, 299 pages). This is an animals with swords tale, the hedgehogs, otters, moles, and squirrels all living together in the same island kingdom under the good King Brushen. But all is not well in the kingdom of Mistmantle – there are "cullings" being done to the newborn handicapped children. This is quite the somber subject for a children's book, and as the culling are considered for the elderly too, it's clear that the author is speaking to both abortion and euthanasia. The young Urchin is very much opposed, but his heroes, Captains Crispin and Padra, don't seem to be doing anything to stop it, and the third captain, Husk, seems to be enjoying it! So who are the good guys then? Who can Urchin turn to for help to save these children? It turns out some of the good guys are indeed good, but, on the other hand, some turn out to be really, really bad. This a fairytale that takes seriously the Chesterton quote about dragons: "Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon." There is evil in this book, and the might even turn off some of its target preteen to early teen audience. But it gets to be quite the rollicking adventure soon enough, full of courtly intrigue, conspiracies, and heroes being heroic. I think the author is Christian, and the God of this story is referred to as "the Heart." This spiritual element isn't huge, but it is persistent, and doesn't stray into anything weird or wacky. I know this will be a book I'll enjoy reading to my kids. An otherwise entertaining second book in this Mistmantle Chronicles series is marred by an agenda-pushing, albeit passing, mention of a female priest. The first book stands well enough on its own, so in our house I think we're going to start and stop with number one. – Jon Dykstra MAY 19 Mary Eberstadt is a former research fellow for Stanford University's Hoover Institution, and currently serves as senior research fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute, a conservative Roman Catholic think tank based in Washington, D.C. In her first book, Home-Alone America: the Hidden Toll of Day Care, Behavioral Drugs, and Other Parent Substitutes (2004, 218 pages), Eberstadt sought to answer a series of what she called "obvious, if necessarily blunt" questions: Why are millions of children being prescribed drugs to change their behaviour? Why are depression, anxiety, and behavioral disorders becoming more and more common among young people? Why has childhood obesity become an epidemic in America? And what is behind the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases among American teenagers? Issue by issue, Eberstadt explores these questions thoroughly, and the answer she provides is well-reasoned, based in common sense, despite being roundly rejected and criticized by social scientists and public intellectuals who she refers to as "separationists." Eberstadt's thesis is that there is a definite connection between decreased parental presence in children's lives and the severity of the problems that children face, problems that begin in childhood and often lead to negative repercussions throughout their lives. I very much appreciated the way in which Eberstadt honestly addresses challenges to her thesis. She examines studies done in the social sciences, deals with the argument that "correlation does not equal causation" (which says that just because absentee fathers, working mothers, daycare, and divorce are often realities in the lives of troubled children, that doesn't mean that these things actually cause the problems children face), and emphasizes that long-term studies ask the wrong questions, and therefore come to erroneous conclusions. For example, while studies of adults who spent a good part of their childhood years in daycare may show that the majority have become successful, contributing members of society, these "results" say nothing about the suffering caused by institutional care and separation from parents and other family members while that separation is actually being experienced by the child. Eberstadt presents a solid and compelling case for the vital role that parents have in the lives of their children, and for the necessity of self-sacrifice on the part of parents. While this book is now nearly twenty years old, it speaks loudly and clearly in a culture that has continued to follow the same destructive path, and is very much worth reading. – Jim Witteveen MAY 18 Having worked in the mental health field for several years prior to entering the ministry as well as having personal experience with members of my extended family who were diagnosed with mental illnesses, the subject of mental illness and psychiatry has long interested me. This interest (and a desire to explore the trends of the past century which have shaped our modern culture) recently led me to explore several of the works of American psychiatrist Thomas Szasz. Throughout his life and work in the field of psychiatry, Thomas Szasz was one of the discipline's most controversial (and outspoken) critics. His best-known work, The Myth of Mental Illness, was published in 1961, and from its publication until his death in 2012, Szasz continued to do battle with the psychiatric establishment, with limited success. While Szasz may be accused of overstating his case, and thus alienating his opponents, many of the arguments that he made throughout his career have proven to be prescient, as the scope of mental illness has grown to such an extent that nearly all of us can be described as "mentally ill" in some way. In Schizophrenia: The Sacred Symbol of Psychiatry (first published in 1976 and updated in 1988, 237 pages), Szasz returns to many of the same themes that he addressed in his earlier works: the abuses of involuntary institutionalization of people diagnosed with mental illnesses, the use of psychiatry as a means of social control, the dangers of the "therapeutic state," and the religious nature of psychiatry itself. Szasz's work is challenging and thought-provoking, and his argumentation is supremely logical. However, as a professed atheist, his most serious shortcoming is his failure to acknowledge the role that people's spiritual lives play in dealing with the mental health challenges that they face. That being said, I can only echo one of Szasz's reviewers, who put it very well when he described Szasz as "a valuable critic and agent provocateur," someone who "has much to say which requires answering." – Jim Witteveen MAY 17 On Character (1995, 234 pages) is a collection of essays written by James Q. Wilson between 1967 and 1993. The common thread that ties these essays together is the theme of character, and the important role that personal character plays in numerous public policy issues, from crime to education to business and beyond. Wilson's focus on the importance of personal character led to him being classified as a conservative, although he only reluctantly accepted that label. As he writes in his introduction, "Now I confess to being conservative, at least by the standards of contemporary academia." The essays themselves reveal that while Wilson had some "conservative" tendencies, it was only the leftward shift in the political landscape that left him in that position. Where Wilson hits the target (and where he faced his most serious opposition), is in his refusal to go along with the dominant narrative (which has only become stronger in the twenty-seven years since this book was published) that blames high rates of drug abuse, criminality, and family breakdown on social inequality, unemployment, and political oppression, without taking into account personal character and personal responsibility. Wilson's essays make for interesting and often insightful reading, particularly his influential work on "The Problem of Broken Windows," an article originally published in 1982 that led to positive policy changes in cities like New York under the leadership of Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In the end, however, I can only give this book a qualified recommendation - while Wilson appeared to understand the nature of the problem, the solutions he offers are often less than satisfactory. – Jim Witteveen MAY 16 John Piper packs a lot in this slim volume: Preparing for Marriage: Help for Christian Couples (2018, 86 pages). In 6 chapters and 2 appendices, he covers headship and submission, hospitality, sex, making the most of our engagement, weddings that don't break the bank, and how our spouse should be second, though only to God. While the target audience is couples intending to marry, the first appendix includes 50+ questions that'd be of great use to a young man or woman still evaluating whether or not their beau is marriage material. Questions include: What is the meaning of headship and submission in the Bible and in our marriage? What makes you angry? What are your views of daycare for our children? Will there be one checkbook or two? Should we have a television? Would we consider adoption? How will we distinguish between punishment and discipline? Those questions would make for great discussions for the recently married too. Overall, this would be a great one for engaged couples to read together and discuss. And you can find it for free at DesiringGod.org/books. – Jon Dykstra MAY 12 Concerns with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) include the fact that the children created in these laboratory settings are routinely killed, some because they have (or seem to have) defects, and others because the parents simply no longer want them. Many are frozen, which comes with its own harms, but also leaves them in an indeterminate state, facing eventual death. But what if a couple was willing to adopt and rescue one of these babies? This involves the implantation of the fetus in the adoptive mother’s womb, giving the child a chance to be brought to term. But Christians aware of the death-dealing nature of the IVF industry might wonder if they should have anything to do with it. Justina Van Manen and Jonathon Van Maren have written Life Under Glass: the ethics of embryo adoption (2022, 80 pages) to ease these concerns, making it clear that it is completely different to get involved in a rescue than it is to make such a rescue necessary. These children already are, and while they should never have been frozen, it is most certainly an act of God-glorifying grace to adopt these tiny orphans. – Jon Dykstra MAY 11 Reverend Kornelis Sietsma pastored a Reformed church in Amsterdam before and during World War II. In 1942, he was arrested for preaching against the lust for power, and for supporting Jews with the collection, and praying for the Dutch royal family. He died a year later, aged 46, in the Dachau concentration camp. Before the war, he wrote a treatise on the idea of office. It has recently been republished in English as The Golden Key for Life and Leaders: The Idea of Office (2019, 123 pages). It is a short, readable, and understandable book that helps Christians think through office, calling, authority and responsibility. It will likely correct some misperceptions about the office-bearers in church, but also expand the readers' understanding of the idea and role of office as a calling from God that every believer has. Because we share in Christ's anointing as prophet, priest, and king (see Lord's Day 12), every believer holds the office of believer with the corresponding duties and authority to carry out that task. But there are also other special offices: in the home (office of parent), church (minister of Word, minister of mercy, minister of the rule of Christ), civil sphere (civil magistrates), and other spheres (teachers, employers, etc.). Submission is owed to every office instituted by God, unless the office-bearer acts outside of his office and authority or compels action or non-action that makes it impossible for other office-bearers to carry out their office and calling. I found this book helpful to think through the tensions within the church during the Covid era and highly recommend it for all deacons, elders, and pastors, as well as others who want to better this concept. – André Schutten MAY 10 You may never have heard of Ignaz Semmelweis, but his story is an important one for two reasons. First of all, it is largely due to Semmelweis's medical discoveries that the rates of death in childbirth (of both mothers and their newborn children) decreased substantially in 19th-century Europe. Secondly, the story of his life, work, and death is a cautionary tale in an age in which we are constantly being warned against accepting the findings of scientists who challenge the "scientific consensus." Semmelweis was a Hungarian obstetrician whose best-known work was done in Vienna, Austria in the first half of the 19th century. At that time, a disease called puerperal fever, or "childbed fever" led to the deaths of up to 10% of new mothers who gave birth in institutional settings. The medical establishment had developed many theories about the causes of such a high mortality rate, but it was Ignaz Semmelweis who finally solved this mystery. After several years of study, he concluded that puerperal fever was being spread by the doctors themselves, as they went from dissecting cadavers in the morgue to assisting in childbirth, often without any concern for their personal cleanliness. Semmelweis argued that doctors should make every effort to ensure that both they and the environment in which the deliveries took place, should be disinfected to stop the spread of a disease that had proven to be so destructive for so many years. It may seem like common sense to us today, but at the time Semmelweis's conclusions were a novelty that ran counter to long-standing and widely-accepted theories. Thus Semmelweis's contemporaries were very difficult to convince, and his theory was rejected out of hand by the majority of his colleagues. The "scientific consensus" was wrong, and Semmelweis ended his life in a mental hospital, never having experienced the widespread acceptance of his findings. In Genius Belabored: Childbed Fever and the Tragic Life of Ignaz Semmelweis (2016, 249 pages), Theodore Obenchain tells the story of the life, work, and death of Ignaz Semmelweis. His well-researched and engaging account is at the same time fascinating and frustrating, reminding us how important a knowledge of history is to our understanding and interpretation of current events. – Jim Witteveen MAY 7 I love the first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism ("What is the chief end of Man? ...to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever") but didn't know anything about the assembly that crafted it, the Larger Catechism, and the Westminster Confession of Faith. I have a Dutch Reformed heritage, whereas these were birthed by the English Reformation. That's why I was happy to discover that United Reformed pastor William Boekestein had teamed up with Heritage Reformed professor Joel R. Beeke to give us Contending for the Faith: the story of the Westminster Assembly (2022, 40 pages). It's for kids, but a great presentation for adults who want to know a little, but aren't interesting in diving all that deep. This Assembly is worth at least a dip, to get an understanding of all God wrought in the lives of kings and queens, and pastors and persecutors that resulted in these documents. The book is really well done, with wonderful pictures and clear text, but it isn't the sort that kids are going to pick up on their own. This would be best as a homeschool or institutional Christian school resource. Boekestein has also done three books, all very good, on the confessions which make up the Three Forms of Unity: The Quest for Comfort: the story of the Heidelberg Cathechism (2011, 40 pages), The Glory of Grace: the story of the Canons of Dort (2012, 40 pages), and Faithfulness under Fire: the story of Guido de Bres (2010, 40 pages), who authored the Belgic Confession. All are recommended! – Jon Dykstra MAY 2 There are a number of psalms that have been the subject of controversy in the Christian church for many years. These are the "imprecatory psalms" in which the psalmist expresses a strong desire that God's vengeance be unleashed against those who persist in doing evil. The question arises again and again: can we as Christians make words like those found in Psalm 137:9 our own in our prayers and in our worship? Can we say, "Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock," or is this sentiment unworthy of a New Covenant believer? In his book Crying For Justice: What the Psalms Teach Us About Mercy and Vengeance in an Age of Terrorism (2005, 199 pages), John N. Day argues that the imprecatory psalms must continue to be used by Christians today, and he explains why people like C.S. Lewis (who believed that the imprecatory psalms are "sub-Christian" expressions of a sinful desire for revenge) are wrong in rejecting them. Day deals with apparent contradictions between the Old and New Testament, examines several of what he calls "unsatisfactory solutions" to the problem, provides detailed analysis of three of the harshest imprecatory psalms (Psalms 58, 109, and 137), and concludes with a sample sermon on Psalm 83. Day's conclusion is that these controversial psalms, which can seem to be so problematic in our 21st Century Western cultural context, must continue to form an integral part of Christian worship. I highly recommend this book, especially for anyone who has struggled with the idea that these psalms should be prayed and sung by Christians today. – Jim Witteveen APRIL 29 Children of the Reformation that we are, we understand our will is in bondage to sin. But that presents a conundrum of sorts, because if we can't help but sin, then how can we be held responsible by God for our sin? C.S. Lewis once noted that the act of turning to God wasn't something he chose to do, but that he was instead, the most reluctant of converts. So, again, if only God can enable us to choose for Him, how can we be held responsible for acting against Him? Calvinists answer this by humbly holding onto two seemingly conflicting ideas: we are responsible for our sin, and yet God is sovereign over all. How can both be true? Well, as Dr. Bredenhof has put it, human beings are always "free to do what is according to their nature," though as an unregenerate creature, that will always involve sin. In his book Free Will (2012, 82 pages), atheist, and materialist Sam Harris attempts to offer a different sort of resolution. His is a godless answer, of course, and so the dilemma for him is a godless one as well: he wonders how mere chemicals in motion that we are (according to his evolutionary worldview) could have any responsibility for our actions. We are, he argues, merely the sum of our inputs, no more responsible for our output than a computer would be. He wants us to acknowledge our lack of free will so that we'll be kinder to murderers who, meat robots that they are, shouldn't be held responsible for their "bad programming." But if they shouldn't be held responsible for their actions, then why is Harris holding us responsible for our actions towards them? Whether we torture or tickle them, no condemnation would be possible, since no one bears responsibility for any actions...ever. Harris ably demonstrates that his materialist worldview doesn't allow for responsibility, so when he argues we have a responsibility to treat criminals better, he proves a different point: that materialism falls short. – Jon Dykstra APRIL 20 Over the past several years we have been hearing more and more about Klaus Schwab and his World Economic Forum (WEF). For those of us who are very concerned about his brand of globalism and the influence that the WEF is exerting throughout the world, what we've been hearing has not been reassuring. But in order to truly understand where people like Klaus Schwab really stand, it is always preferable to go to the source itself rather than relying on second-hand information and the interpretations of third parties. In 2019, Schwab and his co-author Thierry Malleret published Covid-19: The Great Reset. The Great Narrative: For a Better Future (2022, 253 pages) builds on the foundation of that previous work, and is the fruit of a series of interviews with "fifty of the world's foremost global thinkers and opinion makers." The Great Narrative, as its title suggests, presents the WEF's understanding of the state of the world, the problems that must be addressed, and the goals which the nations of the world should be working to achieve. "Narratives," Schwab (or Malleret) writes, "shape our perceptions, which in turn form our realities and end up influencing our choices and actions. They are how we find meaning in life." In a brief review it isn't possible to delve into the many aspects of the narrative that Schwab and his compatriots are promoting. But the very definition of "narrative" that they provide already says a great deal about what they are attempting to accomplish in this work. Our perceptions are shaped by narratives, the stories we use to explain our worldview. And, Schwab says, it is our perceptions which form our realities. In other words, it's all a matter of interpretation. Reality, given this definition, cannot be something absolute, unchanging, and definable. It is something that we create, not an objective state of affairs to which we must adapt ourselves. We are shapers of reality, and it is the narrative that we hold to that shapes how we live. Despite Schwab's mistaken notion about the nature of reality, he is correct in understanding the importance of the "grand narratives" that form our worldviews, and the way in which our actions find their source in our worldviews. He understands that narrative is vitally important, and thus he attempts to create a narrative that will lead people to accept his prescriptions for the government of international society and the lives of individuals. Throughout this book, whether speaking about pandemics or climate change or geopolitical issues or the place of technology in society, Schwab often makes assertions that are not backed up by evidence, but are clearly meant to shape people's thinking according to the "accepted wisdom" of this prevailing narrative. The book demands careful reading because the serious errors that Schwab commits are sometimes subtle, but have serious repercussions, especially because they have been echoed by so many on the world stage. The WEF may not have legislative power, but its "great narrative" has become the prevailing narrative, and expressions of dissent are being marginalized and even silenced in many corners. The Great Narrative attacks the true narrative, the Word of God, the only place that the true meaning of life and true wisdom can be found. In so doing, it constructs a worldview that could only lead to disastrous results if put into practice. For this reason, while there's no way I could recommend this book as a fount of legitimate wisdom, I believe that we need to familiarize ourselves with works of this type because of the influence that they have in shaping the attitudes and actions of many influential figures on the world stage. – Jim Witteveen APRIL 19 On July 29, 1994, Paul J. Hill, at one time an OPC pastor, shot an abortionist, his wife, and their bodyguard. The abortionist and the bodyguard both died. Hill had been arguing for years that such action was biblical, and had been excommunicated for making his arguments publicly. In Lone Gunners for Jesus: Letters to Paul J. Hill (1994, 47 pages), written after the shooting, Gary North responded to Hill, explaining how his actions weren't biblical or effective because: Hill was never called to be judge and jury and God doesn't endorse vigilante justice, Hill's acts only moved the public in a pro-choice direction costing more unborn lives, and while we are called to a public witness against the slaughter of the unborn, non-violent resistance - being beaten rather than being the beater - is the better witness. This slim volume is an important book to calm Christian whose love for the unborn is in danger of being misdirected, but it is also a good read for those who, whether in ignorance or a lack of compassion, don't stand up for the unborn at all. Download the e-book for free. – Jon Dykstra APRIL 18 The brilliant economist Thomas Sowell's Wealth, Poverty, and Politics: An International Perspective (2015, 320 pages - a newer and expanded version is available too), is an excellent, well researched, readable book that makes understandable the politics surrounding issues of social justice, poverty and wealth disparity. Sowell (pronounced "soul"), grew up in Harlem, New York in a very poor, black neighborhood and thus is not writing as an elitist out of touch with the reality on the streets. Yet he pushes back against the dominant narratives about race, oppression, social justice, the welfare state, and more in this book, relying on careful research of the empirical data to show that income inequality is determined by the production of wealth, and not the distribution of wealth. Furthermore, he shows just how complex the factors are that bear on wealth production, including geography, demographics, and culture. His use of historic and global examples make the book a fascinating read and he demonstrates just how much the civil government in the modern west is actually exacerbating the problems for disadvantaged groups. I recommend the book for college/university age and up, to anyone interested in politics, social justice themes, and/or economics. – André Schutten APRIL 13 C.S. Lewis’s The Pilgrim’s Regress (1933/2020, 255 pages) is an enjoyable allegory that loosely traces Lewis’ own path to conversion (though he insists in an afterword that it is not autobiographical). It tells the story of John, who is seeking an island he saw and is intensely longing to reach. In trying to reach the island, John has many adventures and runs into people like Mr. Enlightenment (their conversation made me chuckle), Mr. Mammon, Mother Kirk, and others. Most of the allegorical elements are easy enough to pick up on, with the result that Lewis packs an incredible philosophical and theological course into a thoroughly entertaining adventure. Even so, I probably missed some allegorical references. Perhaps I’ll read the annotated version soon? Highly recommended! – André Schutten APRIL 12 I read A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God, (1948/2020, 98 pages) in a single sitting on a Saturday afternoon. What an afternoon! It is short, sweet, and an incredibly powerful call to put aside comfortable Christianity and put God first, to pursue God with every part of you, to know God as He desires to be known. It challenged me and made me squirm at times. Yet, as each chapter ends with a prayer, it called me to lay it all before the throne. While Tozer does not come from a Reformed tradition, there was nothing in this book that caused me any concerns. On the contrary, I felt the book was an excellent wake-up call to the 21st-century, North American church. This book would be great to read aloud as a small group and pray over. – André Schutten APRIL 11 Conn Iggulden is my favorite historical fiction writer. I’ve read three four-book series by him already and am starting a fourth one. The first book of the series is called The Gates of Athens, (2021, 464 pages) and tells of the battle of Marathon (where 10,000 vastly outnumbered Athenian hoplites push off the invasion of Darius’ Persian army) and of the battle of Thermopylae (the famous 300 Spartans who hold the pass against the 300,000 Persians for three days, and the less famous but equally crucial naval battle occurring at the same time). Iggulden also paints a picture of the political dance between Themistocles, Xanthippus, and other statesmen of Athens. This book was a page-turner and difficult to put down. An added benefit is that I refreshed my ancient history lessons. A fun fact not mentioned in the book: it’s very likely that the Persian king Xerxes who led the invasion of Greece and saw the 300 Spartans was the same King who later married the Jewish Queen Esther. If so, on reading this book you will get a better appreciation of just how perilous it was for Queen Esther to approach this king with her requests. – André Schutten APRIL 8 John Taylor Gatto won multiple top teaching awards during his stint as a public teacher. But in Dumbing us Down (1992, 120 pages) he makes his case for blowing the whole system up. The book's small size is what makes him worth hearing, but this was not quite what I was expecting. Gatto features prominently in Indoctrination, a fantastic documentary on public school education, by Reformed filmmaker Colin Gunn. I thought Gatto might be Christian too, and while he identifies as Catholic, this is primarily a secular and libertarian case against institutionalized schooling (the author even seems to have some knowledge of, and dislike for, Calvinism). Public schools are a problem, he argues, for doing just what they were designed to do: create a compliant and dependent citizenry. His solution? More parental direction in their children's education, blowing up the government monopoly on education, and having students do less school overall, to create more room for them to explore their own interests. I appreciated much of what he said, but found this only a good, not a great read. – Jon Dykstra APRIL 4 Though very short (some might call it a mere pamphlet) Of AntiChrist and His Ruin (1692, 2015, 68 pages) by John Bunyan (author of the enduringly popular The Pilgrim's Progress) was a challenging read that took time to understand and digest. Bunyan describes the anti-Christ as being those forces that arise throughout history against Christ and his church and are sometimes found cloaked as Christian or as good government. The language is still in the style of 1692 which was an impediment to my reading speed. More than that, Bunyan's concept of who (or what) is the antiChrist was also challenging to me; I hadn't heard his perspective before. Something that stands out in this piece is the sheer number of scriptural references Bunyan uses throughout to make his argument. A free version of the book is available here in PDF format. – André Schutten APRIL 2 Richard Mouw's Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World, 2nd edition, (2010, 187 pages) is a timely book for a church frayed after a controversial few years, and facing an increasingly hostile culture. As the title suggests, Mouw urges his Christian audience to do all we can to remain civil in all discourse, without giving up our convictions. Mouw pushes me further than I'm comfortable going, and he's probably right in doing so. That said, I do note that I strongly disagree with one anecdote in his book where he describes an abortion for a 15-year-old rape victim as "the least evil alternative" (p.52) contrary to the clear teaching in Scripture that a child should not be put to death for the sins of her father (Deut. 24:16). While Mouw's point here is to emphasize having sympathy for such a horrific and tragic situation (which I absolutely agree with), our sympathy should not be blind to what abortion actually does to its first victim. With that exception, I found the book to be a pleasant read and gave me much to think about in how I dialogue about issues I am passionate about. – André Schutten APRIL 1 Christians regularly forget that Jesus is Lord of every square inch of creation, but in her slim volume, A brief theology of periods (yes, really) (2021, 128 pages) Rachel Jones clearly gets it. She is speaking to women but shares information about periods and menstruation that will be helpful for men, and especially husbands. She touches on hormonal contraceptives and the trend to call women "people who menstruate" but the majority of the book is specifically on God's thoughts on periods, including what it says in Leviticus about a women's "uncleanliness," and how we are to take this passage today. Jones asks lots of good questions, even if she isn't able to answer all of them (Did Eve have periods in the Garden of Eden?), and is an orthodox guide on this seldom discussed area of women's life. – Jon Dykstra MARCH 29 During the presidency of Donald Trump, there was a lot of talk about the dangers of the “Deep State.” We all remember the chants of “Drain the swamp!” and promises of a grand house-cleaning that would soon take place in the U.S. government - a house-cleaning that never seemed to become a reality. Wikipedia refers to the idea that a “Deep State” exists as a “discredited conspiracy theory,” but Michael J. Glennon’s National Security and Double Government (2015, 234 pages) provides plenty of evidence for its existence, and the danger it poses to the American republic. Published in 2015 by Oxford University Press (note: before Trump, and by a reputable academic publisher), his book seeks to answer a question which is indicative of a much broader trend: Why was it that Barack Obama’s foreign policy not only did not differ from that of George W. Bush, his presidential predecessor, but actually doubled down on a number of the policies implemented under Bush’s leadership, including a sixfold increase in the number of covert drone strikes in Pakistan? Beginning with this specific question, Glennon seeks to explain why American national security policy remains constant even when one President was replaced by another, who as a candidate repeatedly, forcefully, and eloquently promised fundamental changes in that policy. His answer follows the approach of 19th Century British essayist Walter Bagehot, who described the British political system in the Victorian era as a “double government.” In the US, this double government is made up of two distinct groups, referred to by Glennon as the Madisonians (public political figures who fill positions in Congress, the Senate, and the Presidency) and the Trumanites (those who work behind the scenes in governmental organizations largely established during the presidency of Harry S Truman). It is the Trumanites who make the vast majority of the decisions when it comes to foreign policy, Glennon argues, and the Madisonians who must follow. Therefore, in the arena of foreign policy, it actually makes very little difference which political party or individual wields the apparent power; it is the hidden half of the double government which is pulling the strings. Glennon’s analysis is clear, well-written, and heavily supported by documentary evidence (the page count is inflated by over 100 pages of notes). His explanation of a phenomenon that many do not understand or cannot explain is eye-opening, as well as cause for deep concern. For anyone interested in learning why the “swamp” remains undrained until this very day, this book is required reading. – Jim Witteveen MARCH 22 I’m sure I’m not the first reviewer to describe Glenn McCarty’s The Misadventured Summer of Tumbleweed Thompson (2019, 327 pages) as Mark Twain-esque. This is a tale of two very different boys, living out frontier life in 1876, and equally matched as both friends and rivals. Tumbleweed Thompson is a shyster and the son of a shyster, blowing into Rattlesnake Junction as father and son peddle miracle medicine from the back of their wagon. Eugene Appleton, a good son of the town’s pastor, is in the audience, watching as the peddlers are shown up and run out. But when Tumbleweed reappears on his ownsome, he pulls Eugene into a whole summer’s worth of getting chased by smugglers, trailing train robbers, and trying to outdo each other for the attentions of the mayor’s daughter, Charlotte Scoggins, a misadventurous lass herself. It’s evident the author is Christian, though that might not be apparent to the 10–14-year-old audience this is intended for because, even as Eugene means well, he doesn’t always act well (and Tumbleweed often enough doesn’t even mean well). That mostly gets sorted out at the end, when both boys do the very best thing, acting in defense of a widow and a man falsely accused. Loads of fun! - Jon Dykstra MARCH 16 Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was the Richard Dawkins of his time – one of the most prominent academic atheists of the twentieth century. Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou's Logicomix: an Epic Search for Truth (2009, 350 pages) is a graphic novel that serves as a biography of the man, as well as an account of his, and others', ultimately futile quest to use mathematics to arrive at certainty. As a child, Russell was raised by his grandparents. He was made to read the Bible, but his grandfather died early on, and his grandmother didn't seem to show him love. Then, when a tutor explained the logic and power of math, he came to reject the religion of his grandmother, seeing in math a way to live life without the need for any faith. In math, he thought, he could have certainty. But math itself is built on axioms - assumptions, that, while logical and even obvious, are unproven. So it became Russell's life's quest to prove these axioms - he wanted to give math a firm foundation. But as an old man he discovered that the quest for certainty that he had given his life to – that he had rejected God for – was unattainable. It was in 1931 that a young mathematician, Kurt Gödel proved, to the satisfaction of other mathematicians, that not everything can be proven. Logicomix is an entirely secular presentation, marred by at least one instance of God's name being taken in vain, and written at a level that would limit it to adults. But you don't need to understand all the math being discussed (I certainly didn't) to appreciate the moral of Russell's life's story: like many a rebel, he claimed his rejection of God was grounded in something valid, but we can see that even as Russell rejected God for requiring faith, he wasn't willing to reject math for the same "fault." – Jon Dykstra MARCH 15 Both my 10-year-old daughter and I enjoyed Jason Lethcoe’s No Place Like Holmes (2011, 210 pages), a steampunk detective story set in the London of the late 1800s. Our hero is Gilbert, an American boy of an unusually observant nature. Gilbert, we are told, will one day become “the world’s most secret detective.” But for now, he has been sent to live with his detective uncle, Rupert Snodgrass, just one story down from “the world’s most famous detective” Sherlock Holmes. Gilbert’s uncle is quite jealous of Holmes’ notoriety, as he too is a detective, though much less successful, and eschewing intuition in favor of detecting machines, which he himself invents. What sort of machines? All sorts: a robot butler, a metal detector, and a question-answerer that is hooked up to telegraphs lines from around the world – it’s basically a steam-powered computer with Internet. It’s wonderfully silly. The story is also wonderfully Christian: Gilbert’s love for his Lord is woven in throughout. So, for example, his uncle is not a church-goer, and quite obnoxious at the start, leaving Gilbert feeling lonely. But he knows he can ask his heavenly Father for courage. While this is a standalone story, it does have a cliffhanger lead-in for the sequel, The Future Door (2011, 210 pages), which I wouldn’t recommend. It’s a time travel adventure that ends on a sour note when an older Gilbert from the future kills the bad guy, and not in self-defense. Older Gilbert says that he used his time travel machine to explore every other option and all of them ended worse. But this is where the author failed to understand that even granting his character a form of omniscience doesn’t justify disobeying God’s clear command “Thou shall not kill.” If the author didn’t understand that, it’s very likely to go over the head of children readers too, which is a reason to give the sequel a miss. – Jon Dykstra MARCH 14 I read Wilson Rawls' novel Where the Red Fern Grows (1961/2016, 289 pages) to my eight-year-old son over the course of three weeks, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. It tells the story of a very poor boy who is determined to get a pair of coon-hunting hounds, how he achieves his goal, and the adventures he has with his dogs. While I did employ some careful censorship of the gorier details of coon hunting (for the sake of my son's maturity level), I nevertheless highly recommend the book, especially for dads to read to their eight to twelve-year-old boys. It is helpful for teaching the ethic of hard work and persistence, and the lesson that life isn’t always about happy endings, and yet being thankful for the wonderful things we have for the seasons God gives them to us. I found the references to God, Scripture, and prayer always respectful even if the theology is slightly off. Warning: If you're the emotional type, you might start crying through the second-last chapter. I had to pause a couple times to wipe away tears and swallow a persistent lump in my throat. That too, is a teaching moment. – André Schutten MARCH 9 I picked this novel up mostly because it shared a title with a non-fiction book André Schutten read earlier this year. It helped, also, that I’d read another by the author and loved it. Rule of Law (2017, 473 pages) is a legal thriller, and this time the action also includes a SEAL team storming an Arabic jail to free an imprisoned American journalist. When that mission takes a tragic turn, the fallout ends up in front of the Supreme Court. Author Randy Singer uses his fictional story to examine the real-world way in which the US government, and particularly the executive branch, has been acting as judge, jury, and executioner in placing foreign nationals on a “kill list,” and then taking them out, and those near them, via drone strikes. Singer doesn’t seem to be arguing against all drone strikes. But the title he has chosen certainly references the idea that we all need and benefit from accountability, so we all – including even the president – need to be under the law. Our leaders must not act like they are above it, as dictators do. This is well written, with a great balance of action, some romance, unexpected courtroom twists, and some realistic, subtly woven in, wrestlings with God. Singer is rapidly becoming a favorite author. – Jon Dykstra MARCH 3 When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World (1956, 249 pages) is the story of Dorothy Martin and her small group of followers, and how their lives were impacted when her apocalyptic prophecy failed to come true. Martin believed that she had received messages from aliens revealing that a devastating natural disaster would destroy much of the world on December 21st, 1954. Through the process of automatic writing, in which the writer serves as a conduit for messengers from “beyond,” Martin had been informed that she and her group of true believers would be rescued from the cataclysm by spaceships which would deliver them to safety on another planet. Leon Festinger, Henry W. Riecken, and Stanley Schachter, the authors of When Prophecy Fails, had been studying the historical results of failed prophecy when they read a newspaper story about Martin and her followers. Recognizing this as an opportunity to test their theories personally in a real-life situation, they inserted themselves into the group of “Seekers,” and chronicled events immediately leading up to December 21st as well as the disappointing aftermath of the failed prophecy. This is a very sad story from beginning to end, and the authors’ account often reads like a tragic novel and not as a sociological study. Martin herself believed fervently that she had been chosen to serve as a messenger of truth, and her followers were looking for hope and purpose in their lives. They were willing to grab hold of anything, no matter how ludicrous and self-contradictory, because they desperately wanted to believe. And when the forecast disaster failed to happen, the true believers didn’t abandon their trust in Martin and her message; instead, they searched for explanations that fit into their already-developed worldview, explained the failure away, and continued along the same path. In a world in which forecasts of impending doom, both scientific and religious, are commonplace, When Prophecy Fails helps us to understand why failed prophecies often lead to beliefs being held more strongly rather than abandoned completely. – Jim Witteveen One of the most accomplished judges in English history, Lord Tom Bingham, wrote this short but helpful book The Rule of Law (2010/2011, 213 pages). Lord Bingham explains that the book "is not addressed to lawyers… It is addressed to those who have heard references to the rule of law, who are inclined to think that it sounds like a good thing rather than a bad thing, who wonder if it may not be rather important, but who are not quite sure what it is all about and would like to make up their minds." The book opens with some interesting legal history, outlines eight aspects of the rule of law (the chapter on human rights is particularly good), before closing with some modern application to the war on terror. Some post-COVID readers may be happy to apply the warnings of this book to violations of the rule of law over the last two years but may also be appropriately challenged to rethink their position on certain government actions during the “war on terror.” An accessible read, I highly recommend this book for all lawyers, politicians, government workers, and any citizen who has used the term "rule of law" recently but is not 100% sure they know what the term really means. – André Schutten MARCH 2 Richard Pollak's The Creation of Dr. B: A Biography of Bruno Bettelheim (1997, 456 pages) is the story of a man with an invented past and fictional credentials, who wrote fabricated stories about the amazing successes of the Chicago school for mentally ill children that he took over in 1944. Along the way, he published several popular books on parenting and other subjects, worked as a university professor and magazine columnist, and influenced a generation of parents in his role as “public intellectual.” This book is a well-written and fascinating account of one man’s life, and makes for captivating reading on that basis alone. But on a deeper level, the story of “Dr. B.” reveals a great deal about how one person can fool even the “best and brightest” when he tells them what they want to hear. Bruno Bettelheim was not the only intellectual fraud who was active in 20th Century academia, so the example of his life and work, and the way in which he managed to become an important figure in the academic world, functions as a cautionary tale. Even among the “experts” of the world, things are not always as they seem. – Jim Witteveen FEBRUARY 22 I’ve recently been reading a few children’s versions of Pilgrim’s Progress. I’m not normally one for abridgments, but John Bunyan’s classic is also almost 350 years old, so the original wasn’t going to work with my daughters. I checked out the three most popular children’s editions and was pleasantly surprised with them all. The most loyal to the original was Dangerous Journey (1985, 127 pages). Editor Oliver Hunkin has carefully abridged, rather than rewritten Bunyan’s story, and done so in a way that makes it easily understandable for the teen audience it is aimed at. He’s edited out the obscure terms, and paired it with pictures that do a lot of explaining, but which are scarier and darker than my preteen listeners would have been up for. Hunkin also includes a much-abridged 16-page version of Bunyan’s sequel, about the pilgrim’s wife Christiana going on her own journey. For younger children, the most authentic version is Tyler Van Halteren’s Little Pilgrim’s Big Journey (2020, 223 pages). It has somewhat cartoonish pictures they’ll enjoy, and the principal character, Christian, is now a boy, rather than a man. I appreciated that Van Halteren’s rewrite still contains most of Bunyan’s theological challenges and lessons, though on a kid’s level. He’s also written a second book, Part II, that covers Christiana’s journey, though now instead of being the pilgrim’s wife, she is his little sister. The one I read to my children is Helen L. Taylor’s adaptation, Little Pilgrim’s Progress (1946, 336 pages). This text was the most readable of the three (Halteren’s version is very close) and also includes Christiania’s journey, though she is now Christian’s friend. A little of the theological heft was lost, but I think that’s okay, so long as kids understand that they should really check out the original when they’re older. There are many versions of Taylor’s adaptation, some with lavish pictures and others with only simple line drawings. – Jon Dykstra FEBRUARY 21 If the news has you feeling antsy, then you might be interested in a book that calmed and encouraged me. To celebrate 50 years of Canadian Reformed involvement in the mission work in Brazil, editor Harold Ludwig and the Aldergrove Brazil Mission Society, have given us God Gave the Growth (2021, 144 pages). Dozens of contributors, including past and present missionaries and all sorts of workers, take turns sharing how God greatly blessed their work. There are challenges – a different language and culture creates barriers that have to be overcome – but maybe the greatest challenge is one we pray we could experience in Canada too: such a hunger for the Reformed truth that there are more opportunities to preach and teach than can be met. As one missionary shares: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:37-38). I really loved that there were so many contributors, as they gave very different glimpses at what God has been up to. This, then, is a book that’ll give you a boost – our God reigns and He is busy! Purchase the sturdy oversized hardcover for $30 CAN plus shipping at MissionBoardBrazil.org. – Jon Dykstra FEBRUARY 18 Christians are right to be skeptical of an environmental movement that sees Man as a problem for the planet, rather than the steward of it. But, as Gordon Wilson explains in his A Different Shade of Green (2019, 189 pages), Christians can’t simply be contrarians – we won’t arrive at the biblical position simply by being reactionary and anti-Green. Instead, our foundation has to be God’s Word, starting with the dominion mandate in Genesis 1:28, and then God’s own evaluation of His creation as is expressed a few verses later: “and it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). We are to value His Creation and the creatures in it because He values it, and we are to take charge of its care because He has made us responsible for it. What Dr. Wilson has gifted us with here is a challenging and engaging Biblical Environmentalism 101 – he hasn't worked it all out for us, but he is pointing us in the right direction. For more of Wilson's creation care thoughts, be sure to check out his nature documentary series, The Riot and The Dance. – Jon Dykstra FEBRUARY 17 There are lots of layers in Randy Singer’s courtroom drama Directed Verdict (2002, 486 pages). When the Saudi religious police uncover a secret church, Charles, the American pastor, is tortured and killed, and his wife Sarah is beaten and deported on trumped-up drug charges. From there the action takes place both in an American court where lawyer Brad Carson helps Sarah bring suit against her torturer, and in Saudi Arabia, where the small church struggles to continue, their members fearful and shaken. The large law firm defending the torturer is willing to cheat, so what might their murderous client be willing to do? Sarah Reed’s team is growing to admire her courage but none of them share her Christian scruples, so what might they be willing to do behind her back to help her get justice? This was a quick read, and sure has me interested in what else Singer has written. – Jon Dykstra FEBRUARY 16 Written as a critique of Leo Tolstoy's pacifist ideology, Ivan Alexandrovich Ilyin's On Resistance to Evil by Force (1925, 216 pages) provides a passionate and often insightful defense of the legitimacy of physical opposition to evil. Ilyin writes from a distinctly Russian Orthodox perspective which informs his conclusions (and leads to some of its shortcomings). From this perspective, he critiques not only the pacifism of Tolstoy and the ethics of the Roman Catholic Jesuits, but also what he calls "the most naive and elementary attempts to give the sword an absolute justification" of Martin Luther. While Luther wrote that the legitimate use of "the sword" in service to secular governments is a work done on behalf of God Himself, and that it, therefore, is absolutely righteous, Ilyin argues that the use of force in countering evil is actually an unrighteous act, but an act that must be performed by righteous men. We need, he writes, both the warrior and the monk - the warrior to do the necessary work of combating evil, and the monk to do the work of absolving the warrior of that evil. This is where Ilyin's argument goes off the rails, and does not align with Scriptural teaching. However, along the way, Ilyin argues powerfully and logically against Christian pacifism and quietism as ideologies which run counter to Biblical teaching. He makes a cogent case for the necessity of standing up against evil in this world, to the point of physical resistance, on the basis of love for God, for our neighbor, and for righteousness itself. This book was written in Russian in 1925, and is neither an easy read nor a book which I would endorse without reservation. That being said, Ilyin's overarching message is very relevant for our current situation, and provides much food for thought as we consider how and why Christians should actively combat evil in this world. – Jim Witteveen FEBRUARY 15 According to its afterword, “few books have been so widely debated, quoted, excerpted, and also used for teacher education, graduate and undergraduate courses, and in some high schools” as Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970, 219 pages). There is no denying the influence that Paulo Freire’s educational philosophy has had, not just in his native Brazil, but around the world. And as I read this book, Freire’s best-known work, my only conclusion is that this influence has been resoundingly negative. Replete with citations of such luminaries as Lenin, Mao, Che Guevara, and Fidel Castro, Pedagogy of the Oppressed proudly proclaims its Marxist basis, building a system of education on a very flimsy foundation indeed. I have little good to say about this book, although I believe that Freire’s characterization of government educational systems as tools of the elite used to control and form society according to its desires is entirely accurate. His “solutions,” however, are disastrous - as the results have continued to show. While I wouldn’t recommend this book as a handbook of pedagogy, I do recommend it particularly for anyone involved in education who would like to learn more about why public and higher education has become what it is today. – Jim Witteveen FEBRUARY 9 Anne Hendershott is a rare bird - a sociologist who believes that the concept of "deviance" must be reaffirmed in order to avoid a complete societal collapse. The classification of some behaviors as "deviant" was once understood by sociologists as the means by which societies defined what is right and good, maintaining good order and harmony by stigmatizing deviant behavior. Since the 1960s, the sociological study of deviance has become a historical study only, as sociologists question why "deviance" was ever an important concept in the first place. This doesn't mean that there is no longer any such thing as behavior that is considered "deviant." But it does mean that what is now considered deviant behavior is often the exact opposite of what previous generations believed. In The Politics of Deviance (2002, 194 pages), Hendershott examines the subject of deviance by discussing the issues of pedophilia, sexual orientation, sexual promiscuity, drug abuse, mental illness, and rape. Throughout, she demonstrates how the academic and media elite have "shaped discussion and dramatically influenced public perceptions." What is needed, Hendershoot argues, is a return to the traditional categories of deviance. And this, she says, requires a moral awakening, and not merely a change of laws. Her concluding words are worth quoting: "A society that continues to redefine deviance as disease, or refuses to acknowledge and negatively sanction the deviant acts our common sense tells us are destructive, is a society that has lost the capacity to confront evil that has a capacity to dehumanize us all." While this book is now twenty years old and therefore somewhat dated, the trends that Hendershott examined in 2002 have only continued, and indeed worsened. This study remains relevant as our society continues to overturn traditional categories of deviance, and as deviance is redefined as a result of emotional appeals of advocacy groups, public intellectuals, and in the halls of academia. – Jim Witteveen Beloved philosopher Peter Kreeft’s Beyond Heaven and Hell (1982, 115 pages) is a short book patterned after a Socratic dialogue. (Kreeft has written a few of these entertaining and illuminating dialogues, a particular favorite of mine being The Unaborted Socrates). In Beyond Heaven & Hell, Kreeft imagines a conversation between President J.F. Kennedy, writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley, and professor and Christian theologian C.S. Lewis, in some space immediately after their death (all three died on the same day, November 22, 1963). C.S. Lewis takes on the modern humanist in Kennedy and the Eastern pantheist in Huxley while discussing and debating the existence of hell, the place of authority, and Scripture as trustworthy, the reality of Jesus Christ and his divinity, and more. I highly recommend the book. It can be read in a single sitting on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday evening. It might be fun to read it aloud with two others, each taking a voice of the three characters. – André Schutten FEBRUARY 8 Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932) and Brave New World Revisited (1958) (combined edition, 2005, 340 pages) are modern classics. The former is a dystopian novel, predicting future tyranny not through violence, pain, and terror but through pleasure and technological and medical planning and psychological conditioning. The latter is a nonfiction piece in which Huxley compares modern human relations in 1958 with what he prophesied in 1932. While Huxley was not a Christian (he blended certain Christian ideas with Eastern mysticism and pantheism), some of his criticisms – though certainly not all – are spot on. Huxley's prophesy of control through pleasure – evaluated in the 21st century – is more accurate than his student George Orwell's prophesy of societal control through pain and terror in Nineteen Eighty-Four (published in 1949). The ethical/political issues surrounding IVF and surrogacy, the redefinition of the family to include up to four parents, none of whom need to be biologically related to the child (see Ontario's All Families Are Equal Act, 2016), the ubiquitous nature of pornography, the dramatic shift of divorcing procreation from sex, the state-control of vast swaths of the education system, and society's desire to prefer safety and comfort over freedom and responsibility, all suggest that Huxley was the more prescient philosopher. The book is unsettling to read but I nonetheless recommend it, not only to better understand the many cultural references to it, but also to prick your imagination to better critique the state of our society today. – André Schutten FEBRUARY 7 If you have ever struggled with concentration when needing to focus on a challenging project (writing an article or sermon, reading and understanding an intellectual problem, studying for an exam, preparing arguments for court, etc.) then Cal Newport’s Deep Work (2016, 296 pages) is a must-read. This was the second time I’d read this book in less than two years. It confirms with scientific and anecdotal evidence what I’ve grown to know for myself over the last 10 years: a person needs to have lots of dedicated, focussed time in order to do deep work. Newport defines deep work as: “work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from distraction” and argues it is essential to develop two core abilities: 1. the ability to quickly master hard things/ideas; and 2. the ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed. Without systems and strategies in place, deep work becomes nearly impossible, making productivity, innovation and output stagnate. This book provides those strategies. I highly recommend Deep Work to any ministers, lawyers, academics, writers, and researchers who want to improve their focus and output with the caveat that this book is not written from a Christian perspective. Implement the strategies, without losing gospel focus in your life. (I hope to read What's Best Next later this year, which is also a book about productivity, but from a Christian perspective.) – André Schutten FEBRUARY 2 There are miracles all around us, but the rising sun, our pumping hearts, and babies’ wriggling toes do their things with such regularity as to seem ordinary. Not so the miracles in God’s Smuggler (1967, 288 pages). Here “Brother Andrew” (1928- ) relates one extraordinary answer to prayer after another, whether it be a needed cake delivered at the last moment by an off-duty postman, or the instant healing of Andrew’s crippled ankle. Then, in his work smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain, this Dutchman came to rely on the extraordinary becoming regular. Border crossings into Communist countries were always tense, but each time Brother Andrew would ask God to “make seeing eyes blind” and God would do so. The same border guards who had just taken apart the car in front of them would simply wave them through or, if they did inspect their cargo, the guards would completely miss the Bibles crammed in everywhere. It was through these regular miracles that God used Andrew and his coworkers to deliver His Word to millions in the persecuted Church. I told my children we shouldn’t understand the many miracles Andrew experienced as evidence that he was always acting wisely and praying as he should (he acknowledges God honored some of his requests despite how he prayed). We can take it as evidence of God’s great love for his persecuted Church! – Jon Dykstra FEBRUARY 1 Lawyer and theologian John Warwick Montgomery's Human Rights & Human Dignity (1986, 319 pages) is a great introduction to the Christian foundation of modern human rights. While I would differ with Montgomery on some theological points (he's Lutheran and, at times, criticizes Calvinist thought), his book sets out a devastating critique of modern justifications for universal human rights, exposing how flimsy a foundation they have, and then proposing a transcendental foundation for universal human rights, rooting them in the doctrines of creation and redemption. I recommend the book to anyone interested in a relatively accessible, university-level Christian introduction to the topic of human rights, with the caveat that the book is a bit dated. – André Schutten One of the best-known psychological experiments in history was that of Stanley Milgram, professor of psychology at Yale University. In a series of experiments, Milgram tested hundreds of unwitting subjects for their willingness to administer electric shocks to a "victim" who answered a series of quiz questions incorrectly. Participants were told that they were participating in a study of the efficacy of punishment for learning, but the real goal of the experiment was to study how obedient people would be to authority, even when told to do things that went against their conscience. Milgram discovered that obedience to authority is deeply ingrained, and that the majority of participants would obey even when they believed they were seriously hurting someone. Obedience to Authority (1974, 253 pages) is the fruit of Milgram's research. Much of it is taken up by an explanation of the various forms that the experiments took, but it is the individual case studies that are particularly interesting and insightful. One participant was a member of a Dutch Reformed Church, and had lived through the Nazi occupation of Holland; at one point in the experiment he refused to continue when he believed that the "subject" was being hurt. Another was an Old Testament professor who also refused to obey the authority figure. When asked what he thought the most effective way of strengthening resistance to inhumane authority, he responded: "If one had as one's ultimate authority God, then it trivializes human authority." Milgram writes from an evolutionist perspective, and I would have loved to have seen more of a focus on the role that people's faith and religious presuppositions play in their obedience to authority. That being said, I recommend this book to anyone interested in deepening their understanding about obedience to authority from a psychological and sociological perspective. – Jim Witteveen JANUARY 27 Though it'd be best absorbed in the month-and-a-half that the title prescribes, I read Todd Nettleton's When Faith is Forbidden: 40 Days on the frontlines with persecuted Christians (2021, 272 pages) in just two days. It was simply too wonderful to put down. Each of the 40 chapters is a story of a Christian who shared God's good news with those around them, come what may. They shared it because they knew that the relatives trying to silence them, the mob trying to intimidate them, or even the policemen coming to arrest them, all needed what God had already given to them. So this is a story of Christians far braver than we, but more importantly, it is the story of the good God who sustained them. In a few instances He did so by way of big miracles: Muslims with no access to the Bible are reached in their dreams, a man shot twice in the chest survives because the bullets did no major damage, police tossing a house find a lost sewing needle but miss the three large boxes of Bibles in the middle of the room. In others, the miracles were maybe less spectacular, but exactly what was needed: a man who used to beat Christians is so won over he is now willing to suffer those beatings rather than stay quiet about his Lord, a woman whose husband was murdered is able to forgive the murderers, a drug addict who turns to God is instantly freed from his addiction. This is an incredible book, and much needed here in the West where we are terrified of speaking God's good news because of what it might cost us in status, or promotions, or friendships. These persecuted Christians want us to understand that for God's people, persecution is to be expected (John 15:18-21) but it need not be feared because our God is greater than the world and what we might have to suffer is nothing compared to what we have gained in Him. – Jon Dykstra JANUARY 26 Is the Christian vs. evolutionist/naturalist/materialist debate about explaining why there is something, rather than nothing? No, says John Byl, in his brilliant apologetic work The Divine Challenge: On Matter, Mind, Math & Meaning (2021, 421 pages). The real question is "Who will rule: God or Man?" and in the world's attempts to usurp God, they've crafted many a worldview to try to explain things apart from Him. Dr. Byl shares the world's best godless explanations and shows, often in the proponents' own words, how their attempts are self-contradictory or simply fail to explain what they set out to explain. Naturalism says there is nothing outside of nature, and materialism that there is nothing outside matter, so how can either explain how matter came to be, or the non-material world of math and meaning? Byl also makes evident how very often these godless philosophers understand the emptiness of their best answers, and yet cling to them anyway only because they hate the alternative: bowing their knee to God. This is a book that will stretch most readers, and in some parts (Chapter 14 was a doozy!) I only got the gist of it...but what an encouraging gist it was. While the 2004 paperback edition is still available, Dr. Byl has made the 2021 revision a free ebook you can download on his blog here. – Jon Dykstra JANUARY 24 Historian-turned-lawyer-turned-fiction-writer C.J. Sansom has written an engaging historical fiction novel (my favorite genre) in Dissolution (2003, 390 pages). Set during the initial years of the English Reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries there, the story follows a hunchbacked lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, who is sent to investigate a murder in a monastery at the behest of Thomas Cromwell (the vicar general of King Henry VIII). The book is part Agatha Christie mystery, part John Grisham drama, combined with the very careful research of the best historical fiction writers. The value of the book for a Christian reader (beyond just enjoying some good fiction) is to show the messiness of the early Reformation in England. Sansom puts away any romantic ideas Reformed people might have about that era. While a corrupt church hierarchy was displaced, it was done through the brutal and corrupt tactics of a tyrant with some early English Reformers playing along. I recommend the book for mystery lovers and historical fiction fans interested in learning a bit more about the early Reformation era with the caveat that the story contains mature subject matter: murder, torture, and adultery (though thankfully not graphically described). – André Schutten My personal library is rather roughly organized according to topic, and one of the categories that I use to sort my collection is "Know Your Enemy." The books included under this heading are ones that I wouldn't recommend because I agree with their content, but rather because it's important to know first-hand what it is that we're up against. Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals (1971, 196 pages) is one such book - a highly influential work that provides an insider's view of tactics that have become ubiquitous in the world of politics, and what motivates those who use them. If you've ever wondered why the political arena is so often characterized by dishonesty and pragmatism instead of by high ideals and straightforward honesty, you need look no further than Rules for Radicals, the playbook for a generation of "community organizers," activists, and politicians. Alinsky's dedication of this book to "the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom - Lucifer" reveals his starting point, and from there, as you can well imagine, it goes nowhere good. So I recommend this book, not because I agree with it or find its arguments compelling, but rather because we need to be aware of the tactics that are being used against us. For more, check out my Dan 11:32 podcast here on Alinsky's book. – Jim Witteveen 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...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Theology

American Gospel: Christ Crucified

Documentary 2019 / 176 minutes Rating: 9/10 In the early 1600’s, our forefathers assembled at Dordrecht to clearly correct the errors of the Remonstrants, publishing the Canons of Dort in a confession that has proved of great value to the Lord’s people ever since. Today Satan still loves to mislead and harass the Church so can we correct current errors effectively through our more modern means of podcasts, websites, and films? Transition Studios is trying to do so by producing a series of documentaries. American Gospel: Christ Crucified is their second installment, and focuses on postmodern and progressive theologians and teachers who have led millions astray. This three-hour episode features long interviews with Bart Campolo (son of evangelist Tony Campolo), and Tony Jones (author of A Better Atonement), and briefer quotes from The Shack author William Paul Young and Todd White, among others. These men all use human logic to attack doctrines they find troubling, such as the atoning work of Christ. Campolo in particular lashes out at the idea of a wrathful God whose justice requires the punishment of sin: “I'm not interested in serving a God like that. That's not a God worthy of my worship. I'm just not interested." Another traditional view that these teachers believe needs to be changed is that homosexuality is a sin. Speaking of gay marriage, Tony Jones states that “the Bible's wrong about this one. The message of the church has evolved." Even the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is cast into doubt as the false teachers go further and further astray from the Gospel. To combat these progressive teachers and their errors, producer Brandon Kimber interviews an impressive assemblage of teachers and ministers from the Reformed and Presbyterian traditions, including Voddie Baucham, Alistair Begg, Kevin DeYoung, Michael Horton, John MacArthur, and John Piper, as well as other teachers from the broader Christian community. These theologians lean on the Bible, patiently explaining what could be complex doctrine using simple terms. Time after time, they quote God’s Word to correct the logic of men railing against clear and simple teaching. Ultimately, these false teachers do not want to believe what the Bible clearly teaches. Bart Campolo in the end reveals that he is now an atheist: he just could not believe that the God of the Bible is real. What starts as a questioning of some parts of God’s Word, and an attempt to harmonize with modern views and human logic, inevitably leads to doubt about all of Scripture. The question remains: what is the most effective way to combat heresy? Can movies and podcasts proclaiming truth be as effective as written creeds and confessions? Alistair Begg wisely summarizes one possible answer: “The Bible is so helpful to us.  If we would just read it!” In the 21st century, all of us have access to the Word of God right at our fingertips at all times. We would do well to lean on it for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. In addition to the Bible, we in the Reformed churches have our precious confessions that have dealt with almost all of these issues before! We can easily recognize the lie when we are confident of and familiar with the truth. I consider this film another encouragement for Christians to read our Bibles regularly, and to not neglect the great gift we have been given in our trustworthy confessions. American Gospel: Christ Crucified is available on various streaming services, and directly from Transition Studios at AmericanGospel.com. where you can also download a free 100+ pages study guide. You can watch a 17-minute clip from the film below. Highly recommended! ...

News

Saturday Selections – June 4, 2022

The Left rediscovers biology (3 min) At the risk of ruining the joke, this video is deeper than its creator knows. When we reject God's standard - not only for gender but anything else – we're left not simply with another standard, but ultimately with no standard at all. That's because whatever else is proposed won't have a foundation, and pushed to its logical end, it will topple. And, as in this video, when a real reliable standard is sought, the seekers will then find themselves nearing the standard God has put in place all along. A peculiar disapproval of gay pride (10-minute read) There is a specific way that Christians are called to disapprove of homosexuality, based not simply on distaste, but on the truth of God's Word. As John Piper writes: "Christians do not base what we ought to do on what we feel like doing — or not doing. Desires can be deceitful. Rather, we are to “understand what the will of the Lord is.” God’s truth, not our desire, points the way to freedom: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Some non-Christians may argue that the desire for sodomy is enough to make it good. But by that same principle, the feeling of revulsion toward sodomy is also good. If it feels good, it’s okay. Therefore, sodomy is okay, and revulsion at sodomy is okay. A Christian does not think this way." So many beetles, so little time? How do we account for 350,000 species of beetles if Noah's flood was only 4,500 years ago? 44 ways to keep your kids off of screens Some of these are fantastic. Others...less so. In our house, we play "hallway hockey" with a lightweight ball. Absentee fathers, not guns, are the problem  "School shootings in America have dramatically increased over the last few decades. Gun ownership, however, hasn’t." The Church's role in "fixing" Capitalism The economic system most compatible with Christianity is easily corrupted without Christianity. 50 ways to score a half-court shot Some inspiration for your kids, for working on their shot! ...

Human Rights, Parenting, Politics

How mom and dad can fight Big Brother

Governments in BC, Alberta and elsewhere have shown they want to use government schools to teach children that their gender is something they can choose. But gender isn’t a choice, and to teach impressionable children otherwise is to mislead them. Still, despite many parental objections, governments continue to move forward with these plans. It's important we understand, then, that this isn’t the first time a government has tried to override parental rights in education. Politicians and bureaucrats in various jurisdictions seem to be regularly devising new ways to thwart the freedom of parents to direct the education of their children. These government have the backing of intellectuals who produce academic materials arguing that parental rights in education need to be severely curtailed or even abolished. These intellectuals aim to persuade lawyers and judges that parental rights are unnecessary and no longer need to be recognized in law. Thankfully, not all intellectuals think that way. In recent years, a law professor named Stephen Gilles at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut has written a number of scholarly articles defending parental rights in education over against statist arguments. “Statist” here refers to the belief in the supremacy of the government – the State – over individual and family freedom. Arguments and counter arguments One of Professor Gilles’ most famous scholarly articles is entitled “Hey, Christians, Leave Your Kids Alone!” which was published in the Spring 1999 issue of Constitutional Commentary, an American law journal. In it he took on the Statist arguments of another law professor, James Dwyer, that Dwyer proposed in his Religious Schools v. Children's Rights. ATTACK #1: Parents harm their children What Dwyer argued was that religious education is harmful and damaging to children and therefore the government needs to protect children from the harm their parents will impose on them through a religious education. In short, Dwyer sees parental rights as an obstacle that must be eliminated to ensure the wellbeing of children. This differs only in degree, but not in kind, with what provincial governments have sought to do via their school systems. In BC the school curriculum was rewritten to promote homosexuality and parents were limited as to whether they could opt their children out of these classes. In Alberta and Manitoba the government wants to use the schools to promote transgenderism, over against our objections. And in Quebec the government wants schools to teach the equal validity of many religions, which is the very opposite of what we as parents want to teach our children. Our secular governments thinks they knows best. ANSWER: No, Parents know their children best But if our governments think like Dwyer, we have a friend in Professor Gilles. He completely rejects Dwyer’s statist perspective and demonstrates that following Dwyer’s proposals would, in fact, be positively harmful to children. Why? Because parents have a much better grasp of what their children need than government officials, so transferring decision-making power to those government officials would undermine the children’s well-being. ATTACK #2: Government knows best Dwyer’s statist thinking gives us a glimpse of where our government may be heading in the future. Dwyer provides a theoretical foundation for the use of government coercion against conservative Christians, an idea that is popular among some left-wing intellectuals. As Gilles explains, …many law professors see religious traditionalists – especially Christian Fundamentalists – as extremists whose beliefs and practices are irrational, without value, and positively dangerous to themselves and others. The dispositions these opinions induce are not limited to preventing religious traditionalists from gaining government power; they also include using government power to counter and undermine religious traditionalism as a movement. ANSWER: Parents know best In contrast Gilles wants to promote what he calls “parentalism,” which maximizes parental rights. This view has not just the Bible but history behind it. In the past, in the Anglo-American countries (of which Canada is one), it has always been assumed that parents act in the best interests of their children. Gilles calls this the “parentalist presumption” which he summarizes as follows: the state may not override a parental decision unless it overcomes the presumption and demonstrates that the parents' choice is in fact harmful to the child. ATTACK #3: Some parents are lousy Naturally, then, the next question is to determine what constitutes “harm” such that the parentalist presumption can be overcome. Gilles answers this way: If parents starve or brutalize their child, or prevent the child from acquiring foundational skills such as reading, writing, and calculating, there is consensus that they are doing harm, and state intervention is entirely appropriate. From time to time there are instances where the government may legitimately need to take action to protect children. While God calls on parents to care for their children, He also gives the State the power to administer justice, so when parents neglect their children the State does have the jurisdiction to step in. Most people would agree that children who are being starved, or tortured, or deliberately prevented from acquiring literacy and numeracy skills by their parents would need help. However, outside of these extremely rare occurrences families should be left alone by the government. ANSWER: The government always makes a lousy parent Now, parents are imperfect. We all fail to one degree or another. That leaves an opening for opponents of parental rights to point to these instances of parental failure and use them to justify increased government control over children. But Gilles points out that this line of reasoning is faulty: The relevant question is not whether robust parental rights are perfect when measured by the yardstick of children's best interests, but whether they are superior to alternative regimes that give the state more control over children's upbringing. To this question, the longstanding answer of our legal tradition has been that state authority over childrearing is more to be feared than comparable authority in the hands of parents. Parents make mistakes…but they are far better than a “government as parent” alternative. Of course, that’s the very point that Dwyer, and others of his ilk, will dispute. He argues that the government is much better suited to determine what is best for children. Therefore the government, rather than parents, should have ultimate control over education. So what answer does Gilles give? The flaw in this approach is its blithe assumption that state agencies, and above all courts, will expertly and disinterestedly pursue the best interests of children. A moment's reflection will show that courts are neither as well-placed as parents to discern the child's best interests nor as interested in ensuring that the child's welfare is in fact advanced. Unlike parents, judges will never have the time or the day-to-day contact necessary to acquire an intimate understanding of the procession of children who would come before them. Nor will they have to live with the many-faceted ramifications of their childrearing decisions. God has crafted a wonderful way to raise children that the government simply won’t be able to improve on. Parents have much more at stake in the well-being of their children than any employee of the government. Parents know their children much better and will have to endure the consequences of any bad decisions they make. In other words, the incentive for parents to watch out for the best interests of their children is infinitely higher than any social worker, teacher, or judge. That’s why it is absurd to suggest that these public employees are better at determining the best interests of the children. Nevertheless, theorists like Dwyer write as though teachers and judges are best suited to determine what’s good for children. Really? Gilles will have none of it: I find it naive to describe the run of state employees in such idealistic terms, let alone to believe that they will more often be better judges of a child's best interests than that child's parents. State agency personnel may spend years thinking about what is best for children – but parents spend decades doing what they think is best for their own children, and living with the consequences. Parents are far more likely to get it right, even if they have fewer course-credits in child development or education theory. Because children are young and immature, they need to be under the authority of adults. People like Dwyer who claim to be promoting children’s rights are not suggesting that the children be allowed to determine their own best interests. They just want the determination of best interest to be done by government employees rather than parents. Gilles notes that this is an issue of who has authority in the lives of children: Thus, the question is not whether our childrearing regime will entail other-determining governance of children by adults; it is which adults will enjoy the freedom to engage in this other-determining behavior. That’s how we need to present the issue: which adult will do the job best. When the government treads on parental toes we need to ask, “Are you trying to say that you think a government employee working 9-5 is a better parent for my child than me?” ATTACK #4: We should have a broad understanding of harm Historically, Anglo-American nations have recognized parental rights, with the only limits on these rights involving the rare instances where parents harm the children. So if the State can only act when a child is being harmed, we can predict what statists will do – they’ll want to greatly expand what we view as harm. So, for example, Dwyer hates conservative Christianity and what it stands for. Thus he argues that teaching children certain Christian doctrines is harmful. What are these harmful doctrines? Dwyer believes that teaching children that sex is only for married couples harms those children because it restricts their freedom. He also believes teaching girls that women have different roles than men is harmful. So he wants the government to prevent parents from teaching conservative Christian tenets to their children…to protect the children from “harm.” ANSWER: Labeling anything the government disagrees with as harmful is arbitrary As Christians we need to highlight the sheer arbitrariness of Dwyer’s definition of harm. We need to highlight that he is simply defining as harmful that with which he disagrees. In fact, Dwyer’s proposal has clear totalitarian implications, as Gilles points out: If the government can forbid parents and teachers to communicate any message it decides (based on value-laden and highly debatable criteria) is “harmful to children,” then the government can control the transmission of ideas to future generations. Conclusion Prof. Gilles has shown us what to watch out for, and how to present well-reasoned argumentation for defending parental rights in education. Since parents have such powerful incentives to promote their children’s best interests, it is clear that they should have virtually unhindered authority over their children. Government employees and institutions never have as much at stake in the well-being of children as the children’s parents. A tiny number of parents occasionally abusing their authority do not undermine this fact. To think that government employees will make better decisions about children than parents is naïve at best. And to use an anti-Christian ideological concept of harm to determine what children should be taught, clearly leads to a totalitarian government. Parentalism, as Prof. Gilles calls it, is much more reasonable and consistent with freedom than the statist perspective of the left-wing intellectuals. A version of this article was first published in the March 2016 issue under the title "Government knows best? Stephen Gills shows us how to defend parental rights"...

Internet, RP App

20 Scriptures to guide our online speech

May God give us the humility to recognize how our online speech may be out of step with his calling on our lives ***** Scripture has a lot to say about how we wield our speech, and those passages are all the more important now that technological advances have greatly multiplied our ways and means of speech. So no, there is no proverb specifically about how to tweet, and we aren’t usually dictating our Facebook posts with our voice, but what we post on these social media platforms does fall under the umbrella of Scripture’s guidance on speech as much as words we literally utter with our mouths. Below are 20 passages of Scripture to guide our online speech. Let’s consider them as we engage with other image-bearers online: Is it true?  The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy. - Proverbs 12:22 Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. - Psalm 34:13 Do you need to say it? Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. - Ephesians 4:29 Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin. - Proverbs 13:3 Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues. - Proverbs 10:19 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. - Matthew 12:36 Is it helpful? Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. - Colossians 4:5-6 Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. - Proverbs 16:24 Is it quarrelsome? Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. - 1 Peter 3:9 It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel. - Proverbs 20:3 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. - James 1:19 With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors, but through knowledge the righteous escape. - Proverbs 11:9 The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite a beating. - Proverbs 18:6 Blessings crown the head of the righteous, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked. - Proverbs 10:6 What does it say about your heart? A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. - Luke 6:45 Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips. - Ecclesiastes 10:12 The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. - Proverbs 15:4 Does it praise God? Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. - James 3:10 My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long. - Psalm 71:8 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. - Psalm 19:14 Conclusion May God bless you today. And may he graciously give us the humility to hold our digital tongues unless we intend to build up others or point others to his goodness. A version of this article appeared in Chris Martin’s "Terms of Service" newsletter, which looks at the social internet from a Christian perspective – you can sign up for it at www.TermsOfService.social. Get his new book of the same name at many online retailers. His article is reprinted here with permission....

News

Nancy Pelosi steals communion

A man, given a handsome offer by his king for a piece of property he owned, refused to sell. It was not that the man meant to offend the king or that he intended to display disloyalty; nor could it be said of him that he was holding out for a better offer. No, the man felt that because this piece of land had been a gift from someone very special and because this gift had certain conditions attached to it, he should never part company with it…no matter what generous price was offered. The man, of course, was Naboth and the coveting king's name was Ahab. There are a great many truths we can imbibe from this story. One of these truths is that we, even in this day and age, should also hold onto godly, age-old commands and regulations given to us throughout the centuries in the Word of God. That is not always easy to do. And decisions to live according to God's Law are not always accepted by those who want us to part with our “property.” Mother of 5, death dealer for millions The Speaker of the US House, Nancy Pelosi, wants a “property” very badly. That is to say, she desires very much to partake of the Eucharist Mass in the Roman Catholic church of her home diocese of San Francisco.* She considers herself “a devout Roman Catholic,” and very much covets partaking in the mass. An American citizen, she was born Nancy Patricia D'Alesandro in 1940 in Maryland, and is of Italian descent. The last of six children, she was the first girl. Her father being the popular and very first Italian-American mayor of Baltimore, she suffered no hardships growing up. Her Dad and Mom were Democrats as well as dedicated Roman Catholics. Nancy's mother entertained vague hopes that her daughter might become a nun. Nancy later commented: "I didn't think I wanted to be a nun, but I thought I might want to be a priest because there seemed to be a little more power there." Graduating from Trinity College in Washington, D.C. in 1962, she married Paul Pelosi, a banker, a year later. The couple had five children in quick succession - four girls and one boy. Often volunteering for the Democratic Party, Nancy blossomed into a highly effective fundraiser. Rising through the ranks, she eventually ran for public office in l987. Succeeding in this effort, she became a member of the House of Representatives. From 2007-2011 she served as Speaker of the House of Representatives, the first woman in U.S. history to do so, and in 2019 regained that same position. Her worldly goods status is estimated to be over $16 million. Reading through the lens of the world, it seems that Nancy Patricia D'Alesandro Pelosi has had a rather successful life. And yet presently she is forbidden to partake of something she covets. And that something is the Eucharist Mass in her hometown of San Francisco. The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, which is a summary of Roman Catholic beliefs, is very clear about the sanctity of human life. It says: "Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life." This same Roman Catholic Catechism goes on to say: "Since the first century, the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law."  Nancy Pelosi is presently eighty-two years old. Born in 1940, she is an octogenarian and relatively speaking has one blue-veined foot in the grave. Her view of human life and of abortion diverge sharply from that of the catechism of her espoused Roman Catholic Church. Instead of touting the sacredness of life from conception on, she is a radical pro-abortionist - a person who calls for unrestricted abortion up to the time of birth. For many years she has encouraged and aided the Democratic Party to develop this radical pro-abortion agenda, calling for the American taxpayer to fund this heinous crime. Blocking the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” an act which would make the difference between life and death for countless children, she is heaping up iniquity after iniquity for herself and for her Party. Under her leadership, the U.S. House passed a radical pro-abortion bill in the fall of 2021 that would legalize abortions for basically any reason up to birth nationwide even if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Coming from a strict Roman Catholic family, and having been brought up in that faith which traditionally has opposed abortion, plus having had five children herself, it is difficult to say what has so twisted the heart and mind of Nancy to come out so aggressively for the termination of a little soul in the womb. Finally, action In late May, Nancy's hometown priest, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone publicly announced that the congresswoman was not to receive communion because of her decades-long advocacy of abortion. The archbishop is sixty-five years old, seventeen years Nancy Pelosi's junior. Like Pelosi, he went to college, the Pontifical North American College at Rome, no less, and he is no dummy. He was also assistant for seven years at the Roman Catholic Church's supreme court on matters of canon law. He is firmly convinced that this discipline is for Nancy's own good to help save her soul. He is quoted as saying: “After numerous attempts to speak with Speaker Pelosi to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking, I have determined that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion." Archbishop Cordileone went on to say that Nancy Pelosi may not receive communion "... until such time as you publicly repudiate your advocacy for the legitimacy of abortion.” A number of bishops in the Roman Catholic Church applauded the action of Archbishop Cordileone with comments such as those of Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois:  “I fully support and earnestly commend Archbishop Cordileone’s action in regard to Speaker Pelosi. All politicians who promote abortion should not receive holy Communion until they have repented, repaired scandal, and been reconciled to Christ and the Church.” In response to Archbishop Cordileone's excluding her from communion, Pelosi retaliated on MSNBC's Morning Joe on May 24: “I come from a largely pro-life, Italian-American Catholic family, so I respect people’s views about that, but I don’t respect foisting it onto others." Like Jezebel's husband, Ahab, did Nancy go home sullen and angry, because Archbishop Cordileone had told her: "I will not give you the Eucharist of my ancestors"? Did the Speaker of the US House lay on her bed pouting and did she refuse to eat? The proverb “There is honor among thieves” does not ring quite true in this scenario. In spite of Archbishop Cordileone's well-meant condemnation and censure for a member of his flock, Nancy Pelosi was not persuaded. Using her fame and power, she did eventually receive Eucharist from a priest at a liberal Catholic Church in Washington. Endnote  * The Roman Catholic church, by the way, has the wrong idea about Mass. The Heidelberg Catechism, in Lord's Day 30, states this clearly: "... the mass teaches that the living and the dead have not the forgiveness of sins through the sufferings of Christ unless Christ is still daily offered for them by the priests; and that Christ is bodily present under the form of bread and wine and is, therefore, to be worshipped in them. And thus the mass, at bottom, is nothing else than a denial of the one sacrifice and passion of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry." Picture of Pelosi is cropped from the original by Gage Skidmore and used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license....

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – June 2022

If you ain’t Dutch… Readers from a Dutch background are undoubtedly familiar with the slogan, “if you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much.” Those same readers might be surprised to know that the Dutch are not the only ones to come up with a bit of rhyming nationalistic bravado. Below are just a few of the many out there: “If you ain’t Greek, you must be weak.” “If you’re in a hole, look for a Pole.” (It’s admittedly unclear if this is a nationalistic slogan about how helpful the Polish are, or perhaps just a bit of practical advice on how to get out of pits.) “To be Swiss is bliss.” “Only a Czech deserves a peck on the neck." (As is well-known, Eskimos kiss by rubbing noses, the Tookinese do it by rubbing ear lobes, businessmen by rubbing elbows, and apparently, Czechs prefer pecks on their necks.) “Aussies rule!” (It may not rhyme, but they make up for it with vigor.) “Only the best of the lot, get to be a Scot!” "If you ain't Finnish... then keep going." "If you ain't Canadian, that's okay too." Imponderables • Do the “Alphabet Song” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” have the same tune? • How come wrong numbers are never busy? • Do people in Australia call the rest of the world "up over"? • How can there be self-help "groups"? • How do you write zero in Roman numerals? • Why do the signs that say "Slow Children" have a picture of a running child? • What was the best thing before sliced bread? • Why do people tell you when they are speechless? TV was pretty weird two decades ago too We've got thousands of channels and nothing good to watch, and so much weird stuff to avoid. But lest we despair, let's remember that the former days were not all that different than today (Eccl. 7:10). In 2004, this is what RP was warning readers to watch out for, as it was "coming to a TV near you." The Swan – Women undergo drastic plastic surgery and then compete in a beauty pageant. The Littlest Groom – Dating show. A 4-foot-5 man dates a bevy of similarly sized women, then gets to date some full-size ladies and must choose one. Playing it Straight – Another dating show. Woman seeks suitor from a group of good-looking guys, but some of them are gay. She wins if she picks a straight guy. My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancée – Yet another dating show. Woman tries to convince her family to let her marry a jerk. She wins big bucks if her family doesn’t love her enough to object. Temptation Island – Adultery show. Couples are separated and then sent to two exotic islands where models tempt them to cheat on their partners. Fear Factor – Gameshow. Contestants compete by bobbing in a barrel of cows’ blood, and by eating maggots, eyeballs, and worms. Rather than just lament the bad, we can celebrate the good, as we've done with our articles "200 movies King David might watch" and "100 documentaries that make learning a joy." Couldn't count, but had a way with words “There are only three ways to teach a child. The first is by example, the second is by example, and the third is by example.” – Albert Schweitzer Oh, what a feeling! Some years ago a minister heard several other ministers rave about the high-powered Christian meetings they had attended. They all talked about how warmly they had felt and what a great shared spiritual experience it had been. After overhearing this, the first minister decided to share with them his own experience of a meeting he had come from the previous night. He described in great detail the feelings that had come over him when 40,000 sang the same songs. What an unforgettable experience! His colleagues all agreed and wanted to know more about the extraordinary event. What was it all about, they wanted to know. Who was the special man who organized it? “Oh,” he replied, “It was a Paul McCartney concert.” This little story is told by Sjirk Bajema in the Feb. 2004 issue of Faith in Focus, and there is a moral to his tale: feelings alone are no guarantee of God’s presence or His approval. Christians who seek to experience God must not neglect His Word, lest they lose sight of the fact that while the love of God is an extraordinary experience, extraordinary experiences can (at least temporarily) be had apart from the love of God. Bad, like ham left out of the fridge all day  The following are taken from an email that circulated some years back that was supposed to be a compilation of some of the worst/most brilliant analogies and metaphors written by American students. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever. To get your team going  “Being defeated is often only a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.” - Marilyn vos Savant “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice there is.” - Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut...

News

News that inspires action!

“Can we watch World Watch now?” That’s what one of my six blond-haired children is bound to ask on most weekdays after the dinner dishes have been washed and their backpacks are cleaned out and put away. World Watch is a ten-minute video news production, produced 250 times each year, by World News Group, the good folks behind the better-known WORLD Magazine. “We can't keep your kids from growing up too quickly, but we can help them grow into humans equipped with news literacy and Biblical discernment. And make it fun, too...” explains the team at WorldWatch.news. And I can testify that they have succeeded. Screen time to embrace I’m among many parents who has erred on the side of little screen time and almost no news coverage for my children, given how secular and troubling most coverage is. If I were to let the CBC, CTV, or Global educate my children about current events, I shouldn’t be surprised if they start to believe that we live in a perpetual climate “emergency” and that they should look to the government for their help and salvation. But I also don’t want them to bury their heads in the sand either. I’m thankful to have found an alternative that not only educates my family about topics like the war in Ukraine and inflation, but that does so by concluding every episode with a reminder that we all need - "Whatever the news, the purpose of the Lord will stand." Almost none of my friends have heard of the program. One thing that limits its reach is that it requires a paid subscription ($7 US/month). Although that isn’t much, most people aren’t willing to pay for information in a world saturated with free content, not realizing that there is a great cost on their spiritual, emotional, and mental health. Seeing the positive impact of World Watch on my family is one of the influences that led me to take on this role with Reformed Perspective, with a view to developing the organization to reach far more people with information that nourishes and edifies, grounded on the unchanging foundation of our sovereign God. Christians are generally blessed with solid preaching on Sundays. But much of the rest of the week they are saturated with content that is produced by people who have little use for God’s Word. And most of the Christian options that can be found, like World Watch, are American and don’t speak to the unique developments that we are experiencing outside of the USA. A Canadian venture I started with RP on March 1st and have been so encouraged by the progress this organization has been making in recent years and months, by God’s grace. Some of the readers of this magazine will have received the donor update that we sent to RP’s donors recently, explaining the challenges we are facing as well as our vision for the future. I also recently made two fundraising trips, to southern BC and southern Ontario. We have been overwhelmed by God’s provision in response to these efforts, particularly through a small number of very generous individuals and foundations who appreciate our vision and want to see many more people blessed with a Reformed Perspective. As a result of this provision, our hope is to be able to expand the reach of our print magazine to reach close to 10,000 families each issue beginning in September. This would mean that almost every church in Canada that is affiliated with NAPARC (URCNA, PCA, CanRC, FRC, RPC, HRC, OPC, ARP) can receive complementary copies of RP, with most of these churches receiving enough to be able to give a copy to each family! It is very encouraging to us to see the magazine grow from reaching about 1,500 homes about five years ago, when it was only given to paid subscribers, to about 6,000 homes today, and the possibility of 10,000 homes later this year. Plus, the electronic reach has gone from almost zero to close to a million visits per year! We recognize that we still have a long way to go, and much room to improve. Examples like World Watch and WORLD Magazine inspire us by what they can offer. Our hope is that RP can increasingly be a tool, among many others, that God uses to inspire His people to live lives of faith, hope, and love in this world. And if our resources can expand to the point where our kids are eager to finish their chores so that they can read, listen, or watch them, that wouldn’t hurt either 😊. You can find out more about World Watch below (and at their website WorldWatch.News) and watch a free daily 2-min "Top Story" at their YouTube channel. And if you are in a position to support Reformed Perspective's efforts, you can make a one-time or ongoing donation by clicking the "Give" button at the top of this website, or by clicking here. ...

News

Saturday Selections – May 28, 2022

Great moments in unintended consequences "But I didn't mean to!" is a child's frequently invoked defense become parents will generally buy it, at least so long as it is true. It doesn't work if that errant elbow or accidental eye poke was delivered while a kid was busy doing something he totally shouldn't have been doing. Then dad won't much care whether it was intentional. or not. So what about when the government throws an accidental haymaker? Sure, some government programs go horribly wrong, but most are started with the best of intentions, right? So don't we just have to take the bad with the good, and hope they'll do better next time? Well, the problem is not simply that some programs go wrong – we know perfection is unattainable – but that the government gets some things wrong that they should never have been doing in the first place. Then claiming "good intentions" is no excuse at all. What lowering the voting age would do There's a push on in some countries to lower the voting age to 16, or even younger, and that only natural in a culture that worships youth. But would a younger voting age actually help those it's supposed to? No, as J. Budziszewski writes: "It would only mean increasing the political clout of those who have influence through the young. Pop stars. Sports coaches. Schoolteachers. Writers and editors of media aimed at teens. Especially people in such groups who have no children of their own to take up their time and attention." Science writers: journalists, or just PR agents? A former science editor for the New York Times, writing about science writers asked, “Journalists, or PR Agents?” He asked this in the context of reporting on the origins of COVID-19 virus "but what he says applies even more so to reporting on evolution." The year of the graves: how the world’s media got it wrong on residential school graves (10-min read) "One particularly unhelpful feature of the residential schools coverage involves the careless conflation of horrific, verifiable crimes with second- and third-hand accounts of childhood horror stories. Reconciliation is not what you get when you render Canadians incapable of believing what they’ve been told about the schools." Gratitude rewires your brain "...gratitude is not a magic cure for all that ails us. It is, however, for mental health what vegetables are for physical health: vital, underrated, and sometimes difficult to swallow. " Teachable moments from your epic parenting fails (10 min read) "...after raging at my son that morning, I didn’t offer a heart-level apology.... Hence, I picked up my cell to call him at my mom’s and attempt something more Christlike. What I’ll always remember? His response. 'Mommy, I forgive you. And I want to let you know that even when you do bad things, I still love you. And even when you do bad things, God still loves you.' Now I felt really bad for yelling. The power of this teachable moment lay in my 4-year-old repeating the encapsulated gospel back to me. He not only got it; he applied it. (Granted, that night after he spit on the bathroom mirror, his response felt less glorious: 'I want to let you know that even when I do bad things, I still love you.')" The bombardier beetle doesn't blow up God's genius is evident in the stunning craftsmanship of these bombmaking beetles... ...

Internet, Parenting, RP App

Parents, you are your child's best protection from online horrors

“You cannot raise your children as your parents raised you, because your parents raised you for a world that no longer exists.” – Author unknown ••••• I was born in 1988, and my generation straddled a lot of things. As kids we listened to cassette tapes and videos were on VHS – a video camera was roughly the size of an over-the-shoulder Hollywood contraption. The pace of technological change was so swift everything seemed to go defunct in just a few years, from the Walkman to the Discman to the iPod in a blink, while Blockbuster went big and bust in just a few years, with corner stores and gas stations investing in videos and then DVDs just in time to see their investments become obsolete as the digital world swallowed everything. And at the backs of many of the scuzzier corner stores were little rooms usually covered by ratty curtains where furtive people would duck to pick their pornos, from big-bellied greasy truckers who didn’t care who saw them to sneakier folks with a worried eye out for parents, spouses or neighbors. An aura of shame and moral grossness hung about the whole thing, and those heading back there seemed to know it. But besides that, everything seemed largely contained, and it was. Our parents could let us head outdoors without worrying too much. Some kids got their hands on porn magazines and hid them; many got caught; but the digital deluge had not yet begun, and it was easier to assume that children could roam free without risking their innocence. Then, in 2006, came the iPhone. Everything changed. Instant access to the pits of hell Suddenly, pornography became next to impossible to contain. A generation of Christian kids grew up looking at porn on devices that their parents had not had as children, and had not considered a source of risk. Parents didn’t know their kids’ phones or iPads or most any other device could connect to some shop’s free Wi-Fi, allowing them to scour the Internet’s filthy caverns. Curiosity, temptation, mistake – it didn’t (and doesn’t) take much to get hooked, and pornography swept the culture and the churches like a tsunami. In 2016, on the sites owned by a single porn company, the number of hours of pornography watched, once tallied up, amounted 524,641 years – or roughly twelve porn videos for every man, woman, and child on planet earth. I’ve been speaking on pornography in Reformed communities and elsewhere for over ten years, and I can confirm – and I’m sure you’ll agree – that the consequences have been catastrophic. Our children now grow up entirely surrounded by devices that act as portals to the demonic. I could tell scores of stories about children from Reformed homes who got addicted to porn simply by clicking a pop-up that flashed across the screen while playing an innocent game. This isn't how we grew up The digitization of our society has resulted in a world actively hostile to the innocence of children, and there is no simple solution – no book, filter, conference, or course that will protect them. As Dawn Hawkins of the National Center on Combatting Sexual Exploitation has said, we can no longer trust that our children will not see pornography – even with our best efforts. We must prepare their minds for when, inevitably in this culture, they do see it. That means that only cultivating powerful personal relationships with our kids will do. The uncomfortable truth is that parenting in the digital age is different than parenting in previous generations. The fundamentals remain the same, as do our vows at baptism. But never in recorded human history have children had such widespread access to the most depraved sexual fantasies the human imagination can produce – never. I often hear people dismiss or downplay the dangers of the digital age by noting that there is nothing new under the sun. This is true insofar as sexual sin has been existed since the Fall. But it is not true that any previous generation has been so thoroughly poisoned and so many lives destroyed, with the average age a child is first exposed to hardcore porn dropping year over year (it now sits around age 8 or 9). It is true that porn has always existed, but the things kids are exposed to now are nothing like the crass etchings on the walls of Pompeii, and it is a false comfort to suggest that they are. Children today have access to things their parents couldn’t purchase and their grandparents couldn’t imagine. Our children do. Not so long ago, parents could send their kids outdoors to play without worrying about what devices the neighborhood kids might have and what they might show their friends at the park (I’ve heard plenty of stories of kids getting exposed to porn the first time this way). Although the culture has long since stopped inculcating Christian values – when my mom went to public school, they still opened the day with the Lord’s Prayer – it was not yet hostile, and it was not yet permeated with pornography the way it is now. With comparatively little effort, the innocence of children could be protected. Today’s mainstream entertainment is packed with blasphemy and filth. Children’s entertainment features LGBT content as a matter of course. Within the span of a single lifetime, TV shows have gone from Leave it to Beaver to having a post-sex change transgender beaver on Blue’s Clues with chest scars from her double-mastectomy – and this is a show for children. The world our parents raised us in is dead and gone. It is important to recognize this. Let me put it as bluntly as I can. The forces of evil have broken loose, and they are no longer contained to video rental stores, or corner store magazine racks, or even computer screens. It is in your house, on all of your devices, including the one you carry everywhere in your pocket. The Devil is up close and personal now, so close you can feel his breath. He wants to destroy our marriages, our families, and our communities – and his digital dragnets are doing a horrifyingly magnificent job. Who will be there for your child? There is no easy fix to this problem. Parents in the digital age must face the fact that the only way to protect our children is for us to spend an enormous amount of time with them. Not just quality time – quantity time. Parents must ensure that their influence counterbalances the many influences that will be fighting for their children’s time. The gravitational pull of parent-child relationship must be stronger than the gravitational pull of Pornhub, secular entertainment, and the temptations clamoring for their attention. In the digital age – also sometimes referred to as the information age – we have a choice: the Internet-driven culture will shape our children, or we will. As prevention fails, parents' presence is crucial Over the past ten years speaking on pornography and related cultural issues in Reformed communities, I have seen porn use among the young go from a problem to the norm. The same is true for sexting. The views of many of our children on LGBT issues are also shifting radically as they are exposed to LGBT social media and YouTube influencers with millions of young fans. As the Internet opens up countless new worlds for the young, old certainties that were once taken for granted are up for grabs, and our children will be exposed to every imaginable poison. It will not be enough to merely attempt prevention (and if we do, it is likely to fail.) We will have to commit ourselves to being present in a way that few other generations needed to. This will mean prioritizing family interests over business interests. It may mean making less money in order to spend more time with the kids. It will certainly mean carving out large amounts of time when you are simply available to talk to your kids about all of these issues, and to begin these conversations. Be assured, the culture is starting these conversations with missionary zeal, and they are winning converts. In response, we will need to equip ourselves to talk to our children about all of these issues – and form relationships with them that will give us the space to have these conversations. In many, if not most cases, it will be a difficult task. We will shape our children, or the culture will. Jonathon Van Maren blogs at TheBridgehead.ca....

Parenting, RP App

8 tips for traveling with the family

My favorite travel anecdote came from Reader’s Digest years ago. An older woman felt overwhelmed while packing to go to Florida with her husband.  She said, “George, I can either pack to go, or I can go but I can’t do both.” Since then, many times my husband has heard me shout out, “George?........” and known what I meant. Family travel can be a big challenge. The worst family trip I ever took involved three non-walking, whining one-year olds, a three-year old who accidentally barfed and pee-d on the other driver, a broken heater and three flat tires. After 600 miles, I really dreaded the trip back home. But from experience comes wisdom and innovation, so as the years rolled by, we discovered ways to make the long traveling hours easier to handle. God has given us creative minds that spark with wonderful innovations, after which we wonder, “now why didn’t I think of that sooner?” Then, just as I am doing now, we share them with others who might benefit. There are so many ways to help your family prepare for a long trip, that the instances of unpleasantness can be greatly diminished, and the firm hand only needed on occasion. Even traveling with one-year olds can be somewhat improved, though they will never understand why they have to sit still all the time. So here are 8 ideas that will help during the travel time. 1. Beforehand, talk through the trip with your kids A day or two before you go, talk about what the ride will be like: “We’re going to be in the car alllll day. Breakfast, lunchtime, nap time, and dinner time, and we’re even going to watch the sun go down!”  Talk about how they might feel and what they will encounter, and joke about what they might be tempted to do.  Emphasize the importance of getting along when in close quarters. Talk about safety hazards like screaming children, or not heeding the call to “Silence!” when driving directions are being discussed or you’re facing the border guard. Talk about watching for traffic and not getting lost at rest stops. Knowledge enables children to know what to expect and it gives you information to refer back to when necessary.  Pray together beforehand and on the road, thanking God, and asking Him for safety, wisdom and strength. 2. Study your directions/maps ahead of time Nothing brings up anger or harsh words between mom and dad like arguing over directions. Plan ahead – this is valuable even in an age of GPS, to think through where you want to stop, and what breaks you might want to take (are there any sights to see, or maybe a nice park to take a break in, a nice restaurant to stop for dinner?). And if there are mistakes, be forgiving and “go with the flow.” It is helpful to have maps of the area in case you end up in the middle of nowhere with NO signal! Maps are also helpful to get a real "feel" for how places are connected which you cannot see well on a tiny screen. And they are great for enhancing the kids' geographical knowledge, which you cannot quite do on a tiny screen. Remember that children hate listening to their parents argue; if it’s necessary to “clear the air,” perhaps it can be done away from the children. 3. Make everything as special and comfortable as possible. Choose books, toys, food and games that are unique so that the novelty will enthuse them. Our family visited a used bookstore a few weeks before each trip.  Each child chose about six 50 cent books and then, to their chagrin, I packed them all away until it was time to leave! A three-year-old will enjoy a Magna Doodle, and can manage an audiobook with headphones. Played over your car stereo, audiobooks from the library are a wonderful way for the whole family, even the driver, to pass the time. Each child can have a zippered bookbag with a coloring book and colored pencils (or markers if you trust your kids!). Add two small toys with no little pieces (one for each hand,) and a favorite stuffed friend. Some like electronic games, or maybe your car has a DVD player: be sure to choose games and films that are new to them, that keep their attention. If they aren't on screens normally, this can be a special treat. Find some word or singing games to teach them. Be sure to play the silly ones that they suggest and enjoy. We once sang “Hey, ho, nobody home” for 20 minutes straight just to see if we could do it. Bring small pillows for everyone, and make sure whoever is always cold has a hoodie or blanket to put over her. Carry a roll of paper towel and some plastic bags for “whatever.” 4. A parent sitting in the back can be helpful I turned around so often while seated in the front seat that I began to wonder whether I should wear my shoulder harness across my front or my back side. Having Mom or Dad sit in a middle or back seat can actually alleviate a lot of problems, especially with the little ones who need the physical assurance of extra kisses or holding someone’s hand.  Playing games also becomes easier and more fun for the kids because Mom or Dad is involved. It’s also easier to pass around the food to everyone and collect up all of the trash. You might rotate seats at every stop, because whoever gets a turn in the front seat will feel very special. 5. Have rules and plans Yes, it’s hard to sit in a car all day, but that doesn’t excuse bad behavior. We still have to love one another, and put others first.  The loss of privilege that comes from arguing or disobeying might include not being allowed to speak for a set amount of time. Take charge of a simple, flexible daily plan. “Let’s sing for awhile.” “Now we’re going to listen to Prince Caspian for about an hour.” “We’re stopping at a rest stop in five minutes – everyone put away your toys and books now and get your shoes on.” “After lunch it’s naptime or quiet reading.” Don’t forget to read God’s Word after each meal and pray.  You have plenty of time for discussion or related Bible games: why not make use of it? After two summers of driving eight or so teenagers from Philadelphia to Ontario for a "Campfire! Summer Bible Camp" I learned that everyone got rowdy late at night after the last rest stop because there were less than two hours left on the trip. The third summer I made a rule: "No talking at all after the last rest stop – you may sleep, read with the ceiling light, or listen to a walkman.” I also outlawed 32 oz. Cokes for the entire trip after some people began needing more frequent relief. 6. Eat in the vehicle as you drive When you stop, you need to stretch and run and hug and throw a frisbee, and look at the flowers and license plates around you, not sit and eat.  Eating is fun, and doing it while riding passes the time very nicely.  I learned the hard way that it’s also not a good idea to eat at the rest stop and then let the kids run and roll down hills right afterwards.  Enter the need for paper towels.  No wonder my “mean old mother” never let us do that. For meals, you might bake or have Mom go into a grocery store bakery to buy fresh muffins for a special breakfast. For lunch and dinner, pack favorite sandwiches and baggies of chips or fruit or cookies – a different kind for each meal. Freezing them the night before eliminates the need for a big cooler.  On the other hand, the lid from a hard plastic cooler makes a great lap table for spreading fresh peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to hand around. Think about it:  instead of using up more of your valuable pre-trip time making sandwiches, you could use your “nothing else to do anyway” hours stacking meat and cheese and tomato slices on buns. 7. Eight reasons to drink only water (except if the driver needs caffeine)       Water rules over juice, kool-aid, tea, and soda, and they’ll drink it if they’re thirsty. They get plenty of taste variety from their meals. Water is cheaper, healthier, not sticky, stain-free, non-caffeinated, and non-sweetened.  It doesn’t speed through your system as fast as other drinks, and it can be used to wash faces, hands and seats. Each person’s bottle can be refilled at the next rest stop or from a bigger container near the parent’s seat. 8. The fantastic trip comes to an end My children finally convinced me that if we arrive home late at night, it is best to go to bed and empty the car the next day when everyone is rested and happier. The suitcases will wait patiently. The end of the trip is already a letdown for the children, so, while they do need to help with the gargantuan task of putting everything away, it’s also good to consider their fatigue level and emotions. Have a nice breakfast, divide up the tasks, and tackle the pile. But maybe you arrive home during the daylight hours, or maybe the car has to be emptied for Dad to go to work the next morning. It still might be best to give everyone a short break to “be happy to see their home,” perhaps coupled with a snack and a hug and a “de-briefing” session. Later, you might put together a family newsletter with each one writing (or dictating) what happened at the cave, at Grandpa’s, or in the ocean. This helps save the memories for years to come, and it’s a nice gift for any relatives and friends you visited along the way. Traveling together can form close bonds with shared memories.  When parents plan ahead, the possibility for frustration is lessened and a good example is set....

Christian education, Documentary, Movie Reviews

Truth & Lies in American Education

Documentary 2022 / 69 minutes Rating: 7/10 " is the battle that is going to affect all the other battles. We're all involved in different things: protecting gun rights, lower taxes, saving babies from abortion, all these things, and they're all very worthy battles. they need to be fought But the thread that runs through them all is education, because if we lose on the education front, we're going to lose on every front." – Alex Newman, author of Crimes of the Educators: How Utopians are Using Government Schools to Destroy America's Children Truth & Lies tackles how bad it is getting in America's public schooling system, and what we as parents can do about it. To begin it lays out an eye-opening collection of complaints, each interviewee offering up a different critique of what's going wrong: The teaching of Critical Race Theory Socialist indoctrination Pornographic sex-ed, introduced as young as kindergarten Hijacked curriculum (Common Core, comprehensive sexuality education, school-to-work) Teachers doing what they will, no matter the curriculum, and behind parents' backs A lowering of standards and expectations for students A loss of any Judeo-Christian underpinnings So what, then, is the solution? The film offers a couple of answers. Take over the public schools? Early on we see parents protesting to their local school boards about the objectionable content being fed to their kids in class. One of the experts consulted, a Dr. Duke Pesta, suggests that "if those same moms who are so eloquently lecturing the school board, were the school board, things would change pretty quick." Indeed, we learn that in one community in Texas a small group of parents did manage to take over their local public school board. But how effective could such a takeover be? As this same Dr. Pesta explains later on, it isn't as simple as getting the right curriculum in place. Pesta noted, you could eliminate the whole of the curriculum leaving only the Bible and the constitution, and progressive teachers could still use those two texts to move their agenda forward. He offered up this mock lesson: "What does it suggest to you that Jesus had 12 male apostles? Let's do a queer theory reading of the Gospel of John. Jesus associated almost primarily with men, they were his inner circles, so it stands to reason, right, that Jesus was not heteronormative..." So is taking over the local school board akin to trying to bail out a sinking Titanic? Sure, if you have enough involvement, parents might be able to slow the descent but can they reverse course? Government will still be doing what it has no business doing, taking over the educational role God gives to parents. The problem remains that public schools are governmental, not parental schools. Getting out of public schools The other answer the documentary offers is to get our children out of the system and either start educating them ourselves or get them into a good private school (as not all are). That's going to come with expenses, in time and money, but, as interviewee after interviewee assures us, it isn't as hard as we might imagine. Parents have been teaching their children since the day they were born; we are, after all, their very first English teachers, giving them one lesson after another in how to talk! Conclusion So who should watch this film? The target audience is parents with children in the public system, trying to shock them into reconsidering, and encourage them about the homeschooling possibilities that exist. It'll also be a good reminder to parents who are homeschooling or sending their kids to a private Christian school, about why they are doing so. While this is an American film, Canadians will also benefit – the particulars might differ from one country the other, but the same educational philosophies are at play on both sides of the border. There is some PG material here, particularly when they talk about sex-ed curriculum, but older home-school or privately schooled teens might be a good audience too, as it'll show them the value of the gift their parents are giving them. Find out how to buy or rent Truth & Lies at Truthandliesfilm.us. To get a feel for what you'll learn, you can watch this 4-minute clip below (like the film itself, this clip discusses material that is not appropriate for children). ...

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books, Economics

Nobody knows how to make a pizza

by Julie Borowski 2019 / 30 pages The picture book's title makes a claim that my daughter just couldn't believe: "Come on Dad, you know how to make a pizza!" But do I really? Sure, I know how to combine a pizza crust with cheese and tomato sauce. I'm even very good at it. But the point this slim volume is trying to make is that there is a lot more to it. That flour I use started as grain that somebody had to grow, and I certainly don't know how to do that. That farmer who does, brings in his crop using  a wheat harvester, which he isn't able to make himself. He'll ship off his grain, perhaps via a train, which neither of us could ever manufacture. We also don't know how to turn wheat into flour, and the folks that do, don't know how to make the semi-trucks that ship their flour to grocery stores around the country. Making even the simple pizza crust requires a lot of different people all working together, with not one of them knowing how to get all the needed steps done. That's why the pizza narrator's claim – that "there's not a single person on Earth who knows how to make me" – isn't as outrageous as it first seem, And that doesn't even get into the tomato sauce and cheese! You might be wondering, okay, but so what? The point of this little book (and the 1958 essay, I, Pencil, which inspired it) is to expose the arrogance of any big government's central planners. Whether it's full-blown communists who want to plan everything, or a democracy where the elected leadership "merely" direct large chunks of the economy (gov't spending in Canada accounts for 45% of GDP, and their impact is extended further still via regulations), we have governments of all sorts all around the world that think they know how best to run things from the top down. However, if planning the production of a single cheese pizza is beyond the capabilities of any one man, or even a team of the very smartest people on earth, then why would we think the government could ever know enough to competently make the innumerable management decisions they make, from what minimum wage everyone should be paid, to how children should be educated in K-12 (and what they should learn), which companies should be bailed out or subsidized, or even how much milk should be produced? Of course, if no one knows how to make a pizza, that prompts an obvious question: how is it that countless cheese pizzas are made every day? Instead of someone at the top planning it all out, this miracle occurs without much planning at all. The author of this picture book makes more of a libertarian presentation than a Christian one, so I'm using the term "miracle" here for a wonder she doesn't really attempt to explain. But Christians do have an explanation. Now, we might take for granted what the free market can produce – cheaper computers, innovations like the smartphone, innumerable kinds of bagel – to the point it seems too ordinary to call all of that a miracle. But the free market is a miracle nonetheless, completely beyond anybody's ability to plan and create, making it all the easier to see God's fingerprints. His commandment "Do not steal" creates property rights, which is the basis for one person trading what they own to another for something they want more. If you can't steal from others, then the only way to provide for yourself and your family is by producing something other people will value. You get money from them to meet your needs by making something that meets theirs. So God's law is the basis for free trade and it is unplanned, unorganized free trade that has miraculously proven to be the most effective way of raising people out of poverty. The government still has a role here - to prevent theft, enforce contract laws, and generally ensure that property rights are respected – but not in picking the winners and losers. While that's deeper than this picture book goes, what Julie Borowski does highlight is the result: all sorts of strangers cooperating with one another, each looking out for their own interests, but together creating something that none of them could make on their own – innumerable voluntary exchanges and, eventually, violà a pizza! As noted, this book has a libertarian flavoring to it, and because libertarians can often be libertines on moral issues, their values can be at odds with what God knows is best. However, in this case the libertarian impulse for small government syncs up well with the Christian emphasis on humility and Man's fallibility – we have a hard enough time trying to plan out our own lives, so it's arrogant indeed for bureaucrats and politicians to think they can plan out everyone else's lives for them. Better then, to limit (though certainly not eliminate) the government and what it does, so as to leave people the responsibility and allow them the freedom to manage their own lives. This would be read to best effect with a parent along for the ride. Otherwise I could see kids enjoying it, even as they entirely miss the overall small government argument being made. You can watch the author read her book below. ...

Media bias, RP App

Misleading us for years: looking back at bias in the US and Canada

Editor's note: for those who might have thought the radical bias of today's mainstream press media was only a very recent thing, this 2004 blast from the past will show how it goes back decades further. **** Every few years citizens in countries such as Canada, the USA and Australia receive the opportunity to make a very significant political decision - the selection of their governments. In some cases citizens also receive the opportunity to help decide public policy outside of the electoral process. Whatever the case may be, good information is a prerequisite to good decision-making. But where does this information come from? The most common source of political information is the mainstream media. In and of itself this is nothing to be concerned about... but what if they all reflected the same political perspective? What if they have taken sides in the great political conflicts of the day? What if the vast majority of people who work in the media are personally committed to certain political causes at the expense of others? This, unfortunately, long appeared to be the case, at least in North America. As a result, citizens don't always receive pertinent information on political affairs and are shielded from legitimate and credible perspectives. Pro-life journalists, unbiased reporters, and other mythical creatures In the USA political conservatives have been concerned about a leftwing bias in the media for years. Their concerns were verified already back in 1986 when a major study of the media was released, called, The Media Elite, by S. Robert Lichter, Stanley Rothman, and Linda S. Lichter. This study entailed interviews with over 200 journalists at the most influential media outlets in the United States. To put it bluntly, there is no question that a large majority of journalists are leftwing. And it is inescapable that their perspective affects the way they report the news. A small sample of the findings of this study demonstrated the extent of the problem.  Journalists were asked to describe their own political leanings. The researchers reported as follows: "54 percent place themselves to the left of center, compared with only 17 percent who choose the right side of the spectrum. (The remainder picks 'middle of the road.') When they rate their fellow workers, an even greater difference emerges. 56 percent say the people they work with are mostly on the Left, and only 8 percent place their co-workers on the Right – a margin of seven to one." The disparity is especially great with regards to social issues. For example, 90 per cent of these journalists were "pro-choice" on the abortion issue. In short, "they are united in rejecting social conservatism and traditional norms." This information led the researchers to conclude that, "members of the media elite emerge as strong supporters of sexual freedom and as natural opponents of groups like the Moral Majority." The now-defunct Moral Majority was the most prominent conservative Christian political organization in the United States during the 1980s. The point is that the vast majority of American journalists were leftwing in the 80’s and they continue to be so today. And this bias is especially obvious concerning the issues that matter most to Christians. Do leftwing journalists produce leftwing news? Demonstrating that most journalists are leftwing doesn't automatically mean that news is presented with a leftwing slant. It's at least theoretically possible that these journalists would work to produce a balanced presentation of the issues. But, in fact, other studies do provide considerable evidence that the leftwing perspective comes through loud and clear. University of Calgary political scientist Barry Cooper has been studying the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for years, and the most significant result of his efforts is the book Sins of Omission: Shaping the News at CBC TV (1994). From his evidence, it is clear that the CBC has long had a leftwing bias. To conduct his study Cooper poured over a large number of transcripts from TV news broadcasts and compared what was said with the political reality of the situation being portrayed. The main drawback to his book is the fact that he decided to focus on the coverage of foreign affairs, and in particular, issues related to the Cold War and the Soviet Union. Thus the material is of less interest to Christians concerned with domestic social issues. Nevertheless, Cooper is able to clearly demonstrate that the CBC had its own political agenda in its coverage of foreign affairs. Making evil look attractive One part of the study looks at how the internal affairs of the Soviet Union were portrayed, including the Soviet occupation and withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was a major issue at the time. The general tendency in the coverage was to make it appear that the Soviet Union was much like Canada. "Obvious external or elemental differences, such as the absence of genuine elections, the existence of a secret police, the concentration camps, and restrictive emigration policy, were ignored, played down, or euphemized into innocuous variations of normalcy. In short, the substantive political and, indeed, cultural differences between the political regimes established by communism in the USSR and those set up by liberal democracy in the West were minimized." In fact the political life of the Soviet Union was very different from Canada's due to the brutal nature of the totalitarian ideology that guided its regime. The CBC was apparently happy to turn a blind eye to the suffering of the people in that country. A major feature of the Cold War, of course, was the relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States. During the period studied by Cooper there were a couple of summit meetings between the leaders of these two countries (Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan) that received considerable media coverage. Officials from both countries presented the views of their respective countries, but the CBC did not treat these statements in the same way. As Cooper puts it, "the surface meaning of Soviet accounts was overwhelmingly accepted at face value. Accounts by U.S. officials, in contrast, were severely scrutinized, and alternative visualizations were presented." The CBC was skeptical of American claims but not of Communist Soviet claims. There is considerably more detail in Cooper's study carefully documenting his conclusions, but the long and the short of it is this: "The visualization of the summit meetings was remarkably consistent: the USSR was seen as a progressive and dynamic actor, the United States as a source of resistance to peace initiatives." The CBC "advanced the vision of a progressive USSR and a dangerous United States." The Communists were the good guys and the Americans were the bad guys. It's almost hard to believe that journalists from a free country could so blatantly side with one of the most oppressive regimes in history. But as Cooper sees it, "CBC visualizations were 'objectively' in the service of Soviet propaganda." According to Cooper, the basic philosophy guiding CBC coverage of US-Soviet relations was "moral equivalence." Basically this view assumes that the USA and Soviet Union (liberal democracy and communist totalitarianism) have similar virtues and vices, and so one side is not to be seen as morally superior to the other (although the analysis above shows that the CBC gave the Soviets the upper hand). But "moral equivalence" is extremely erroneous. "The doctrine of moral equivalence, which is the articulate conceptual statement that the CBC operationalized in its coverage of the Soviet Union, ignored the most fundamental distinction in political life, the distinction between tyrannical and non-tyrannical forms of government. This omission led to such otherwise inexplicable curiosities as equating or balancing U.S. support for the Afghan mujahedeen with the Soviet invasion of that country. Moreover, some stories did more than bend over backwards or forwards to excuse the actions of a tyranny." To put it crudely, Canadian taxpayers underwrote Soviet propaganda in the form of CBC TV broadcasts. It's bad enough to have to endure leftwing media bias, but to have to support it through our taxes only adds insult to injury. The money trail In their book And That's The Way It Isn't: A Reference Guide to Media Bias (1990), editors L. Brent Bozell and Brent H. Baker make another point that is rather striking. Like other businesses, media corporations in the USA contribute money to many charities, educational groups and other organizations that advocate particular political agendas. The vast majority of this money goes to support leftwing causes. At the time of their study: "Of nearly four million dollars contributed to political organizations, the foundations for ten of the biggest media empires allocated 90 percent to liberal organizations and only 10 percent to conservative ones." Furthermore, the organizations that receive that money also receive more media coverage than those that don't. "A media company which feels that a group is impressive enough to deserve funding seems to feel it is impressive enough to deserve its publicity." The problem of media bias is not without political consequences. People in democratic countries make decisions based on the information they have, and the media slant can help to bend that decision-making in a particular direction. According to Bozell and Baker: "By exercising control over the nation's agenda – picking and choosing which issues are fit for public debate, which news is 'fit to print' – the news media can greatly influence the political direction of the country." Everybody has a perspective, and everybody's perspective affects how they interpret politics, so journalists are not unique in this regard. But when the vast majority of people in the media share the same leftwing perspective, the conservative side is marginalized and does not receive a fair hearing in public debate. Thankfully there are Christian publications such as Reformed Perspective which can help to offset this imbalance. But the truth is these alternative publications do not (yet?) reach a large audience, so their effectiveness is limited. Christians need to maintain a critical and skeptical stance towards the mainstream media. To a large degree, we rely on those who oppose our perspective for information about current events and political affairs. But we should not allow them to lead us to accept views contrary to our confession. Being conscious that much of the mainstream media has a leftist political agenda can help us to avoid accepting non-Christian or even anti-Christian viewpoints. This first appeared in the May 2004 issue of the magazine....

News

Saturday Selections – May 21, 2022

Why free trade is win-win So long as two people make an exchange voluntarily, it's going to be win-win. If I trade $10,000 for your used Volkswagon Beetle, it's only because I must think the car is worth more than the money, and you'll only sell it to me if you think the money is worth more to you than the car. Otherwise, neither of us would make the trade. That means, in making this voluntary exchange, we're both better off than when we started – we both believe we've gotten more than we had before. That means business, as it is normally done, makes both parties wealthier. Jesus on the age of the Earth It's so clear that Jesus believed in a young world, that the only way leading theistic evolutionists can reconcile His statements with their old Earth views is to say... He got it wrong. How the US government exasperated the baby formula shortage Tariffs and restrictions on European brands have limited American alternative supplies. "Bureaucrats in DC no doubt will tell you their formula is the correct and healthy one, while bureaucrats in the EU almost certainly would contend they have the right mixture of ingredients. This invites an important question: who actually has the best baby formula for infants, the EU or the US? Many may think they know, but the economist Thomas Sowell reminds us this is the wrong question. 'The most basic question is not what is best, but who shall decide what is best,' Sowell says." The war in Ukraine and the myth of overpopulation Russia has lost thousands of soldiers in their invasion, and "the majority of those poor young men killed for Russians honor will be their mother's only son, in many cases their only child..." Why? While we still hear fearful mention made of the danger of overpopulation such fearmongering has Russia shrinking by more than 100,000 a year, and every continent but Africa is facing birth rates at near or below replacement rate. Why then does the fearmongering persist? Because this anti-natal ideology is in rebellion against not simply the facts, but God. Because He says children are a blessing, our culture persists in treating them as a curse. What else fueled the Buffalo shooter? The man who targeted blacks and killed 10 people this last weekend was a racist, but what wasn't shared is that his purported manifesto appealed to evolution as the basis for his racism. Is college worth it? If you're going to college and university to get a good job, then it's worth considering what sort of return you'll get on your investment of 4 years and tens of thousands of dollars (not just in tuition, books, and rent, but in deferred income you would otherwise have earned if you were out in the workforce). "If you get a degree in something like Art, Music, Philosophy, or Psychology, there's a pretty good chance you're going to be worse off financially than if you'd never gone to college at all." The article linked to above and the video below use American numbers, but offer something for Canadians to consider too. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, RP App, Theology, Watch for free

Free film: The God Who Speaks

Documentary 2018 / 92 minutes Rating: 9/10 All of us at times have wondered what it would be like if God spoke to us directly, as He did to Abraham, Moses, and the prophets. In The God Who Speaks, dozens of theologians and pastors make the compelling case that God has indeed spoken to us through the Scriptures, and that the Word of God has ample compelling evidence to its validity and historicity. The contributors to the 90-minute documentary include well known apologists and ministers such as Alistair Begg, R.C. Sproul, Albert Mohler, Frank Turek, Kevin DeYoung, and Norman Geisler. These learned theologians make the point that God has revealed Himself through His creative power in the wonder of the natural world, but has given a more clear narrative of who He is and His plan for us through the inspired Scriptures. Frank Turek states: “You need God specifically in propositional language telling us certain facts about Himself. You can get some of those facts from nature, but you can’t get all of them: you can’t get that God is triune, you can’t get the plan of salvation from the stars. You can only get it from special revelation. So if we’re going to be saved and sanctified, we need the Bible.” The movie starts with an overview of what the Bible is – a collection of 66 books written by more than 40 authors, all inspired by God to be a cohesive message pointing to the central turning point of history – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christians will enjoy this movie: it gives a powerful testimony about God’s Word, and equips us with talking points that make us ready to defend the validity of the Bible with compelling evidence. The target audience seems to be people with at least some understanding of theological terms and familiarity with the Bible as a whole. This makes it less of an ideal tool for evangelism, as viewers without this familiarity may not follow the line of argument as comfortably. The God Who Speaks was produced by American Family Studios, and you can watch it for free, below. ...

History

The Canadian Revolution of 1982

When we speak of a political "revolution," we usually think of a violent event that replaces one political system with another. Among the best known revolutions are the French Revolution of the late eighteenth century and the Russian Revolution of 1917. Canada, thankfully, has never experienced anything of this sort. Nevertheless, Canada did experience a dramatic change in its political system in 1982. In that year, Canada's constitution (the British North America Act, or BNA Act of 1867) was patriated from Great Britain, and the Constitution Act of 1982 was added to the constitution. The latter Act included the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It seems to me that the adoption of the Charter amounted to a political revolution. For most people, talking about the constitution is probably rather boring. It appears to be just a dull legal document with little relevance for day-to-day life. But what if a change in the constitution initiated the uprooting of the original underlying Christian basis of our society? Wouldn’t that affect the day-to-day life of Canadian Christians? This is indeed what has been happening in Canada for a few years now. The government of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau staged a non-violent revolution in 1982, and although Trudeau himself is now dead, the implications of his revolution continue to work themselves out in our political and legal systems. Two approaches Historically speaking, there have been two major approaches to protecting rights and liberties in liberal democratic countries such as Canada. One is the British parliamentary model, and the other is the American separation of powers model. These models, and their relevance for Canada, are discussed in a lengthy article by Prof. Ted Morton, of the University of Calgary, entitled, The Living Constitution (contained in Introductory Readings in Canadian Government & Politics R. M. Krause and R. H. Wagenberg, ed., second edition, 1995). Morton summarizes the differences between the two approaches this way: The American model is ultimately based on and organized by a single document – a written constitution. By contrast, the Westminster model is based on an unwritten constitution – a combination of historically important statutes, the common law tradition, and numerous unwritten conventions and usages. The second difference is that the written constitution of the Americans includes an enumeration of the fundamental rights and liberties of the individual against government, known collectively as the Bill of Rights. While individuals enjoy basically the same rights and freedoms under the British parliamentary model of democracy, they are not spelled out in any single basic document of government – that is, they are not constitutionally entrenched. In the American system, the courts play a much larger political role since they can be appealed to in order to enforce explicitly enumerated rights against the government. In the British system, however, there is an understanding that Parliament is the supreme political institution, and that the courts are primarily to interpret the laws that are passed by Parliament. Thus court challenges against the government are usually ineffective in the British model. With the exception of its federal structure (i.e., separate federal and provincial governments), Canada's constitution was based on the British model until 1982. "Accordingly, Canada until very recently followed the British approach to the protection of civil liberty: parliamentary supremacy, the rule of law, and the conventions that support them.” While it is probably natural to think that the American approach to protecting rights would be more effective, since there is an explicit declaration of rights, this is not necessarily so. A comparison of Canadian and American history does not show that rights were better protected under the American system than under Canada's British-style system. Think of the treatment of black people in the southern states, for example. So it cannot be argued that Canada needed the Charter of Rights to protect the otherwise threatened rights of citizens. Bill vs. Charter of Rights In 1960 the Canadian government adopted a Bill of Rights, but since it was just a simple piece of regular legislation, it had virtually no noticeable effect on Canada's political system. The Charter of Rights is an entirely different affair than the 1960 Bill of Rights. "The adoption of a constitutionally entrenched Charter of Rights fundamentally altered the Canadian system of government by placing explicit limitations on the law-making power of both levels of government. Parliament was no longer supreme; the constitution was.” Morton notes that the exception to this is section 33 of the Charter which allows governments to pass legislation that violates certain sections of the Charter, although only under certain conditions. This is known as the "notwithstanding clause." However, this clause is rarely used (being widely viewed as illegitimate) and is therefore unlikely to play much of a role in Canadian politics. It is important to note, as Morton does above, that the Charter "fundamentally altered the Canadian system of government." This was the initial revolutionary change. The effects of the revolution primarily work themselves out through court decisions, especially decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada. The courts interpret the Charter and it is through this role that they are implementing the changes required to complete the revolution. The opposition loves it The Charter of Rights was not adopted to codify and protect the existing rights and freedoms of Canadian citizens, but instead to bring about important political changes. Some leftwing scholars have noted (and celebrated) the fact that the Charter promotes "egalitarianism," i.e., the modern notion of social equality. Kathleen Mahoney, a prominent feminist law professor at the University of Calgary, points this out in an article in the 1992 Winter issue of the New York University Journal of International Law and Politics. She states: It is my view that the Supreme Court of Canada, to quite a remarkable degree, has recognized the egalitarian challenge the Charter presents. In the past few years, it has launched a promising new era for equality jurisprudence quite unique in the western world. The equality theory it has developed goes far beyond that which underlies constitutional law of other western societies including Europe and the United States. A cruder way of saying this is that Canada's Supreme Court is further to the left than any other supreme court in the West. The Charter, then, contains within it the seeds for dramatic left-wing change in Canada. Mahoney refers to "the transformative potential in the Charter, a potential to achieve social change towards a society that responds to needs, honors difference, and rejects abstractions." Note again that the Charter has a "transformative potential . . . to achieve social change." You can be sure that she is referring to left-wing social change. A revolution, in other words. The constitutional change of 1982 fundamentally altered Canada's political system. The adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was the most significant component of this change. As a result of court decisions interpreting the Charter, Canada's abortion law was struck down, homosexual rights have been greatly expanded, and other left-wing policies have been advanced as well. Canada would likely be taking a somewhat left-wing path even without the Charter, but the implementation of the Charter has greatly strengthened and accelerated this trend. Left-wing social change has effectively been institutionalized by the Charter. Canada's revolution was not a violent one, but it was a revolution none the less. This article first appeared in the February 2002 issue. Postscript: A sampling or revolutionary rulings The New Constitution Versus the Fourth Commandment "R. vs. Big M Drug Mart" (1985) This decision by the Supreme Court struck down Canada's "Lord's Day Act." This Act had placed some restrictions on business activity on Sundays. A business in Calgary that had been charged under the Act (for remaining open on Sundays) claimed that it violated the Charter of Right's section 2 "freedom of religion" clause. The Supreme Court agreed, and struck down the Act. Because the Lord's Day Act was based upon Christian beliefs, and therefore entailed government enforcement of a Christian teaching (i.e., not working on the Lord's Day), the Court said it violated the Charter's guarantee of religious freedom for non-Christians. The New Constitution Versus the Sixth Commandment "R. vs. Morgentaler" (1988) In 1969 abortion was legalized to a certain degree in Canada. A woman could have an abortion in a hospital if her request for an abortion received the approval of the hospital's therapeutic abortion committee (TAC). To be sure, a large number of abortions were conducted under this provision, but it did nevertheless limit where abortions could take place and who could do them. Infamous baby-killer Henry Morgentaler challenged the restrictions on abortion. To make a long story short, he won the case, and the section of Canada's Criminal Code limiting abortion was struck down. Although some of the Supreme Court judges offered differing opinions as to why they sided with Morgentaler, the main thrust of the decision was that the procedures involving the TACs violated the section 7 Charter right to "security of the person." Canada was left with no legal restrictions on abortion whatsoever. The New Constitution Versus the Seventh Commandment "Vriend vs. Alberta" (1998) Delwin Vriend worked for King's University College in Edmonton. Because Vriend was openly homosexual, and therefore in clear violation of the College's Christian code of conduct, he was fired. However, he could not appeal his dismissal to Alberta's Human Rights Commission because the province's Individual Rights Protection Act (IRPA) did not include sexual orientation as a protected category. Thus Vriend challenged the IRPA as violating the Charter's section 15 equality rights provision for not protecting sexual orientation. The Supreme Court agreed, and ruled that the failure to include sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination was unconstitutional. This clearly extended the scope of homosexual rights....

Apologetics 101, RP App, Sexuality

10 tales to help us clear away transgender confusion

We live in a time when the obvious is not so. How exactly can we explain to someone who doesn’t get it, that saying you’re a woman doesn’t make you one? Three thousand years ago the prophet Nathan faced the same sort of problem – how to effectively explain the obvious. Anyone who has heard the Ten Commandments knows that murder and adultery are sins and yet King David had done both and remained entirely unrepentant. So in comes Nathan, with a story about a rich man who’d stolen and eaten his poor neighbor’s only sheep (2 Sam. 12). David, blind to his own sins, condemned the rich man to death for actions that paled in comparison to his own. That’s when Nathan connected the dots for him: if you think sheep stealing is bad, then what should you think about wife stealing? “You are the man!” he thundered. And David’s eyes were opened. Transgenders and their allies need their eyes opened too. To help clear away their confusion, here are 10 news items and other illustrations. They can be used in back-fence conversations or in letters to the editor or to our elected officials, and come in three broad groupings: A. We shouldn’t encourage people to harm themselves B. People can be wrong about their own bodies C. Wishing doesn’t make it so These analogies are like warning signs that tell us “Turn around!” “Hazardous!” and “Do not go any further!” That’s helpful, but a “Wrong way” sign only tells us what not to do. It doesn’t really point us in the right direction. So it’s important to understand that while these analogies can expose the transgender lie, they don’t do much to point people to the truth. For that we need to share God’s thoughts on gender, that He created us male and female (Gen. 5:2), and that when we deny this reality bad stuff happens – then we arrive at a point where the cruel and the sadly comical are celebrated and encouraged. What follows are examples of where this reality-denying path leads. A. WE SHOULDN’T ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO HARM THEMSELVES The majority of transsexuals don’t undergo surgery, but many do. This involves cutting pieces of their body off. Why are we encouraging this self-harm? Lonely man wants to be a parrot Ted Richards likes parrots, and in an effort to look more like his pets he has had the whites of his eyes inked, feathers tattooed on his face, horns inserted into his skull, and his ears cut off. He has also recently changed his name to Ted Parrotman. One article had him saying he had only two friends. His loneliness comes out in other ways too – he has no regrets about changing his surname because: “I’ve not had any contact with my mother and father for years because we didn’t really get on – I don’t even know if they’re dead or alive, and I also don’t talk to my siblings anymore – so I felt no connection to having a family name.” When he appeared on The Jeremy Kyle Show the crowd applauded when the host declared, “There’s nothing wrong with being different.” No, but there is something wrong with cheering on self-destructive behavior. Abled bodied man cuts off one arm In 2015 the National Post profiled “One Hand Jason,” a man who cut off his right arm with a “very sharp power tool.” According to the Post: His goal was to become disabled. People like Jason have been classified as “transabled” – feeling like imposters in their bodies, their arms and legs in full working order. Like the transgendered, transabled people feel they have been born in the wrong bodies, but instead of objecting to their genitalia, the transabled object to their limbs, or their hearing, or even their lack of paralysis. And like the transgendered, some seek to address this discomfort by cutting bits of themselves off. Woman blinds herself Jewel Shuping wanted to be blind ever since she was a girl. She bought herself a white cane at 18 and learned Braille by 20, and then, at 23, paid a psychologist to pour drain cleaner in her eyes. She told the British Tabloid The Sun: “I really feel this is the way I was supposed to be born, that I should have been blind from birth.” B. PEOPLE CAN BE WRONG ABOUT THEIR OWN BODIES The previous three examples could also fall into this category, but Kevin DeYoung’s illustration that follows is especially good. Girl’s anorexia is affirmed In A Transgender Thought Experiment, Kevin DeYoung tells the fictional story of a young woman who at just 95 pounds still thinks of herself as fat. She asks her counselor for help and he reveals himself to be an affirming sort. Rather than address her anorexia the counselor tells her: “If you tell me you’re fat, I’m not going to stand in the way of you accepting that identity….You are fat. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s who you are.… No one can tell you what’s right or wrong with your body. After all, it’s your body…. it’s okay if you don’t eat much for lunch. Weight is only a social construct. Fat is a feeling, not a fact.” C. WISHING DOESN’T MAKE IT SO Four of the examples that follow are actual people, but the best illustration is probably the last one in this grouping, where Joseph Backholm asks a series of hypothetical questions to university students. And if people don’t believe the hypothetical could ever become actual, real examples are plentiful. Woman says she is another race The Afro-wearing, dark-skinned Rachel Dolezal was the president of the Spokane chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 2014 until June of 2015 when she resigned after it was revealed that both her biological parents were white. She later stated that she was “biologically born white to white parents, but I identify as black.” Man says he is another age Paul Wolscht is a heavy-set, six-foot tall, 52-year-old who wants to be a six-year-old girl named Stefoknee. In a video interview with the gay news site The Daily Xtra Wolscht explained that he has “an adopted mommy and daddy who are totally comfortable with me being a little girl. And their children and grandchildren are totally supportive.” “It’s liberated me from the hurt. Because if I’m six years old, I don’t have to think about adult stuff…I have access to really pretty clothes and I don’t have to act my age. By not acting my age I don’t have to deal with the reality that was my past because it hurt…” Wolscht has abandoned his wife of more than 20 years and his seven children, deciding that playing the part of a six-year-old girl is more to his liking than his role of husband and father. However, Wolscht has not abandoned caffeine or his car: “I still drink coffee and drive a car, right, even my tractor, but still I drive the tractor as a little kid. I drive my car as a little kid.” But, of course, six-year-olds really shouldn’t drink coffee, and driving is out of the question. So whether six or 52, Wolscht is not acting his age. One more thought to consider – Wolscht’s childish claims have been treated with respect by The Daily Xtra but what would they think of the reverse? As one of my teenage nieces put it: “Can I identify as a 22-year-old and order a drink at a bar? Can I identify as a 16-year-old and get my license?” Teens to get seniors’ discount? In April of 2016, the American department store chain Target announced that they would “welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.” In May that same year, the Christian satire site The Babylon Bee came out with an item about how the store would now allow “grant a 10% senior discount to any person who self-identifies as age 60 or older.” Woman says she another species Nano, a Norweigan woman claims she is a cat. She wears cloth ears and will, on occasion, crawl around on her hands and knees and meow at people. In a video interview with reporter Silje Ese she says she was 16 when she first realized she was a cat trapped in a human’s body. She distinguished her situation from that of her friend Svein, who, she says, is a human with a cat personality in his head (one of several personalities he exhibits), whereas she was born a cat. They both claimed to be able to communicate to each other in “cat language,” a claim which the reporter did not, of course, put to the test. Man says he is “mythical beast” Richard Hernandez has had his scales tattooed onto his face, arms and body, his ears removed, his eye whites dyed green, and his nostrils trimmed. Why? So he can become a female dragon. On one of his many blogs he describes himself as: “…the Dragon Lady…in the process of morphing into a human dragon, becoming a reptoid as I shed my human skin and my physical appearance and my life as a whole leaving my humanness behind and embracing my most natural self awareness as a mythical beast.” Guy says he is another height, gender, race and age In a popular YouTube video called College Kids Say the Darndest Things: On Identity, the short, very white, Joseph Backholm asked Washington University students if he could be a tall Chinese first-grader. They told him to go for it. CONCLUSION These are fantastic illustrations of the insanity that results when we deny that it’s God who gets to define reality and not us. But the better the illustration, the stronger the temptation to rely on the story to do all the work for us. But like the prophet Nathan before us, after telling these tales we’ll need to spell out the transgender connection for our listening audience. What that might look like? Maybe a bit like this: Christian: Have you heard about the guy who cut off his arm because he felt like he should have been born disabled? Secular Sue: That is crazy! Someone needed to help that poor guy. He needed some counseling or something. Chris: I agree. But I got a question for you – some guys will cut off a significant bit of themselves because they think they should have been born girls. Do you think that’s crazy too? Sue: I think that’s different – gender is just a social construct, so if someone feel they are the wrong gender, then maybe surgery like that can help. Chris: So it’s crazy to cut off your arm but okay to cut off your…? Sue: Well…. Chris: Why the hesitation? Sue: Because when you put it like that it doesn’t sound quite right. Chris: That’s because it isn’t right. Self-mutilation is wrong. There’s a guy who was on a talk show about how, to become more like his parrots, he’d cut off his ears. The crowd applauded. Sue: Oh, that’s awful. Chris: I agree. But isn’t this just the logical end to encouraging transgenderism? If gender is changeable, what isn’t? And if all is changeable, how can we discourage anyone from trying to do just that? To each their own and all that. But Christians know that God made us male and female; we know He gets to define reality and we don’t; and we know that when we defy His reality, bad stuff results. Like people cutting off their ears to the approval of the clapping crowd. We’re not going to convince everyone, no matter how brilliant the analogy, so that mustn’t be our measure for success. Instead, we want to ask is, are we bringing clarity? Are eyes being opened? Is the world being presented with the choice they need to make? Do they realize they can either choose for God, male and female, and reality as He has defined it… or they choose chaos? This first appeared in the June 2016 issue. ...

Articles, Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

95+ wordless wonders for creative kids, wanna-be readers, and reluctant ones too

If you can remember waaaay back to when you first learned to read, what probably sticks with you is that feeling of triumph. It takes a lot of work, a lot of sounding out of all those letters before a kid can turn them into words and sentences. No wonder then that when we first pull it off, kids everywhere can't wait to get home and regale mom and dad with tales of how "Pat and Matt found a cat." For that excitement to last kids will have to be introduced, not simply to reading, but to books worth reading. That's a real challenge early on because long before kids can read the simplest of sentences they've already been introduced to complex stories. Whether it's Bible readings at the dinner table, audiobooks in the car, a picture book on the couch with Grandma, or The Wilderking Trilogy read by dad at night, non-readers are already refining their literary palate years before they enter school. That's why, after that initial triumph that comes with reading those first few dozen "Pat and Matt" books all on their own, it's not unusual for a First Grader to get frustrated by just how boring these simplified stories are. That's where wordless, or near-wordless, books can be a help by serving as an encouraging supplement to their necessarily boring early readers. And the very same features that make them a help for early readers make them a go-to for struggling readers too. If a child's reading skill level just isn't there yet, we can encourage him to keep at it by feeding him stories that are way more exciting, but which deliver their content in a manner that's more accessible. And for the preschooler who desperately wants to be grown-up just like their older siblings, and do what they do, wordless books are a treat. They can read too, maybe with a little help from their dad at first, but then afterward they'll be able to read the story to Grandma all on their own! But in addition to pre-readers, early-readers, and struggling readers, there's one other pint-sized demographic that can really benefit from this genre. If you have an artistically inclined child, it can be eye-opening to them to see just how much can be said simply by the way a scene or a character is drawn. Some of these books include lushly detailed, full-color pages that a child can pour over for minutes at a time. Others pictures amount to just a few well-placed lines. What a fascinating contrast for a creative kid to explore! But the best reason to read any book? Simply because it's great. Wordless books often operate like a joke, with the bulk of the book as the mysterious setup, and the last few pages, a punchline that makes the rest of it clear. That means, they'll be at their funniest when mom or dad is along for the adventure, to help puzzle things out. You might have to show your kids the ropes, teaching them how to follow the visual cues, but once you go through it with them the first time, they'll be equipped to return to it repeatedly and enjoy it all on their own... or even "read" it to a younger sibling. Quiet and kind (17) These might make for nice bedtime or naptime reads. Ben's Dream by Chris Van Allsburg 1982 / 30 pages A boy has a geography test to study for, and falls asleep with his textbook on his lap. He then dreams of floating past the Great Wall of China, Mount Rushmore, the Statue of Liberty, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and more. At the Sphinx, he even sees his friend, and when he wakes up, he discovers she dreamt of floating past the Sphinx too and seeing him there. Was it just a dream? While this is largely (20+ pages) wordless, it does begin with three pages of text, and then another three to end. The Boys by Jeff Newman 2010 / 40 pages Simple but brightly colored pictures make this a fun one to figure out – I had to flip back and forth through the pages a few times, so your kids will likely need you alongside to think things through. But you'll both enjoy this gentle story of a boy, newly moved to the neighborhood, and the elderly "boys" that he ends up befriending. He wanted to play baseball but couldn't get invited to play with the other kids. The elderly gents were more welcoming, so he started hanging with them...and humorously, starts acting like them, in dress and habits. These gents know a boy has to be a boy, so if he's going to follow their lead, then they are going to show him what it's like to play like a boy. It's sweet, with a happy ending for all... which for these gents means getting back to sitting on their bench and watching those other "boys" play ball. The Depth of the Lake and the Height of the Sky by Kim Jihyun 2021 / 48 pages A boy from the city heads off with his family to visit his grandparents in the country. There he discovers the wide woods and a beautiful lake. While some tales like this descend into fantasy at this point, the fish he finds under the waters are a realistic, though wonderful sort. That makes this a nice quiet tale, but so quickly over that it'd be best to borrow rather than buy. The Farmer and the Clown (3) by Marla Frazee 2014 / 32 pages When a clown baby falls off the circus train, a long-bearded farmer takes him in. He teaches the toddler a little about farming, and the clown teaches him about clowning. When the circus train returns in search of the baby, they have to go their separate ways. But in a twist on the last page, we see the farmer won’t be lonely – a monkey has jumped off the train to visit. That sets up the sequels The Farmer and the Monkey (2020), and The Farmer and the Circus (2021) where the farmer visits the monkey and boy... and then finds the love of his life: a lady clown! Float by Daniel Miyares 2015 / 44 pages A boy crafts a paper boat out of an old newspaper and sails it in the new puddles and streams created by the still happening rainstorm. When the boat gets swept through a storm drain, he manages to track it down to the local river... but at this point it's just a soggy sheet of paper. He returns, saddened, to his home. But dad knows just how to encourage him. After getting dried off and given some hot tea, dad shows him how to make a paper airplane! (This inside front cover shows how to fold a paper boat, and the inside back cover shows how to make a good paper airplane.) The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney 2009 / 40 pages When a tiny mouse disturbs the naptime of the King of the Beasts, the King seems intent on having a quick snack. But instead, after some back and forth with the tiny petitioner, the lion lets the mouse go. Why? Readers already familiar with this Aesop's Tale will remember that the mice have pledged to help the king if ever he is in trouble. But in Pinkney’s almost entirely wordless version because there are only s few squeaks, one owl screech, and a lion’s roar, what the mice have promised isn't as clear. But no worries, we can follow along well enough. Then when hunters trap the mightly lion in a net, it is the mouse that comes to the rescue, chewing through the rope to set the lion free. The moral of the story? Even the strongest among us will eventually need help too.  Mr. Hulot at the Beach by David Merveille 2014 / 32 pages A man just wants to read his newspaper at the beach. But an errant beach ball, a lost shoe, and a digging dog all get in the way. Fortunately, Mr. Hulot is a laid-back sort and a good sport, treating his misfortunes as the minor matters that they are. That might be the best reason to get this one: to see a man meet frustrating circumstances calmly.  Every little kindness by Marta Bartolj 2021 / 72 pages This sweet book starts off with a sad girl who has lost her dog. But as she sets out to cover the town with posters of her pup, she does a kindness to a street musician, giving him her apple. A passerby sees this good deed and then picks up someone else’s litter to throw it away. He in turn is seen by a little boy, who does his own good deed, and so on and so forth. By book's end one of the good deeds turns out to be a man returning the girl’s lost dog. The color scheme here is fun, with muted colors, but with the do-gooders always holding or wearing an item of red to attract the young reader's eye. A bonus: it’s a special treat that story is quite long! Pip & Pup by Eugene Yelchin 2018 / 32 pages A newly hatched and curious chick pecks a sleeping pup, who doesn't appreciate the interruption and chases away the frightened chick. This doesn't seem like the best of beginnings for a friendship, but when a thunderstorm scares the pup – dogs hate thunder – the chick returns to cautiously comfort him...which is much appreciated. It's a simple sweet story. Sidewalk Flowers by Jon Arno Lawson and Sydney Smith 2015 / 30 pages On a walk through the city, a girl gathers the wildflowers she finds growing here and there in the cracks in the concrete and then gives them out as small bouquets to the people she meets. The author makes a fun use of color, starting things off black and white, with only the girl's red coat sticking out. But the yellow of the first flower she spots also shows its vibrancy. And as she gives the flowers away, each page becomes more and more colorful. The point? I think it's just that being kind, even in small ways, brings a vibrancy to the world around and the gift giver too. One caution: the first bouquet she gives out is placed atop a dead bird in the park, which might make some small ones a little sad. the surprise by Sylvia van Ommen 2003 / 24 pages A thoughtful sheep figures out how to die her own wool, then shave it off, have it turned into yarn, and then goes through all the work of sewing it into a surprise present for a good friend. Only downside to this charming book is how fast it's over. Waltz of the Snowflakes by Elly Mackay 2017 / 32 pages A girl who doesn't want to get dressed up to see the ballet gets completely won over by a performance of The Nutcracker. She's a bit sullen at the start, but it might be because she's shy, as is made clear at the ballet when she sits next to a boy she seems to know, but who she still isn't eager to talk to. However, as she awakens to the performance, she can't help but share her enthusiasm with this friendly lad. Wave by Suzy Lee 2009 / 40 pages A girl takes a bit to warm up to the ocean, but she gets there. A calm, short book, with the only downside being that it is a quick read because there isn’t all that much to see on each page - just the girl, waves, and sand. See a video of it here.  Where’s Walrus? (2) by Stephen Savage 2011 / 32 pages When Walrus escapes from the zoo, his keeper looks for him everywhere. He's hard to find because in each two-page spread, Walrus is disguising himself by trying to look like those around him: dancers, firefighters, artists, and swimmers. The disguises will be easy to see through for the pre-school to Grade 1 audience this is intended for, but he’ll still be fun to find. And while he does finally get caught, Walrus gets a happy ending. In the 2015 sequel, Where’s Walrus? And Penguin?, a friend joins him in his escape, and he gets an even happier ending, finding the walrus of his dreams. Busy adventures (11) There's a little bit of action to some of these tales, which might inspire some galavanting about the house, or perhaps doodling on the nearest sheet of white paper. The Boy and the Airplane (2) by Mark Pett 2013 / 40 pages A boy gets a toy airplane as a present and an errant throw results in the plane getting stuck on the top of a roof. We then get to see him try everything from a ladder (too short) to a lasso, to a pogo stick, to try and recover his plane. When nothing works the boy settles on a long-term strategy that, while it will require patience, is sure of success: he plants a seed and waits for it to grow into a mighty tree that will be tall enough for him to climb and recover his plane. I am not going to spoil it here by telling you the end, but it is sweet and completely satisfying. The sequel, The Girl and the Bicycle (2014), is every bit as good and ties up ends you didn’t even know were loose from the first book.  Draw the line by Kathryn Otoshi 2017 / 48 pages Two chalk-wielding boys back into each other as they're drawing on the concrete. When their two lines become entangled it starts off as great fun, but a roughhouse tug-of-war leaves them both miffed at each other, and as they both pull hard on their joint line, it ruptures into a deep chasm between them. It takes a bit of time for hot heads to cool, but the two learn that by working together, they can erase the chasm and be together once again. This could be a good one for parents to read with kids and discuss how our tempers can make small things bigger, and how God calls us to self-control. Fish by Liam Francis Walsh 2016 / 32 pages This is a weird but very fun one. A boy and his dog pass by a jogger on their way to a day of fishing. But the first thing the boy catches is the letter "F" followed by an "I" and then an "S" but when they catch a "Q" they throw it back. So what letter are they still after? An "H" of course! But it's not quite that simple, as a squadron of "B"s buzz over them, and a giant "C" threatens to eat them! Once upon a banana by Jennifer Armstrong 2013 / 48 pages When I first brought this home, I gave it a read to all three of my girls. After I was done our youngest, all of three, was off on her own "reading" the book to herself. It's been a family favorite ever since. The story is one big chase scene, with monkey owner chasing monkey, and then grocer chasing monkey owner, and then some dogs join the chase, and a skateboarding judge, and a mom, and her baby in its stroller. Oh, and there's a big garbage truck in the mix too. It's crazy and frantic with loads to look at on every page.  Journey (3) by Aaron Becker 2013 / 40 pages If your children loved Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon you'll want to check this one out. While Johnson wrote her own sequels, Aaron Becker's Journey might be the most worthy successor. There are some notable differences: Harold's world is a blank page, ready to be drawn on, while Journey has lavish full-color spreads; Harold is narrated, while Journey is a completely wordless book. But in both books, a child equipped with a large crayon and an even larger imagination sets out on an adventure of their own crafting. In Journey, a girl’s dad, mom, and sister are all too busy to play with her, but when she finds a large red crayon on her bedroom floor she discovers she can make her own fun. She uses the crayon to draw a door on her wall, which she can then open and walk through into a whole other world of wonder. A quickly drawn red boat allows her to float down a forest stream to a castle that has moats running all throughout it, and friendly guards who wave her through. Like Harold, she too, in a moment of quick thinking, conjures up a balloon to save herself from a big fall. The adventure continues into the clouds, where she comes upon a strange king, his stranger airship, and an imprisoned beautiful purple bird that looks almost as if someone – someone with a purple crayon – had drawn it! Of course, she has to free the bird, and of course it isn’t easy, leaving her requiring some rescuing herself. In the sequel, Quest (2014), red crayon girl, and the purple crayon boy she meets at the end of the previous book meet an orange crayon king right before he is dragged away by soldiers. They set out to rescue him, using their own crayons and the orange crayon the king left behind. But to do that, they need to find three more crayons and, as the title indicates, have to go on a quest. and they'll have draw the tools and the animal friends they’ll need along the way. The conclusion to this wordless trilogy is Return (2016) in which the girl’s dad discovers the red door in his daughter’s bedroom and enters this other world in search of her. While the girl rescues them both with a quickly drawn submarine (these crayons work even underwater!), it’s dad who devises and draws (Wait, he has a crayon too? Has he been here before?) the trap that catches the evil king. These are all great fun, and deserve a slow “read” and then “reread” as children will be sure to notice all sorts of details on a second run-through.  The Hero of Little Street by Gregory Rogers 2012 / 32 pages This is a favorite because it has a Dutch flavor, and so do I. The story begins with our hero – a little boy with a Charlie Brown-esque look about him – managing to lose a trio of bullies by popping into a museum. And since he's there anyway, the boy decides to take a look. After he contemplates some modern art pictures and sculptures he comes across a room full of masterpieces, including Jan van Eyck's "Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife." While passing by the piece our hero catches the eye of Giovanni's little dog, and down the pup comes, right out of the painting!  The two of them then dance and jump and chase one another through the museum, until they come across a sheet of music lying on the ground. Where did it come from? Ah, wait! The two of them notice that it must have been dropped by that lady at the piano - that lady in Jan Vermeer's painting "Girl at Piano." So, in they jump, right into the picture, and return the music to the grateful girl. This leads to some more dancing, accompanied by the girl at her piano, before our hero and his dog head off further and deeper into this painting, opening a door and entering Little Street, Deflt in seventeenth-century Holland! To say this is an inventive book doesn't suffice! An art-loving parent could use this to introduce their children to some of the masters, and anyone of a Dutch heritage could use it to show what the Netherlands looked like three centuries ago. Young children will love it for the sheer rollicking adventure. It ends with our hero back in modern-day, but now equipped by his time-traveling artistic adventure with just the tool he needs to help him with those bullies. The Typewriter (2) by Bill Thomson 2016 / 40 pages Three kids find a typewriter in a box on a merry-go-round and discover that whatever they type on it appears. That’s good when it is “ice cream” but not so good when it is “giant crab.” After their adventure, the kids leave the typewriter behind for others to enjoy. Chalk is a very similar book, except this time the kids find a bag of chalk at the playground that they use to draw creations that come to life. Things get exciting when a boy draws a T-Rex! What’s remarkable about Thomson’s art is that is nearly photorealistic! A third book following this theme, Fossil, has a boy discover fossils of creatures, all of which then appear, and the last of which, a pterodactyl, flies off with his dog. It’s fun but begins by saying fossils show us creatures “that lived 10,000 or more years ago,” a timescale that falls just outside of the biblical reality. Animals (13) Sweet stories for kids who love animals. A ball for Daisy (2) by Chris Raschka 2011 / 32 pages Daisy is a cute little pup who loves her big red ball and plays with it everywhere. Things take a tragic turn when another dog, trying to get in on the fun, pops the ball! But don’t worry, a happy ending is coming – after a few pages of Daisy being sad, the owner of the dog who popped the ball brings over a brand new one, and this time it is blue. A 2013 sequel, Daisy Gets Lost, has a half dozen more words than the wordless original but has the same quiet tension: Daisy chases her blue ball into the woods, then chases the squirrel she discovers, and gets lost for a dozen or so pages before being rescued and hugged but the little girl who owns her. Dog on a digger by Kate Prendergast 2016 / 32 pages Heavy machinery, paired up with Man's best Friend - how could any red-blooded boy resist? This begins with a Dog #1 waking his master because he's eager to head to work, sitting side by side in their excavator. For lunch the two head to a friendly food truck lass who has her own pup. It's when this Dog #2 wanders off and gets himself into a heap of trouble that brave and ingenious deeds need to be done, with a little help from some heavy machinery. This is a great one and it comes on extra heavy paper that school librarians will appreciate. Her earlier Dog on a Train (2015) is also fun, but the drawing is just a little messier, and the story a little simpler, so, unusual as it may be, the sequel is actually better than the original. Draw! by Raúl Colón 2015 / 32 pages A boy imagines himself going on an African safari to draw all the different animals, all of whom are happy to have their portraits taken...except for the rhino! Fly! by Mark Teague 2019 / 32 pages When a baby bird falls out of the nest, its mom suggests it fly back. He has some creative, alternative suggestions, told with pictured thought bubbles, on how he can get back up. Flora and the Flamingo (3) by Molly Idle 2013 / 44 pages Flora dances an elegant and energetic duet with a flamingo. My favorite of the “Flora’s feathered friends” series is the 2014 sequel, Flora and the Penguin which see her switch up dance partners, and Flora and the Peacocks (2016) has her dancing with two others for even more fun. The only downside to these wordless wonders is that they include flaps and foldouts that might need reinforcement to hold up to school library use. But if you’re buying it for a child or grandchild who likes to dance, these will be inspirational. (Don’t confuse these for the two other “Flora books” featuring an ostrich in one, and baby chicks in the other, which are board books intended for babies.)  Found. by Jeff Newman and Larry Day 2018 / 48 pages I've not before seen so much poignancy packed into wordless pages. On a rainy day, a little girl spots a lost soggy little puppy in the street below her apartment window. She races down to retrieve him and when she brings him home, she has all sorts of dog supplies at the ready. How comes she's so prepared? An observant reader will notice a "Missing" poster for a dog named Prudence posted on the bulletin board in her bedroom. And that name comes up again when she feeds the pup his chow in a bowl labeled "Prudence" – this little girl has suffered a loss, but is now finding some solace via this pup-in-need. But when she spots another "Missing" poster, this time for the little pup, it takes her just a bit to figure out the right thing to do. She'll suffer another loss, but she'll do for this boy what she wished someone would have done for her: return an owner's lost dog. That's going to have little readers a little weepy (shucks, it got me a little misty) but never fear, there is a happy ending. On the way home the girl spots a dog in the Humane Shelter window that looks in need of a friend. This is a remarkable book, even in the small details, like how it maximizes the use of every page (even the inside back and front covers). Such a delight! Owly & Wormy: Friends all aflutter! (2) by Andy Runton 2011 / 40 pages While Owly also stars in his own graphic novels (which I review below), he also teams up with his friend Wormy to tell a couple of shorter picture book tales. In this first adventure the two buddies plant flowers in hopes of attracting butterflies, but end up attracting caterpillars instead...and they are eating the flowers' leaves! Owl and Wormy are initially disappointed but befriend the caterpillars, only to have them abruptly disappear. Quite the mystery to kidlets, but parents, knowing what caterpillars turn into, will be able to anticipate the happy ending. In the 2012 follow-up Owly & Wormy: Bright lights and starry nights!, a stargazing expedition goes awry when Owly loses his telescope. But some scary-seeming, but actually friendly bats, help Owly find what once was lost and then show him how to use it. Penguin sets sail by Jessica Linn Evans 2020 / 32 pages Penguin’s penguin friends just seem to like eating fish; he wants adventure! So he sets sail and then meets new friends who love adventures too...and returning home afterward to share them with old friends. The simple story makes this one for parents and preschoolers to enjoy together, while some Grade 1 children will enjoy it too. Time Flies by Eric Rohmann 1994 / 32 pages A board flies into a museum, and fluters around the ancient dinosaur skeletons, which, for reasons unexplained, come alive. Or has the bird simply be transported back in time? It's unclear, but what's very clear is how cool these dinosaur pictures are. And because there are no words, there's no evolutionary proselytizing – hurray! Favorite authors (19) A few authors have specialized in wordless books. Henry Cole (3) When his pet cat Spot goes out the third-story window and into the big broad city, a boy searches for him, posting “Lost” posters as he goes. This is a lot like a “Where’s Waldo?” book, but in Spot, the Cat (2016, 32 pagers) we’re trying to find the cat and his boy. And it has a happy ending. In a 2019 followup, Spot & Dot, the boy helps a girl find her lost dog, but accidentally lets his cat out. So, this time we get to search for two pets. When a young girl discovers a runaway slave hiding in her family’s barn, she has to make a decision about what to do. Will she help by keeping quiet, or will she tell the Confederate soldiers that are riding about? There’s lots of subtle detail in Unspoken: a story from the Underground Railroad (2012, 40 pages), including a couple of appearances in the sky of the Big Dipper and its North Star that slaves used to find their way to the Free North and Canada. This isn’t a complicated story, but because it is all “unspoken” it’s a good one for children to read along with their parents. You can hear the author "read" it here. Barbara Lehman (7) In Museum Trip (2006, 40 pages) a little boy on a class trip to the museum stops to tie his shoe and loses track of the others. He then discovers a small door in the wall that leads to a room with 6 small mazes on display. Next thing, we see a little version of him running through each maze, one by one. Has he actually shrunk, or is this him daydreaming and just imagining he’s running through them? Either way, readers in Grade 1 and preschool will enjoy working through each of these simple mazes. As the boy makes his way to the middle of the last maze we get a glimpse of him having a gold medal hung around his neck. Right afterward, he’s big again, and manages to track down his class. So was his maze adventure just a daydream? Well, on the final panel, as the class leaves the museum, we see the boy discover he does have a gold medal around his neck...and we see the museum director has one around his neck too! Kids who enjoy the mystery of this tale will enjoy the author’s Red (2004, 32 pages) and Red Again (2017) books which are more mysterious still. They should be bought as a set, with the ending of the one serving as an introduction to the next, and vice versa (or as my one daughter put it “They’re a circle!”). Sticking with this mysterious theme is the secret box (2011, 48 pages) in which generation after generation of children going to the same boarding school discover the same box, with a treasure map that allows them to meet up with the children who have discovered the map before. Some wordless books are too mysterious, such that it's hard to know what on earth is going on. This almost crosses the line, but Lehman’s friendly, detailed drawings ensure this is a fun one.  Less mysterious, but lots of fun, is the author’s Trainstop (2008, 32 pages) where a girl goes on a train ride and encounters little people in need of a big friend. Another favorite is Rainstorm (2007, 32 pages) about a boy wandering through his big house all alone before finding a key that unlocks a truck. The trunk opens into a very long tunnel under his house which leads to… well, you’ll have to get the book to find out! Absolutely charming is her most recent, a fractured fairytale called Little Red and the Cat Who Loved Cake (2021, 64 pages). In this case, Little Red is a boy, and he and his dad, Big Red, run a bakery. For a surprise, they want to give grandma one of their cakes, but their cat would really like a piece. So off Little Red goes, asking for directions from all sorts of other fairytale characters like Jack and Jill, Miss Muffet, and Peter Piper. Meanwhile, the cat sneaks ahead and tries to disguise itself as grandma, but is found out…and offered a slice of cake. Very fun!  David Wiesner (5) Flotsam (2006, 40 pages) shows us what happens when a boy discovers an old-style underwater camera washed up on the beach and then brings the film in to be developed. There he discovers pictures, seemingly taken by underwater creatures themselves. The world they live in when we aren’t looking is something to behold: little mermaids and mermen, robotic fish, giant turtles carrying shell cities on their backs, and even what looks like aliens taking rides on guppies. Each picture is another discovery. The very last snapshot is of a girl holding up a picture. And in that picture is a boy holding a picture of a girl who is, in turn, holding a picture of a girl. A peek through a magnifying glass shows this goes deeper still, and further back in time. The boy’s microscope reveals more still. This is inventive and fun, with the only caution being that the young target audience may have to be informed that though the photos look quite realistic, this is fantasy, not fact. A little boy falls asleep and we get to come along to his dream in Free Fall (1988, 32 pages). As dreams often do, one scene streams into the next as the boy goes from meeting a dragon to growing giant-sized, to flying home on a leaf. It makes sense only in the ways that dreams do. But the smart-eyed reader will be able to spot on the last page, when the boy wakes up, all the objects in the room that inspired the different parts of his dream. This is best read slowly. When a long flyball is hit into the outfield, a boy declares, “I’ve Got It!” (2018, 32 pages) which are the only words in the story. But does he really have it? One dropped ball is followed by another, and it’s almost like there are obstacles (getting bigger and bigger) just reaching out to trip him up. His repeated drops have his teammates moving in closer to catch it for him since he can’t. But then, in one last stretching leap, our boy in red jumps past the obstacles and beats his teammates to the ball for a wonderful game-winning catch. This is a very fun story, but I could see some kids needing a little help to understand what’s going on. In Sector 7 (1999, 48 pages) a boy on a field trip to the Empire State Building meets a rambunctious cloud (he discovers that clouds are people!) who takes him back to “Sector 7” high up in the sky where the clouds get their orders about what shape of cloud they should be. But the clouds seem a bit bored with these shapes and ask the boy to draw them up some alternatives. What fun to see clouds mimicking the sea creatures he draws! Eventually, the cloud returns the boy, but his visit to Sector 7 might have some lasting impact, as the clouds quite like being fish-shaped. The only words we read in Wiesner's Tuesday (1991, 32 pages) tell us the time, and that it is indeed a Tuesday. For reasons that are left entirely mysterious, at around 8 pm, a swarm of frogs suddenly starts flying (or is it their lily pads that are doing the levitating?). They flock into town, chase some birds for fun, watch a little telly, and then, just as they are heading back, dawn breaks, and the sun’s rays seem to sap their flying powers. That leaves the whole lot of them hopping back to their pond. This is silly nonsense and kids are sure to love it. Mercer Mayer (4) Mayer wrote a cute series of 6 small books that continue a story from one to the next. In a boy, a dog and a frog (1967, 32 pages) a little boy and his dog discover a frog, then briefly lose it in frog, where are you? (1969). Frog stars in frog on his own (1973) though his friends do show up in time to help him escape from a cat’s clutches. The frog gets jealous when a new frog shows up in one frog too many (1975). There are two more in the series, but the “friend” in a boy, a dog, a frog, and a friend is a turtle that at first seems set on drowning the dog and then seems to get drowned by the dog, before reviving and everyone becoming friends. Not so fun. And in frog goes to dinner, the frog makes a surprise appearance at the family’s restaurant outing causing a ruckus, which is fine, but the book’s conclusion with child and pets laughing about the trouble they caused is off-putting. One is enough (4) Sequels don't always work. So while these are all quite good, there's a reason, in each case, not to track down the next in the series.  Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day 1985 / 40 pages This is not technically wordless, as, in addition to the title, there are 9 other words. But it's on this list because the bulk of the book is the dog Carl silently babysitting his charge. The story is a bit bizarre, with mom leaving her baby in a rottweiler’s charge, But aside from letting baby have a trip down the laundry chute, and a short swim in the aquarium, Carl does turn out to be a decent babysitter. Shucks, he even manages to give the baby a bath! There are many, many sequels, but they all lack the originality of the first. Field trip to the ocean deep by John Hare 2020 / 40 pages A child on a class field trip to the ocean floor gets separated from the group when he goes off to see a sunken pirate. While the class's submarine searches for him, he gets to meet ocean floor animals, share his photos with them, and meet what might be a plesiosaurus who poses for him. A fun, quirky, bright, wordless adventure.  There is a sequel, Field Trip to the Moon, which swaps out grey moonlings for the sea creatures, and a girl with crayons for the original’s boy with a camera. The gray aliens love the crayons, leaving the girl with only the gray crayon in her pack. But that’s okay - she can still draw them! Aliens are an outgrowth of evolutionary theory that says life happening by accident is so easily done that “they” must be out there, so I like the first better than the sequel. That said, the second is more a celebration of crayons than aliens. A third, Field Trip to Volcano Island, doesn't live up to the two that preceded it. The Adventures of Polo by Régis Faller 2002 / 80 pages A little dog living on a small island begins his adventure by tightrope walking on a line attached to his beach. It takes him across the water, then up into the sky, and finally sliding for a soft landing onto a fluffy white cloud. The opening pages give you a good idea of what’s to come with the dog Polo traveling via cloud, boat, air bubble, airplane, tree elevator, balloons, submarine, iceberg, and finally a rocketship mushroom. Along the way, he meets all kinds of friends including some happy face moonlings. It’s a stress-free, busy adventure that children, particularly those in Grade 2 and under, will love. There is a sequel, Polo: The Runaway Book, but the free-form adventure borders on chaotic randomness so in this case, one is fun, and two might be too many.   Pancakes for breakfast by Tomie dePaola 1978 / 32 pages A woman sets out to make pancakes only to discover she is short of eggs. While that is easily remedied – just a quick trip to the henhouse – it’s quite the delay when she finds out she is also short of butter. Finally, she discovers she is short of syrup! And when she heads out to get that, she returns only to discover her pets have gotten into everything. But don’t worry, there is a happy ending!. Charming cartoonish pictures make this a book kids will love to read repeatedly. dePaola has another wordless book, but The Hunter and the Animals strikes me as an anti-hunting book so I don't recommend it. Noah's Ark (2) Most Bible storybooks are problematic in that they so often mangle the biblical text. What I appreciate about both accounts here is that, because they are wordless, they actually require that you go to the Bible to read the original account. So it is not meant to replace Bible reading, but is instead meant to spur further thinking on God’s Word. Both can also serve as a corrective to the common misrepresentation of the Ark being so tiny that the giraffes had to stick their necks out the windows. Noah’s Ark by Peter Spier 1977 / 48 pages This is a beautifully illustrated, nearly wordless account, with only three of the 48 pages containing text: two are biblical quotations and the other is given to an English translation of a 400-year-old poem about the Flood by Dutchman Jacobus Revius. The rest is filled with seemingly simple, but incredibly detailed pictures of Noah and his family as they build the Ark, bring in the animal pairs, and feed and care for them inside. Some of the detail is whimsical  – a mouse is shown trying to push an elephant's foot off of its fellow mouse's tail – but we also see the floodwaters overtaking the animals that were left behind. This is no cutesy, sanitized account! I will add that a friend still thought the pictures a tad too whimsical – that they were making a joke out of things. I disagree, and the only problem I had is one picture where it appears as if Noah (rather than, as the Bible says, God) is closing the Ark doors. But we can choose to assume God is on the other side sealing them shut. Noah by Mark Ludy 60 pages / 2014 Mark Ludy's wordless account of Noah's life will fascinate young and old. There's so much to see on every page, and the wordless nature of it invites parent and child to discuss all that's going on. Noah's wife is shown here as a lighter colored black, while Noah himself is maybe Grecian, Roman, or perhaps Sicilian. What both most certainly are not – and what they most probably were not – is a British or Scandanavian sort of white. That might bring questions for the many a child and adult who, having grown up with picture Bibles that have a white Adam and Eve, and a white Jesus too, have presumed Noah was white as well. But it is more likely that Adam, Eve, and maybe many of the generations that followed had some sort of middle brown skin, as that genetic coding can contain within it the possibility of both darker and lighter skin in the generations that follow. Another corrective: while evolutionary theory portrays Man as being much simpler back in history, the Bible details some big advances being made from one generation to the next (Genesis 4:20-22). They were no primitive dummies so it is helpful to see Noah shown as living in a fairly advanced level of industry and technology. They aren't in a rocket age, but they also aren't living in caves either. Finally, we also get a good idea of the sheer magnitude of the Ark, correcting the silly bathtub toy picture some might have stuck in their heads. This is not a book that we shouldn't ever let overshadow the biblical account, but when we put it in its proper place – like that of a commentary that helps us reflect on what Genesis 6-9 is actually saying – then it can be a wonderful aid. I will offer a couple of critiques: while there's a dinosaur and some mammoths to be seen working on the ark's construction, neither can be found in it. Also, while animals two by two can be seen making their way to the ark, there don't seem to be any groups of 7 (Genesis 7:2). Of course, we don't see every animal arrive, so maybe we just missed those, and they'll be found in any expanded future edition of the book. Comics/graphic novels (12) The biggest fault with wordless books is they are so quickly done. But, thankfully, some of these graphic novels are huge! Owly: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer (5) by Andy Runton 2004 / 160 pages This is two stories in one, and at about 80 pages each, they have room for some real fun. In the first, we get introduced to Owly, who, as you may have guessed, is an owl. The forest creatures are afraid of him because, well, he's an owl, and they know that typically owls eat creatures like them. But not Owly. He's a kinder gentler owl, and all he wants to do is feed his fellow birds seeds. Sadly, no one trusts him, and Owly is all alone... until the night of the big storm! Then Owly finds a worm, half-drowned, and nurses it back to health. Worm, realizing he hadn't been eaten, trusts and befriends Owly, which is the start of something beautiful. It's never really explained what Owly does eat, but we can be certain that it isn't cute little worms! In the second story, Owly and Worm meet a couple of hummingbirds and have a great time until the little speedsters have to head south for the winter. But don't worry, they'll be back come Spring! It'd be more accurate to call these "talkless" rather than "wordless" because, even as the dialogue between Owly and his worm friend is limited to symbols and punctuation marks – a question mark when one of them is puzzled and an exclamation mark when they are excited – there's the occasional shop sign or even a whole encyclopedia page entry on hummingbirds that does require the reader to be able to actually read. If you're considering getting this for your school library, you'll be interested to know there are two editions of this story, the first in black and white with this symbol-based dialogue, and the second, now titled simply Owly: The Way Home (2020) that is in full-color and adds in a minimal bit of verbiage between the characters. While I really like the original near-wordless version, it was sometimes a bit hard to decipher what Owly and his pal were saying to each other, so the second editions are probably the best way to go. Everything in this series seems to be gentle and kind including Just a Little Blue (1st edition 2005 /2nd edition 2020, 130 pages), Flying Lessons (2005/2021, 144 pages), A Time To Be Brave (2007/2022, 132 pages), and Tiny Tales (2008, 172 pages). South by Patrick McDonnell 2008 / 42 pages South is by the creator of the comic strip Mutts, Patrick McDonnell. He imports one of the strip's characters into this comic-like book, Mooch the cat. Now cats might not seem all that sympathetic to birds, but when Mooch comes upon a poor cute little bird who, we see, has been left behind by his flock when they headed south, Mooch lends a paw. Mooch really is a stand-up sort of cat, so he takes the bird under his wing (so to say) and the two of them set out to reunite this lost little one with his family. Since cats can't fly, the journey takes place on foot. Soon enough bird is united with his flock, and it comes time for Mooch and the bird to say their goodbyes. It was at this point that my four-year-old daughter was a bit overcome - goodbyes are always hard! But I reassured her that Mooch and bird would see each other again when Winter turned to Spring. Kunoichi Bunny by Sara Cassidy and Brayden Sato 2022 / 32 pages When dad takes his little girl Saya out in her stroller, she brings her "ninja-bunny" Kunoichi along, and it is a very good thing she does. The sharp-eyed Saya spots two cats fighting, and puts an end to their dispute with a well aimed fling of her bunny. After dad retrieves Kuniochi, they board a bus, where Saya saves the day again. A distracted mom lets go of her stroller only to have it pitch towards the bus stairs. Saya flings Kuniochi in the way, so the stroller comes to a safe stop. As they continue on their stroll, Saya and Kunoichi rescue a baby duck and a little boy, and brighten the day of a sad grandmotherly lady. This busy day ends with Kuniochi getting a much need wash and dry, so she can join Saya in her nice clean bed. This is a sweet story that kids will enjoy reading multiple times. It Goes Without Saying: Peanuts at its Silent Best by Charles Schultz 2005 / 160 pages Over 50 years Charles Schults sprinkled Peanuts with a liberal dose of “pantomime” strips. This has been a fun one for my kids to dip into, enjoying pages at a time, but it isn’t really the sort of book you’d read front to back. As clever as these wordless strips are, 160 pages is too much of a good thing at one go. If your kids like this, they might also enjoy Garfield Left Speechless. It doesn’t have the same charm – Garfield is sometimes meanspirited in a way that Snoopy never is – but it has some of the same slapstick creativity. Jim Curious: A Voyage to the Heart of the Sea (2) by Matthias Picard 2014 / 52 pages This is very, very fun. Our hero, Jim Curious, emerges from his house equipped in a deep-sea diving suit, and as he slides into the sea the pictures transform – now everything is 3D! This is a large-format book, more than a foot tall, and the author makes full use of the giant pages to give us so much to see and explore. The story is comprised of Jim Curious exploring, and us just marveling at all there is to see. He passes by a sunken pirate ship, World War II fighter, and grocery cart, then floats right up to a giant whale, and, finally, discovers the ruins of an underwater city. Here the adventure takes a surreal twist as Jim finds a door in the bottom of the sea. As he opens it, where does it lead but back to his own house – somehow this is his own front door! But this time, when he walks through and emerges once again from his little house, things have gone all topsy turvy. The air is now where the sea had previously been, and sea is where the air had been – whales and fish and octopi are swimming past the windows of his house! It is a funny ending to this gorgeous visual feast. The only downside to the book is that it does require 3D glasses (two pairs are provided) and also has one double foldout section, where the pages fold out from the middle. Jim Curious is clearly intended for young readers but the glasses and the double foldout are just not the sort of thing young children will do well with: the foldouts are going to get torn or crumpled and the glasses will be broken or lost. That means that, despite the book being wordless, it still needs to be read with mom or dad present. There is a sequel, just as surreal, and also 3D, which kids will also enjoy: Jim Curious and the Jungle Journey (2021). The Arrival by Shaun Tan 2007 / 128 pages I am an immigrant of sorts, having moved across the border to the US, and while it was easy enough to adapt it did give me a small bit of insight into what my parents and grandparents must have experienced when they moved from the Netherlands to Canada decades ago. While I didn't have to learn a new language, my children are going to learn an entirely different history. They say "zee," not "zed." And almost everyone I know seems to have a gun in their home. Small differences. My parents had to deal with much bigger ones, and for their parents it was stranger still. It was hard to ask for help because they didn't know the language. They needed help because things were done differently here. Fortunately, they weren't the first – others from the "old country" had come before, so there was some help to be had. This may be an overly long introduction to a book that has no words. To cut to the chase, Shaun Tan's graphic novel may be the very best possible way to share the immigrant experience with the second and third generations. It tells the story of a father who leaves his country, his wife, and his daughter, to head overseas to find a better place for them all. It is a very strange world that he finds. One of the first things we notice is that even the birds look different. In fact, the reader will notice that these birds don't look like any birds anyone has ever seen. It only gets stranger in the pages that follow: the man encounters a mystifying immigration process, and documents that are written in a language that doesn't look like any that the reader will know. The buildings, the food, the transportation - there is a uniqueness to it all. This new country looks like no real country on earth. So what is going on here? The first time I read this graphic novel I didn't understand what was happening and stopped reading about halfway through. This time around a helpful niece alerted me to the fact that this was about the immigrant experience, so what the artist was doing, by making everything just slightly peculiar, was creating a world where the reader would feel the same sort of discomfort and confusion that a new immigrant would feel upon arrival. That little insight was a big help, and turned this from a mystifying, even frustrating story, to an absolutely brilliant one. I will admit to being a bit slow on the uptake here, as the title, The Arrival, should have provided me the only clue I'd have needed. But in my defense, Shaun Tan's creation is utterly original so I have not ever read anything like it. We follow the father as he sets out to find a job, finds an apartment, tries to get the coffee machine (if that's what it was) to work, and tries to figure out where to find food and what sort of food he likes. Along the way he meets several helpful people, including people who had immigrated years before, and were happy to help someone newly arrived. So the book is, on the one hand, about the immigrant experience, and on the other is a story about the impact we can have in helping strangers. The young father would have been lost but for the kindness of strangers. This is a large book, both in the number of pages, and in the size of the pages – 128 pages and about a foot tall – with scores of details to discover on every page. So even though it is wordless, this is a good long read. I would recommend this to immigrant grandparents as a gift they could give to the grandchildren, and one they might want to "read" with them. I would also recommend it to anyone who loves art - this is a beautiful book.  Snow White by Matt Phelan 2016 / 216 pages This is Snow White inventively reimagined as a 1920s Depression-era American tale. The "king" is a stock trader who has managed to survive the stock market crash. The stepmother is still a queen, but this time of the Ziegfield Follies, a popular Broadway show. The mirror is now a stock ticker, and the seven dwarves are seven street-smart kids. Prince Charming? Well, I shouldn't give too much away! This is near wordless, going entirely so for a dozen pages at a time, but interspersed with some sparse dialogue. That makes this a very quick read. Fairytales are typically for children, but this is too somber to attract little ones. Done in black and white, it has a dark, noir style...all but for the last few pages with their happily-ever-after full-color conclusion. So this is something adults could even enjoy, but tweens are the target audience – this has been a very popular one among the 12 and unders in our house. Harder to find (10) While these don't seem to be in print right now your local library may have a copy because they were once quite deservedly popular. Where is the Cake? (2) by Thé-Tjong Khing 2007 / 32 pages Thé-Tjong Khing was born in Indonesia, studied in the Netherlands, and is now one of the Netherlands’ best-known illustrators and authors. His books have been translated into several languages, and Where is the Cake? must have been the easiest as, because he had only the title to translate. The main story involves a chase after two possums who have taken Mr. and Mrs. Dog’s cake. The action takes place on large pages (even a bit larger than the pages of a magazine) so there is plenty of room for detail, and for a host of different animals. There are more than 30 characters on each page, and almost as many storylines! I read this with my two-year-old daughter and we had great fun trying to keep track of what everyone was up to. It lends itself to a lot of interaction – I was constantly talking to her about what must have happened “in-between” the pages and congratulating her as she found Mr. and Mrs. Dog once again. She loved it, and her dad did too because it was book I could read again and again (as parents are often required to do) and keep finding new things. A sequel, Where Is the Cake Now?, continues the story and is also very good (if not quite the match of the original). This one is hard to come by in English, but because it is wordless, can be had in other “translations” including Dutch. Ice (4) by Arthur Geisert 2011 / 24 pages Of all the wordless books I've run across Arthur Geisert's Ice is one of the most entertaining. It is the story of a clan of pigs, living together on an island and enduring a hot, hot summer. The island's water reservoir is just about empty, so the pigs get their airship ready. Then they sail off, traveling 'round the world to the North Pole where they snag and drag an iceberg back to their home. Ice saws and pickaxes are used to carve up the iceberg and deposit it in their reservoir. Ice for everyone! My two-year-old and I lingered over each two-page spread, noting the many things that the pigs were up to. The next day I had a fun time hearing her version of the story as she "read" it aloud. The only downside to the book is its small size – it is over too quickly. We were grateful to discover there is a sequel, The Giant Seed (2012), in which the piggy clan finds a giant – several stories tall! – dandelion seed, complete with the fluff at the top. They plant it, and, it turns out, they've done so just in time. It grows a dandelion with its own fluffy heads and then, when the island volcano threatens to blow, the pigs can all sail away, one pig to each dandelion fluff. Geisert has at least a couple other wordless pig books. In Oops (2006), a pig boy spills his milk at breakfast, and, as one thing leads to another, that spill eventually leads to the utter destruction of his family’s precariously perched house. That would seem a sad ending, but the last page has the family relieved that while the house is gone, the family is okay – it highlights that family is more important than things. But do be careful drinking your milk! More wordless piggie fun can be found in Hogwash (2008) where pig parents let their piglets have a muddy day of fun before the moms and dads use the most marvelous of machines to clean up their kidlets en masse. Then, in  The story of an English Village (3) by John S. Goodall John Goodall's books are unique, unlike any other wordless stories I've seen. Most wordless or near-wordless books are intended for the pre-reading set. But Goodall's books seemed to be aimed at an older age group. He has a series of "The Story of..." titles that tackle "an English Village," "the Seashore" and "a Castle," and in each, the lack of words leaves viewers lingering over each picture. So this isn't wordless to make it accessible to the very young; it is wordless to bring the focus to the pictures, and the impressions left by them. For example, In The Story of an English Village, Goodall starts us with a picture of a 13th-century castle under construction on a large hill, and then in the following two-page spread, he shows us this same setting in one hundred year leaps, until we arrive near our modern day. These are pictures to linger over, then flip back to, comparing the next century with the last.  In this book and many others, Goodall makes creative use of a single half-page stuck between each two-page spread. This is a bit hard to describe, and apparently was unique to Goodall – he may have invented this technique – so let me try to make things a little clearer. Imagine a book with a picture spanning both pages – a two-page spread – and right in the middle of these two pages is a single half page. This page is full height, but only half the width of the book's other pages, so when this half-page is turned from the right side to the left, it gives us a new perspective on the goings on in the middle, while leaving the outer edges unchanged. If you didn't follow that, let's just say it is pretty cool and you should track down one of his books to check it out. Goodall has many other wordless books, and most seem worth checking out, with the exception of his "Naughty Nancy" series about an obnoxious little girl mouse, who is more nasty than naughty. Holland by Charlotte Demantons 2013 / 54 pages This is a treat for any with ties to the Netherlands, even if a generation or two removed. Each two-spread highlights one location, but sometimes different time periods. For example, in the opening picture, we see a three-masted schooner fighting off a British galleon while a giant modern-day container ship sails by. In another spread of today’s Amsterdam, we see Van Gogh painting in his studio. Pages are big – this is a tall book – and there is so much to see. This is a very fun way to tour the country, its culture, and its history.  Last and least (8) These are only okay, but if your children are flying through all the others, and your library has them, then they might be worth a borrow too. Aquarium by Cynthia Alonso 2018 / 36 pages A girl loves fish, and when one jumps onto the dock, she takes it home with her and tries to find a good-sized home for it. That involves filling most every container in the house with water, including the swimming pool. When the fish jumps from the swimming pool into the small puddle beside it, the girl decides it needs something bigger and returns it to the lake. The last page shows her joining it, and more fish friends. Good Night, Garden Gnome by Jamichael Henterly 2001 / 32 pages A child's outdoor tea party features her toys and a garden gnome too. When it's time for bed, the toys are brought back inside, and the gnome is left behind, where we discover that when no one is looking, he comes alive and does some garden tending. He braves the family dog to retrieve a lost toy and brings it to the girl's window sill. Well drawn and charming, but very short and simple. Flood by Alvaro F. Villa 2013 / 32 pages A beautiful little two-story home by the river is loved by its family, threatened by a storm, protected by sandbags, and then abandoned when the water gets too high. We see the water sweep in, and the family return to the devastation… and begin to rebuild. It ends with the house fully restored.  Hank finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley 2013 / 40 pages This is almost a stop-motion presentation, with a stuffed bear, in a clay-crafted forest setting, discovering an egg out of its nest. He tries to return it to the nest high above, and after a couple of failures, succeeds with some tiny help. It’s a nice story with a feel-good ending. red hat by Lita Judge 2013 / 32 pages When a little girl washes her red knit cap and hangs it out to dry, it becomes a play toy for the animals. They have great fun chasing it, but return it completely unravelled. The girl isn't bothered though, and not only sets out to re-knit it, but knits red caps for the animals too. the whale by Ethan and Vita Murrow 2015 / 32 pages While no one talks in this story, some reading is required at the beginning and end, when newspaper accounts describe, first, how a pair of children 50 years ago claimed they'd spotted a gigantic spotted whale, and how two more children, five decades later, finally confirm this legendary beast's existence. It's exciting, but the required reading at the front and back does detract some from the wordless charm. Zoom (2) by Istvan Banyai 1995 / 64 pages It’s easier to explain what this book is about by describing it backwards. At the end of the book we see Earth from millions of miles away - just a white dot on a black canvass. But, a page earlier, we’ve zoomed in, and can see oceans and clouds. Next, we see things from the perspective of a pilot miles up, then as he flies lower, we see people as ants, and on and on the zooming goes. There is no narrative, but it is intriguing. A sequel, Re-zoom, is equally so....

News

Saturday Selections – May 14, 2022

US creates 1984-ish Disinformation Governance Board Meanwhile, in Canada, the government's Bill C-11 would give the government enormous power over the Internet. So, like our American counterparts express below, we need to call on our government to "shut this down." Social media: designed to addict Jonathon Van Maren reviews RP contributor Chris Martin's new book, and shares how: "In order for people to use social media responsibly—i.e., not get addicted—we essentially have to use these platforms in ways that they were not designed to be used." Canadians love government spending...but not paying for it The Fraser Institute has found support drops off dramatically for three new government spending programs when a cost is mentioned. It seems much of the initial support was based on an assumption that the programs would cost nothing. But isn't this like going out for a meal and then being all surprised when the bill comes? Don't we all know, there is no free lunch? No. As Henry Hazlitt noted, "The world is full of so-called economists who in turn are full of schemes for getting something for nothing." Governments tout the benefits of their program but seldom spell out all the costs, so it may well be that taxpayers have been tricked into thinking that lunch will be free. Or the answer might be found on a different front: some support might have come from people who thought they would get the benefit, and someone else the cost. Here's the real reason young people can't afford a house It comes down to trade-offs... that politicians aren't even willing to acknowledge. LA woman discovers 100+ mail-in ballots Canada's federal, in-person voting on Election Day has each vote counted by a poll clerk, as well as representatives from all the major parties. That means there isn't just one count, but at least four (Election Canada's, plus counts from the Liberals, Conservatives, and NDP). This process precludes not only the possibility of fraud but even the appearance of it. Our in-person voting procedure is secure and it is spectacular. In contrast, mail-in ballots leave possibilities like this... We need to talk about Assisted Reproduction "The pain of infertility is real and deep, and the desire for children is natural, inherent, and good. It’s a tragedy whenever someone who embraces this desire is unable to experience it. At the same time, we question the use of certain artificial reproductive technologies. Ours is a culture in which adult happiness is prioritized over the rights of children, both in the taking and the making of preborn life..." "It's not a boat!" (52 min) If you've thought about visiting the life-size model of the ark they've built down in Kentucky, you won't find a better preview than this 1-hour tour with Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham and Babylon Bee's editor-in-chief Kyle Mann. Mann brings some of the funny, but in a surprising twist, Ham proves to be quite the sardonic wit! ...

News, Theology

A secular defense of the Sabbath, and how it falls short

Fast Company is a secular business magazine, as likely to pass on presentation tips from industry leaders as it is to pass on marketing tips from drag queens so this isn't the first place you'd look to find a defense of Sabbath rest. But there it was in a Sept. 14, 2018 piece titled: "Let's bring back the Sabbath as a radical act against the always-on economy." The author, William Black does overlook the core of Sabbath rest – there's nothing in this article about taking our rest in the Lord, and coming together to worship Him. But because God's Law is written on our hearts (Romans 2:14-15), even unbelievers can recognize that Law's validity, at least in part. A practical case for the Sabbath Black began his article by pointing to the religious roots of the commandment, but he certainly wasn't making a religiously-based appeal for it. Implicit in his argument was that, despite how "the commandment smacks of obsolete puritanism," there was still something radical and vital about it. "When taken seriously, the Sabbath has the power to restructure not only the calendar but also the entire political economy. In place of an economy built upon the profit motive – the ever-present need for more, in fact the need for there to never be enough – the Sabbath puts forward an economy built upon the belief that there is enough." In a materialistic world, whose gods include "career advancement" and "more take-home pay" there's no end of the work that can be done to earn the gods' favor. Enough is never enough, because extra work can help you advance further and faster, and help you earn more. In that kind of world, the idea of taking one day off every week is not only radical, but downright blasphemous – such a break can only be enjoyed by those who recognize the materialistic gods are not worth giving our full devotion. Black continues by sharing how Sabbath rest was a benefit for the whole community: "The fourth commandment presents a od who, rather than demanding ever more work, insists on rest. The weekly Sabbath placed a hard limit on how much work could be done and suggested that this was perfectly all right; enough work was done on the other six days. And whereas the pharaoh relaxed while his people toiled, Yahweh insisted that the people rest as Yahweh rested: 'For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.' "The Sabbath, as described in Exodus and other passages in the Torah, had a democratizing effect. Yahweh’s example – not forcing others to labor while Yahweh rested – was one anybody in power was to imitate. It was not enough for you to rest; your children, slaves, livestock, and even the 'aliens' in your towns were to rest as well. The Sabbath wasn’t just a time for personal reflection and rejuvenation. It wasn’t self-care. It was for everyone." While Black repeatedly mentions the Jewish origins of Sabbath rest, his is still a secular case for the command. He's touting the practical benefits, and not that this is God's authoritative command. Black may or may not be a Christian himself, but his approach – praising God's Law, without praising the Lawmaker – is one Christians commonly take. Whether it's abortion, sex-ed curriculums, or refusing to bake cakes for same-sex marriages, Christians regularly argue for the godly position while avoiding any mention of our God. Without God the argument fails We do that for tactical reasons – the world's not interested in God, so they'll just ignore us if we start any argument with His Name, right? But the problem is, all of God's Law – every position we're arguing for – stands on Him. So when we try to defend His Law without any mention of Him, it will, ultimately, fail. To put it another way, this not only robs God of the glory that He is due – God's people refusing to mention our Lord's Name does rob Him of His due – it isn't even an effective tactic. Take abortion as an example. Christians will argue that abortion is wrong because killing babies is wrong. And because God's Law is written on everyone's hearts, that's an argument the other side will concede. But they'll dispute that the unborn are babies and question how something so small and immature can really be of the same worth as much larger, already-born human beings. So the real argument is not, "Is killing wrong?" but "Where does our worth come from?" Only God provides a satisfactory answer to that question: our worth comes not from any abilities we have, but is intrinsic in being made in His Image (Gen. 1:26-27, Gen. 9:6). That's why an unborn baby has value, no matter how small, and doesn't gain worth as it gains in abilities. This intrinsic value is also why a disabled adult isn't of lesser worth even though he can do less, and why an elderly adult doesn't lose their worth as they lose some of their abilities. Our worth comes not from what we can do, but from in Whose Image we are made. Even as the world rejects this explanation, they can offer no viable alternative. Why do they believe we – at least those of us who have already been born – are of equal worth? Where does the basis for equality come from? Some are bigger, or smarter, or faster, or more inventive, or more artistic, and some are less so – in every which way, no two human beings are exactly alike, so on what basis would we ever talk about equality? There is no worldly justification for it. The world holds to equality, but can't offer an explanation for it. But we can. Only God makes sense of the world Isn't that something we should be pointing out? That's God makes the world make sense? It's no different with Sabbath rest – any argument for it needs to be built on God, and if it isn't, the argument will fall short. In his article Black speaks of an economy that embraces Sabbath rest as being one "driven, not by anxiety, but by...enoughness." And he contrasts that with our current 24-7 "anxious striving for more." Black wants our society to make the switch; he wants us to leave the "always-on economy" and start trusting in "enoughness." But what Black can't explain is on what basis his secular audience can confidently make that leap. Is there always going to be enough? Can we really depend on that? His readers will know that in some spots on our planet there isn't enough right now. They'll also know that if our economy takes a downward turn, there might not be enough here too. That's why the secular soul always has a reason to strive for more – so they can build a better cushion against whatever difficulties the future might bring. In short, as much sense as Sabbath rest makes – as great as the practical benefits are for mental, physical, emotional, and even relational, health – it doesn't make near the same sense without the Sabbath Lord. The world always has reason to fear the future, so they always have reason to continue striving anxiously. It is only the Christian, trusting in the Lord, who can not only take a break each week from the constant demands of work, but who can take rest where it can truly be found: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). That the secular argument for the Sabbath doesn't stand up on its own isn't a reason to give up on the practical arguments for obeying God's law. But it is a reason to start with God – to start with Him as our cornerstone – and build up from there....

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. I'll add that in his later books the author took, first a Roman Catholic turn in his "Celtic Crusade" series where he reveres relics, and then afterward a general turn to spirituality rather than Christianity (or, at least, any Christian underpinnings are far from clear). But in his earlier books like this series, there's lots to love. You can listen to the first chapter being read below. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Religion - Mormons, Watch for free

The Bible vs. the Book of Mormon

Documentary 66 minutes Rating: 8/10 Which is the true sacred text: the Book of Mormon, or the Bible? That's quite the question, and this is quite the documentary, with narrator Joel Kramer tracking down experts, Christian and Mormon, to compare and contrast the two books. Kramer and his partner in this effort, Scott Johnson, are members of the Living Hope Christian Fellowship in Brigham City, Utah which has made a concerted effort to reach out to the Mormons all around them. They attempt to do so here by showing how the Bible is backed by history in a way that the Book of Mormon simply is not. The Book of Mormon is said to be a translation of ancient Egyptian, as it was set down on golden plates. It has different books in it, with the main narrative about ancient Israelites who ended up in the Americas before Christ, and were later visited by Him after his resurrection. These Israelites were divided into two groups, the Lamanites and the Nephites, who fought one another. That is a historical claim, but in contrast to the abundant archeological evidence for the historicity of the Bible, there isn't the same to back the Mormon account of ancient Israelites in the Americas. Now, a Mormon might note that absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence – just because we haven't found anything yet isn't definitive proof that we never will. That's true enough. However, the sheer weight of evidence – literally tons of it – on the biblical side still stands in stark contrast to the lack thereof for the Book of Mormon. If you like this film, you'll also appreciate this same group's documentaries DNA vs. the Book of Mormon, and The Bible vs. Joseph Smith, which you can purchase on DVD at Sourceflix.com. This one, though, you can watch for free, below. ...

History

The Pope who hated black cats

People like or dislike different kinds of animals. I’m a bird person. They fascinate me. Others are cat people. And historically, we know that some civilizations, like the ancient Egyptians, have been fascinated by cats. Others, too, have had a fascination with the animal. Pope Gregory IX was one of them, though he really wasn’t a fan. And some would say that his hatred of cats may have caused the deaths of millions. Then things got a bit weird... Ugolini di Conti was born in Italy somewhere between 1145 and 1170. After an education in Paris and Bologna, he joined the church, being made a cardinal by his cousin, Pope Innocent III. In 1227, he became Pope, adopting the name of Gregory IX and that is when things became a little bit weird. In June of 1233, Gregory issued a papal decree or bull, called Vox in Rama. Among those working for Gregory was an inquisitor named Conrad of Marburg. Busy in the German territories, this man’s job was to root out heresy and punish heretics. He claimed to have found an odd form of Satanic ritual which involved, in part, the kissing of a black cat’s buttocks, and acknowledging him as their satanic master. The pope took this association between cats and the devil entirely seriously and issued his bull. It resulted in the killing and torturing of cats across Western Europe, For example, in Denmark the pre-Lent festival of Fastelavn saw a black cat put into a barrel and beaten to death to ward off evil. The Kattenstoet festival in Ypres, Belgium, may have found its origin in this time. The festival involved the throwing of live cats from the belfry of the Cloth Hall in a possible attempt to expel the evil spirits the cats represented. This cat throwing festival has been revived in modern times, though now a jester throws out toy stuffed cats to waiting children below. Here the story, as it’s usually told, becomes an example of the law of unintended consequences. As Europeans feared and killed cats, rat populations thrived or so the story goes. And carried on the backs of rats were fleas that carried the Black Death or bubonic plague. In other words, Pope Gregory’s attack on cats was indirectly responsible for the deaths of up to 50 million people across Europe because there were no cats to kill the rats who carried the plague. Too neat, too tidy It’s a neat little story, and one that we’re all tempted to believe. After all, people in the Middle Ages were silly, and modern people like us are far, far smarter. We understand more clearly what they couldn’t possibly have comprehended. And, of course, since religion isn’t very popular today, anything that makes religious believers look dumb is eagerly lapped up. But history is never quite that simple. Though Pope Gregory put a target on the backs of cats in the 1230s, it’s not clear how many cats were killed nor how long the anti-cat hatred lasted. As well, it wasn’t until the 1340s that the Black Death started to make the rounds of Europe. Were they still killing a significant number of cats a hundred years later? And even if cats were still actively hated, you have to remember that while cats don’t quite breed like rabbits, they can multiply quickly. Unchecked a cat will breed two or three times per year, with from 1 to 8 kittens per litter. In her lifetime, a cat can give birth to up to 100 kittens. And, of course, those kittens, at five months old, can give birth to more kittens. So, according to the Roice-Hurst Humane Society website, over seven years a cat and all her kittens and all their kittens and all their kittens can total up anywhere from 100 to 400 new cats. As well, bubonic plague made a reappearance every few generations for the next few hundred years, killing as many as 100,000 people in London from 1665-1666. The plague doesn’t seem to have been affected by how fashionable or unfashionable cats were at any given time. And while the fleas on rats were one of the ways bubonic plague can be spread, it certainly wasn’t the only way. The fleas that carry the disease can live on dogs, humans., and, yes, even cats. So, ironically, if cats had killed all the rats, the cats themselves may have spread the plague. And if there had been no cats and thus the rats had proliferated, the rats probably would’ve done the work. Solomon says... So did Pope Gregory, the most powerful religious leader in Europe in his day, cause the Black Death by encouraging the destruction of cats? To let the cat out of the bag, no, he probably didn’t. And the story of him causing the Black Death should warn us that when a story seems too neat, and too simple, it just might not be true. That applies to stories we hear from our news sources, social media, and even our friends. After all, as Solomon said, the one who states his case first seems right until another comes and examines him (Prov 18:17). Find out what the other side of the issue is. If the story makes us seem absolutely right - or absolutely wrong - we might not be getting the whole story. So the next time you hear something that confirms or even denies what you believe in a way that’s too good, too simple to be true, dig deeper. Investigate. Learn more. Be curious. After all, it’s not like curiosity killed the cat, is it? James Dykstra is a sometimes history teacher, author, and podcaster. This article is taken from an episode of his History.icu podcast, "where history is never boring." Find it at History.icu, or on Spotify, Google podcasts, or wherever you find your podcasts. For further reading The Kattenstoet festival (Wikipedia) Vox in Rama (Wikipedia) What is the Fastelavn festival? Did Pope Gregory IX's hatred of cats lead to the Black Death? Cats breed like bunnies Pope Gregory IX (Wikipedia)...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – May 2022

A gentle answer to a rude question Christian comedian Phil Callaway recently told a story about a lady who thoughtlessly questioned whether he should ever have been born. Yikes! But rather than answering in kind, Callaway took his lead from Prov. 15:1 and offered a gentle word. “I spoke somewhere telling of my parents who were about 40 when I was born. Two ladies came up to me after. They were upset; they were clearly disagreeing. One said ‘I don't think mothers should have children after 35. What about you?’ I said ‘I agree completely – 35 is a lot of children.’ Well, they began to laugh, and away they went focusing on what united them.” A rude question to defend the unborn Abortion supporters are rarely willing to talk about the central issue in the abortion debate – the humanity of the unborn. They choose slogans instead, like “My body, my choice,” that beg the question: is there only the one body involved? (As Laura Klassen has noted "Our bodies, my choice" isn't nearly as catchy a slogan.) Isn't that the very point being debated? So when they try to evade talk about the humanness of the unborn, Greg Koukl has a quick way we can make clear there are two bodies involved. In Precious Unborn Human Persons he recounts that when he was confronted with a woman declaring the “my body, my choice” slogan, he has a question for her: “Do you have a penis?” “No!” “Is it possible your unborn could have a penis?” “Um…yes.” “Well then that clearly isn’t your body, is it?” Two questions too many Even if you've studied all the issues and put in the time to talk to your local candidates, the ballot you cast will have precisely the same weight as the one cast by your old college buddy who can't even remember who he voted for, or why, except that some celebrity told him it was important to go out and vote. So should dumb people be allowed to vote? A couple of decades back, writer R.W. Bradford said no, and proposed a basic bare minimum test that a person would have to pass before their ballot would be counted. His test had just two questions: Which of the following is the letter “B”? – A B C D E What does 2 x 2  equal? – 1 2 4 6 8 10 24 As attractive as this bare minimum might be, it becomes less so when we consider who is going to administer the test. Do we want a State that doesn't know when life begins, what makes us equal, or what a woman is, to decide who's smart and who's not? Consider how Christians, and liberal bureaucrats, might answer two equally obvious questions quite differently: Can men get pregnant? YES / NO There is no truth. TRUE / FALSE SOURCE: "'B' is 'B'" Liberty, January 2001 10 ways to be pro-life Got more we can add to this list? Contact the editor with your suggestions. Be foster parents, or support those who are Pray regularly, both for pro-life concerns and for abortionists too – God can work wonders, so let's ask! Attend pro-life rallies and “Life Chains" Donate money Wear pro-life t-shirts Vote only for completely committed, loudly proudly pro-life politicians Write letters, to your newspaper and your elected representatives Visit the sick and elderly Boycott pro-abortion businesses and support businesses that have taken a stand for the unborn Be loudly pro-life at all times, and at every opportunity Question the accusation Christians are sometimes labeled as a bloodthirsty lot and the accusation is made that Christianity is responsible for more bloodshed than anything else. The Crusades are then cited as proof-positive of this notion. But as Greg Koukl points out in Tactic in Defending the Faith, it is actually atheistic communism that "has been responsible for the most inhumanity to man" as the godless trio of Lenin, Stalin and Mao killed more than 100 million people between them. Life long commitment restored Star Trek tells us that in the 24th-century couples will have a number of options should they decide to marry, including 5-year, 10-year and lifetime marriage licenses. And should they choose one of the short-term licenses, upon its expiry they will be able to part ways with no muss or fuss. They could, of course, also choose to renew, or even upgrade to a lifetime license. Science fiction you say? Well maybe, but not particularly far-fetched. After all, we already have short-term marriage licenses, though they aren’t called that. Present-day marriage licenses don’t even require a 5-year commitment as spouses can divorced the very next day. But since 1997, in the American state of Louisiana, couples can choose between the traditional, easily escapable, marriage license, or“covenant” marriages. Covenantal marriages still allow for divorce but it is much, much harder to do. Couples have to undergo mandatory counseling should they want out, and then wait out a one-year separation before being allowed to file for divorce. Even then the divorce is only granted if one of the spouses can prove the other at fault for the marital breakdown (no-fault divorce is not an option). The grounds acceptable are restricted to adultery, abandonment, physical or sexual abuse, habitual drunkenness, or a felony conviction. Quite the questions! •How much deeper would the ocean be if sponges didn't live there? • How do you know when it's time to tune your bagpipes? • If people from Poland are called "Poles," why aren't people from Holland called "Holes?" • If some people can tell the time by looking at the sun how come I can never make out the numbers? You might be a Dutch Calvinist if ... your closet is divided into work clothes and Sunday clothes. you re-used plastic containers long before anyone had heard of the environmental movement. you have a two-volume address book: A-U & V-Z. all your cookies taste like almond. you make the bed in your motel room. you've ever been in church on New Year's Eve. you wipe the last of the butter out of the container with your bun. you've ever been interrupted by a waitress while saying grace. your main contribution to increased gender equity was that controversial switch from King to Wilhelmina brand peppermints. SOURCE: compiled from the Internet here and there and everywhere. Is Teddy right?  "There is only one quality worse than hardness of heart, and that is softness of head."  – Teddy Roosevelt Undeniable From the start, doubting has been common to God’s people: Adam and Eve doubted God’s trustworthiness, Sarah and Zechariah both doubted God’s ability to give them a son, and Thomas was skeptical about the resurrection. Today too, many of us will go through a season of doubt. But as common as doubting might be, that doesn’t make it right or reasonable, as Paul explains in Romans 1:18-23. As Christian rapper Toby Mac put it below, God is Undeniable! (See also, Romans 1:18-23) There are moments that I doubt You. Blind to the beauty that surrounds me, I try to push away the need that I’m needin’ proof. And this struggle that I have, it ain’t nothing new. But the evidence is piling up, yup You change my heart - isn’t that enough? You give me life that I can’t take credit for Call me to walk through an open door. Your work doesn’t stop with me. Your signature’s on everything we see, From the hills of Negril, Jamaica, To the kid that the doctor said would never make it. Which is harder to believe? That You don’t exist? Or that You orchestrated all of this? Living in the world that is so confusing You’re the argument I’m never losing ‘Cause I believe Undeniable, You are, You are, You are Unmistakable, You are, You are You’re the bright and morning star But still You speak to my heart Undeniable, You are, You are ...

News

Saturday Selections – May 7, 2022

The relationship between Mohammed and Satan (7 min) When someone claims to have a revelation from God there are three possibilities for us to consider: It is a product of only their own mind: they are making it up or are crazy. They are getting revelation, but it isn't from God. It's from the devil. They are getting revelation from God. David Wood examines these possibilities when it comes to Mohammed... Gen Z enters the ministry: 3 big challenges As Gen Z hits 25, the culture they've grown up with presents them with 3 challenges their parents might not have had to face, or not to the same extent: growing up with porn at the ready on their phone Gender confusion - even in the Church we're getting confused about what makes males and females different Opinions trumping facts - it'd more and more about "lived experiences" A chance to speak up for the unborn This week it was reported that the US Supreme Court may overturn Roe vs. Wade – this is the 1972 court case that legalized abortion in the United States. The reports are based on a leaked early draft of an upcoming Supreme Court decision, and this news has pro-abortion protesters camping out on the Supreme Court steps shouting "My body, my choice." Of course, this same chant was recently used by some who didn’t want the COVID vaccines. But their appeal to bodily autonomy was labeled “selfish.” It was deemed good and right to pressure the unwilling to get jabbed because it was being done for the sake of others. Whatever we might think of that argument, what we have here is a God-given opportunity to make a point. And what a swing and a miss it would be if we made that point about vaccines rather than the unborn! “My body, my choice” doesn’t apply when lives are at stake? Well, let's take that to its logical end: banning abortion would save almost one million American lives every year! So let's ask the Left, "If you think ‘my body, my choice’ is a selfish reason to refuse the vaccine, why would it be any sort of justification for killing a baby?" https://www.instagram.com/p/CdHHJ7HuJsV/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link Great pro-life shirts for sale To help you speak up for the unborn, Canadians and Americans can order some great pro-life shirts from Choice42 (the same group that brought us the wacky and wonderful "Magic Birth Canal" video). You can see pictures of the three shirts on offer at the top of this page, and order them by clicking here on the title above. Is brainwashing going to make a dishonorable comeback? "Compulsory moral bioenhancement" is quite the mouthful, but it's just a modern update for what, in the Cold War era, we called "brainwashing." Now some bioethicists are proposing it as a supposedly legitimate alternative to execution or imprisonment for prisoners of war fighting "unjustly." But who defines what's just and unjust when the world has rejected the only fixed standard of God's law? What ethics are these bioethicists standing on? A case against the minimum wage Some who support a mandatory minimum wage do so out of a sense of compassion for the poor. But does such legislation help the poor, or limit their options? In the clip below (from some years back) US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi makes a case that some of the people working in her office don't need to make any wage at all because the experience of working for a United States congresswoman is so educational. That's a good point. Trade school and university are expensive ways to learn new skills, so how much better off young people would be if they could learn what they needed via low-paying or unpaid internships instead. However, in this same clip, Speaker Pelosi also argues for a mandatory minimum wage. She hasn't applied such a rule to her own office, and yet she's sure that it is the right thing for everyone else's workplace. That's hypocritical, to be sure (Matthew 7:2), but more importantly, it is arrogant. She has compelling reasons to carve out an exemption to the mandatory minimum wage for her own situation but is certain that in businesses across the country none of the millions of employees and employers could have different, but equally compelling, reasons to work for free or for some other sum that's below the minimum wage. ...

Assorted, Parenting

Is recreational marijuana sinful?

God says we should honor the governing authorities (Romans 13:1-6) in as far as they don’t require us to violate God’s law. So, before today, one big reason that Canadian Christians should not have smoked marijuana is because it was illegal. But as of Oct. 17, 2018, that's changed, with the possession of recreational marijuana now legal throughout the country. So does that change things for Christians? When it stops being illegal, does that means it also stops being sinful? If Romans 13:1-6 doesn’t apply anymore, are there are other biblical principles we can look to for guidance? There are indeed. While the Bible never speaks directly about smoking marijuana recreationally, God has guidance to give. 1. God calls us to honor our father and mother We can begin with the Fifth Commandment. In an article on cigarette smoking, Pastor Douglas Wilson made a simple argument that is just as applicable to marijuana: The Fifth Commandment (Ex. 20:12) tells children to honor their parents. No parent wants their children smoking cigarettes (or cannabis) Therefore, to honor mom and dad, children shouldn’t smoke As Wilson writes: “in all my years of being a pastor I’ve never met a kid who took up smoking because he was really eager to honor his father and mother.” 2. God calls us to self-control It’s no great leap to extend God’s condemnations of drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18, Proverbs 23:20-21, etc.), to anything that impacts our self-control (1 Peter 4:7, Titus 1:8, etc.). 3. God calls us to discern the world as it really is We’ve compared marijuana usage to cigarette smoking and drinking. In Jeff Lacine’s article “Marijuana to the Glory of God" at DesiringGod.org he makes another comparison: to drinking coffee. He notes that while there are similarities between cannabis, and alcohol, cigarettes, and coffee – all have psychoactive compounds – there are notable differences too. As Christians, our goal is knowing and experiencing the full and undistorted reality of the glory of God in our resurrected physical bodies (1 Cor. 15:12–49; Phili 3:20–21; 1 Cor. 13:12). This is our trajectory as Christians. This is our aim…. We want to see things as they really are. The Christian use of any kind of psychoactive substance should always align with this gospel goal of looking to see things clearer. We do not want our vision of reality distorted. Consider this principle in terms of a psychoactive substance most American adults use every day: caffeine. Why do people drink coffee in the morning? To help them to see things as they really are, rather than through the fog of grogginess. The right and proper use of this God-given substance helps us see things as they really are. He goes on to note this is why people drink and weddings but not funerals – at weddings “moderate lubrication…can be in keeping with reality” since it is a time to celebrate. In this setting “proper and moderate use of alcohol can be a clarifier and not a distorter,” whereas at a funeral alcohol use might well be obscuring reality. But what then of weed? Lacine argues, “both from research and personal experience” that cannabis use distorts and numbs a person’s perception of reality. We might expect a regular user to argue that it doesn’t numb their thinking but, as Lacine notes, if marijuana is numbing their thinking, that’s going to also impact their ability to perceive its impact on their thinking. There is a reason that marijuana has long been associated with the couch, a bag of chips, and a television remote. Put another way, marijuana has never been associated with engaged parenting…. studies have shown a high correlation between regular cannabis use and the clinical diagnosis of Amotivational Syndrome. 4. God calls us to ask a better question Perhaps the most important biblical principle is found in Hebrews 12:1. There we read: Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us In a 1997 sermon titled “Running with the Witnesses” John Piper explained that this verse calls us to do better than ask, “Is it a sin?” In verse 1 there are a couple of things said here as a means to running. It says, “Lay aside every encumbrance and sin which so easily entangles us.” Now I remember as a boy the effect a sermon on this verse had on me. And the only thing I remember was the distinction that the preacher made between – he was preaching from the King James at the time – weights (translated encumbrances here) and sins. And he looked out on us and he said, “Not just sins. Don’t just lay aside sins to run this race. Lay aside every other weight that gets in your way.” As a boy, it had a revolutionary effect on me. Because what it said to me was – and I speak it now especially for young people – kids, if you can get this, but especially young teenagers and teenagers, though it applies to everybody – what this says is: Don’t just ask, “What is wrong with it in life?” Don’t just say about your music, about your movies, about your parties, about your habits, about your computer games, don’t just say, “Well, what is wrong with it?” Don’t just ask, “Is it a sin?” That is about the lowest question you can ask in life. “I am going to do it if it is not a sin. So tell me, is it a sin to do this?” “Well, not exactly.” “Okay, that is all I wanted to know. I am off to do it.” And the preacher said – and I am the preacher now saying it – this text says, “Look to Jesus and lay aside sins for sure and lots of other stuff, too.” Now that is a different way to live. Well, preacher, as a 13-year-old or 14-year-old what question should I ask if it is not, “Is it a sin?” And the answer is, “Does it help me run?” That is the answer. “Does it get in my way when I am trying to become more patient, more kind, more gentle, more loving, more holy, more pure, more self-controlled? Does it get in my way or does it help me run?” That is the question to ask. Ask the maximal righteousness question, not the minimal righteousness question. That was the difference it made in my life. And I have been asking it this way ever since then, though I didn’t always live up to it. I am not making any claim that from age 12 on I did some great spiritual thing. But oh, I had a trajectory that was so much better than the minimalist ethic that merely asks, “Well, what is wrong with it? What is wrong with it?” I don’t even want to talk about what is wrong with it. Let’s ask, “Does it help me run?” You know why that question isn’t very often asked? Because we are not passionate runners. We don’t want to run. We don’t get up in the morning saying, “What is the course today? What is the course of purity? What is the course of holiness? What is the course of humility? What is the course of justice? What is the course of righteousness? What is the course of love? What is the course of self-control? What is the course of courage? O God, I want to maximize my running today.” If you have that mentality about your life, then you will ask, not, “How many sins can I avoid?” but, “How many weights can I lay down so that I am fleet-footed in the race of righteousness?” Conclusion Now that recreational marijuana usage is legal (though still with some limits) across Canada, there may be Christians looking for guidance on this issue. If they’re asking, “Is marijuana use sinful?” then the answer is, “It certainly can be. It can be a violation of the Fifth Commandment, or God’s prohibition against drunkenness.” But Pastor Piper’s point is the more important one. If we are God’s children then our concern isn’t simply with obeying Him, but loving Him. Then the right question isn’t “Is it sinful?” but rather, “Does this bring me closer to God, or push me further away?” and “Is it helpful?” Those are better questions, and maybe more uncomfortable questions. As John Piper says, we are not always passionate runners. Whether it’s the shows we watch, the music we listen to, the friends we hang out with, the career we pursue, the people we date, or the psychoactive compounds we ingest, there may be favorite “weights” we just don’t want to throw off. If so, let’s pray then that God will so change our hearts that we want to make our whole lives pleasing to Him. The excerpt from John Piper’s sermon is used with permission and the whole sermon, “Running with the Witnesses” can be found at DesiringGod.org. He directly addresses the topic of marijuana use in an Ask Pastor John audio segment which can be found here. For the sake of clarity the title of this article has been changed from the original, which read "Marijuana: is it sinful?" This article was first published Nov. 17, 2017, when marijuana was still illegal in Canada, and has now been updated to reflect the change in the law as of October 17, 2018. https://youtu.be/6nhRjGCvpfI...

Articles, Book Reviews

200+ free e-books worth checking out

We live in an age in which so many wonderful resources are available for free. Of course, with the sheer numbers being passed along here, we haven't been able to read, let alone review all of them so, as always, be sure to use discernment. But there are certainly a good number of gems here. The books below aren't broken up by subject, but are, instead, divided into three categories based on whether you can easily download them, or whether some personal information might be required, or whether the book has to be read online. This is a list of recent books, with most published in the last decade or two. Monergism.com has a list of much older titles, with most published at a minimum of 100 years ago, and many springing right out of the Reformation 500 years past. Their list amounts to more than 700 titles and can be found here. 1. Downloads These books are completely free and can be downloaded with minimal fuss (usually just a click and you are on your way). Almost 100 from John Piper and friends John Piper seems to have released all of his books in free pdf versions, and has tackled topics as diverse as biblical manhood and womanhood, abortion, sex, retirement, C.S. Lewis, Open Theism, racism and biographies. On occasion, some of Piper's writings are clearly directed to specifically Reformed Baptists. So, for example, in his biography of Adoniram Judson, he lauds the missionary for coming to reject infant baptism in favor of adult baptism. But for the most part his books are intended for a larger Reformed audience. But with so many available, what should you start with? His short biographies are excellent, each about 70 pages or so, and one of his most popular is Don't Waste Your Life. While the majority of the books are by Piper, there are also titles by other authors and few of those seem to be free, except for a peek inside. Notable exceptions include Tony Reinke's The Joy Project: an introduction to Calvinism, and a book he helped edit, along with his wife, called Mom Enough. 16 by WORLD magazine's Marvin Olasky The editor of the Christian WORLD magazine has written books on Journalism and how Christians should read the news (and write it), on the history of abortion and the fight against, on a Christian perspective on compassion and the government's role in it, and even written a novel about radical Islam called Scmitar's Edge. There is lots to love here! 20+ from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church I still haven't had a chance to check these out, but plan to download Ned B. Stonehouse's J. Gresham Machen: A Biographical Memoir. 13 Individual downloadable titles Social Justice: How good intentions undermine justice and the Gospel: E. Calvin Beisner is probably best known as the head of the Christian stewardship group the Cornwall Alliance. But before he started speaking on the environment, he researched and wrote a lot on poverty and economics. In this booklet, he outlines how good intentions are not only not enough, but often harmful. 31 days of purity: This is a 31-day devotional to encourage and challenge the Church in regard to sexual purity. With contributions from Tim Challies, David Murray, and Joel Beeke, there are some insightful, trustworthy folks behind this. Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?: This is an important topic for any Christian considering the pill. Randy Alcorn's 200-page book can be downloaded for free, or, click here for a shorter overview. Abolition of Reason: Jonathon Van Maren, Scott Klusendorf and other “incrementalist” pro-lifers argue against "abolitionism" or “immediatism.” Memoirs of an ordinary pastor: The life and reflections of Tom Carson: Well-known Reformed Baptist pastor D.A. Carson on his unknown, faithful father. False Messages: A Guide for the Godly Bride: Aileen Challies, wife of the Reformed blogger Tim Challies, has written a booklet for women on a biblical view of sexuality (it is near the bottom of the list). The Holy Spirit: Kevin DeYoung with a short 30-page introduction to the Third Person of the Trinity. Scripture Alone: The Evangelical doctrine: In this 40-page booklet, RC Sproul does a wonderful job of defending this key Reformed doctrine. How should Christians approach origins?: At just 67 pages,  John Byl and Tom Goss have put together an incredibly succinct overview of an incredibly important topic. The Divine Challenge: on matter, mind, math, & meaning: In the world’s attempts to usurp God, they’ve crafted many a worldview to try to explain things apart from Him. In this brilliant apologetic work, Dr. Byl shares the world’s best godless explanations and shows, often in the proponents’ own words, how their attempts are self-contradictory or simply fail to explain what they set out to explain. Byl also makes evident how very often these godless philosophers understand the emptiness of their best answers, and yet cling to them anyway because they hate the alternative: bowing their knee to God. This 421-page book will stretch most readers, but what a delightful bit of exercise it is! Lone Gunners for Jesus: Letters to Paul J. Hill (1994, 47 pages): This was written after Paul J. Hill, at one time an OPC pastor, shot an abortionist, his wife, and their bodyguard. Hill had been arguing for years that such action was biblical, and had been excommunicated for making his arguments publicly. Gary North's response to Hill explains how his actions weren't biblical or effective. An important book to calm Christian whose love for the unborn is in danger of being misdirected, but it is also a good read for those who, whether in ignorance or a lack of compassion, don't stand up for the unborn at all. Exodus: A Novella: This is the book of Exodus, no additions or edits, but without verses, footnotes, or the usual chapter divisions. It is formatted, as the title says, like a novel, making this an intriguing way to take a fresh look at this inspired book. The Biblical View of Self-Esteem (1986, 36 pages): More booklet than book, author Jay Adams still manages to offers a lot of insight on this sometimes controversial topic. 2. Download for free, but they want some information These books are free, but getting them will require you to give your email address, or create an account, or in some way provide them some information. But these aren't spammers, so you can always opt out of their email lists. 39 booklets from RC Sproul In the last few years RC Sproul released a series of "Crucial Questions" booklets, all in the range of 40 to maybe 80 pages. That made them concise - something that could be read in an evening or two. And Sproul managed to pack a lot in these few pages while still keeping it readable. I will say, they still aren't light reads, but because of their small size, if anyone is interested in the question, then they should be able to work through Sproul's answer. I haven't read all 39 of them, but have appreciated each of the half dozen or so I've read so far. They tackle questions such as: Can I know God's will? Can I lose my salvation? What is baptism? Who is the Holy Spirit? The e-book versions are free and will be forever. You can find for free on Kindle here, or click above to get them from Ligonier Ministries. 12+ from Covenant Eyes equipping the Internet generation Covenant Eyes is a Christian Internet accountability company, and while they sell their software, their mission is to help Christian families so they have all sorts of free booklets on topics like pornography addiction, sexual purity, online safety, cyberbullying, and more. Individual titles (downloadable but they want your email) Love the least (a lot): Michael Spielman is the founder of the website Abort73.com, one of the most comprehensive pro-life websites on the Internet. And his Love the Least (A Lot) is one of the most readable, most motivating, pro-life books you could ever read. God and the gay Christian: a response to Matthew Vines: This is a response, by Reformed Baptist leader R. Albert Mohler Jr., to a popular book by Matthew Vines called God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships. Mohler has also written a short book Homosexuality and the Bible. A guide to adoption & orphan care: Russell Moore offers helpful advice and encouragement. Why sex is the best argument for creation: The folks behind the fantastic documentary Is Genesis History? have created a short 115-page e-book with ten of their most popular essays, including the title essay. 3. Read online These books are free too but are only available to be read online. So you can't download them, but can read them, chapter by chapter, on their website. That makes things a little more troublesome, but if the book interests you, it is a minor inconvenience. 29 Creationist resources from Answers in Genesis Answers in Genesis is a creationist group with a presuppositionalist approach to apologetics, which means there is a decided Reformed influence in the group. But while all Reformed folk should be creationists, not all creationists are Reformed, so these books are not specifically Reformed. The very best is In Six Days, in which 50 scientists each take a chapter to explain why they believe in creationism. Old Earth Creationism on Trial and In the Beginning Was Information are also very good. 8 more great Creationist books Dr. Jonathan Sarfati’s Refuting Evolution, and Refuting Evolution 2 are available for online reading here. Letters to a Mormon Elder James White’s fantastic resource can be read for free online. Be a bit patient – it does seem to take a minute or two to load....

Adult non-fiction, Assorted

Reflections on "12 ways your phone is changing you"

The phone has had a huge impact on our way of life. This was true already, back in the 1920s, when the coming of the telephone to rural New Zealand made a huge difference to isolated farmers’ wives, allowing them to communicate daily with friends. “Party lines” – which involved several homes sharing the same line – meant calls were not necessarily private…but if you needed to chat, then you could. By the time I was a child the family telephone was a fixture on the wall, either in the hallway or in the kitchen. That meant it was in a public place where anyone could answer it and know who was calling you – or at least hear your end of the conversation. Cutting the cord When I was in my early adulthood cordless phones arrived. You could now take the phone into the privacy of your bedroom, and carry on a conversation unheard by anyone else. This began to worry parents, who knew the phone was somewhere in the house – but where? And what was being said on it? Then came cell phones, when suddenly, calls could be made and received way outside the house, and when instant communication was, for the first time, privately accessible to all. You could speak to anyone – seemingly anywhere. I remember my astonishment at a call from Paul while he was on the top of a mountain in South Canterbury helping on an autumn muster. It was revolutionary to think of the possibilities of limitless accessibility. Now, since 2007, and Steve Jobs’ introduction of the first iPhones, smartphones are everywhere. More than simply telephones, they are portable, computer-like devices that enable us to be online, all the time, and wherever we go. We can browse, we can post, we can keep up with the news – in short, do most things possible previously only at home. What’s not to like? Cautions to consider Well, lots, actually. As DesiringGod.org’s Tony Reinke has argued, our phones are changing us more than we know. I’ve just finished reading his book 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You and found it just as full of insights as all the reviews had promised. Everyone who owns a smartphone would likely benefit from a long, slow consideration of Reinke’s conclusions. He has thought hard about the implications of many of our common phone habits. In general, Reinke finds that phones are causing us to disengage from the kinds of person-to-person interaction that love requires of us. We are becoming more detached, more isolated in our own little worlds, less caring, more frivolous. Despite the fact that technology is a gift from God – the product of our inventiveness as creatures made in God’s image – our use of this particular piece of technology is making us less like Christ. It’s time that we took a good look at ourselves and reclaimed the use of our phones for good purposes. 1. ALWAYS AVAILABLE DISTRACTION One of the most obvious problems with smartphones is their capacity to distract us. Beeps, buzzes, and tunes of all sorts destroy our concentration when we ought to be attending to work – or to someone in our proximity who deserves our attention. I’m sure you’ve noticed the way vast numbers of people walk down the street with their heads down, thumbs tapping at their phones. (You’ve probably almost collided with more than a few). Not so long ago I was in a café and noticed a sign on the counter: “Sorry, the wireless is down today. You’ll just have to talk to each other.” Shock, horror! The girl serving the coffee thought it was exciting – and I don’t blame her. Our phones are also distancing us from our flesh and blood – the people right in front of us, our families, our friends, and the people who need our help. Every time we flop on the couch for 15 minutes of mindless scrolling and skim-reading, we could be ignoring an opportunity to edify, encourage, correct, love – and even learn from – a human being for whom God has given us responsibility. Those 15 minutes will never be given back, either. While some still think that our smartphones can end loneliness by connecting us to others, Reinke believes (and I agree) that face-to-face interaction cannot be replaced by screen-to-screen communication. We were created to respond to facial expression, tone of voice, and physical touch. Neither texts nor Facebook messaging can match what can be expressed face-to-face. Of course we can communicate with many more people at far greater speed than is possible if we’re limited to where our bodies can be at any given time. But perhaps God has intended us for fewer, more meaningful friendships than Facebook could ever cater for. 2. EVER PRESENT PEER PRESSURE I have never been a consumer or user of social media, mainly because I feared the distraction and time-wasting, but Reinke suggests there are other reasons these media are harming us. He explains that we are becoming something like peacocks, preening and arranging our personas for the admiration of an online audience. Learning how others carefully shape their profiles to appear interesting, successful, witty, and up-to-date, we inevitably desire to be seen the same way. So Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat etc become platforms from which we can project the same attributes. I had not realized the full extent of this, but Reinke notes that many a person wakes in the morning to check how many comments or “likes” their posts from the night before have generated. It’s obvious that young people sensitive to peer pressure can fall for this, but many a lonely adult person who lacks security in Christ can be equally susceptible. It’s time to get off social media, on our bikes and start visiting lonely people face-to-face! 3. DISTANCE DIMINISHES CONSIDERATION Another effect of the distance our smartphones can put between us and others is the impunity with which we criticize and demean others, via our screens. Apparently, people feel less sense of remorse for what they say to others online than for what they might say in person. Clicking “send” has nowhere near the consequences (they think) that saying something in personal conversation does. We’ve all seen the horribly offensive things people say, apparently without compunction, on Twitter or in the comments section beneath news articles. It seems that if the recipient of your spite is not visible through your screen, then guilt about how we make them feel is lessened. I can’t quite understand that, since each of us is capable of imagining how it would feel to be on the receiving end of vindictive words on a screen. But certainly, increased use of screens for communication seems to be hardening us. We are getting accustomed to this unkind and demeaning discourse-at-a-distance, and it appears to be imitated by others. For instance, last month I read about our Minister of Foreign Affairs referring to our Leader of the Opposition as “simple Simon.” Does that kind of epithet sound vaguely familiar – on Twitter, perhaps? 4. PRIVACY BRINGS TEMPTATION Much has been written about the danger of what Reinke calls “secret online vices” like pornography. The scary thing is that this kind of vile material is available, on phones, any time and any place. Many people think they are able to view it without anyone else knowing; and therefore without consequence. Christians need to remember that God sees everything we do: nothing is hidden from him. God has made our eyes and our ears, but he expects them to be used with discretion. How can we use them to pollute ourselves? Reinke would not be the first to suggest that in the end, if your eye is causing you a problem, pluck it out. Smartphones are indeed disposable, and certainly able to have their contents blocked and curbed. The consequences of addicting yourself to such vices are too awful to contemplate. 5. ALGORITHMS FEED US JUST ONE SIDE (Prov. 18:17) There is one final way that our smartphones are changing us, and it concerns me more than the others because it affects our ability to distinguish truth from error. We are so overloaded with online input (resulting in what Solomon called a “weariness of the flesh”) that we are inclined to retreat to bubbles of like-minded communications, dismissing all the rest as biased, wrong, or simply doubtful or unverifiable “noise.” The result is that the world is becoming an increasingly partisan place consisting of groups of people who, day by day, shout at each other, distrust each other, even hate each other – intractably. Being constantly online and fed a continuous diet of news we agree with is light years away from an older world. Once upon a time (maybe 20 years ago) people read a range of news sources, mindful of the biases of each, in order to arrive at some semblance of the truth. In those days discerning readers knew that if one news source got things wrong, the others would pounce and correct it. The truth prevails in the end, as historians generally know. Nowadays there is little true dialogue, and a cynicism about anything other than the source I read. All else is “fake news,” we hear. This is really scary, since unless we are willing to expose even our most deeply-held views to scrutiny, we will lose the power of discernment. And that is what tyranny thrives on. Conclusion So I’d suggest, along with Tony Reinke, that it’s high time to take a close look at our uses of our smartphones. Are they changing us? Yes, and in ways that we might not realize. This is an edited version of an article first printed in the May 2018 issue of Faith in Focus www.rcnz.org.nz where it was published under the title “We and our phones.” It is reprinted with permission. Sally Davey is a member of the Reformed Church of Dovedale, Christchurch, New Zealand. You can download a 40-page preview of Tony Reinke's "12 ways your phone is changing you" here. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Free film: The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry

Family / Drama 96 minutes; 2008 RATING: 6/10 In the summer of 1970 three boys develop a friendship with an elderly man, Jonathan Sperry, who teaches them about the necessity of living out, and spreading God’s Word. The first time I watched The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry I stopped about ten minutes in. The three principal child actors weren’t great –not horrible, but awkward enough to get in the way of the story. But when I shared my thoughts with a friend, he encouraged me to give it a longer watch, and appreciate it for what it had to offer. I'll say it did pick up a bit at the 15 or 16-minute mark. And it does have something else to offer - this is a “message film” that uses storytelling to teach Christian morals. The lessons the three boys learn from Mr. Sperry include: how important it is to share the Bible with everyone we know how we should look to older godly people to mentor us how a gentle word can turn away wrath (Prov. 15:1). how we should respond to bullies by using Matt. 5:38-42: “If your enemy takes a piece of your pizza, offer him two.” In a particularly illuminating conversation, Mr. Sperry teaches the boys that God’s love is evidenced in the Bible’s laws and restrictions. Mark: “The Lord is interested in the girls we like? Mr. Sperry: “Absolutely The Lord is interested in everything in our lives!” Albert: “Yeah, I know the Bible is always saying, don’t do this, don’t do that” Mr. Sperry: “I never look at it that way. Now the bible says not to steal. Would you like anyone stealing from you Mark? Mark: “No” Mr. Sperry: “Well, I guess that’s a pretty good thing, isn’t it?” This lacks some in “believability” – Mr. Sperry is a bit too nice, and the bully in the story has a change of heart that happens a bit too quickly – but there is a value to these sorts of "message" films when we take them for the parables they intended to be. Now, some of Mr. Sperry's lessons are forced but that'll make them easier for kids to catch. Others have Arminian overtones that parents should point out. But there's good fodder here for discussion. Viewers might be confused by the film's closing, which gives the impression that these were real people by noting what the boys grew up to be. But, as the opening of the film states, these are entirely fictional events. I'll also offer a spoiler because I think parents will appreciate the heads up that Mr. Sperry dies suddenly and unexpectantly near the film's end. That also teaches the boys an important lesson about God, but a harder lesson than the others. Overall, I'd give it a 5 out of 10 if it was just for the entertainment value, but I'm bumping it up one for the use parents can put it to. If you like this, the same director has a better "message" film called Time Changer. But this could make for a nice evening with younger kids to watch, hit the pause button, and discuss. Watch it for free below (with some commercial interruptions). ...

News

Saturday Selections – April 30, 2022

Meet one of Canada's anti-abortion influencers (6 min) Though this profile is by a decidedly left-wing outlet, it still can't help highlight how impactful pro-life warrior Laura Klassen, and her friends, have been on behalf of the unborn. Klassen's own videos, with her satiric takes on pro-choice "logic," can be seen here, here, here, here, and here, and you can also check out her BC-based pro-life group Choice42. It's wrong to play the pronoun game It's not harmless to offer up your "preferred pronouns" and Christians mustn't have any part of it. Why Disney has gone woke (10-min read) Why would a company that's built around family viewing decide to double down on an LGBT agenda so many families oppose? It's because Disney's new "customer base isn't kids. It's messed up adults." Walt's original "business model depended on a healthy national family" but today's "shareholders are not going to bet on a growth segment in the American nuclear family that doesn’t exist. Betting on dysfunctional adults with sizable disposable incomes makes a whole lot more sense." That's why "60% of Disneyland visitors were adults with no children." No-fault divorce ignores data... and children The UK is bringing in no-fault divorce with the argument that it will "remove unnecessary conflict from the process by ending the blame game — helping spare children from the harmful effects this can have.” But, as John Stonestreet explains: "This, 'the kids will be fine' line, is not just nonsense: it’s dangerous nonsense. It flies in the face of everything we know about the impact of divorce on the most vulnerable among us." The unlikely rise of Vladimir Putin (10-minute read) How did Putin rise to power? Thinkr offers book summaries – 10-minute reads with key insights from various bestsellers – and this time they've summed up Masha Gessen's The Man Without A Face, her biography about this infamous world leader. Does the free market help the poor than any other economic system? "As Christians understand, material wealth is not the be-all and end-all of human existence, however: Only market societies have generated wealth sufficient to meet the basic human needs of entire populations. Only market societies have generated sufficient wealth to generate widespread and organized assistance for those unable to care for themselves. Only market societies have generated sufficient wealth to promote other important human objectives, including nutrition and health, environmental protection, and even human happiness." Your cell has a DNA detangler! (5 min) Ever tried to detangle your daughter's hair? God has packed a tiny machine in each of your cells that does the same job for your DNA. This is so unbelievably cool! ...

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

Maker Comics: Draw a comic

by JP Coovert 2019 / 124 pages Cartooning was a fascination as a kid, so I've read a few different books on how to do it, and I think this might be the best overall introduction I've seen. One of its strengths is the way it teaches - via a comic adventure! Our guide Maggie, and her dog Rex, are trying to fulfill her grandfather's dream of having a comic library, but the villain of the piece, Dr. Stephens wants to turn the building into a parking lot. How can they stop him? A discovered treasure map might lead to just what they need to buy the building. Alongside their treasure quest, readers are given 6 projects to complete: Learning the parts of a comic Planning a comic strip Drawing your comic strip Making a one-sheet, 8-page comic Printing your one-sheet comic Make a bigger comic book There's piles of information here, but kids only have to use the bare bones of it – just a pencil and a sheet of paper – to start making their own mini-comic books. And if they get into it, then they can dive back into the book to learn more about the different pencils, pens, brushes, and techniques they can use to get better. There isn't a lot of help offered for actual drawing techniques – kids will have to turn elsewhere to find more on that. What this book is about is equipping kids to get a running start in presenting their story or joke in a polished and yet still easy-to-do manner, even while their art skills might be at the stick figure level. They can get excited about starting and completing an actual comic. The only caution is a minor one, a passing mention made in one of the comic captions about dinosaurs living 65 millions years ago. My 10-year-old daughter and I have read another in this "Maker Comics" series and found Build a Robot a lot harder to get off and running with – you need to have a spare small motor lying around. That said, Draw a Comic does have us interested in checking out others, like Grow a Garden and Bake Like a Pro. ...

Economics - Home Finances

Is gambling wrong? And if so, what about buying stocks?

Some Christians won’t invest in the stock market because they believe that investing in stocks is really no different than buying a lottery ticket. Both, they argue, are examples of gambling, which God forbids. But are they really so alike? Consider these two ways in which investing in stocks differs completely from gambling. 1. You can gain without causing pain While it could be argued that the Bible doesn't specifically forbid gambling, it does condemn the roots of it including covetousness (Ex. 20:17), love of money (1 Tim. 6:10, Hebr. 13:5, Matt. 6:24), and the lack of productivity (Matt. 25:14-30). Another significant problem with gambling is that a person can only win if others lose – there is no way for all the players to benefit. It is a zero-sum game, so for a gambler to walk away with more than he came with, he has to get it from the other players. God calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31), but the gambler wants to benefit at his neighbor's expense – he wants to get something while giving nothing. With stocks, it is very different. While the stock market has its ups and downs, over time the trajectory is ever upward, as the economy expands, and as we continue to learn how, through automation and other efficiencies, to become ever more productive. That means it is possible for all investors – or at least all of the patient, cautious sort – to win. An investor’s gains need not come by making others lose; instead their increase can come from helping a good company grow. An investor’s return can come from supporting companies that are creating good products, or offering wanted services, or who are in some other way being productive in a way that paying customers appreciate. And then the return he gets will be in exchange for the help he provided: it will be something for something. Of course, someone could buy stock in all sorts of evil companies too, so we’re not trying to say here that buying stocks is always good. The point is more limited: whereas a gambler can only gain by other’s pain, it’s possible for an investor to gain by helping others. 2. You are likely to gain Another problem with gambling is that it is a waste of the resources God has entrusted to us (Matt. 25:14-30) because in gambling the odds are always stacked against the gambler. Slot machines, provincial and state lotteries, 50/50 raffles, casinos: all of them are a source of revenue for governments because they are designed to pay out less than they take in. Sure, a fellow might makes some short-term gains, but any gambler that keeps at it is sure to lose…and quite possibly everything he has. But in the stock market, the very opposite is true. If the economy is growing (as it is, at least over the long term) then the stock market will grow too, and see more gains than losses. If you have no other ideas as to what to do with your money, then placing it in a diversified portfolio is one of the safest places to put it. With minimal risk you can increase the resources God has entrusted to your care. Conclusion To sum up, whereas a gambler is always trying to win at others’ expense, stock market investors can gain by helping others do better too. And while the odds are stacked such that over time a gambler will lose all he has, stock market investments overall continue to grow over time. In these two significant ways, buying stocks is the very opposite of gambling....

Parenting, RP App

Don’t let the culture train up your children in the way they should go

Our family loves to watch the Olympics. As we’ve watched the last several years, we’ve been noticing how different each Olympics has been even from the last time they were held. It seems more and more like every commercial has a rainbow flag or two men holding hands or someone who looks like a woman but has a beard. All of the sexuality is right there in your face as if this has been around forever and is wonderful. This made me start reflecting on how our world is catechizing us. The world’s catechesis No matter how many limits you put on screen time, if your kids are living in this world, I can guarantee that the world is catechizing them. This doesn’t happen in a formal way where the world is giving questions and answers, and kids memorize it. That would actually be easier. You could simply tell them, “Don't read the world's catechism.” Instead, it does it through commercials. It does it through music. It does it through memes. It does it through YouTube clips. David Wells said that worldliness is whatever “makes sin look normal and righteousness seem strange.”¹ And that's what our world does. It doesn't give us a discursive argument: here's why you should accept this sin. What it does instead is normalize it. That's a type of catechesis (which is just an old word that means training or discipleship or instruction). The question is not whether our children are being catechized or not. It’s whether we are going to catechize them ourselves, or if we are going to let the world do it. Even if you homeschool your kids or send them to a Christian school, they're getting the world’s catechesis. So we need to be intentional about catechizing them with what is truly good, truly beautiful, truly life-changing, and life-saving, and God-glorifying. We need to understand that mainstream culture is pushing in one direction. Whether you watch ESPN, your favorite sports team, Avengers movies, or the Olympics, you’re going to be pushed in that one direction. The culture is not going to push you to greater clarity or biblical fidelity, especially on issues related to sex and gender. The bubble Where is the line between seeking to protect our kids from this worldly catechesis and naively trying to shelter them in some kind of Christian bubble? The first issue to understand is that children have the right to be children. On the one hand, my 8-year-old should be able to be an 8-year-old and shouldn’t have to know what problems are for 18-year-olds or 28-year-olds. So that's a good kind of bubble. Especially when they're younger, I want my kids to feel like the world is relatively safe and makes sense. I want them to have that kind of bubble that allows them to be a child. On the other hand, by the time kids are teenagers, I want them to interact with the very best of secular ideologies within the safe space of their church and family. My 18-year-old is graduating from high school and going off to college and shouldn’t be sheltered from any of those questions. I want my kids to understand that there are hard things people are going to say about Christianity. It starts by being explicit about those things. The ideal is that they've already heard some of the hardest things they could hear about their faith before they run into them elsewhere. Today those issues are becoming less about the reliability of the Bible or arguments for the resurrection and more about the ethics of Christianity. It used to be that people said, “Christians are dumb. They don't believe in science.” Now it's more often, “Christians are bad. They're hateful. They're bigots. They don't love other people.” Deconstructing the world In terms of teaching our kids, I think churches and families actually do a fairly good job of giving the right conclusions. What I think we do a poor job of is giving the reasons for those conclusions. Let’s say my kids graduate from their Christian school and leave home, and they've been taught that marriage is between a man and a woman. They have the right conclusion, but they don't have some of the superstructure that leads to that conclusion. They have not been taught the objections to that conclusion or been prepared to meet the sort of people who seem to bely that conclusion. Then they're going to go out into the world, and they will hold to biblical truth for a time, but it will sit very uneasy alongside everything else that inhabits their worldview. And eventually, when it’s one biblical conclusion against a thousand cultural assumptions, those cultural assumptions are going to win out. The world is always deconstructing Christianity. We need to deconstruct the world. I did a talk in a school chapel not too long ago on the slogan “love is love.” There are a lot of people who are really confused about this. They'll say they believe one thing, but when you look on their Instagram page, they're liking the same stuff that everybody else is, which seems to contradict what they say they believe. So we need to unpack cultural ideas such as “love is love.” What does our world mean by that? What's true about that? And what's horribly misleading about that? Establishing a safe and loving environment for questions We want our kids to feel like the best place to go with their questions is to their parents. We hope they can trust their mom and dad more than a Google search. But that only comes with an atmosphere of love, trust, respect, and fun in the household. I was once that kid who had questions, and I would take them to my parents. What my parents thought of me was important. When I had influences pushing me one way, there was always part of me thinking, I know my mom and dad love me, and what they think matters to me. That wasn’t a result of any one thing they did. We weren't memorizing the catechism every night. But it was the cumulative effect of their love for one another and for their children throughout the ordinary stuff of life that catechized me. How do we create an environment filled with intentional discipleship and catechesis? First, plan to have formal times of family worship. In our family, we share about our day at the dinner table. We encourage one another. We pray together. We read books. We've done all sorts of these things. But I'd be lying if I said we did something formal every night. We don't. It's a struggle for us to do that, but we do try to have formal times of family worship. For instance, there is the formal aspect to the routine of praying with our kids every night as we put them to bed. Second, be ready for all of the informal times of catechesis. Recall the old adage that “more is caught than taught.” As your kids are teenagers in particular, you can't plan for when you want to have a really great gospel conversation. You’ve got to be ready. It may be the middle of the night. It may be in the middle of shooting baskets outside. It may be a conversation in the car. At some point they will ask one of these questions. What you're hopefully building in your child is a sense of trust. I trust my mom and dad, and I love them, and I know they love me. Lastly, don't neglect the fact that the best habit you can give your kids is that they go to church every Sunday. Our kids should not have to ask us, “Are we going to church this morning?” They should know that this happens every single Sunday. Of course there are reasons to miss church, but we need to send our kids a message about our priorities. And if we are implicitly teaching our kids that soccer is more important than church or that Sunday sports come first, and church fits in when it can, that's a powerful message we’re sending. You don’t need to lay it out as a catechism question. But you’re teaching those values and catechizing your kids. Notes ¹ David F. Wells, Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover Its Moral Vision (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 4. This article first appeared on KevinDeYoung.com and is adapted from The Crossway Podcast: If You Don't Catechize Your Kids, the World Will with guest Kevin DeYoung. It is reprinted here with the author's permission....

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution

Evolution's Achilles' Heels

Documentary 2014 / 96 minutes Rating: 10/10 I’ve watched this at least 5 times now, and many sections many more times than that. This is the best, most succinct, most content-dense, anti-evolution presentation I’ve ever seen. That said, my first go-through didn’t leave me all that impressed. I was watching it while doing some paperwork, not giving it my full attention, and what I saw just seemed to be a bunch of interviews, lots of talking heads. It didn’t seem all that interesting. But when I gave it another go and actually paid attention…. Whoah! What the folks at Creation Ministries International have done here is, in one hour-and-a-half presentation, boiled down all their very best arguments into the shortest possible form. That’s why I’ve watched it so many times already – I had to keep stopping, rewinding, and then listening to sections again because so much of what these interviewees say in just a sentence or two is something that others have written articles and even whole books on. For example, here’s a line from Dr. Donald Batten: “The survival of the fittest does not explain the arrival of the fittest.” At first listen, this struck me as a great turn of a phrase, and it certainly is. But let’s hit the pause button and just think about all that’s being said here in just this one line. Survival of the fittest (AKA natural selection) is supposed to explain how species adapt and change: those with advantageous mutations will prosper, while those without will eventually die off. But "survival of the fittest" is a selective process – it picks the best out of the group. How then, does it work before there is a group to pick the best and brightest from? Natural selection is a key mechanism for evolution, but it doesn’t offer any explanation for how animals come to be in the first place! This one, short, ever so quotable line, points out a gigantic problem with evolutionary theory! In addition to Dr. Batten, the documentary features 8 other Ph.D. scientists, and together they highlight, as the title puts it, Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels. They cover a wide range of problems, grouped under categories like the Fossil Record, Genetics, Natural Selection, Cosmology and Radiometric Dating. I really can’t praise it highly enough: from beginning to end this is brilliant, and as good an introduction to the problems with Evolutionary theory as you will ever find. If an evolutionist friend was willing to watch one video of my choosing, this is definitely the one I would pick. And if you like the documentary be sure to track down the book of the same name which, while also concise, has the space to dig even deeper. You can watch the trailer below. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution I, II, and III

Dr. Jobe Martin was once an ardent evolutionist and only became a creationist after getting challenged by one of his students. While he was a professor at a dental college, he gave a lecture on the evolution of the tooth – he taught his class that fish scales eventually migrated into the mouth and became teeth – but two students didn't agree. They encouraged him to investigate creation science but Martin had never even heard of it... but he was willing to take a look. The closer he looked, the more he realized that much of the evolution was based, not on facts, but on assumptions. His three Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution documentaries are based off of his investigations. In each episode, he shares some of the most incredible features of a variety of creatures, and it was the intricate design evident that forced him to acknowledge that there was a Master Designer behind all this. In the first episode we learn: the bombardier beetle repels attackers by shooting a fiery liquid out of its rear end. the giraffe's heart pumps blood powerfully enough to blow out its own brain. The giraffe's heart has to be strong to get blood all the way up to its head but what happens to all that power when, instead of pumping against gravity, the giraffe dips its head to take a drink? Then the same strong stream of oxygenated blood will now be traveling with enough pressure to create some serious brain trauma....except for the amazing shut-off valves in a giraffe's neck that kick in when it lowers its head! the woodpecker has a barbed gluey tongue that sticks to bugs but doesn't stick to its own beak. Equally amazing, it has a skull that is designed to do the work of a jackhammer without giving the poor fellow a headache. Dr. Martin showcased a host of other creatures, and when I first watched this with my preschool daughters, they were all amazed. Though the videos are primarily intended for children, my wife and I were also engaged so this would make for good family viewing. It has enough pictures and film footage to keep the attention of the very young, and for parents, there's a narrative that highlights God's sense of fun and His genius. That this is a children's video means it is also not the first film you'd insist your hard-nosed evolutionist friend watch. Incredible Creatures isn't meant to offer an overly detailed or complete argument against evolution, and adult critics would likely seize on that lack of depth to dismiss it entirely. So get it for your own family or your Christian school. And if you know someone dead-set on evolution, then consider Evolution's Achilles' Heels (also free to see!) and its more mature, thorough anti-evolutionary argument. While all three films in this "Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution" series are good, the first is the very best of the bunch. You can buy high-resolution versions on DVD, or find them on some streaming services. But the producers have also made lower resolution versions available for free, with commercial interruptions. You can watch them below. INCREDIBLE CREATURES THAT DEFY EVOLUTION I Documentary 47 min / 2000 Rating: 7/10 Featured creatures include the: bombadier beetle, giraffe, woodpecker, chicken egg, beaver, platypus, spider, gecko, and more. INCREDIBLE CREATURES THAT DEFY EVOLUTION II Documentary 46 min / 2002 Rating: 7/10 Featured creatures include: humpback whales, pacific golden plover, dragonflies, hippos, lightning bugs, bears, earthworms, elephants, and more. INCREDIBLE CREATURES THAT DEFY EVOLUTION III Documentary 79 min / 2006 Rating: 7/10 Featured creatures include: mussels, horses, ostriches, hummingbirds, dogs, sea cows, butterflies, cuttlefish, penguins, and more. ...

News

Saturday Selections – April 23, 2022

22 minutes on the 2022 budget CBC comedians offer the humorous take, but for a more substantive look at the problem with debt see: Psalm 37:21, Prov. 22:7, and Prov. 13:22. It'll take Christians to argue against pedophilia If sexual orientation is untreatable (and thus conversion therapy is something to be banned)  then what argument does the world have to marshal against pedophilia? A Christian perspective on the ethical treatment of animals Biblical principles give us clear guidance here. "Can I marry my Mormon girlfriend?" If you're asked a question that can only be answered with painful honesty, what sort of answer should you give? A painful one. Unbeliever tries to find comfort in the Psalms Michael Ignatieff attended an event in which all 150 Psalms were sung and was greatly impacted... but couldn't figure out why. Woman in carpool lane claims personal pronouns are "they/them" (3 min) Reality: God defined it; the world denies it. So how can we expose their foolishness? Good questions that push them to define their imitation. Can feelings dictate reality? If two people are offended, which one is right? If feelings make a man a woman, what other realities can feelings determine? How about our race? Or gravity, can I identify as weightless? ...

Parenting

5 tips for family devotions with small children

For Christian parents, reading the Bible and praying with our children each day is a critical part of raising them in the faith. Yes, it’s also important to look out for spontaneous opportunities to teach them the gospel. And our lives should be a constant witness to our children. But nothing can replace a fixed daily time of sitting together as family to open the word and pray. But how do you handle family devotion when your children are very young? My husband and I are wrestling with this issue. We have a 9-month-old son and a 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter. I was blessed to have been raised in a Christian home where daily Bible reading and prayer were a priority. Here are five tips that I’ve gleaned from my childhood and now from my role as a parent: 1. Pick a daily time My family read the Bible and prayed together after meals. This came from my mother’s Reformed upbringing in the Netherlands. I strongly recommend that approach. You started the meal with prayer, you shared fellowship at the table, so then it’s natural to close with Bible reading and another prayer. But if work schedules keep your family apart for meals, then you need to pick another time when the whole family is together. 2. Stick to the daily time Life with young children can be total chaos. That makes it all the more important to have family devotions at roughly the same time every day – start switching it around and you’ll quickly forget or let it slide. Besides, you’ll be amazed at how quickly children adapt to the routine. When our daughter was just 16 months old, I brought our dinner out of the kitchen and she automatically folded her hands to pray. She knew that’s what we do before we eat. We are doing our best to establish the routine while our children are still small. That way, when they get older, they will consider daily family devotions as “something we always do.” 3. Get them involved When our children are older, we’ll be discussing the Bible readings with them. But in the meantime, we’re finding simple ways to get our toddler to participate. If the Bible is in the other room, we ask her to bring it to us. After prayer, we sing Scripture songs with her. Family devotions are also a great time to introduce the habit of memorizing Bible verses. We’re teaching our daughter some simple phrases such as “The Lord is my shepherd.” 4. Keep it positive You need to be realistic about what small children can handle. Our 2-and-a-half-year-old simply can’t sit still for more than a few minutes – for anything. We are working on gradually increasing the length of our Bible reading but it would be unfair of us to expect more from her than she’s able to give. Sometimes I will take her on my lap. That helps keep her quiet a bit longer. If the baby has a genuine meltdown, I will take him to another room and my husband finishes devotions with the toddler. The gospel is called “the good news.” Children should have a happy association with family devotions. It should not be a time that your child associates with getting disciplined. We give our kids a fair bit of leeway with squirming. It’s only if someone is being truly disruptive that I’ll intervene. I’m busy listening to the word of God, not carefully supervising my kids’ behavior. And that leads me to my most important point: 5. Keep it reverent During these early years, we can teach our children so much by our attitude of reverence for God’s word. Do you believe that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12)? That should be evident to your children from the way you act. Before they can even speak, they will have learned that the Bible is something very special and important. Moreover, your children take their cues from you. If you are modeling proper reverence, it will significantly reduce misbehavior during family devotions. In our family, we find it helpful to start with a clear gear-shift. We say, “It’s time to read the Bible” and then “It’s time to pray.” We don’t talk about other things or engage in other activities during this time. If the CD player is still playing some background music, we’ll go through the hassle of getting up to turn it off before devotions. Conclusion Trying to have regular family devotions with small children can be frustrating. I pray these five tips may be useful to you. I am thankful to my parents for persevering. I’ve personally experienced the fruit that it bears in later years. This article appeared in the Sept/Oct 2017 issue....

Science - General

Canada’s beautiful beaver

An internationally recognized rodent has become our northern nation’s emblem, but more importantly, the curious nature of this creature highlights the creativity of its Creator. ***** Most Canadians are rightly proud of the beaver, their iconic national emblem.  Indeed, the beaver is a remarkable animal with exceptional talents! Its lifestyle is made possible not only through the wonderful design of its body, but also through in-built skills. The fact is that beavers are the only animals anywhere which can change the landscape to suit their own needs and desires. Bigger and biggest dam The skill of beavers at dam building is legendary wherever they live. Prior to 2010, a beaver dam in Montana (USA) was the largest such structure known. It was 652 meters long, 4.3 meters tall and 7 meters thick at its largest extent. For our imperial friends, that’s 2,140 feet long, 14 feet high and 23 feet wide! However, the Montana beavers’ claim to fame ended when scientists looking for evidence of climate change, scanned satellite images of Canada’s far north lands. These scientists were not looking for beaver dams. Such a thing had never been visible from space. But now they observed a beaver dam in Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta. First visible (in retrospect) in a Landsat 7 image from 1990, in a 2004 image, the beaver dam appeared to be 850 meters or 2,790 feet long. Jean Thie, a remote sensing specialist, first noted the artifact in a satellite image taken in July 2004, but he did not make his identification until 2007. Eventually, in 2009, Parks Canada was informed of the situation. Thus, it was not until 2010 that Parks Canada released a statement to the world. The terrain is so boggy that nobody can access the site, but aerial reconnaissance has confirmed its existence. The dam must be about 35 years old, built and maintained by generations of beavers. To avoid being tasty treats... Beavers are engineers and builders. With only their teeth and front paws, they change landscapes so that a safe home can be built and enough food harvested and stored for winter. The lodges/homes are large and conspicuous, often about 5 meters in diameter and 2 meters high. Animals as large and tasty as beavers would surely be a popular meal for predators if all the hunter had to do was wait by the lodge until the beaver came home. Obviously, hidden entrances are essential to survival. So what the beavers do is to locate the lodge in the center of a body of water. Then the entrances are hidden underwater, well shielded from the view of predators like wolves. Since the beavers are active throughout the year, they must be able to come and go from their lodge even in winter. Since most small bodies of water freeze at that time, the beavers need to find ponds and streams deep enough so that some liquid water remains below the ice. Since such deep locations are hard to find, the beavers instead change shallow bodies of water into deeper locations. This is where the amazing dam-building skills of the beaver are called into play. First of all, the beavers must select a suitable location for their dam. It is the sound of trickling water that stimulates the beaver to plug the flow. The point that the beavers typically choose is where the noise of moving water is the greatest and the flow rate is fastest. Beavers are not committed to any one style of dam. They build whatever it takes to block the flow of water. A sluggish flow of water calls for a very wide dam, as we see in Wood Buffalo National Park. When the current is strong, however, the dam is built with a convex curve in the upstream direction so that it best resists the pressure of the water. The beavers instinctively know how to compensate for stress and strains of the water pushing against the structure. These animals even build outlet sluices for disposal of overflow water. The construction, after all, must not flood the lodge during times of higher-than-normal rainfall. The beavers always make the right engineering choices. Born landscapers The beaver are certainly unique in their water management capabilities. These animals do not learn their building skills from their elders. They just know them. In Europe, beavers were hounded almost to extinction and for generations had no opportunities to use their talents, but now, once again they are displaying their full architectural expertise. In parts of the American West such as Washington, Oregon and Utah, beavers are increasingly being deployed as effective, low cost agents to restore watersheds. Beaver dams and ponds restore complexity to the landscape, slowing the flow of water and sediment and restoring fish habitat. Besides brainpower, each beaver needs the physical ability to actually build dams. These large animals, distinctly rotund in shape, weigh between 16 and 32 kilograms as adults (or 35 to 70 pounds). They look awkward on land but quite the opposite in water. Their fully webbed hind feet, transparent membranes that protect their eyes and special valves in the nostrils and ears all facilitate underwater activities. The oxygen holding capacity of their red blood cells also must be impressive since they are able to spend as much as 15 minutes submerged. So don’t hold your breath waiting for a diving beaver to re-appear! The beavers’ front paws are small and delicate, without webs. They function almost like hands. They are able to carry objects such as sticks, stones or mud in their hands and they manipulate these into place in the course of their building activities. Tremendous teeth and quite the pair of lips The beaver begins his dam by laying sticks and rocks in the streambed at the desired location. Lots of timber is required for this project. Here, too, the beaver is appropriately equipped for his task. His front teeth are hardened with a dark orange enamel (not pretty, but effective). The teeth grow continuously and the outer tips grind against each other. This keeps the cutting edges chisel-sharp. With these tools, beaver can easily fell trees 30 centimeters or even twice that (1 or two feet) in diameter. The trees are used in building operations, and as sources of twigs, bark and leaves for food. Another interesting feature of beaver mouths is the fact that their lips can be closed behind their front teeth. Thus, while submerged, they can chew without choking on sawdust or water. This gives a whole new meaning to the expression “My lips are sealed”! So, people pursue their agendas and beavers fell trees and flood the landscape. We may find beaver activities expensive and annoying at times. On other occasions, we greatly appreciate their work. Wherever they are, we must admit they are beautiful animals. Canada’s national emblem is characterized by skill, initiative and lots of energy. It’s fun to watch them in action. We do not always realize that God confers on some animals amazing behavior patterns which enable them to follow unique lifestyles. Such is the beaver. All peoples, near or far from Canada, who appreciate wonderful design, will surely see the hand of God in the creation of Castor canadensis. Dr. Margaret Helder is involved in headSTART.create.ab.ca an online tool that defines scientific terms from a creationist perspective, highlighting the 100+ most important ones like convergence, Junk DNA, Horizontal Gene Transfer, and the Framework Hypothesis. It's designed for high school students but useful for their parents too, so be sure to check it out! And also be sure to check out this 10-minute clip on beaver lodge creation. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

The Privileged Planet

Documentary 60 minutes, 2005 Rating: 8/10 This hour-long documentary makes a compelling case that we live on a "privileged planet." If the Earth was a different size, or in a different location, or if the moon’s orbit was to shift ever so slightly, then many of the most important scientific discoveries we’ve made about space could never have happened. For example, it is because our moon is 400 times closer to us than the Sun, but also 400 times smaller than the Sun, that allow us to study the outer corona of Sol during solar eclipses. And did you know that our large moon - one quarter the size of the Earth – helps stabilize the tilt of our orbit, giving us our seasons? We are the right distance from the right kind of Sun, with just the right type of internal liquid iron core to generate a magnetic field to protect us from the Sun's most harmful rays. All this is just the way it needs to be! Want to learn more? Well, you'll have to watch the video. But the point is, that the Earth has been clearly designed for life, and it has also been equipped for that life to discover what's going on in the Solar System around us. Now, like many an “Intelligent Designer” presentation, this doesn't specifically credit our Triune God, and that's a shame. But Christians viewers will know Who to praise for the astonishing engineering evidenced not only on our planet, but in our placement in the Universe. Stunning graphics accompany a strong argument, and it sure doesn't hurt that John Rhys-Davies (Gimli, in Lord of the Rings) narrates. This is a superior documentary that will appeal to anyone interested in the way God has designed the solar system, the Milky Way, and our planet Earth. It's available on DVD, some streaming platforms, or you can watch it for free (in 12 parts) below. ...

Magazine, Past Issue

Apr/May 2022 issue

WHAT’S INSIDE: Samuel Sey on Critical Race Theory / How the Bible made the world a better place / Is God a hypothesis? / RP's 52 in 22 challenge: a book a week through 2022? / 10 games you can play with a toddler without having to roll off the couch / Persistent evangelism: when it comes to witnessing, are we too impatient? / Dinosaurs and dead bodies / 3 reasons to praise God for social media / Lessons From My Mum: there is hope for western civilization / 5 free films / How to refute skepticism / and more... Click the cover to view in your browser or click here to download the PDF (3.8 mb) ...

News

Saturday Selections – April 16, 2022

Jamie Soles' new rendition of Psalm 94 (6 min) Jamies Soles might be best known for his children's albums, but his new rendition of Psalm 94 is for older voices. As he notes, "Psalm 94 is particularly suited for times when lands regard the murder of the unborn as a sacrament. Sing this, church." When your kids say sorry badly How many times has one of your kids said "Sorry" and totally not been sorry? And how many times have you done it? As this great article outlines, the reason it's not genuine is that repentance is a bit of a bigger thing than saying the right words. This will be a big help for parents who are trying to teach their children what it means to repent (and forgive). It's a two-part article, with the first available by clicking the title above, and the second available here. Why are Christian musicians "deconstructing" their faith? (10-min read) Recently, we've seen a number of Christian celebrity musicians "deconstructing" their former faith – why is it happening? Brett McCracken wonders if it might be the shaky foundation their faith was built on: "Is your Christianity contingent on anything other than Christ? Being liked? Being comfortable? Being in power? Being happy? Being right? If so, consider that all of those foundations are like shifting sand, and you are the foolish builder of Matthew 7:26–27." Bible supports abortion? (10-min read) A text in Exodus is used by abortion supporters to justify the killing of the unborn – they claim it is a modern mistranslation of this text by pro-lifers that obscures their argument. But as this article explains, digging deeper only undermines their case for abortion. Can you have human dignity without Christianity?  Short answer, no. This article offers a longer answer. The battle for 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming is lost... so what's next? Even if we presume that the 1.5-Celsius target was a good goal, the very people pushing it are providing the data that shows it to be impossible to achieve. So what next? Might a focus on adaptation be the wiser approach? "...human adaptation to the climate has been the norm over the past century, with climate-related deaths declining globally by more than 90 percent despite a quadrupling of the world’s population." What do CRT, Cultural Marxism, Marxism, and LGBTQIA2S+ have in common? (10 min) These four ideologies all operate on the notion that society is divided between oppressor and oppressed, and that oppressors are identified, not by their behavior – not by actual oppressing – but simply if they are part of a group deemed oppressor...like white "cisgender" Christians. With this new understanding of sin comes a new means of "salvation": oppressors can't repent profusely enough to ever be forgiven (you can't wash away your whiteness), but your guilt can be washed away if you become a part of the oppressed by "identifying" as something in the LGBTQIA2S+ grouping. ...

Articles, Movie Reviews, RP App

200 movies King David might watch

Great minds think alike, and this month two of those great minds belonged to a missionary in Brazil and an evangelist in California. The evangelist, Ray Comfort, passed along a story, first told by Jeremy Archer, about a man who invited all sorts of folks into his house to meet his family. Often the visitors would talk crudely and angrily with each other, teaching his children words he'd rather they not know. But these visitors could also get his whole family laughing so the man decided to focus on the good they did, rather than the bad. Over time the man could see the visitors were having an impact on his family, and it wasn't a good one. He found that his own children were now using crude language and making coarse jokes. What was worse, the visitors were behaving outrageously, even taking their clothes off right there in front of his family! That's hard to believe, isn't it? Why didn't the man just kick them out? Why didn't he protect his family from their influence? Well, it turns out this man had some sense, and as the visitors started getting naked the man acted. Together, with his family, the man finally "turned off the television." That same month the missionary, Rev. Ken Wieske, expressed the same concern, titling a Facebook post "David vows to get rid of his TV." Underneath he included the text of Psalm 101 which reads (in part): I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will you come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. The pastor's point was clear: most of what's on TV is worthless and if King David were here on earth today, he might well pitch his TV right out of the palace. Of course, it isn't quite as easy as that. Today we also have computers, and smartphones, so getting rid of the TV isn't going to restrict our access to fluff and filth that's so readily available. So let's take this a step further. Yes, much of what's on TV (and on YouTube, Facebook, etc.) is worthless. But some of it isn't. Some of it is quite good. Excellent even! So if we were to make the same promise King David makes in Psalm 101 – to put away all that is worthless – what sorts of films and videos might we still watch? I've got some suggestions, and I've listed them under 10 categories, with 20 or more movie recommendations in most categories. My hope is that this list can help families find something worth watching. With over 200 suggestions I'm also hoping there will be something for everyone. There's just one documentary included here, but you can find a whole bunch more in our list of "100+ documentaries that make learning a joy." Title, year, and length are included, and, if there's a review available on ReformedPerspective.ca, or my movie review blog, ReelConservative.com, then I've indicated that by making the title all caps and clickable. I've also included an entertainment rating. This is out of 10, and in my books, a 7 is a solid mark, while 8 is something special, and 6 is still watchable but there is some notable flaw (maybe some corny writing, or a bad bit of acting, that sort of thing). The only reason I've included a few films that rate as low as 6 is because they have something about them that makes them valuable viewing – oftentimes their educational value. I'll note also, that a 7 for a children's film means that this target audience will think it a 7, and not adults. The same is true of a black and white classic. If you hate anything B&W, then you probably won't like one with a solid 7 rating (though maybe you'd be swayed by one with an 8, 9, or 10). One other note: none of these films and videos take God's name in vain. That's important. While a degree of violence and even sexual content of some sort can be appropriate on screen, the way God's name is abused on film just isn't. More than 30 of the films below have the tag "FREE ONLINE" and can be viewed for free by clicking on the link provided. ANIMATED VIDEOS (21) This mix of shorter videos (whether standalone or TV series) can be ideal when mom wants to take a nap but doesn't want the kids sitting in front of the TV forever. Anne of Green Gables, Vol. 1-3 – 2003, 150 minutes – 7/10 ADVENTURES IN ODYSSEY – 1991-2003, 27 min x 17 episodes – 7/10 Curious George – 2006-2021, 30 min x 170 episodes – 8/10 THE GRUFFALO  – 2009, 27 minutes – 8/10 Horton Hears a Who – 1970, 30 minutes – 7/10 JUNGLE BEAT – 537 minutes – 10/10 – FREE ONLINE LIFE AT THE POND – 2004-2009, 30 min x 5 episodes – 8/10 LOST AND FOUND – 2013, 24 minutes – 8/10 PEPPA PIG: THE BALLOON RIDE – 2014, 52 minutes – 7/10 VEGGIETALES – only some are recommended – Larry-boy and the Fib from Outer Space – 1997, 30 minutes – 7/10 – Madame Blueberry – 1998, 37 minutes – 8/10 – Larry-boy and the Rumor Weed – 1999, 30 minutes – 7/10 – Lord of the Beans – 2005, 52 minutes – 8/10 – Larry-boy and the Bad Apple – 2006, 30 minutes – 7/10 – Sheerluck Holmes and the Golden Ruler – 2006, 51 minutes – 7/10 – Tomato Sawyer & Huckleberry Larry's Big River Rescue – 2008, 49 minutes – 7/10 – The League of Incredible Vegetables – 2012, 49 minutes – 8/10 – McLarry & the Stinky Cheese Battle – 2013, 45 minutes – 8/10 – Veggies in Space: The Fennel Frontier – 2014, 45 minutes – 8/10 Wallace and Gromit in Three Amazing Adventures – 1989-1995, 85 minutes –  7/10 THE WAY THINGS WORK – 2001, 300+ minutes – 8/10 ANIMATED FILMS (21) It seems like cartoons used to be safe for kids, though boring for adults. Today, with the appearance of obscene animated fare like “South Park” and “Family Guy,” many cartoons are unsuitable for children, and for that matter, adults. But there has been a change for the better too – movies like “Curious George” and “Meet the Robinsons” show that some animated fare can keep the kids happy, and entertain their parents as well. BALTO – 1995, 78 minutes – 7/10 Chicken Run – 2000, 84 minutes – 8/10 CURIOUS GEORGE – 2006, 88 minutes – 8/10 CURIOUS GEORGE 3: BACK TO THE JUNGLE – 2015, 81 minutes – 7/10 CURIOUS GEORGE: ROYAL MONKEY – 2019, 86 minutes – 7/10 Finding Dory – 2016, 97 minutes – 7/10 Finding Nemo – 2003, 100 minutes – 8/10 Fox and the Hound – 1981, 83 minutes – 8/10 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – 1977, 74 minutes – 8/10 Meet the Robinsons – 2007, 95 minutes – 7/10 MINISCULE - 2014, 89 minutes – 7/10 Monsters Inc. – 2001, 93 minutes – 9/10 Monsters University – 2013, 104 minutes – 8/10 PAW PATROL: THE MOVIE – 2021, 86 minutes  8/10 THE PEANUTS MOVIE – 2015, 88 minutes – 8/10 SGT. STUBBY: AN UNLIKELY HERO - 2018, 84 minutes – 8/10 Tangled – 2010, 100 minutes – 9/10 TOY STORY 1, 2, 3, and 4 – 1995-2019, 81-103 minutes – 8/10 Up – 2009, 96 minutes – 9/10 Wall-E – 2008, 98 minutes – 9/10 WINNIE THE POOH – 2011, 63 minutes – 8/10 BASED ON A BOOK (26) It's always hard to live up to the book, but some of these get awfully close! 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA – 1954, 127 minutes – 7/10 THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD – 1938, 101 minutes – 8/10 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – 1939, 82 minutes – 7/10 Animal Farm – 1954, 72 minutes – 7/10 THE BOXCAR CHILDREN – 2013, 81 minutes – 7/10 THE BOXCAR CHILDREN: SURPRISE ISLAND - 2018, 82 minutes – 6/10 THE GIVER – 2014, 97 minutes – 8/10 THE GOSPEL BLIMP - 1967, 38 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE Ivanhoe – 1952, 107 minutes – 7/10 THE HOBBIT – 1977, 77 minutes – 7/10 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – 1979, 95 minutes – 7/10 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – 2005, 125 minutes – 8/10 Little Women – 1949, 121 minutes – 8/10 Little Women – 1994, 118 minutes – 9/10 THE LORD OF THE RINGS – 1978, 133 minutes – 7/10 THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK – 1939, 113 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH – 1970, 89 minutes – 7/10 POLLYANNA – 2003, 99 minutes – 8/10 PRIDE AND PREJUDICE – 2003, 104 minutes – 8/10 The Prince and the Pauper – 1937, 118 minutes – 8/10 Prince Caspian – 2008, 154 minutes – 8/10 Rascal – 1969, 85 minutes – 7/10 Sarah Plain and Tall – 1990, 98 minutes – 8/10 The Silver Chair – 1990, 155 minutes – 6/10 SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS – 2016, 96 minutes – 7/10 SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON – 1960, 126 minutes – 8/10 BLACK AND WHITE CLASSICS (24) These have all stood the test of time and are still being watched again and again. 12 Angry Men – 1957, 96 minutes – 9/10 THE AMAZING ADVENTURE – 1936, 62 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR – 1961, 96 minutes – 8/10 Adam's Rib – 1949, 101 minutes –  8/10 CASABLANCA – 1943, 103 minutes – 10/10 Citizen Kane – 1941, 119 minutes – 7/10 High Noon – 1952, 85 minutes – 9/10 I Remember Mama – 1948, 134 minutes – 7/10 It Should Happen to You – 1954, 87 minutes – 7/10 The Man in the White Suit – 1951, 85 minutes – 7/10 THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE – 1962, 123 minutes – 8/10 MEET JOHN DOE – 1941, 122 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE Mr. Deed goes to Town – 1936, 115 minutes – 7/10 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – 1939, 129 minutes – 8/10 SEA HAWK – 1940, 127 minutes – 8/10 THE SIGN OF ZORRO – 1958, 90 minutes – 8/10 The Shop Around the Corner – 1949, 99 minutes – 9/10 The Tin Star – 1957, 92 minutes – 7/10 As a subcategory here are a half dozen silent film selections. If you've never gotten into silent films, be sure to start with the comedies – there the overwrought acting just adds to the funny. And Buster Keaton is the best! THE GENERAL – 1927, 80 minutes – 8/10 The Gold Rush – 1925, 96 minutes – 7/10 GRANDMA'S BOY – 1922, 56 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE Seven Chances – 1925, 56 minutes – 8/10 SHERLOCK JR. – 1924, 44 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE Steamboat Bill, Jr. – 1928, 70 min – 7/10 BIOGRAPHICAL (26) Most of these are Christian biographies, and being true gives them a leg up on fictional Christian fare that too often concludes with “happily ever after” endings, more fairytales than our one truth faith. It’s simply a fact that here on earth bad things often happen to good, faithful Christians. I will also note that while many of these are great, others are merely okay (ranking only a 6), but are still included here because of their educational value. THE CASE FOR CHRIST – 2017, 113 minutes – 7/10 C.S. LEWIS ONSTAGE – 2018, 76 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE C.S. LEWIS: THE MOST RELUCTANT CONVERT – 2021, 93 minutes – 9/10 END OF THE SPEAR – 2006, 108 minutes – 7/10 Final Solution – 2001, 102 minutes – 7/10 GOD'S OUTLAW: THE STORY OF WILLIAM TYNDALE – 1988, 93 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE GOSNELL: THE TRIAL OF AMERICA'S BIGGEST SERIAL KILLER – 2018, 93 minutes – 8/10 Hellen Keller – 2005, 30 minutes – 6/10 THE JACKIE ROBINSON STORY – 1950, 77 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE JOHN HUS: A JOURNEY OF NO RETURN – 2015, 55 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE MARTIN LUTHER – 1953, 105 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE The Miracle Worker – 1962, 106 minutes – 9/10 Sabina: Tortured for Christ, the Nazi years – 2022, 115 minutes – 7/10 THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS – 1957, 135 – 7/10 TORCHLIGHTERS: There are about 20 videos in the Torchlighter series, and our family has been impressed with the 10 we've watched, with the exception of St. Patrick. While legends abound, little firsthand material on Patrick's life exists, making it hard to separate fact from fiction. That difficulty should have been acknowledged. – THE CORRIE TEN BOOM STORY – 2013, 34 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE ERIC LIDDELL STORY – 2007, 31 minute – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE HARRIET TUBMAN STORY – 2018, 30 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE JIM ELLIOT STORY – 2005, 30 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE JOHN BUNYAN STORY – 20o6, 30 minutes – 8/10 –FREE ONLINE – THE JOHN NEWTON STORY – 2021, 30 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE MARTIN LUTHER STORY – 2106, 34 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE RICHARD WUMBRAND STORY – 2008, 30 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE WILLIAM TYNDALE STORY – 2005, 32 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE TORTURED FOR CHRIST - 2018, 77 minutes - 8/10 – FREE ONLINE UNBROKEN: PATH TO REDEMPTION – 2018, 98 minutes – 8/10 THE WRIGHT BROTHERS – 1996, 27 minutes – 7/10 CHILDREN (22) This is fare for younger children – not a lot of tension here. And that means, while the kids will probably like it, mom and dad might not. Because children often watch their favorite videos repeatedly, even dozens of times, it’s all the more important to make sure what they do watch is the good stuff. The Adventures of Milo and Otis – 1989, 76 minutes – 7/10 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 – Safari – 2021, 30 minutes – 7/10 THE CREATION ADVENTURE TEAM – 2001-2002, 40 min x 2 episodes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE DEFENSE OF NEW HAVEN – 2016, 82 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE HANS BRINKER OR THE SILVER SKATES – 1962, 90  minutes – 8/10 INCREDIBLE CREATURES THAT DEFY EVOLUTION I – 2006, 47 minutes – 7/10 Lassie Come Home – 1943, 90 minutes – 8/10 A LEGO BRICKUMENTARY – 2015, 93 minutes – 7/10 MISTY – 1961, 91 minutes – 7/10 THE NEWTONS' WORKSHOP – 1997, 226 minutes – 7/10 ODD SQUAD: THE MOVIE – 2016, 67 minutes – 7/10 PATTERNS OF EVIDENCE: YOUNG EXPLORERS – 2020, 190 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE RUNNER FROM RAVENSHEAD – 2010, 81 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE SPARKY CHRONICLES – 2003, 28 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE SPACE BUDDIES – 2009, 84 minutes – 7/10 Tintin: Destination Moon – 1992, 83 minutes – 7/10 THE WILD BROTHERS (8 episodes) – 2015-2020, 28-30 minutes each – 7/10 FAMILY FUN (27) These are films that mom and dad can also look forward to watching. But that does mean that some of them have action or drama that may be too intense for your youngest children. So be sure to research age-appropriateness. BABES IN TOYLAND – 1961, 105 minutes – 7/10 A BEAR CALLED WINNIE – 2004, 90 minutes – 7/10 BEYOND THE MASK – 2015, 103 minutes – 8/10 BORN FREE - 1966, 95 minutes – 8/10 CITY OF EMBER – 2008, 95 minutes – 7/10 CONDORMAN – 1981, 90 minutes – 7/10 The Court Jester – 1956, 101 minutes – 8/10 DUDE PERFECT: BACKSTAGE PASS – 2020, 84 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE Emil and the Detectives – 1964, 98 minutes – 7/10 THE FIGHTING PRINCE OF DONEGAL – 1966, 110 minutes – 7/10 Going to the Mat – 2004, 82 minutes – 8/10 Greyfriars Bobby – 1961, 92 minutes – 8/10 Hangman's Curse – 2003, 106 minutes – 8/10 THE HORSE IN THE GRAY FLANNEL SUIT – 1968, 113 minutes – 7/10 THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY – 1963, 89 minutes – 8/10 JACK AND THE BEANSTALK – 1952, 83 minutes – 7/10 The Last Chance Detectives – 1994, 50 min x 3 episodes – 7/10 Old Yeller – 1957, 84 minutes – 9/10 OVERCOMER – 2019, 119 minutes – 7/10 THE SECRETS OF JONATHAN SPERRY – 2008, 96 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE Shark Boy and Lava Girl 3D – 2005, 93 minutes – 7/10 STORM: LUTHER'S FORBIDDEN LETTER – 2017, 105 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE SWORD AND THE ROSE – 1953, 92 minutes – 7/10 THE THREE INVESTIGATORS IN THE SECRET OF SKELETON ISLAND – 2007, 91 minutes – 7/10 TIME CHANGER – 2002, 99 minutes – 7/10 UNITARDS – 2010, 107 minutes – 8/10 Who is Simon Miller? – 2011, 85 minutes – 7/10 FOR MOM AND DAD (21) There are films intended for an adult audience, movies and videos to enjoy with your better half...and sometimes with the older kids too. 2081 – 2009, 25 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE ALLEGED – 2011, 93 minutes – 8/10 Anastasia – 1956, 105 minutes – 7/10 AUDACITY: LOVE CAN'T STAY SILENT – 2015, 50 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE The Caine Mutiny - 1954, 124 minutes – 7/10 COURAGEOUS – 2011, 129 minutes – 7/10 EXTRAORDINARY – 2017, 86 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE FREEDOM – 2014, 94 minutes – 7/10 THE HOBBIT TRILOGY – 2012-2014 – 7/10-8/10 I CAN ONLY IMAGINE - 2018, 110 minutes - 8/10 Love's Long Journey – 2005, 88 minutes – 7/10 The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – 2001-2003 – 10/10 LIKE DANDELION DUST – 2009, 104 minutes – 8/10 Roman Holiday – 1953, 118 minutes – 8/10 Seasons of the Heart – 2003, 99 minutes – 8/10 The Second Chance – 2006, 102 – 7/10 THE SONG – 2014, 116 minutes – 9/10 TO SAVE A LIFE – 2010, 120 minutes – 8/10 The Ultimate Gift – 2006, 114 minutes – 7/10 A Vow to Cherish – 1999, 84 minutes - 7/10 WOODLAWN - 2015, 123 minutes - 8/10 WAR FILMS (18) The Second World War might have been the first major conflict in which film could play a role, presenting stories intended to encourage those on the frontlines and at home. The most inspiring World War Two films show ordinary, average people doing extraordinary, heroic things (many of whom were our parents, grandparents or great grandparents, hiding Jews or otherwise put themselves at risk simply because they knew it had to be done). Many of the best World War II films were made during the war – they have a completely different feel, because no one at the time knew what the war’s outcome would be! BATAAN – 1943, 114 minutes – 8/10 Decision Before Dawn – 1951, 119 minutes – 7/10 DESPERATE JOURNEY – 1942, 107 minutes – 7/10 Destination Tokyo – 1944, 135 minutes – 8/10 Edge of Darkness – 1943, 119 minutes – 7/10 The Fighting Seabeas - 1944, 99 minutes – 7/10 FLYING TIGERS – 1942, 104 minutes - 7/10 THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT – 1940, 120 minutes – 7/10 Hail the Conquering Hero – 1944, 101 minutes – 7/10 Objective Burma! – 1945, 142 minutes – 7/10 Run Silent, Run Deep – 1958. 93 minutes – 7/10 Sahara – 1943, 98 minutes – 7/10 Sands of Iwo Jima – 1949, 100 minutes – 7/10 THE SILVER FLEET – 1943, 88 minutes – 7/10 They Were Expendable – 1945, 135 minutes – 7/10 To Be Or Not To Be – 1942, 99 minutes – 8/10 Twelve O'clock High – 1949, 132 minutes – 8/10 Why We Fight – 1942-45, 417 minutes – 7/10 See also Sgt. Stubby (Animated Films), Belle and Sebastian (Foreign Films), and Sea Hawk (Black and White Classics). BONUS - FOREIGN FILMS (6) Part of the pleasure of watching films set in foreign locales is that they provide a peek into unfamiliar cultures. Most of us will never be able to visit Mongolia or Iran but we can get an insight into the cultural life of those communities by watching their films. ANTBOY - DENMARK – 2013, 77 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE Belle and Sebastian – FRANCE – 2013, 99 minutes – 7/10 Children of Heaven – IRAN – 1997, 87 minutes – 7/10 NOT ONE LESS – CHINA – 2000, 106 minutes – 7/10 THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY – JAPAN – 2010, 95 minutes – 8/10 The Story of the Weeping Camel – MONGOLIA – 2003, 87 minutes – 7/10 This post first appeared on www.ReelConservative.com. RP has also done an issue of the magazine on movies you can find here....

Assorted

Lesson From My Mum: there is hope for western civilization

I learned an important lesson from a cheap house plant last week – that plant was a chrysanthemum (mum), and it comes with a background story that needs to be understood to get the lesson. DESTINED TO DIE Last fall, when I was working with ARPA Canada, I did about fifteen presentations alongside my colleagues as part of our fall tour. The theme for this tour was on being “rooted in Christ.” At each of these presentations I quoted from Jeremiah 17:7-8: But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,   whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water   that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes;   its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought   and never fails to bear fruit. I also made reference to a recent book by Al Mohler called The Gathering Storm, in which he calls out what he refers to as “cut flower civilizations.” At this point in the presentation, I’d proceed to hold up a house plant and then use a pair of scissors to hack off the flowers. Each night I would hold up the cut flowers and say “when we are cut off from our Christian roots, a civilization is destined to die.” Sometimes I would add a few lines: “we all know what will happen to these flowers now that they are cut. We can give them sunlight and water, but they won’t survive without roots.” In the presentation, we gave examples of how Canada was cutting itself off from the roots that give life, but we also spoke to how that didn’t mean there was no hope. I explained that “if our roots go down into Jesus Christ then we can have complete confidence that He will sustain His children. Although our civilization may not last, His people and His Church will.” NEW LIFE Fast forward to this spring and the ARPA team came to my hometown to do the same presentation. But this time I was in the audience, alongside a few of my children. One of my former colleagues gave the same demonstration, using a mum that he picked up at the local grocery store. He asked my son Nathan to hold it while he cut the flowers, and then gave the flowers to Nathan to take home. Nathan took those cut flowers home and my wife Jaclyn put them in a vase with water. I expected that they would wilt quickly and be thrown out in a few days. I then promptly forgot about them. A month later I was surprised to see that the flowers were still alive in that vase. And when we pulled them out of the water we were astonished to see that they had started growing some very impressive roots! Jesus once said that if his disciples had to keep quiet, “the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40). In this case, the flowers were crying out. Their message was hard to miss. It is God who gives life, also to civilizations. Just as God birthed and blessed Western Civilization, so He is able to cause it to grow new roots if that is His will. Indeed, we serve a God of abounding grace. When we, as individuals, try to go our own way, if God is pleased to save us, He will achieve His purpose. He brings us back. God can also give a new lease on life to a civilization. ROOTED HOPE 20th Century historian Arnold Toynbee once wrote a 12-volume book set about the rise and fall of 26 civilizations throughout history. He concluded that “great civilizations are not murdered. They commit suicide.” I once wrote: “What happens to a society which discourages new life, kills vulnerable life, surgically alters healthy bodies to conform to unhealthy minds, puts the greatest taxes on those who are the most economically productive, and treats a basic building block of life (carbon) as if it were a pollutant? That society is committing suicide.” In other words, even though I care deeply for our civilization, I had little hope for it. But through this mum, I was reminded that civilizations don’t rise and fall based simply on the behavior and choices of their leaders and citizens. Jesus Christ is guiding all of history and gets to determine what happens to the West. And He may well show His grace, just as He has done to so many of us individually. My wife Jaclyn has since cut the flowers off the stems and planted the roots (with the stems) in new soil. She explained to me that the plant’s energy needs to now go into taking root, not keeping the flowers alive. The flowers can come later. Indeed, may God be gracious to the West and allow us to yet grow our roots into Him. There may yet be new flowers blooming in His time. Let’s pray that God will work revival, while shining His grace and truth wherever He plants us. Mark Penninga is the Executive Director of Reformed Perspective....

Culture Clashes, News

Samuel Sey on Critical Race Theory

This is an edited excerpt from Lucas Holvlüwer and Tyler Vanderwoudes’ Real Talk podcast Episode 43 where they discussed Critical Race Theory with special guest Samuel Sey of SlowToWrite.com. They've had a lot of other great conversations with all sorts of intriguing guests like Tim Challies, Arnold Viersen, André Schutten, and Jonathon Van Maren, so be sure to check them out on YouTube, their website, or any of the places you find your podcasts! ***** Lucas Holtvlüwer: Define Critical Race Theory (CRT) for our listeners, and maybe give a couple of examples of where it's infiltrated our society. Samuel Sey: Critical Race Theory is very complex, intentionally. Many people call it Marxist, and some Critical Race theorists would deny that but it really is a version of Marxism, a newer version of Marxism. So, I'll explain Marxism first in a very brief way. Marxism, basically, is the idea that there is an essential conflict between groups in society, and these groups are the bourgeoisie, or you would say the privileged class of rich people, versus the proletariat, being the poor lower class. That's the idea. There's a book called From Class to Race, by one of the founders of Critical Race Theory, Charles W. Mills. What he says is, Karl Marx was right that there is a conflict in society, a conflict that has been plaguing society from the very beginning and is still ongoing today, until there is a revolution. But what this author says is, Marx was right about there being a conflict; what he was wrong about is what the conflict was really about. Marx said it was an economic or class struggle. Critical Race Theory says, it's a racial struggle – it's really between white people and black, white people versus non-white people. That is really what Critical Race Theory is about. And it also says, in very post-modern thinking, is that Western society, especially Canada, is built by white people for white people. So even the values that we think are impartial – things like freedom, rights, impartiality, our legal system, our schools, our government, our churches, all the things we think are impartial – they're designed by white people for white people, as a way to marginalize and oppress non-white people. That's what Critical Race Theory is, in a very general, brief way. The implication is that white people – unless they are fighting against the systems and the culture – are racist. If you want to abolish the system, then you are anti-racist; if you're not for revolution, then you are a racist by nature. In terms of examples, I don't know if you guys know about this, but last year around Black History Month, I was invited to a school in Alberta to speak about racism. But, I guess they didn’t Google me. They did not read any of my articles, so they thought, I guess, that I was going to be teaching Critical Race Theory. They didn't know that I was going to be actually speaking against Critical Race views. Tyler Vanderwoude: Oops! Samuel Sey: That’s a big oops indeed. I was actually fairly tame. I didn't want to shock them. The title of the speech was “What is racism?” and I was defining racism biblically as partiality (Acts 10:34-35, Gal. 3:28, Lev. 19:15). Racism is simply partiality against someone because of their skin color. Or to use a more broad definition, racism is bias against anyone because of their skin color, therefore you can be racist against black people, white people, Asian people, brown people, indigenous people, it doesn't matter. Then I said – and this is a key part that became controversial – if racism means partiality, then systemic racism means systemic partiality. What that means is if someone claims Canada is systemically racist then they need to identify a policy or a law from the government that shows partiality or a bias against black people. Systematic racism is shown, not by outcomes, not by disparities but by clear favoritism against black people. I asked if they could find a single such law or policy in Canada. They could not find a single one. So that was it. I leave. Then a few weeks later the school wrote a public letter denouncing me for denigrating students, for denying racism, for sharing racist views, essentially calling me a racist. Now the one thing they didn't do was mention my name. Everyone knew who they were talking about – people from the talk at the school knew they were referring to me. But I guess if they mentioned my name, someone would Google me and they would realize that, wait a minute, this guy's black! Which probably doesn't jive with what they're saying. That's one example where, by simply defining racism through biblical theology, they deem that I'm racist because I am protecting the white supremacist definition, in their mind, of racism. Another example: I think it was in the Durham region here in Ontario you had the school board giving non-white teachers more weight in their votes, because they believe that non-white people are oppressed and are marginalized in society. They, therefore, need to compensate for that by making their votes count more than the white person, which is, of course, racism. But that's an example of critical Race Theory. There’s many more. The federal government has given – I'm forgetting what they call this project – but there's a project from the federal government that gives black businesses more funding because they're black, because, again, they live in a racist society, they have more barriers, therefore they need more help from the government. Lucas Holtvlüwer: The tricky part about Critical Race Theory is that, perhaps there are grains of truth to some of the claims. There has been, obviously, discrimination in the past, there are disparities today, and people find themselves in different situations. And often you can categorize that, generally speaking, certain demographic groups based on race are in better or worse positions, financially speaking. So, I guess what I would ask is, is Critical Race Theory just a tool that people can use to look at the world, and sort through disparities, and figure out why disparities exist, or is there more of a theological, more of a worldview at play behind it? Samuel Sey: Critical Race theorists claim it is “just a tool,” or what they call an analytic tool. But I think they're not being honest. I also don't mind them calling it that. It clearly is a worldview – they see Western society, or Canada, or white people, as being a certain way. They have a definition for what is injustice or what is just. They're not simply analyzing things. They are claiming good and evil, righteous and evil. They have a theological view as to what is right or wrong, what should be punished and what shouldn't be. Through that worldview, they analyze the world. That is true for every worldview – every worldview is analytical by nature. So yes, they analyze things, but fundamentally CRT is a theology. They have, what I like to call, their own past and future. We say that through Adam all humanity became sinners. We know that there's no distinction between Jew or Greek, or black or white; we are all fallen people. The problem is Critical Race theorists would essentially say white people, since they have more power, are more evil or more “sinful“ than non-white people. That’s why they oftentimes say only white people can be racist, because white people have power and other people don't. So they have a different theological understanding of sin. And they also have their own future, in the sense that they have their own heaven which is really a socialist or communist utopia. The key word in Critical Race Theory is “equity.” They really believe that we can have equity, which basically means “equality of outcome” – that you can have all non-white people and all white people having an equal outcome. According to the most prominent political race theory scholar today, Ibram X. Kendi, the only way – and he's kind of right about this – to produce equity is to discriminate. He actually says this very openly. He says that the remedy for past discrimination is present or future discrimination. That's also because in his book How To Be An Anti-racist – which I call How To Be A Racist because the book is all about racism – he says that racial discrimination is only wrong if it leads to inequity, but it's good if it leads to equity. That means it's okay to be racist against white people, it's okay to discriminate against a white person if it will lead to equality of outcome between all people. So it's okay to bring white people down so that you can make them equal with all groups. It never works out that way, of course. There are always going to be people who have more power than others. But just like communists, now and in the past, Critical Race theorists will be the ones on top and everybody else, including black people will be at the bottom. Lucas Holtvluwer: I think the one topic that trips up a lot of folks, especially white folks is this idea of “white privilege” because I feel like there is some truth to it. There are differences in outcomes more so certainly in America, but still as you pointed out in previous interviews, also in Canada there's is quite the disparity. Can you talk to folks about what this idea of white privilege is, how they can understand it, if there's some truth there, how to navigate the truth, and separate out the truth from the Critical Race Theory Samuel Sey: ….White Canadians generally are more wealthy than black Canadians. As to the reason why, I wrote an article, maybe three years ago now, addressing this topic. I compared the numbers in America, the UK, and Canada when it comes to the disparities between white people and black people in these three nations. My point is this: these three nations have very different histories concerning slavery, segregation, and racism. All three nations have experienced racism against black people, for sure, throughout their history, but all three nations have very varying degrees of this racism. And yet the numbers comparing white people and black people in these nations are very similar when it comes to wealth, crime, education, and basically everything else. My point is, if we would claim the reason for this is because of the legacy of slavery or racism, how can you make that claim when, again, you have identical outcomes but with very different histories. It makes no sense. My explanation – which is proven because this is the common denominator between all three nations – is fatherlessness. I grew up without a dad in the home so I know this personally. Long story short, my father left my mom before I was born. It meant that since my father wasn't home my mom was never home either because she had to work two jobs. When she was then working two jobs I had no one teaching me discipline, therefore I became a very violent kid. I was in 25 fights before I became a Christian at 19. When I said 25 fights I mean 25 fistfights. …..My mom is an incredible mother but it's very hard to take care of a child when you are the only parent in the home. I mention that because single parenthood is the norm for a lot of black people. Here is the issue: in America 75% of black children are raised in a household with no father. 75%. The number for white people it’s 25%. That's a 50% gap. That is the real issue there when it comes to disparities. It is a known fact that children raised without their fathers in the home leads to more crime, more sexual activity, poorer education, poor discipline, which creates, of course, a lot of the disparities that we already know. In Canada, the numbers are pretty similar as well. That is the issue that no one talks about when it comes to white privilege. So if someone says to me there's white privilege, I don't like that term because it's based on Critical Race Theory and I will reject it. But what I will say is this: if a white person is more privileged than a black person, generally it's because they have more access to their father which leads to more privilege and prosperity in the home and in culture. Listen to the whole episode below. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Free film: 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. It has also been made available for free on YouTube, so you can watch it below. ...

Book Reviews, Children’s fiction

Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective

by Donald J. Sobol 1963 / 88 pages Idaville is a small town with an impressive record - no one, absolutely no one, gets away with breaking the law. Most of the credit goes to Police Chief Brown, but he doesn't really want to take it. If the townsfolk were able to believe it, he'd let them know that the town's most puzzling crimes are solved, not at the police station, but at the Brown's dinner table, by his humble, brilliant ten-year-old son Leroy! In addition to helping out his dad, Leroy, 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 ten short mysteries for readers to solve right alongside 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 9-11 range will be able to solve many of them, they are still subtle enough to present a challenge to adults (I had to peek at the back to figure out a couple of them...and this was my second time through). 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. Cautions In a nod to the sort of feminism that says women are only equal to men if they can do anything men can do (rather than because we are all made in God's Image - Genesis 1:27), the author gives Encyclopedia a girl bodyguard. Sobol makes Sally Kimball tougher than any boy, able to beat up even Bugs Meany, the leader of the Tigers. The problem here, I explained to my girls, is that boys need to have it drilled into them that they can never hit girls, even at 10, because whether or not they're already stronger than girls, they soon will be. Thus girls have to be taught never to take shots at boys because if those boys are raised right they won't hit back, and it is just cheap to hit someone who can't fight back. While Kimball's unrealistic pugilistic prowess makes for some comedic moments at bully Bugs Meany's expense, thankfully her bodyguard role is only a focus in a few of the mysteries. The other caution is that, even as this series is sold in some Christian bookstores, God is absent. That's a minor concern if our kids are reading other books too. But if our kids get a steady diet of stories where God is treated as irrelevant to our daily lives, then that's teaching our little ones quite the lie. Conclusion 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 author Donald Sobol (1924-2012) had come up with a dozen more since I'd last read them. But I did notice that in one of the later ones – Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret UFOs – two of the ten mysteries required the reader to know 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 28 official books in all: Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective (1963) Encyclopedia Brown Strikes Again (1965) AKA Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret Pitch Encyclopedia Brown Finds the Clues (1966) Encyclopedia Brown Gets His Man (1967) Encyclopedia Brown Solves Them All (1968) Encyclopedia Brown Keeps the Peace (1969) Encyclopedia Brown Saves the Day (1970) Encyclopedia Brown Tracks Them Down (1971) Encyclopedia Brown Shows the Way (1972) Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Case (1973) Encyclopedia Brown Lends a Hand (1974) AKA Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Exploding Plumbing and Other Mysteries Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Dead Eagles (1975) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Midnight Visitor (1977) Encyclopedia Brown Carries On (1980) Encyclopedia Brown Sets the Pace (1981) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Mysterious Handprints (1985) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Treasure Hunt (1988) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Disgusting Sneakers (1990) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Two Spies (1995) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of Pablo's Nose (1996) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Sleeping Dog (1998) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Slippery Salamander (2000) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Jumping Frogs (2003) Encyclopedia Brown Cracks the Case (2007) Encyclopedia Brown, Super Sleuth (2009) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret UFOs (2010) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Carnival Crime (2011) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme (2012) If that isn't enough for your child, there are a few others titles associated with the Encylopedia Brown brand. One of the extra ones is a mystery/cookbook, with all the stories related to food, and each includes a recipe in the solution – it's called Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake (1982). Then there are a couple of true crime collections that I haven't been able to track down, but at least one of which my middle daughter has read and really liked: Encyclopedia Brown's Book Of Strange But True Crimes (1992), and Encyclopedia Brown's Book of Wacky Crimes (1984). All the main characters but one are boys, so these are clearly intended as boy books. That said, all my girls have enjoyed them as much as I did. They are great for anyone, boy or girl, who likes wrestling with problems, and while they are best suited for the preteen set, they'll offer a challenge to mom or dad too, which makes them good fun to read to your kids. And teens and parents who find these too easy can graduate on up to Donald Sobol's similar but more challenging Two Minute Mysteries series....

Religion - Pentecostal

What do Pentecostals believe about the miraculous spiritual gifts?

What do Pentecostals believe? That's quite the question – how does one fairly and accurately describe the beliefs of a group that numbers in the hundreds of millions? Turn that tables and imagine for a moment that a Charismatic magazine – let's say, Pentecostal Perspective – tried describing what it meant to be a Reformed Christian. That would be tough too. If their focus was too narrow they might investigate the Christian Reformed Church and conclude being Reformed means having women ministers. Or maybe they would drop by some Free Church of Scotland congregations and decide that being Reformed meant doing without instrumental accompaniment, or conversely, after attending a Canadian Reformed service, conclude organs seem to be a Reformed requirement. Definition So we don't want to get lost in the differences that exist between different Pentecostal denominations. We'll keep our focus quite broad here (although that has its own problems) and stick to the one universally-held Pentecostal belief – that the miraculous spiritual gifts of speaking in tongues, healing, and prophecy, that were a part of the Apostolic Church, continue to be a part of the Church today. These "continuationists" or "charismatic" believers also exist in other denominations, so this belief isn't unique to Pentecostals. But it is uniquely foundational to it. You can be Baptist, Roman Catholic, or Anglican and be charismatic or not, but there is no such thing as a non-charismatic Pentecostal. Now, Christians of all sorts know and agree that God continues to do miracles today – that's why we pray and ask God to heal the sick – but it is a Pentecostal belief that Christians can expect to be agents for these miracles – that some will be given the gift of healing, others the gift of prophecy, and yet others the gift of tongues. This universal stand prompts a universal question, one you can ask any and all Pentecostals and charismatics too: if these miraculous gifts, described in the New Testament, are still with us today then why aren’t the manifestations more…well…miraculous? Questions for Pentecostals As Rev. Holtvlüwer showed in his article "Tongue Twisters" in the March 2004 issue, when the Apostles spoke in tongues they were speaking in a variety of foreign languages they had never learned. That’s miraculous indeed, and is it any wonder that listeners were “amazed and perplexed” (Acts 2:12)? But today few tongues speakers claim to be talking in identifiable earthly languages. Instead many say they are speaking in the “tongues of angels” and cite 1 Corinthians 13:1 as a proof text. It’s here that the Apostle Paul says, “If I could speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” But this approach to tongues-speaking has problems: This is the only time the “tongue of angels” is ever mentioned in the Bible, and it is clear in this passage that Paul is using hyperbole to make a point. He isn’t claiming to actually speak in the tongue of angels; he’s only emphasizing the importance of love. This is made clear in the very next verse where Paul writes, “If I…can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge…but have not love, I am nothing.” Is Paul claiming that he is actually able to fathom all knowledge? Clearly not – that would make him God. It should also be clear that Paul wasn't claiming to speak in the tongue of angels. No one knows what language angels speak, so it is impossible to verify whether a person is indeed speaking this language. Someone suddenly able to speak Spanish or Chinese could have their claim easily tested, but not if they say they're speaking "angel." This isn't a question of sincerity – this isn't to say that Pentecostals are pulling something over on the rest of us. We shouldn't think they are lying. But there is good reason to think they are mistaken. Even in an emotionally-charged state, one cannot start speaking Chinese unless a miracle is involved. But Pentecostals – or at least the vast majority of them – don't suddenly start speaking a new foreign language. Instead, they start doing what, in any other context, would be called babbling. And if someone were in a distraught or otherwise emotional state, it isn't hard to believe they could start blurting out nonsensical "words," but that wouldn't involve a miracle. The issue here isn't one of sincerity, but labeling: Pentecostals have been taught that this is speaking in tongues, but it is something very different from what happened in the biblical accounts. It is also puzzling when you consider that speaking in tongues also occurs in the Oneness Pentecostal movement, a cult that denies the Trinity. Can Christians and cultists share the same gifts? Similarly the gift of healing today seems far less miraculous than the gift described in the New Testament. While Peter, John, and Paul healed people who had been crippled from birth (Acts 3:1-10 14:8-10) Pentecostal churches have started ministries aimed at aiding the disabled, rather than healing them. And consider how today’s gift of prophecy is a letdown as well. Rather than the infallible prophecy described in the Bible (Deut 18:22) many Pentecostals admit that their prophecy can be mistaken1. To sum up, instead of the awe-inspiring miraculous gifts described in the New Testament, the gifts manifested in Pentecostal churches seem to be something else entirely. And entirely less impressive. Cessationism Even as our focus here is on Pentecostals, we'd be remiss if we didn't get at least a general understanding of what the other side believes. "Cessationists" (the root here is “cease”) believe that some of the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in 1 Cor 12:8-10, 28-31 & Romans 12:6-8 stopped or ceased soon after the Apostles died. This list of gifts includes prophecy, speaking in tongues, teaching, wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, discernment, interpretation, encouraging, and apostleship. For almost all Christians, the question is not whether some of these gifts have ceased, but rather which ones, as even Pentecostal churches believe that the role of the apostles has ceased. Thus there is a very real sense in which even Pentecostals are "cessationists" (though on a trip to New York I did come across a number of churches that claimed to have Apostles). More commonly, "cessationist" refers to a person who believes the miraculous gifts of the Spirit – specifically healing, speaking in tongues, and prophecy – have ceased. But even as cessationists deny that prophecy occurs today (because the Bible is complete) that isn't a denial that God can give people inner guidance. We’ve probably all experienced a time when we were in the right place at the right time and led to say just the right thing to one of our brothers or sisters. But while we would call this God’s guidance, a Pentecostal might well call this prophecy. This is not just a matter of semantics – it is one thing to say you think God is leading you to speak something and quite another thing to declare: “Thus says the Lord…” Prophecy as it is described in the Bible is without error (see Deut. 18:22) so any Pentecostal who claims to be prophesying is making quite a claim indeed, and is making a claim that no cessationist would dare make. God is still doing miracles As we conclude, it's important to clarify that rejecting Pentecostalism and holding to cessationism doesn't mean denying God can and does still deliver miracles. The gift of miracles might be over, but miracles certainly do keep on occurring. In the video below one remarkable example is shared: pro-life activist John Barros tells about how God translated his English preaching into Spanish so a couple about to get an abortion could be confronted with the Gospel message to repent and believe. There are also accounts of Muslims being confronted with the Gospel in their dreams, and God blinding the eyes of government officials who are searching for illegal bibles. While God does seem to ordinarily use "ordinary means" to spread His Gospel, there is a reason we still pray for miracles – our God can do anything! Endnote 1 C. Samuel Storms (pages 207-210) in Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? and Eric Davis' "Addressing Continualist Arguments from 1 Corinthians 14"...

News

Saturday Selections – April 9, 2022

The grounds of our assurance (3 min) D.A. Carson on how it is not the intensity of our faith that assures our salvation, but the object of our faith, the sacrifice of Jesus, the blood of the Lamb! Prebiotic soup made life? But it can't even make muffins! Evolutionary creed says life started in some prebiotic soup somewhere. What ingredients made up this soup? They aren't so sure... just that the something included was all that was needed. How can we expose this for the nonsense it is? Paul Nelson proposes prebiotic soup as a solution for the origin of something much simpler than life: muffins. That muffins could come about on their own is, of course, ridiculous, and that's the point: "as has been shown time and time again, undirected chemistry is hostile to life." How to tell someone they're wrong There is a time and place when we will have to tell someone they are wrong, so how can we best do so? In defense of stigma The world says that critiquing other people's choices is unloving. But that pretends that there are no better or worse choices. Meanwhile Christian love, "rooted in God’s love for us, includes healthy stigma and never pretends there are no consequences for our choices." Problems with the NRSV translation While many may have fond memories of the RSV, here's a reason not to try out the NRSV. A hymn written in 5 minutes A beautiful rendition of this classic hymn – for the story behind the hymn, click the link above. ...

Adult biographies, Book Reviews

God's Smuggler

by Brother Andrew Autobiography 1967 / 288 pages This is an amazing true story about God’s miraculous interventions to get Bibles to his persecuted Church in both Communist countries and Muslim ones. There are miracles all around us, but the rising sun, our pumping hearts, and babies’ wriggling toes do their thing with such regularity as to seem ordinary to us – we take them for granted. Not so the miracles in God’s Smuggler. Here “Brother Andrew” (1928- ) relates one extraordinary answer to prayer after another: a needed cake delivered by an off-duty postman, money of the right sum arriving at just the right time, the instant healing of Andrew’s crippled ankle. Then, in his work smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain, this Dutchman came to rely on the extraordinary becoming regular. Border crossings into Communist countries were always tense, but each time Brother Andrew would ask God to “make seeing eyes blind” and again and again God would do so. The same border guards who had just taken apart the car in front of them would simply wave them through or, if they did inspect their cargo, the guards would completely miss the Bibles crammed in everywhere. It was through these regular miracles that God used Andrew and his coworkers to deliver His Word to millions in the persecuted Church. I'll share one of his miraculous accounts, which I also shared with my children, about Andrew on an early smuggling trip, this time to Yugoslavia. "The roads in Yugoslavia were extraordinarily hard on cars. When we weren't climbing fierce mountain trails, we were fording streams at the bottom of steep valleys. But the worst threat to the little VW was the dust. Dust lay over the unpaved roads like a shroud; it sifted in on us even through the closed windows, and I hated to think what it was doing to the engine. Every morning in our Quiet Time, Nikola and I would include a prayer for the car. 'Lord, we don't have either time or the money for repairs on this car, so will you please keep it running?' "One of the peculiarities of travel in Yugoslavia in 1957 was the friendly road-stoppings that took place. Cars. especially foreign cars, were still such a rarity that when two drivers passed each other, they almost always stopped to exchange a few words about road conditions, weather, gasoline supplies, bridges. One day we were dusting along a mountain road when up ahead we spotted a small truck coming toward us. As it pulled alongside, we also stopped. "'Hello,' said the driver. 'I believe I know who you are. You're the Dutch missionary who is going to preach in Terna tonight.' "'That's right.' "'And this is the Miracle Car?' "'The Miracle Car?' "'I mean the car that you pray for each morning.' I had to laugh. I had mentioned the prayer in a previous meeting; the word had obviously gone on ahead. 'Yes,' I admitted, 'this is the car.' 'Mind if I take a look at her? I'm a mechanic.' "'I'd appreciate it.' I had put gasoline in that engine, and that was literally all since I had crossed the border. The mechanic went around to the rear and lifted the hood over the motor. For a long time he stood there, just staring. "'Brother Andrew,' he said at last, 'I have just become a believer. It is mechanically impossible for this engine to run. Look. The air filter. The carburetor. The sparks. No, I'm sorry. This car cannot run.' "'And yet it's taken us thousands of miles.' The mechanic only shook his head. 'Brother,' he said, 'would you permit me to clean your engine for you and give you a change of oil. It hurts me to see you abuse a miracle.' Gratefully we followed the man to his village a few miles from Terna. We pulled behind him into a little courtyard filled with pigs and geese. That night while we preached he took the engine apart, cleaned it piece by piece, changed the oil, and by the time we were ready to leave the next morning, presented us with a grinning new automobile. God had answered our prayer." Cautions While reading this to my girls, I told my children we shouldn’t understand the many miracles Andrew experienced as evidence that he was always acting wisely and praying as he should – he himself acknowledged that God honored one of of his prayer requests despite how he prayed. There's an instance or two early on that reminded me of the old joke about a man caught up in a flood who had to take refuge on his roof and prayed for God to save him. As he was praying a boy rowed by in a boat and asked if the man wanted to join him but the man replied that he didn't need the boy's help because God would save him. Then a helicopter came, the pilot offering a lift, only to get the same response. Eventually, the waters rose and the man drowned. When he got to heaven the man wanted to know why God didn't save him, and God told him He had, sending a boy in a boat and a pilot in a helicopter. Similarly, Brother Andrew turns down offered help (for a needed cake), only to later receive help of an even more miraculous sort (a cake, unsolicited, arriving in the mail, just in time). I don't think that we have to take all of this prescriptively, as what we also should do – we can get in the boat or helicopter, or take someone up on their offer to bake a cake, and not wait for even more miraculous intervention. But we should most certainly take it descriptively as evidence of God’s great love for his persecuted Church. And, when we understand God's great love for His children, and His great power, then we too may be willing and eager to risk much to show His love to others. Conclusion We can also appreciate how aware Andrew was of his complete reliance on God. We all are, all the time, but when times are good we so often forget. Living his life in danger so much of the time, Brother Andrew wasn’t nearly so forgetful. This would also be a valuable tool to impress on a younger generation that while in their lifetimes it has primarily been the culture that has been the biggest enemy of God’s Church, in many places, and at many times, it has been the government. I would recommend this primarily for adults, because it does take some discernment to think through where Brother Andrew is relying on God in ways that we too should imitate, and where he might be getting close, or even crossing the line, into testing God. For a younger audience, just read it to them and discuss afterward. Then it could be good for as young as 8. This is one of the books I read for RP's 52 in 2022 challenge....

Theology

The Bible on angels

Who are those mysterious angelic heavenly beings who live in the presence of the eternal, omnipotent Creator of the universe? Can we know more about them? Yes, certainly! When we carefully collect the Scriptural data, we receive a marvelous insight into the world of angels – we can learn a good deal about these wonderful beings. Yet angelology has been frequently dismissed as futile speculation with no practical relevance for the Christian life and mission. And those who write about it at any length are said to divert believers from the weightier matters of the Christian faith. Let's be clear: this is no indulgence into New Age escapist fascination with spiritual beings. Rather, it is to see how God is at work in His world. The task of angels is to direct us beyond them to God. That said, it is true that undue concentration upon the angelic world does distracts us from Him. In this context John Calvin's rule of modesty for his treatment of angels is worth noting: Let us remember here, as in all religious doctrine, that we ought to hold to one rule of modesty and sobriety: not to speak, or guess, or even seek to know, concerning obscure matters anything except what has been imparted to us by God's Word. Furthermore, we ought ceaselessly to endeavor to seek out and meditate upon those things which make for edification. Created by God We know that the angelic world is real, not because we have verified it in experience but because God has said it. The heavenly realms in Scripture are not planets, dead stars, moon rocks or planetary rings, they are personal beings populating the universe. They are unseen spirits having different ranks, attributes and tasks. The physical as well as the spiritual world owes its origin to the Triune God. Through His Son God made the universe (Heb. 1:2). "Through him all things were made," writes the apostle John (1:3). The apostle Paul declares the same truth, "all things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible...were created by him (Jesus Christ) and for him" (Col. 1:16). The most extended passage on angels, Hebrews 1:5-2:9, makes a special point of establishing that our Lord is superior to them. Because they were created through Him and for Him, they belong to Him. He is their head and the center of their world. Little is said about the origin of angels in the Bible. All that it says about the creation of angels is that "God commanded and they were created" (Ps. 148:2,5). The angelic world then is an enormous gathering of solitary, heavenly beings. They are neither male nor female. They neither marry nor are given in marriage (Mark 12:25). They don't have offspring. Their number is complete (Matt.22:30). They are not eternal as they have a beginning. And they are not omnipresent as God alone is everywhere present. Theologians have speculated when the angels were created, but not one has arrived at a definitive answer. We just don't know. Louis Berkhof argues that no creative work preceded the creation of heaven and earth. And he states that the only safe statement seems to be that the angels were created before the seventh day. But I believe it is not too bold to argue that heaven with its inhabitants were complete at the very beginning of creation. Even before the creation of the material universe there was a vast world of angels and they still exist today. They sang praises unto God when they saw the wonder of God's handiwork. As God said to Job, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?...On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone - while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?"(Job 38:4-7) Angels then existed prior to man. But Man is the crown of creation (cf. Ps. 8). The Number of Angels Do we really need to know the exact number of angels? No, the very existence of angels testifies already to the greatness of our God. But we can consider some of the popular notions. The Pharisees, for example, seem to have an exaggerated view of their numbers. It was said among them, "that a man, if he threw a stone over his shoulder or cast away a broken piece of pottery, asked pardon of any spirit that he might possibly have hit it so doing." Some medieval theologians claimed to know the exact number: one said 266,613,336, after the 133,306,668 followed Lucifer and fell; another said that there was an angel behind every blade of grass. But the Bible does not give us definite figures. We are told that there is an enormous company of heavenly beings. Daniel 7:10 says 10,000 times 10,000 stood before the throne of God, which would amount to 100,000,000, but the point here is to speak of the vast array, rather than the particular amount. Hebrews 12:22 speaks of the city of the living God and an innumerable company of angels. We also know a great company of heavenly hosts appeared to the shepherds, praising God for the birth of the Savior (Luke 2:13). After His arrest in Gethsemane Jesus told Peter that His heavenly Father could put twelve legions of angels at His disposal. (Matt. 26:53). Again, this does not mean that Jesus said that there were literally 120,000 angels. Jesus used the number to tell Peter that He had myriads of angels who were ready to come to His aid. Fallen Angels So innumerable hosts of perfect angels follow their Creator. But not all angels remained faithful to Him. Satan, the mightiest of the angels, became proud. He led a revolt in heaven and was cast out and innumerable fallen angels entered the service of the wicked Deceiver (Matt.25:41; 2 Cor. 12:7; Rev. 9:11; 12:7-10). Their punishment? The apostle Peter said that God did not spare His angels when they sinned "but sent them to hell" (2 Pet.2:4). Jude notes that the rebel angels "did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home – these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day" (vs. 6). When we consider fallen angels, we can also take comfort in the presence of perfect angels. Because they were in the presence of Satan before his fall, they know the powers of the demonic better than any human being. They understand their wicked ways. Shakespeare, the astute observer of human nature, was well aware of Satan's pride and tempting powers. "Cromwell, I charge thee, fling away ambition; By that sin fell angels; how can man then, the image of his Maker, hope to win by it?...How wretched is that poor man that hangs on princes' favors!... When he falls, he falls like Lucifer, never to hope again" (Henry VIII). The evil spirits and their leader are constantly opposing the advance of the Kingdom of God. One of the greatest missionaries of all times, Ludwig Nommensen (1834-1918), settled among the Toba Bataks, in Northern Sumatra. Central to his belief was that by faith in the living Lord, Christians share in Christ's victory over sin, death, and Satan. Nommensen was very sensitive to the reality of the spirit world. He taught fellow missionaries, "After one has come to understand the people and to be understood by them, one has to begin with the preaching of the Gospel in having a twofold work, namely to pull down the bulwark of Satan and to build up the house of truth." The Nature of Angels Although there are abundant references to angels in the Bible, they are not meant to inform us about their dazzling nature. When they are mentioned, it is always in order to inform us further about God, His actions, and how He works out the plan of salvation. What then can we say about them?  They are not omnipresent. They are not restricted by time or space. Angels are without bodies and hence invisible. And although they are pure spirits, they can take on human form. We see this happening when two angels came to Lot in the form of men to tell them to get out of Sodom (Gen.19). Also, on the day of the resurrection the women who went to the tomb saw two men "in clothes that gleamed like lightning" (Luke 24:4). Matthew records that an angel rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow (Matt.28:2). Angels are endowed with great intelligence (2 Sam. 14:20). Since they are in the presence of God they have a far clearer view of and deeper insight into the meaning of all that happens in this world than we do. Our knowledge is always limited, even in our age of computers, Internet and other amazing technological advances. But angels do not act on their own; they function and intervene in the world only as God commands. Their amazing knowledge and power, like that of all other creatures, are dependent on and derived from Him. They are capable of great feats of strength, whether it is in slaying more than 180,000 in one evening, or setting an apostle free from prison (2 Kings 19:35; Acts 12). When the Bible speaks about heaven and earth, it often links angels and human beings. Our Lord taught us to pray, "Our Father in heaven... your will be done on earth as it is in heaven"(Matt.6: 9f). The presence of angels encourages Christians to obey God. As the angels carry out God's will in heaven so should we do the same on earth. The third request in the Lord's Prayer means, says the Heidelberg Catechism, "Help everyone carry out (his or her work)... as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven"(Q&A 124). The angels do more than sing; they also speak. Paul said to the Corinthians, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal" (1 Cor. 13:1). But we must not spend time in speculating about the nature of the language which angels use in communicating with one another – this is an exercise in futility. The question is, are we ready to listen when an angel addresses us? God sent an angel to prepare for Israel the way to the promised land. He told His people, "Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him"(Ex. 23:21). When an angel spoke to Zechariah the priest, and foretold the birth of John the Baptist, Zechariah did not trust his message. He said, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years"(Luke 1:18). There is always the tragic possibility that the voice of an angel will come to us but we refuse to listen. Conclusion With joy the angels obey the will of God (Ps. 103:21). Our loving God sends His angels to support His people on their often arduous journey to the heavenly city. From the throne room in heaven He commands His angels. They do His bidding. After his miraculous rescue from prison, Peter said, "Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's clutches" (Acts 12:11). The angels before whom Zechariah, the virgin Mary, and the shepherd fell to the ground in fear and awe are actually our unseen helpers. As we mature in our faith, we will increasingly see the beauty and wonder of our Lord's mighty work on our behalf, and gain in our understanding of the role of His ministering angels in our lives. Rev. Johan Tangelder (1936-2009) wrote for Reformed Perspective for 13 years....

Science - Creation/Evolution

Biomimicry recognizes the genius (but not the Genius) behind the wonders of creation

A few years back, Vox media reported on the discipline of biomimicry, which encourages engineering teams to include a biologist to help them solve problems by seeing what already works well in the natural world. It’s a return to copying designs that the Creator put into place thousands of years ago. In Christophe Hawbursin’s Vox article “The man-made world is horribly designed. But copying nature helps.” the illustration he gives of how biomimicry helps is the Japanese Shinkansen Bullet Train. At 170 mph, whenever it exited a tunnel, it caused a sonic boom that annoyed people up to 400 meters away. To get a quieter, faster, and more efficient train, an engineering team was created, headed by Ejii Nakatsu, who was also an avid birdwatcher. It turns out that bird connection was key – the team based components of the redesigned bullet train on characteristics of three different birds: The owl: the pantograph – the rig that connects the train to the electric wires above – was modeled after the owl’s feathers, reducing noise by using similar serrations and curvature The Adelie penguin: the penguin’s smooth body inspired the pantograph’s supporting shaft to provide lower wind resistance The kingfisher: the kingfisher’s unique no-splash beak was copied for the front of the engine By copying designs from creation, the new train became 10% faster, 15% more efficient, and the decibel level was significantly lowered. Other examples of biomimicry include studying sharkskin to learn to repel bacteria, and studying the self-organization of ants to enable autonomous cars to communicate with one another. Biomimicry also studies the eco-system to create a circular economy where there are no wasteful byproducts. And recently, scientists have begun a website at AskNature.org where people all over the world can match problems with solutions advised by “nature.” There is an irony in how Janine Benyus, the author who popularized the term biomimicry, recognizes that the design found in Creation far exceeds that of Mankind’s best minds. And yet she doesn’t see a better Mind behind any of it, choosing instead to credit these wonders to mindless evolution working over the last 3.8 billions years. As the apostle Paul might put it, she worships and serves “created things rather the Creator” (Rom. 1:25). But for Christians, how wonderful it is to be reminded of just how much humans can learn from the genius of our God who declared all the creatures He made “good.”   Sharon L. Bratcher has a book with 45 of her RP articles in it, and a 2-year lesson plan entitled “Bible Overview for Young Children” ages 2-6 and 6-9. For information on these, contact [email protected]

News

Saturday Selections – April 2, 2022

Is having kids socially irresponsible? The myth of overpopulation refuses to die...but this video can help drive the stake. This is a practical argument that doesn't get into the real reason children are valuable. Their value comes from being made in God's Image (Gen. 9:6). It's when we recognize everyone as valuable, that we'll also recognize that we are more than simply mouths to feed, but have also been given brains and hands to create with. White noise to soothe the crying baby For those blessed with a new arrival, this might be a help. If you're having trouble getting your baby to stop crying even though they are fed and dry, try this free white noise generator. Canadians aren't donating... ...and that presents an opportunity for God's people to stand out, to His glory, with our generosity. Old commentaries are better than the new A commentary on Timothy has Rev. Tim Bayly enthused... but he doesn't like many modern commentaries Prenatal tests, false positives, and abortion Prenatal testing on the unborn promises to "cure" genetic diseases, but does so via abortion – it does so by killing unborn carriers. That's horrific all on its own, but now it turns out certain prenatal tests, tests which lead to countless abortions, are “usually wrong.” Topics too hot for conservative pastors to handle Even in conservative evangelical circles, the importance of parents being married is being forgotten. Why? The article offers as explanation that pastors know many in the pews have had sin stain their relationships, and thus preaching forthrightly on the topic could cause division. That's not a problem in our Reformed churches, yet at least, but are there topics our pastors might find hard to preach on? Might the last two year's events make it hard to preach on the government's authority, or on its limits? Another: we don't share the world's hatred for male headship, but how often are we taught why we should love it? And what about the sixth commandment as it applies to contraceptives and IVF? The evangelical church has their "too hot to handle" topics that might not be so hot in our circles...... but we do have touchy topics too. May God help us seek out His truth with courage and grace. Answering Hitchens' "impossible question" When an atheist asks a question we can't answer, a quick thought to consider is, "So what?" That's the right response to the late Christopher Hitchens' question: what moral action can a believer do that an atheist can't do? Does anything leap to mind? Give to the poor? Atheists can do that. Visit the sick? Atheists can do that too. But...so what? What point does that prove? The more pertinent question would be: "What moral action should Christians do that atheists can do, but have no real reason to do?" Then we could come up with a list, starting with giving to the poor. Yes, an atheist can do that, but why should they? From their worldview, in which we are all just chemicals in motion, accidental creations of time and chance, with no future, and no purpose, why would an atheist give? Mike Winger gives his own, very good answer below. ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - April 2022

Treasure your parents, pastors, and good teachers “You don’t live long enough to learn from experience.” – Jewish proverb “We frequently know more, not because we have moved ahead by our own natural ability, but because we are supported by the mental strength of others, and possess riches that we have inherited from our forefathers. Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to puny dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.” – John of Salisbury Against a mob mentality In a recent conversation on the Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson podcast, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel might this interesting observation on a crowd’s wisdom: THIEL: I think the Judeo-Christian is always extremely skeptical. For a biblical scholar I would ask the question, is there a single incidence in which the unanimity of the crowd is right? I think it’s always wrong. Joseph is right, his brothers are wrong. The Tower of Babel – everybody, the global crowd is completely wrong. Christ is abandoned… ROBINSON: Pilate begs the crowd for Christ to be freed… THIEL: The crowd always gets it wrong. So somehow reason tells to believe in the wisdom of the crowds, Revelation tells us to be skeptical. Thiel argues there is good reason to question the prevailing narrative. But can we think of a time in the Bible when the crowd was right? The only example that comes to my mind is that many shouted “Hosanna” for Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem in Mark 11... though it was only a short time later that the crowd was shouting for Jesus’ death. So, the case for skepticism remains, but it’s worth noting that the crowd isn’t so reliably wrong that we can just automatically go with the opposite of what they're shouting. It’s also worth noting that God does speak to the wisdom of consulting others (Prov. 11:14, 12:15, 15:22, etc.). But with what we know about Man’s rebellious heart, we shouldn’t expect wisdom from the mob. The Church and the coming Metaverse... Many of us worship in churches with limited technology: Bibles in the pews, rather than the text projected overhead, and not a fog machine to be seen. But even our churches haven’t escaped the impact of technology. as Ian Harber and Patrick Miller explain in a recent article: “Henry Ford didn’t set out to create megachurches. But before the advent of the personal vehicle, most Christians seeking a church faced a simple denominational decision: do you attend the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, or Catholic church around the corner? With a vehicle, Christians could suddenly attend whichever church had the best children’s ministry programming, youth activities, and rock ’n’ roll Sunday morning worship – as long as it was within 10 to 30 minutes of driving. We became consumers because we could be consumers.” They were urging the Church to get ready for the Metaverse – the online world that Facebook is trying to create – but also noted we have some time, as it is probably years away from really coming together. But, like the car, the Internet, and the smartphone before it, this new tech will probably present us with both new opportunities, and new temptations to deal with. English oddities In her book Highly Irregular, Arika Okrent shares a 140-year-old poem that deserves to be remembered today. I saw a version of it titled somewhere as: “I wrote it in my jolonel”: “There was a brave soldier, a Colonel, Who swore in a way most infolonel; But he never once thought As a Christian man ought He imperiled his own life etolonel.” SOURCE: Arika Okrent’s Highly Irregular: Why Tough, Through, and Dough Don’t Rhyme and other oddities of the English Language (H/T Douglas Wilson)  First-date questions In Dating with Discernment, author Sam Andreades has an appendix full of 40 “first date questions.” He offers them as a way to calm the nerves, if you can’t think of something to talk about, so many of them are lighthearted: What animals would you like to be? SciFi or RomCom? Deep down, do you think Pluto should be recognized as a planet? But he includes others that could be categorized as “time savers.” There are issues that divide us, and if your date thinks one way, and you know it has to be the other, you might be able to save you both a lot of time by finding that out quickly. That doesn’t mean the question can’t still be fun. It just means it isn’t just fun. So here are a few of his more pointed queries: Tell me about your family? Are you close with them? What is the most wonderful feeling in the world for you? What is the biggest need you see in the Church? What was a time when you couldn’t stop laughing? Can Christians believe in aliens? When is Jesus coming back? What was the subject of your last prayer? What do you think God has been trying to teach you recently? Are you learning it? Women in combat “Here’s the problem: in opening combat roles to women, we send out messages to both sexes that are either untrue, offensive or both. We are telling women that they are functionally equal to men, which everyone knows is false. And we’re telling men that the social goal of gender neutrality is more important than their own security, which is offensive and demoralizing.” - Barbara Kay Cheesy Jokes Edam is the only type of cheese that is made backward Never believe what your cheese is saying when it’s too gouda to be true! What did the photographer tell the Monterey Jack? “Say ‘People’!” What did the Mozzarella say when someone threw tomato sauce at him? “You wanna pizza me?” Train up your kids in the Internet usage they should follow “You need to put off foolishness and embrace responsibility. Today we are handing our children power tools and then acting shocked when they cut off their hands. This is absurd, and we should expect that our children will make serious mistakes if we do not guide them. So parent, you don’t need only to educate yourself, but also your children. You need to have a plan for introducing new technologies to your children and for monitoring them as they use them. This is your responsibility – the responsibility of having a plan.” – Tim Challies, “Parenting well in a digital world” Forgiving vs. excusing “I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me I am often in reality…asking Him not to forgive me but to excuse me. But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing. Forgiveness says 'Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology. I will never hold it against you and everything between us two will be exactly as it was before.' But excusing says 'I see that you couldn't help it or didn't mean it; you weren't really to blame.' If one was not really to blame then there is nothing to forgive. In that sense, forgiveness and excusing are almost opposites....When it comes to a question of our forgiving other people, it is partly the same and partly different. It is the same because, here also, forgiving does not mean excusing. Many people seem to think it does. They think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them you are trying to make out that there was really no cheating or no bullying. But if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive. They keep on replying, “But I tell you the man broke a most solemn promise.” Exactly: that is precisely what you have to forgive. (This doesn’t mean that you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart – every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out.) The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough.” – C.S. Lewis  The Weight of Glory 10 tips to make your life (or the world!) better On Jan. 1, 2000, and then again on the first day of 2022, the British paper The Guardian, published an article with 100 tips on “improving your life” or “making the world a better place.” Out of those 200 offerings, here's a Top 10: On the fence about a purchase? Wait 72 hours before you buy it. Keep a book in your bag to avoid the temptation to doomscroll. Nap. Keep your keys in the same place. Be polite to rude strangers – it’s oddly thrilling. Don’t be weird about how to stack the dishwasher. If you buy something from a charity shop, consider paying double. Stop yourself saying “I.” Volunteer at your church or Christian school Paint the outside of your house for the pleasure of those walking past (not just the inside for you). ...

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

Does God listen to Rap?

by Curtis Allen 2013 / 99 pages "Why wouldn't He?" That's the answer the author gives to his title question. Whether you agree or don't might depend on what you think of Rap's sinful origins. In chapters two and three, in the space of just 25 pages, author Curtis Allan gives an authoritative, detailed account of these beginnings. He explains it started back in the late '60s, and that even though some earlier innovators tried to use Rap to promote a social consciousness, it was the pimp/drug dealer-glorifying "Gangsta Rap" that ended up dominating the genre. The genetic fallacy Allen then investigates whether its sinful origins are reason enough to dismiss Rap. If they are, what then, he asks, are we to do with music itself, which seems to find its origins in the sinful line of Cain (Gen. 4:21). A good point, but I think a stronger argument should have been made with more examples, since this is a key point. It is a fallacy – the "genetic fallacy" – to condemn something simply for where it comes from. We don't do that with classical music composed by immoral composers, or foreign foods from pagan cultures, or anything else, so why would we do it with Rap? One very large issue that is left unexplored is whether the driving beat of Rap impacts its appropriateness for conveying Christian content. That is a significant omission, since this is the question for some Reformed Christians. Allen describes the lyrics as the content, and the music as the context. And to him it seems it is only the content that matters. The context - the music - seems to be almost a neutral aspect. Is music neutral? But this overlooks the way different sorts of music can impact us in distinct ways. For example, the thumping beat of Rap conjures up very different emotions than the rising swell of the string section in an orchestral piece. The beat might spawn feelings of aggression. This is the sort of music we would warm up to for a basketball game, or might want on our iPod when we go running - it drives us. Some orchestral music can tug at the tear ducts, bringing moisture to the eye of even the most stalwart of men. So music is far from a neutral, unimportant aspect of Rap – it brings the power to the words. I would suggest that there is a reason that Rock and Rap, with their thumping beat, are closely linked with sex, drugs and perversions of many sorts: the beat does get us aggressive, it does get us riled up, and if that energy isn't put to good use, it will be put to bad. God calls us to self-control That doesn't mean Rock and Rap are inherently bad – aggression is not an inherently bad emotion.  But Rock and Rap are known for encouraging people to "lose yourself in the music" while God says we must instead be controlled. So we need to be aware of the emotions Rock and Rap can stir up, and ensure that they are properly channeled and directed. We need to ensure these emotions are constrained and controlled. There is a reason that the Billboard Top 100 is filled with sexually perverse songs – this is the aggression unrestrained. However, this aggression need not be unrestrained. A songs lyrics can do a lot to properly direct and control the emotions the music stirs up. But if we are going to control these emotions, we have to understand that the music – the context – is far from neutral or insignificant. It is the music that brings the power to the words. So this is a topic that should have been explored. However, the book is just 99 pages, so, clearly, it couldn't cover everything and what it does cover is well worth reading. In fact, it is worth buying for the historical background alone. This review first appeared on ReallyGoodReads.com....

Parenting

6 Duties of Parents

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." - Prov. 22:6 ***** I suppose that most professing Christians are acquainted with the verse at the top of this page. The sound of it is probably familiar to your ears, like an old tune. You have heard it, or read it, maybe even talked about it, or quoted it, many a time. But for all our familiarity with it, how lightly we regard this text! The wisdom it contains appears almost unknown, the duty it puts on us, rarely practiced. Reader, am I not speaking the truth? We live in a day when there is a mighty zeal for education. We hear of new schools, and new teaching approaches, and new books for the young, of every sort and description. And still for all this, the vast majority of children are most certainly not being trained in the way they should go, for when they grow up, they do not walk with God. Why is this happening? The simple truth of is, the Lord's commandment in our text is not being obeyed; and therefore the Lord's promise in our text is not being fulfilled. This should have us searching our hearts. Every parent should be asking themselves the question: "Am I doing what I can?” This is a subject in which all of us are in great danger of falling short of our duty. We are able to spot the faults of our neighbors more clearly than our own. A father will often see specks in other men's families, and overlook beams in his own. He will be as keen-eyed as an eagle in detecting mistakes in his brother’s house, and yet be blind as a bat to the fatal errors that are happening each day in his on home. Here more than anywhere else, we need to suspect our own judgment. In fact, there is hardly any subject about which people are so defensive as they are about their own children. I have been perfectly astonished at the slowness of sensible Christian parents to allow that their own children deserve blame. There are more than a few people who’d I’d much rather confront about their own sins, than tell them their child had done anything wrong. So let me place before you a few hints about training your children rightly. 1. Train them in the way they should go, not the way they would like to go First, then, if you want to train your children rightly, train them in the way they should go, and not in the way that they would like to go. Remember, children are born with a decided bias towards evil, and therefore if you let them choose for themselves, they are certain to choose wrong. A mother can’t tell whether her infant child will grow up to be tall or short, weak or strong, foolish or wise, but one things the mother can be sure of is that he will have a corrupt and sinful heart. It is natural to us to do wrong. "Foolishness," says Solomon, "is bound in the heart of a child" (Prov. 22:15). "A child left to himself brings his mother to shame" (Prov. 29:15). Our hearts are like the earth on which we tread; let it alone, and it is sure to bear weeds. If, then, you want to deal wisely with your child, you must not leave him to the guidance of his own will. Think for him, judge for him, act for him, just as you would for one weak and blind; and for pity's sake, don’t give him up to his own wayward tastes and inclinations. He doesn’t know yet what is good for his mind and soul, any more than what is good for his body. You do not let him decide what he shall eat, and what he shall drink, and how he shall be clothed. Be consistent, and deal with his mind in like manner. Train him in the way that is scriptural and right, and not in the way that he fancies. If you aren’t determined to follow this first principle of Christian training, it is useless for you to read any further. Self-will is almost the first thing that appears in a child's mind; and it must be your first step to resist it. 2. Train them up with love and patience You must train up your child with tenderness, love, and patience. I don’t mean, “spoil him.” I do mean that you should let him know that you love him. Love should be the silver thread that runs through all your conduct. Kindness, gentleness, long-suffering, forbearance, patience, sympathy, a willingness to enter into childish troubles, a readiness to take part in childish joys, — these are the cords by which a child may be led most easily, — these are the clues you must follow if you intend to find the way to his heart. Few are to be found, even among adults, who are not more easy to draw than to drive. It is common to all of us that when pushed, we resist; we stiffen our backs and stiffen our necks at the very idea of being forced to obey. Now children's minds are cast in much the same mold as our own. Sternness and severity chills them. It shuts up their hearts, and you will weary yourself to find the door. But show them you have affection for them – that you are concerned with their happiness, and want to do them good – and that if you punish them, it is intended for their good, that, like the pelican, you would give your heart's blood to nourish their souls; let them see this, I say, and they will soon be all your own. But they must be wooed with kindness, if their attention is ever to be won. And surely reason itself might teach us this lesson. Children are weak and tender creatures, and, as such, they need patient and considerate treatment. They are like young plants, and need gentle watering – it needs to be done often, but only a little at a time. We must not expect all things at once. We must remember what children are, and teach them as they are able to bear. Their minds are like a lump of metal – not to be forged and made useful at once, but only by a succession of little blows. Their capacity to understand is like a narrow-necked bottle: we must pour in the wine of knowledge gradually, or much of it will be spilled and lost. There is a need for patience in training a child, and without it nothing can be done. Nothing can compensate for an absence of tenderness and love. A minister may speak the truth as about Jesus, clearly and forcefully, but if he doesn’t speak it in love, few souls will be won. In the same way, you must set before your children their duty, – you can command, threaten, punish and reason with them – but they don’t feel your affection for them, your labor will be all in vain. Love is one of the biggest secrets to successful training. Anger and harshness may frighten, but they will not persuade the child that you are right; and if he sees you regularly grumpy and angry, you’ll soon stop having his respect. A father who speaks to his son as Saul did to Jonathan (1 Sam. 20:30), need not expect to retain his influence over that son's mind. So try hard to keep up a hold on your child's affections. It is a dangerous thing to make your children afraid of you. Anything is almost better than a distant reserved relationship between you and your child; such distance will come with fear. Fear puts an end to openness – fear leads to concealment – and leads to many a lie. There is a vital truth in the Apostle's words to the Colossians: "Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged." (Col. 3:21). This is advice that should not be overlooked! 3. Understand that much depends on you Train your children always remembering that much depends upon you. Consider how very strong grace is. God’s grace can transform the heart of an old sinner – it can overturn the very strongholds of Satan, casting down mountains, filling up valleys, making crooked things straight. It can recreate the whole man. Truly nothing is impossible to grace. Our fallen human nature is also very strong. We can see how our nature struggles against the things of the kingdom of God – how it fights against every attempt to be more holy, right up until the last hour of life. Our fallen nature indeed is strong. But after nature and grace, undoubtedly, there is nothing more powerful than the education we as parents give our children. Early habits (if I may so speak) are everything with us, under God. We are made what we are by training. Our character takes the form of whatever mold was formed in those first few years. We depend, then, on those who bring us up. We get from them a color, a taste, a bias which cling to us more or less all our lives. We catch the language of our fathers and mothers, and learn to imitate them, and we catch something of their manners, ways, and thinking at the same time. Time only will show, I suspect, how much we all owe to our earliest training, and how many aspects of our personality and our character can be traced back to seeds sown in the days of our very infancy by those who were living with us. We can see God’s wisdom and mercy and in this arrangement. He gives our children minds that will receive impressions like moist clay. He gives them a disposition at the starting-point of life to believe what we tell them, and to take for granted what we advise them, and to trust our word rather than a stranger's. He gives you, in short, a golden opportunity of doing them good. So see to it that the opportunity isn’t wasted. If we let it slip away, it is gone forever. 4. Think of eternity Train your child with this thought always in mind: that the soul of your child is the first thing to be considered. No doubt, these little ones are precious in your eyes; but if you love them, then think often of their souls. No part of them should be so dear to you as that part which will never die. The world, with all its glory, shall pass away; the hills shall melt; the heavens shall be wrapped together as a scroll; the sun shall cease to shine. But the spirit which dwells in those little creatures, whom you love so well, shall outlive them all, and whether they live on in happiness or in misery will (humanly speaking) depend on you. This is the thought that should be uppermost in your mind in all you do for your children. In every plan, and arrangement that concerns them, don’t forget to ask that all important question, "How will this affect their souls?" Soul love is the soul of all love. To pet and pamper and indulge your child, as if this world was all he had to look forward to, and as if this life is his only opportunity for happiness, that is is not true love, but cruelty. It is treating him like some beast of the earth, which has but one world to look to, and nothing after death. It is hiding from him that grand truth, which he ought to have been taught from his very infancy – that the chief end of his life is the reconciliation of his soul to God. A Christian mustn’t be a slave to trends if he is going to train his child for heaven. He should not teach them a certain way just because that’s how everyone else is doing it, or allow them to read questionable books just because everybody else reads them; or let them form habits of a doubtful worth merely because these are the habits of the day. He must train with an eye to his children's souls. He must not be ashamed to hear his training called singular and strange. What if it is? Our time here is short, and worldly trends will pass away. The parent who has trained his children for heaven, rather than for earth – for God, rather than for man – is the parent who will be called wise in the end. 5. Teach your children the Bible Train you child so that they know the Bible. You cannot make your children love the Bible, true – only the Holy Spirit Ghost can give us a heart that delights in the Word – but you can ensure your children are well acquainted with the Bible. And they cannot be acquainted with that blessed book too soon, or too well. A thorough knowledge of the Bible is the foundation of all clear understandings of religion. Someone well acquainted with the Word will generally not be carried away by every wind of new doctrine. Any parental training that doesn’t make a knowledge of Scripture the first thing is unsafe and unsound training. Errors abound on just this point, so it is important we have a proper understanding of the Bible’s place. There are some who honor a catechism more than the Bible, or fill the minds of their children with miserable little storybooks, instead of the Scripture of truth. But if you love your children, let the simple Bible be first, and let all other books take second place. So don’t worry as much about them being well versed in the catechism, as their being well-versed in Scripture. This is training – believe me! – that God will honor. See to it that your children read the Bible reverently. Train them to look on it, not as the words of men, but as it truly is: the Word of God written by the Holy Ghost Himself. And see to it that they read it regularly. Train them to view it as their soul's daily food – as something essential to their soul's daily health. Again, I understand you can’t make them love Bible reading – you can’t make this anything more than a habit. But there is no telling the amount of sin that this mere habit may indirectly restrain. See that they read it all. And don’t shy away from presenting doctrine to them. You shouldn’t think that the foundational doctrines of Christianity are too difficult for children to understand. Children understand far more of the Bible than we are might suppose. So tell them about sin, its guilt, its consequences, its power, its vileness: you will find they can understand this, at least in part. Tell them about the Lord Jesus Christ, and His work for our salvation – the atonement, the cross, the blood, the sacrifice, the intercession: again, you will discover that this is not beyond them. Tell them about the work of the Holy Spirit in man's heart, how He changes, and renews, and sanctifies, and purifies: you will soon see they can follow along with some of what you are explaining. In short, I suspect we have no idea how much a little child can take in of the length and breadth of the glorious gospel. They see far more of these things than we suppose. Fill their minds with Scripture. Let the Word dwell in them richly. Give them the Bible, the whole Bible, even while they are young. 6. Train them to prayer regularly Prayer is the very life-breath of true religion. It is one of the first evidences that a man is born again. When the Lord sent Ananias to Saul, He said: "Behold, he is praying" (Acts 9:11). Saul had begun to pray, and that was proof enough. Prayer is a key to spiritual growth. When there is lots of private communion with God, your soul will grow like the grass after rain; when there is little, all will be at a standstill – you will barely keep your soul alive. Show me a growing Christian, a strong Christian, a flourishing Christian, and I will show you one that speaks regularly with his Lord. He asks much, and he has much. He tells Jesus everything, and so he always knows how to act. Prayer is the mightiest engine God has placed in our hands. It is the best weapon to use in every difficulty, and the surest remedy in every trouble. It is the cry He has promised to always be listening for, even as a loving mother listens for the voice of her child. Prayer is the simplest means that man can use to come to God. It is within the reach of all of us – the sick, the aged, the infirm, the paralytic, the blind, the poor, the unlearned – everyone can pray. You don’t have to be academic or an intellectual to pray. So long as you have a tongue to tell God about the state of your soul, you can and you ought to pray. Those words, " You do not have because you do not ask God" (James 4:2), will condemn many on the Day of Judgment. Parents, if you love your children, do all that lies in your power to train them up to a habit of prayer. Show them how to begin. Tell them what to say. Encourage them to persevere. Remind them if they become negligent and slack about it. This, remember, is the very first step in religion that a child can take themselves. Long before he can read, you can teach him to kneel by his mother's side, and repeat the simple words of prayer and praise which she puts in his mouth. And as the first steps in any undertaking are always the most important, so is the manner in which your children's prayers are prayed, a point which deserves your closest attention. Few seem to understand how much depends on this. We must beware of our children saying their prayers in haste, or carelessly, or irreverently. You must be cautious too, of leaving your children to say their prayers on their own, without you in the room. We must make certain they are actually saying their prayers. Surely if there’s any habit which your own hand and eye should be involved in forming, it is the habit of prayer. If you never hear your children pray yourself, then for any negligence on their part, you are much to blame. You are little wiser than the bird described in Job 39:14-16: For she abandons her eggs to the earth And warms them in the dust, And she forgets that a foot may crush them, Or that a wild beast may trample them. She treats her young cruelly, as if they were not hers; Though her labor be in vain, she is unconcerned; Prayer is, of all habits, the one which we remember the longest. Many a grey-headed man could tell you how his mother used to make him pray in the days of his childhood. He’ll have forgotten so many other things. The church where he was first taken to worship, the minister he first heard preach, the friends he used to play with – all may have been forgotten and left no mark behind. But you will often find it is far different with his first prayers. He will often be able to tell you where he knelt, and what he was taught to say, and even how his mother looked all the while. It will come up as fresh before his mind's eye as if it was but yesterday. Reader, if you love your children, I charge you, do not let his early years pass with out training him to pray. If you train your children in anything, then train them, at the very least, to make a habit of prayer. This is a modernized excerpt from J.C. Ryle’s article (and then book) “Duties of Parents” first published in 1888.  ...

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 a wrap-up by Dr. Paul Nelson who focuses on how strikingly these creatures bear witness to their Designer. It's readily available on DVD, and pops up on some Christian streaming sites now and again. For a good feel for this documentary, watch the (amazing!) 4-minute excerpt below. ...

Articles, Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

7 (or is it 8?) great board books!

If you want to foster a love for reading in your children, it's never too early to start reading to them. Even newborns will tune in when a parent cracks open a book – a baby doesn't need to understand the story to appreciate mom or dad's calming voice. And if they get to hold the book in their chubby little hands, all the better! The ingredients for a good board book are pretty simple. The most important is probably that it have no sharp corners and be printed with lead-free paper because this is going to be as much a food item as anything else. Eat books, we are told, and babies do! Next, it should be a book parents won't mind paging through again and again. It's on this point that repetitious "classics" like Goodnight Moon and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom have been disqualified. Loved by children though they may be, I know I'm not the only dad to begrudge even one more reading (strangely, I've yet to meet a mom who has the same strong feelings). On a more serious note, board books have become the latest front for our cultural war, with Anti-Racist Baby, Woke Baby, A is for Activist and Feminist Baby in the mix on your local bookstore's board book section. On the other side of the political spectrum, conservative commentator Matt Walsh decided that he'd also entered the board book marketplace. His Johnny is a Walrus is about: a kid who "identifies" as a walrus, the mother who takes him way too seriously, and the doctor who suggests a surgery that turns "feet into fins." Walrus is a satiric take on transgender nonsense, and, in what might be a demonstration of our Sovereign God's sense of humor, it actually ended up on the top of Amazon.com's LGBTQ bestseller list. Really! But whether it be left or rightwing, the point is, politics have invaded even the board book section, so be sure to read before you buy. And, fortunately, with board books that'll only take you a minute. Now let's return to children's fare. The 7 suggestions below are arranged by age, with the first ones best for the very young, and the later ones with material that older sorts can enjoy. Peak-a-boo! by Janet and Allan Ahlberg 1997 / 32 pages The setting is England, and it appears to be right around World War II (judging from the daddy's uniform). The "plot" is very simple – the story starts with a baby in his crib, waking up in the morning and looking around to see what he can see. We follow him through the day, always seeing through his eyes, until his day ends and he heads to bed. It's the book's construction that fascinated my daughter. On the first two-page spread the baby is in her crib on the left-hand side, and the right page is all white, but with a large round hole cut through it so that we (and the baby) can "peek" to see what is on the next page. Once we are done peeking, we can turn the page, and look at a full page of activity – illustrator Janet Ahlberg fills her pictures with layers of detail. There is so much to see Daddy doesn't even mind paging through it again and again and again! Readers get to play peek-a-boo five times, peering through each hole to see what comes next. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle 1969 / 22 pages It's over 50 years old and as popular as ever. The plot is summed up by the book's title: it is about a very hungry caterpillar who eats and eats and eats for a week, and then builds a cocoon and turns into a beautiful butterfly. There are two different aspects of this book that made it one of my daughter's favorites: First, the inside pages are very easy for little hands to turn because they vary in width. On Monday the caterpillar eats through one apple, and the page with the apple is only a fifth as wide as the rest of the book; on Tuesday he eats through two pears, and that page is two fifths as wide, and so it continues with three plums (three fifths as wide), four strawberries, and finally five oranges. Second, the page covering what the caterpillar eats on Saturday is a two-page spread of colorful cake, ice cream, cheese, sausage pie, watermelon, and more, and it looks good enough to eat. Our little ones liked to turn to this page first, and flipped back to it again and again and again. But Not The Hippopotamus by Sandra Boynton 1984 / 14 pages Hippo doesn’t seem to be included in much of what her friends are up to. For example, we learn on the very first page of this board book, that “A hog and a frog cavort in the bog… but not the Hippopotamus.” On the next page, it's more of the same: “A cat and two rats are trying on hats… but not the Hippopotamus.” Poor Hippo! She is always being left out. After a few more pages of forlorn Hippo looking wistfully at what others are up to, (and the repeating refrain, “…but not the Hippopotamus”) the rest notice how neglectful they’ve been, and invite Hippo to “come join the lot of us!” Now as we all know invitations are nice, but sometimes people turn them down, even when they really want to go. So we are in suspense as shy Hippo ponders what to do: “She just doesn’t know – Should she stay? Should she go?” So it is with joy that we turn the page to see her exclaim: “BUT YES THE HIPPOPOTAMUS!” That is not, however, the end of the book. One line follows: “…but not the armadillo.” This small creature is staring sadly after Hippo as she joins the group. It is a great end to a remarkable little book. Yes, it is full of fun rhymes, a great rhythm, and has friendly engaging pictures too, but it is this final line that really sets it apart. Here we see that not only should we include others in our groups, but even when we do step outside ourselves, and make that invitation, doing it once, to one person is only a start. There are still others who are being forgotten and could use a friend. And if your son or daughter is in Hippo's position, a different sort of lesson can be taught, to show them that they have to seize opportunities when they come. Poor Hippo would still have been lonely if she had said no. Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann 1994 / 36 pages When a zookeeper does one last walk-thru before heading for bed himself, he says "good night" to each animal, starting with the gorilla. But as he visits each animal in turn, there is a little gorilla and his mouse friend, trailing behind, and unlocking all the cages. Eventually, a whole train of critters follows the keeper to his house and right into his bedroom. It's only when his wife says "good night " to him in the dark, and gets a chorus of "good night"s from all around the room, that the gorilla's entourage is discovered. But it seems the weary zookeeper has dropped right off to sleep, so it's up to his wife to lead all the animals back to the zoo. Well, not all the animals. As she makes her way back home we see that she has some quiet company – the gorilla, and his little mouse friend, won't be left behind! You Are Special by Max Lucado 2000 / 28 pages Punchinello is a wooden "Wemmick" living in a town of other wooden people. These Wemmicks have made a habit of placing stickers on one another, gold stars for good, gray dots for bad. The pretty ones and talented ones always got stars..." but not poor Punchinello. When he tries to jump or run like the others, he trips. And then the others give him dots. "Then when he would try to explain why he fell, he would say something silly, and the Wemmicks would give him more dots." It gets so bad that he doesn't feel like going outside, and he starts to believe what the other Wemmicks are saying about him, that he deserves these gray dots. Things turn around when Punchinello meets a Wemmick, Lucia, who doesn't have any stars or dots. They just don't stick to her. Punchinello wants to know how he can be like that. Lucia tells him to go visit Eli the woodcarver who tells Punchinello that he matters because Eli, his maker, thinks he matters. And the dots and stars won't stick if Punchinello remembers that. Parents will understand that Eli is to Punchinello as God is to us, but some children may need some help understanding this metaphor. This is a great book that older kids can benefit from, perhaps while reading it to their younger siblings. School can be such a battleground, even at a Christian school, with so many children trying to get ahead by putting others down. Parents will appreciate the impact this book's message could have for their children if they really understand that it doesn't matter what others say about us, because we are God's own children, made in His own Image. The one danger here is that the lesson could be readily misunderstood by a child as countering what others think by elevating the child, rather than countering what others think by elevating the thoughts of God. That's a bit of a fine point, but one that parents can help their children understand. This is available as a board book or a slightly bigger picture book, and it is worth getting the one, and then the other as your child ages. Your Personal Penguin by Sandra Boynton 2006 / 21 pages This is my favorite board book of all, but that might be colored a bit by the fact my wife gave it as a gift when we were dating. But what cemented it as a favorite for our kids is the free sing-a-long song you can download for it. Davy Jones of The Monkees does a fantastic job with this little ditty. The tune is memorable, which meant that even I could do a pretty decent rendition singing it to our kids. It's about a penguin who loves a hippo and has a proposal: I want to be your personal penguin I want to walk right by your side I want to be your personal penguin I want to travel with you far and wide... Sanda Boynton has many other great board books including The Going to Bed Book, Fifteen Animals, and Barnyard Dance and while I haven't run across any that aren't great, I did just notice that she's started listing her personal pronouns as "she/her" which is better than going with "he/zer" but still shows she's bought into this "more than two genders" nonsense. So, again, read before you buy. You can check out the Your Personal Penguin song (and other Boynton hits) here. Goodnight Mr. Darcy by Kate Coombs 2015 / 20 pages This is a gimmick, but so brilliantly done it deserves a spot on this list. As you may have already deduced from the title, this is a mash-up of the board book classic Goodnight Moon and a classic of another sort, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  As stated earlier,  I am not a fan of Margaret Wise Brown's 1947 Goodnight Moon. I could handle it once or twice, but the simple repetitions started driving me a little batty even going on thrice. So when I saw this, in the same coloring, and a similar rhythm, but much more clever, I thought it might be the perfect substitute. And it was! Here's a little taste: In the great ballroom There was a country dance And a well-played tune And Elisabeth Bennet – This really is intended for adults, but the rhythm and rhyme will grab your children's interest too. This is not the only board book version of Pride and Prejudice, but as the others lack the same charm, be sure if you have the right author....

News

Saturday Selections – Mar. 26, 2022

More and more can't answer: "What is a woman?" March 8 is International Women's Day, and March is celebrated by many as "Woman's History Month." But it was this same month that US Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson explained she couldn't define what a woman was because "I'm not a biologist." She's not the only confused soul. This is a trailer for an upcoming Matt Walsh documentary where he travels the world asking one simple question: "What is a woman?" Tune in to WhatIsAWoman.com May 2022 for the answers...and non-answers. Praying all the psalms over Russia "At times when world events, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, shake us out of moral lethargy, these cries for justice and wrath make more sense. We, too, become enraged..." The high cost of free money A Canadian senator and MP are pushing for all Canadians to be guaranteed a basic income, to be provided for by the government, and without requirements for someone to work or seek work. Christian Heritage Party leader Rod Taylor explains some of the problems with that idea. headSTART: science jargon made simple for high school students A high school science student is going to get hit with a lot of scientific jargon, and sometimes the definitions they're given in their textbooks are loaded with evolutionary assumptions. So where can a Christian creationist student turn for an alternative? HeadSTART.create.ab.ca is a great place to go. This online tool is designed for high school students but useful for their parents too. It defines scientific terms from a creationist perspective, highlighting the 100+ most important terms including: convergence, Junk DNA, Horizontal Gene Transfer, and the Framework Hypothesis. Pronoun landmine An unusual American job site has created this game where you get ahead by jumping over pronoun hurdles. But mess up once, and "You're Fired!" Why did so many Christians support the Freedom Convoy? "For three chaotic weeks, the world watched..." Jonathon Van Maren offers his post mortem on the many reasons many Christians supported the Freedom Convoy. Lifting mask mandates: good or bad? Do we dare have an unpopular opinion? Christians have both a reason to risk ridicule (Ps. 27:1, Rom. 10:14) and a reason to be kind to those that think differently (Matt. 7:12). Our godless culture is increasingly showing they have no such reasons. ...

Assorted

The words a father speaks        

The words a father speaks to his children in the privacy of the home are not overheard at the time, but, as in the whispering galleries, they will be clearly heard at the end and by posterity. – Richter ***** One of the earliest recollections I have of my father, Louis Praamsma, is seeing him stand with his face full of shaving lather in front of the bedroom sink and mirror. My crib was in my parents' bedroom and inevitably he would turn away from the small sink, grimace and pretend that he was coming towards me to chase me. It made me squeal with a mixture of delight and horror. When my own children were very small, this scene was repeated. Opa often chased them down the hall, imparting a shaving lather kiss to those he caught. The boys, fascinated by the ritual of shaving, had a great desire to copy – to do what their grandfather did and what their father also did. The truth is that parents, fathers and mothers, play a tremendously big role in our development. In 2014 a research group reported that many young children watched an average of three hours of television a day. Today screen time would likely be longer. There are families that turn the television on when they get up and do not turn it off until they go to bed. The study concluded that with as little as twenty seconds of television watching, children just over a year old were able to repeat actions seen during twenty seconds of time. The conclusion being that little ones will copy what they see going on around them. I have another wonderful and early recollection – the recollection of my father kneeling in front of his big, four‑poster bed – kneeling in his striped pajamas, head down on the rumpled blanket. Every morning, as I passed my parents' master bedroom on the way to the bathroom, I beheld him through the half‑open door, kneeling and praying. And it filled me with a sense of quietness and awe that I should see my father prostrate in this way – so very vulnerable and submissive to Jesus his Lord. The biggest memory I have of my father, however, has the title of a hymn. That hymn is The Church's One Foundation. It is said that he who sings, prays twice. 'The Church's One Foundation was one of my father's favorite songs and, as such, I would like to write a little about why and when it was written. ***** The Church's One Foundation is based on Ephesians 5:23b which reads: “Christ is the head of the Church, His body, of which He is the Savior.” That text was the cornerstone which my father endeavored during his whole life to pass on to his children, grandchildren, friends, neighbors, acquaintances and congregations. It has been necessary, from time to time, for the church to be defended against heresy. It's certainly true that she needs to be defended against heresies today. The Church's One Foundation was written as a defense. The author, Samuel Stone, was also a minister, and he lived during a time in which there was quite a bit of turmoil within the church – his denomination being Anglican or the Church of England. The year was l866. The first five books of the Bible were being criticized. There were men who doubted; men in the Church of England who openly criticized the historicity of these books. It became a theological debate involving the whole Church of England. Now pastor Samuel Stone, (1839-1900), loved the church. He desired nothing more than to impart the Gospel to the people in his congregation. In the pastorates he served in London, England, he was affectionately known as the “poor man's pastor.” In the slums it was said of him that “he created a beautiful place of worship for the humble folk, and made it a center of light in the dark places.” He was a gentle, loving man. His personal faith in the inspired Bible, however, made him a fighter when he realized that his faith was being attacked. He loved the Lord and refused to compromise with the Biblical criticism and evolutionary philosophies that were becoming so popular. Consequently Rev. Stone wrote. As a matter of fact, he wrote a collection of hymns. This collection was called Lyra Fidelium or “Lyra of the Faithful,” and contained twelve creedal hymns based on the Apostles' Creed. They were written to combat the attacks of modern scholars on the Bible ‑ attacks which Samuel Stone felt would split up the church. In the preface of the little hymnbook, he wrote: "Most clergymen are aware how many of their parishioners, among the poor especially, say the Creed in their private prayers. And they cannot but feel how this excellent use, as also its utterance in public worship, is too often accompanied by a very meager comprehension of the breadth and depth of meaning contained in each Article of the Confession of Faith. Such a feeling first suggested to the Author the probable usefulness of a simple and attractive explanation of the Creed in the popular form of a series of Hymns, such as might be sung or said in private devotion, at family prayer, or in public worship." The hymn, The Church's One Foundation, is based on that part of the Apostles' Creed which reads “I believe in a Holy Catholic Church; the Communion of Saints.” Samuel Stone felt very strongly that the oneness of the Church rests, not on man's interpretation of the Bible, but on the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The words of this hymn are very meaningful for believers. It is a song which is also tremendously comforting. Below is the first stanza: The church's one foundation, Is Jesus Christ her Lord, She is His new creation By water and the Word: From heaven He came and sought her To be His holy bride, With His own blood He bought her And for her life He died. Samuel Stone based the words of the first stanza on: "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." – 1 Cor. 3:11 "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." – John 3:3 "Even as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it." – Eph. 5:25 "The Church of God which He purchased with His Own Blood." – Acts 20:28 ***** As previously mentioned, this was one of my father's favorite hymns and he sang it with nasal gusto and a deep‑rooted faith. Before he died, my father wrote: “When I think of the approaching day of my death, I have only one foundation on which I can stand: the free grace of God.” To his grandchildren he left this message. “My grandchildren, I love you all. God has something in store for you: a heritage in heaven (I Peter l:4). Never be afraid to confess the Lord Jesus Christ. In that way, you will never have any reason to be afraid. If God gives me the opportunity, I will continue to pray for you; the time is short and by His grace we will see each other again. “My grandchildren ‑ you often have heard the word 'covenant' ‑ which means that God is faithful and gracious to us from generation to generation. “I remember my own two grandfathers – the one was a cabinet‑maker (he owned a small factory where furniture was made), and the other was the principal of a Christian school. The one lost money because he trusted his neighbors too much; the other was always underpaid because the Christian schools were poor. Both served the Lord with a clear conscience. “My father and my father‑in‑law were both Christian teachers, sacrificing for the sake of the Lord 'the treasures of Egypt.' One of the greatest gifts of the Lord in my life and in that of your grandmother has been that our children chose to profess the name of the Lord. “That is the heritage that comes to you – God gave to each of you His special gifts. The greatest gift is that He has promised to be your Father for Christ's sake. Trust Him, trust His Word, trust His promises, and you will experience, even if worst should come to worst, that He is good.” ***** Thank God for the Samuel Stones in this world! Thank God for Louis Praamsmas! Thank God for all those fathers and mothers who are not afraid to confess their faith each day before their children! Read again the small noteworthy saying by Richter and ponder it. “The words a father speaks to his children in the privacy of the home are not overheard at the time, but, as in the whispering galleries, they will be clearly heard at the end and by posterity.”...

Science - Environment, Theology

Catastrophic global warming? A brief biblical case for skepticism

The media tells us that the question is settled, there is a 97% consensus, and that anyone who has questions is a “denier,” likened to those who are either so foolish, or malicious, as to deny the reality of the Holocaust. But there are reasons to question. And while climate science might be beyond most of us, God has given us another means – a far more reliable means – of discerning truth, via His Word. Gender: the Bible shows the way Sometimes it doesn’t take much Bible study to be able to discern truth from error, and that’s certainly true in today’s gender debate. Young children are being surgically mutilated and hormonally sterilized and yet the government, doctors, psychologists, and media are applauding. While it might not be at 97% yet, the consensus is growing such that fines are being issued, teachers fired, students expelled, and Twitter mobs set loose on any who disagree. Despite the pressure, few Christians are being fooled, though that might be due as much to the newness of the debate as it is that Evangelicals are turning to their Bibles for guidance. But if they do open His Word it won’t take a believer long to figure out God’s position. In Genesis 1:27 we learn it is God, not Man, who determines our gender: “So God created Man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Population: following the Bible would have saved tens of millions The overpopulation crisis has a longer history to it and, consequently, many more Christians have bought into it. Since the 1950s we’ve been hearing that sometime soon the world’s population will outstrip the planet’s resources. In his 1969 book The Population Bomb Paul Ehrlich warned: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.” You would think that by now it would be easy to see that these overpopulation fears were mistaken. As economist Arthur Brooks has noted, what’s happened is the very opposite of Ehrlich’s dire prediction: “From the 1970s until today the percentage of people living at starvation’s door has decreased by 80%. Two billion people have been pulled out of starvation-level poverty.” Yet the overpopulation hysteria has never gone away. And the damage it has done has been on par with that of a Hitler or Stalin – tens of millions have been killed. Under threat of this crisis China implemented their infamous one-child policy, with its fines and forced abortions for couples who tried for two. And the deaths weren’t limited to China; overpopulation fears were used to justify the push for legalized abortion in countries around the world. Murdering your own children wasn’t cold and selfish anymore; now it was a woman doing her part to save the planet. Christians opposed abortion, of course, but some believers started questioning whether overpopulation concerns might be correct. Maybe God’s call to “be fruitful and multiply” and fill the earth (Gen. 1:28) was just a temporary directive that we’ve fulfilled and should now treat as being over and done with. But it takes only a little more digging to find out that’s not what God thinks. Overpopulation proponents saw children as more mouths to find – they saw them as a problem – but God speaks repeatedly of children as a blessing (Ps. 113:9, 127:3-5, Prov. 17:6, Matt. 18:10, John 16:21). And opportunities present themselves when we see children as God sees them. When we understand they are a blessing, then we realize that not only do children come with a mouth that needs filling, but they also have hands that can produce even more than their mouth consumes. And they have a brain to invent and problem solve. When we see children this way – as a blessing and not a curse – then we'll realize there’s a real practical benefit in having lots of them: as we’ve been told, many hands make light work, and two heads are also better than one! That’s why it shouldn’t have surprised Christians when in the 1950s and 60s a group of inventive sorts, led by American Norman Borlaug, helped develop much higher-yielding strains of cereal crops. This “Green Revolution” turned wheat-importing countries into wheat exporting countries by more than doubling yields. And while there are no prophecies in the Bible specifically mentioning Norman Borlaug, Christians could have seen him coming, and in a sense some did. Those who continued having large families, despite the dire predictions, could do so confident that any problems caused by the innumerable nature of their progeny would be solved by something like the Green Revolution happening. Today, decades later, we can look back and see that a country like China, that ignored what God says about children, is facing a different sort of demographic crisis. A young Chinese couple will have two sets of parents and four sets of grandparents to look after and support, but have no siblings or cousins to help them. As soon as 2030 China will see their population start to decline, with not nearly enough working age citizens to provide for their aging population. It’s not all that different in the Western world where, even without government coercion, our families have been shrinking and women are averaging far less than two children each. We aren’t as near the crisis point as China, but by aborting a quarter of the next generation, we’ve created our own coming demographic crisis. Catastrophic global warming: a biblical case for skepticism The population and gender debates remind us that the Bible is more reliable than any-sized consensus no matter how big. They also teach us that the world can get things not just completely wrong, but monstrously so, leading to the deaths of tens of millions. That’s why when it comes to global warming, where we’re being told once again that the fate of the planet is at stake, we want any and all guidance we can get from God’s Word. Cornelius Van Til once noted: “The Bible is thought of as authoritative on everything of which it speaks. Moreover, it speaks of everything. We do not mean that it speaks of football games, of atoms, etc., directly, but we do mean that it speaks of everything either directly or by implication.” The Bible does speak to global warming, but not directly. This isn’t like the gender debate, which runs smack up against Genesis 1:27 (“male and female He created them”) or the overpopulation crisis, which directly opposes the very next verse (“be fruitful and multiply”). When it comes to global warming the Bible isn’t as direct. But there are lots of implications. Time and space only allow me to present a half dozen texts. I’m not pretending that any one of them makes the definitive case for skepticism. But I do think that together they start pointing us decidedly in that direction. "You will know them by their fruits" – Matt. 7:15-20 In Matthew 7 Jesus tells us that we can tell a good tree from a bad one by the fruit on it. His concern wasn’t with trees though, but with telling false prophets from good ones. When it comes to global warming the science is beyond most of us, but we can evaluate the people. So let’s return to this 97% consensus we’ve heard so much about. This statistic is used to argue that there is no question but that the planet is headed to catastrophic climate change. But is this a reliable number, or is it like the greatly exaggerated 10% figure commonly given for the homosexual population? The figure has a few different origins, but one of the more commonly cited is a paper by John Cook and his colleagues reviewing 11,944 published peer-reviewed papers from climate scientists. Did 97% of those papers’ authors agree with the statement “humans are causing global warming”? That’s what we would expect. But instead of 10,000+ papers with that position, there were 3,894, or approximately 33%. So how did the 97% figure come out of that then? Well, it turns out only approximately 34% of the papers took a position one way or the other, with just 1% disagreeing or uncertain, and 33% agreeing. Thus, of the 34% who took a position, 97% agreed that humans are causing global warming. Is it honest to ignore the two thirds who didn’t state a position, and say there is a 97% consensus and no room for a debate? How this statistic has been used reminds me of a trick from another debate – equivocation about the definition of “evolution.” In his book, The Greatest Show on Earth, Richard Dawkins notes that when poachers shoot elephants with long tusks, the next generation is liable to have shorter tusks. Okay, but creationists also believe species can undergo changes over time. We’re the folks arguing that the array of cats we see today are all modified versions of a single cat kind brought on the ark. Dawkins has presented “minor changes over time” – a definition of evolution so broad that it enfolds even creationists into the evolution camp – as if it were proof of the from-goo-to-you sort of evolution that is actually under dispute. Similarly, the 97% consensus is being presented as if all those counted hold that the warming is catastrophic, humans are the primary cause, and there is a need for immediate, drastic, global action. But the agreement was only that “humans are causing global warming.” And that’s a statement so broad as to enfold even many of the so-called “deniers.” So on a statement we can verify – whether there really is a 97% consensus on catastrophic global warming – we find “bad fruit.” There are many other facts and claims we can’t evaluate, but doesn’t this tell us something about the “tree”? “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” – Proverbs 18:17 God says that to find the truth good questions are helpful. That’s not going on here, where questioners are likened to Holocaust deniers. But here’s a few questions worth considering: Aren’t there bigger priorities than global warming, like the millions who will starve to death this year, or the billions who lack basic access to clean water and sanitation? If fossil fuels are harmful, and solar and wind problematic, why aren’t we turning to nuclear? How will the world’s poor be impacted by a move away from fossil fuels toward more expensive alternatives? Are we again (as we did in response to overpopulation fears) seeking to save the planet by harming those who live on it? Samuel’s warning against kings – 1 Samuel 8:10-22 President Obama’s chief of staff famously said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste” and if you want to understand what he meant, looking no further than Justin Trudeau’s proposed ban on single-use plastics. This past year a video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck up deep inside his nose went viral, alerting the tens of millions of viewers to the growing problem of plastics in our oceans. The movement to ban plastic straws has taken off since then. But will Trudeau’s single-use plastics ban save turtles? No, because our straws don’t end up in the ocean. Of the mass of plastic in the ocean it’s been estimated the US is responsible for one percent, and it’d be reasonable to conclude that Canada is responsible for far less. So how, then, does all the plastic end up in the ocean? It turns out that the vast majority of it comes from poorer countries that don’t have proper trash disposal. They simply dump their waste into the ocean and into their rivers. Trudeau’s ban will do nothing to help the turtles…but it will expand the government’s reach. The proposed solutions for climate change all involve expanding the government too, giving it a larger role in directing all things energy-related. So, how is 1 Samuel 8 relevant? Here we find Samuel warning against an expansion of government – get a king and he’ll start intruding into all areas of your lives. If there is a biblical case to be made for limited, small government (and there is) then Christians have a reason to question crises that seem to necessitate an ever-expanding role for the State. “…and it was very good.” – Gen. 1:31 While we no longer live in the perfect world Adam and Eve started with, we have only to wriggle our toes, or watch a ladybug crawl across the back of our hand to recognize that God’s brilliant design is still evident and at work all around us. We are on a blue and white marble, spinning at just the right angle, and orbiting at just the right distance from the sun, for it to rain and snow in season. We have a moon just the right size, and circling at just the right distance for us to study our own sun, and to bring the tides that sweep our beaches each day. And our planet is graced with a molten iron core that generates the very magnetic field we need to protect us from the solar winds, which would otherwise strip away the ozone layer that protects us from ultraviolet radiation. It is wheels within wheels within wheels, and while we can do damage to it, when we appreciate how brilliantly our world is designed we aren’t surprised there is a robustness to it. Meanwhile, the unbeliever thinks our world is the result of one lucky circumstance after another – a tower of teacups, all balanced perfectly, but accidentally. If the world did come about by mere happenstance, then what an unbelievable run of happenstance we’ve had, and isn’t there every reason to fear change? Sure, the teacup tower is balanced now, but if we mess with it, how long can we count on our luck to hold? “He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker” – Prov. 14:31 At first glance, this text might not seem to provide much direction in this debate. After all, couldn’t a Christian who holds to catastrophic man-caused global warming cite it in support of their position too? Yes they could. If climate change is real, then the oppression it would bring on the poor would be a reason to fight it. Yet this text does provide a very specific sort of direction. It lays out limits on what sort of global warming plans Christians should view as acceptable: any plan to save the planet that does so by hurting the poor is not biblical. That means increasing energy costs has to be out. Millions are starving already and raising energy prices will only increase those numbers. “Be fruitful and multiply” – Gen. 1:28 Children come with an inevitable “carbon footprint” which is why some global warming proponents echo the same sentiments as the overpopulationists before them. “Save the earth; don’t give birth” is catchy, but if that was the only possible way we could lower carbon emissions then Christians could, on that basis, conclude there was no need to worry about CO2. Because God tells us children are a blessing, not a curse. Of course there may be other ways to lower carbon emissions. But the more we hear people portraying children as a problem, the more we should recognize there is an element in the global warming movement intent on attacking God’s Truth, rather than taking on any real problem. Conclusion Other passages could be mentioned like Genesis 8:22, Romans 1:25 and Psalm 102:25-26 but this is good for a start. And that’s what this is: a start. My hope here is to encourage an exploration of what Scripture says that’s relevant to the issue of catastrophic global warming.  The Bible isn’t silent on this topic; we need to look at global warming biblically. This article first appeared in the July/August 2019 issue under the title "Global warming crisis? A brief biblical case for skepticism."...

Animated, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Free film: 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 control's pause button. This could be a good one for a family movie night, where you can discuss it together. You can watch The Harriet Tubman Story for free below. ...

Book Reviews, Children’s fiction

Wambu: the Chieftain’s Son

by Piet Prins 182 pages / 1981 This is a book about cannibals, and that should pique the interest of many a boy reader. Wambu is a young boy himself, living in the deep jungles of New Guinea before the arrival of the white man. His tribe is a small one and they haven’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, well, have her for dinner. Fortunately they have second thoughts and instead adopt the girl, Sirja, into their family. And that's when things get really interesting because Sirja is a new Christian convert. And her newfound faith in the Lord is sharply contrasted with the village’s reliance on pagan gods. Though Wambu likes listening to Sirja’s stories about 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. Kids will learn that some people find caterpillars delicious, and they eat the insides of trees. Tidbits like this are thrown in throughout the book and make the story all the more intriguing as we 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. I really wanted to get my girls hooked on this series, but despite repeated attempts, no luck so far. But for boys, maybe ten and over, these are just the sort that fathers could enjoy reading to their children – there is enough action in them even for Dad. You can find them at Inheritance Publications....

News

Saturday Selections – Mar. 19 , 2022

When they stop even pretending (3 min) This clip, from Dec 2021, has been circulating social media ever since. What's made it so popular? Perhaps the unvarnished nature of it: opposition MP Pierre Poilievre is trying to get just one question answered and, in a jaw-dropping display, the government's minister gives up even the pretense of trying to answer him. Atheists against atheism "None of the three men believe in Jesus Christ in the traditional religious sense, but they all believe in belief in Jesus Christ..." 50 years of failed climate crisis predictions It's been three years now since prominent American congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced the world might end in 12 years: “Millennials and people, you know, Gen Z and all these folks that will come after us, are looking up, and we’re like: ‘The world is gonna end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change, and your biggest issue is how are we gonna pay for it?” While later backtracking, claiming her statement was "dry humor," two-thirds of her fellow Democrats believed her. But for those above a certain age, they should have known better: her doomsday prediction was only the latest in a long line of them. Racial quotas argue that two wrongs make a right This is a satiric piece from 2011 that turned out to be downright prophetic – it's about a university's advanced math class that was 45% Jewish, which is about 20 times the Jewish percentage in the US population. So, racial quotas would say, we need to kick the vast majority of Jews out to allow more of the underrepresented in. It is an attempt to combat racism, not by ending the discrimination on the basis of skin color or ethnicity, but by redirecting it – it's one wrong being piled atop another in an attempt to make a right. But that can never be (1 Thessalonians 5:15). You are what you binge A recent trend of facial and vocal tics among teens has shown once again that we really are influenced by what we watch. Using questions to point out weak arguments (4 min) In an argument, are you trying to win the point, or the person? That's something to consider if a friend makes a weak argument you know you can crush. In this video Greg Koukl shows how you can use questions to more gently have your friend lead himself to the right conclusion. ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – March 2022

Junior knows best? In a recent review, Roman Catholic film critic Steven D. Greydanus argues that we’re seeing an expansion of the old doofus/domineering dad cliché to now include moms too. Pixar’s new Turning Red is the latest example of an increasing shift to overbearing maternal figures, from young Mirabel’s and Miguel’s domineering abuelas in Encanto and Coco to middle-aged Joe Gardner’s loving but controlling mom in Soul. Antecedents for this trend of mothers as functional antagonists include Merida’s demanding mother Queen Elinor in Brave and Tangled’s actually villainous Mother Gothel…. In Turning Red, Meilin “Mei Mei” Lee, a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian girl living in Toronto in 2002, comes from a long line of tightly controlled and controlling maternal figures, including her tiger mom Ming and her grandmother as well as a half dozen aunts. When both parents are portrayed as problems to overcome rather than guides to turn to, this leads to what Greydanus calls the “Junior knows best” trope: the kid himself is the smartest person in the room. Don’t confuse this with the dead or otherwise absent parents trend that’s also common on the screen and in many a kid’s book – that exists only because if parents aren’t absent, they’d deal with the danger themselves, and the children wouldn’t even have an adventure. There’s a difference between a kid relying on his own smarts because missing parents leave him with no other option, and a child relying on himself because his parents are idiots. If you spot a “Junior knows best” moment, why not hit the pause button and discuss it with your children? You can ask them to look up Proverbs 1:8 – “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” – and flip to Isaiah 3 too, which in verse 4 talks of God cursing Jerusalem and Judah by placing children in leadership positions. Spell out for them the difference between what this film is preaching and what God says.  The call to pro-life witness Deut. 21:1-9 has interesting implications for us today. Here God gives instructions for what to do when a murder victim is found in a field, and no one knows who did it. Then the elders of the nearest town are supposed to come, sacrifice a heifer, and declare they had nothing to do with it. With this sacrifice and public declaration, they then would have “purged from yourselves the guilt of shedding innocent blood…” What relevance might that have for Christians today? Confronted as we are, with 200+ legally sanctioned murders per day in Canada, could we understand the principle behind this text as being an encouragement – a call even – for us to publicly dissociate ourselves from our nation’s abortion guilt? Were we to publicly declare that we have no part in these unborn children’s deaths, we would uphold the wickedness of this crime, and ensure that it is not normalized or ignored as inconsequential. How can we make such a public pro-life witness? In addition to public protests – flag displays like ARPA Canada has done, or March for Life events – we can also buy or make pro-life t-shirts, using slogans like: Fetus is not a species…” – Albany Rose Every unwanted child a dead child. Doesn’t sound so nice anymore, does it? Former fetus If you don’t believe in miracles, perhaps you’ve forgotten you are one. My size does not affect my worth Abortion is the death penalty for someone else’s actions I will shut up about abortion when it has been abolished I have my own DNA – I’m a person Speak for the weak If abortion isn’t wrong, then nothing is wrong Did you get all your deductions? In a 2012 article, Christian economist Gary North wrote about just how complicated the US tax was already then 4 times the length of all Shakespeare’s works combined, and US taxpayers were spending 7.6 billion hours complying with federal tax requirements (that doesn’t even include the hours needed to fulfill state requirements). And even the experts couldn’t agree on how to understanded it: “Our tax system has become so complicated that it is almost impossible to file your taxes correctly.  For example, back in 1998 Money Magazine had 46 different tax professionals complete a tax return for a hypothetical household.  All 46 of them came up with a different result…. In 2009, PC World had five of the most popular tax preparation software websites prepare a tax return for a hypothetical household.  All five of them came up with a different result.” As of 2016, Canada’s tax code has only just over a million words, which, at a quarter of the US length, might seem downright simplistic. But, the country’s auditor general found that it was too complicated for even the Canada Revenue Agency, which was giving the wrong answer to queries from the public 30 percent of the time. Only Earth has rainbows Life on Earth requires a lot of “fine tuning,” with our planet just the right distance from the Sun to allow freezing and melting, and the planetary axis tilted just so for seasons, a moon for tides to circulate and cleanse shores and oceans, an atmosphere to distribute heat (otherwise the sun-side would cook as the night-side froze), and a magnetic field that contributes to our protection from harmful solar radiation. That all these needs were met (and many more) is all a big coninkydink for evolutionists – we just lucked out and got exactly what we needed. But we didn’t need rainbows. And yet, as Guillermo Gonzalez recently noted, we’re on the only planet in the Solar System to get them. What’s needed for a rainbow is: “suspended water droplets in the atmosphere and the direct sunlight that results from the sun being between the horizon and 42 degrees altitude. This typically occurs just after a thunderstorm has passed and small droplets are still in the atmosphere, and the sky is clearing in front of the sun. Seems like a simple setup. This must be a common phenomenon in the cosmos, right?” But it isn’t so simple. Our moon doesn’t have the atmosphere. Mars doesn’t have the moisture. Venus has too thick an atmosphere and as we head further out, the other planets don’t have liquid water. So the only planet to have rainbows is the only one with people on it to see them. To evolutionists that’s just one more coinkydink. To God’s people, just another example of His love and care. (For another fun "coininkydink" check out this article on how we're the only planet with a moon just the right size to allow us to study the sun). Puntastic The editing tool Grammarly regularly passes on puns and other wordplay jokes. Here’s a few of their best, with few thrown in from the Indian Hills Community Sign too: It’s hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs, because they always take things literally I was walking past a farm, and a sign read: “Duck, eggs!” I thought, “That’s an unnecessary comma.” Then it hit me. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. A word in this sentence is misspelled. I have an irrational fear of overly intricate clusters of commercial buildings. It’s a complex complex complex. Irony is the opposite of wrinkly Puns about communism aren’t funny unless everyone gets them. To be frank I’d have to change my name. What do you give a man who has everything? Antibiotics! It’s only rock and roll “It's so funny being a Christian musician. It always scares me when people think so highly of Christian music, Contemporary Christian music especially. Because I kinda go, I know a lot of us, and we don't know jack about anything. Not that I don't want you to buy our records and come to our concerts. I sure do. But you should come for entertainment. If you really want spiritual nourishment, you should go to church...you should read the Scriptures.” - Rich Mullins , July 19, 1997 Sass, or not sass? by Sharon L. Bratcher How do you talk to your children? Do you always speak to these little Image-bearers as you, yourself would like to be spoken to? Recently an acquaintance told me about how he often tells his 5-year-old, "Hurry up, we have to go, I can't wait all day." Then, the other day as his wife was changing their 3-year-old, the child said, "I can't wait all day." We both laughed, and the dad said something about his child's “sass.” But was it really sass? I don’t think it was. The child had learned from his father what to say when he is impatient and wants to move along to another activity. Was it sass when the dad said it to his 5-year-old? If not, then it wasn't sass when his child copied him. How could a little child even know it wasn't something that ought to be said? If we don't want them saying certain words or phrases anymore, then we must stop doing it ourselves. As in this case, it really wasn’t accomplishing the dad’s desired goal anyway! It’s too easy to rationalize showing disrespect to our own children. We might assume that they won’t even catch it, but eventually they will. And then we’ll hear them sounding just like us. Stress reliever Before I overhype this tip, I’ll note that while it does seem to work for everyone, that isn’t to say it does a lot for everyone. Still, a little relief is better than none, right? This is from Andrew Huberman, billed as a “Stanford Neuroscientist” during an appearance on the Kevin Rose podcast. “This is the fastest way that I’m aware of that’s anchored in real known biology to calm oneself down and the cool thing is it works the first time, and it works every time, and it takes about a second…. It’s an inhale through the nose, and then it’s another inhale at the top, and then a long exhale. That’s the fastest way to slower your heart and calm down.” Just a breath in, and before you exhale, another breath in – a “double inhale” – then a slow exhale. I’ve tried it, and found it helpful, and instantly, though, of course, only partially. Still, a nice tool to have in the toolbox when the going gets tough. A better way of getting rich “Prior to capitalism, the way people amassed great wealth was by looting, plundering and enslaving their fellow man. Capitalism made it possible to become wealthy by serving your fellow man.” – Walter E. Williams (1936-2020)...

Theology

10 Christian answers to life's deepest questions

There’s no end of mysteries to explore in this weird, wacky, and wonderful universe. How is it that light can be both a particle and a wave? How is it possible that the complexity of a single cell surpasses that of the largest city? And how come there’s no synonym for thesaurus? Among life’s many questions there’s a small collection that garners special attention – they are the deepest and most unfathomable of them all. Or, at least to secular sorts. It turns out that God has given clear and ready answers to any who have the ears to hear. Q. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? A. The chicken. How can you have one without first having the other? But when we understand that God created everything in just six days then we can conclude that, just as He created Adam full grown, He probably started chickens off with their adult versions too. Q. If a tree falls in the forest, and there’s nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound? A. Yes. Is sound the vibrations in the air, or do those vibrations only become sound when they are heard? Before you answer, consider how there are other vibrations in the air – too low or too high for us to hear – that we consequently don’t regard as sound. However, the problem here is that the premise of the question is wrong: Christians know there is always Somebody around. Q. How did life begin? A. With a word. Evolution has no explanation for the origin of life since evolution's two mechanisms – natural selection, and random mutation – require an already living, already replicating organism to exist before they can act on it. Just as there is no possibility of selecting until there’s a pool of candidates to select from, there can be no mutation until there’s an original to mutate from. While secular sorts have no answer to give, Christians can read all about life’s origins in Genesis 1 and 2. Q. Is my glass half empty or half full? A. Half full. Nothing we have in life is deserved so if we’re given a glass that’s got water right up to the midway point we should view that gratefully, happy for the gift given. Q. If you could go back in time and kill Hitler as a baby, should you do it? A. No. Abortion advocates have presented a real-life version of this, arguing that legalized abortion lead to a drop in crime because unwanted babies, if they weren't aborted, would presumably grow up in unloving environments that predispose them to crime. So, the argument goes, there is a benefit to killing them early on. But killing people before they become criminals is itself a crime (Ex. 20:13), not "crime prevention." The crime-fighting God does allow includes: hugs, spankings, parents, family, mentors, church, police, restitution, and the death penalty. So a better question might be, if you could go back in time and mentor Hitler, should you do it? Of course, that's more work than pulling a trigger. Q. If God can do anything, can He make a rock too heavy for Him to lift? A. No. God can’t do everything. Specifically, He can’t do anything contrary to His own character. That’s why He can’t ignore sin – His character won't allow it. And that's why, to offer us mercy, Jesus had to come to Earth to take our sins on Himself – God could only offer mercy in a way that still satisfied His need for justice. It would also be contrary to His character, as a God of order, to make rocks too heavy for Him to lift...or to make square circles, or any number of other nonsensical things. Q. Is there life after death? A. Yes! Unbelieving sorts will speculate about there being something after life, but Christians don’t have to. That Jesus died and rose again is the assurance of our own resurrection. He’s beaten death! Q. What is the purpose of life? A. To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Money, fame, power, status, and even family bring only temporary joys. What Man was created for was an eternal relationship with our infinite God. **** Christians have our own "unanswerable questions" and, well, it turns out some of them have pretty ready answers too. Who did Cain marry? A. His sister (or possibly his niece). While we aren’t supposed to marry relatives now, that prohibition came 2,000 years after Cain's time (Leviticus 18:6). So why could he marry a close relation and we can't? The explanation probably comes down to genetics. We all have genetic defects - damaged information in our DNA - but so long as we marry someone unrelated, the effects of those errors won’t generally be seen in our children, as the most serious effects of the error are likely to be countered by the corresponding and error-free section in our spouse’s genes. But close relatives may share the exact same defects, and were they to marry, their children would be more likely to have genetic diseases. This didn't apply to Adam and Eve, because they started off with perfect genes, and when their children married, they still didn’t have many errors to pass on. It was only after a couple thousand years that genetic errors would have so accumulated that close relatives had to be barred from marrying. Did Adam have a belly button? A. No. Belly buttons are scars from our umbilical cord connection to our mothers, and since neither Adam or Eve was born, neither of them would have had this scar....

Articles, Movie Reviews

10 tools to help pick a great flick

If you're looking to watch a good film with family or friends, a trustworthy list of suggestions can be a wonderful find. But maybe you already have a film in mind, and you want to find out whether it's really worth watching. Then have we got some helpful tools for you! Judeo-Christian reviews Pluggedin.com, ChristianAnswers.net/spotlight, Dove.org, and MovieGuide.org all offer a generally conservative Judeo-Christian perspective and will have something to offer on most any current film and many older ones too. Of these four, Plugged In and Christian Answers might offer the best worldview help, while Dove often has the most detailed listing of objectionable content. Movie Guide is helpful, but sometimes not half as harsh as it really should be. Secular reviews Two more review sites aren’t Christian, and therefore don’t offer much by way of worldview analysis. But they do offer the most reliable and detailed overview of a film’s objectionable content. Kids-in-mind.com has a 10-point scale for three categories: sex, violence, and language, and is searchable via this scale (ie. You can search for movies that have no sex). It has fantastic coverage from 1990 onward. CommonSenseMedia.org is not particularly conservative, but offers lots of concisely delivered information, including both parental and children’s quick takes on a film. The one downside? After three free reviews, you’ll have to pay $3 a month to access more. One last option is IMDB.com’s parents guide, which isn’t nearly as detailed, but seems to exist for most every film out there. Find it by googling “imdb parents guide” followed by the film’s name Search the script While these other sites do their best, they’ll often miss instances of God’s name being taken in vain. The most effective tool on that front is simply to do a word search of the film’s script. Scripts.com and SpringfieldSpringfield.co.uk both have thousands of movie scripts, easily searchable by simply opening the script and (on most computers) hitting your Control button, and the letter F (for “find”). You can then type in “God” to find out how they use His Name. While both sites are huge, neither prioritizes keeping up with what’s currently playing in theaters so they are most useful for films that are at least a few years old. Find the film Once you've checked it out to your satisfaction, the next step is figuring out how you can actually buy or rent it online. JustWatch.com (and, in Canada, JustWatch.com/ca) will give you a pretty comprehensive list of options. But don't forget, if you have a DVD player, and a little time, you may be able to watch a film for free by requesting it from your local public library....

Adult fiction, Book Reviews

The Last Disciple

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

News

Saturday Selections – Mar. 12, 2022

Even on the smallest scale, you are amazingly complex (6 min) You don't have to understand all of this to be in awe of what God has wrought in our teeny tiny cells. It's an irony that this secular presentation's conclusion doesn't fully appreciate the very complexity the rest of the video illustrates. What is our goal in helping the poor? This article gets a lot right: we want to, whenever we can, help people in such a way as to equip and encourage them to be responsible for their own lives... because they are. Each one of us stands before God, and whether our talents and gifts are many or few, we are called to do with them what we can. That's why we don't want to encourage any sort of abdication of personal responsibility: because then we would be tempting people to shirk the work God has set before them. We can consider, too, how we face this abdication of responsibility temptation too, in an age when the government offers to do so much for us. Whether it's educating our children, or even providing our healthcare, we have to resist the siren call to just "let the government do it." Why not women preachers? A prominent female former OPC member took to the pulpit on a recent Sunday, prompting URC Pastor Chris Gordon to offer a refresher on "the basic, biblical and confessional truth of the matter." How a lowly monk stopped Rome's bloody gladiatorial duels God used a man who dared much, to accomplish more than the man could ever have dreamed. The real Lord of the Flies (15-minute read) For English teachers out there, here's a real-life Lord of the Flies account, but when these 6 boys were stranded on an island for more than a year, they didn't descend into the savagery described in William Golding's classic. Was Golding simply wrong about human nature? That might be the impression the article leaves. But as John Stonestreet notes, it downplays the religious convictions of the boys. Their Judeo-Christian (in this case Catholic) upbringing gave them insights into our fallen nature, and the need to turn to God. Biblically-based help for eating disorders (20-min read) Kimberly Clark is delivering this address to fellow biblical counselors, but there's something here for all of us to benefit from. This is an article, but you can also listen to it as a 1-hour talk at the link. The Log Driver's Waltz (3 min) Remember this Canadian classic? ...

Pro-life - Abortion, Sexuality

Abraham Lincoln, on abortion

How would Abraham Lincoln have addressed the biggest moral issue of our time? We don't have to wonder. While President Lincoln may not have spoken to abortion directly, he did still give us guidance on the issue. In the 1800s American slave trade supporters tried justifying the practice of slavery all sorts of ways. Lincoln was very good at tearing those justifications apart and the technique he used is one that transfers directly to the plight of the unborn. In one of his speeches he argued: If A can prove, however conclusively, that he may, of right, enslave B why may not B snatch the same argument, and prove equally, that he may enslave A? You say A is white and B is black. It is color, then; the lighter, having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with a fairer skin than your own. You do not mean color exactly? You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and, therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own. But, say you, it is a question of interest; and, if you can make it your interest, you have the right to enslave another. Very well. And if he can make it his interest, he has the right to enslave you. Biblical inspiration? Lincoln turned the slave trade supporters' justifications back on them, arguing that if it is good for you, then you shouldn’t object if this same logic is then used by someone else to justify enslaving you. If his strategy seems familiar, it's because it aligns perfectly with what Jesus says in Matthew 7:1-2: Judge not, that you be not judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. What Jesus issued as a warning Lincoln used as a tool. So how might this tool work in the abortion debate? We could begin by noting that if someone argues the unborn can be killed because they are smaller than us, then, as Lincoln might have put it, “Take care. By this rule you could be killed by the first man you meet who is bigger than you.” Or if it comes down to some ability, then watch out when you meet someone who is more able than you. Self-interest? This is a major justification for abortion: a child would interfere with our lifestyle. But, “take care again – by this rule you may be killed by any who can show it is in their self-interest for you to be dead.” Conclusion Lincoln lived more than 150 years ago, but we can still learn from him. Lincoln showed the standard of justice that slave owners were trying to apply was one they wouldn't want applied to themselves. That sort of hypocrisy still happens today, and not only to the unborn. We have only to think of Christian bakery owners or flower shop owners who are not allowed to work according to their conscience. And yet the world celebrates when a dress designer refuses, because of her own convictions, to dress the First Lady. Let's do as Lincoln did, and ask them to apply their own arguments to themselves. And then let's insist on an answer....

Articles, Entertainment, Movie Reviews

Beyond judging a movie by its poster

Most “family friendly” films are precarious **** Recent research indicates that our brains are more synaptically active while we sleep than they are while we watch television or movies. This is not just a physical reality, but a spiritual one. Most people, including an alarming number of Christians, watch movies strictly for enjoyment, with a passive and receptive mental stance. But Christians should not view movies this way, and if they can’t watch movies any other way, they shouldn’t watch movies at all. The Proverbs tell us: “Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool, and so is wisdom to a man of understanding” (Prov. 10:23). In other words, vanity, futility, and immorality are fun to a fool. These alone please him. A wise man, on the other hand, finds pleasure and satisfaction in the exercise of wisdom and discernment. If a movie is little more than eye-candy – an exercise in superficiality and sensual experience – it won’t do very much to please a wise man. He wants something to chew on, some way to exercise and practice his discernment, some avenue to make a distinction between excellence and mediocrity, right and wrong. Mature Christians “because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). A thoughtful, well-produced movie can be and should be another playground for the pleasurable practice of biblical discernment. Between right and almost right As is apparent to most human beings, some family pets, and even some household appliances, one can either watch a given movie, or not watch it. Not watching a movie is the easiest way to avoid being affected by it. When a movie sells itself with sex, violence, and coarse language, it is almost always a good choice to skip it. Judging a movie by its poster, preview, and rating is the easiest form of discernment, and for me at least, it shaves off about 90% of all contemporary movies right off the bat without any further inquiry. But, as Charles Spurgeon has said, “Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather, it is telling the difference between right and almost right.” It seems that most Christians, if they use discernment at the box office at all, discern only according to appearances. If a movie contains little coarse language, no nudity, and no exorbitant violence, they consider the movie harmless family entertainment. Well-dressed, sweet-smelling lies are harder to detect than stinky, ugly ones. For this reason, Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, and we should not be surprised when his servants come to us in equally deceptive garb (2 Cor. 11:14-15). We must learn to exercise a discernment which looks at the heart of a matter. God exercises this kind of discernment perfectly, and we also can “spiritually appraise” all things because we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:15-16). It is clear we must avoid supporting movies that display a penchant for sin and all that the flesh lusts after, but what about those “family-friendly” films that seem so harmless? How do we avoid the pitfalls of worldview deception when something seems “almost right”? “Imitation value extracts” I think the most dangerous feature of mainstream family-friendly films is the ubiquitous inclusion of what I call “imitation value extracts.” These are virtues or convictions that have been extracted from their context. They are ready-made virtues. It is easy to account (or should I say bank account) for their existence. Hollywood producers want to make as much money as possible from their films, naturally. In order to do this, they have to attract as many viewers as possible. This means it is important for them to neutralize any elements in their movies that might unduly offend any potential market. Thus, “value extracts” allow any number of viewers with vastly different substantive beliefs to pour their own definitions, sources, and foundations into the generalized, non-exclusive frameworks of any given film. Allow me a detour for a moment to talk about an interesting Biblical backdrop for this discussion. The word translated “medium” in the Old Testament (meaning necromancer or sorcerer) is the Hebrew word “ob” which means “empty wine skin.” This means that the mediums emptied themselves out so that they could be filled with any passing spirit. In the same way, Hollywood has embraced a stance of tolerant pluralism, emptying itself of any divisive or exclusive convictions so as to be open to the opinions (and especially, the money) of any passing viewer. Let’s look at a few examples of objectless, foundationless “value extracts” in some “classic” family films. Prince of Egypt Consider the movie Prince of Egypt, Dreamworks Animation’s first film, which is loosely based on the Biblical account of Moses. The theme song for the film is entitled “When You Believe.” The chorus to this song is: There can be miracles, when you believe Though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill Who knows what miracles you can achieve When you believe, somehow you will You will when you believe… This is a great example of extracted values. Here, the faith and hope have no object. Their value is intrinsic. The focus is on the individual’s act of belief, not on the object of his belief. You can achieve miracles if you believe, even if what you believe in doesn’t exist, there is power in the act of belief. Belief is its own reward. It doesn’t matter what or who you believe in, just that you believe. The belief itself is what is valuable about religion because it gives you the strength to carry on through difficult times. I wish this were the only example of “imitation faith extract.” But it isn’t. Here are a few more examples. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader The first song for the ending credits of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader contains these lines: We can be the kings and queens of anything if we believe. It’s written in the stars that shine above, A world where you and I belong, where faith and love will keep us strong, Exactly who we are is just enough. In these lines, we see both faith and love operating as value extracts – totally separated from any object. This would be bad enough, but consider this testimony from Liam Neeson, who has played Aslan in all the Narnia movies so far: "Aslan symbolizes a Christ-like figure but he also symbolizes for me Mohammed, Buddha, and all the great spiritual leaders and prophets over the centuries. That’s who Aslan stands for as well as a mentor figure for kids – that’s what he means for me." Hmmm. So the movie has been designed so that any religious belief can fit into its framework. It has been stripped of political incorrectness by removing or primarily neutralizing Christian truths that would exclude other beliefs. Notice again the emphasis on self. In fact, if mainstream “family” movies give any object for faith, it is always the self. How many times have you heard the platitude: “You’ve just gotta believe in yourself.” Something in me thinks that C.S. Lewis would not be terribly happy about the marketizing neutralization of his specifically and obviously Christian stories, but I guess there is no way to know until we get to “somewhere in the stars where you and I belong” and then, we can ask him. The Polar Express Another example is The Polar Express. In it, the train conductor says, “The thing about trains… it doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on.” Later, the protagonist chants, “I believe. I believe. I believe.” According to the conductor, the direction, destination, source, or foundation of belief – I mean trains – is not important. So the boy just has to “believe.” Whatever he believes in is unimportant. As long as he decides to believe, that is what is important. Or how about Cinderella: “If you keep believing, the dreams you wish will come true.” Or even Kung Fu Panda: “Promise me, XiFu! Promise me you will believe!” Once you start to notice this sort of thing, the examples are really endless. “Value Extracts” are the moral backbone of almost all family films. Love very commonly operates as a value extract – without boundaries, without object, without foundation. The “power of love.” Courage, loyalty, and honesty also appear regularly, and without a foundation. Whatever the value, it must be presented in a nebulous enough way to receive any viewer’s particular definitions. Hollywood provides the empty wineskin, you provide the passing spirit. Barely even half-truths Value extracts are dangerous deceptions – barely even half-truths. Virtue does not exist without Christ. Nothing has intrinsic value apart from Him. Faith without an object is useless. Love without definition is as good as hate. Courage, loyalty, honesty, etc. are arbitrary without biblical boundaries. Good and evil do not exist without an absolute standard to distinguish them. To ascribe intrinsic or independent value to anything is to say, in effect, that things can have existence and goodness independent of God. Non-Christians wish this were the case because they want the fruit of Christianity without having to bow the knee to Christ. But Ecclesiastes makes it very clear: under the sun (i.e., excluding the heavens where God is), everything is intrinsically meaningless and vain. So, these seemingly safe family movies may appear to be harmless family fun, but they are actually denying the root of all meaningful existence – God and His Word. As such, most “family friendly” films are precarious, and should not be viewed passively. It is profitable to watch these movies, even with your children, only if you couch the movie-watching experience as an active sparring session… a module of worldview conflict training. Without this self-conscious predisposition to “guarding our hearts,” we will leave ourselves vulnerable to the onslaughts of vain speculation and worldly philosophy. Watching movies and engaging with the philosophy of our culture must never be a passive experience, for to allow it to be such would be to sit under the tutelage and in the friendly company of scoffers. We cannot be deceived, such an approach has corrupted and will continue to corrupt Christian morals. The enjoyment we receive from movies must be the sport of exercising our Biblical discernment, not the passive and passing pleasure of folly (thinking again like Prov. 10:23). So, next time you go to the movies, don’t leave your mind at the box office or your heart unguarded. Prepare yourself for the invigorating exercise of your discernment. Then, take the strength and understanding you gain from that exercise and use it to engage your culture for the kingdom of Christ! This article is reprinted with permission from the author, and was first posted to Movieology.tv a now defunct website that offered challenging and highly enlightening movie reviews, from a biblical, Reformed worldview. Michael Minkoff Jr. is the cofounder of The Nehemiah Foundation for Cultural Renewal and Renew the Arts (RenewTheArts.org)....

Theology

Infant Baptism and the unity of Scripture

Is infant baptism simply a Reformed peculiarity that ought to be jettisoned in the name of Biblical faithfulness and unity with fellow Christians? What are the grounds for infant baptism?! ***** Among the readership of this magazine, it’s standard fare that parents will have their infants baptized. However, around us are countless Christians who don’t think the Bible teaches infant baptism. Then when our younger and not so young members meet these other Christians, and end up talking about baptism, questions arise about whether the Lord actually wants the newborns of the congregation baptized. It might be pointed out that there is no text in the New Testament commanding the baptism of children. In fact, the New Testament does not even have examples of children actually being baptized! So our questions become bigger: is infant baptism simply a denominational peculiarity that ought to be jettisoned in the name of Biblical faithfulness and unity with fellow Christians? And if not, what are the grounds for infant baptism? Key question #1: Is there one Bible or two? It is true that the New Testament nowhere contains a text explicitly commanding the baptism of children. That there are no instances of children being baptized is debatable, but let’s set that aside for the moment. The key question that needs to be asked now is, why would we even expect the New Testament to have such a command? Funny comment, you say? Well, foundational to the whole discussion on infant baptism is whether the New Testament is the “real” Bible, a book to be read on its own, or is the New Testament to be read in the light of the Old Testament, with both testaments together making up the “real” Bible? In other words, is there continuity between the Old Testament and New, or discontinuity? Many Christian will, regularly, contrast the New Testament with the Old. The God of the Old Testament is said to be stern and demanding, while the God of the New Testament is loving and merciful. The God of the Old Testament insists on law, while the God of the New Testament gives His Son for our sins. In the Old Testament, He had a covenant rooted in blood, one made even with children, but in the New Testament, his promises are for those who believe in Him – something little children do not do. Another result of the contrast between Old and New is that markedly more sermons are preached in North America today from New Testament texts than from the Old Testament…even though the Old Testament numbers twice as many pages as the New Testament. Though the Old Testament remains in the Bibles circulating in our society, it’s the New Testament that ends up dog-eared and marked. And since the New Testament does not explicitly speak of infant baptism, this long-held practice of the church falls into disrepute. Is it indeed true, though, that the message of the Old Testament is somehow different from that of the New Testament? No. Consider the following passages:  Jesus says to the Jews: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me” (John 5:39). In this passage the phrase “the Scriptures” can only be a reference to the Old Testament since the New Testament was not yet written in the days of Jesus’ earthly sojourn. The topic of the Old Testament Scriptures, says Jesus, is none other than Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus’ teaching was not different from the teaching of the Old Testament, but was the instruction of the Old Testament made plain. After His resurrection from the dead, Jesus joined the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. In response to their disappointment at Jesus’ crucifixion and their confusion about the empty tomb, “He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself” (Luke 24:25-27). Jesus’ reference to “Moses and all the Prophets” is obviously the Old Testament Scriptures. According to Him, the message of the Old Testament is none other than that “the Christ had to suffer these things” – and the disciples should have known that. He went on to make plain to these disciples just how the Old Testament spoke of Jesus Christ. It does not go too far to insist that Jesus’ opening of the Old Testament to these two disciples trickled down to all the apostles and so colored the way the disciples later used the Old Testament in the sermons mentioned in the book of Acts and in the letters they wrote to the churches. So Peter in his Pentecost sermon quotes Psalm 16, where David said: “My body also will live in hope, because You will not abandon me to the grave….” Then Peter adds this explanation: “Seeing what was ahead, spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was not abandoned to the grave, nor did His body see decay” (Acts 2:26,27,31). Peter realized: the subject of the Old Testament is the same as the subject of the New Testament; both speak of Jesus Christ. (See also Acts 8:32-35.) The apostle to the Hebrews tells his readers that: “Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance – now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant” (Heb. 9:15). The apostle’s closing words in this quote are intriguing. The “sins committed under the first covenant” are the sins of the Old Testament dispensation, sins committed while the sacrificial system of the Mosaic Law was in effect. Yet how could those sins be forgiven? The apostle insists that it is Christ’s death that sets the Old Testament people free from their sins! How that’s so? That’s so because the sacrifices of the Mosaic Law foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. The blood of goats and calves did not by itself wash away Israel’s sins, but that blood directed the Old Testament sinner to focus on the coming sacrifice of the Lamb of God on Calvary. The point is this: the essential message of the Old Testament is identical to the essential message of the New Testament. Holy God has a relation with sinners in both the Old Testament dispensation as well as in the New Testament dispensation. This relation is possible in the Old as well as in the New Testament only because of the blood of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament looks forward to the Christ who will come (and by His coming sacrifice believing sinners were reconciled to God), while the New Testament looks back on the Christ who has come (and by His completed sacrifice believing sinners are reconciled to God). There is an essential continuity between these two Testaments on the subject of how God relates to sinners. Abraham and Moses and David and the rest of the Old Testament saints were Christians as much as Paul and Augustine and Calvin and the rest of the New Testament saints were and are Christians. Not new, so much as renewed Perhaps you will counter that the New Testament is surely called “new” for a reason. Did Jeremiah not prophesy of a “new covenant”? Indeed, he did. “‘The time is coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Judah…” (Jer. 31:31). As a result we read repeatedly in the “New” Testament of a “new covenant” (1 Cor. 11:25; Heb. 9:15). But the word “new” is not to be contrasted with “old” in the sense we use it to say our “new” car is a totally new machine from our “old” one. The same word that’s translated in Jeremiah 31 as “new” appears in Psalm 104:30 to describe springtime: “When You send your Spirit, …You renew the face of the earth.” The same word appears also in 2 Chronicles 24:4 to describe Joash’s plan “to restore the temple of the LORD.” Because of Israel’s hardness of heart in their service to God, the Lord promised through Jeremiah to make a “new covenant.” Yet this is not one that is essentially different from the covenant God made with their fathers when He took them out of Egypt, but one that reaches deeper into His people’s heart. For this time “I will put My law in their minds, and write in on their hearts. I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jer. 31:33). Note those closing words: this covenant is described with the same words as God used for His relation with Abraham and with Moses so long ago (Gen. 17:7; Ex. 20:2). It’s the same covenant – “I will be their God” – yet “new” in that it’s renewed, refreshed, deepened. Just one people I will, for just a moment longer, belabor this unity between the Old Testament and the New Testament because it is a most vital point. Writing to Christians of Rome, Paul claims that Abraham “is the father of all who believe” (Rom. 4:11) and the context makes clear that the word “all” refers to both the Jew (of the Old Testament) as well as the Gentile (of the New Testament dispensation). Paul adds, “Therefore, the promise comes by faith so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring – not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all” (Rom. 4:16). We need to understand his point here. The Christians of Rome had no Jewish blood in them and so were not children of Abraham by birth. Yet Paul insists that this foundational figure of the Old Testament was “the father of us all,” Jews and Romans alike. That is: Old Testament believers and New Testament believers have one father, Abraham. How are we to understand this? The apostle wants us to think of a tree. Because so many Jews rejected Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, God (says Paul) broke those fruitless branches off the tree of Abraham. But since God wanted His tree to bear fruit, He in mercy grafted new branches – Gentiles – into this same tree. These Gentiles then are as much children of Abraham as were their believing brethren of the Old Testament (see Rom. 11:17-24). There is, then, one tree-of-faith spanning both testaments, a single tree rooted in Abraham, sustained by faith in Jesus Christ, and bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit. This is why Paul can elsewhere say that “there is one body and one Spirit …, one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all” (Eph. 4:4-6). The faith of the Old Testament is not different from the faith of the New Testament, no more than the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament. There is a profound and essential unity (and hence continuity) between Old Testament and New. Key question #2: Short of an explicit command, why would we presume children would now be excluded? But how does this touch upon infant baptism? Like this: given the continuity between the Old Testament and the New, one must expect God’s pattern of dealing with sinners in the New Testament to be same as His pattern of dealing with them was in the Old Testament… unless God explicitly tells us of a change. In relation to the sign of the covenant (circumcision in the Old Testament) He has in fact plainly told us of a change for the New Testament dispensation. But there is no explicit instruction in the New Testament indicating that His inclusion of children in the covenant in the Old Testament is replaced by a different pattern in the New Testament. That is why I asked at the start whether we need an explicit command to baptize infants before we can adopt the practice. Insisting on such a command presumes that the New Testament is not built on the foundation of the Old Testament. It presumes that in the New Testament dispensation God’s covenant with sinners as it operated in the Old Testament was torn up and an entirely new manner of relating with sinners was developed for the New Testament dispensation. Yet that premise turns out to be false; on the subject of how God deals with sinners there is between Old Testament and New not discontinuity but essential continuity. Key question #3: How did God treat the children in the Old Covenant? Now let’s consider what place children had in the Old Testament and what that says about children in the New. Noah's family Today’s western society looks at persons primarily as individuals, and only secondarily as members of families. The Old Testament picture is different. In the days of Noah, God determined to destroy all mankind, but left one exception: “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8). Yet once the ark was complete, the Lord instructed not just the single righteous individual Noah to “go into the ark,” but his “whole family” was to join him (Gen. 7:1). The phrase “your whole family” included Noah’s wife, his three sons, and their wives (7:13). Please note: because of the righteousness of the one man, God had mercy on his entire family. That pattern jumps into its own in God’s covenant with Abraham. God told him, “I will establish My covenant as an everlasting covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you” (Gen. 17:7). God’s attention was not directed to the individual, but to the family represented in the person of Abraham. As a result, “on that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him” (Gen. 17:23). “Every male in his household” included “the 318 trained men born in his household” with whom Abraham pursued the four kings who had captured his nephew Lot (Gen. 14). That these 318 were also circumcised was, the text says, “as God told him” – and the point is that with His covenant with Abraham God’s goodness touched all those whom He entrusted into Abraham’s care. The point is that God does not work with isolated individuals, but works in families. Israel At Mt Sinai the Lord God renewed His covenant with Israel with these words, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Ex. 20:2). Yet what was the makeup of the people congregated at the foot of the mountain? Was the content of God’s word here valid only for the adults? Obviously not, for in this same conversation the Lord addressed specifically the children also; He told them in the fifth commandment to “honor your father and your mother” (vs 12). Here is the same point: God deals with His people in families! When the Lord repeated His covenant with Israel one final time before they crossed the Jordan to enter the Promised Land, He spoke these telling words, “Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do. All of you are standing today in the presence of the LORD your God – your leaders and chief men, your elders and officials, and all the other men of Israel, together with your children and your wives, and the aliens living in your camps who chop your wood and carry your water. You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with the LORD your God, a covenant the LORD is making with you this day and sealing with an oath, to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I am making this covenant, with its oath, not only with you who are standing here with us today in the presence of the LORD our God but also with those who are not here today” (Deut. 29:9-15). Notice that the children and the wives, and even the aliens in the camp, are included in the crowd of those with whom the Lord made His covenant. More, that covenant is made not only with those who were present “but also with those who are not here today.” That last phrase is not a reference to the mothers or children who stayed behind in the tent, for they were already included in the earlier reference to “your children and your wives.” That phrase is rather a reference to the children yet unborn, those of coming generations (see Acts 2:39). God relates to His people not as lone individuals but as families in untold generations. So, it is no surprise to hear the prophets speak about future generations. Isaiah quotes the Lord as saying: “My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever” (Is. 59:21). Ezekiel shares the perspective: “They will live in the land I gave to My servant Jacob, the land where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever” (Eze. 37:25). Key question #4: How does God treat children in the New Testament? Jesus’ response to His disciples is then predictable. When His disciples sought to hinder mothers’ efforts to bring their children to Him, Jesus was “indignant” – literally “livid” – and told His disciples, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14). What made Him so indignant? He was upset with His disciples because the Lord God had sent His Son into the world to “save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21), and “His people” includes – according to Old Testament pattern – the children of the covenant. The little ones whom the mothers were bringing to Jesus were not little Romans or little Moabites, but little Israelites, covenant children all. That’s the reason why Jesus “took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them” (Mark 10:16). If His Father’s reach in the Old Testament included the children in Israel, the Son’s reach was not allowed to be any less. ...for you and for your children... Peter’s words on the day of Pentecost are consistent with the picture that arises from the Old Testament. It was manifestly the adults of Jerusalem that demanded the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, and also the adults that recognized their guilt and asked the disciples what they had to do. Peter’s answer is instructive: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). But notice how Peter formulates his incentive to their repenting: for “the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call” (vs 39). What did the Jews understand by the word “promise”? Steeped as they were in Old Testament thinking, the reference to “the promise” that was for them and their children was plainly the content of God’s covenant with Israel: I will be your God. Notice that Peter does not limit the covenantal promise to the generation standing before him, nor to that generation plus their children at home, but he includes generations still unborn. The generation standing before him needs to repent on grounds that God has made His covenant with them, and needs to repent also on grounds that God has made His covenant with their children after them (including the unborn) – and so those children need God-fearing parents to teach them the Lord’s way. Here again is nothing of the individualism so rife in our modern western society, but instead a deep awareness that God relates to His people in the generations. Infant baptisms in the New Testament? If, then, the New Testament shows that children belong to God just as much as they did in the Old Testament – and there they were circumcised – and if there’s an essential unity and continuity between the Old Testament and the New, we would expect to find in the New Testament instances of infants being baptized just as Ishmael and Isaac were circumcised. Is such evidence available? We’re told it’s not. But consider the following: At the end of his visit with Cornelius, Peter asked, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized…?” Since there were no objections “he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:47-48). Who exactly made up the crowd that was baptized? The crowd is described in verse 24 as Cornelius himself and “his relatives and close friends.” Does this include children? At a minimum it certainly does not exclude children. In response to hearing the apostle’s preaching, Lydia came to faith. The Holy Spirit records the event as follows: “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home” (Acts 16:14-15). Notice the formulation: the Lord tells us of one believer and of multiple baptisms, all of them within her household. It’s the identical pattern as we discovered with Abraham. Were children baptized with Lydia? The text certainly does not exclude children. On the contrary, we may safely say that if Lydia had children in her household, they too were baptized. After the earthquake that shook the Philippian jail, the rattled jailer fell trembling before Paul and Silas to ask his desperate question: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Their answer: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household” (Acts 16:30-31). Notice how the faith of the one man touches his whole household. As a result, “he and all his family were baptized” (Acts 16:33). In our translation the passage adds that “he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole family” (vs. 34). But the Greek isn’t so explicit about “his whole family” having believed. The Greek very much places the onus on the jailer alone, and (as in vs. 31) the family benefits from his repentance. Were children baptized with the jailer? The passage allows for only one conclusion: if he had children, they most certainly were baptized too. We recognize in all these passages the Old Testament pattern of God dealing not with individuals but with families – and His approach to the family is determined by the spirituality of the family’s head. As a result, we certainly cannot insist that the New Testament knows nothing of infant baptism. This becomes all the clearer when we recognize that the terms rendered in the above passages as “household” or “family” appear elsewhere in Scripture with obvious inclusion of little children. Jacob laments that if the Canaanites attack “I and my household will be destroyed” (Gen. 34:30) – and he’s surely not suggesting that the enemy will spare the little ones in his tents, be they his own (grand)children or the offspring of his servants. Moses reminded Israel that the Lord “sent miraculous signs and wonders… upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household” (Deut. 6:22), and we understand well that the infants of Egypt were as discomfited by the plagues of frogs and lice and darkness as the older of the population. See further Gen. 7:1; 12:17; 18:19; 36:6; 50:7f; Ex. 1:1; Josh. 24:15 and so many more. The term “household” in Scripture certainly includes children. Finally, if the point is still raised that the New Testament only explicitly mentions adults being baptized, let the reader recall that the apostles were missionaries engaged in mission work. Even today infant baptism on a mission field is relatively uncommon on the simple ground that mission work is directed at adults. And when under God’s blessing the adults come to faith, the household is baptized. Conclusion The conclusion, then, is evident: though there is no explicit mention of an infant being baptized, the New Testament – in line with God’s Old Testament revelation – both knows and requires the baptism of little children. Rev. Clarence Bouwman is the Minister Emeritus for the Smithville Canadian Reformed Church....

Articles, Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Jerry Pinkney: Making the classics kinder

In addition to the dozens of books Jerry Pinkney (1939-2021) has illustrated for others, he has also retold a number of tales from Aesop’s Fables, Hans Christian Andersen, and Rudyard Kipling. While loyal to these classics, he always adds in his own spin, which is often kinder than the original. This gentler take comes out in his illustrations too, where his use of watercolor makes his pictures bright, but soft. He loved drawing animals with people’s facial quirks and often packed his pages with detail. What follows is a summary review of his most popular picture books. Recommended Rikki-Tikki-Tavi 1997 / 48 pages This is a gorgeous treatment of Rudyard Kipling’s classic tale. Rikki-Tikki-Tavi is a lost mongoose taken in by an English family in India. But he’s not simply a pet – mongooses are snake killers, and there are three snakes in the family garden that he has to fight, one by one. The story is scary in parts, but each fight is quickly told, which might make this a great book to introduce young readers to a bit of tension. Pinkney’s watercolor paintings add enormously to the story. The Ugly Duckling 1999 / 40 pages Everyone seems a little bit nicer (or maybe a little less mean) to the ugly duckling in Pinkney’s version, though he does still get picked on for looking so different from the other ducklings. It’s only when he discovers he is a swan, not a duck, that he finds his place in the world. The moral to this story is one that parents can shape to a degree: is it about finding the right peer group – one that will accept you for who you are – or is what’s important finding out who God intends you to be? Aesop’s Fables 2000 / 96 pages This is a fabulous collection of more than 60 of Aesop’s fables. Even if you aren’t familiar with the ancient Greek author Aesop, you’ve certainly heard at least a few of his fables, ones like The Ant and the Grasshopper, The Tortoise and the Hare, and The Lion and the Mouse. In this collection the stories are at their shortest, just half a page to maybe two, which means you can read a handful at a time to your children. There is a moral to each story, again, and while most of them are insightful and foster common sense, these are not inspired. We found some of them are disputable, or right in one situation and may be wrong in another. That makes them all the more fun to read together, because examining the moral spurs on the discussion. That might be a reason parents would want to read this one with their kids, and not simply hand it off to them. None of the morals taught are all that horrible, so it isn’t a dangerous book: just a limited one, that gets some things only partly right, which means, also partly wrong. The Little Red Hen 2006 / 32 pages A red hen asks her barnyard companions if any of them will help her plant, harvest, carry, or bake her grain, and the pig, dog, rat, and goat all answer in turn, “Not I!” So, when it comes to the eating of the bread, the hen decides that they won’t have any part in that either. This is a tale about justice, so it is worth reminding kids that we shouldn’t be so quick to deliver justice to others, as Jesus satisfied the just judgment coming our way so that we would instead receive mercy. Little Red Riding Hood 2007 / 40 pages I love the little details Pinkney adds: in this one, he offers a reason as to why the wolf didn’t just gobble Little Red Riding Hood when he first met her in the forest – “he heard the chop, chop of woodcutters working nearby.” The wolf then gets ahead of Little Red by suggesting she stop to collect some kindling for a fire to warm her grandmother. Parents can point out that while this might seem a nice idea, it’s actually disobeying Red’s mother, who told her to head straight there with no delay. I was surprised when not only grandma but Red herself gets swallowed up. But, of course, the woodcutter does come to the rescue. The Lion and the Mouse 2009 / 40 pages When a tiny mouse disturbs the rest of the King of the Beasts, the King seems intent on having a quick snack. But instead, after some back and forth with the tiny petitioner, the lion lets the mouse go. Why? Readers already familiar with this Aesop Tale will remember that the mouse has pledged to help the king if ever he is in trouble. But in Pinkney’s almost entirely wordless version – there are only a few squeaks, one owl screech, and a lion’s roar – it isn’t as clear. But no worries, we can follow along well enough. Then when hunters trap the mighty lion in a net, it is the mouse that comes to the rescue, chewing through the rope to set the lion free. The moral of the story? Even the strongest will need help. Three Little Kittens 2010 / 40 pages Three little kittens lose their mittens, and consequently, lose their chance to eat their mother’s pie. Pinkney has extended but only lightly altered this classic tale, and paired it with page after page of adorable kitty pictures that any child will love to look at. The Tortoise and the Hare 2013 / 40 pages In this nearly wordless retelling (just 27 in all) we get treated to a double-page spread of the hare stretched out galloping with everything he’s got. In some versions of the story, the rabbit succumbs to ego and flattery, falling behind when he does stunts to impress the fans (particularly the girl fans) but Pinkney gives him a less obnoxious flaw, distracting him instead with a plump lettuce garden, where he overindulges and falls asleep. And that’s when the slow but steady turtle can make his move. The story concludes with the hare being a good sport and celebrating the turtle’s victory. The Grasshopper & the Ants 2015 / 40 pages In this version the grasshopper is a one-man band, singing his encouragements to the ants to forgo their work for play. Of course, when winter comes, we see the (unstated) moral to the story play out: that we should not put off until tomorrow what we can do today. But Pinkney’s ending, with the ants offering the grasshopper a place to winter, leaves us wondering if the grasshopper learned that lesson. Three Billy Goats Gruff 2017 / 40 pages This is the best version of this classic tale you will find, with wonderful artwork paired with an updated and improved version of the story. The three goats come, one by one, the smallest first, to cross a bridge to get to some delicious grassland. A troll pops up to devour the first goat, but this little one promises that his bigger, tastier brother is coming, and the troll should really wait for him. When the second comes, he says the same about his even bigger brother, and the troll lets him pass too. But when the biggest Billy Goat Gruff comes, he knocks the troll right off the bridge. That’s usually the end of the story, but Pinkney has the troll land in a river where a giant fish tries to devour him! After his narrow escape, the question is, has the troll learned his lesson? This is a story parents could maybe use to talk about bullying, but they would have to note that even though the troll got what he deserved here, that doesn’t mean we have to do to others as they were going to do to us. Take it or leave it Noah’s Ark 2002 / 40 pages I’m leery of biblical adaptations in large part because those that do them are often casual about how closely their summaries line up with what the Bible says, and the visual dimension will add details that weren’t in the biblical text. However, Pinkney is quite careful, with his most notable departure the omission that, in addition to the pairs of creatures two by two, seven of each clean animals were also taken (or, likely, seven pairs of each clean animal – Gen. 7:2-3). Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star 2011 / 30 pages A chipmunk stars in this retelling of the classic bedtime nursery rhyme, and early on he is finding “little stars” everywhere, from a dandelion fluff floating in the sky, to water droplets glistening on a spider’s web. But then, suddenly, he’s in a boat sailing to the moon. Clearly, he must be dreaming here, but the transition from the waking world is abrupt and I think most children (and many an adult) will be mystified as to what just happened. Don't bother The Little Match Girl 1999 / 32 pages I have to say I’ve never liked the original version of this Hans Christian Andersen tale, and nothing has changed with Jerry Pinkney's update. It is well done, but such a sad tale. And while it is important for adults to know of the needy, I don’t know that I have to confront my Grade 1 child with these difficulties. The Nightingale 2002 / 40 pages An African adaptation of an odd and lesser-known Hans Christian Andersen tale. It features death as a creepy character which is why I’m content to have it remain a lesser-known tale. Puss in Boots 2012 / 40 pages A beautiful version of a less than heroic tale about a clever but deceitful cat who tricks everyone into believing his master is a Count. The Little Mermaid 2020 / 48 pages In his version, the Little Mermaid doesn’t fall in love at first sight, doesn’t give up her life underwater for a man who doesn’t even know she exists, and doesn’t trade her tail for legs that constantly feel like she’s walking on blades. So, an improvement on the original? Maybe. But Pinkney’s version has a witch that looks like Satan himself, all red and horned, and a tack-on “girl-power” ending with the Little Mermaid suddenly able to beat all the bad guys all by herself for reasons that remain elusive. There’s no reason to get this one. Conclusion In the many articles prompted by Pinkney’s passing late last year, mention was made of how this prolific author struggled with reading in his youth. It was only decades later that he discovered he had dyslexia. Pinkney credited his parents’ positive outlook with enabling him to persist, and while he had struggles in one area, he found out that he was gifted in another: right from the start, he had a talent for art. These obituaries also spoke of his advocacy for African Americans. He grew up in a tumultuous time. He was almost the same age as Emmett Till, a young black boy who was famously murdered for simply flirting with a white woman. It wasn’t until Pinkney started having children himself that black children started being depicted in picture books. He’s made a point of including them frequently in his own work – for example, he has a black Red Riding Hood – though the inclusion is done naturally, without any particular note made. Even his advocacy is gentle. What never seemed to be mentioned was anything about Pinkney’s relationship with his Maker. The closest was a passing reference to his wife being a minister, which would have us suspect he was a liberal Christian. If so, his love for the old classics seems to have kept him from pushing any such liberalism in his books. He is an author that Christian parents will love to share with their little ones, particularly because he so often put a new spin on familiar fare....

News

Saturday Selections - March 5, 2022

Bach on a flaming organ (2 min) If you're wondering why someone would make an organ that shoots fire, then this isn't for you. For the rest of us, enjoy the awesomeness! You are a marvel! Do you know just how amazing it is that you can walk and carry a cup of coffee at the same time...and without even thinking about it? A magic fix for family life: dinner together A secular take, that Christians can appreciate: "It's more than just a nice idea. University research shows that the family that eats together stays together." Ukraine, Surrogacy, Environmentalism, and being made in the Image of God A pair of articles on Ukraine, the first about a problem that may have exacerbated the invasion – an environmental anti-nuclear push that has left European countries dependent on natural gas from, and consequently reluctant to act against, Russia. And the second highlights the horrors of Ukraine's surrogacy marketplace, worsened yet by this war. The common thread? Both are about what happens when we don't value people as Image-bearers of God. How Canada's mainstream media is beholden to the government As Christian Heritage Party leader Rod Taylor recently noted, if we want to know what's going on in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we're not going to turn to the Russian media. So why would we rely on the mainstream Canadian media – beholden to the federal government by the millions – to objectively report on happenings like the Trucker's Convey, or the government's Covid response? Subsidizing industries is not an unusual act in Canada, but subsidizing our media is to put a leash on what is supposed to be the citizenry's watchdog. Russian pastors asked to protest (10 min read) In Russia, to protest the war – to even call it a war – is to risk imprisonment for years. But that's what Christians in Ukraine are asking Russian Christians to do. Should we panic about overpopulation? (6 min) The facts have always been against this overpopulation panics, but only Christians were equipped to see through this from the start. How so? We knew that children were a blessing (Prov. 17:6, Ps. 127:3-5, etc) and shouldn't be viewed as a curse – they come with not just mouths to feed, but hands to work, and brains to create. So, studying God's Word, we could know that overpopulation was a panic that, no matter what the news was saying then or now, would eventually be shown to be nothing by hype and hysteria. ...

Magazine, Past Issue

Jan/Feb/Mar 2022 issue

WHAT’S INSIDE: Beyond judging a movie by its poster / Second-hand Scriptures: the case against biblical dramas / The pitch meeting for Redeeming Love / Here's the problem with just closing your eyes during the sex scenes / RP welcomes new Executive Director and Administrator / Fading to black: Alternatives to screen time / The best films you haven't seen / and more... Click the cover to view in your browser or click here to download the PDF (3.8 mb) ...

Pro-life - Abortion

A pro-life push back against the darkness

The Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical Reform’s internship program is preparing young people to speak up for the unborn ***** Sometimes I stand on my porch before bed and take in the sight of a thousand city lights twinkling against the night sky, and I’m struck by the overwhelming number of people outside my door who are living in darkness. People who are trapped by lies - lies about who they are and who God is and what is right and wrong. Lies that bring about death for nearly three hundred babies every day in our country.  I think about how our culture celebrates the dismembering and decapitating of God’s tiniest image-bearers by euphemizing abortion with terms like “healthcare” and “clumps of cells,” and how our hospitals have become centers for killing instead of saving.  During such moments, I’m reminded of the reason I came here in the first place.  Common cause I first moved to Mississauga three years ago to do a summer internship with the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR), an educational pro-life organization working to make abortion unthinkable. My internship with CCBR were the best months of my twenty-three years. Some days were sweltering hot and we got $1 ice cream cones at McDonald’s during our breaks, other days we shivered in the rain and laughed at the colorful ponchos some of us wore to stay dry. Every day, we saw people change their minds on abortion through our outreach projects. That summer changed my life, and this year will be the fourth internship I’ve been part of, now as a full-time staff member at CCBR. I’m still here because babies are still being killed, and minds need to keep being changed in order to save lives.  Hitting the streets four days a week to reach the people of the Toronto area with the truth about abortion is challenging work, but there is nothing else like it. You get so close to people when you are fighting darkness together, and you grow so much when you are pushed out of your comfort zone. Best of all, there is the indescribable joy of hearing stories of children who are alive today because of this work. A quiet crisis Isn’t it strange how we so easily forget about the darkness all around us? Death is celebrated, tiny heartbeats are stopped, skulls are crushed. Meanwhile, we go to school and church and family get-togethers and almost never have to think about abortion. When I look across the city I live in and am reminded of the depth of evil in our country, it is easier to turn around and walk back into my cozy house and ignore it. But I must not, and I beg you not to either. Babies are being killed in our cities, and we have the ability to take meaningful action to stop this bloodshed. One of my favorite Tolkien quotes is from The Lord of the Rings: “I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” There is much to be done. Jesus commands us to be salt and light in this hurting world. Let us not grow weary in doing good. Let us be willing to sacrifice much to rescue these children from death. Let us be bold in truth and unwavering in love, knowing that our labor is not in vain. Let us work and pray, pushing back the darkness and eagerly awaiting the day when Christ returns to bring about perfect justice! Miranda King works for the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, a dynamic pro-life group working to end the ongoing slaughter of 300 unborn Canadian children that happens every day in our country. And they are offering a unique Summer Job opportunity, to come help them in this fight. You can learn more about this paid position at www.endthekilling.ca/internships. Deadline to apply is March 15th. (Picture courtesy of CCBR)...

Parenting

Is Cleanliness next to Godliness?

My goal is to have every room of my house neat and clean at the same time. But I do not believe that “cleanliness is next to godliness,” although it is one of its outworkings. When John Wesley mentioned that famous line in his sermon, he was encouraging people to remember to bathe and to wash their clothing before they came to worship the Lord on Sundays. Well, that’s a standard I can easily maintain. I think women are constantly looking for balance in our housekeeping. As Shirley Conran notes in her book Superwoman: “Housework expands to however much time you have to do it, plus fifteen minutes.” And I have often quipped, “All of life is maintenance.” Indeed, it often seems that if we’re not maintaining clothing, houses, children, ourselves, our garden, or our car, we are maintaining our school, our church or our relationships. Much is done with joy, and some is done from duty, but at times it comes from embarrassment or false guilt. That's why I have a sign in my kitchen that states: “A house should be clean enough to be healthy, and messy enough to be happy.” But who decides what is “enough?” No extra time One would think that with all of our time-saving devices, that a homemaker’s job would be much easier than it used to be… and to some extent it is. But some historians have suggested that vacuum cleaners and washing machines did not diminish our “time spent” on household chores. Rather, the standards of cleanliness increased so that frequency replaced difficulty in these chores. For example, instead of carrying a rug outside to beat it twice a year, and living with a bit of dirt in-between, one could just vacuum it. Since vacuuming was so much easier, it was possible to keep the rug looking perfect all the time by simply vacuuming every single day! Instead of washing once a week, the washer made it easy and possible to do more loads more often. Soon the idea of wearing a garment more than a day or two became loathsome. Instead of having a standard of “fairly clean,” we moved up to a standard of “perfection” wherein any deviation from the best became cause for embarrassment. Cleanliness is important, of course. Keeping the level of germs down in one’s bathroom and kitchen can generally lead to better health. But we need to be careful that we don’t get caught up in the cycle of pride, embarrassment and frenzy that causes homemakers to worry constantly about what others are going to think about our level of housekeeping. For most women, receiving visitors is “report card time.” There is a tendency to fear failure, sometimes accompanied by anger at those who mess up “our” household. It’s as though someone scribbled on our research paper on the day that it was due. There is also a tendency to become so occupied with one’s household maintenance that more important things in life get by-passed. I read about some missionaries who took their usual habits of cleanliness to Africa when they served there. The local Christians were appalled at the amount of time these westerners spent caring for their material possessions – why, it seemed that they treated them like idols! The missionaries were always washing their belongings and their vehicles, and it was quite a concern to the church members. They were concerned that all of this caretaking might eat into the many hours that should be spent in fellowship, in Bible study, and in visiting the sick and reaching out to others with the gospel. What about Mary and Martha, anyway? Maybe the Apostle Paul’s words “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6) apply to over-maintenance as well! Balance On the one hand I think we need to cut each other a break and not judge anyone else’s housekeeping. After all, we’re not visiting the house, we’re visiting the people. And we need to cut ourselves a break by realizing that, as Conran says, “The real purpose of maintaining a home is to provide a pleasant environment for living – so live!” And here’s where the balance comes in. A house isn’t supposed to look like a magazine ad, but it would be best if everyone didn’t trip over piles of stuff. You need never apologize for a project-related mess that you or your children are in the midst of creating, but keeping materials orderly in between projects will prevent wasted time and frustration from searching for them later. Good stewardship includes taking care of our possessions. But either extreme can result in our being weighed down by our material possessions and being less useful to God’s kingdom. If possessions become a weight, either way, that hold us back from the activities that God is most pleased with, then it is worth reconsidering how much time we spend on our “maintenance” and why. As we ponder what is “enough,” we might analyze how much of our cleanliness is godliness....

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....

News

Saturday Selections - February 26, 2022

When the Premier of Alberta was also a radio evangelist (2 min) Today, Christians seem to have agreed with the world that God has no place in politics. We treat Him like the villain of the Harry Potter books – His is the name that shall not be named. But as Dr. Michael Wagner shares here, there was a time when everyone thought very differently, such that Alberta's premier would spend his weekends proclaiming God's gospel on the radio, doing so for more than 30 years. Richer than the richest person of 100 years ago Every billionaire of 100 years ago would be jealous to have things we take for granted. This is a secular article, so it doesn't really have a moral to its story, so let's add one: why then do people covet just as much as ever? Because covetousness isn't motivated by need, but by ingratitude for what we have already been given. Renewal movement in the CRC stands against LGBT theology This ten-minute read gives a history of the Christian Reformed Churches' witness when it comes to sexuality. The one side, pushing for change (under the premise that God's Word is unclear here, and the current practices unloving), is being met by a revival movement that recognizes the Church can't help homosexuals and others by encouraging them to continue in their sin. This is an encouraging read! The failure of Canada's Parliament "The basic issue here is not political; it is theological.... Our governing elites no longer believe in God. They recognize no limits to their power because they believe they are the source of political authority. They are unfit to govern. A society that no longer believes in God cannot remain a liberal democracy for long." The mass grave that may or may not be? This is shared in the spirit of Prov. 18:17, highlighting that the mass grave of residential school Native students found last summer in Kamloops may or may not be a mass grave after all. The emphasis here should be on might - it is uncertain either way – and should it not be, that doesn't clear residential schools of wrong. But it does serve as a caution, once again, that media reports presenting the "facts" are very often too certain by half. News worth celebrating While recent headlines might have all of us concerned, Jonathon Van Maren is sharing news worth celebrating: abortions are down by 60% in Texas, and Malta is resisting efforts to make it legalize abortion. Pandemic silver lining - less kids in gov't schools (3 min) Homeschooling in the US may have increased 4-fold since the beginning of the pandemic. While that's a number to take with a grain of salt (other attempts at measuring the homeschooling increase have given other numbers), with government schools focusing ever more on opposing God's truth on equality, sex, gender, and just generally God's sovereignty over every square inch of creation, that's a welcome trend.  ...

Assorted

Fraud and Truth

Fraud is defined as wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain. And insurance fraud is a deliberate deception perpetrated against or by an insurance company or agent for the purpose of financial gain. When my husband was still in practice as a veterinarian, he was often asked to sign death certificates for farmers – certificates which would assure an insurance company that the claim the farmer was making on the death of a cattle beast by lightning was authentic. There were a number of occasions, however, when he could not in good conscience sign that form for a hopeful farmer as there had been no thunder storms or lightning in the area and as it was obvious that something else had killed the animal. Should’ve been mortified In 2005 an English man by the name of Anthony McErlean – a trustworthy, bespectacled, older-looking gentleman – impersonated his wife and handed in his own death insurance claim to an insurance company. The claim stated that he had died after being struck by a cabbage truck while traveling in Honduras. The life insurance payout was a whopping 520,000 pounds. It was a lot of money and, sniffing a hint of fraud, the insurance company checked out the circumstances with the police. Strangely enough, the police found Anthony's fingerprints all over his own death certificate suggesting that Anthony McErlean had filled in the form after he had died. This was, of course, an impossibility. Found out, charged with fraud, the man was sentenced to six years in prison. Anthony's wife, who was obviously not acquainted with Exodus 23:1 – “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness” – was also sentenced. Fraud started early There are numerous frauds recorded in history. All of them are the result of our forebears, Adam and Eve, who literally “fell” for the lines which the greatest fraudster of all had fed them. Those lines are recorded in Genesis and read: "Has God really said?" and "You will not surely die." The repercussions of their fall into sin resound throughout the ages. Remember, for example: "Jacob said to his father, ‘I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.’” – Gen 27:19 “... and the worthless men brought a charge against Naboth.” – 1 Kings 21:13 “... a man named Ananias with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property.” – Acts 5:1 The refrain of dishonest gain played (and plays) on. Murderous fraud During the 1780s, it is estimated that some 300,000 slaves were exported from Africa and carried away into captivity by slavers. In 1664, the British captured and took Cape Coast Castle in Ghana. Throughout the 1700s construction on this castle was continuous. Bricks and tiles from England were imported. Rebuilding the large structure, they used it ignominiously. The castle grew in size. It grew because the slave trade grew – a trade that constituted 90% of business on the Gold Coast. A slave outpost, Cape Coast Castle boasted large underground dungeons which had little ventilation and no windows. Throughout the years of this immoral trade, it played the wicked host to about a thousand prisoners at a time. Vast numbers of enslaved Africans who entered the structure through a door dubbed "Door of no Return,” were brought to this fortification prior to being sold into bondage. In the summer of 1781, a British slave ship left Ghana after herding out 442 slaves from the dungeons of Cape Coast Castle. The vessel, captained by a Luke Collingwood and named Zong, was excessively overloaded. Its human cargo was stuffed tightly into a five-foot-high hold like the proverbial sardines in a can. There was also a ledge along the edge of the hold and it served to store more people even as books are stored on a shelf. On this journey, the Zong's hold was what was described as a “tight pack,” which meant that as many people were crammed together as the space could possibly contain. Moreover, these captured people were chained together. They could not leave to go to a toilet, but day after long day had to lie in their own excrement. Conditions were ripe for illness and death. If one slave died, he was often not removed immediately, and the chained body could remain in his stilted position for hours and hours between two live people. The area was dark, the air was stale and the smell putrid. There was a ship's doctor, a man who stood to receive bonus payment depending on how many slaves stayed alive. Bound for Jamaica the Zong, due to a navigational error, spent three extra weeks at sea, much longer than anticipated. The usual six to eleven weeks trip morphed into twelve and thirteen weeks. Consequently, the water supply dwindled. It was now November. Sickness in the fold had begun, malnutrition, filth and sadness causing the subjugated to weaken day after day. Wanting to do something to hedge his bets on delivering healthy freightage, Captain Collingwood jettisoned some of the cargo. You might remember the story of Paul as he was on a ship that was troubled by storm and recall that some of the cargo on that ship was thrown overboard to lighten the load. However, the cargo on board the Zong was not tackle or some other material commodity; no, the cargo jettisoned on board the Zong consisted of human beings. In light of the fact that these humans had been insured, Captain Colllingwood had 132 sick slaves thrown into the Atlantic. If they had died on board, the crew would not be able to claim any insurance money. When the Zong finally arrived in Black River, Jamaica, the ship's owner, a fellow by the name of James Gregson, filled out an insurance claim fraudulently asserting that money for the loss of the slaves was due. The abolitionists of the day used this horrendous death claim to focus public attention on the plight of the slaves. The case went to court. In 1783, the crew of the Zong was tried. The case was heard, however, as an insurance dispute rather than as a murder trial. The question was not, “Can the murder of 132 slaves go unpunished?” but rather “Can the cargo be covered by the insurance company?" The publicity surrounding this trial caused the King's Bench, (the highest court in Britain), to call for a second trial. Although the abolitionists sought to have criminal charges brought against the captain and the crew, this was refused by the British Solicitor General, John Lee. He is quoted to have said: "What is this claim that human people have been thrown overboard? This is a case of chattels or goods. Blacks are goods and property; it is madness to accuse these well-serving honorable men of murder.... The case is the same as if wood had been thrown overboard." Conclusion The fraud in the Zong case seems to be fraud at its extreme. It makes you gag and throw up your hands at the absurdity and wickedness of the whole story, at the depths of the depravity of the human heart. Fraud, again, is defined as wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain. There was another court case once: it was one that took place in Jerusalem; it was one of the greatest criminal deceptions of all time; it was one thought by the abusers to be a personal victory; and it was one that determined our eternal fate. When Jesus was convicted as a common criminal, Satan rejoiced and his minions with him. The strange thing is that this most fraudulent court case ever recorded in the annals of mankind worked for good; the strange thing is that those who believe that this fraud was foretold and that it came to pass because God willed it are blessed; and the strange thing is that those who thank God for this fraud are saved....

Culture Clashes, News

Bakery skirmish won, but bigger battle still needs to be fought

In 2014, British LGBT activist Gareth Lee ordered a cake from a Belfast bakery, requesting a picture of Sesame Street characters Ernie and Bert, and the slogan “Support Gay Marriage.” His order was taken and the cake paid for, but a few days later Ashers Bakery called him to explain they couldn’t make the cake because of the slogan, and that his money would be refunded. He took them to court for discrimination, and won initially before losing in UK’s Supreme Court, which said it was the message and not the man, that was at issue, and Ashers Bakery had the right not to create messages they disagreed with. Lee then took the case to the European Court of Human Rights, but in January the bakers won again, though on a technicality that leaves the door open for Lee to file further appeals. So it’s good news, for now. Also good was the support the bakery got from an unexpected source. Another LGBT activist, Peter Tatchell, pointed out that: "If the judgement had gone the other way, a gay baker could have been forced by law to accede to requests to decorate cakes with messages opposing LGBT+ equality.” Though he might not know it, what Tatchell is riffing off here is Jesus speaking in Matthew 7:1-2 where He warns against judging others by standards we wouldn’t want applied to ourselves. That might even be the message a Christian should get cake-printed from the nearest gay bakery: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” But there’s more than just irony here. A prominent UK conservative Christian group, the Evangelical Alliance celebrated that the bakery owners, Amy and Daniel McArthur, have had their “human rights… affirmed.” Their director said “this case was about freedom of conscience, speech and belief, and whether someone could be forced to create a message they profoundly disagreed with.” It is all that – this was about the right to not be compelled to lie. But we can’t forget, there is still more. What wasn’t highlighted, and really needed to be, was how this affirmed the McArthurs’ right not to harm others. In emphasizing the free speech aspect, what was been lost is the offensive gospel part: that homosexuality is a sinful lifestyle that separates someone from their Savior, which is devastating because apart from Him we will be damned to hell. That’s why Christians don’t want to promote gay marriage: because we don’t want to harm Gareth Lee or any other homosexuals! Closer to home, that same message was largely lost in Canada’s Bill C-4 conversion therapy ban debate, which was also fought as a general free speech battle, rather than Christians defending the freedom homosexuals should have to get the help they need which is found in God’s Word. Free speech is the far easier front to defend – even a gay activist may well, in his own self-interest, defend Christians’ right to free speech. But what only we can defend, what only we will speak, is God’s Truth that gay marriage is harmful, and that homosexuals need to repent and turn to their Creator. That’s a message that needs to be heard more often, and more clearly. But that’s also a message that’ll require more courage....

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. ...

News

Saturday Selections – Feb. 19, 2022

Kinsey - the man behind perverted sex-ed The biggest bit of propaganda Kinsey passed along? That chastity was basically impossible. Thus sex-ed programs teach "safer sex" rather than actual safe sex – ie. sex only between a committed husband and wife – presuming that kids are akin to beasts in heat who couldn't possibly control their urges. God, in forbidding adultery (Ex. 20:14), presumes something very different. A case for shorter hymnals John Ahern argues for limited hymns. His main point? We can only sing songs well if we actually know them. Why Postmodernism promotes Big Government In this short yet provocative piece, J.P. Moreland offers an explanation for why the godless want government to get bigger and bigger. A how-to for combatting the lie of "deep time" Dinosaur soft tissue used to be inconceivable. Now it is incontrovertible. Our polygamous past This is quite a good practical case against polygamy: men with many wives leave other men without the ties that bind. Then, without families to concern them, these men often cause trouble. It's such a good argument that Christians might be tempted to base their arguments against polygamy on this line of reasoning. But a practical case against can be answered with practical solutions. For example: mayhaps we need to encourage women to take more than one husband so as to even things out. Now our "too many unconnected men" problem is solved...but not in any sort of fashion we were intending. Thus, when we defend God's truth – that "a man should leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh" (Eph. 5:31) – we need to defend it as God's truth. It's only once we have established that as our foundation, that we can then stack arguments like this "practical case" against polygamy on top. While practical objections can't stand on their own, they can stand when supported. Practical problems do come with disobeying God. But will the world listen to us if we talk to them about God? It doesn't seem likely. But is our goal to get pagans to act like Christians? Or do we want them to be Christians? One thing we can be quite certain of: if we are too ashamed to talk about God, we won't be used by God to bring people to Him. Do we want the Bible back in public schools? Gary DeMar explains the problem with that sort of partial victory... ...

Pro-life - Adoption

The Christian case for adoption

While not every Christian is called to do every thing¹, the biblical case for at least considering adoption is as succinct as it is unassailable: We should be grateful for our own adoption – we are all adopted² We are called to do to others as we would want done to us³ ¹ 1 Cor. 12:4-31 ² Rom. 8:15-23, Eph. 1:3-5, Gal. 3:26-4:7, etc. ³ Luke 6:31, Matt. 7:12...

Articles, Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

David Wiesner: weird and wonderful

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

Articles, Movie Reviews

Second-hand Scriptures: a case against biblical dramas

The “telephone game” goes by many different names but it’s always played the same way. A number of children sit in a circle and the “operator” starts things off by whispering some phrase or sentence to his neighbor. The neighbor then whispers the message to the next child, trying to pass it on as accurately as she can. By the time the message makes its way around the circle to the very last child it will bear little resemblance to the original: “I’ve got a pair of red pants” somehow turns into “Ivy’s got a pail of dead ants!” It’s good silly fun but the game also shows how easily information can become corrupted by being relayed Biblically-based movies face this same problem. It’s simply inevitable that the message we see on the screen won’t be the same as the one we find in the Bible – each step along the way, as it passes from Scripture to screenwriter this is an opportunity for corruptions to intrude, whether accidentally, or by deliberate choices. While writing about biblical stage productions, Rev. John van Popta, highlighted the problem they share with biblical movies: The data in the Bible is usually not enough to fill out the dialogue. .…a drama based on the Bible, will have a script which includes all kinds of extra material, actions and characters, as well as inaccuracies and misrepresentations. Consider also that a great deal of what we say is communicated by our body language. God chose not to use this medium, relying instead on the written word. So all the choices made by the director and actors in how they sit, stand, and interact – will they have Jesus stand boldly, with hands on his hips, or meekly seated, staring down at the ground? – are going to be extra-biblical additions that depart from the text. The Passion of the Christ The changes can be subtle and yet significant. Consider The Passion of the Christ, likely the biggest Christian film of all time. At the time it came out Christine Farenhorst noted how the film obscured that    “…the greatest torment that Christ experienced on the cross was not caused by the nails driven into His flesh, but in His being made ‘sin for us’ and vicariously suffering the righteous punishment of the Father in our place. Even the worst physical torments inflicted by the Sanhedrin and the Romans upon Jesus were nothing by comparison to the anguish of having the sins of all the elect imputed to Him and making full satisfaction for them. Satisfying the justice of the Romans on a cross was comparatively easy. Thousands of condemned men and women, including Spartacus and several of the Apostles did that. But only Christ could satisfy the justice of God.” The Chosen In the recent The Chosen TV series, women end up in more prominent roles than they have in the Scriptures, with the most notable being the healing of the paralyzed man of Luke 5:17-25. It was men that arranged for their friend to be lowered through the ceiling to be healed by Jesus. In this series the writers have inserted two women, Tamar and Mary Magdalene, and credited the idea to them. Why this rewrite? The spirit of our age says that women derive their value, not from being made in the Image of God, but by doing and being able to do whatever men can do. This seems in keeping with that spirit. It's also worth noting that in focusing more on the disciples and followers, The Chosen has made Jesus less central, and more of a supportive character. VeggieTales The changes can also be glaring. When the folks at Big Idea Productions decided to do a version of the Fall of Jericho using animated talking vegetables – a "VeggieTale" – the Israelites in their story grumbled that they felt too silly to march around the walls of the city. But in Joshua 6:1-21 we read that this is one of the only times Israel didn’t complain or question God. Big Idea’s Josh and the Big Wall is a video made by sincere Christians, for other Christians, that Christian children are likely to watch again and again, and yet this video departs sharply from the Scripture it claims to portray. In other VeggieTale biblical epics, the alterations are more understandable, though no less problematic. Their account of Daniel in the lions’ den had this prophet emerges unscathed, and the men who plotted against him run away. In reality, these men were thrown into the den, and, “before they reached the floor of the den the lions overpowered them and crushed their bones” (Dan 6:24). Not only were these plotters punished in this startling fashion, even their wives and children were consumed by the lions. In a cartoon intended for kids it might seem sensible to make this G-rated substitution for what would otherwise be an R-rated event. But that the real events would be unsuitable for a children’s cartoon isn’t a reason to recast reality in a “nicer” light – it’s a reason not to make a cartoon about that reality. And this isn’t the only time VeggieTales has felt free to insert a “nicer” endings to a biblical tale. In Esther, the Girl Who Became Queen, Haman plots against the Jews but