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Four days in the life of Albert Tenfold

What you'll find below is a Reformed Perspective tradition that started back in the winter of 1991 – 31 years ago! Each year since then, at year's end, and just in time for Christmas holiday reading, Christine Farenhorst has gifted us with a longer short story, and what follows below is her latest edition. We've also included links to reviews we've done for seven of Christine's books, so that when you're finished, you'll know where to go to find even more of Christine's stories. “I’m going out tonight” "Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have..." Albert always felt slightly uncomfortable reading this passage. He ran his hand over the thin paper of his Bible page and cleared his throat. "What's the matter? Do you have a sore throat?" "No, mother." His mother sat across from him, regal and straight, in the red, high-backed plush chair that had been his stepfather's. She peered at him through her bifocals. "Shouldn't let your thoughts wander, Albert." He cleared his throat again and continued to read. "...should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband." His mother's voice picked up where he had left off. They took turns reading two verses each after meals. He regarded her for a moment as she read, ring-fingered hands resting in her lap. It was one of the few moments he could observe her without her knowledge. Her rather coarse face had an equally coarse voice. Loud it was, and monotonous to the point of dull. She hadn't gone to school here, so perhaps the English.... But then, come to think of it, when she read in Dutch there was no inflection either. The voice was always flat and without feeling. Her gray, rheumy eyes suddenly met his. "Albert, where are your thoughts tonight? Verse five, child." He found the place and read on. "Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent...." As he read, his thoughts smoothed out, smoothed out ridges which he occasionally tripped over and when he later breathed the words: "for it is better to marry than to burn with passion...," he was able to keep his mind on Paul without focusing on the lack of passion in his own life – a passion he occasionally desired. **** Before Albert cleared the table, he helped his mother to the couch. "Do you want the paper? Or shall I turn on the television for you?' She shook her head to both questions. "I'm a bit tired, son. I think I'll have a small nap while you do the dishes. In that way I'll be fresh for Scrabble when Mrs. Dorman comes later. Be sure to set out the cups for tea and the cookies..." He stopped the avalanche of words with "I know, mother. I know." There was a certain resignation in his voice as he pulled the afghan over her body but a thin thread of irritation unraveled in his hands and a sudden clumsiness overtook them. **** Christine serves up biographies of six very different men: Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Schweitzer, Rembrandt, Samuel Morse, Freud, Norman Rockwell. Click the cover for our review. In the kitchen Paul's words swam about as Albert placed the dishes in the sink. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion..." Had Paul known more about passion than he did? Had Paul been married? Had he taken a wife with him on his missionary journeys? Or a mother? If Paul had had his mother... He suddenly grinned at the suds but then became serious. What did he, Albert, know about marriage anyway? His expertise lay in being single. He scrubbed at the potato pan with vigor and frustration. The small kitchen surrounded him with apathy. There was nothing new. Coffee mugs hung on a small rack in the same way that they had hung for years and years. A birthday calendar, with numerous Dutch aunts and uncles enshrined on separate dates, hung beside it. The white refrigerator stood squarely and the patterned tiles on the floor reflected cleanliness and care. The wooden plaque on the wall spoke to him in Peter's voice. "Cast all your care upon Him for He careth for you." "But what are my cares, Peter?" Albert questioned the apostle out loud and repeated: "What are my cares?" "What's that, Albert? I can't hear you." "Nothing, mother. Just go to sleep." "I'm sure I heard you say something." "No, mother." He folded the dish towel over the rack and walked into the living room. "Are you sure you didn't say something, Albert?" "Yes." He stood in the middle of the room, undecided as to what to do. "Sit down, son, and read the paper." "I'm going out tonight, mother." "Out? But Mrs. Dorman..." "She's your friend, mother. She's coming to play Scrabble with you." "But you always play with us. She..." "I'm going out tonight, mother." His voice was firm. "Where are you going?" She half sat up, reaching for her bifocals on the side table. "I'm going out." It was all Albert could manage. "But..." "You'll be all right. And I'll be home in good time." He was out in the hall before she could formulate a reply. ''Albert?" Opening the closet door, he took his coat off a hanger. "Albert?" Her voice was growing in intensity. "I'll see you later, mother." The door handle felt cold under his hand and the hinges squeaked. "Albert?" It was more of a shout this time and he shut the door firmly, feeling both guilt and relief. Into the night Albert Tenfold lived on the fifth floor of a high-rise apartment building with his widowed mother. He was thirty-five and she was seventy. His stepfather had died when he was a teenager. Cast into the mold of male provider at an early age, he had never really been young. Fiercely dependent, his mother had leaned on him heavily, and he had settled under the weight. To the outward eye, they were a model family - a stalwart son providing constant love and care for an aging, frail mother. And it had seemed that way to Albert also - had seemed that way until this last month. Perhaps because he was rapidly approaching his thirty-sixth birthday, he had been doing some thinking. Ten years from now he would be forty-five, almost forty-six, and his mother would be eighty and then, ten years later, he would be in his mid-fifties and she would be ninety. Unless she died - but somehow he could not envisage his mother dead - even though deep down he sometimes wished it. He would be her son forever, her son and not someone's husband. And then guilt would flood over him like a wave of hot wind and he would break out into a sweat. How could he be thinking such thoughts? The hall was empty. As he plodded heavily towards the elevator, Albert awkwardly buttoned up his coat. It had all been very well to tell his mother that he was going out, but the truth was that he had no inkling as to where he would go. He had few friends - few friends outside his mother's circle, that is. There were a great many Mrs. Dormans; widows who delighted in visiting back and forth; who excelled in speaking of rheumatism and the weather; and who always commented on how fortunate his mother was to have him. The elevator had brought him down to the first floor. He legged it towards the front door. It was raining outside and he stood for a moment, contemplating the sidewalk through the heavy glass panels. He could possibly go to the library. As he resolutely opened the entrance, both the sound of the rain and the fresh air comforted him. Raindrops were a sound he had always enjoyed. Sighing deeply, he pulled up his collar and struck out. It was quiet outside and almost dark. The faint glow of streetlights reflected and trembled in the puddles. He wished he were going somewhere - somewhere where someone was waiting for him. It began to rain harder as he passed Mary's Dome, the large Roman Catholic cathedral. Although he had quickened his step with the downpour, he stopped for a moment to contemplate the cathedral’s colossal size and grandeur through the sheets of rain. Stone arches glistened in their wetness. He suddenly shivered and coveted shelter. Perhaps he could sit inside for a while. Just until the rain stopped. Turning, he climbed the stone steps which led to massive wooden doors. Gingerly pressing down on a wrought-iron door-handle, he pushed. As the door creaked heavily, an aperture appeared and Albert stepped inside. Flickering candles The cathedral foyer was dark and smelled slightly musty. Behind him the massive wood fell heavily into place, the sound echoing and re-echoing. Hesitantly he walked on through the foyer into the lighted sanctuary. It was huge compared to that of his own church - and comparatively quiet. There people talked and whispered behind their hands when they walked in. They rustled bulletins and took out peppermints. But perhaps because there were so few people here... He inhaled the quiet and relaxed. Three or four people were present in the front pews, heads bowed and silent, praying, as far as he could tell. Albert stood for a moment and then slowly made his way toward the middle of the church, sliding into a seat on his left. The pew was small - almost too small for his bulk. He grinned to himself. What would his mother say? Or his ward elder? Or Mr. DeVries, his employer and an avid commentator on false churches? After a while the quiet had embraced him to such a degree that he felt as if time had stopped. Did it matter to God whether you sat in a Reformed church or a Roman Catholic one? Of course it did, he knew that. But it was raining proverbial cats and dogs outside and the state of one's heart, was that not what God considered? He pulled out his handkerchief and wiped his face dry. If a church happened to be on your way in a rainstorm and that church was Roman Catholic, well then... Well then, what? It certainly was peaceful here. He cautiously examined the stained-glass windows on his right. Impressive and grand, they made the raindrops outside them glow with color through the matted glass as they danced their way down in rivulets. He shifted his frame somewhat and his foot knocked against a wooden slat beneath the pew in front of him. He contemplated the kneeling bench with interest. Padded with red leather, it appeared comfortable. He glanced about again. There was no one present except the few worshippers at the front and the only one staring at him directly as he peered about was a statue of Mary in the aisle next to him. Clad in a sky-blue stone robe, she eyed him serenely. Cautiously he slid his knees onto the padded red leather and bowed his head. "Our Father..." He could not recall ever before having knelt for prayer in church. He did kneel for prayer when he went to bed. It is not a matter of knees or kneeling, the minister had told them in catechism, but a matter of the heart. And yet, kneeling always made his heart more submissive. Was it submissive now? So many thoughts.... Could you be submissive with so many thoughts running around in your head? "Hallowed be Thy name..." There was a strange smell here. It reminded him of... What was it? Christmas was the time when mother brought out the candles. It was the scent of sweet tallow. Mary's statue, just ahead of him in the center aisle, had a number of candles in front of it. Several of them were burning. Luther had knelt in such churches and so had Calvin. But he was neither a Luther nor a Calvin. Imagine people four centuries from now saying that they were Tenfoldian or Tenfoldistic. He ran his hand over the wood in front of him. The grain was smooth. Sometimes he was not even sure of the truth he stood for. Was the truth always smooth? He went to church, had gone to a Christian school, read the Bible at mealtimes and before he went to bed, prayed at set times and was able to recite a fair number of the catechism questions and answers. Did those matters encompass the truth? And if he heard a lie, would he be able to detect it? He sighed. All of life, all of life... was it not one confrontation after another? Were simple problems not large ones in miniature? And each spoken word... Were you not judged for it? "Thy kingdom come..." Most times, he admitted to himself as he shifted his knees on the red leather, he had no thoughts of God's kingdom at all. There were only the day-by-day affairs of coping with small things, of pleasing his mother and of doing his work properly for Mr. DeVries. "Thy kingdom come...." He moved his body back up onto the bench again and rubbed his knees. In heaven there would be no marriage. The statue of Mary smiled at him benignly. The Roman Catholics believed that she was immaculate, pure, undefiled; and that she had never had relations with her husband Joseph. The figure certainly seemed flawless. There was one thing he had never doubted about her and that was that she surely must have loved her Son. But then, Jesus would have been easier to love than an Albert. Contemplating the statue, he began to whisper confidentially. "I know that you were highly favored, but you were human - you did have sin." Mary kept on smiling. A dozen candles shone brightly at her feet. He imagined lighting candles at his mother's feet, imploring her to intercede, begging her to help with some problem. Did candles have to be made of tallow? Did he not often light candles at his mother's feet in other ways? Did he not do it by always deferring to her and conceding that she was right; by asking if he might do this or that; by permitting her to take a role that somehow made him weak and ineffective, even though it seemed to all the world that he was the provider and the man of the house. Tonight was actually the first time that he could recall that he had actually done something without asking her permission. He regarded the statue again. The sky-blue of the robe was peaceful and Mary’s eyes were pensive, as if she was thinking deeply. But there was a hair-line crack along the folds of her stone robe. He knelt down again on the leather and rested his forehead against the pew in front of him. He did love his mother. Hadn't he taken care of her all these years? Perhaps, perhaps he just didn't like her. Did she love him? Had she reason to not love him? His forehead rubbed against the smooth wood and slipped just a bit as sweat trickled past his eyebrows. He could not recall that she had ever said, “I love you, Albert.” There had been phrases like “I'm proud of you, Albert,” when he had graduated from college, and if he donated money to the church or Christian school, she would say, “The Lord loves a cheerful giver,” but that was about as close... “You are a priest, then?” A slight noise to his right startled him. He raised his head and saw a woman standing by Mary's statue. She fumbled with her purse and Albert watched her take out a wallet, fish out and fold a ten-dollar bill before depositing it into a slot. She made the sign of the cross and lit two of the candles. Hunching down, her clasped hands almost touching the carpet, she was evidently praying. Her blue raincoat dripped water onto the carpet staining bright red. He watched her for a long time. She was motionless but he could see that her lips were moving. What petition, he wondered, was worth ten dollars? What question so burned her heart that she had to kneel down on a faded, red carpet in front of a lifeless statue? Had Eli watched Hannah in this manner? She rose and turned and he could see that there were tears in her eyes. Ashamed to be watching, he bowed his head down on the pew wood again. "...a rare treasure, a must for all parents!" click the cover for the rest of our review. "Excuse me. Could you tell me what time it is?” He opened his eyes. The woman was standing by his side. "I'm sorry to bother... to bother you." She stuttered a bit in embarrassment and he pulled up his coat sleeve to check his watch. "That's all right. It's a quarter after nine." "Thank you." Her blue raincoat was still shiny with rain and black hair curled damply around an oval face. She was fairly young. He would guess her to be around twenty-four or five. "Are you the... the priest?" She looked at him rather anxiously and he wondered if he had put on his collar backwards. The statue of Mary silhouetted behind her and compassion overcame him for her misplaced faith. "The priest?" "Yes... He was to meet me at nine. I thought... thought that you ...?" Clearly, within the chambers of his mind, he heard Peter's words, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him Who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." The girl continued to stare at him. Her dark blue eyes were pensive and he smiled at them. "I'm not the priest. That is to say, I'm not the priest you're looking for." "Oh, but you are a priest then?" "Well..." He looked for words to explain to her that as a believer he reflected the glory of God and... His thoughts got no further. "If you're not busy, maybe you have time to speak to me for a moment?" He saw the statue smiling at her back and got a whiff of the tallow. "I'm not Roman Catholic." For a small moment looking into her dark, blue eyes, he was sorry he was not. The girl blinked and took a step backwards. "You're not?" He shook his head. "No, I'm sorry if my being here misled you." "You were praying." She said it defensively. He felt a trifle foolish and stood up. "I came in out of the rain. It's very peaceful here. Yes, I was praying." "I'm not Roman Catholic either." She suddenly smiled up at him and he could see strong, irregular, white teeth. "Oh?" "If you were praying," she was earnest again, "maybe you know about God... about prayer…?” “You might be a king, but…” Albert Tenfold had led a very structured life. It had been drilled into him that organization and discipline were next to godliness. When he was growing up, his mother had always made sure that he had porridge for breakfast, drank milk with his lunch and went to bed at a set time after dinner. Christian grade and high school were givens and catechism lessons a must. There were always two services to attend every Sunday, regular Young People's meetings, and occasional youth rallies. After he had made a public confession of his faith at age seventeen, he had tithed, celebrated the Lord's Supper every two months and attended study weekends on various Bible topics. "About God...?" he answered the girl slowly. "About prayer?" She nodded at him. During his entire thirty-five years of Christian living, Albert had never been confronted with questions of this sort by anyone outside of his church circle, and they hung in front of him like an unused banner. He played for time. "Do you want to go for a coffee and talk for a while?" She considered him for a long moment and he wondered if she felt that this cathedral was a safe place, a place where strangers could be approached without fear. "I'd talk here but it's just that..." He stopped abruptly and made a small gesture towards the front pews with his head. There were still some people there and Albert's whisper carried. "Sure, I'll go for a coffee." Turning her back on the statue, she walked down the aisle ahead of him and he followed. **** 74 short stories make for great devotionals with your kids! Click the cover for our review. The rain had eased off considerably. There was a smell of sweetness in the air and in the distance a dog barked. "What's your name?" She asked the question almost as soon as they reached the pavement. "Albert. What's yours?" "Victoria, but my friends call me Vicky." He grinned. "Why are you laughing?" "Albert and Victoria." She looked at him blankly. "You know," he explained, "the king and queen of England." She grinned too. "Well, you might be a king but I'm not exactly a queen." He awkwardly offered her his arm as she gingerly edged past a puddle on the sidewalk. She took it lightly. He barely noted her touch. Out of the corner of his eye he saw that her hand was small and that her fingers had well-rounded, clean nails. He could not help but think of how his mother would cling to him in this sort of weather. His mother who always wore gloves. Her voice bounced off the sidewalk now and he heard her command clearly within the chambers of his mind. "Your arm, Albert! Give me your arm!" He sighed and quickened his step. She looked up at him questioningly. "You probably have other things to do, right? Actually you don't..." He didn't let her finish. "No, no. I'm sorry if I've given you the impression that ... that I'm not enjoying myself." He finished the sentence rather lamely and almost blushed. **** The coffee shop was crowded and the noisy atmosphere fell about them like an intrusion. They stood in line for a while behind one another, not speaking, studying the pastry behind the glass. "I'll pay for my own." She spoke curtly and avoided looking at him. "No, please..." He didn't really know what to say but went on hesitatingly. "I'd be honored to pay for your coffee and..." "Maybe," and she interrupted in a low voice, "maybe you won't be honored after we talk." He felt unsure suddenly. Maybe this girl was a prostitute; maybe she had committed a murder; maybe... He got no further with his thoughts. "Can I help you, sir?" "A glazed donut, please, and a coffee." "To go?" "No, we'll eat here." Vicky ordered the same and allowed him to pay. “Sometimes, you want to redo time…” Providentially there was an empty table by a window. It had begun to rain again and the sound eased the tension between them. Albert stirred his coffee and wondered how to begin the conversation. But he didn't have to. "Do you still want me to talk to you?" she said. He looked at her. She was fingering her donut without eating it. Damp hair clung to her forehead. "Yes, of course... but if you'd rather not…" His spoon sploshed some coffee over the side of his cup and she reached for a napkin from the holder on the table. "Oh, I'd like to talk to someone. Actually I have to talk to someone or..." She stopped and rubbed the brown puddle on the table fiercely, small fingers white with the pressure. "Well," he said, matter of factly, "well, I'm here and at your service." She took a small sip of her coffee, smiled nervously at him and began. "A year ago I was a student at the university here in town. I was enrolled in Political Studies..." She lifted her coffee with both hands and stared out the window. He waited. He didn't have to wait long. She no longer seemed to be speaking to him but, considering her reflection in the window, addressed it. "I resented most things... rich people, styrofoam, male chauvinists, acid rain and apartheid. I joined Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and Amnesty International and talked about a lot of things without really understanding any of them. I said that I was an agnostic and I was flattered when I raised eyebrows." She paused for breath, put down her cup and crumbed off a piece of her donut. Not eating it, but turning it over in her hand, she went on. "All my friends were saying the same sort of things. One of them... One of them..." She picked up her coffee, sipped again and returned to her reflection in the window. "To make a long story short... Well, I became pregnant... The father was someone I hardly knew... and the baby I conceived was just another thing I didn't really understand." Albert had been watching her face. He had been listening to the sound of her voice thinking that it didn't really fit in the story. She had a child's voice and her hands were a child's hands. "The group I hung around with all advised me to go for an abortion. So I did what was expected of me. I scheduled an appointment for an abortion at a health clinic." Albert sat up straighter and took a bite out of his donut. His heartbeat increased and he felt sweat trickle down his armpits. "But my friends... they suggested that I try a new abortion technique. It was a drug. So I... I looked into it. There was a special clinic and it was close to where I lived. I went to it." **** Some people passed their table and Vicky stopped talking. She gulped down some of her coffee and coughed. Albert cleared his throat. He racked his brain for Biblical texts - prayed for some homily to come to him which he might deliver here at this coffee shop which would relieve the tension and which would both teach error and convey compassion. "I... There was a staff." Vicky seemed not to notice his discomfort. Engulfed in the past, her voice kept on confessing. "They examined me and had me sign two documents. One was a release form and one was a government something or other. Then a nurse came and she had this small suitcase. She explained things... like how this drug would work. I didn't understand it all but didn't let on. I was scared." Albert took another bite of his donut. It tasted bland and he had trouble swallowing it. "Was I sure I wanted to go ahead? That's what the nurse asked. And I said, yes... yes, I was sure. And then she opened the suitcase and gave me a small box. There were three pills in the box, just three little pills. She brought me a glass of water and then I... I swallowed those pills. Just like that... just like that." Her voice broke and Albert took a swallow of his coffee and cleared his throat again. Vicky pushed her donut towards the center of the table and picked up her napkin. "Sometimes you want to redo time, to relive just one moment. Have you ever had that?" She turned her face to him fully for the first time and he noted that her eyes were blue with small flecks of green in them. He answered slowly. "I've had that. Yes... I've had that lots of times. It's because we continually do things that we regret later. We always..." "Yes," she interrupted, "but what if the thing you do is so..." She stopped again and then went on. "The pills made me sick. I had cramps, nausea and diarrhea and I bled... I just bled and bled. I phoned the clinic and they told me not to worry but I felt so ghastly. I could barely get out of bed to make it to the bathroom. There was so much pain and I couldn't focus properly. I finally phoned for an ambulance. They came and took me to the hospital." "Did you... Had you..." Albert couldn't help but ask, "Had you lost the baby?" She stared at him with her blue eyes. "Lost it? You don't understand. If you lose something... Well, you can maybe find it later. I failed to abort with the pill but it had done the job. The child in me was dead and, as a result, I had to have a surgical abortion and... And during that surgical abortion my uterus was punctured. There was infection, a bad infection, and then I had a hysterectomy." "Oh." It was all Albert could manage. He played with his cup and noted that it had stopped raining. Were these the words Vicky had prayed to Mary? Was this what her silent lips had been speaking of to a mere statue? Had she lit a candle to atone for murder? He shivered. “I have to apologize to someone” "They didn't tell me that I would be feeling such guilt. No one ever mentioned the fact that I would feel such a..." She stopped and tried again. "No one explained. You see, I know for a fact that it was a child... not just a nothing... and I killed this child... my child. My friends didn’t understand when I tried to explain how I felt... and I was so lost." “Your family..." Albert got no further than two words. She laughed. "I have no family. That is, my mother died when I was seven and my father is living with wife number four. I haven't been home for years and don't plan to go there now." "Oh." Again, it was all Albert was able to say. How would his mother react to a Vicky? "Mother, may I introduce you to Vicky. She just had an abortion and is feeling a little down." "I... I realize that whatever it was that I was trying to be or say last year and before that, was a fraud - was not real. But I know that there is something real. There has to be! And I'm trying to find it. So I wanted to ask the priest about God and then he wasn't there. But you were there." **** There are 9 short stories here, and “I was a Stranger” is reason enough to pick it up. Click the cover for our review. Albert was suddenly calm. "You see," she went on, staring out of the window again, "if there is nothing, then I wouldn't be able to live. I... I... I don't know if you understand, but I have to be able to apologize to someone for... for killing this baby." There was a sudden clap of thunder outside and the rain resumed with thick drops splattering the sidewalk. Vicky shivered. Albert began to speak. Cautiously his voice crept across the table. "I think I understand what you mean," he said. "Can I tell you something about myself - something I haven't told... something I have never told anyone." He stopped. She turned her eyes towards him. He could read neither approval nor disapproval in them. "Sure." Her passionate voice had become flat. It had turned bland, disappointed perhaps. Maybe she wanted a quick answer. But he wouldn't be able to answer quickly. He looked her full in the face. "It isn't easy for me to speak actually. I'm more of a doer than a speaker." She didn't respond and he went on hesitantly, choosing his words with care. "I was born during the first year of the war. We lived in a small village somewhere in the north of Holland. I don't remember much." His hands crumpled the napkin he was holding. "It’s funny, the things that I do remember though. Things like the creaking of the cradle I must have slept in; things like a horse pulling the milk cart passing our house every morning. My mother says that my first word was horse." He looked at her, waiting for some sort of response, but there was none. And his intuition told him that she wasn't really listening because the words meant nothing to her, nothing at all. But he went on all the same. “My father had a good job. He was a lawyer, a very good lawyer my mother tells me. He conducted a lot of business and people liked him very much. When the war came, he helped people. He helped Jews in particular. The strange thing is that I don't remember my father's face but I do remember that he was tall, very tall. Perhaps I remember that because he used to throw me up into the air and catch me in his arms." “My heart accused me…” Vicky was still not reacting to his story at all. If anything, she was slightly uncomfortable. But Albert persisted. "During the first years of the war my father lived at home. He was not suspected by the Germans of any subterfuge even though he was involved in the underground. His specialty had something to do with illegal documents. But later on he had to leave our house and go into hiding. My mother and I only saw him on those few occasions that he deemed it safe to come for a short visit. On one of those visits the Gestapo must have been tipped off because shortly after he arrived they surrounded our house. My mother was frantic and father hid behind a secret panel in the living room. When they came into the house a moment later, she and I were in the kitchen. They didn't ask where he was but simply began searching." Albert stopped and stretched his legs under the table. He wasn't looking for a reaction in Vicky's eyes anymore. He had actually almost forgotten she was there. "And then... What happened then?" Her voice called him back and he saw that she had become genuinely interested. "Then? Well, miracle of miracles, they didn't find him." He stopped and stretched his legs again. "What was the point of telling me that story?" "The point? I'm still coming to that. You see, after their combing of our entire house, one of the officers hunched down by me, small boy of three that I was, and began to play with me. He had a chocolate bar in his pocket and even though my mother frowned, I took it when he gave it to me. He helped me unwrap the candy and I began to eat... and all the while my mother was glaring. But it tasted wonderful and the man seemed so friendly. When he took me on his lap a moment later, I completely ignored my mother and freely smiled at him. He joked with me and then asked if maybe my father was maybe playing hide and seek. I laughed out loud, greatly amused that he would ask such a question. He laughed too and asked where my father, who must be very clever indeed, might be hiding. I slid off his lap, walked into the living room and stood by the panel. When they discovered my father a few moments later, I remember that I did not feel quite right about it but didn't really understand why. When I ran to my mother for comfort, she spat in my face. Then they... they took him out into our yard and shot him, right in front of the house. The soldier who had given me the chocolate said, 'Danke schön,' bowed to my mother and myself, and left. He was mocking us. Afterwards, my mother made me go out to look at the dead body of my father... and I screamed and screamed until the neighbors came and took me away." "You didn't mean it," Vicky said. "You didn't know what you were doing. You were only a little child." "Yes," Albert answered thickly, "you are right. I was only a child." The thunder rolled in the distance and Vicky's eyes were sympathetic when she said, "How did you... How did you manage? What did your mother...?" "She... I lived with the neighbors until the end of the war. She didn't want... me." "Oh." She drummed her fingers along the table edge and regarded Albert seriously. "You were praying in church. You told me that you were praying. So, what did you do with your guilt? Or, didn't you pray when you were little? Or, what I'm trying to say is how did you deal with the fact that you caused...?" 7 stories from the 2 World Wars. Click on the cover for our review. She stopped abruptly. He smiled at her. The fact that he now felt forgiven for the death he had caused did not make it any easier to speak of this time. "No one really spoke to me about my father's death. The neighbors were very kind. But as I grew older I felt, also because of what other children said to me at school, that I was solely responsible for the fact that my mother was a widow. When my mother remarried in 1946 I had been living with her again for about a year and my stepfather made plans to emigrate to Canada. We never spoke of my own father. As I grew older my mind told me that I had only been an ignorant child during the war, but my heart accused me of murder every day. We went to church, yes, and we read the Bible." Vicky's eyes were wide with affinity. Albert went on. "What finally saved me from this terrible guilt feeling, Vicky, was the fact that God allowed me to see that He was totally in control of all things." He was quiet and for a moment saw himself earlier that evening, kneeling in the pew. He had been thinking about truth, the truth that God controlled one's life, the truth that God's tender, loving control had always drawn him with cords woven throughout everyday life. Vicky continued to look at him and he went on. "God was in control of my father's life. He had stipulated when and where my father would die. And, I was also led to see that, but for my father's death, I would not have been as drawn to study the Bible so thoroughly to investigate the mighty God I worship, the God Who forgives when we are truly sorry." Vicky stared at him unblinkingly. He wondered if she had understood what he was saying. "I think that if you are looking for God, Vicky," he finally ended, "it's safe to say that He is making you look, that He has used this very tragic thing that has happened to you, this abortion, to make you look for Him." “I can tell you where to look” A waitress stopped by their table. "How is everything with you folks? Anything else you need?" "No, thank you." Albert was quick to answer but then amended, "Maybe you would like some more coffee, Vicky?" "No, no thank you." Her voice was thin and lifeless. The tables around them were almost empty. The waitress smiled. "All right. We'll be closing soon. It's after eleven." Albert glanced at his watch. He imagined that his mother would be livid by now. He took out the small notepad and pen he kept in his pocket and jotted down his church address. "I can't give you faith, Vicky. I can't give you forgiveness either. But I can tell you where to look for it." "I know God is there." Vicky whispered the words. "I know... but I don't know how I know." "Do you have a Bible?" "Yes, I bought one last week." "Then you must read it every day." The lights in the restaurant dimmed and they automatically stood up. The rain had let up again. "I'll walk you home." "No, no... I live very close by." "Well, then it shouldn't be a problem." "No, no... please, I need time to think and be by myself. Thanks." The waitress eyed them impatiently as they walked past her to the door. "Thanks again, Albert." "Goodnight, Vicky." He watched her walk away, small and slight in a coat the color of her eyes, and felt some pain. “It’s your mother…” In the elevator ride up to the fifth floor, Albert rehearsed what he would say when he walked in. There was no doubt in his mind that his mother would still be awake. "Albert?!" "Yes, mother." "Where were you all evening?" "Out with a girl, mother. She'd had an abortion and felt rather miserable. So I took her to a coffee shop and tried to tell her about the forgiveness we can have in Christ." He contemplated the elevator buttons and continued his conversation. "Do you know about forgiveness, mother? You don't, do you?" "Albert, what kind of way is that to speak to your mother?" "Sorry, mother, but I had to say it sooner or later. Even though God forgave me for inadvertently causing father's death you never let me forget that I made you a widow. You never let me forget that I was the one who..." The elevator had reached the fifth floor. The hall was quiet and Albert's inward voice dissolved. **** He took out his keys as he walked towards the apartment. They jangled and he stifled a yawn, hoping against hope that his mother would, after all, be asleep. Before he could fit his key into the lock, however, the apartment door opened. Mrs. Dorman stared up at him. "Albert, you're finally home." "Yes, but what are you still doing here, Mrs. Dorman?" "Your mother, Albert... It's your mother." "What about my mother? What's the matter with her?" They were still standing in the doorway and he moved past the small, dark woman into the apartment. "Maybe you should sit down before..." "What's the matter with my mother, Mrs. Dorman?" "She felt ill, Albert. She had a pain in her chest. So I called an ambulance..." "Yes?" A strange feeling came over him. "They came within five minutes of my calling and the attendant said that it was her heart." He stared at Mrs. Dorman. The woman was nervously twisting her hands together. "It was a heart attack, Albert. I rode in the ambulance with her to the hospital. They took her to intensive care. But before they took her there I promised that I would come back to the apartment and wait for you." "Thank you, Mrs. Dorman. That was kind of you." "Are you going down to the hospital now?" She looked at him, her eyes wide and helpless. His mother was her best friend. "Yes, I will and I'll phone you in the morning to let you know how things are." "Thank you, Albert. Thank you." She walked towards the door and then turned. "Wasn't it too bad that you were out just tonight of all nights?" "Yes. Goodnight, Mrs. Dorman." **** After he closed the door behind her, Albert walked into the living room. A just-begun Scrabble game lay on the table. The words apple, tax and problem stared up at him - three words made by his mother and Mrs. Dorman. He ran his fingers through the word “problem” and then tilted the board, emptying the letters back into the Scrabble box. Maybe his mother had already felt ill when he had left. She had looked just a bit off color. He closed the box and sighed. A great weariness crept over him. But greater than the weariness was the feeling that he had failed somewhere - again. He sat down and cupped his face with his hands. If he was really honest with himself he had to admit that he had no great affection for his mother. “Honor your father and mother - which is the first commandment with a promise - that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” He didn't really know at this precise moment whether or not he had honored his mother. Holding him with invisible ropes as it were, she had made him aware of the past in innumerable ways. The small clearing of her throat, for example, when the minister read the sixth commandment. It had always made him edgy, nervous, countless times as a child, and still caused him to squirm. Not because God had not forgiven him, but because she had not. He sighed again and slowly stood up. Better go to the hospital and see how things were. “Forgetting what is behind…” It was still raining when he drove the car through the streets not five minutes later. The windshield wipers beat a soft rhythm and the quiet of the hour calmed him somewhat. He could not stop thinking about his mother's life. She had been happy, as far as he could tell, with his stepfather. His stepfather had been a good husband, a kind father, a gentle and hard-working man. But his mother had always been reserved, had always held back. Albert could not remember that he had ever seen her kiss his stepfather. Neither had she ever kissed her son for that matter. He could not remember either, that she had ever sung spontaneously or laughed genuinely at something silly. On the other hand, she had always cooked good meals, had provided adequate clothing and had kept the house very neat. She had led an ordered existence, an ordered existence that would now, he went on to think, maybe come to an end. What could he say to her as she lay on her hospital bed? If he could never speak to her again but this one time, what was it he should say to this woman who had, after all, borne him in her belly for nine months and who must, it seemed to him, have harbored some love for him. But he could not feel that love as he sat in the car and drove through the dark. **** The streets were deserted but he stopped punctually at every red light, playing for time, having no particular desire to get to the hospital quickly. He thought of Vicky - a compassionate, young woman who had wept because she had killed her unborn child. Perhaps Vicky had more compassion for her dead child than his mother had ever had for him. No, that was a ridiculous thought, an unfair thought. He rubbed his forehead with his right hand and, returning it to the steering wheel, found it wet with sweat. He should not be unfair. What was it he had said to Vicky? Nothing, he had said, nothing is outside of God's control. God had used the tragedy in his life to make him realize just how dependent he was on God. What was it the minister had preached on last Sunday? Oh yes, forget what is behind and strain toward the goal for which God has called us. Another red light - he brought the car to a slow stop. His mother had been unable to forget what lay behind her. They had never really talked about his father and what had happened - never. Would they be able to talk about it now? If they talked about it, would she be able to forget - to forgive? Was it hampering her road to heaven? He should have talked to her at some point. The light turned green. He stepped on the gas and began to drive faster. Was it not also true that, if she had maintained a grudge against him all these years, he had also nurtured a grudge against her? He drove through the next red light. **** The hospital entrance was quiet. The glass doors opened silently under his push. "Can I help you, sir?" The nurse at the desk looked efficient. "My mother was admitted earlier this evening - a heart attack. I've just heard and now...." "What's your mother's name?" "Drooger." She consulted her book and peered up at him from her swivel chair. "She's in intensive care, sir. Fourth floor. You'll have to ask at the desk there." "Thank you." He walked on towards the elevator. “Perhaps it was a blessing” The fourth floor corridor had a red carpet - red, the color of blood. He walked over it quickly and with some trepidation. Two nurses presided at the desk. They both looked up at him and smiled. "Yes?" A unique look at Luther and his times - click the cover for our review. "My mother was admitted earlier this evening with a heart attack. I understand she's in intensive care." He eyed the double doors behind their desk to the intensive care unit with some degree of dislike. They appeared so grim, grey and dismal, as if they only let in and not out. "Your mother's name, sir?" "Drooger." He spoke with some impatience. "Drooger?" "Yes." There was some hesitation on the nurses' part before one of them responded, "Could you wait in the waiting room, sir? I'll ring for the doctor on call to speak with you." "The doctor?" He spoke cautiously, tripping over the word. "Why must I speak with the doctor? I just want to..." "He'll be with you directly. You can sit down over there, sir." They indicated a small lounge behind the desk and smiled at him. "All right." He walked towards the lounge, clumsily scuffing his feet on the red carpet, uncomfortably aware that both nurses were eyeing him behind his back. **** There were three brown chairs and a leather couch. Indecisively he stood for a moment and then sank down heavily into one of the chairs. The table sported magazines - colorful editions featuring smiling men and ladies. The clock on the wall told him it was 12:01. He picked up one of the magazines and then laid it back down. "Mr. Drooger?" A young man had materialized at the entrance of the lounge. Albert stood up. "My name is Tenfold, Albert Tenfold. Mrs. Drooger is my mother." "Please, remain seated. I'd just like to speak with you a moment." "My mother..." Albert was afraid to phrase the question. The young man came closer and bending down, offered his hand. "I'm Dr. Ellis." "Glad to meet you." Dr. Ellis sat down on one of the other chairs and Albert waited. "Your mother was admitted around nine o'clock this evening. I happened to be on duty and so I attended her." "It was a heart attack?" Albert began searching out the pieces of the puzzle that lay between him and a finished picture - pieces that the doctor held. "Yes," Dr. Ellis nodded and queried, "You live in town?" "I live at home with my mother. I was not there tonight when she became ill." Albert's voice was meticulous and short. "Ah." "My mother..." Albert began again. "Yes, your mother did have a heart attack." It was now 12:05. The clock, Albert thought, seemed to move faster than this young man. "How is my mother?" Dr. Ellis reached out a thin and long hand and placed it on Albert's knee. "I'm sorry, Mr. Tenfold. Your mother passed away about an hour ago." Albert sat very still. The doctor removed his hand and regarded him solicitously. "Is there something I can get for you - a coffee?" "No, no, thank you." "It may sound callous, Mr. Tenfold, but perhaps it was a blessing. You see, it was a massive heart attack. There had been extensive damage - several organs were not functioning anymore." "May I see her? May I see the body?" “Perhaps milk and honey” The room in which his mother's body lay was very quiet. The doctor had offered to come in with Albert but he had refused, saying that he wanted to be alone. As the metal door fell shut behind him, he stood leaning against it for several moments, breathing in the nothing odor of the room. His mother’s form scarcely made a dint under the covers of the bed. For a moment he thought he saw the sheet moving, moving up and down as if his mother was still breathing. But it was fool's gold, because when he moved closer there was only stillness, unbroken stillness. **** Might be Christine's best. Click the cover to read our review. He stood at the foot of the bed and held onto the railing. "Hello, mother." Moving to the side, he pulled up a chair and sat down. "I've been gone most of the evening, I know," he went on, "but I didn't know. I really had no idea that you would die tonight." She didn't answer and he looked down at his hands. "You know," he went on, looking up again, "I thought that I might get a chance to talk to you tonight about the past. As I drove down in the car I was thinking about all the things that I would say to you. And now it's too late." He stopped and pulled his chair a little closer to the bed. "But maybe it's not too late, not too late for me, that is. You see," and he looked up again at her dead form, "you see, maybe if I had brought it up, maybe if I had told you that I was sorry, the way I told God that I was sorry, you might have forgiven me. Now you died without forgiving me." His voice caught and he lay his head on the edge of the bed's steel railing. But the words flowed on, the words tumbled out past all the years of stifle, hitting the floor with their vehemence. "Yet maybe this evening you did forgive me. Before you died, perhaps you thought, ah, I should have told my son that I love him. I should have..." His voice broke again but still he went on. "I do not know that you did. I cannot judge that. God will judge that... and this is what I want to say to God and to you - I forgive you, mother. I forgive you for haunting me, for never allowing me to have my own life outside of yours all these years." He wiped his face with the back of his sleeve, before he went on. "... and yet it was my own fault too. Because I let you do it and I could have stopped it." **** He stood up and regarded her face. Smooth and unperturbed, she lay silently. It was almost as if she would open her eyes in a second and say, "Albert, is the tea ready yet?" "No - no tea, mother," he whispered, "but perhaps milk and honey -perhaps that." Then he left the room, not stopping to turn for a last look. “It’s been three days…” Three days later there was a funeral. Although Albert accepted myriad condolences at the funeral home, he was not quite comfortable with the “I'm sorry about your mother...” remarks. Was it necessary, he reflected, as he sat in the left front pew, flanked only by the three church members whom he had asked to be pallbearers, that others knew how he felt? Was it necessary that someone understood? The minister read from John, unperturbed by Albert's thoughts. "When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. 'Lord,' Martha said to Jesus, 'if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now...’" **** There was no clock in the sanctuary. The coffin stood directly beneath the pulpit. His mother had always sat in the ninth row from the front. Albert turned his head slightly and almost expected to see her there, smartly dressed in her green summer coat, straight and dignified with her eyes on the minister. There were a lot of people behind him and his gaze passed over them impersonally, passed over them and then suddenly stopped. In the exact place where his mother had been wont to sit, was a slight figure in a blue raincoat. “‘If You had been here,' Martha said to Jesus, 'my brother would not have died.’” The minister's voice rose and fell about his being. "These words of Martha tell us a lot about what she was actually thinking. She was thinking, if you had been here, and you could have been because we sent you a message, then you could have prevented Lazarus' death." Albert turned again and saw that Vicky's face was turned towards the pulpit with studious attention. Why would Vicky be here? He'd given her the address of the church, of course. But it wasn't Sunday and... "Jesus’ direct statement, 'Your brother will rise again,' evoked an earthly response from Martha. 'Yes, I know that he will rise again on the last day.'" Albert eyed the coffin again. His mother would rise again. The lid of the coffin would open and she would climb out, maybe jump out. "Martha wanted an immediate resurrection - she wanted a 'now' answer, brothers and sisters. We all often want a 'now' answer and we forget that God has His own agenda, His own way of working things out for good." Albert shifted his feet and listened, listened with his own ears and also with Vicky's. "‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’" A shaft of sunlight fell through the window at the right and a pool of brightness bathed the front section of the church. "The question is not, brothers and sisters, whether Martha believed Jesus' words. The question is, do you believe them?" He walked out behind the minister. The pallbearers walked with him and the people from the funeral home pushed the coffin sedately ahead of them all towards the door and on to the parking lot. The small figure in the blue raincoat reached his side before he reached the hearse. "Albert - wait." Scores of heads turned, turned and listened. "It's been three days - and I've been reading and looking. I just wanted you to know." The pallbearers had stopped walking and Albert smiled broadly as he gestured to them to move on. You can read some of Christine Farenhorst's other Christmas stories here....

Family, Movie Reviews

Back of the Net

Sports / Family 2019 / 86 minutes Rating: 7/10 Cory Baily is an American teen science nerd whose next stop is a semester-long trip on a research ship departing from Sydney, Australia. But after arriving at the Sydney Airport, she boards the wrong school bus, and ends up on the wrong campus. Now instead of spending a term studying aquatic life, she's at a soccer academy. And she's never played before in her life. Adults are going to be able to predict where this is going right from the get-go, but no worries mate, because they aren't the target audience. And the pre-teens this is aimed at are going to enjoy Cory's fish-out-of-water experience. This is really just a light feel-good film, with Cory going from friendless to gaining a bunch of bosom buddies. There's also a charming jock who doesn't really get science, but can appreciate Cory's passion. The Australian accents and scenery also add to the appeal. There is a villain, of course, but even rich girl Edie isn't all that nasty. She's really just misunderstood, don't you see? Cautions The cautions here are mostly of the too-good-to-be-true nature of the story. Cory might have been a fish-out-of-water to start, but by film's end, everything has turned up roses, and in every possible way. Adults will know this isn't realistic, but the pre-teens might need a reminder that even as confidence can often be key, "believing in yourself" isn't some kind of miraculous guarantee of victory. Another concern is the budding romance between Cory and a very nice boy. While there's just one peck on the lips exchanged (and another attempted kiss) Cory's friends do a fair amount of "ooooh"ing to tease Cory. Sure, it's funny, but parents may want to point out that it's also just plain silly: these kids are too young to marry, so they don't need to (and shouldn't be trying to) contend with all the drama that comes with dating. The only other cautions include three instances of "Oh my gosh," and a beach scene in which two boys are shirtless (though in long shorts). Conclusion Back of the Net strikes me as a cross between one of the better Hallmark films and an old-school Disney TV movie, or in other words, a sweet if predictable story, with decent production values, and pretty good acting. Pre-teen girls will love it, and the rest of us won't mind it. ...

Adult fiction, Book Reviews

The Battle for Seattle

by Douglas Bond 2016 / 303 pages Even Canadians have probably heard of Paul Revere’s daring midnight ride to Lexington, Massachusetts…but have you heard of the “Paul Revere of the Puget Sound”? That’s who we meet in Douglas Bond’s book Battle for Seattle, where we experience the conflict between the American settlers and the Native American tribes of the Puget Sound, which is an inlet off the Pacific Ocean in northwest Washington State. This historical fiction follows the life of William “Bill” Tidd, one of the early settlers of area. Although some local Native tribes are friendly towards Tidd and the others settlers, not all are as amiable. Tidd begins hearing rumors of a coming war between settlers and Natives. In an attempt to stop this war before it can begin, Tidd joins up with a local group called the Eaton Rangers who are tasked with capturing the warring Native chief. After being betrayed by one of the Rangers and ambushed by Natives, Tidd must ride through danger to ask for backup, beginning his role as a dispatch rider in the Puget Sound Indian War. Although Tidd had his fair share of daring rides during the war, the title of the “Paul Revere of the Puget Sound” does not fall to him. I’m not going to give it away; you’ll have to read Bond’s book to find out who really holds the title.  The reader is able to follow Tidd in more than his adventures as a dispatch rider, but also in his internal struggle with faith. After the deaths of his parents, Tidd slammed the door on God, but due to the evangelism of some close friends, we see that door starting to creak open.  Although Bond does a terrific job weaving a cohesive narrative of William Tidd, it must be noted that this is a fictional novel and not a history. The major events are true but much of the narrative and some characters have been imagined to allow this story to be told....

Adult biographies, Book Reviews, Marriage

A Promise Kept: the Story of an Unforgettable Love

by Robertson McQuilkin 2006 / 90 pages  Robertson McQuilkin served as president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina (now Columbia International University) from 1968-1990. His was a prestigious position, one he filled with enthusiasm and competence. Yet in 1990, he gave it all up to stay home to care for his wife. A Promise Kept tells the story of how he came to this momentous decision and what followed. In 1978 at age fifty-five, Muriel McQuilkin began to show signs of Alzheimer’s. In the early stages, the family coped, making adjustments here and there, but gradually it became evident that Muriel would need full-time care. Robertson refused to commit her to a home; instead he became her full-time caregiver for the next thirteen years. In a moving resignation speech he declared that, actually, the decision was easy (“Google” the author’s name and you can hear a recording of this speech - it’s worth the listen). Muriel was the most content when he was physically present. When he was not, she was fearful and anxious. Clearly, she needed him full-time. Robertson referred to his marriage vows, and that as a man of integrity he would remain true to his promise to care for Muriel until “death do us part.” For him, it was also a matter of fairness. Muriel had supported him in his work for forty years. Could he do less, now that she needed him so desperately? In the end, the decision was not hard; he considered it an honor to care for her. In one sense, this book is an “easy read” – only ninety pages. But it is profoundly moving. Robertson’s tender care for Muriel exemplifies the love of Christ for his church. This man came to understand that doing what seems burdensome is actually freeing. “My imprisonment turned out to be a delightful liberation to love more fully than I had ever known. We found the chains of confining circumstance to be, not instruments of torture, but bonds to hold us closer.” In Muriel's helpless dependence on him, Robertson sees an analogy of his own dependence on God. Profound lessons in a simply-told tale. Husbands and wives, read this book, but do have a box of tissues nearby. ...

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Don’t let the Pigeon drive the bus!

by Mo Willems 2003 / 40 pages Pigeon desperately wants to drive the bus. But the bus driver, who has to leave for a little while, tells readers before he goes, “Remember, don’t let the pigeon drive the bus!” Pigeon isn’t going to make it that easy though – for the rest of the book he asks, begs, pleads, whines, and sulks about wanting to drive the bus. The drawings are pretty simple cartoons, but the artist lets us see all Pigeon’s emotions in his body language. Pigeon uses every excuse you’ve ever heard a child use: “I never get to do anything!” “What’s the big deal?” “I’ll be your best friend!” “No fair!” “I bet your mom would let me.” That, of course, is the point of the book, that no matter how inventive a child’s questioning – his whining – might become, no is still going to be no. That’s an important lesson for any child to learn, and this is a fun way for them to learn it. Parents will enjoy reading the book out loud, mimicking Pigeon’s angst and frustration, and kids will enjoy just how silly Pigeon acts. And it will only take a little prodding from mom or dad to have junior realize that sometimes he acts silly too, just like Pigeon. I’d recommend getting the hardcover version of this book because I think your children will ask you to read it again and again. And that’s not too bad, because it is a fast read – there are only about 175 words in the whole story, which means this review is actually a bit longer than the book! There are also seven sequels, and with that abundance comes a warning. While Mo Willems' Elephant & Piggie series can be enjoyed with or without mom and dad's involvement, there is a real sense in which these Pigeon books should be rated PG for Parental Guidance. A somewhat bratty bird in a very limited dose is one thing, but with repeated readings, and with 8 books in total, parents will need to make sure their kids understand we are actually laughing at Pigeon’s ridiculous behavior, and shouldn't be looking to copy it. The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! (2004) – The Pigeon finds a hotdog but also meets a Duckling who has never had a hotdog. What's a self-absorbed, but not utterly selfish Pigeon to do? Don’t let the Pigeon stay up late! (2006) – Parents will love this for how it gives them a term for their kids can't-we-stay-up-5-more-minutes? pleas. “That’s enough guys,” I’ll tell them, “You’re being pigeons and it is time to stop.” The Pigeon wants a puppy! (2008) – This could be inspiration for parents who wonder if their kids really want a pet and the responsibility that comes with it. Pigeon gets a brief test drive with a puppy and changes his mind (now he wants a walrus). The Duckling gets a cookie!? (2012) – The Duckling reappears, this time to ask us, the readers, to give him a cookie. Pigeon wonders why Duckling gets one, and doesn't. The main message kids will get is that Pigeon has never asked... at least, not politely. The Pigeon needs a bath! (2014) – Pigeon hates bathes but once he runs out of excuses he gets to have some wonderful wet fun. The Pigeon has to go to school! (2019) – Pigeon shares his worries – in his usual bombastic way – about going to school for the first time. Reading this with a child who has their own concerns could be a great conversation starter. The Pigeon will ride the roller coaster! (2022) – Pigeon imagines the roller coaster will be exciting... but it only sort of is. This one struck me as only okay, and I'd ranked it 8th out of 8. ...

Current Issue, Magazine

Nov/Dec 2022 issue

WHAT’S INSIDE: Kingdom Workers Wanted / A call to teach / Group of 50 BC doctors are challenging Dr. Henry / I have a bridge to sell you...and other deals too good to be true / Come and Explore the Armor of God / The mimic octopus: masters of disguise / We can't save the world, and that's OK / Can two denominations become one? / Four days in the life of Albert Tenfold / Porn use and the "couldn't be my kids" delusion / Comics for young and old / RP's 52 in 22 challenge: Part IV / 7 biblical principles of environmental stewardship / Jamie Soles: they that speak of Me / On baking more pie Click the cover to view in your browser or click here to download the PDF (7 mb) ...

Parenting, Recent Articles, RP App

Teaching your kid to appreciate broccoli

or, Cooking up a recipe for contentment ***** One of the most common complaints I hear from other parents is how they have been unable to get their children to eat certain types of food. As you will no doubt guess, I am not talking here about burgers, or candy, or other items packed with sugar or fat. Somehow the problem most of us seem to have with those sorts of foods is getting our children to understand the idea of moderation. But when it comes to green things that have come out of the ground, or things off a tree or bush that contain Vitamin C, somehow many of us struggle. I have watched more than one parent giving up. The battles took their toll and the child won. And so they have a whole list of things that they “can’t” give to their children: They won’t touch broccoli, they can’t eat parsnips. They won’t touch carrots, they can’t eat peas. They’ll eat potatoes, but only as long as they are roasted or fried. If they’re boiled or mashed, you can forget it. Our kids eat everything So this is going to sound like boasting, or that we just happened to have been blessed with a bunch of abnormal children – it really is neither – but in my six-child household, every child eats everything we put in front of them. Okay, that’s not strictly the case. There are one or two foods maximum that they really, really don’t like, and we accept this. However, whilst we accept that there may be the odd food item that they really, really struggle with, this is a far cry from tolerating the kind of food whining that leads to a great long list of don’ts and can’ts. As I say, I hope that doesn’t come across as boasting. It’s not that we haven’t gone through the same battles that most parents seem to go through – it’s just that we were determined to win those battles, rather than pandering to the whims of a two-year-old who will gladly eat another chocolate pudding, but won’t touch their tomatoes. More important than we might believe I believe that this battle is a far more important one than we might be tempted to think. It is not simply a case of physical health, though that is important. Nor is it just a case of establishing parental authority, though that is crucial too. Even more important than that, the meal table in our formative years is very much a training ground for how we will end up coping with the things that providence will throw at us over the course of our life. Why is that so? The Scriptural route to contentment is to cultivate thankfulness, and so in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul says that we are to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Even more pertinent to this discussion, the Scriptural route to contentment around the table is to give thanks for the food that is set before us: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Timothy 4:4). Which would exclude fussing! The key to getting our children to eat without fuss is to therefore to instill thankfulness in them. However, this might well seem to be somewhat of a paradox. If they won’t eat, how can they be thankful? And if they’re not thankful, how then can they eat without fuss? The Scriptures get it backward; so should we The Scriptures are often quite counter-intuitive on issues where we are exhorted to do something that we don’t really want to do. Take the end of Psalm 31, for instance, where we read this: “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.” That sounds counter-intuitive because it seems to be the wrong way around. Surely if we’re lacking courage, we need God to strengthen our heart first. But no. It actually says that if we want our heart to be strengthened, we first need to be of good courage. A similar pattern is found in the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Again, it sounds to us a little upside down. Surely our treasure follows our heart. Well maybe it does, but in this passage what Jesus is emphasizing is that where we put our money, our effort and our resources, there our hearts will be. In other words, if we want to be strong in heart, we are exhorted to be courageous. If we want to have more of a heart for, say, the overseas missionary work our church supports, the best thing we can do is to contribute more money to it, which will have the effect of engaging our hearts. The same principle is true of thankfulness. If we don’t feel like being particularly thankful, the biblical antidote is to be thankful. And the more we strive to be thankful in the little things, the more we will find it easy to be thankful for all things. This is the secret of contentment. It starts with thankfulness Which brings us back to the fussy food issue. Children often have a natural disposition to fuss, whine and complain about food. What happens if we indulge that? We are not only teaching them that they can have a list of foods they don’t have to eat, but far more importantly we are teaching them to be unthankful and discontented. Or to put that another way, we are teaching them that “everything created by God is not good, and many things are to be rejected and not received with thanksgiving.” But if we strive to instill thankfulness in them, even for the things they say they don’t like, they will be far more likely to imbibe a spirit of thankfulness, which in turn will make them far more likely to eat what is put in front of them. If we indulge their discontentment, do we suppose that this spirit will stop at food? Unlikely. I have no empirical evidence for this, no great studies that I can turn to make an explicit case for cause and effect, but I do know that I live in a generation that is far less contented and thankful than previous generations. It is a generation that fights for its perceived rights, and is often unable to accept when it doesn’t get those “rights,” or when it doesn’t get stuff now. Our grandparents survived Where was this learned? I think a lot of it was learned around the meal table, and by that I don’t just mean whether or not a child actually gets to eat around the table with their parents – though that is of course a crucial factor. No, I’m talking about intact families, but families where everybody is eating something different, because the fussiness has been indulged and there is a long list of stuff that won’t be touched. A few decades ago, this wouldn’t even have been an issue, since there was far less choice of food and most people could only dream of being able to afford the kind of stuff we have now. The family would eat the same food because that’s all there was. Today, we have so much more at our disposal and children are usually very much aware of that. How do we tackle it? A mistake I have seen many make is to assume that when children say they don’t like this or they can’t eat that, that they really don’t like this or they really can’t eat that. More often than not, this is a trick and what they really mean, although they won’t express it this way is, “This isn’t on my list of 10 favorite foods, and so I’m not going to touch it.” I’ve listened to more than one parent who has fallen for that tactic, and who has sounded like an ambassador for their child and their fussiness by reeling off a long list of food their children apparently just cannot have. I’m sorry, I don’t believe it. If there were any truth in it, children decades ago who had no alternative choices given to them would have starved. But they didn’t. Conclusion None of that is to imply that this is easy. In my house it has, at times, been extremely difficult. In fact, it still is. However, I believe that the rewards for persevering and for insisting that your child eats the same food as the rest of the family are huge. The ordeal of seeing that two-year-old resist eating that green stuff can be extremely trying. However, it is nothing compared to the joy of seeing them finally come to terms with the fact that they are going to have to eat it, but even more than that, then seeing them slowly coming to like it. In fact, this is the best way to train your child for a life of thankfulness and contentment that I can think of....

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Saturday Selections – Nov 26, 2022

Gender is fluid until you bring up this... (2 min) It's becoming the norm to pretend that men can become women and vice versa. And some are up for pretending white can become black and vice versa. So who can we expose this for the silliness that it is? Well... keep going further, as Mark Spence does below. You can watch the 20 minute version of this video on YouTube by clicking the title above. A struggling society is one ripe for the Gospel This. We mustn't despair at the state of the world; we must seize the opportunity God's placed in front of us. Evolution invokes a "god of the gaps" When ancient Vikings didn't know the natural laws and forces at work that produced lighting they offered Thor, a god of thunder, as an explanation. Evolutionists say Christians are doing the same for how the universe and life came to be – we only credit it to God because we are ignorant. But someday, the evolutionists say, we'll figure out a way to explain the universe's origins and life's beginning without reference to any god. Evolutionists equate "God as an explanation" as simply a way to fill in gaps in our knowledge – this is the "god of the gaps" accusation. And, they say, the gaps we need a god to explain away are always shrinking as our knowledge grows. But it's not ignorance that has us pointing to God, but wonder. And as this article explains, it's actually evolutionists who most invoke their deity – in this case almighty "evolution" – when they have no explanation. Why we can't be uncontroversial John Stonestreet writes: "Pastors need to prepare their congregations to join believers throughout the centuries who were labeled 'controversial.' ....I’m not suggesting we should go looking for trouble. I am suggesting that, in this case, the trouble has come to us." The 7 most destructive Western philosophers  Despite the seemingly weighty topic matter, this is a quick read. I don't know if I'd list Plato as high on my list, but I appreciated the author's reasoning. I also appreciated being introduced to a couple of big bad philosophers (the last two) that I wasn't familiar with. Growing up Christian in Egypt (7 min) As the World Cup begins, here's the story of a Christian boy who in Egypt who would love to play for his national team... but who has to be brave just to try out for his local club. This 7 minute video highlights the persecution Christians have faced in Egypt, but does so in a way that is age-appropriate for even elementary students. ...

Family, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

The Red Balloon

Family / Foreign 1956 / 34 minutes RATING: 7/10 This Oscar-winning short film tells the story of a boy and the bright red balloon that he, well... befriends. It follows him, like a sometimes naughty pet, always floating nearby, though staying just out of reach of any adults who lunge for it. This is quirky andquietly comedic, but because it is older it does have a slower pace than we might now be used to. However, that can be adjusted if you're watching it via the YouTube video below, which features a speed-up option. Caution The big caution here would be for the tension that amps up at about the 24-minute mark. A whole gang of neighborhood kids succeed in snagging the balloon away from the boy and parents of sensitive littles will want to know that while the boy quickly regains it, the next few minutes are one big chase which ends at 29:40 with the balloon being burst by a bully. It's a sad ending for the balloon, yes, but not the boy, as hundreds of balloons from all over the city converge on him, comfort him, and take him for a ride along with them into the sky. Conclusion While this almost entirely wordless film is intended for children, it does have something to offer adults too. We get an intriguing look at another time and place – 1950s Paris – and get a taste of French filmmaking. That exotic flare makes this both entertaining and educational. And you can watch it for free below! ...

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Saturday Selections – Nov 19, 2022

We kill because we care? Abortion brings to mind Proverbs 12:10: "A righteous person has regard for the life of his animal, But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel." The righteous notice the little guy, whereas the wicked's best impulses – even their compassion – is still going to be cruel, like proposing murder as a solution to poverty and unwantedness. The Left have been trying to groom children for a long time (10-min read) Jonathon Van Maren writes a longer piece on the history of the Left's push for pedophilia and sexual grooming. Why read about such an unpleasant topic? Because these grooming attempts continue, and Christians opposing these pushes for "progressive sex ed" are often dismissed as conspiracy theorists. But what Van Maren shares is only the readily accessible facts, all out in the open – there's no secret conspiracy here. On the origin of consciousness (15-min read) Evolution has its theories about how our consciousness began but, as this creationist article points out, those explanations are little more than "word salads" – gobblygook that only highlights how little we actually understand about our brains. “Consciousness poses the most baffling problem in the science of the mind…. The puzzle is how a 1.3-kilogram organ with the consistency of tofu can generate the feeling of being.” I lost my mom to Facebook "Over a period of three years, her elderly mom went from Facebook illiterate to Facebook junkie. From a great-grandma liking photos of her great-grandkids to a full-blown QAnon conspiracy theorist posting wild articles..." Marriage is a calling, not a capstone The world misunderstands marriage as a "capstone to success" – something to take on only after you've figured out everything else in your life. When it rains in the world, it often drips in the Church, so are our own young people having this "leak" into their thinking? You are not a visual learner... or do learning styles exist? Are you a visual, or more of an auditory, or tactile learner? There's a widely accepted theory that people have their own ideal learning styles, but as this video, and the article linked above, highlight the evidence for learning styles is lacking. How can that be? Read or watch to find out. A takeaway for Christians is how much of what we know may not actually be so. There is a tendency, even among Christians, to presume the experts really know their stuff and to just "trust the science." But some "facts" might well be just faulty assumptions. So only God's revelation should be trusted to be infallible. ...

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Getting used to a new church

The time may come when you must leave the church you grew up in and become a member elsewhere. Let me be clear: I’m not encouraging people to withdraw or change their denomination/federation. I’m referring to church changes that are made because of marriage, affordability of location, employment, or desire to live near loved ones. It’s a huge life change, so I’m offering some suggestions to help you get used to your new place of worship and fellowship. When will I feel at home? It helps a lot to know that you are going to feel weird for the first few Sundays, or possibly the first few months. You knew every nook and corner of your old church, when to stand or sit, and most of the faces were familiar. You had friends there. Suddenly, the rooms, the faces, and maybe even the music are different. After a while, you will adjust to the new situation. You will recognize a few faces, begin to build new friendships, and get used to the differences. One of the benefits of being in a new church is that you come in with a clean slate. Nobody knows about the silly or awful things you did as a teenager or young parent, or pre-judges you because of them. As we mature and grow in grace, we (hopefully) leave behind some of our follies and sins, and learn to treat people with more kindness and patience, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Col 3:13) We progressively learn how to love one another (I John 4:7-8). Sometimes it’s easier to “turn over a new leaf” in a new location. How not to choose a church What characteristics should you consider in a new-to-you church? What if you actually have two to three or more choices? On one of our moves, there were two excellent churches that were exactly 8 miles from our home. Which to choose? There are lots of ways that people make their final decisions about this – and some are better than others! Some folks might want to choose a church based on which one has the nicest facilities. While I have had wishful thinking for a large fellowship hall and useful kitchen, in over 40 years of marriage, those amenities have always been at the churches that we didn’t choose. When my husband enrolled in Westminster Seminary, he had no vehicle, and therefore planned to walk up a fairly steep hill to Calvary Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). His dormmate, Leigh, had a crush on a girl who attended a smaller OPC about eight miles away. He offered Dennis a ride, which sounded much better than hiking up the hill – especially in poor weather conditions. Though the ride was important, for Dennis it was a mixture of the pastor’s friendliness and his excellent sermons that kept him attending that small church in Blue Bell PA, and led to my membership as well for over 25 years (most of which were after it became a Canadian/American Reformed congregation). So far, we have seen that great facilities, desire for love, and convenience might be subjective reasons for choosing a particular church. But more should be said about the “friendliness factor.” Friendliness is important, but sometimes it is overrated as a standard for choosing a church. Countless times, people have told me that they didn’t choose Church A or Church B because when they attended 1-2 Sundays, nobody said hello to them. In fact, I have two friends who had opposite experiences within the same church! As the visitor, you will initially feel awkward and out of place and a friendly welcome could help to alleviate that emotion. On the other hand, you shouldn’t judge a church by that. Perhaps there were reasons why no one greeted you. Maybe they were rushing to deal with their children, or frustrated because their car broke down, or ill, or grieving. Maybe the official greeters were greeting someone else when you walked by. Don’t think that they don’t care about you – maybe they just don’t care about you yet. And on this topic, just a word to church members: please do reach out to people you don’t know at church with a welcome and a desire to learn more about who they are! Don’t be so caught up in your own usual group of people that you neglect to include people who want to be an asset to your church! Wouldn’t it be nice to have more people to share all the responsibilities? So, how do you choose? First and foremost, you need to choose a church where you will find the pure preaching of the Word of God, the proper administration of the sacraments, and the appropriate use of church discipline. Not all buildings with the designation of “church” preach the truth, and you need to carefully research before attending. Secondly, consider the location. When you are choosing where to worship, it is best to live close to your church if at all possible. Make living close to other church members a priority when you are house or apartment hunting. Why? Because we have found that visiting other members, and having other members visit us, is much more likely to happen if the distance between us is short. When you live 30-60 minutes away, there will be folks who don’t want to drive to your house. And people are more likely to drop off a meal 5 minutes away than 30-60 minutes away. We all get very busy in our lives, so if you can make fellowship and caring more convenient, why not do so? You don’t want to use “distance” as an excuse to not participate in the life of the church (or the Christian school).  Jump right in The way to feel a part of a new congregation is to get to know people, and the way to get acquainted is to get involved with smaller group meetings/service projects of any sort. In fact, this is probably the best way for introverts, especially, to begin feeling at home. Consider these examples that we have observed: Show up and work hard at a church maintenance day. One couple did this before they even officially joined. What a great opportunity to converse and demonstrate that they were serious about serving the Lord along with us. Attend the Ladies’ and Men’s Bible studies and take your children to youth meetings. Note the requests for meals for new mothers and shut-ins and sign up to help. Join the choir. Attend a baby shower even if you do not know the new mother – it’s a great way to get acquainted, and your attendance and a small gift are always appreciated. Shake the pastor’s hand and tell him who you are. Introduce yourself to one of the elders, or if they have cards in the pews, fill one out and place it in the offering plate. If you don’t want to be called, just give an email or home address. In my lifetime, I have noticed that churches are always happy to gain new members, and some of them will send you information about their church. Send get well or encouragement cards to people who are shut-ins or recovering from surgery. The inspiring Bible verses in them will be uplifting even if they haven’t met you yet. Knowing that someone cares and is praying for them is always appreciated. So what if they don’t know who you are – they will soon! Don’t sit back and wait for everyone to reach out to you. God calls all of us to help and encourage one another. Pray and ask Him to help you see ways to participate in your new church life. In Hebrews 10:24 we read, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” Your efforts will bless someone. Conclusion Although you will feel out of place during the first few times you worship in your new location, gradually you will begin to feel at home. Serving the Lord – “Blooming where you are planted” – will bring you into contact with fellow members, and after a while, friendships are likely to form. Following some of these suggestions might just move things along a bit quicker....

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Tidbits – November 2022

Chesterton saw it coming… A hundred years ago, in the Aug 14, 1926 edition of the Illustrated London News, G.K. Chesterton wrote a column that could be a commentary on our own time. The extreme skepticism that leads some to reject God was going to lead them to reject ever more of the real world.  “The Declaration of Independence, once the charter of democracy, begins by saying that certain things are self-evident. If we were to trace the history of the American mind from Thomas Jefferson to William James, we should find that fewer and fewer things were self-evident, until at last hardly anything is self-evident. So far from it being self-evident to the modern that men are created equal, it is not self-evident that men are created, or even that men are men. They are sometimes supposed to be monkeys muddling through a transition stage before the Superman. But there is not only doubt about mystical things; not even only about moral things. There is most doubt of all about rational things. I do not mean that I feel these doubts, either rational or mystical; but I mean that a sufficient number of modern people feel them to make unanimity an absurd assumption. Reason was self-evident before Pragmatism. Mathematics were self-evident before Einstein. But this scepticism is throwing thousands into a condition of doubt, not about occult but about obvious things. We shall soon be in a world in which a man may be howled down for saying that two and two make four, in which furious party cries will be raised against anybody who says that cows have horns, in which people will persecute the heresy of calling a triangle a three-sided figure, and hang a man for maddening a mob with the news that grass is green. Thomas Sowell on those who can’t, critiquing those who do “The beauty of doing nothing is that you can do it perfectly. Only when you do something is it almost impossible to do it without mistakes. Therefore people who are contributing nothing to society, except their constant criticisms, can feel both intellectually and morally superior.” Secular isn’t a synonym for neutral “It turns out that, however you might wish otherwise, you eventually wind up wherever it was you were going. If you get on the plane to Chicago, and I would ask you to follow me closely here, you are going to land in Chicago. We are now arriving where a godless education must necessarily go. The public schools in America were not secular, they were godless. The public schools in America were not neutral, they were godless. The public schools in America were not even agnostic, they were godless.” – Douglas Wilson Wit and wisdom of Benjamin Franklin While best known as one of America’s Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin was also a printer, postmaster, scientist, diplomat, and inventor. On top of all that, he had quite the reputation as a public wit, spouting such well-known aphorisms as “Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead,“ “Fish and visitors stink after three days,“ and “Love your enemies, for they tell you your faults.” While he was likely not Christian (he seemed to deny Christ’s deity) many of his common-sense witticisms have some depth to them. Might it be because he was riffing off of the inspired Word? What follows are a few Franklin selections paired with texts that say something similar. Is the connection real or imagined?  “Well done is better than well said.” “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” – James 1:22 “Fools need advice most, but wise men only are the better for it.” “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” – Prov 12:15 “He’s a fool that cannot conceal his wisdom.” “A prudent person conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims foolishness.” – Prov 12:23 “He that lies down with dogs, shall arise with fleas.” “One who walks with wise people will be wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.” – Prov. 13:20 “Search others for their virtues, thy self for thy vices.” “…in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” –Philippians 2:3 Lyric of the month This might be an oldie but it is a real goodie from the Newsboys: Real Good Thing Born to sin / and then get caught. All our good deeds / don’t mean squat.  Sell the Volvo / shred the Visa, send the cash to Ma Teresa. Great idea / the only catch is you don’t get saved / on merit badges. Doctor’s coming / looking grim: "Do you have a favorite hymn?"  Check your balance through the years, All accounts are in arrears. Guilt is bitter. / Grace is sweet. Park it here / on the Mercy Seat.  When we don’t get what we deserve, that’s a real good thing. When we get what we don’t deserve, that’s a real good thing. Why is only the other side quoting the Bible? In US politics one party is still acknowledging God’s Word as authoritative. And it’s not the Republicans. In an October debate with Florida governor Ron DeSantis, Democratic challenger Charlie Crist alluded to both Matthew 7:1 and 7:12 to, blasphemously, defend abortion and to justify allowing double mastectomies and other genital mutilations on children. “I believe that we need to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. It’s called the Golden Rule…. we’re all children of God. And that doesn’t mean that you are the one who’s supposed to judge what others are supposed to do, particularly women, with their bodies.” A month earlier, another prominent Democrat, California governor Gavin Newsom, ran billboards in Mississippi and Oklahoma that read: “Need an abortion? California is ready to help.” This offer of abortion was justified with Mark 12:31, included underneath, which reads “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these.” Such mangling of the Bible for political purposes is nothing new of course. In the 2004 presidential campaign, the Democratic contender, John Kerry, called “Honor your Father and your Mother…one of the oldest Commandments” seemingly unaware that God gave all Ten Commandments at the same time. But even as Democrats continue to cite the Bible, it’s worth considering, why does it increasingly seem that the only folks willing to quote God’s Word are the murderers and mutilators? They do so blasphemously, taking God’s Words in vain… but in a strange way they, at least, are treating God’s Word as both relevant and authoritative in the public sphere. Hit back? It is a Christian parent’s repeated role to explain to their pint-size progeny that Jesus did not tell us to“do unto others as they did to us.” But, as Greg Koukl recently pointed out, there can come a time in debate or discussion when that is good advice – you may need to give as good as you got. It is the appropriate response when someone tries to pin you with what’s called the “Kafka Trap.” In his novel The Trial, Franz Kafka presented a Soviet-style interrogation where the denial of something would be presented as proof of guilt. So, for example: I think you have a drug addiction What? I do not! That just proves it – drug addicts always deny it! Today this Trap is most often used to accuse people of racism: if you deny you’re racist, that just proves that you are. When you’re hit with this you’re-hooped-either-way attack, Greg Koukl offers this tactic: do unto them as they’ve done to you ...accept his approach, then turn the Kafka trap back on him. Here’s an example: “I knew you’d say that, and I’m glad you did.” “What! Why?” “Because it proves you’re wrong.” “Huh?” “No one says that unless they’re mistaken. Don’t you see it?” “No.” “That’s even more proof you’re wrong. Sorry.” Or… “Do you know what ‘social justice’ means?” “Of course I do.” “That proves you don’t. No one who really understands social justice thinks he understands it.” Doing to others as they’ve done to you isn’t wrong here because this isn’t about revenge, but rather clarity. You’re exposing them for just how insubstantial their rhetoric really is. Coaches with a parenting tip for us all It’s said that practice makes better… but better at what? A basketball player that practices badly will engrain those bad habits. Then, whatever he might be doing wrong, whether it’s a high dribble, or putting no arc on his shot – he’ll actually get more consistently bad by practicing at it. And parents, the same is true for our children: if they’re mouthing off with regularity, or responding with the right words but the wrong tone, they are practicing being bad. And if that’s left uncorrected then they’ll get really good at being bad… especially when they hit the teen years. So just as it is important to practice basketball the right way, our kids need to not just say the words, but practice saying them the right way… lest they be practicing and reinforcing and engraining the wrong way. Free vs. free “There are constant calls from NDP candidates and MPs for free post-secondary tuition, free childcare, free dental care, free drugs (both pharmaceutical and recreational), free housing, free wifi . . . even free money (Universal Basic Income). The only thing they don’t want free is ‘dom’ . . . (as in freedom). They don’t want a free press. They don’t want free speech. They don’t want parents free to raise their children as they see fit. They don’t want a free conscience. They don’t want free thinkers at universities. – Christian Heritage Party leader Rod Taylor, “Socialism …on the Instalment Plan”...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Dolphins: Tribes of the Sea

Documentary 2006 / 41 minutes RATING: 7/10 Did you know dolphins can use their echolocation – their own version of sonar – to tell what's inside a sealed wooden box? They use this echolocation to not just find fish, but they might even use it to stun them! The footage here is wonderful, diving down deep with these speedy swimmers. We also get close to them in the research pool where we get to learn how researchers are able to communicate back and forth using sign language. It comes out clearly, these are brilliant animals! One oddity is that while the film's producers are Christians, this is not a Christian presentation. God is never named and the closest thing to a religious reference comes at the end when we are invited to join them again next time as they again "journey into the kingdom of creation, a place where nature tells its own story and reveals to us wildlife's incredible design." But if the documentary is sadly shy about naming the Creator and Designer, it is also thankfully free of any inserted evolutionary assumptions. Even as one amazing ability after another is shared, there's no nod to millions of years or random chance as an explanation for how dolphins got so clever. It's got none of that. So, what we do have here is, loads of wonder, no evolutionary foolishness, but also no glory given to the Creator. As to the last missing element, viewers can bring that. This is a wonderful introduction to these astonishing swimmers, and you and your family won't be able to not praise their Creator! If you like it, you'll be interested to know there are other episodes in this Explore the Wild Kingdom series that can also be watched for free. I haven't had a chance to watch them yet myself, but share them here: Cougar: Ghost of the Rockies (50 min) Wildebeest: the great African migration (50 min) Lions: Kings of Africa (49 min) Golden River: Secrets of the Amazon (49 min) The Hidden world of Africa (49 min) And you can watch Dolphins: Tribes of the Sea for free below. ...

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

Poppy & Sam and the mole mystery

by Cathon 2019 / 42 pages A little girl Poppy and her talking panda friend Sam are either very tiny, or they live in a land of giant people-sized mushrooms and strawberries. Whatever the answer, this is a charming book, with the twosome setting out to find their friend mole’s lost glasses. Along the way they discover all sorts of other lost treasures, start a “lost and found” and provide a happy ending for mole and the many others who now have what they were missing. It is a kind, whimsical, story. A sequel, Poppy & Sam and the search for sleep (2020, 42 pages) has little Poppy and her panda friend settle down to hibernate for the winter. But she can’t fall asleep, and so goes off to gather advice from the animals all around on how they get to sleep. It’d make for a fun bedtime read. Another sequel, Poppy & Sam and the leaf thief is a bit too peculiar for me – the twosome are trying to track down which animal is eating leaves from their friend, Basil, a basil plant. It didn't strike my wife as quite as odd, since Basil was actually happy to give away his leaves to any who asked, rather than just took. But I am still stuck thinking friends really shouldn’t eat friends....

Recent Articles, RP App, Science - Environment

7 biblical principles of environmental stewardship

As environmental issues have become centerpieces in recent elections, policy-making, and public discourse, Christians must promote a biblical understanding of what the environment is, what humanity’s relationship with the environment is, and what God’s plan for the environment is. The mandate to care for the planet – including the animals, plants, land, water, and air – is a theme present throughout God’s Word. Christians have a responsibility to articulate these biblical principles and to shape environmental public policy in a way that is consistent with Scripture. Here are seven biblical principles about the environment and how humanity should interact with the non-human creation. These principles form building blocks for a Reformed Christian perspective on public policy concerning environmental care and expose flaws in other environmental perspectives. PRINCIPLE 1 God, the Creator of all things, has commanded mankind to exercise fruitful stewardship over His creation “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”1 Those opening words of Scripture form the foundation of environmental stewardship. Because He created the earth and everything in it, God is the sole proprietor of all creation. All of creation belongs to Him.2 No human can lay ultimate claim over any aspect of creation – land, natural resources, or animals. Nevertheless, God delegated authority over creation to humanity at the very beginning of history. In Genesis 1:28, often called the cultural mandate, God commands mankind to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”3 In Genesis 2:16, He also placed the man “in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Caring for the earth is one of God’s purposes for humanity. The first command in the cultural mandate - be fruitful - can be understood through the Parable of the Talents.4 In this parable, Jesus likens the Kingdom of God, which encompasses all of creation, to a master who entrusts his property to his three servants. The servants understand that the property under their care is not ultimately theirs but belongs to their master. This master will eventually demand an account of how his servants managed his property. The two servants who fruitfully invested their master’s money were rewarded. The third servant, who neglected to fruitfully invest it, was condemned for his unproductivity. If the servant who allowed his master’s property to remain stagnant was condemned, how much worse would it be for a servant who deliberately wastes or ruins his master’s resources? This framework of fruitful stewardship over financial resources can also be applied to mankind’s treatment of the rest of creation. God entrusts the non-human creation to humanity, not necessarily so that humanity can simply preserve it in its natural state, but so that humanity might be fruitful with it.5 This requires mankind to develop and transform the earth’s natural resources, while also preserving ecosystems that provide valuable goods and services to mankind and that declare the glory of God (see Principle 2). Progress and development are implicit commands of God.6 As Dr. Cornelis Van Dam writes: “The divine mandate involves harnessing creation’s resources and making the most of its potential while being careful to use the resources wisely… It is telling that although the world began with a garden it will end with a great and beautiful city.”7 At the end of our lives or at the end of the world, God will reward those who fruitfully managed the creation that He has given to humanity, but will punish those who have not repented from their neglect or active destruction of it. Fruitful stewardship is mandatory. PRINCIPLE 2 All creation is valuable, but humanity, as the image-bearers of God, is the most valuable created being Scripture demonstrates that the whole of creation has intrinsic worth in the sight of God.8 After each day of creation, God declared his creation to be good – day and night, land and sea and air, plants, sea creatures, birds, and all animals.9 He commands the living creatures to “be fruitful and multiply”10 and to “abound on the earth.”11 After the great flood, God covenants with Noah and “every living creature” that He will never again destroy the earth with a flood (Genesis 9:8-17); in this passage, God mentions “every living creature” six times.12 God also covenants with the earth (Genesis 9:13) and the day and the night (Jeremiah 33:19-25). The book of Job and the Psalms abound with descriptions of how God delights in His creation. Matthew 6:25-33 also illustrates God’s care for His creation; He feeds the birds of the air and clothes the grass of the field with glorious lilies. The various parts of creation, in turn, also declare the glory of their Creator.13 The environment also has value to mankind.14 The resources of creation have – food, water, air, stone, wood, metals – nourish us and allow us to improve our standard of living. Creation provides many ongoing services that are indispensable to human flourishing:15 For example, plants use photosynthesis to transform carbon dioxide into the oxygen required for human respiration. Because creation is valuable both in the sight of God and humanity, God decreed how Israel was to exercise responsible stewardship over the environment in the Old Testament. Humanity was to allow animals to rest on the Sabbath16 and to treat animals well.17 Productive fruit trees were not to be cut down during the siege of a city, so that the productive capacity of the land would not be diminished.18 Even the land itself was supposed to rest fallow every seven years.19 Although these commands were made in the specific context of Old Testament Israel, the underlying principle to be responsible stewards over creation still applies. While God values all of His creation, He uniquely values mankind that He made in His image.20 Although after every day of creation God pronounced His creation to be good, God declared that creation was very good only after His creation of man. Thus, humanity is not merely equal to the animals or some other part of creation. He set humanity to rule over the rest of creation and gave plants21 and later animals22 to humanity as food. God established His original covenant with humanity and made humanity the object of this covenant. And, in Matthew 6:25-33, Jesus says that if God devotes such care for birds and grass, how much more will He care for humanity? Thus, a hierarchy exists in the created order.23 God, the sovereign and providential Creator, presides over both humanity and the other parts of creation. Humanity, the image-bearers of God, is below God but above the rest of creation.24 The non-human creation, although inherently valuable in the sight of God and man, rests at the bottom of this hierarchy. Humanity therefore should not adopt a “biocentric” philosophy that aims to preserve all life, nor an “ecocentric” philosophy that aims to preserve the environment in its natural state, nor an “anthropocentric” view in which nature’s only purpose is to serve humanity. Instead, humanity should adopt a “theocentric” view of both caring for and subduing the rest of creation in a manner prescribed by God.25 PRINCIPLE 3 God commands that humanity exercise both dominion and care over all of creation 26 In the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:28, God commands humanity to have dominion over the earth and to subdue it. Theologians point out that the original Hebrew word for subdue (kavash) is a “fairly strong term” that “means to overpower, to conquer, to bring under control.”27 This subduing of the environment includes extracting the natural resources of creation to increase human standards of living (both before and after sin infected the world). For example, God created hills out of which humanity “can dig copper”28 and trees that men could “cut down” for wood.29 Jesus both curses an unfruitful fig tree and suggests that it should be cut down, for “why should it use up the ground?”30 The Mosaic Law prescribed a number of practices to prevent the spread of disease. Unfortunately, our ability to properly exercise dominion over God’s creation is limited by humanity’s finitude and is marred by sin.31 Humanity has the capacity to overconsume, pollute, and destroy as we endeavour to exercise dominion over the non-human creation.32 Focusing only on Genesis 1:28 may lead us to think we have the “right to do anything we want to the earth”33 – that the sole purpose of the environment is to serve as raw materials to fuel human needs and desires.34 We might ignore the health of other living creatures or long-term sustainability. In case humanity is tempted to simply exploit nature, God balances this command to subdue the earth by revealing His purpose for humanity: to keep (ESV), to take care of (NIV), to tend (NKJV), or even to serve(YLT) the garden.35 Exclusive attention to this command in Genesis 2:15 may also lead to an incomplete understanding of environmental stewardship. Under a care-only philosophy, humanity is to preserve the environment the way it is, to never harm or kill animals, or to make conservation the highest calling of humanity. Combining the commands of both of these verses (subdue and serve) may seem contradictory, but a proper Christian understanding of these terms makes them perfectly compatible. Authority and service go hand in hand within families, within government institutions, and within environmental stewardship.36 Christians acknowledge that human beings have an imperfect capacity to exercise responsible stewardship over the rest of creation. This requires humanity to continuously refine and re-evaluate its exercise of dominion and stewardship over the environment. We should study how our activities may threaten animal species, interfere with a nutrient cycle, or pollute a water source. The solution to imperfect stewardship is not to abandon the responsibility of stewardship altogether, but to develop our stewardship techniques. PRINCIPLE 4 God commands humanity to multiply and fill the earth In the cultural mandate, God also commands humanity to multiply and to fill the earth, exercising stewardship – fruitfulness, dominion, and care – as they go.37 Indeed, He scattered humanity when they failed to spread out around the world.38 Humanity’s capacity for multiplying and filling the earth expanded markedly with the Industrial Revolution and modern medicine, prior to which the world population grew much more slowly and numbered only in the hundreds of millions. Earth’s population has multiplied many times over in the past two centuries, reaching approximately 7.8 billion people in 2020. The UN projects that the human population will peak at around 11 billion by the end of the century.39 Although this rapid population growth allows humanity to fulfil God’s command to multiply and fill the earth at a whole new level, this significant growth has come with growing pains. This growth has led to problems such as the overexploitation of natural resources and excessive pollution. However, these problems are the result of specific human choices and habits, such as rampant materialism and consumerism,40 not simply the overall number of people. Although a large and growing population may exacerbate existing problems and even create new challenges, a growing population should be considered inherently good. Indeed, “inquisitive, creative, and resourceful human beings” are “the ultimate resource” in this world.41 Many secular environmentalists fail to recognize this. In their zeal to care for the environment, they oppose both population growth and particular human habits. Some go so far as to claim that humanity is a parasite destroying the environment, worthy of eradication.42 But such a perspective ignores the fact that God has placed humanity as active stewards over His creation. Human multiplication must be considered “a blessing, not a curse.”43 PRINCIPLE 5 Although God allows humanity to suffer the consequences of poor environmental stewardship, the end of history will occur according to God’s sovereign plan A society’s eschatology – their view of how the world will end – will inform its policies on environmental stewardship. Secular environmentalists, ignoring the creation and providence of God, attribute the end of the world to human action or some natural disaster – an asteroid, a virus, or variation in the sun’s rays, for example. The fate of the planet rests in either the hands of humanity or the whims of chance. A biblical worldview, however, understands that all of history, including the end of this world, is directed by God. God “created heaven and earth and everything in them” and continually “upholds and rules them by His eternal counsel and providence.”44 This includes animals, plants, and the physical environment. God upholds His creation in ways we describe as laws of nature (e.g. the law of gravity, the law of thermodynamics, the law of biogenesis, etc.). Indeed, these laws of nature illustrate the covenant faithfulness of God.45Although humanity may mistakenly ascribe these laws of nature to nature itself, Christians know that these laws are issued by a Supreme Lawgiver. Absolutely nothing in creation occurs without God’s direction or permission. Despite the reality of God’s providence, God also allows humans to suffer the natural consequences of their actions. Adam and Eve’s disobedience and its consequence – the introduction of sin and evil into a good world – profoundly changed creation.46 As a consequence of man’s actions, God said, “Cursed is the ground because of  you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.”47 These thorns and thistles represent how all of creation has been impacted by the Fall. Because of the original human sin, the living creation now naturally experiences suffering, sickness, and death.48 Romans 8:19-23 also speaks about how “creation was subjected to futility,” is in “bondage to corruption,” and is “groaning together in the pains of childbirth.” In the same way humanity must continue to grapple with the environmental effects of sin today. Human activity can cause catastrophic environmental damage (e.g. the Chernobyl nuclear disaster or the Exxon-Valdez oil spill). A basic Christian eschatology does not “guarantee that some form of global or cosmic catastrophe will be averted,” just as we do not believe that any natural catastrophe – a devastating earthquake, hurricane, or volcanic eruption – will be averted because of God’s promise to Noah.49 Although God allows humanity to suffer the environmental consequences of sinful actions or negligence, the fate of the world is in God’s hands, not in human hands. Many prophesy that human activity will cause an environmental apocalypse, while others envision a technological utopia. Christians should reject both visions as unfounded. Although human care and dominion may contribute to the redemption or reconciliation of creation, only God can ultimately fix the sin and brokenness that afflicts this world.50 PRINCIPLE 6 God created the environment to be simultaneously resilient and dynamic 51 God created every individual organism, plant, animal, person, and the wider environment with an astounding resiliency. The human body, for example, can survive weeks without food, can heal cuts to its skin, and can run a marathon. The earth also has positive and negative feedback loops that keep weather patterns predictable, animal populations in check, and nutrients recycling themselves all across the globe. However, the environment is also fragile.52 Microscopic doses of certain natural and man-made drugs are lethal.53 An extra copy of a particular gene on a particular chromosome causes Down syndrome. The eruption of a single volcano – such as the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 – can temporarily lower the world temperature and cause local or global famines. A single virus like COVID-19 can kill millions of people worldwide. The environment is sufficiently resilient to support huge numbers of people, even well beyond the current number, without apocalyptic impacts to our atmosphere, oceans, or critical habitats, if managed well.54This is a comfort to Christians who rest in the sustaining, providential care of God who will bring history to its conclusion in His timing. But the environment is not so resilient that we can do whatever we want without regard for our impact on the environment. The fragility of the environment necessitates the exercise of environmental stewardship by Christians and non-Christians alike so that we do not reap the consequences of our unwise actions.55 PRINCIPLE 7 Although cost-benefit analysis is an important tool to determine the wise use of resources, cost-benefit analysis cannot be completely comprehensive Many attempts to preserve or exploit the environment stem from an incomplete assessment of the value of the environment. Carefully weighing the costs and benefits is required in effective environmental stewardship.56 Of course, the challenge is to account for all the relevant costs and benefits (e.g. monetary, health, and environmental costs and benefits across wide swaths of the human population) as much as is reasonably possible. These costs and benefits cannot be properly estimated by experts in any single field. Although ecologists, biologists, chemists, and atmospheric and environmental scientists may lead the evaluation of the effect on the environment, experts in other fields – economics, political science, law, ethics, sociology, and psychology – must also contribute to developing the best human response. However, much debate exists about how to value the benefits that the environment provides and the cost of disturbing the environment. Some secular environmentalists, immersed in their study of nature, assign almost infinite value to the natural environment. Other professionals and laypersons, ignorant of the existence of many goods and services that the environment provides, assign virtually no value to the environment. Both forms of creation’s value mentioned earlier – its intrinsic value in God’s sight and its utilitarian value to humanity – must be considered when estimating costs and benefits. It is impossible to precisely appraise this value that God places on His creation and plug it into a cost-benefit equation. Instead, Christians should marvel at the handiwork of God, remembering that humanity is a steward of His creation. Even if a forest did not help convert carbon dioxide into oxygen or its trees provide useful timber for construction, it still reflects God’s creativity and praises Him; it should not be destroyed without ample cause, even if humanity cannot assign monetary costs and benefits to it. Thus, although empirical cost-benefit analysis is critically important, the moral component of environmental stewardship must be considered as well. CONCLUSION These seven principles outline a faithful Christian understanding of environmental stewardship that is fundamentally different from a secular understanding of the environment. Christian environmental stewardship recognizes that the environment is the creation of God and properly understands the responsibility of humanity, as the image-bearers of God, to exercise stewardship over the resilient yet fragile environment. Although humanity should carefully consider the consequences of their actions, Christians understand that God – not man – controls the end the world. May each of us be active, biblical stewards of the world that God has entrusted to our care! Levi Minderhoud is the BC Manager for ARPA Canada where he endeavors to bring biblical principles to bear on political issues of all stripes. In his spare time, he enjoys playing hockey, tickling the ivory, sharpening his wits with a good board game, and fellowshipping with friends and family. He and his family reside in Mission, BC, and attend the neighboring Abbotsford United Reformed Church. This is a slightly abbreviated version of a longer article available at ARPACanada.ca. References and Notes 1) Genesis 1:1 2) Psalm 24:1 3) See also Genesis 1:29 and Psalm 115:16 4) Matthew 25:14-30 5) Timothy Bloedow, Environmentalism and the Death of Science (Ontario: Freedom Press Canada Inc., 2008), 41–42. 6) J. Michael Beers et al., “The Catholic Church and Stewardship of Creation,” in Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition (Grand Rapids, MI: Acton Institute, 2007), 44–45; Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success (New York: Random house, 2006). 7) Cornelis Van Dam, God and Government, 178; see also Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible, 322. and Timothy Bloedow, Environmentalism and the Death of Science, 43 8) Steven Bouma-Prediger, For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010), 120. 9) J. Michael Beers et al., “The Catholic Church and Stewardship of Creation,” 35. 10) Genesis 1:22 11) Genesis 8:17 12) Genesis 9:9-10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17; see also Steven Bouma-Prediger, For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care, 92. 13) J. Michael Beers et al., “The Catholic Church and Stewardship of Creation,” 36. See also Job 38-41; Psalm 19; Psalm 104; Psalm 148; and Psalm 150 14) E. Calvin Beisner, Creation Stewardship: Evaluating Competing Views (The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, 2020), 10. 15) Sandra Diaz et al, “Assessing Nature’s Contribution to People,” Science Magazine 359, no. 6376 (2018): 270–72; W. M. Adams, “The Value of Valuing Nature,” Science Magazine 346, no. 6206 (2014): 549–51; Steven Bouma-Prediger, For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care, 157. 16) Exodus 20:10; 23:12; 34:21 17) Deuteronomy 25:4; Proverbs 12:10 18) Deuteronomy 20:19-20 19) Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25 20) Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible, 325; see also Matthew 12:12, 10:31 21) Genesis 1:29 22) Genesis 9:2-3 23) Cornelis Van Dam, God and Government, 173. 24) See Psalm 8 25) Calvin Beisner et al., “A Biblical Perspective on Environmental Stewardship,” in Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition, n.d., 70; Steven Bouma-Prediger, For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care, 78, 96–98, 112. 26) J. Michael Beers et al., “The Catholic Church and Stewardship of Creation,” 39. 27) Cornelis Van Dam, God and Government, 176. 28) Deuteronomy 8:9 29) Deuteronomy 19:5 and 2 Kings 6:4 30) Matthew 21:18-22 and Luke 13:6-9 31) James R. Skillen, “Stewardship and the Kingdom of God,” in Beyond Stewardship: New Approaches to Creation Care, ed. David Paul Warners and Matthew Kuperus Heun (Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin College Press, 2019), 102. 32) Calvin Beisner et al., “A Biblical Perspective on Environmental Stewardship,” 84. 33) David Paul Warners and Matthew Kuperus Heun, Beyond Stewardship: New Approaches to Creational Care (Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin College Press, 2019), 9, 12–13. 34) David Paul Warners and Matthew Kuperus Heun, 12–13. 35) Genesis 2:15; for a fuller explanation of how humanity is to “serve” the garden, see Steven Bouma-Prediger, For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care, 64. 36) Steven Bouma-Prediger, “From Stewardship to Earthkeeping: Why We Should Move beyond Stewardship,” in Beyond Stewardship: New Approaches to Creation Care, ed. David Paul Warners and Matthew Kuperus Heun (Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin College Press, 219AD), 81–91. 37) Genesis 1:28 38) Genesis 11:1-9 39) United Nations, “Population,” 2020, https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/population/index.html. 40) Steven Bouma-Prediger, “From Stewardship to Earthkeeping: Why We Should Move Beyond Stewardship,” 71. 41) David VanDrunen, Politics after Christendom: Political Theology in a Fractured World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 243; Robert A. Sirico, “The Ultimate Economic Resource,” Acton Institute, 2010, https://www.acton.org/pub/religion-liberty/volume-8-number-3/ultimate-economic-resource; Julian L. Simon, The Ultimate Resource (United States: Princeton University Press, 1996). 42) J. Michael Beers et al., “The Catholic Church and Stewardship of Creation,” 51; Timothy Bloedow, Environmentalism and the Death of Science, 31; Cornelis Van Dam, God and Government, 182; Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible. 43) Calvin Beisner et al., “A Biblical Perspective on Environmental Stewardship,” 86. 44) Heidelberg Catechism, Question and Answer 26; see also Question and Answer 27 for a definition of providence 45) Arnold E. Sikkema, “Laws of Nature and God’s Word for Creation,” Fideles 2 (2007). 46) Genesis 3; Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 6 47) Genesis 3:17-19 48) Clarence W. Joldersma, “The Responsibility of Earthlings for the Earth: Graciousness, Lament, and the Call for Justice,” 63–64. 49) David Atkinson, “Climate Change and the Gospel: Why We in the Church Need to Treat Climate Change More Urgently” (Operation Noah, 2015), 17–18, http://operationnoah.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Climate-and-Gospel-David-Atkinson-30-01-2015.pdf. 50) Katharine Hayhoe and Andrew Farley, A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions, 133; David Paul Warners and Matthew Kuperus Heun, Beyond Stewardship: New Approaches to Creational Care, 6. 51) Timothy Bloedow, Environmentalism and the Death of Science, 2. 52) Richard A. Swenson, “How Balance Is Displayed in Every Quadrant of the Created Order,” in In Search of Balance (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2010). 53) For example, the lethal ingestion dose of botulinum toxin is 30 nanograms; 39.2 grams of the toxin would “be sufficient to eradicate humankind;” see Ram Kumar Dhaked et al., “Botulinum Toxin: Bioweapon & Magic Drug,” The Indian Journal of Medical Research 132, no. 5 (November 2010): 489–503. 54) Michael Shellenberger, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, Digital Edition (Harper Collins, 2020). 55) David Atkinson, “Climate Change and the Gospel: Why We in the Church Need to Treat Climate Change More Urgently,” 13. 56) Cornwall Alliance, “The Biblical Perspective of Environmental Stewardship: Subduing and Ruling the Earth to the Glory of God and the Benefit of Our Neighbors”; Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition, 58; see also Luke 14:28...

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Saturday Selections – Nov 12, 2022

Should Christians use someone's "personal pronouns"? (12 min) J.D Greear, former president of the conservative-learning Southern Baptist Conference, said he would, if asked, refer to a man as "she" and he would do so out of a "generosity of spirit." This is a pitting of truth vs. love, with Greear choosing to side with love. But it is a false contrast. In the same way that it would not be loving to affirm an anorexic in their delusion, it's not loving to affirm a transgender in their lie. As James White notes, some of the Christian confusion here comes from believing there is some sort of moral neutral ground. And some of it comes from not being prepared to pay the cost for standing up for God's Truth. (For more see When Steve wants to be called Sue.) Tim Challies on love covering a multitude of sins "There are as many ways to react badly to sin as there are ways to sin against one another. There are not nearly as many ways to react well to being sinned against. The Bible gives us two: lovingly overlook that sin or lovingly address that sin. The question is, when are we to overlook and when are we to address?" The "knockout punch" syndrome Gary Bates explains "why creationists are sometimes too quick to embrace the latest apparent ‘evidence’ for biblical creation." The problem with declaring a "pandemic amnesty" The problem isn't simply that mistakes were made when we didn't have enough information. The problem was, "when we did not have adequate information to know what was best, interventionist policymakers nevertheless acted as if they did know." Though this isn't a specifically Christian article (it cites a rabbi), it has thoughts on the nature of forgiveness and repentance which aren't far off. The case for kids (10-minute read) Kevin DeYoung: "I do not urge Christian couples to have as many children as possible. But I do urge them to have more children." On the significance of beards The beardless John Piper recommended this article, and I, equally beardless, add my kudos. In an emasculated world, beards can be a bit of a counter-protest and even a signpost. Voddie Baucham on how they're normalizing sin to our children... and us too (10 min) I've been asked why I wear pro-life shirts; do they prompt conversations? And the answer is, no, most often they don't. I either get a thumbs up, or a lady might make a throat clearing, scoffing sound. So, why wear them then? And why put a pro-life sign on your lawn, or an "Adoption, not Abortion" bumpersticker on your car? To, as one friend put it, normalize dissent. In our godless age, God's Truth is so infrequently presented that when it is, it might well be immediately ruled out as the crazy thoughts of some fringe minority. But the unborn's defenders number in the millions; we're no fringe element. We only seem like it because we're being quiet. So, to further the case for the unborn – to get it moved out of the crazy camp to a place where conversations can happen – we need to normalize being pro-life. The video below is on how impactful normalization can be, though the other way around. Consider just how many Christians feel uncomfortable when God's thoughts on homosexuality are shared publicly. That's the culture impacting us. And now, through children's shows, the world is trying to impact our kids: from Peppa Pig and Muppet Babies to Sesame Street and Blue's Clues. They seek to normalize what God condemns. Countering this involves more than just shutting off these shows (though it certainly involves that too). There's really no escaping the pervasiveness of this normalization effort. So we must acquaint our children with both God's truth and how to most winsomely communicate that truth on issues like transgenderism, and homosexuality, the unborn, marriage and more. And we need to hear preaching that isn't embarrassed by God's stand, but highlights how our good God, who loves us, knows what is best for us. ...

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

The Wolf of Baghdad: Memoir of a Lost Land

by Carol Isaacs 2020 / 208 pages For more than 2,000 years, Jews have lived in Baghdad and as late as the 1940s a third of the city’s population was Jewish. But within a decade most of Iraq’s 150,000 Jews had fled the country, such that in 2016 there may have been only 5 Jews left in Baghdad. In this impactful graphic novel, Carol Isaacs has a woman walking through the deserted streets of the city, but seeing ghosts of a sort. These aren’t the dead though, but memories of how life used to be - as she wanders we see a shadow of what used to be, with see-though Jews and others living side by side as they once did. The presentation is all the more powerful for how Isaacs pairs wordless comic pages – the woman walking with no one to talk to – with a full page highlighting a quote from one of the exiles, also recalling what once was. This is not a book for the reluctant reader, as it needs to be pondered, not flipped through. But for a history lover, this will be powerful. There are no cautions. I did wonder if a Jewish history might present a Jewish understanding of God, but the Jewish religion hardly comes up....

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Hidden Heroes

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

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Saturday Selections - Nov 5, 2022

The power of Nazi propaganda (6 min) As Remembrance Day approaches, it's worth remembering the way the Nazis won people over with their propaganda. They pointed to the Jews as the source of their nation's ills, and to a special elite - whether that was Aryans, the Nazi Party, or the Fuhrer – as the savior, not even being subtle about the Messianic nature they were ascribing to Hitler. Are we vulnerable to the same scapegoating, the same misdirection? Johnny Horton in a 1960 appearance on The Ed Sullivan show singing "Sink the Bismarck" In this 1960 appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, Johnny Horton sings about the sinking of the German battleship Bismark in World War II. It was the biggest battleship the Nazis had ever made, and was involved in the sinking of the British battlecruiser, HMS Hood, one of their biggest warships. "The Mighty Hood" went down with almost all hands. This could be one to show the kids to, in a kid-appropriate way, introduce them to the sacrifices and bravery involved in defeating this enemy. On the "banality of evil" The world wants to believe the Nazis were very different from us. That's why many were very angry when Jewish author Hanna Arendt reported during Nazi Adolf Eichman's trial that he was "terribly and terrifyingly normal." In Proverbs God warns us that while there is a type of evil – the way of the wicked (Prov. 14:5, 14:17, 21:29) – that takes effort, there is also another kind – the way of the sluggard (Prov. 19:24, 25:26) – that comes of simply not standing up for what is right, not pursuing righteousness. This is the banal sort that requires nothing but apathy and indifference to what is good. Cannibalism onscreen is a strange evangelism opportunity Today's scriptwriters seeking to shock their audiences have to go further and further into the outrageous. And that explains why cannibalism is being increasingly featured as a plot device. But, as John Stonestreet writes, "Those who find a worldview in which bodies have no purpose or boundaries a bit nauseating should wonder why. Christians can tell them, and offer the alternative..." Conscience rights are a must in medicine The Left wants to force Christian doctors and nurses to participate in abortion and euthanasia. Some Christians think that, while they should refuse to participate, they can refer the patient to someone else who will do the deed. That's better only to the degree that it is better to be an accessory to murder than rather than the murderer yourself - better yes, but still really wicked. The Left gets that there can be a time when it is good to refuse to participate, as evidenced by some who've proudly refused to serve former First Lady Melania Trump. They believe in conscientious objection... just not for Christians. Laura Klassen is preaching to the choir so the choir can start preaching (4 min) Why should already pro-life people watch a video depicting the horrors of abortion? Isn't that just preaching to the choir? Maybe. Or maybe even we don't understand the true horror of abortion yet either As we approach Remembrance Day, we think also of the Holocaust, and while it wouldn't be accurate to describe the Holocaust as having being a secret during the war, it would be true to say that the extent of the horror was only understood after Germany was defeated – what the Nazis had been doing to the Jews was so terrible as to be unbelievable. And that's true of what is happening to the unborn today. So there is reason t0 watch, to cry, and to be motivated to act, whether that's sharing the video, or speaking up for the unborn in some other way. This is important to see, but it is also very disturbing and certainly not appropriate for everyone, particularly our young children, so parental discretion is very much advised.  ...

Recent Articles, RP App, Sexuality

The “couldn’t be my kid” delusion

Sexual temptation caught up Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived; Samson, the strongest man who ever lived; and David, a man after God’s own heart. Our kids are not immune. ***** I gave my first presentation on the dangers of pornography eleven years ago at a United Reformed youth camp in Alberta. At the time, as Internet use became ubiquitous and smartphones were becoming the norm, the availability of digital pornography was beginning to become an increasingly dangerous problem. Pastors and community leaders were noticing that porn use was becoming increasingly normal. Nobody, however, suspected just how prevalent it would become over the next decade. I have given presentations to Reformed audiences – high schools, churches, youth camps, and other events – of nearly every denomination, and in the past several years I have reached an awful conclusion. Pornography use has increasingly become normal. Reformed kids are getting addicted I know this is difficult for many Reformed people to believe. We would like to think that preaching, parenting, and education have made us at least partially immune to this scourge. Unfortunately, as I have written in this publication before, we underestimated the extent to which the digital age would make this tremendously addictive sexual poison a nearly omnipresent temptation to nearly everyone with access to a digital device with Internet capacity – and the ways in which the porn industry works to place these images in front of every Internet user, young and old. I have spoken to hundreds of Reformed people who were exposed to pornography by accident, and ensnared as a result. I’ve now spoken with many kids who have been hooked on pornography prior to the age of ten – something I almost never encountered just a few years ago. One young man was fifteen, and had been addicted since the age of five. Several others first encountered porn at the age of 7 or 8. I’ve lost count of the number of kids who say that they began using porn in Grade 6. Many of them got addicted by using one of the unused cell phones lying about the house, which they used to connect to Wifi and access porn – circumventing any protections their parents had put in place. (Indeed, many of the kids I spoke to came from homes where the Internet was monitored and parental efforts had been made to keep the home porn-free.) Many young men who have reached out to me have shared that because their addiction started so young – indeed, profoundly impacted the brain development – they have been rendered incapable of viewing women and girls in a pure way. One, in desperation, told me that he badly wanted to ask a girl to graduation, but that he couldn’t even look at a girl without pornographic images surging through his mind. Young men – and increasingly, young women – are pumping hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of sexual toxins directly into their minds for years. They are taking these images into their relationships. Young women too A key development that I have noticed over the past several years is the spike in porn addiction among girls and young women in Reformed communities. Pornography addiction among young women has always existed, but has generally been different than male porn addiction – pornographic books, for example. But the sheer prevalence of porn addiction and its common usage amongst many teens has changed that. At one Reformed school, every girl in high school had at least watched it. Some were struggling with several addiction issues. Accompanying this trend is sexting – personalized pornography. Most Reformed schools have had to deal with this issue at least once, and the young ages of some of the participants highlights the extent to which this problem has exploded. I’ve also lost count of the stories I have been told by young men and women who entered marriage with an undisclosed pornography addiction (and very frequently, a consequently deformed view of sexuality), causing their spouse tremendous pain. Many of these couples struggled to heal their marriage for years; therapy is often necessary to do so. “Betrayal trauma” – which psychiatrists compare to post-traumatic stress disorder – is becoming a norm for young spouses in the first years of marriage (or, if the addiction remains hidden for years, later on.) Pastors and church leaders have told me that porn use within the Reformed community is a leading cause of marriage strife, pain, and in the worst cases, divorce. The “couldn’t be my kid” delusion I know there are many parents who will read this and think: This couldn’t be my children. This is other people’s kids. I had one mother come up to me after a presentation and tell me how glad she was that her sons hadn’t struggled with this poison; both of her boys had talked to me about their struggles with porn. A father told me after a parents’ evening on the porn problem that he didn’t think it was that big of an issue, but he supposed it would be worth it if one kid quit. At least one did quit as a result of attending – his son. Because pornography is everywhere, all kids have access to it – and “good kids” get hooked just as often as rebellious ones. The Scripture warns us never to think that we will not be susceptible to sexual temptation – to say this would be saying that we are wiser than Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived; stronger than Samson, the strongest man who ever lived; and closer to God than David, the man after God’s own heart. Job was called a perfect man, but he knew his own heart well enough to commit to making a covenant with his eyes to avoid sexual sin. Parents, we need to talk After presentations at high schools, I take questions from the students on pieces of paper (so that they will be willing to ask whatever is on their mind). Over and over again, I get the same question: How can I get help? There are hundreds – very likely thousands – of kids in our communities who are struggling with this, too scared and ashamed to ask for help; too nervous that the adults will not be able to handle their struggles. Many have sought and received help, but many struggle alone. It is essential that we have these conversations in our homes first, but also in our schools and our communities. The teenagers are ready. Couples struggling with this are ready. It is time for us to start fighting in earnest—and begin rebuilding....

Adult fiction, Book Reviews

The Gospel Blimp (And Other Parables) 

by Joe Bayly 2013 / 155 pages We all have people in our lives that we should share the Gospel with but we might be unsure about how to approach them. Do we drop crumbs while talking at the water cooler? Do we invite them over for dinner and let our actions speak for themselves? In the title parable of this short story collection, “Herm” has a better idea. Rallying his church behind him, Herm encourages them to forget all that awkward personal interaction and instead purchase a blimp to fly over their town. They customize the blimp with all the Christian bells and whistles such as a Scripture-verse banner, gospel tracts by the bushels to drop from the sky, and a PA system to blast the town with Sunday’s sermon. It’s a brilliant satiric take on how far Christians can go to avoid taking the obvious, but scary step, of talking to our neighbors about our God. Included in this short book are many other funny, satirical, and surprisingly profound parables. One favorite was “Rehoboam’s Golden Shields” When Rehoboam left home for college he had golden shields, which made him stick out. He knew he should be proud of them but when the last one disappears he experienced a sense of relief. He was finally just like everyone else. The problem is he knows that when he goes home to visit his family, his missing golden shields would surely be noticed. Instead of finding his missing shields, Rehoboam simply replaced them with cheap look-a-likes. Another I really likes was ‘How Shall We Remember John?’ which follows a family who is grieving the loss of their son and brother. They began by remembering John every morning before breakfast but over time the decision was made to only remember him on Saturday. As time passed, no time was spent remembering John at all.  These two parables raise some important questions. Do you find relief when you fit in with the world? Do you hide your lack of faith from those closest to you? How often do you remember and spend time with Jesus? Is it every day? Once a week? Even less? I recommend any young adult or older read at least a few of these parables. One notable caution: a single use of the “N-word” in the short story “The Saving Message.”...

News, RP App

No, dinosaur tissue isn’t immortal

Paleontologists believe they have discovered a nearly fully preserved “dinosaur mummy” while on a scouting trip in Dinosaur Provincial Park, northeast of Brooks, Alberta. The tail and part of the hind leg of a juvenile duck-billed hadrosaur can be seen poking out of a hillside. “It’s so well preserved, you can see the individual scales, we can see some tendons, and it looks like there’s going to be skin over the entire animal,” Brian Pickles told USA Today. Pickles is a paleontologist and ecology professor at the University of Reading in the U.K. The research team estimated that the animal died about 75 million years ago, which brings up an obvious question: how can animal tissue or protein survive for this long a time period? Writing for Answers in Depth, a publication of Answers in Genesis, Dr. Kevin Anderson has previously reported that: “Biochemical decay studies demonstrate that even under ideal conditions detectable levels of collagen (a long-lasting common protein found in all animal bones) do not survive even more than a million years.” Further, the presence of other common but less long-lasting proteins such as actin and tropomyosin is “further direct biochemical evidence that dinosaur fossils are not millions of years old.” As scientists find more and more examples of intact protein and tissue in dinosaur bones and fossils, the evidence is mounting that dinosaurs lived recently, just thousands, and not millions of years ago, with the likely cause of all these fossilized remains being the worldwide catastrophic flood recorded in Genesis 7....

Family, Movie Reviews

The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit

Family / Romance 113 minutes / 1968 Rating: 7/10 Horses, humor, and a little romance will make this one a favorite among the preteen girls in your family. Frederick Bolton is a single dad (no mention is made of mom, and it's probably most logical to assume she died some years back) and an advertising executive, and trying to do his best to juggle his responsibilities. So when his daughter Helen asks him for a horse so she can stand a better chance in the horse jumping competitions, and his client wants an inventive way to promote their product, he hits on quite the creative solution. His daughter will get her horse, and they'll name it Aspercel, after their client's product, a remedy for upset stomachs. There is one hitch, though: to make the client happy, Aspercel will have to make regular appearances in the winner's circle, so as to get the publicity they're after. That's the crisis the movie pivots around. Helen is quite talented, and with a little help from her riding instructor, she's got just what it takes to win. But when she finds out there her dad's job depends on her winning, she can't handle that pressure. And, fortunately, her dad doesn't want her to have to deal with it either, even if it does cost him his job. This could have been a dumb movie if dear old dad hadn't stepped up... because it did take him a bit of time to do so. But a loving, if occasionally clueless, father he is indeed. But how is everything going to turn out all right in the end? Well, I won't give it all away, but I will share that the riding instructor, Miss Suzie Clemens, is both willing and able to ride to the rescue! Cautions One odd moment in the film occurs near the end, when Suzie gratefully plants a big kiss on one man, right before she becomes engaged to another. We're not the only ones confused, but the confusion lasts only for a few moments, and perhaps we have to write it off as different cultural habits? Conclusion If you're wondering about the odd title, it doesn't come from anything in the film itself. The horse never wears a gray suit or anything else gray either (though I guess he's kind of a speckled gray himself). The title is borrowed from a movie of 12 years earlier, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. Why they borrowed it, I don't know, as the two films are completely unrelated, and intended for different target audiences too. Some critics faulted The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit for predictability, and it is guilty as charged. But for a family film, that's not such a bad thing – the kids will know where it's going and enjoy the ride. There is also fodder here for parents to discuss how competitive is too competitive, and how sports can't be allowed to take over our lives. So, overall, a nice night's entertainment. While the DVD is readily available (maybe at your local public library) there doesn't seem to be a trailer available online....

Church history, Recent Articles, RP App, Uncategorised

Can two denominations become one? What are the state of CanRC and URC unity talks?

This is an overview of an episode of Lucas Holtvlüwer and Tyler Vanderwoude’s Real Talk, a biweekly podcast under the Reformed Perspective umbrella. It features great guests talking about a host of issues affecting our Reformed community, ranging from social and economic, to theological and educational. If you haven’t checked it out already, you should. And you can, at www.RealTalkPodcast.ca.   **** The Oct. 10 episode of Real Talk was all about church unity. Hosts Lucas and Tyler were talking with a couple of pastors representing two denominations working towards being just one. Their guests were Rev. Steve Swets, pastor of the Rehoboth United Reformed Church (URC) in Hamilton, and Rev. Dick Wynia of Lincoln Canadian Reformed Church (CanRC). The conversation covered the history of both the CanRC and URC, as well as the current and potential future status of the two federations’ relationship. Two pastors, three denominations Both pastors were uniquely suited to the conversation. Rev. Wynia grew up as a member of a Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in St. Catharines, but studied at the Canadian Reformed Theological College in Hamilton, prior to being ordained in Aylmer CRC in 1987. He then helped to lead a Calgary congregation out of the CRC federation and (eventually) into the newly formed URC federation. And for the past fourteen years, Rev. Wynia has served at Vineyard CanRC in Lincoln. With his experience serving churches in three different federations, he brought a unique perspective to the conversation. Rev. Swets calls himself “an American serving in Canada”: he was a minister at Abbotsford (BC) URC for over seven years, prior to taking the call to Rehoboth URC. Rev. Swets grew up in the south Chicago area, and as a teenager, was part of a church split out of the CRC that resulted in the formation of a new URC. Rev. Swets is the secretary of the United Reformed Churches’ Committee for Ecumenical Relations and Church Unity, and has preached in many Canadian Reformed churches over the years too. A little history to start To begin, Rev. Wynia gave a general outline of the history of how and why the Canadian Reformed Churches were founded, with a helpful explanation of the main reasons that many immigrants from the Netherlands who were members of the “liberated” churches, could not find themselves at home long term in the CRC congregations, nor in the Protestant Reformed Churches they found in Canada. (The CRC had not taken much interest in the church split that had happened in the Netherlands in 1944, with “liberated” churches on the one side, and the GKN church federation they’d been driven out of on the other. But by not taking a side, the CRC effectively supported the GKN. In addition, church leaders in the CRC did not want to bring any of the controversy from the Netherlands into churches in North America, and did not want immigrants to speak about these issues. But such a restriction couldn’t be acceptable to “liberated” believers – they couldn’t be somewhere where they weren’t allowed to talk about the stand they’d thought so important they’d taken it at the cost of friendships and family relationships too..) Prof. K. Schilder, one of the leaders of the "liberation" had warm regard for the Protestant Reformed Churches (PR), so some of the "liberated" immigrants formed PR churches in Hamilton and Chatham, Ontario shortly after arriving in Canada. However, the PR Synod of 1950 required that their churches subscribe to a specific view of the covenant. This restriction on covenantal views was the very reason the "liberated" members had left the GKN, and so they could not live with a condition like this after their significant struggles in the Netherlands. After this CanRC history lesson, Rev. Swets summarized how the United Reformed Churches came to be founded. They were begun largely by former members of the CRC who disagreed with that denomination’s views and decisions on the authority of the Bible: “It really came to a head around 1995, when the CRC opened all the church offices to women… and there were issues of theistic evolution, and practicing homosexuals in good standing in the church. There were a lot of peripheral issues but really what it came down to is the Scripture.” As Rev. Swets explained, by making the Scriptures and Biblical teaching limited to the culture or time of Paul or Moses (as the CRC was doing), “you start to undermine the authority of the Scriptures: The Bible does not actually say what it means… all of a sudden you’ve kind of knocked the foundation out of the authority of Scripture. I’d say that is the real reason why these churches left the CRC.” Rev. Wynia also recalled the controversies regarding the teaching of Calvin College professors like Harold Dekker, who denied limited atonement, and Howard VanTil, who held to theistic evolution. They held views that were not Biblical but which were being tolerated. Why didn’t CRC exiles join the CanRC in the 90s? Holtvlüwer asked if those who left CRCs in Canada during this period considered joining with the Canadian Reformed Churches. Rev. Swets answered that although he wasn’t involved personally at that time, his understanding was that “the URC needed to be established, and we needed to figure out who we were…. Dr. DeJong, and Dr. VanDam’s advice (to us) was to get ourselves established first, and then we’ll meet… and we can figure out a way forward of how we can become one that makes sense… So the advice was to become your own federation first.” Rev. Wynia recalled asking Dr. Jelle Faber, his former professor from the CanRC seminary, for advice: “I remember as a pastor in Calgary saying, ‘What do I advise my congregation to do; you know, there’s a true church in Calgary: should we start a new church, or should I say to (our members) that we are obliged to go there?’ And (Faber) said, ‘You have to be the shepherd of your sheep; if you advise them (to join the CanRC in Calgary), they will scatter, and this way you hold them together.’” Some of the history of personal relationships and acquaintances was also a factor in the new federation forming. Rev. Wynia remembered that “at that time, you would have had members who remembered the Liberation (in the Netherlands), and… that was a bitter thing… I mean, they had their conflicts in the Netherlands, and to some degree in Canada, and they remembered.” The group also discussed the impression that especially twenty-five years ago, some CanRC members would have considered their federation the only true church. While this was never an official position of the federation, enough CanRC members may have defended that idea to make former CRC members hesitant about getting together. Rev. Wynia brought up the counterpoint that whenever this issue was raised at the level of consistories talking to one another, the issue was quickly dealt with. As one CanRC consistory put it to Rev. Wynia, “If we didn’t think you were true churches, we wouldn’t be talking to one another.” “There’s a lot of personal issues (in the past), and the pastors and leadership knew this,” said Rev. Swets. Some of these issues, dating back to the 1950s were still, in 1995, remembered by older church-goers. But not any more, 25 years later. As all four gentlemen could agree, there is excellent cooperation today between churches from the two federations. Three obstacles to unifying In 2001, the two federations accepted one another as “sister churches,” and there were some fairly aggressive timelines proposed for an official joining together. These discussions stalled for a variety of reasons (including a lack of enthusiasm from many of the URCs in the United States). The three main obstacles seemed to be: a Proposed Joint Church Order which neither federation could entirely accept, the issue of federational or independent theological seminaries for the training of ministers, and a non-theological issue that still is close to members’ hearts – what songbook could be used in the worship services. This last issue highlights a difference in the decision-making process within each federation. The URCs overall prefer that a matter like which songs may be sung in worship services would remain within the purview of the local elders. While agreeing that Christ’s authority rests with local elders in local churches, the CanRCs have traditionally decided many things together at their General Synods. Rev. Swets stated, “There is a perception from the URC that the Canadian Reformed (church order) is too hierarchical, and that Synod has too much authority; Synod says too much.” With the URC’s history, coming out of the CRC denomination where the problems started at the top, this is a particularly understandable concern. We have grown closer The first half of the podcast might have had listeners believing that there is no foreseeable path towards unity for these two church federations. However, much of the second half of the podcast highlighted the progress that has been made over time. In Canada especially, there’s all sorts of cooperation between churches: in education, in mission work like Streetlight Ministries in Hamilton, and in recognition of one another. In 2016, the URC took a six-year hiatus from further unity talks with the CanRC. But this year, in the URC Synod Niagara 2022, unity efforts will resume. The Synod will hear reports from the URC Committee for Ecumenical Relations and Church Unity, including the results of a survey that the committee put out to each URC. (This podcast was recorded about a month before Synod Niagara took place.) The results of this survey suggest that a small majority of the 58 URCs that responded are in favor of federational unity with the CanRC. As might have been expected, a higher percentage of the Canadian URCs are in favor, while less than half of the American URCs responded positively. Only eight of the churches surveyed indicated they had any “theological concerns” regarding a potential union. One of the theological concerns brought up is the fact that the CanRCs have not made a federational statement on the Federal Vision movement, although professors from the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary have participated in meetings and forums to explain the CanRC view of the covenant, and of the Federal Vision. Looking further at the survey, Rev. Swets pointed out that “Twenty-eight of the 58 churches said they perceive the Canadian Reformed to have a hierarchy.” He personally disagreed with this perception, and stated that the URCs could also be perceived as having structures that are hierarchical. “We actually have a Stated Clerk of the URC; we elect him every Synod… he’s an employee of the URC.” Rev. Wynia reminded the group that both federations “have some diversity of views when it comes right down to it… Professor Schilder, before the Liberation in Holland, would say that he could live in the same church federation as Kuyper, (despite their) different views of the covenant. We can tolerate theological divergencies. There’s an acceptable range that we would judge as within the bounds of the confessions and live with those differences.” Rev. Swets shared one possible route to unity, by the CanRCs accepting the URC church order: “Since the URC church order is broader than the Canadian Reformed, the Canadian Reformed church order can fit within the URC church order… The way that would work is that you would have to introduce regional synods into the URCs, or have the seminary under the oversight of, for example, Regional Synod Canada, and therefore it still has church jurisdiction, still has professors appointed by and overseen by a church ecclesiastical body. That would be the fastest way forward that… If you did that, nothing would have to change in the life of a Canadian Reformed Church: you aren’t forced to have the Trinity Psalter Hymnal if you don’t want, it’s up to each church. You can keep the Book of Praise… Whereas if the URCs become Canadian Reformed, we’d have to throw away our Trinity Psalter Hymnal for corporate worship, and we’d have to sing out of the Book of Praise… There would have to be more changes for the URCs to become Canadian Reformed, whereas in practice there wouldn’t be changes for the Canadian Reformed to become URC. The things you’d have to change are behind the scenes, like the oversight of the seminary, and how does superannuation work for ministers, but in the life (of the average member) nothing would have to particularly change.” In his concluding remarks, Rev. Swets said, “When you talk about church unity, there’s a lot of issues to deal with. But at the very foundation of all unity is that it has to be given by the Holy Spirit. It can be frustrating because it takes time; you have to be patient in it, and pray, pray the Holy Spirit will work in this way…” Rev. Wynia expressed thankfulness for the unity that the two federations do have already, and for the progress made so far, in these discussions together. Readers who would like to listen to more are encouraged to download the 90-minute podcast at www.RealTalkPodcast.ca, or watch the video version below. ...

News, Recent Articles, RP App

Saturday Selections – October 29, 2022

The miracle of the human heart (4 min) God's fingerprints are all over your heart not simply in its abilities – it may beat more than 2 billion times in your lifetime – but in the suitable environment it needs to operate (photosynthesis for oxygen, water for circulation, etc). Teacher challenges students to ask, "How is this video game shaping me?" Few of Andrew Barber's students have ever examined their video game play critically. The primary questions they have used to navigate life are the consumer-based ones: is it permissible? and is it pleasurable? In this realm, only a psychologist, medical doctor, or scientist has any real authority. If it doesn’t affect your mental or physical health too much, then eat and drink for tomorrow we die. But using the question “What can I get away with?” as your guiding star in modern America only ends in some level of addiction. Taking the virtue-ethicist tack – how is this activity forming me? – is a new one many of my students have never considered. To boo or not to boo? Parents trying to think through how to approach Halloween will appreciate John Stonestreet's column. He urges Christians not to throw in with celebrating what God condemns – murder, witches, immodesty, etc. – but also notes that "Halloween as we know it has more to do with department stores than druids." Complementarianism should be the toughest against spousal abuse “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord" (Eph. 5:22). As the author writes, "these holy words have been misused to justify horrible abuse. But using complementarian theology to justify abuse is like defacing a 'Do Not Enter' sign until it says, 'Enter.'" The answer to such biblical manipulation is not to turn from God's Word, but to dive down deeper to discover the way God – Who loves us and knows what is best for us – has created different roles for husbands and wives in marriage. We can see some of that love in the "five reasons why complementarians, of all people, should have the least tolerance for spousal abuse." Help! I'm 13 and addicted to porn! The folks at Covenant Eyes have written this article that might be intended for teens, but is important for parents to read. Canada's poor and desperate are opting to be euthanized Once death is seen as a treatment to be offered and not a foe to be fought, what reason will there be to withhold it from anyone? It's the solve-all with just one dose and no need for follow-up care! The only counter to this murderous ideology is the truth – God's Truth – about our value and worth, and about whose life it is (His and not ours). We need to spell out where His Truth takes us, and standing that in sharp contrast to the slippery slope we're on where murdering disabled children is proposed in the name of caring. The "Missing Tile Syndrome" (5 min) Dennis Prager gives a practical explanation of how our human nature will so often focus on what we don't have, rather than all that we do, and that'll always leave us unhappy. God says it another way, commanding us to turn from envy (Ex. 20:17) and encouraging us to thank Him for our blessings (1 Thess. 5:18, Ps. 103:2, Ps. 118:1, etc). ...

News, RP App

RP's "What needs reforming today?" contest!

505 years ago, Martin Luther courageously nailed 95 revolutionary opinions onto the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. As children of the Reformation, we recognize our natural inclination to drift away from the LORD, requiring continual reformation in our hearts, families, schools, churches, and society. Our challenge to you is to make the case for something that needs reforming in 2022. It could be how we manage creation, farm, observe the Sunday, invest our money, use smartphones, take part in Young People’s Bible studies, or something entirely different. Here is your opportunity to nail your own thesis! Teachers, this could be a great project for your students. And we aren’t just looking for essays (though they are welcome too). We welcome contributions of art, cartoons, satire, and any medium that you desire to make your point. Categories: Youth (under 18) Adults (18+) Rules: Maximum two entries per person Work must be faithful to God’s Word, also as preserved in the great Reformation Must be an original work No minimum length. Maximum 1,500 words or two pages Submitting your work requires giving permission to RP to publish it online and/or in print if selected by the editor Prizes: $100 gift card to Christianbooks.com and $50 for the runner-up for both categories Winners may be published in Reformed Perspective Details: Send your submissions to [email protected] before December 10, 2022; For youth submissions please include age, and permission from parents for the article to be used by RP.   * While Luther did write his 95 theses, it turns out it is less certain whether he "nailed it" or mailed it. ...

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Mo Willems' "Elephant & Piggie"

From about three years old and up, my daughters and I have all loved Elephant and Piggie and their whole 25 book series. When I'd bring a new one home from the library often times my littlest would squeal with delight – before having kids I always thought that was just an expression but now I know better. They are great books for preschoolers and also very fun for first graders just learning to read, and even for third and fourth graders to act out. Piggie is the more expressive of the two friends, but Gerald the Elephant can get bouncy and loud too. It's one adventure after another for two very good friends who are thoughtful, fun-loving, curious and most definitely loud (it's no coincidence that nearly every book title is capped off with an exclamation mark!). My daughter loves the stories because the drawings and the characters are just so energized! The plots are simple enough for her to follow, and bring up situations that she understands like dealing with a friend breaking a toy, learning to throw a ball, and cheering up a sad elephant. All of the books are full of silly fun, and most of them teach simple moral lessons without being obvious about it. For example, in Listen to My Trumpet, Piggie's performance is so bad, Elephant doesn't know quite how to tell her. So he praises her for what he can: her trumpet is shiny, and she can play it loud, and she holds it very well. But when Piggie insists on hearing his opinion of her playing, he is honest. Fortunately, it turns out that Piggie wasn't trying to play music, but was instead trying to sound like an elephant, so it all works out in the end. What a great lesson in, and example of, honesty and tactfulness! Another feature I appreciate is that the stories are generally limited to two characters. That makes it a bit simpler to handle giving them different voices. I can go with a high voice for the girl Piggie, and low for Elephant, and that's pretty much the limit of my vocal ability - if a third character shows up they are stuck with my normal voice. And I love that there are 25 of these. When I would eventually get tired of one book (long before my daughters) I could bring home another one from the library, to her squealing delight! They are recommended for 3-9, but nostalgia has even our older kids looking at them now and again. The following are short reviews of each title, by publication date (2007 to when he stopped in 2016). in alphabetical order. These come in durable hardcovers, with each story at 50+ pages, and the whole series has now been collected in 5 "biggie" books for a pretty thrifty price. Today I Will Fly! You may think pigs can't fly, but when Elephant tells Piggie that, it doesn't discourage her in the least. And, with a little help from a friend, she does get off the ground! My Friend is Sad When Elephant is sad Piggie decides to cheer him up by dressing up as a cowboy, then a clown and finally a robot. But he still doesn't cheer up. Why not? Because he is sad that Piggie wasn't there to see them too! One caution: parents may want to note that while friends are a blessing, they are not everything. I Am Invited to a Party! When Piggie is invited to a party, she turns to Elephant to figure out what to wear because "he knows parties!" Good clean silly fun! There Is a Bird On Your Head! Piggie gives the moment by moment commentary as first one bird, and then two, land on Elephant's head, build a nest, and have eggs that soon hatch. Complete nonsense, and lots of fun. I Love My New Toy! Piggie has a new toy she really wants to show Elephant. But when she shows it to him, he accidentally breaks it. Piggie does not deal with this very well, even though Elephant is very sorry. But when it turns out the toy isn't really broken after all, Elephant shows Piggie where her priorities should have been: "Friends are more fun than toys." I Will Surprise My Friend! After Piggie and Elephant see two squirrels having fun jumping out and surprising each other they decide to try it too. They agree to meet at a the big rock. But when they both arrive on opposite sides of the rock, and thus don't see the other, each begins to wonder what happened to the other. The humor here comes in the contrast: Gerald wonders if Piggie might have fallen off a cliff, or been abducted by a giant bird, or whether she might be fighting a scary, scary monster right now while Piggie wonders if Gerald might have gone for lunch. Funny, but Gerald's wondering made this a bit borderline for my three-year-old, making this the only book in the series I wouldn't read her right before bedtime. Are You Ready to Play Outside? Piggie want to play outside. She really wants to play outside. But then it starts to rain. What's a pig to do? Maybe a change of attitude, and a good friend, can help her have fun no matter what the weather. Watch Me Throw the Ball! Elephant is very good at throwing a ball. Piggie... not so much. But she sure has fun trying! A caution I might add for this one is on boasting. All of it is done in fun, but there sure is a lot of it here! Parents will want to point out that boasting in our strength, if we actually mean it, is disgraceful (Prov. 11.:2). Elephants Cannot Dance! Elephants cannot dance – it even says so in a book! But as Piggie reminds her friend, that doesn't mean you can't try! And while Elephant is not very good at doing most dances, he can do a very good rendition of "the Elephant dance." This is a title that, with some parental guidance, can be used to teach children that while they will not be good at everything, they can still try to improve, and they have their own unique talents and abilities. Pigs Make Me Sneeze! Is Elephant allergic to Piggie? Could his best friend be making him sneeze? Or might there be another reason for why Elephant is sneezing all the time? More silly fun! I Am Going! Piggie is going, and Elephant is having a hard time dealing with it. I was hoping this one could be used to teach my daughter how to deal with the "It's time to go home now" situation, this title would just exasperate the drama. Elephant just cannot stand being apart from Piggie, and, it seems, he never has to be. Though I love the series, this is one isn't all that good. Can I Play Too? Elephant and Piggie are going to play catch, but then Snake asks if he can play too. But Snake does not have arms, so how can he play catch? After a few misadventures Piggie, Elephant and Snake figure out how to play the game so then can include everyone. With a little commentary from mom or dad, this is could be a great way to teach kids about thinking of others, and include others in what they do. We Are in a Book! Piggie and Elephant discover that they are in a book. They then have great fun when they realize they can get the reader to say whatever they want (and they really want the reader to say "Banana"). But when Elephant discovers that, like all books, this one is going to end, he and Piggie figure out a way for the fun to continue - they ask the reader to read the book again! This is an inventive book, but a tad taxing if daddy wanted to read just one more book. I Broke My Trunk! This is a laugh-out-loud story for both parent and child. How did Elephant break his trunk? Did balancing a hippo and rhinoceroses on it have anything to do with it? Nope. Or at least, not directly. This is my favorite in the whole series. Should I Share My Ice Cream? Elephant wants to be a generous soul. But share ice cream? It's so yummy! Elephant spends so much time wrestling back and forth that by the time he finally decides to share, his ice cream has melted! But don't worry – Piggie sees that her friend is sad, so, to cheer him up, she offers to share her ice cream. Happy Pig Day! It's "Oinky Oink Oink!" (that's pig for "Happy Pig Day!") and Elephant feels left out – he doesn't have a snout, or hooves, and he is not pink! But then Piggie explains that "Happy Pig Day!" isn't just for pigs; it is for anyone show loves pigs! So that certainly includes Elephant! Listen to My Trumpet! When Elephant hears Piggie playing her new trumpet he has to figure out a nice way to say she is very, very, very, very, very bad! He does a good job, which makes this a fun and instructive book. Let's Go for a Drive! Elephant wants to go for a drive. And if you are going to go for a drive you need lots of stuff, like maps, sunglasses, umbrellas and luggage to carry it all. Fortunately his friend Piggie has everything they need. Or does he? Lots of fun repetition in this one that your child will catch on to quickly and be able to shout out along with you. A Big Guy Took My Ball! Elephant is incensed at the injustice of it all when Piggie comes to him for help, because "a big guy took my ball!" But then he finds out the big guy is really big – he's a blue whale! Fortunately he's a gentle giant, just looking for a friend. I'm a Frog! When Piggie says he's a frog, a surprised Elephant believes him... only to find out that Piggie is just pretending. When this was written in 2013, there was no transgender angle, but now it could be used to highlight how, just as Piggie was never actually a frog, other sorts of pretending also don't make it so. My New Friend Is So Fun! When Piggie makes a new friend, Elephant gets a more than a little insecure. But Elephant eventually realizes he can make new friends himself and still be best friends with Piggie. Waiting Is Not Easy! Piggie has a surprise for Elephant... but he has to wait for it. A looooooooong time. And Elephant is not so good at waiting. Fortunately, the surprise really is worth the wait. I Will Take a Nap! In one of the more surreal episodes, Elephant takes a nap... and dreams about taking a nap. I Really Like Slop! Piggie's slop does not look good. But he likes it a lot, and want Gerald to give it a try. Gerald finds the flys a little off-putting, but after some persistent encouragement from Piggie he gives it a tiny try. And lives to tell the tale. Oh, the things we do for our friends! The Thank You Book In their last book, Piggie wants to be sure to thank everyone who's been involved in the series. But he almost forgets one very big thank-you. Thankfully Elephant is there to help....

News, RP App

A group of 50 BC doctors are challenging Dr. Henry’s vaccine mandates in court

During the past two years, Canadians in the medical field who were skeptical about COVID vaccines have faced difficult decisions and challenging work environments. If they were unwilling to be among the first to get the jab, they’d no longer be allowed to work in hospitals and extended care homes. And even as restrictions have eased in most of the world, in British Columbia unvaccinated healthcare workers are still barred from working in public healthcare facilities. Now a group of British Columbia physicians – the Canadian Society for Science and Ethics in Medicine (CSSEM) – along with some like-minded nurses, are trying to get that reversed. They’ve submitted a petition for a judicial review of the COVID restrictions. They are asking that a judge rule on whether or not it is reasonable that these employment bans on the unvaccinated continue in light of the current state of the pandemic. Dr. Matt Dykstra of Smithers, BC helped form the CSSEM. He has deep roots in the Smithers area and in the local Reformed community. While he moved away for post-secondary study, he returned to northern BC in 2019 with his wife Fio and their growing family to take over a family practice. During the first couple of years Dykstra spent time with patients at his practice, made house calls, and made rounds at the local extended care home and hospital, where he regularly worked in the emergency department. Then COVID turned things upside down. Dr. Henry decides for everyone In October of 2021, BC’s Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, made vaccines mandatory for all healthcare workers: get vaccinated or be prepared not to enter public healthcare facilities. Dykstra was hesitant about taking the vaccine himself, and struggled to find any strong evidence that his unvaccinated status posed a risk to his patients: he believed that more time was needed to study the effects of these new inoculations on different age groups, and that a one-size-fits-all mandate was not a helpful medical directive. Although he maintained a low profile on the issue, it was not long before he found himself in the center of a controversy. Dykstra was the only one, of more than a dozen local area doctors, who did not sign a statement of unconditional support for the vaccine and the vaccine mandates. When the healthcare workers’ mandate went into effect, he was no longer able to provide services in the local hospital’s emergency department or maternity ward, nor to see patients there or at the extended care facility. Since over a third of his practice’s revenue had come from Dykstra’s work in these public facilities, his decision to abstain from the vaccine had a very real effect on his income and workload. Dykstra is thankful that he has been able to continue to see patients at his practice. While a handful of Dykstra’s patients chose to find other doctors, nearly all remain under his care, and many have been supportive whether or not they received the vaccine themselves. However, over a year after the mandate went into effect, Dykstra and many other doctors and nurses remain shut out of public healthcare facilities. Asking for answers Now, the CSSEM is applying legal pressure on Dr. Henry’s office. The judicial review they requested is scheduled for ten days, beginning November 28. Dykstra explains: “Essentially, we are forcing Dr. Henry to show her evidence – which I believe doesn’t exist, or the medical society would have received it by now – or have the mandate rescinded. Alberta Health has already rescinded their mandate and has been hiring back their health care workers… I believe these mandates are not reasonable, and must end… the mandates are defeated, unvaccinated lab techs, receptionists, unit clerks, and others will also get their jobs back along with us doctors and nurses.” He expressed concern over the manner in which the vaccines were pushed on both doctors and on the general public – that pressure, he said, is not in alignment with physicians’ classical training surrounding important ethical principles. “What bands us in the CSSEM together is our adherence to the pillars of medical ethics: bodily autonomy – the patient decides what happens to his/her own body, and it’s wrong to force care/medications/vaccines/treatments on someone; and informed consent – ensuring the patient has all the information related to the benefits and risks of accepting a proposed treatment and the benefits and risks of rejecting a proposed treatment.” It isn’t as much about the vaccine as it’s about the pressure Dykstra believes that neither doctors nor government workers should put undue pressure on the public to accept a “one size fits all” course of treatment. “The vaccine mandates forced doctors to give medical advice without using their own professional judgment, and without allowing patients to see both the positives and negatives of the vaccines.” Dykstra also wishes to clarify that in opposing the vaccine mandate, he isn’t trying to say others were wrong to get vaccinated. “My hope is that your readers who chose to get the vaccine did so because they thought it was the best choice for them and their families – that’s great. But for those who got vaccinated under threat or coercion – I’m sorry the medical system did that to you, and that most doctors didn’t oppose.” As for fighting this coercion, Dykstra feels quite strongly that doctors should lead the charge. “I don’t think it’s the mechanic’s or teacher’s duty to fight against the crumbling of medical ethics as much as it is mine.” The fifty physicians who make up the CSSEM have spent about $150,000 of their own funds on this legal challenge. They have asked for public support for the remaining $300,000 they expect to spend to see this review all the way to its end. While Dykstra himself was initially reluctant to ask for donations, his wife Fio reminded him that this is a cause that many people feel strongly about, and that donating may be a way for them to show support to healthcare workers in this predicament. Dykstra ended up sending a letter to members of the local Canadian Reformed and United Reformed churches in the Bulkley Valley (Smithers, Telkwa and Houston), and to other friends and supporters, explaining the upcoming judicial review, and inviting them to support this work by donation or letter. “The response has been very positive; it’s been a great encouragement,” said Dykstra. “Many people have reached out, even if they’re unable to contribute, to thank me… for standing up in what I believe in, and that’s regardless of the people’s vaccination status.” You can find out more about the Canadian Society for Science and Ethics in Medicine and their court case at CSSEM.org....

Recent Articles, RP App, Science - Creation/Evolution

Masters of disguise!

“Poppa! Have you seen the Mimic octopus?” My oldest granddaughter’s question was lit with excitement. I had been mentioning a presentation I was working on featuring animals with incredible design features, highlighting that some of them were incredibly difficult for evolutionists even to begin to explain. When I mentioned squid and octopus camouflage, her question above popped out. My response of “I don’t think so” initiated a frantic scramble for a nearby phone and a hasty search on YouTube. What I watched for the next minute and forty-nine seconds1 left me with my mouth agape and led eventually to a salt-water aquarium in my home with one of those very creatures inhabiting it. (It’s amazing what homeschoolers learn about!) Like a second skin Even the “average” octopus species is truly incredible, capable of rapid color changes a chameleon could only dream of. Like a pixelated video screen, flashes of light can erupt from their skin surface, sometimes pulsating and other times creating waves of shadowy patterns that make them almost impossible to spot along the ocean floor among its corals and sea plants. They are capable of texture changes to their skin that are downright eerie, which means not only can they simulate the color of objects in their surroundings but also the shape of them to an extent. Rather than describing these creatures’ sophistication and complexity as simply a reflection of the brilliance and glory of their Creator, some naturalists have attempted to explain some of their intricacies as being alien in origin. So “advanced” are these creatures’ abilities (and yet so early do they appear in the evolutionary timeline, supposedly 296 million years ago2), some evolutionary scientists have seriously suggested they perhaps had biological input from alien lifeforms at some point in their “evolution”!3 The mimic octopus’s most impressive copying act is its take on the flounder. It even undulates across the ocean floor just like the founder does. Why do you act that way? But as amazing as “regular” octopi are, the mimic octopus is in a class by itself: it’s the first living thing ever observed to impersonate the shape and behavior of other aquatic species along with color and texture changes. Discovered in 1998 off the coast of the island of Sulawesi (Indonesia), it’s been spotted now as far as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, so may be more widespread than originally thought.4 Many of the creatures it imitates are venomous, so it fools predators into thinking they are encountering a dangerous adversary rather than a sly cephalopod. The exact number of creatures it’s able to mimic is unknown, but watching video of one hide its body and six legs in a hole, change the color of its two exposed arms to the distinctive black and light stripes of the banded sea snake, and then waving them in opposite directions to impersonate a striped serpent is unnerving to say the least! Known “avatars” the mimic imitates include flatfish, crabs, jellyfish, mantis shrimp, stingrays, lionfish, and sand anemones. The uncanny thing about these octopi is that they seem to be able to make accurate and intelligent decisions as to what creature they should imitate depending on the environment they are in or the predators they encounter. For example, because damselfish are hunted by banded sea snakes, mimics often adopt their “snakelike” form, color, and behavior when they encounter damselfish to frighten them away. When traveling across a seabed with little cover, mimics may transform their tentacles to look like the poisonous barbed fins of a lionfish and imitate its pulsing, distinct movement so as to ward off predators. The mimic octopus will burrow down, leaving just two of its tentacles visible, to do a decent impression of the banded snake eel, on the right.  The quick-change artist When considering this creature’s day-to-day activity, you quickly realize it has several sophisticated abilities that depend on accessing and activating tremendous amounts of coded, genetic information. Sensor array: Obviously, the mimic must be capable of monitoring and analyzing its current environment constantly. Response analysis: It must also have the ability to determine an appropriate response(s) needed in different environments or when encountering specific predators it interacts with. (I.e., if A, then B; if X, then Y, etc.). Catalog of aliases: Once a specific creature to mimic has been decided upon, it must then access other detailed “files” for all of the abilities, features, and behaviors of the different creatures it can possibly mimic. Immediate response: The mimic’s systems must then correctly activate commands to alter its shape, color, texture, and movement, which of course requires a body that has the capability to expand or contract, become smooth or rough, rigid or soft, multi-textured, multi-colored and/or precisely patterned almost instantaneously. The pic on the left doesn’t capture the mimic's best lionfish imitation but gives a feel for how it can masquerade as the poison-tipped predator on the right.  Meet “Morph” I named my own mimic, procured from a local pet store, Morph. Morph lived for eight months, but he exhibited spectacular behavior and executed many brilliant performances during that time, with nightly “light shows” being commonplace. Although very shy for the first three days I had him, he became more comfortable, and I was able to hand-feed him shrimp for his supper eventually. Because octopus aquariums are typically a one-species environment (either the octopus eats whatever else is in there or they get eaten by what is), he only “mimicked” once, as there was nothing in the tank to react to. Upon entering my tank for the very first time, Morph impersonated a jellyfish, slowly pulsed down, and then switched to his regular form once he had cover. This made sense, because upon entry he was at the top of the tank with nowhere to hide and didn't know if there were predators in that environment. Note that his mimicry involved imitating another creature not immediately present in his environment (rather than simply blending into the background), which leads to the question, how did he “know” what to do? Mimic octopi are only thought to live nine months (the longest-living octopus live for a maximum of five years), so scientists don’t believe they are simply observing and copying other creatures’ behavior; they are born with it. Which means all of that programming is already present and passed on to each subsequent generation. But how could that have come about? Masterful design Consider this: If a person today were to create and program a mechanism that could perform half the functions this creature does, they would likely receive all of the accolades the scientific community could possibly bestow upon a human being, and probably hail them as the most brilliant scientist on the planet. Their creation would be highly esteemed as an incredible example of intelligent design. However, despite the obvious evidence of design in nature, naturalists seem bound to evolutionary interpretations. One evolutionary blogger from Nature.com tried explaining the mimic this way: "In this species we see the evolutionary 'perfect storm' in which a species with flexibility in their skin and body shape is consistently exposed to a predator-rich environment that contains toxic or venomous species such as soles, lionfish and banded sea snakes. This combination provides both the selective pressures and the opportunity to these otherwise vulnerable animals to evolve into the world's greatest masters of disguise!"5 But that isn’t a real explanation of anything. It’s like saying because evolution is true, evolution happened. But design requires a designer, and programming requires a programmer. Natural selection or genetic mutation are simply not sufficient explanations for what we see in creatures like the mimic octopus. And despite evolutionists concocting many “just so” stories to attempt to explain how so many precisely coordinated and irreducibly complex mechanisms could have arisen in creatures without a designer, for those with eyes to see, the conclusion is obvious. "But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?" (Job 12:7-9) The master designer, the God of the Bible, created these along with all of the other magnificent sea creatures on day five of creation. As much as evolutionists try to mimic God’s creative power through the story of evolution, creation declares its Creator, even in an insignificant octopus! Be sure to check out the 3-minute video below. Footnotes 1 Most intelligent Mimic Octopus in the world, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-LTWFnGmeg 2 Rachel Nuwer, “Ten Curious Facts About Octopuses,” Smithsonian Magazine, October 31, 2013, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/ten-curious-facts-about-octopuses-7625828. 3 E. Steele, et al., “Cause of Cambrian Explosion—Terrestrial or cosmic?” Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology136 (2018):3–23, doi:10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2018.03.004. 4 “The Mimic Octopus,” National Geographic, www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/m/mimic-octopus. 5 Sarah Jane Alger, “The Mimic Octopus: Master of Disguise,” October 28, 2013, https://www.nature.com/scitable/blog/accumulating-glitches/the_mimic_octopus_master_of. Picture credits from top to bottom: VelvetFish iStockPhoto; VelvetFish iStockPhoto.com; FtLaud Shutterstock.com; Stephan Kerkhofs, MariusLtu, Jenhung Huang, and Vitalii Kalutskyi, all iStockPhoto.com This article was written by Calvin Smith , is published with permission, and originally appeared at https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/calvin-smith/2020/09/07/masters-disguise....

Adult fiction, Book Reviews

Letters Along The Way, from a Senior Saint to a Junior Saint

by D.A. Carson & John Woodbridge 2022 / 373 pages Christians have long had the chance, in C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, to eavesdrop on the correspondence between two demons, one young, and the other a senior demon intent on passing along the knowledge necessary to lead Christians to damnation. Now, in Letters Along The Way, we have the opportunity to read the mail exchanged between two saints, both intent on spreading the gospel to the world. We can follow along, by way of their correspondence, as senior saint Paul Woodson mentors Tim Journeyman on the path from unbeliever to church pastor.  Like Lewis, Carson and Woodbridge cover a broad range of topics. Reading straight through will allow you to fully experience the transformation of Journeyman. However you could also just pick and choose different letters to get a wealth of knowledge on that particular subject, ranging from pastoral training to communism – a helpful index highlights which letters talk about what subjects. (The reader should be mindful of some theological differences resulting from the authors’ Baptist point-of-view.)  Reading this cover to cover may be a slog for some, and they may prefer reading just this letter or that. Others will enjoy following the whole journey God is taking this fledgling Christian on, molding him into His instrument to spread the gospel. Readers may see parts of Journeyman reflected in themselves and may well form deep bonds with their new friend and mentor, Paul Woodson. Find a link to a free pdf version of the 1993 edition here....

Drama, Movie Reviews

A Royal Christmas

Drama / Romance 87 minutes / 2014 RATING: 7/10 How would you react if you found out that the wonderful, thoughtful, fun, quiet someone you were dating was secretly royalty? That's the premise, in this fun-for-the-whole-family Hallmark outing. Emily Taylor is a young talented clothes designer, who comes by her skills from growing up in the family's tailor shop. Leo James is her long-time boyfriend – it's been almost a year now! – who suddenly reveals that he is actually the crown prince of the tiny kingdom of Cordinia. And he's inviting Emily to come visit the kingdom for Christmas. The one hitch? Queen Isadora (played by Jane Seymour of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman) is dead set against her son marrying a commoner. So will Emily win over the frosty queen? Will she find a way to fit in with dukes and countesses? Can she learn the ways of royalty without losing the spark that makes her special? And will the lonely queen find someone to love? If you've seen any of these kinds of films before, you can already answer all of these questions. But that doesn't make it any less fun to watch. Caution The one caution would be a passing mention that years ago the prince once went skinny dipping with a duchess. It was a weird inclusion, and totally not in keeping with the tone of the rest of the film (maybe it was something innocent when they were just little kids?). The only other concern is that this is yet another movie with "Christmas" in the title that makes no mention of the reason for the season, Christ. Not surprising from Hallmark; still disappointing. Conclusion When I came up with my own film rating scale, what I had in mind for a 7 was a typical Hallmark film, one that was entertaining, but where the acting wasn't all that noteworthy in either a bad or good direction. That's exactly what we have here. A Royal Christmas was enjoyed by all in our household, from 9 all the way up to mom and dad. Shucks, if grandma and grandpa has stopped by, I'm sure they would have liked it too. It's not amazing, but it sure is nice. ...

Humor, Recent Articles, RP App, Satire

Say what? Insights from the "Devil's Dictionary"

Ambrose Bierce (1842- circa 1914) was an American satirist best known for his Devil’s Dictionary. In it he sought to “improve” on Noah Webster’s famous work by providing definitions that weren’t so much devilish as cynical. And a cynic was, so Bierce defined him, “A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. “ Now God says unbelievers are fools (Ps. 14:1) so it follows they shouldn’t be our go-to source for wisdom. That makes it all the funnier/that-much-more-embarrassing when an unbeliever sees something we’ve missed. It is, for example, quite a shock to the system when Bierce sees through the fundamental flaw in the conservative political position, noting that most who go by this label aren’t principled, but are simply “conserving” whatever it is the liberals pushed through in the years preceding! If even an agnostic – if even a blind man – can see through the folly of unprincipled conservatism, we Christians – who have been gifted God’s illuminating Word – really have no excuse for supporting it. This is a rebuke delivered via the mouth of a donkey. What follows below are a few of the diamonds from Ambrose’s dictionary, sifted out from the dross. Admiration: Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves. Christian: One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. Conservative: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from a Liberal who wishes to replace them with others. Education: That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding. Egotist: A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me. Idleness: A model farm where the devil experiments with seeds of new sins and promotes the growth of staple vices. Once: Enough. Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage. Quotation: The act of repeating erroneously the words of another. Radicalism: The conservatism of tomorrow injected into the affairs of today. Referendum: law for submission of proposed legislation to a popular vote to learn the nonsensus of public opinion. Tariff: A scale of taxes on imports, designed to protect the domestic producer against the greed of his consumer. And finally, others have taken up Bierce's diabolical definitions. Two of these selections are often attributed to Bierce, but probably in error. Atheism: The belief that man is god, a god who eventually and invariably takes incarnational shape in the form of the state – Douglas Wilson Classic: A book which people praise but don't read. – Mark Twain Lottery: A tax on people bad at math. – Ambrose Bierce? Racist: Anyone winning an argument with a liberal. Sweater: Garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly. – Ambrose Bierce? Transgender: The application of blackface to gender issues. – Douglas Wilson...

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Saturday Selections – October 22, 2022

Newton on science and the supernatural (7 min) Science and faith don't mix? One of the world's most famous scientists, Sir Isaac Newton, would beg to differ. But even as Newton believed in a god, he didn't seem to believe in our one true God – Newton denied the Trinity. Joe Rogan: do we want the government regulating truth on the Internet? Podcaster Joe Rogan recently asked a guest whether we should want the government to regulate speech on the Internet. For those who'd say yes, there's this to consider: a UK mom arrested earlier this month for social media posts critical of transgender ideology. God – not gov't – offers direction to the gender-confused Chloe Cole was gender-confused at 12, approved for puberty blockers and a double mastectomy at 15, and full of regret at 16. Why didn't anyone help Chloe before she made the biggest mistake of her young life? Because: "In California, any attempt to dissuade a minor from their preferred gender is considered 'conversion therapy.'”  God – not government – offers hope to the suicidal Last month, an Ontario mom discovered her depressed 23-year-old son had scheduled to kill himself. This Catholic lady may have taken inspiration from the parable of the persistent widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8) – she made such a stink that the doctor backed off. However, for every suicide prevented, there are many more encouraged and enabled by the government, and no wonder: euthanasia is a cost-saving measure for the State because killing a citizen is cheaper than caring for them. Euthanasia is Canada's "new social safety net." In offering no remedy for this callousness, this secular article illustrates how hope for the depressed and suicidal needs to be sought elsewhere. It doesn't share that hope, but God does, in three ways: Purpose: death becomes preferable when living is seen as pointless, so Christians need to share how God gives us purpose, to glorify Him, which is possible for everyone in every situation and stage of life. Value: in contrast to some lives being not worth living, God tells us our worth isn't found in what we can or can't do, but in whose Image we are made (Gen. 9:6, 1:27). Refuge: the Church can start hospitals again, where people can go to be cared for, and not killed. How Christianity created the hospital "The first major epidemic faced by the Church was the Antonine Plague (A.D. 166-189). In fear of their lives, the Romans threw the sick out of their homes to die in the streets. Galen, the most prominent physician of the age, knew he could neither heal its victims nor protect himself. So, he fled Rome to stay at his country estate. ....Many Christians ran the other direction." The truth about plastics pollution (6 min) Government bans on single-use plastics here in North America won't help turtles. What such bans can do, is get some consumers to use paper rather than plastic, or, use heavier plastic garbage bags and heavier grocery bags that are theoretically recyclable but only use more resources when consumers don't. ...

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Aging in hope!

I am 68 years of age and retired, so I suppose I am considered old. In our politically correct times, I am called either a “senior citizen" or "chronologically gifted." What is aging? How do we react to it? These questions are no longer academic for me. When I was in my teens, I thought that people in their fifties were old. At this juncture in my life, a fifty-year-old seems relatively youthful. So aging is ambiguous. Bernard Nash describes aging as a paradox: "Does it not strike you that we all want to live longer but none of us want to grow old?" Throughout our lives we think other people grow older until we gradually realize that we ourselves have aged. Some say that aging can be compared with the fall season when the fruits ripen and the leaves fall; others claim that the moment of aging has arrived when the sum total of memories has become greater than our expectations. Aging, says the American gerontologist Howel, "is not a simple slope which everyone slides down at the same speed. It is a flight of irregular stairs down which some journey more quickly than others." To grow old also means to lose acquaintances and lifelong friends to distance, illness, and death. Obituaries testify that life is the process of aging, and aging is the steady progress of dying within us. Every moment we are alive, we are aging. Life and death are intimately linked. The day is coming when all our earthly possessions will be swept away, including our ability to enjoy them. This is not a morbid view of life – it is simply reality. As the 17th century poet Robert Herrick wrote, Gather ye rose-buds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying. And this same flower, that smile today, Tomorrow will be dying. So how do we cope with aging? We live in a society that has shown little understanding of growing old, and valued it even less. The Christian literature on aging seems sparse, with far more attention paid to child-rearing. Too little attention has been given to caring for aged parents. DENIAL CAN'T LAST It’s seems the fear of aging has contributed to a denial of reality – if we don’t talk about it, maybe it won’t happen to us, right? This sort of denial is why some find visiting a nursing home a burden. They can't imagine themselves ever being there. They don’t want the reminder of their own mortality. Our society views frankness about death as deviant, a subject not to be discussed in polite company. For many death is the last taboo in Western culture; for others it has become an exploited sentimentality: people don't attend funerals anymore, but instead “celebrations of a life lived.” And when they do talk about death, it is to make light of it, with styrofoam tombstones on the front yard on All Hallows’ Eve. But their atheistic naturalism leaves them unable to face the brute finality of death. And because they are unwilling to return to a biblical perspective, a new generation puts their faith in reports of out-of-body experiences and in New Age mysticism. Still, try as it might, the world cannot keep death out of sight and mind. The moment we are born, we begin to die. PERPETUAL TEENAGERS The world’s death denial is evident, too, in how it is now a common goal among the aged to stay young. Or, rather, not just stay young, but stay immature. Whereas in the past becoming an adult was the ideal, today the older generation wants to look as young as possible, with some trying to camouflage their age by dressing like teenagers. In his own inimitable and not very flattering way, British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge reported on a month he spent at a resort in Florida. He said that everything was done to make senior citizens feel that they were not really aged, but still full of zest and expectations; if not teenagers, then keenagers. These seniors, he said, had withered bodies arrayed in dazzling summer wear, hollow eyes glaring out of garish caps, skulls plastered with cosmetics, lean shanks tanned a rich brown, bony buttocks encased in scarlet trousers. Muggeridge's description may be exaggerated, but it does say something about the affect contemporary youth culture has on our society. It has a negative and morbid view of aging. FOREVER ON EARTH? The advertisement industry contributes to this mood. Wherever we look, there are ads for anti-aging creams, yoga routines, nutritional programs, and medical interventions. Growing old is seen not so much as part of the human condition but rather as a solvable medical and scientific problem. Hence, doctors and scientists search for a solution to the "problem of old age." What are the chances that scientific advance will find a way to extend life indefinitely? A number of investors have paid large sums to have their bodies frozen at death by means of cryogenics, which is used to freeze beef and vegetables, as well as people. But as Dr. Russell points out in his secular work Good News About Aging, those who cherish dreams of being defrosted and living forever some time hence are probably cherishing an implausible dream because freezing destroys human body cells. He adds: "…even if we can overcome this and other problems, no scientific evidence suggests that we can expect to eliminate death now or in the future because all things break down over time." And what if we could live forever? In our fallen world, would we really want to? In his 1922 play The Makropulos Secret, Karel Capek probes this issue with the 337-year-old character Emilia, who notes: "… no one can love for three hundred years – it cannot last. And then everything tires one. It tires one to be good, it tires one to be bad. The whole earth tires one. And then you find out there is nothing at all: no sin, no pain, no earth, nothing." What a hideous future! To be given an everlasting longevity without being regenerated by the Holy Spirit, without hope to be with the Lord in the new heaven and earth, is a dismal prospect. It is to live under a curse. If we could live on in this world with all its pain, conflicts, without solving the immense human problems, a medically-expanded life would simply set the stage for more of same human conflicts and social injustices. IMPATIENCE INSTEAD OF HONOR Death denial is also evident in our youth’s treatment of the elderly. Aging frustrates modern youth – it interferes with their desire "to get things done." Have you ever noticed the impatience shown in a lineup at the bank when a senior is trying to carry out a transaction? Their slower pace often exasperates the clerk and the younger customers waiting for their turn. These young people can’t imagine ever being in the same situation. Sure, other people age…but not them. The conflict between the generations is a subject of much discussion. Many seem to view aging as a process to endure and suffer through, rather than as a temporally contingent gift from God to be approached with gratitude. The Canadian philosopher George Grant observed that old age is more and more seen as an unalleviated disaster, not only for those outside of it but by those people who are old themselves. And he noted that we do not see age as that time when the eternal can be realized, and we therefore pity the aged as coming to the end of historic existence. Sociologists even refer to ageism, which can be defined as a general distaste for the elderly in our culture – equivalent to racial prejudice, but in this case unfair generalizations are made about any who are old: “all elderly people are forgetful," "all elderly people are ill-tempered," "all elderly people suffer from depression,” or “mental impairment is endemic to aging.” Contrary to the myth about aging, seniors do not necessarily decline in intelligence or lose their decision-making abilities. History gives us countless examples of creative, active, and productive seniors. At 71, Michelangelo (1475-1564) was appointed the chief architect of St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome. After he was 63 years old, Joost Van den Vondel (1587-1679), Holland's greatest poet, wrote Jephta, Lucifer and Adam in ballingschap (Adam in exile). George Bernhard Shaw (1856-1679), Irish dramatist and author, wrote Farfetched Fables at 93. Polish-born Arthur Rubinstein (1888-1982) gave a stunning performance at Carnegie Hall at the age of 90. Like these famous people, there are millions of elderly people who are still productive and active in their own way and want to remain so. Ageism seems to comes about because people know little about old age, and because what they know is based on myth and fear. People even talk about generational wars. In recent years, the conflict between the generations has become most noticeable due to the decreasing ability of government to pay for health and pension benefits. The pinch is already provoking generational conflict in the ambitious welfare states of Northern Europe, where birthrates and immigration rates are lower than in the United States and where the elderly wield considerable political clout. Young Europeans are complaining about the high cost of healthcare for the elderly, and are resentful of fees that are eroding the tradition of free university education. One German youth leader gained notoriety by suggesting that old folks should use crutches rather than seek expensive hip replacements. Unfortunately, this generational conflict is also seen in churches today. Seniors don't like to call their dominee “pastor Jack” and they certainly don’t like his casual appearance when he comes visiting. But when a vacant church thinks of calling a pastor there is a strong emphasis on youth. It seems that some search committees look for a twenty-five-year-old man with thirty years of experience. A CHRISTIAN ALTERNATIVE The differences between the generations don't need to lead to conflicts. Christians can offer alternative understandings of aging. The Bible views the conflict between generations as abnormal. Yes, youth is a wonderful thing, but it is not the only thing. It is a blessing in many ways, but it can, on some occasions even be a curse. When Isaiah pronounced judgment on Jerusalem and Judah, he said, "I will make boys their officials; mere children will govern them" (Isa.3:4). Young and old can come to mutual understanding and appreciation of each other. In the Kingdom of God, "Children's children are a crown of the aged, and parents are the pride of their children" (Prov. 17:6). Old men dream dreams and young men see visions (Joel 2:28; cf. Acts 2:17). And God promises that He will be with His people of every age bracket. "Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you" (Isa. 46:4). So how do we face the twilight years of life? With feelings of dread… or of hope? Let’s delve further into God’s Word and see. AGING IN THE OLD TESTAMENT In the Old Testament we find that God regards great age as the supreme reward of virtue. The aged were shown respect and honor. Old age is a blessing and not a curse. Scripture says, "Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God" (Lev.19-32). The psalmist testifies to growing old in hope. He says, "The righteous ... will still bear fruit in old age; They will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him" (Ps. 92:14-15). Growing old became a symbol of blessing, wisdom, and righteousness – an honorable process by which God rewarded those who were obedient, for example, in honoring their own parents: "Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you" (Ex. 20:12). In Proverbs readers are essentially promised a long life if their hearts will but, “keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and abundant welfare they give you" (3:1-2). The very display of gray hair itself, a sure sign of growing old throughout the centuries, becomes in Scripture "a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life" (Prov. 16:31). By pushing the elderly aside to fringes of society, we diminish them and make our society the poorer through the loss of their experience and maturity. When Moses was 80 years old, God called him to lead His people to the Promised Land. At that greatly advance age, Moses became the historian, leader, and statesman of Israel. At about 85 years of age, Joshua was divinely commissioned to succeed Moses. At his death at 110 years of age, he was deeply mourned and his eminent service widely acknowledged (Josh. 24:29-31). A NEW TESTAMENT BLESSING TOO In the New Testament the attitude towards aging is no different from that in the Old Testament. Those who reached an advanced age were honored and esteemed in the community. Aged saints have a significant role in the opening chapter of Luke's Gospel. The first characters to appear on the stage are the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, who were both "advanced in years" (Luke 1:7). They are the instruments of God's purposes and the first interpreters of God's saving acts. Simeon and Anna are the prophetic chorus welcoming the child Jesus on the occasion of his purification in the Temple (Luke 2:22-38). The remarkable thing is that the aged Simeon dies in the beginning of the Gospel account. His eyes are fixed in hope on the one newly born, in whose life, death, and resurrection the world will know peace. He has long been hoping for "the consolation of Israel," and has been promised by the Holy Spirit that he will not die before he has seen the Lord's Messiah. Anna – an eighty-four-year-old prophetess who frequents the Temple to worship and pray night and day – recognizes Jesus, gives thanks to God, and declares the news about him "to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (2:38). As people who have clung to God's promises over many years, they embody the virtues of long-suffering patience and trust in God's ultimate faithfulness. They also exemplify faith and hope, even when circumstances seem hopeless. Aging was not seen by the early Christians as a "problem" to which some sort of religious solution was required. In the entire New Testament, particularly in the Pastoral Epistles, the respect due to older members of the community is emphasized. The exhortations imply and speak explicitly of dutifully caring for widows, honoring the elderly, imitating their faith, and faithfulness. For example, "Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as you would a father." Here we find also specific directives that the community should provide assistance to widows over age of sixty, and that women recognized by the Church as widows should devote their energies to prayer, hospitality, and to service to the afflicted (1 Tim.5: 3-16). In our youth obsessed culture, the elderly are strongly tempted to act youthful. They are expected to get a workout to remain in shape, get beauty treatments to rejuvenate themselves, and to dress in youth fashions. Should seniors long to be young again? I don't think so. For Christians old age is not a dead-end street. As we age, we can still grow spiritually. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians "Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16). He said to the Ephesians that we can progressively succeed in putting off the old self and putting on the new self and "be made new in the attitude of our minds." This renewal through the Holy Spirit impacts our mental attitude, state of mind, and disposition with respect to God and His world throughout our life. In other words, we continue to develop our walk with God (Eph. 4:22-24). NEVER TO OLD TO SERVE THE LORD Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, who suffered unspeakable horror in Nazi concentration camps, says that there is no reason to pity old people. And he adds this remarkable statement, "Instead, young people should envy them." Why? Because seniors have something young people don't possess. Frankl says that seniors have realities in the past – the potentialities they have actualized, the values they have realized – and nothing and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past. In Book X of his Confessions, Augustine (354-430) calls memory a "vast court" or "great receptacle." The elderly have a rich storehouse of memories, and inner landscape to explore: times lost in idleness, opportunities well used, a fulfilling career, children grown up, and suffering gone through with dignity and courage. What an opportunity for our youth to tap into the memories of their grandparents! Covenantal obligations never cease. The Christian faith is passed on from one generation to the next. It depends on that transmission. That’s why there must always be a most intimate relationship between the present and the coming generation if there is to be a future generation of Christians. The Church cannot be the Church without the elderly. They are the embodiment of the Church's story. Of course, we do not expect that all the elderly will be able to express the "wisdom of their years." But there can be no substitute for some old people in the Church passing on their wisdom to the younger generation. The youth simply cannot do without the older generation. In our culture, for a few years young adults may pretend (egged on by social and cultural forces) that they can live forever as autonomous, self-reliant, self-fulfilling beings. The pretense, however, collapses soon enough. The presence of the visible vulnerable elderly is a reminder that we are not our own creators. All of us will age; dark and blond hair will turn grey. Consequently, young Christians need the elderly so they will not take their lives for granted. I will say it again: the Church cannot be the Church without the elderly. That's why throughout history the Church has frowned on separating the young from the old through conducting youth services. I have even read about a Church where no older people were expected to attend. But according to Scripture old and young belong together. They are all part of the great family of God. Our covenant youth need to hear from their grandparents and seniors in the Church what it means to be a Christian. Grandparents know the family traditions and values. They can tell the story of their wartime experiences, their immigration with its hardship and adventures, and the reasons for leaving the country of their birth. Seniors can give to the youth the lessons and spiritual resources that have been harvested over a lifetime. Our times are so confusing and threatening for our young people. Why not explain to them that the Christian faith is for all of life: hence the founding of Christian schools, colleges, universities, a Christian labor association, Christian magazines and bi-weeklies, and a Christian political party? Why not tell them that doing good works is doing your work well? Why not testify to them how the Lord's promise "Surely I am with you always" (Matt.28:20) is a reality and not a myth? The lessons learned from godly grandparents and other Christian seniors are often long remembered. HOPE IN CHRIST As we age, we become more aware of the swift passing of years. We can either let the fear of death put a mental stranglehold on us or we can look to the future with hope. Let’s remember, the best is yet to come! Jesus Christ, the risen and ascended Lord is the ground of our hope and the promise of our deliverance. The hope of the resurrection lies at the heart of the way in which Christians embody the practices of growing old. We serve a faithful God who will never forget us! We are strangers and pilgrims on earth, the older we become the nearer we are to our eternal home. This truth encourages even the oldest individual to cherish each moment of life while preparing to relinquish it. Each day is a gift from God. We look to Him for our daily bread while making sure that we seek first the kingdom of God rather than squandering our time and energy on secondary concerns. With the prospect of a glorious future for all who are in Christ, we can identify with Martin Luther's suggestions that "in the purpose of God, this world is only a preparation and a scaffolding for the world to come." I also think of John Calvin's teaching in his Geneva Catechism that we are "to learn to pass through this world as though it is a foreign country, treating all things lightly and declining to set our hearts on them." We all face death some time or another. When we are old, it is more of a reality than in the days of our youth. I pray that our attitude toward death may resemble that of Lutheran pastor, scholar, and resistance leader Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who with shining face in joyful expectation, said to the two Nazi guards who had to come to take him to be executed, "For you it is the end, for me the beginning." Rev. Johan Tangelder (1936-2009) wrote for Reformed Perspective for 13 years and many of his articles have been collected at ReformedReflections.ca. This is an edited version of a two-part article that first appeared in the 2004 November and December issues. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

Leo Da Vinci: Mission Mona Lisa

Animated / Children 2020 / 82 minutes Rating: 8/10 What would history's most inventive mind have been like as a kid?  In Leo Da Vinci we find out that he was crazy creative even as a lad. His best friend Lorenzo is every bit as up for an adventure, and their friend Lisa (first name, Mona) brings some needed sanity to this rambunctious mix. Add in some wacky inventions, like a hand-pedaled car that can (sort of) fly and the world's very first diving suit, sprinkle in a few sharks, top it off with a dose of dastardly pirates, just a little romance, and a mystery to solve, and you've got the ingredients for an action-packed animated adventure. Of course, this has very little to do with the actual Leonardo Da Vinci, which might be worth sharing with your kids, but it sure is loads of fun. Cautions There are no big cautions, but a concern for parents would be the scariness. At one point Lisa sees a skeleton and has to move it over to get to a treasure chest underneath, though because the music isn't too scary, this isn't so bad. More worrisome is a shark scene, complete with ominous music – that'll likely get a few small ones anxious. There are also the typical frantic chase scenes, though these involve a not-so-typical glider car that can also be a boat, fleeing from cannon fire. For a moment it even looks like Leo has been blown up. Parents can assure any little worriers that it all turns out okay. The one exception to this happily-ever-after rule is a brief scene in which the pirates make a crewman "take a long walk on a short plank" and we don't actually find out what happens to him - we hear a splash and we're on to the next scene. No sharks are nearby, so... let's just presume he swum to the nearby shore? Conclusion Leo is an Italian production, and that gives it a different feel than the fare we're used to, which adds to the experience (it also means that the English dubbing doesn't always sync up with the character's mouths). While this is strictly a children's film – teens will think it too kiddish – there's enough complexity to keep mom and dad awake. For parents, the highlight might be the Tell Me Why song that pops up twice, and which is so dreadful it had me cry-giggling. I'll share some of the lyrics but you really need to hear it! When I am here with you, I am a fish inside a creek, and I don’t know how to speak. Maybe a mobile phone could help, so I could tell you, my dear, what I can’t when you are near. ....But why do I have to try and be so bright when all you need is just an ordinary guy? …But why do I have to try invent a glider when all you need is just a flower? Leo is a fun adventure, with loads of action, and a good mix of guy and girl characters for both your sons and daughters to enjoy. Watch the trailer below. ...

CD Review, Music, Recent Articles

Why you, too, should listen to Jamie Soles

I like Jamie Soles! From his music telling Bible stories for kids to his versifications of the Psalms, there is something for every Christian in his repertoire. As his website, SolMusic.ca, says, "If you love how the whole Bible testifies of Jesus, you will love this music!" A bit of history We've been listening to Jamie Soles for a long time. Our boys grew up on his Bible stories from albums like The Way My Story Goes and Fun and Prophets. To give you a bit of a taste of some of my favorites, I’ll share some excerpts. My son Isaac and I once performed “Chariots” from Fun and Prophets. Imagine these words sung in a lovely, boyish treble. I won my heart's desire when a chariot of fire And a horse named Blaze took my master away. Imagine my delight to behold such a sight Of Elijah in flight on the wind. Soles turned stories about lists of kings and apostles and repeated sacrifices by Jewish tribal representatives into memorable and singable songs that prompted questions and looking up of Bible passages. We are indebted to him for helping us to teach our children the Bible because, as he put it in “These Are They,” "stories are your biblical A-B-Cs." These are only part of it, This is but the start of it, Stories are your biblical ABCs! Now… All these stories, they show My glories. These are they which speak of Me. I think we were introduced to Jamie Soles back when we lived in the Hamilton area. I played violin at our church and was teaching music to one of our pastor's daughters. We visited with their family a lot, and on one visit the children came to me and excitedly asked me to listen to "This is the Sign," which is about the covenant significance of circumcision. It begins with God explaining his covenant to Abraham: Ninety and nine seems a long time But I have been waiting longer than you have To give you My Word that you’ve become Mine The father of kings and nations... I remember thinking, "Wow! That's not something most people write a song about." I've been hooked ever since. We took our boys years later to one of Jamie's concerts, and met up with him at Ontario Christian Home Educators’ Connection conferences as well. His music is still a part of our lives and I find myself humming tunes like "These are the Prophets" and "Jesus to the Rescue" on a fairly regular basis. I've even purchased his albums as gifts for friends on more than one occasion. Why I'm telling you about this Music is a big deal! It's an important way to teach your children about God's word. It's also an important way to help fill your heart with scripture and worship. Music is obviously an essential aspect of corporate worship on Sundays as well. The thing is, Christian music should be skillfully done and it should be theologically sound. Jamie Soles delivers on both counts. You can't go wrong with teaching his songs to your kids, and you can't go wrong with walking around humming them yourself either. Until my family was introduced to Jamie Soles, the music that often played in my head when reading scripture came from the libretto of Handel’s “Messiah” or Mendelssohn’s “Elijah,” not to mention the songs of Michael Card. But now, as I read through Numbers 23 I hear the sounds of “Dust of Jacob.” Jamie’s songs will be with my family and me for the rest of our lives, and we’re thankful. Soles' music is very difficult to categorize. It ranges from what sounds a bit like folk to songs that are more akin to rock and roll. But his music and his words always suit each other and he seems to always have a fresh take on a biblical theme or a little-known Bible story. It doesn't hurt that his wife and his children have often been a part of his albums and their contributions make many of his recordings that much better. I highly recommend Jamie Soles' music. You can find all of his albums on Spotify and you can purchase them as CDs or MP3 downloads at SolMusic.ca. I want to leave you with one song that I especially love. In “Gates of Nain” Soles' wife Valerie sings the poignant story of Luke 7:11-17 from the perspective of the widow whose only son has died. My sons call me a softy, but this never fails to bring me to tears, mainly because of the widow's realization that this man is the great prophet whom God has finally sent to Israel. Through my tears I see the crowd has grown A Man approaches with compassion shown He says, "Do not weep." And our march of death and time stands still Nothing could prepare me for this What could have prepared me for this.... He spoke to my son, my dead son, my only son And He told him to arise, and he did!...

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Saturday Selections – October 15, 2022

Perfect timing Here's a fun one for the whole fam that's sure to inspire some imitation... Scientists revive 100 million-year-old bacteria? For anything to be alive that long is, of course, impossible... unless it's actually much younger. Vaping tax led to an increase in cigarette usage... The practical case for government being small is simply that they are fallible. One of the latest illustrations of that fallibility is a tax on vaping that was intended to discourage use. But instead it prompted a turn to even more harmful cigarettes. As the article asks, "How many times do their efforts have to backfire before bureaucrats and politicians learn the limits of their abilities?" Fossil fuels: still essential to human flourishing In his new book, Alex Epstein notes that there is still a pressing need for the poor to get access to fossil fuels. As this review notes: "One example of the suffering which energy poverty imposes is the fact that almost 800 million people have no access to electricity, while around 2.4 billion people still rely on wood and animal dung to cook and heat their homes...." By using "human flourishing" as his measure for environmental policies Epstein is, whether intentionally or not, placing Man at the pinacle of creation just as God has done. Tips for homeschooling when you have a toddler in tow When mom is teaching the olders but has a little one toddling about the juggling act can get hectic. This article, and its two sequels, offer some tips on keeping that toddler busy so you can have time to help with lessons. Public schooled! In the video below a student discovers that government schools teach that whatever the problem, government is the answer. As Douglas Wilson has noted, why would parents be surprised that their kids are indoctrinated in socialism when they've sent them to what is a socialist school system? Similarly, Voddie Baucham wrote, "We cannot continue to send our children to Caesar for their education and be surprised when they come home as Romans.” ...

Assorted

The gift of sleep: it's good for what ails you

Early to bed is a spiritual discipline. You may have said it yourself at some time, “I can get by with only 5-6 hours of sleep a night. It’s no problem.” And, like many of us, what you meant was that even though your workload (including studies and family needs in that category) led to late nights and early mornings, you found that you were still clear-headed enough to drive, to do your job, and maybe even maintain patience and good humor – probably while bolstering yourself with some amount of caffeine. But according to Dr. Archibald D. Hart, Ph.D., we are not “getting by” even though we think we are. Hart has lectured around the world about his three decades of study on the topic of sleep, and in 2010 he published the results of his extensive studies in a book entitled Sleep: It Does a Family Good. Why sleep? Why do we need sleep? Our bodies were made to have a "sleep cycle" and a "wake cycle." During the sleep cycle, energy is restored, and all of the cells in the body rejuvenate. Adrenal and other glands, muscles, and proteins, all rejuvenate. Hart says, “Since proteins are the building blocks needed for cell growth and for repair of damage from factors like stress and ultraviolet rays, deep sleep rejuvenates us.” In children and young adults, there is a release of growth hormones as well. And during the deepest part of sleep, Hart writes, ...the brain processes information, like problems and new learning, and grows new connections accordingly. It synthesizes information learned through the waking hours. It saves newly learned information into long-term memory. Modern outlook Unfortunately, many of us have adopted the modern notion that sleep is expendable. There is just so much to do during the day to take care of our financial, family, emotional, and leisure needs (and desires) that jokes like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” are often quipped. We brag about getting by, and we really do not think that we are causing any lasting damage. Add to that Proverbs 24:33-34, which says, " A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” Thus, Hart says, “we tend to associate sleeping long with laziness” and with not being a good steward of our time. It sets the stage for viewing sleep as a necessity, but not a priority. But isn’t it likely that Proverbs is talking about excessive amounts of sleep that keep a person from doing his job at all? This passage seems to relate more to laziness than to speaking against getting a full night of rest. Hart says that, “God has designed sleep into us as a fundamental need, as fundamental as eating food and breathing air.” He might as well be quoting Psalm 127: 2, which says, "It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep." Based on polls which have been done during the past few decades by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), about 70 million Americans (and likely Canadians as well) suffer from some sort of sleep disorder or sleep deprivation. Hart says, “Every year there are more than 30,000 deaths from car accidents linked to sleepiness, and more than three million disabling injuries from sleep-related accidents.” He adds that, “Sleep deficits have been implicated in many major public catastrophes, including the Exxon Valdez and the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger,” as well as the nuclear accidents at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Peach Bottom. Hart explains that, “Our sleep loss can affect how we crouch, stoop, push or pull large objects, handle small objects, write with a pen, learn new things, remember old things, gain weight, and walk up stairs.” He adds that sleep-deprived people are more irritable and negative, less joyful, lighthearted and happy, and have more memory problems. They are at higher risks for accidents and divorce and “disordered social relationships” and show a dramatic reduction in creativity and productivity.  Hart says, “A major study reports that reduced sleep carries a greater mortality risk than smoking, high blood pressure and heart disease. Take a moment for that to sink in.” It makes sense: if you cannot cope as well, your stress level will increase, elevating your blood pressure, and disrupting your sleep even more. A 2006 article in The Institute of Medicine associates sleep loss with hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attacks, and strokes. The Rev. John Piper says in When I Don’t Desire God, For me, adequate sleep is not just a matter of staying healthy. It’s a matter of staying in the ministry – I’m tempted to say it’s a matter of persevering as a Christian. I know it is irrational that my future should look so bleak when I get only four or five hours of sleep several nights in a row. But rational or irrational, that is a fact. And I must live within the limits of fact. Therefore we must watch the changes in our bodies. Damage to the family is noted when Hart points out that the whole family suffers when babies and small children don’t get enough sleep, but it also suffers when mother and father choose to stay up and read or watch a television show instead of getting the sleep that their bodies need.  Hart says that, “It’s well known that child sleeplessness can also lead to an increased risk of depression and anxiety in mothers, and a reciprocal loss of love feelings toward the child.” Sleeplessness with a newborn doesn’t last forever, but it can continue to plague children, especially those with learning disabilities, stress and ADHD. What can be done? Hart’s statistics suggest that everyone needs to be in bed for 9 hours in order to get 8 hours of sleep per night and he tells many stories about people whose lives improve when they move towards or attain this standard, or, don’t. Sometimes when an otherwise healthy-as-an-ox person dies at an early age, sleep deprivation has been found to be a contributing factor. So, if God has made our bodies a temple of the Holy Spirit, and instructed us to take care of them as best we can, and if it is true that we need sleep for our cells to rejuvenate and our brains to function well, then we might all examine our lives to see how we might improve in this area. Hart starts from the standpoint of a family that has bought into the modern notion, and gives a number of suggestions as to how we can improve our lives by sleeping more. When Hart first desired to change his pattern, I feared that taking more time to sleep would mean less time for my work…but I went ahead and took the plunge. My secretary rearranged my appointments to start later in the morning after I had spent the first few hours reaping the benefits of a good night’s sleep and then getting some writing done. It only took a few days to convince me of the two principles I have followed ever since. First, getting to bed earlier, and as a consequence getting more sleep, works wonders for my brain. Second, creative tasks are best accomplished earlier in the day, rather than later. He was amazed to discover that his efficiency and productivity increased. “The time I lost by adding more sleep time was more than compensated for by my being able to work and write more efficiently. I made far fewer mistakes. My ideas came more easily. I completed my tasks faster.” How to make changes Hart’s “Simple Sleep Test” asks whether you fall asleep within half an hour of going to bed, whether you can fall back asleep if disturbed, and whether you feel refreshed, not headachy, in the morning and not in need of a nap by noon. If you can't answer yes to those questions, then Hart suggests there is room for improvement, and offers some helpful hints. For the first week, add 15 minutes of sleep time to your normal sleep, either in the evening or the morning.  Even if you don’t get more sleep, you are training your body and brain to adapt to the new schedule.  “At the end of the week, evaluate your level of tiredness upon awakening, energy, efficiency, alertness, mental acuity, reduced daytime tiredness and your general feeling of well-being.” For the second week, add a second 15 minutes to your sleep. Evaluate. Do the same in the third week and so on until you have achieved 9 hours of bedtime, evaluating all along the way. As Hart says, “Now you will have a better idea of what amount of sleep your body and mind really need. If the benefits peaked at eight and a half hours, then stick with that for a while.” Hart’s main point is that “The family that sleeps well, lives well.” He knows that it will be difficult to get the entire family on board with sleeping more, but he presents the benefits that will result from doing so. It is imperative that parents step up to the plate and take control of their family’s sleeping habits. Our children are facing enormous increases in their general stimulation. They are forced to multitask in ways that undermine effective learning, and they generally have too much excitement in their lives. Hart encourages families to determine what their biggest challenges are. He lists stress, anxiety/worry, depression and caffeine as the top four “Sleep Killers.” He says that “Caffeine is a two-edged sword – it both overcomes and causes our sleeplessness.” If caffeine is necessary for your day, then it has become an addiction, and while it might help you function in your wake cycle, you are losing out on all the rejuvenation needed in your sleep cycle. Beyond 2 or 3 cups a day is discouraged by doctors, and don’t even get Hart started on the topic of energy drinks.  He also suggests ways to deal with overactive minds, arguments, and too-much-screen-time as well. Some good news Hart describes the various stages of sleep and includes some questionnaires to help readers figure themselves out. His suggested 9 hours includes not just the time you are zonked-out in REM sleep, but even when you are lying restfully and those “light sleep” times when you may think that you are actually still awake. One piece of good news was this: we sleep in cycles of about one and a half hours and our dream sleep comes at or near the end of each cycle. What this means is that if we remember waking up a few times during the night, that’s not a problem – as long as we go back to sleep, we still “get credit” for all of that sleep time. He also says that if we lose sleep during the night and take a nap later that also gives us credit for the 9 hours that are needed. He finds this particularly helpful when he travels overseas. He also describes how to build up one’s sleep bank ahead of time so that the jetlag won’t overwhelm. Conclusion The subtitle to Dr. Archibald D. Hart’s book is “How busy families can overcome sleep deprivation.” Once a problem has been identified, there are ways, even in our overly-busy lives, that we can work to fix the problem and improve on the overall health of ourselves, our families, and our communities. It seems that Hart has well described one of them. And Rev. John Piper has the best comments of all regarding our need for sleep: Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God. “He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). But Israel will. For we are not God. Once a day God sends us to bed like patients with a sickness. The sickness is a chronic tendency to think we are in control and that our work is indispensable. To cure us of this disease God turns us into helpless sacks of sand once a day. How humiliating to the self-made corporate executive that he has to give up all control and become as limp as a suckling infant every day. Sleep is a parable that God is God and we are mere men. God handles the world quite nicely while a hemisphere sleeps. Sleep is like a broken record that comes around with the same message every day: Man is not sovereign. Man is not sovereign. Man is not sovereign. Don’t let the lesson be lost on you. God wants to be trusted as the great worker who never tires and never sleeps. He is not nearly so impressed with our late nights and early mornings as he is with the peaceful trust that casts all anxieties on him and sleeps. Good night!...

Animated, Movie Reviews

An American Tail

Animated / Family 1986 / 80 minutes RATING: 9/10 This is the immigrant experience, set to music, and seen through the eyes of a 19th-century Jewish animated mouse family who decide to come to America after they'd been driven out of their Russian village by rampaging Cossack cats. I should end the review right there; what more do you need? But I can't help myself, because this is as brilliant as it is utterly unique! After escaping the Cossack cats, the Mousekewitz family takes a slow boat to their new land, surrounded by fellow immigrants from other countries. All of them have sad stories to share, usually involving how a cat ate their papa, or mama, or in the case of one Irish lad, his one true love (and all that was left of her was her tail!). After each story is shared the mice join together to sing of how much better they expect it to be in their new country: But there are no cats in America, And the streets are paved with cheese! Oh, there are no cats in America, So set your mind at ease! They're all so very hopeful, and that's when the storm hits. Little Fievel, the Mousekewitz's boy, is washed overboard and presumed lost, and his family is forced to continue on without him. Thankfully (I don't think I could have taken it otherwise) Fievel has survived. He's battered, but unbroken, and travels the rest of the way in a bottle, arriving only a short time after his family. Will he be able to find them? There are so many mice in New York! And it doesn't help that they aren't even looking for him. Fievel soon discovers that there are cats in America. Fortunately, there are also mice here willing to fight for their freedoms. So it is, that Fievel, and unbeknownst to him, his family too, help with an audacious plan to force the cats onto a boat heading for Hong Kong. But even as they work on the same plan, Fievel and his family never quite cross paths. Fievel is making friends though, whether it's a French pigeon helping with the construction of the Statue of Liberty, or a streetwise teen mouse who has Fievel's back, or even a cat who loves broccoli a lot better than mouse burgers. Cautions There are a lot of cats chasing mice throughout the whole story, and these cats are mean and scary. That, along with a brief counter Fievel has with some creepy cockroaches, make this fare for children ten and up. Also, theres's a minor character, the politician Honest John, who always seems drunk. Fortunately, he's onscreen only briefly, and only a few times. Conclusion I was struck by how this had, for me, the feel of a 1940s wartime flick. Just like in those films, this celebrates America as a beacon of hope. The darkness it opposes isn't Nazis this time, but something not too different; An American Tail was made during the Cold War, when the USSR was at its most intimidating, and it's no coincidence that the main characters are coming from an oppressive Russia to find opportunity in America. While the Mousekewitzs discover that the streets aren't paved with cheese – that's too good to be true – there were opportunities in this new land that didn't exist in the old one. An American Tail is a surprisingly nuanced celebration of the immigrant, showing that it wasn't easy for those early settlers, whether man or mouse. So who'd enjoy this? I suspect it's so unique, so unusual, that excellent though it is, it might not appeal to the whole family. A Jewish Russian American mouse musical? Yup, that is odd, and maybe even weird. But it really couldn't be more wonderful! ...

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

The Comic Book Lesson

A graphic novel that shows you how to make comics by Mark Crilley 2022 / 156 pages Emily is a young artist with plans for a comic book - she wants the hero to be a "pet finder" coming to the rescue of any and all who have lost their furry friends. But it's one thing to have a story and the skills to draw it and yet another to know how to transform it into comic book form. So how can she bridge that gap? She just needs the right sort of mentor. What author Mark Crilley has given us is a story showing aspiring cartoonists how they, too, can learn what Emily wants to know – we get to come along for her journey as she meets three talented ladies who are willing to teach. First up is an encounter at the comic store: Emily discovers that the store clerk, a high schooler named Trudy, is a fantastic artist working on a comic project of her own. Emily's enthusiasm and persistence ensure that one impromptu lesson becomes more. Trudy teaches Emily things like pacing – how including adding a couple more frames can make a scene more dramatic – and how a character's eyebrows communicate more about their emotions than a smile or frown. Trudy is so impressed with Emily's work that she introduces her to Madeline, a friend who's already a published cartoonist. The lessons Madeline teaches include: the importance of a "broad" establishing shot before going in for close-ups, and the need to script a comic before you begin drawing it. Madeline, in turn, introduces Emily to her own cartooning mentor, Sophie, who has yet more to teach Emily, like the proper order for word bubbles, and the need to eliminate any possibilities of confusion. While I don't like to include spoilers, for the sake of young readers, I'm going to include one. During her time with Sophie, we find out why Emily was so earnest about her hero being a pet finder: because Emily wasn't able to rescue her own dog. Her loss is poignantly told, which made my one daughter sad enough that she stopped reading. I suspect though, that she might pick it up again. If your child is a sensitive soul, it might help to give them a heads up beforehand. Cautions I'm going to list a few cautions that aren't all that relevant to the mid to older teens this is aimed at, and I only include them because some 10-year-olds and even younger could really enjoy this comic, but with some parental guidance. This is one of the tamest, safest "how-to-cartoon" books you can find (Maker Comics: Draw a Comic is another, though it covers different ground). But parents need to know that comics today contain loads of weirdness. Whether it's the way women are depicted as impossibly buxom and skinny, or the heroic witches, ghosts, and demons that feature in more and more stories, or the queer agenda that's inserted in comics for even the youngest ages, there is a lot of twisted stuff out there. The Comic Book Lesson isn't pushing any of that, but in a few instances this secular work does "bump" into this weirdness. So, for example, Trudy mentions the "Electric Angel Nurse Mizuki" comic she's authored, and we're shown the cover depicting a nurse with wings. Madeline mentions she is writing a comic book about assassins for hire. A customer asks for a copy of Raina Telgemeier's Smile, which is a fine book, but whose sequels take a queer turn. And the 12-or-so-year-old Emily is depicted at a comic store and convention without her parents, which are weirder places than we'd want our 12-year-old to go without us. That's about it. Nothing too bad, but some of it worth a discussion, especially for younger readers. Conclusion Comics can combine not simply exceptional writing but outstanding art, doubling the creative potential to explore. That's why Christians really should dive into this medium. The Comic Book Lesson is a solid piece of "edutainment" that'll give young aspiring artists an introduction to the general approach needed to be able to expand and refine their skills. This is not so much a "how-to-draw" book – there are loads of other books like that – as it is a "how-to-decide-what-to-draw" book. It's about learning how to plan out panels and pages like cartoonists do. For more, watch the video below where the author gives an in-depth (20 minutes long) introduction to his book. If your child loves The Comic Book Lesson, they may be interested in the author's The Drawing Lesson, (2016, 138 pages) which also uses the graphic novel medium to teach, this time about shading, negative space, how to hold a pencil, and seeing things as an artist does. It's a great book, suited for 12 and up with no cautions or concerns other than one use of the word "Jeez." ...

News, RP App

Saturday Selections – October 8, 2022

Three biblical questions for fans of The Chosen Todd Friel has "three potent reasons to consider before you watch" this super popular Christian TV series. From silence to complexification to capitulation Kevin DeYoung notes that when orthodox Christian leaders and organizations capitulate on issues like sexuality or abortion, it's rarely a surprise, as there "a series of familiar steps" that preceded their turning away. First, there is silence – they stop talking about the sin. Then when they do talk about it, it is only to speak about how very complicated the issue is. Read DeYoung's piece by clicking above or you can listen to DeYoung read his column here. An open letter to those nearing retirement “For years I have given my retiring patients two simple rules for retiring well: Wake up every morning knowing what you are going to do that day. Go to bed every night knowing that someone else was helped.” Trust the science? Creationists know better than most that a scientist's ideology can blind their intellect. But a recent editorial in Science is making it easy for all – creationist and non – to recognize just how many of the "facts" are merely politically-motivated interpretations. Download a free "Parent's Guide to Smartphones" Axis is a Christian organization equipping parents to understand technology and other issues that kids may know more about than their parents - Tik Tok, influencers, etc. They offer short "guides" of less than 20 pages and sell them for a low price. And every now and again they offer some for free. You can download their 17-page smartphone guide by clicking the link above. On "virtual" preaching and a virtual church After COVID lockdowns made livestream church services common, a related question has come up. When a pastor is on vacation, or a church is vacant, might they play a recorded video sermon rather than have one of their elders read a sermon? In the article linked above, Dr. Wes Bredenhof expresses his concerns, and specifically how in our current culture having a "virtual pastor" might lead some to wonder why they can't just be a "virtual congregation." ...

Assorted, Recent Articles, RP App

G.K. Chesterton on the difference between reformers and deformers

As a young man I had questions about how my denomination conducted services: Why did we have an organ and the style of music we had? Why did we sing so many psalms, and so few hymns? Why did we have two services? Why did we have Heidelberg Catechism sermons? Why did we get so dressed up for services? And I thought that because I had questions, and because answers were not always at the ready, that clearly meant we should do away with all these practices. Not so fast However, just because an answer isn't easy to come by doesn't mean it doesn't exist. And Chesterton had a caution for young guys like me when it came to doing away with old practices - old "fences": “In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, 'I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.' To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: 'If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.' “….Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease.” (The Thing, “The Drift From Domesticity”) Seek out that other side Now, no denomination is perfect, so there will be practices that could be improved, and maybe some that will need to go. But before any change is made, a properly humble Reformer is going to want to first find out why things are being done this way in the first place. This is living out Prov. 18:17 – only after we hear "both sides" can we then evaluate whether a change is truly needed....

Apologetics 101, Recent Articles, RP App

Witnessing without knowing it all

Ding dong! The doorbell goes and through the peephole you can see two young men clad in dark conservative suits. Fortunately you’ve recently read an article or two on Jehovah's Witnesses so you're feeling at least a little prepared to talk. Smiling, you nervously open the door. But as the conversation begins, you quickly realize these aren’t the Jehovah’s Witnesses you’re ready for, but are instead Mormons – and you don’t know anything  about Mormons! So what are you going to do? What are you going to do?!?!? The burden of proof Don’t panic! Understand the battle in front of you: ignorance vs. error. You don't have answers at the ready, but because you serve the one true God you can be confident that there is truth to be found, though it might involve some digging. Meanwhile, these gentlemen at the door might be more knowledgeable about their beliefs than you, but they are utterly wrong. Digging will help here, too, but instead of uncovering truth you'll be uncovering their error. So you’re actually in a great position here. You don’t know anything about Mormons? Well here are people eager to teach you. What a great arrangement! Consider, also, that the pressure is all on them, not you. They’re here to make their case, and provide evidence and reasons for why you should be a Mormon. The burden of proof is right where you want it…on them. In other words it is up to them to make their case and defend it, while you are free to go on the offensive and challenge their assertions with good questions. Maybe that doesn't sound like it's going to be all that effective – how can simply asking questions help you evangelize to Mormons? The key is the burden of proof. Even a four-year-old can confound her parents as long as the burden of proof is on the parents, as long as they have to answer her questions. “Time to got to bed dear.” “Why?” “Because it’s dark out.” “Why?” “Because the sun set.” “Why?” “Um…it has something to do with the earth’s rotation I think…Hey, honey! Where did we put the encyclopedia?” The point, of course, is not just to ask questions, but instead to ask questions with purpose. The four-year-old’s purpose is to stay up a little longer while your purpose will be to expose the errors and weaknesses in Mormon belief. Questions are key In his apologetics book Tactics, Greg Koukl outlines some questions that can be used in just such an occasion. The first is a question of clarification. When you’re first learning about their beliefs you should be sure you understand what they are saying. You might ask them, “What do you mean by that?” or, “So are you saying…?” Clarification is important because it forces the Mormon (or Jehovah's Witness, or atheist, or whomever) to restate and explain what they really mean. They’ll have to drop their script and actually think about what they are trying to say. And more than anything, what you want to do is force them to think. Clarification also allows you to learn from this encounter and start to understand what their beliefs are, which could help you the next time you end up in a similar situation. Secondly, question their assertions. The Book of Mormon is the revealed word of God? “Now how did you come to that conclusion?” The explanation may lead to yet more assertions that you can again challenge. After a while you may learn enough and feel comfortable enough to try and make a few points of your own. The questioning technique works here too. Instead of telling a person why they are wrong, ask them, “Have you ever considered…?” The use of a question here is a more gentle challenge to their beliefs, and more likely to get a thoughtful, rather than reactive response. Shifting it back It’s a simple approach but there is one thing to watch out for…the dreaded switch back! The non-believer answers your question with a question of their own and before you even realize the burden of proof shifts back to you. “So you don’t think The Book of Mormon is God’s word? And yet it seems you think the Bible is. Why is that?” If you’ve got an answer this is a great opportunity to provide them with some information. But if not, don't worry. Remember they’re the ones who've come to your door to make their case, and so it is up to them to back them up. Just play it straight, admit your ignorance, and repeat your original question, “I’m not the one making any claims here. You said The Book of Mormon was God’s word and I’m just wondering if you have any reasons for that.” Study still needed This technique can be used in any number of settings, with all sorts of people: it might be an atheist professor in your university classroom, or maybe a Muslim friend at your local coffee shop, or maybe an encounters with door-to-door cultists. Any time someone is trying to prove a point to you, the burden of proof is theirs. Don't mistake the point being made here. That we can witness without knowing it all doesn't mean we should neglect to study God's Word. To do so is to neglect God. And, of course, evangelism and apologetics will be easier when we know our Bible. It's also true that this same questioning technique works even better if we know a little something about the beliefs of the person we are talking to. Then our questions can become directed, and we can direct the non-believer towards the weaknesses in their beliefs. Then, if the Lord blesses our efforts, this person will see those weaknesses, and start looking elsewhere for answers about God. He may just ask you why he should believe what you believe. And as unprepared as we can be for any of their other questions, this is one we really must be ready for. But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:15)...

Family, Movie Reviews

Going to the Mat

Family / Drama 2004 / 92 minutes Rating: 8/10 Jace Newfield is the "new kid" and he's blind, but what's causing him the most difficulties is his snark. He used to live in New York City but his dad's new job means now they have to live in the podunks of Utah. So, on his first day the first thing this big city kid does is alienate all his classmates by joking that they're backcountry hicks. He digs himself under even deeper with an attention-seeking drum solo that doesn't impress his music teacher, Mr. Wyatt. Fortunately there are a couple of kids willing to overlook his rough start. Vincent "Fly" Shue tells him the only way to fit in is to be a jock, so Jace decides to try out for the wrestling team... corralling the lightweight Fly to join up too. Jace discovers that in wrestling blind athletes can wrestle against the sighted. The only concession given is that the two athletes start with a hand on each other. Jace isn't the biggest guy, and a total newcomer to the sport, but this is the chance for him to be just an athlete, rather than "that blind guy." Sports movies are predictable so no one will be surprised to see Jace losing in the early going, and (I don't think this is giving too much away) triumphing, at least in part, in the epic slow-motion finale. But this does have a few fresh twists to keep it interesting. Cautions The only caution concerns how children might misunderstand the moral to this story. Jace proves he can excel on the wrestling mats, so kids might think that's how he's proven he's just as valuable as anyone else. However, that's a worldly idea – that it's what we do that makes us valuable – and it is a dangerous idea. This is the idea behind the devaluation of the unborn: the world says they are worth less than you or me because they can't do what we can: they don't have a heartbeat yet, and can't survive on their own. This "able-ism" is the basis for euthanasia too, which is kept from the able-bodied, but offered up to the disabled and elderly who are valued less because they can do less. Christians need to share that our worth comes not from our abilities, but from our Maker. We are all valuable, because we are all made in the very Image of God (Gen. 1:27, 9:6). So our kids need to hear that Jace would be valuable whether he could wrestle or not. Conclusion This is a 1990s Disney channel TV movie, so I was only hoping for a family-friendly sports story. I was pleasantly surprised to get a lot more. The acting is solid, and the sighted Andrew Lawrence does a convincing job playing Jace. Wayne Brady, as Mr. Wyatt, is a sympathetic but hard-nosed mentor, who gives Jace the kick in the butt he needs. It's sweet, surprising in spots, and solid throughout: this is a fun film. I couldn't find a trailer, but these clips give a pretty accurate feel for it. ...

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

Fuzzy Baseball: Triple Play

by John Steven Gurney 2022 / 176 pages This is, as the title references, three stories in one, each involving the Fernwood Valley Fuzzies baseball team taking on a different opponent. The Fuzzies are quite a cuddly team, even if their manager is a bear. Other players include a koala, a wombat, and a penguin. In the first story, we're introduced to their biggest fan, Blossom Possum. But when the Fuzzies keep losing to their rivals, the Rocky Ridge Red Claws, this fan decides she has to do more than cheer from the sidelines: Blossom tries out and makes the team! But can a little possum really get a hit playing against the fearsome critters of the Red Claws? What can she do versus a crocodile, warthog, bull, rhino, or wolf? As you might imagine, there is a happy ending. In the second story, the team travels to Japan to play the Sashimi City Ninjas, a polite, but very cocky lot that leaves some of the Fuzzies feeling intimidated. Things get crazy when the Ninjas are able to amplify their baseball skills with a "morfo-power blast" – this is riffing off of Asian cartoons where characters often have some kind of secret power boost they can employ when they most need it. But when the Fuzzies take advantage of this power blast too, it's homeruns all around, but, as Blossom notes, "This isn't baseball." A fun quirk to this story is two alternate endings, the first where it was all a dream, and the second where it wasn't. In the third story the Fuzzies discover that the team they are playing are actually robots. Can they beat mechanical wonders? The Fuzzies are up for finding out. Cautions This is a collection of what was first three separate books – Fuzzy Baseball, Ninja Baseball Blast, and RBI Robots – and while I have no concerns with any of them, I'll mention the fourth book, Di-no hitters. This time the Fuzzies are playing a team of dinosaurs, and as you might expect the book is filled with loads of evolution-presuming jokes. So, pick up Triple Play, but give book #4 a miss. Conclusion This is a kid's comic that sticks to that target audience: it's fun, creative, and while this isn't really trying to teach kids anything, whatever morals there are to the stories (maybe, "be a good teammate," or "work hard," etc.) are ones we can appreciate. This would make a fantastic Christmas present for any kid who likes baseball, fuzzy animals, comics, or even none of the above. ...

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Saturday Selections – October 1, 2022

Loud for the unborn (3 min) On Sept 3, in New York, abortion defenders showed up at a pro-life protest. And this gentleman saw it as an opportunity to speak truth to people who need to hear it. The marijuana emergency This US article is an alert to all parents to understand that marijuana is more dangerous than is commonly presented. It also shows a way that Christians in Canada and wherever marijuana is already legal can still help their neighbors by pushing for limits on the THC potency of the marijuana being sold. REAL Women of Canada has also detailed some of the problems. Why your "Christian" friends have become LGBTQ... allies "When a loved one says their sexual sins are an intrinsic part of who they are, they’re suggesting that if we do not love their homosexuality or transgenderism—then we do not love them. That is a powerful, manipulative argument that many parents, siblings, and friends do not have courage or integrity to resist." Meet Italy’s new pro-life, pro-family prime minister Giorgia Meloni is being denounced by the West's mainstream media as "far-right" and "facist" for saying things like this: “Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology, yes to the culture of life, no to the abyss of death.... Chesterton wrote more than a century ago: ‘Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer.’ That time has arrived. We are ready. Thank you.” Kevin DeYoung on patriarchy Christian supporters of "complementarianism" will often use that term to distinguish themselves from "patriarchy." But as DeYoung notes, many in the world would regard complementarianism as synonymous with patriarchy since both espouse male leadership in the church and home. 9 ways to flee from lust John Beeson offers up "nine practical ways to battle lust in our lives..." Vivi's life under socialism (7 min) Socialism is a violation of the 10th commandment and runs up against the 8th too, so we shouldn't be surprised that it doesn't bear good fruit. That's evidenced in this PragerU video about the Venezuelan government's socialist turn. ...

Magazine, Past Issue, RP App

Sept/Oct 2022 issue

WHAT’S INSIDE: A Valley of Conquerors: God’s work in one Reformed community to set prisoners free from their bondage to sexual sin / "Enjoying God" photo contest results / Why the Right always drifts Left / Leslyn Lewis comes third / Peppa Pig propagandizes preschoolers / The coming battles over church property / An abundance mentality in business / A law even a libertarian could love / Why biblical poetry matters / A film about fighting / No place for pro-life cynicism / 6 fantastic free films on God's creation / Thanking God in hard times / RP's 52 in 22 challenge, Part III / Ted Byfield: Canada's journalist / and more... Click the cover to view in your browser or click here to download the PDF (6 mb) ...

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ENJOYING GOD! RP's photo contest, the youth entries

This summer we asked RP's readers to send in photos showing how you were enjoying your Creator. It was a photo contest, with two categories: one for adults, and one for youth under 18. There were so many fantastic entries that we wanted to do online what space didn't permit in the print issue: we wanted to share all of them. What follows here are all the youth entries, beginning with the winner and the runner-up. There's so much to see here, so take the time to look, but also linger, and share in some of the enjoyment that was had in so many different ways, experiencing God's goodness, His brilliance, and His power too. And then click here to check out all the adult entries as well. ***** WINNER It's amazing to see the power God displays through storms. Jordan L. (13 years old)   RUNNER-UP The boat's going too fast for my nephew, and his Dad told him to hang on, so what's he supposed to do with his cookie? He enjoyed God as he fished with his family and is now heading back to the campsite. He is also now enjoying the God-given talents of his Oma's baking abilities. Deborah D. (12)   Seth B. (14) Seeing the world close up and admiring the intricate things God has made.   Miriam P. (14) In this photo my sister is standing on the deck of a windy ferry. She is enjoying God and His beautiful creation. The golden sun is setting and reflecting off the ocean. God made his creation beautiful for us to enjoy.   Krista D. (12) Every relationship for a Christian is an opportunity to love another person like God has loved us.   Darci W. (14) Times like this shows the beauty God is capable of.   Danielle L. (14) Standing on the path, under the trees, looking out across the lake at the forest on the other side of the water. Hiking is a great way to enjoy God's creation and see the unique ways in which He shows his love.   Darci W. (14) This beautiful photo shows how God takes care of his creation and how we can enjoy it.   Danielle L. (14) We went kayaking during a storm and hid out under a cliff watching the rain hit the water and then captured a picture of the storm clouds rolling away. God is truly powerful!   Abby B. (13) We went backpacking and me and my friend were sitting there thinking about how great it is that we can enjoy this awesome creation that God has made. It is absolutely beautiful to look at all his creation!!   Seth B., (14) Enjoying watching the cows on a peaceful and calm summer morning.   Josiah C. (10) I enjoy God's world by spending time watching Rufous Hummingbirds dart from flower to flower pollinating.   Deborah D. (12) My nephew, with my Dad are enjoying God as they fish on Babine Lake. He likes fishing, catching, and hanging out with Grandpa.   Krista D. (12) Nature proclaims God, and when we enjoy nature, we enjoy God.   Leah P. (9) This is a photo of my sister having a fun day in the pool during a hot summer day. I like the sister that God made and the water that God also made. 🌊   Hannah P. (12) This photo shows us enjoying God by enjoying his creation. On hot days we like to go outside and have fun in the heat. We are also enjoying God by enjoying each other's company.   Seth B. (14) Watching in amazement as a beautiful summer, evening storm rolls past.   Danielle L. (14) We went for a hike through the woods and walked under cliffs and in caves. The rocks were beautiful and it was really amazing to see the way that God shows His power and creativity to us. It's humbling to realize that God is so much bigger than us.   Brett V. (7) A hummingbird moth feeding on a bee balm flower.   Zachary V. (9) I enjoy God when I go kayaking. I can hear the birds sing, and the fish splash. I can see the majestic cliffs and the towering trees. It brings me peace when I spend time in His creation.   Rozlyn V. (11) I enjoy God when I go for walks in His creation. I can see His care for even these trees growing on rocks and how He gives them life even on the edge of a cliff.   Lydia V. (14) I enjoy God by the ways he shows His power, whether that is in a great storm or in the crashing of the mighty rapids.   Lydia V. (14) I enjoy God's handiwork and splendor in the creation He made. The sunsets He paints in the sky each night, the mighty pines and the peaceful waters are just a few ways can enjoy each evening He give us.   Kara V. (12) I can see Gods power in many things. In this picture can see his handiwork and his power in lightning and the beauty it displays. I enjoyed watching the storm and in this am reminded that God is always with us.   Josiah C. (10) I enjoy how God created all the details in the feathers of a Wood Duck.   Deborah D. (12) My brother is enjoying God as he snowmobiles in God's beautiful mountains.   Josiah C. (10) I enjoy God as I watch a Surf Scoter and a seal pup resting together.   Darci W. (14) This lovely photo shows us the amazing parts of God's creation....

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ENJOYING GOD! RP's photo contest, the adult entries

Whether it was on a road trip, or closer to home, RP’s readers showed they know how to experience joy in the Lord. This summer we asked you to send in photos showing you enjoying your Creator, and we got a fantastic response back. We got dozens of entries, and so many that we just couldn't fit them all in the magazine. But what we couldn't do in print, we can now share online. What follows are all the entries – beginning with the winner and the runner-up – for the adult category. Take a look and enjoy their enjoyment of who our God is, and what He has done! And then be sure to check under the under 18 entries too. ***** WINNER "Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds" (Ps 36:5) Rachel V.   RUNNER-UP  This is a Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) sipping nectar with its proboscis from some purple phlox. In Psalm 104 we are reminded that God lovingly cares for the creatures He has made. "These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. When You give it to them, they gather it up; when You open Your hand, they are filled with good things." If He so cares for the butterflies of the field, He will also surely keep us in His Fatherly hand. Burke V.   We enjoy God when we look and see the unexpected when we’re out and about. I love how grass and dandelions have cropped up between the planks of this dock. Mrs. Lee B.   We enjoy God when we go down the road less travelled and are treated to a gorgeous, peaceful scene on which to feast our eyes! Mrs. Lee B.   It was the day of my sister-in-law's wedding and we were on our way home from the reception, reflecting on the day and the union we had witnessed. Had to capture this - God's latest painting. Arianne D.   This photo was taken on a rare summer date night. Pulled out our bikes for the first time this year and rode along the river just to enjoy being outside in God's creation, and get some fresh air and exercise :) Arianne D.   After a summer thunderstorm, God painted this masterpiece in the sky. Arianne D.   This photo was taken yesterday in one of the fields of the farm my husband has managed for 34 years. We started leaving patches of milkweed till the end of September so the butterflies could use them. A simple thing to do for a beautiful species. Carrie J.   The tree stump, although rotten on the inside is made beautiful on the inside and spilling outward by the flowers. A walk along a gravel lane made this a striking image with newly cut wheat in the background. Dianne D.   Being active and enjoying God's creation. Cathy K.   Think Summer. Hans S.   The beauty of a quiet lake, surrounded by mountains and blue skies, is a wonderful way to enjoy God’s majestic creation - dog included 😊 psalm 8. May God keep our land glorious and free! Rose W.   Our son is enjoying the strength of the human body; every muscle tight, mind focused on the activity before him. Yet there is vulnerability in the midst of the vastness of the blue sky above, the depth of the water under him, the intensity of the hot sun, the expanse of the lake surrounding him. Who are we compared to God's power, splendor, and majesty? We are the crown of His creation and we are called to trust in his strength and Enjoy Him forever. Jean D.   Here the visual picture created by God speaks His written truth - the Lord is my Light (Ps 27). It is a picture that shares His glory and reminds me of His glorious promise to enter into my darkness, because even darkness is light to Him (Ps 139). Kristen A.   "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork" (Ps 19:1) Rachel V.   Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! I have always been fascinated by God’s power in a storm. The ever-changing dark clouds are a majestic scene. They unleash its fury of wind and torrents of rain driven to the ground. John V.   A beautiful rainbow adorns the sky reminding us of God’s promise of long ago that still speaks to us today. John V.   “Enjoying God” in Letchworth State Park. Renowned as the “Grand Canyon of the East” we could see evidence of the Genesis Flood through the same sedimentary layers as we had previously found in canyons in Arizona and quarries in Ontario. Not only did we find evidence of this great judgement, but also how God brings life out of death through the beautiful scenery and the 3 waterfalls. Our God is a God of Life! Andre T.   The heavens declare the glory of God!💕 Cathy K.   The sun is going down as I fly over the Fraser Valley in a small Cessna Airplane. How amazing is God’s handiwork. Jason K.   The Straight and Crooked. A lot of the time we take our Lord God for granted. There are many uses for rail lines. When I first came across this landscape, I was immediately reminded about the straight and narrow paths mentioned in Matthew 7:13&14. After a bit of contemplating, train tracks have a lot of use, such as transporting natural gas and raw materials across the whole country and sometimes continent. And yet, train tracks are not thought of on a daily basis. We rely on things to come to our doorstep and don't even bother to think how it got there. Tara D.   Water is a common symbol in the Bible. It signifies the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Ps 105: 41 came to mind when I took this shot. How God allowed Moses to "tear open a rock and out gushed out, flowing like a river." He calms the raging waters. Knowing this, the sound of water gives one a sense of peace. I still find a river that I can listen to when I am tired, just to hear the babbling of brooks so that His peace can wash over me. Tara D.   Three happy girls, enjoying each other in the Dominican Republic. Jason K.   Two of our daughters are enjoying nature's breath-taking beauty as they silently paddle their boards on Babine Lake, All is calm, colourful, and pristine; God's artistry is being revealed, reflected and enjoyed in all its splendour. Jean D.   Our son's wakeboard skillfully cuts through the still waters of Babine Lake; our boat loudly breaks the peaceful silence of mid-day, God is giving us enjoyment in the midst of His artistry with the toys he allows man to make. How small and insignificant are the playthings of this world compared to the vastness and beauty surrounding them, but how privileged we are to enjoy Him by receiving pleasure in both at the same time. Jean D.   Michelle H.   Michelle H.   Michelle H.   “God’s abundant grace” it depicts a storm over an area and bright blue sky all around it. James V.   Foxglove bloom in my garden. Carrie J.   Cedar Waxwing is eating serviceberry this past June. Carrie J.   This large balancing rock on the coast of Long Island, NS is a striking testament of God's creative power. Rachel V.   While on vacation, early every morning, our granddaughter asked me to walk with her to the beach. Walking hand in hand we would go to the beach, and I would sit and watch her. While she played in the sand, I was reminded of my own prayers that the Lord would lead me and watch over me throughout the day. Many times, I had this picture in my mind of walking with him hand in hand. John V.   “Enjoying God” on the ocean floor. During low tide we hiked the Tidal Pools in Bar Harbour, Maine. We found and inspected fucus, crab, shrimp, starfish and clams. We were amazed by the creativity of our Creator and the might of our Almighty God! Andre T.   Enjoying God's blessings through the generations! Cathy K.   When I saw His picturesque creation, in the form of a delicate apple blossom, I was reminded yet again that the Lord has a plan for us each in our own time. He made the minute insects that survive from the falling flower. In this photo we see how intricate God's hands are when He is carefully guiding this bee to be sheltered under the pedals. When we stop to gaze upon the beauty that Yahweh has created we can easily see the meticulous detail He has given us to enjoy. Tara D.   Jason K. A beautiful ending to a beautiful day in The Netherlands....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Strange New World

How thinkers and activists redefined identity and sparked the Sexual Revolution by Carl R. Trueman 2022 / 187 pages Just how strange is this new world we live in? Well, we’ve seen: A father jailed because he used the “wrong” pronouns to refer to his gender-confused daughter Pastors arrested for holding worship services while thousands marched unmasked to protest alleged systemic racism Elementary school students sent to the principal’s office for “misgendering” their classmates Boys taught that their natural rambunctiousness is an example of toxic masculinity and must be despised and replaced with more feminine traits. The world is in the throes of madness, but to assume that there is no method to the madness would be naive. In Carl Trueman’s, Strange New World, (a concise version of his earlier The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self), we take a swift trip from the Enlightenment to the 21st century to review the radical thinkers responsible for the madness of today’s identity politics. Under identity politics an individual is only as important and valued as the racial, social, or sexual group he is part of. A black transgender woman would be near the top of this hierarchy, deserving of society’s sympathy and support while a straight white male is at the bottom, deserving of ridicule because of the privilege he must have based on the color of his skin. People are no longer judged by their character but rather by their lived experience and the history of oppression or privilege their “group” has experienced. As Trueman details, the problems associated with identity politics can be traced back to our notion of the self. For all of history, we recognized that if our inner feelings differed with the physical reality around us it was important to realign our feelings to that reality. However, bringing the mind into line with the physical body has, in the space of only a few years, been rejected in favor of bringing the body into line with the mind. Toleration was once… well, tolerated. But no longer. Now full acceptance of the latest new view is expected, with severe repercussions to those who do not. How does our culture justify that severity? Well, if the mind is said to be the driving force behind reality, then words have much more significance – words themselves can now marginalize and cause damage to the person. The saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” needs to be adjusted to something along the lines of “sticks and stone may break my bones, but your words are also violent.” Many institutions are quickly writing laws that carry punishments for inflicting emotional damages to those in marginalized groups. What Trueman makes plain is that although this shift towards identity politics has occurred recently, thinkers such as Rousseau, Marx, and Freud long ago laid the foundation on which identity politics now stand. Identity politics is not some passing trend but is rooted deeply in our culture’s psyche. Seeing it widely embraced could lead Christians to despair. However, as Trueman reminds the reader, Christ has promised His church that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. God is sovereign and His will shall be done, on earth as it is in heaven. With this hope we can continue to eagerly await the coming marriage feast of the Lamb. This book is a must-read for older teenagers and adults alike (and ranks in my personal top 5). Understanding the history of the ideas that led to this moment gives us the power to resist our culture’s siren call into identity politics, and will better equip us to sympathize with those who haven’t resisted, and have been shipwrecked....

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

The Master Designer: The Song

Documentary 2014 / 76 minutes RATING: 8/10 What I most appreciated about The Master Designer was this nature documentary's patience, showing us just a half dozen animals, which allowed the time to explore each one in some depth. As the title indicates, this is a Christian production, and is all about marveling at what the Master Designer has crafted. It begins with the bee and its amazing ability to make honey: "It takes 556 bees flying a total of 55,000 miles to gather nectar from an astounding 2 million flowers to make a single pound of honey." We also learn about how bees played a significant role in the American Revolution, where they were once used to slow down an advancing British column. A young woman trying to reach General Washington ahead of these troops to warn him smacked a series of hanging bee hives with a stick as she rode past on her horse. Then when the trailing British troops came up this same path they had to face a lot of very angry insects! But wait, that's not all we get to learn about this black and yellow marvel! Though it has a brain the size of a seed, it's a brilliant architect, with a hive's hexagonal honeycomb structure maximizing storage capacity. Weirder and more wonderful, the bee communicates through the language of dance – yes, really! – wiggling this way and that to tell the other bees where the nectar is to be found. And we shouldn't forget that honey itself is amazing in that it never spoils! After the bees, five other animals each get this in-depth treatment – wolves, bison, camels, elk, and crickets – and all are amazing. This is a great film the whole family will enjoy, and that's not just me saying that. The folks at Breakpoint Ministries agree, with John Stonestreet and Maria Baer giving The Master Designer their heartiest recommendation: The film is fascinating, and it’s beautifully done. Think: the beauty and excellence of a nature documentary without the evolutionary assumptions throughout… And, by the way, if you have an HD screen and a good sound system, even better. Turn the lights off and the volume up, especially when the crickets sing. And right now you can watch it for free, below. ...

News, RP App

Saturday Selections – September 24, 2022

Cephalopods are super cool Cephalopods include both octopus and the "Flamboyant Cuttlefish" highlighted below, which can change its color in waves. As the author notes in the post linked above, "look at this video and tell me you can’t tell that the Great Designer is at work here." China has created a 24/7 surveillance state (10 min read) China is taking advantage of technology to monitor, rate, and reward/punish its citizens. With such technology available what's preventing such a "social credit" system from being implemented on our side of the globe? Only electoral resistance and government restraint. However, when Justin Trudeau's Liberal government shut down the bank accounts of some Freedom Convoy protesters earlier this year, they didn't show restraint. It's on the electorate then, to oppose ever-increasing government data gathering. God's sovereignty extends to more than just the Church In the wake of the Roe vs. Wade reversal in the US, some professing Christians are telling God's people to stop opposing abortion. But Shane Morris, of Breakpoint Ministries, in a series of tweets, clearly explained the problem with excluding Jesus from the political sphere. "Christians should stop seeking political control and do gospel evangelism stuff because Jesus said 'my kingdom is not of this world' and early Christians didn't take over Rome, they built Christ's invisible kingdom in hearts.'" -Seeing variations on this over and over. — Shane Morris (@GShaneMorris) July 8, 2022 How a renowned architect (accidentally) exposed the problems of central planning (10-min read) "Government can’t create utopias, and every time it tries, people’s rights – and many times their homes – get destroyed." Evolutionists admitting to their theory's failures " article in The Guardian by science journalist Stephen Buryani represents something remarkable in the way the public processes the failures of evolutionary theory. In the past, those failures have been admitted by some biologists…but always in settings (technical journals, conferences) where they thought nobody outside their professional circles was listening..." The secret language of babies? (1 min) Parents, what do you think? Are they on to something here? ...

Documentary, Internet, Recent Articles, RP App, Sexuality

Fund a film about fighting sexual temptation

"Into the Light" will equip God’s people to fight the pull of pornography This is an overview of an episode of Lucas Holvlüwer and Tyler Vanderwoudes’ Real Talk podcast. Real Talk is a podcast of Reformed Perspective featuring great conversations on everything from propaganda to mental health, and if you haven't checked it out already, you really should. And you really can, at www.RealTalkPodcast.ca. ***** On this, their 50th episode, Real Talk’s Lucas and Tyler invited filmmakers Jake Valk and John-Michael Bout to talk about pornography, its devastating effects on Christians, and how the Lord’s people can fight against this terrible pervasive sin. Bout began by describing in a very real and personal way his own decade-long struggle with pornography – the feelings of guilt at what he knew was sinful, difficulties with anger brought on by his own hypocrisy, and his gradual drift away from the Lord with a conscience made dull over time. Bout described how grateful he is that God led other Christians on his path who had turned away from porn by the Lord’s grace, and dedicated themselves to helping others with this pervasive, insidious sin. A providential conversation So what made the two of them think about creating a documentary? Jake Valk shared a story of having coffee with Christian author Tim Challies, whose book Sexual Detox was of great help. Not (yet) knowing that Valk was a filmmaker, Challies wondered if books were the best means to address the problem of pornography: wouldn’t video be a better medium to reach those caught up in that cycle? This suggestion fanned a spark into a flame: why not make a documentary that would inspire people to take the steps to get out of the grip of pornography? And that is just what Valk and Bout did. Their new film, to be called Into the Light introduces six speakers with expertise in Christian responses to porn, not just in understanding that porn is sinful and wrong, but with real and practical suggestions for how to stop sinful habits, from the perspective of both those struggling with the sin, and those trying to help “the struggler.” Valk explained: “(One of our speakers) is Deepak Reju; he wrote the book Rescue Plan. He and Jonathan Holmes wrote a pair of books that are really good. One of the things he talks about is the philosophy of locking down a phone: how to cut off all access, and he walks you through that process from the vantage point of someone who is struggling with porn, but also if you’re helping someone who is struggling, and understand how they would be tempted to get out of the full lockdown of a phone, and so you can be extra alert to make sure that you really are shutting down a device for all it’s worth.  So you can kind of take everything that our speakers talk about in the film from two different angles – the struggler, and the (one helping the struggler).” Valk and Bout want the film to be made available for no cost to churches, organizations, and individuals, to be a resource to as many people as possible. To make this work, they’ve been fundraising through a Christian crowdfunding site with a target of $85,000. You can find out how to donate at their page GiveSendGo.com/IntoTheLight, and you can watch the trailer below. It’s not about stopping the bad, but embracing the One Who is Good Bout emphasized that freeing people from porn is not the end goal: the real goal is to help people find Jesus Christ, and to have Him be the foundation of their new life. “There are other methods to get free from pornography that don’t involve God – there are many secular programs… but if you get free of porn and still lose your soul, what’s the point?” Valk stated emphatically that a documentary can never take the place of a program like Life Renewal, with accountability, personal connections, and a thorough teaching program. “Life Renewal is way better than what we can make. 100 percent! Life Renewal is so thorough; they really walk through the process and do it over a year. That’s way better than this!” But there’s also a place for a film like Into the Light to help get conversations started, and to push a struggling sinner to seek help through a program like Life Renewal and other Christian resources. “If you find this film, and you’re uncovering sin, and you’re bringing it into the light, and you’re really building your relationship with God, and you want to go to something like Life Renewal which will take you way, way deeper, please do! They do a phenomenal job.” First, stop the bleeding So what else is in the film? Bout summarized a section that deals with “triage” “Deepak Reju gets into the radical practical measures of cutting off access (to porn)… if you walked into a hospital with an open wound, you’re not going to be getting asked ‘oh, so what are your symptoms, what are some things you need?’ The first thing they do is they take you in and stitch up the gaping bleeding wound so that they can have the healing take place, and to use that analogy, when you’re dealing with pornography it’s not legalism to say we have to start by cutting off access… cutting off total access.” Valk remembered asking one of the speakers, Heath Lambert, when it was OK to introduce the internet or social media back into someone’s life. “Heath gave a really thoughtful response to that, a large part of it being that you’re not necessarily the best person to make that choice, so having good community in your life saying, hey brother, you know it’s been two months since you last fell into pornography, you’re displaying good devotional habits, you’re really walking with the Lord, I can see that in your life. If you enjoy Instagram, I think it’s reasonable you can have it back, let’s see how that goes… So other people in your life can give you an opportunity to have a better perspective.” Bout followed up on his own story: “There are a lot of things that I cut out, and there’s (just) a couple of things I’ve reintroduced back. I never had to go as radical as going to a flip phone – actually, that may have been a good thing to do; I really respect people who do that. So for myself, I’ve actually kept most of the (guards) that I put in place, and just because I know I would so much rather live with the inconvenience than deal with the temptation or the potential relapse.” What about relapse? Speaker Ellen Mary Dykas is highlighted in one of the chapters in the film called “Endurance,” dealing with the reality of sinners struggling with a relapse, or a step backwards. Bout stated that it is very rare that one is able to “change instantly, although that is not beyond the Lord’s power. Your inadequacies, your failures do not mean that God is not able or willing to change you.” Valk summarized some of what Dykas taught: “Your identity is not your track record. You are not your success last week, your success yesterday, the pattern of sin… even if you do really well, that’s still not your identity. Your identity has to be as a Christian, as a loved, cherished child of God, because that’s where you find your root in fighting in the first place.” The last section of the film is presented by Garrett Kell, and reminds viewers of the hope that we have in Jesus’ saving work. Valk summarized: No matter what our sinful tendencies are today, “one day all of this sin, that darkness, like what you did last night, all that’s going to be gone if you’re a Christian… God’s going to do away with this sin nature that we have, and that’s going to be incredible, and then there’s going to be (forever) of being porn free… I won’t have to shed another tear, an angry, frustrated tear (at my sins)… There is hope beyond this (life) where there are no tears anymore!” You can download this and other episodes of “Real Talk” at www.RealTalkPodcast.ca, on your favorite podcast app, or through the ReformedPerspective.ca home page. You can also watch the YouTube version of the 50th episode below. For more information on “Into the Light,” go to IntoTheLightDocumentary.com.  ...

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RP Conversations

Our hope is that our articles will start people talking. And in hopes of furthering those consultations among the communion of saints, RP hopes to host some key conversations online. First up, we're going to be having a conversation with Bill DeVries on what God has been doing in the Bulkley Valley. If you would like to meet Bill DeVries to learn more, ask questions, and discuss the issue with others, join us for a special video conversation from the comfort of your own home. HOW: we aim to have a sign up form shortly, but in the mean time you can simply email [email protected] to register. All you need to participate is a phone, tablet, or computer to connect to the conversation. WHEN: Likely late October. If you register, we will update you with the date and time. WHEN: Date still to be determined, but some time in October so sign up to be notified. COST: Free Please spread the word and invite family, friends, or church members to this important 60-90 minute conversation....

Internet, Recent Articles, RP App

We can't save the world, and that's OK

What if our insatiable interest in the world’s injustices is really just an Edenic desire to be gods ourselves? ***** We are weary. Gloom and malaise are the shadows of the moment, inescapable beneath the blazing ball of stressors that blinds our eyes to what is true and hinders our feeble attempts at faithful living. Why? Why do weariness and anxiety trail us wherever we walk or however fast we try to run? There are, of course, any number of reasons that an individual person may feel weary or sad or anxious. But there is reason I believe that our collective sense of dread is at least partially self-inflicted. We are weary because in an attempt to image our Savior we may actually be trying to be him. The paralysis of information Our parasitic relationship with the social Internet leads us to see a literal world of burdens and deceives us into believing we must bear them all. This isn’t a new phenomenon: in Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman traced it all the way back to the advent of the telegraph: "The news elicits from you a variety of opinions about which you can do nothing except for offer them as more news, about which you can do nothing. "Prior to the age of telegraphy, the information-action ratio was sufficiently close so that most people had a sense of being able to control some of the contingencies in their lives. What people knew had some action-value." We feel burdened by the events of the world because we consume information in such a way that we could never meaningfully act on the information we consume. This isn’t just a practical problem or a mental health problem. This is a spiritual problem. Bearing burdens or being gods? In Galatians 6:2 Paul tells us to: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” To live as a faithful follower of Christ in our own daily lives is difficult in its own right. But to bear others’ burdens, like those of our family, friends, or church family, is what we are called to do in this verse. Bearing one another’s burdens is important! It is one of the ways we most clearly image Christ to the world. But I think it is fair to say Paul is not calling us to bear the burdens of the world, a destructive calling to which many of us believe we have been called simply because of our ever-increasing awareness of world events. How can we possibly faithfully follow Jesus while also attempting to bear the countless burdens highlighted by our Twitter feeds? We can’t. And we should stop trying. This is not to say we shouldn’t care for and pray for the global church or the state of humanity in general. Of course we should approach our God on behalf of others who may be suffering any variety of plight around the world. My call is not a call to global ignorance but local faithfulness. One of my concerns is that our rightful concern for the vast brokenness and injustice around the world distracts us from faithfulness in our neighborhoods and churches. Beyond that, though, the constant gnawing we feel as we scroll through pictures of poverty and clips of corruption on our thousand-dollar smartphones may be a God-given conviction toward justice and righteousness … but it also may not be. What if our insatiable interest in the world’s injustices is really just an Edenic desire to be gods ourselves? The social Internet becomes a virtual tree of knowledge of good and evil – it opens our eyes to the harsh realities of a world fractured by sin and fools us into bearing the burden of the world’s brokenness. Our convictional awareness of the world’s problems may actually be a modern manifestation of our most ancient transgression: our desire to be gods rather than trust God. Wearying ourselves with public injustices in front of a watching world is more appealing than quietly advocating for justice in our communities because it makes us feel like gods, and gods receive praise. Good friends and neighbors usually don’t. To bear the burdens of others is to fulfill the law of Christ and to image Christ to the world. To want to save the world is to attempt to be Christ and reap the praise he alone is due.  The measure of the world Reflecting on the cultural power of the nightly news broadcast in 1985, Postman wrote: “It has not yet been demonstrated whether a culture can survive if it takes the measure of the world in twenty-two minutes.” Indeed, one may say that it has not yet been demonstrated whether a culture can survive if it takes the measure of the world in a brief scroll of Twitter, but the forecast is, well, a bit gloomy. Perhaps we, and our communities of faith or proximity, would be better served if we attempt to bear the burdens of our neighbors rather than feeling as though we have to bear the burdens of the world. Everyone’s problems are not all of our problems. Yes, we are called to bear one another’s burdens, but not everyone’s burdens. Christ alone can bear the burdens of the world. Our feeble attempts to do this are the roots of our gloom and malaise. Being a Savior is exhausting and it’s not who we were made to be. This originally appeared in Chris Martin’s "Terms of Service" newsletter and is reprinted here with permission. “Terms of Service” looks at the social internet from a Christian perspective, and you can sign up at www.termsofservice.social. His book, also called “Terms of Service,” is available at online retailers....

Internet, Recent Articles, RP App

A valley of conquerors

God’s work in one Reformed community to set prisoners free from their bondage to sexual sin ***** The fire crackled in a massive stone fireplace behind us as we talked and sipped coffee. The handcrafted log home that surrounded us was almost finished, after seven years of construction. It was sitting at about 4,000 feet elevation, built on the side of Hudson Bay Mountain, in northwest British Columbia. I was meeting with the home’s builder, Bill DeVries, to learn about how God has brought hope to many men and women in the Bulkley Valley whose lives have been impacted by pornography and other forms of sexual bondage. While DeVries was building this stunning home for his clients, God has been working through him and others in this community to rebuild lives. Unlike the mansion on the mountainside, this work is being used by God to result in something much more valuable – transformed hearts, revitalized families, and captives set free. When it comes to the hold that Satan has on many in the world through pornography, this story is an exception, not the norm. But just as a spark has been fanned into a flame in one community, the hope is that it sets a fire across this land. For “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). Stepping up with trepidation Reflecting on what started it all, DeVries was upfront with his own story. “I saw the lingering effects of porn use when I was young. The effect is still here. Seeing the impact it had on my own family, I wanted to find a way to break this.” He can see now how the LORD had been preparing himself and a number of other men in the local church community to bring leadership to this problem already back in the winter of 2017. A friend had shared with DeVries how he took part in a DVD program called the Conquer Series at a local church and was interested in sharing it with others, including the Reformed church community. God stirred the hearts of DeVries and a few other men to step out of their comfort zone and bring this program to the local churches, in particular the Canadian Reformed and United Reformed churches. DeVries explained how the program goes to the root of the issue, while always doing so in the context of grace through Christ. “It helps men to understand how a sin problem becomes a brain problem, and why it is so difficult to break free. It leads us to apply Scripture to get away from our shame identity, helping us to see grace, and our identity in Christ. It takes men into a daily, deep immersion in the Word.” The title lends itself from Romans 8:37: “In Christ we are more than conquerors.” “I went into it with a lot of trepidation,” DeVries recalled. He knew that dealing with pornography was not something to be done lightly and could impact marriages and lives in a big way. “We put out a bulletin notice. It was straightforward, describing how 60-70 percent of men struggle with pornography.” Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the ads struck a chord. 180 men lead the charge The first session was held in March of 2018, and 47 men courageously answered the call and showed up. DeVries and the other organizers were ready, with ten men prepared to lead small groups. They shared their own stories of their struggle with sexual sin, setting an example for vulnerability and creating a spirit of trust. The Conquer Series is much more than a 10-part DVD series. “It’s demanding. You get a half hour of work every day, and then three phone calls to different guys in their group every week.” But not only did those men carry on through the program, it has been run again in the Bulkley Valley many times since then, and to a variety of groups including teens and women. Shortly after the first time it was run, a group of 11 dads introduced the series to their sons in Grade 11 and 12. “The guys that led, led by being open about their own struggles. That opened the door for others to do the same.” It takes courage to be vulnerable with other men. It takes even more courage to talk about this with their sons. But DeVries shared that he had already come to a place of surrender. “I had nothing left for me to defend so it wasn’t that hard for me to speak into it.” The impact was immediate and others noticed. That September, another 49 men signed up to do the series. Since 2018 it has been run at least four times, though the group has become smaller each time since so many had already gone through it. In total it has reached about 180 men in the area, a couple dozen of whom have done it twice. It didn’t take long for local women and youth to follow the men’s lead. The organization behind the Conquer Series has also produced a number of other programs that have been run locally. Experiencing victory With so many men, women, and children having gone through these programs, the impact on the entire community has been both quiet and profound. Pastor James Slaa was the minister of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church while the Conquer Series was run locally. Not only did he intentionally incorporate the issue in his preaching, he also took part in the series himself, something that requires an extra degree of vulnerability for a pastor. The fruit was evident quickly. “The exercise of immediately being able to confess our sins to others is something that rarely happened before, and Conquer Series provided that place for the men to come clean in just a matter of days” he shared. “Occurring on Saturday nights, there was something very special to be able to gather together for church the next day and partake fully in the gospel message of salvation and worship our great and loving God and Father.” Pastor Slaa could see the impact it was having on the entire church community. “I was also humbled and moved to tears at times to hear the testimonies of others and of their wives, seeing how God was working mightily” he shared. “In my last years in Smithers I was overwhelmed by God’s work among us. The war against evil was on, and God was winning handily and soundly.” I also reached out to a young father who was one of the first to go through the program. He asked to remain confidential but shared with me that “The Lord used it in an instrumental way to change the direction of my family and my career.” He has been exposed to other means to deal with the issue since, but none as effective. “It is the Lord who does the work, but good tools help” he added. “This is a good tool.” Devries understands the connection between tackling pornography and our spiritual health generally. “The impact has been really big. One of the biggest things is teaching us to be intentional. If you are intentional, you are in a way better position to not lose faith. Guys are testifying to how it has changed how they walk with the LORD and with their family.” He proceeded to share a couple of examples. “One of the guys asked what have I been up to. I told him about taking part in Conquers and my story. He looked at me and was just about bawling. ‘You struggle with that? I do too. This gives me hope.’ And then I saw him walk into serious victory in the battle.” “A young guy, from Grade 11 or 12, did the Conquer Series and then when it was done he came to me and said ‘Thanks man. This has given me hope when I thought I would never escape.’ He has gone on and been leading other groups since.” “A guy five years older than me did it and testified ‘It is the first time in my life that I have hope that I can gain the victory from this.’” DeVries shared that an indirect result is that there is more communication between husbands and wives. “If people are hiding something, the sexual relationship is affected, which affects a lot of life.” “There is more openness among women and they are more vulnerable with each other. That is something with my parent’s generation that was far more difficult. Most women have two or three people that they can be open with. That is probably a spin-off from the men taking the lead.” This also made DeVries think of the text found in Judges 5:2: “When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves – praise the LORD!" DeVries believes that the program may even have indirectly resulted in the steady, deliberate, and firm leadership of the local churches through Covid. “People were charitable with each other. Relationships were maintained in a very difficult time. There was a willingness to listen and be vulnerable with others.” Amidst all of the reports of success, it was also evident that there is one demographic that DeVries remains particularly concerned about – older men. “There is a generation that seems to have given up.” He later explained, “it is a bit harder to break through to the older ones who think they have a lot more to lose if they come clean on this stuff.” One challenge with leading change, especially with problems that run deep, is maintaining a good trajectory and not falling back into old routines and sin. I asked if those who have gone through the program have been able to continue to walk in freedom. DeVries affirmed that has been the case, but that it requires intentionality. That is why many who have gone through it went on to lead other groups. They have also maintained accountability phone calls.  Humility needed I also asked DeVries whether there is anything unique about the Reformed community that there was such interest in these programs. “From what I understand now, it is that we don’t know how to deal with trauma. If we look through our past seventy years, we see World War Two, a church split, immigration, settling into a new community, a new language, and a lot of hardship. A lot of trauma happened.” At the same time, families weren’t well prepared to deal with the brokenness. “Dad is busy just getting food on the table. Everyone is kind of living in a suppression. Amidst that, there is physical and sexual abuse. Moms and Grandmas are giving everything except themselves. I have noticed this as an elder through the years. A lot of people couldn’t open up during a home visit, especially the older generation.” Although the Conquer Series has blessed more than two million people worldwide, it isn’t known by most Reformed communities. But the impact it has had in the Bulkley Valley has caused others to hear of it and ask for more information. DeVries has fielded interest from Reformed Christians in Winnipeg, Edmonton, and the Fraser Valley. Some have testified to how there is a lot of resistance to doing something similar in the local Reformed churches in their area. I reached out to one Reformed Christian in a different part of Canada, who has devoted much effort in the past decade to seeing his church community address the same issue and asked to remain anonymous because of the negative experience he has had. Unlike DeVries, he was exasperated and deeply disappointed, especially by the church leadership. His assessment was blunt. “There are way too many people involved and they don’t want to deal with it.” “The problem is so big,” he shared, “that I don’t know a young man who isn’t involved.” But when he tried to bring leadership to the issue by bringing in speakers and resources, he was frustrated by the response from his church community. “ find everything that they don’t like” he shared. “80 percent of the time was spent on what we disagreed with.” Yet he continues to speak about the issue one-on-one because “I have seen the joy that transpires when people are set free.” It starts with starting There is indeed a longstanding suspicion from many in the Reformed community towards utilizing resources that don’t originate from within. There’s often good reason for these concerns, as we’re warned that many who profess to be Christian are actually wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15). So practicing discernment (1 John 4:1), and exercising caution is admirable. But paralysis is not. When faced with a pressing issue like pornography we can’t be so worried about making a misstep that we don’t take any steps at all. This would be akin to the servant in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) who fearfully hid his talent, rather than risk misinvesting it. When asked what advice he has for others who may want to consider running the program, DeVries was quick to offer “Keep it simple and just do it.” Don’t make it too big. Don’t force people. Just start it and let the yeast do its work.” DeVries credits the success of the program to the fact that it jives with God’s Word, including the call to each of us in James 5:16 to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed….” Mark Penninga is the Executive Director of Reformed Perspective. You are invited to meet with Bill DeVries in October, via a new online forum, RP Conversations. Sign up, and find out more information here. Pastor James Slaa on the Conquer Series ***** "I remember the time when Conquer Series began. I heard that a group of men were getting together at an undisclosed location to deal with the matter of pornography. That was good news to me! I didn’t get too involved at that time, other than talk with organizers and get a broad understanding of the program. "The next year organizers wanted to run the program again, due to its success, and I was encouraged by one brother to attend, if only to provide support and encouragement. Having heard so many good things about it by now, I did. The program was running on Saturday evenings, from 7:00 to 10:00, which can be an important time for a pastor. It’s time to go over the sermons for the next day. Also, traditionally it was the evening to catch some Hockey Night in Canada. And finally, it’s a time to spend with family after a busy week. So, it took some sacrifice to commit. But since other men were committing to take the 10-week program every Saturday night, which was for them also usually a family night, and a time to relax, I felt I had no real excuse. Imagine my surprise when seeing over 60 men having registered! "I had some amazing first impressions. I remember the excitement in the air, which I eventually understood was really a large group of men who were expressing real hope. I also remember my initial reaction to the media presentation, which was professional and high quality. I recall the commitment of the program to be Biblical and Christian. I fondly remember how eventually nobody cared about keeping secret the undisclosed location and what was going on – there was such an excitement and joy over the next weeks that not only the men spoke openly about attending, but many wives were noting the substantial transformations of their husbands, and could not contain their exuberance! Besides, when people drive by a parking lot full of cars on a Saturday night, they naturally want to know what’s going on. "Personally, I received a lot of feedback from the attendees. They also commented on how much it meant to them that I too was attending and participating. I started to include material in the sermons and even preached on key Bible verses. This was very well received. Many strong bonds were forged amongst the men; I too built strong and lasting relationships on account of my attendance. We were a band of brothers, fighting the great evil and enemy of our time. "But I also knew that participating in the Conquer Series meant I too would be confronted by Scripture concerning my own life, thoughts, and actions. Conquer Series doesn’t merely address the sin and addiction of pornography but goes deeper into how the mind works and the brain functions. I greatly benefitted in weeding out a lot of junk in my own life. I grew in personal Bible devotions. I sought accountability in my life and on my devices. I remember how sitting in my small group for the first time that I was resisting opening up, but that over time, witnessing my fellow brothers confessing their sins, and seeing the Holy Spirit working, I too eventually opened up and expressed my own struggles, anger, frustrations, and stresses in my life. There was real joy and liberation in doing that and finding forgiveness in Jesus Christ. "At week six the idea is that there is full disclosure to your small group, and for me to know that was coming in my small group seemed inconceivable, but it is amazing how by the time you get to that week, you are led by the Holy Spirit and prepared to be open and honest, confessing your sins to one another, seeking prayers from each other, and experiencing freedom and liberation from the power of sin, and knowing assuredly the forgiveness of sins. Knowing as well that there will be falls and relapses, still, the exercise of immediately being able to confess our sins to others is something that rarely happened before, and Conquer Series provided that place for the men to come clean in just a matter of days. Occurring on Saturday nights, there was something very special to be able to gather together for church the next day and partake fully in the gospel message of salvation and worship our great and loving God and Father. "I was also humbled and moved to tears at times to hear the testimonies of others and of their wives, seeing how God was working mightily. In my last years in Smithers I was overwhelmed by God’s work among us. The war against evil was on, and God was winning handily and soundly. "I knew there were some concerns about whether this program is Biblically sound. Personally, I found nothing significant that was an attack on the Reformed faith and thus of the evil one. Satan was being slammed down, and that was evidence enough to me that this is a Biblical and Christian program that advanced truth and freedom. I look back with fondness on that special time with my brothers in the Lord and how through God’s grace and power we experienced real victory, a taste of what is to come!"...

History, Recent Articles, RP App

"I have a bridge to sell you" (and other deals too good to be true)

I recently received an e-mail from a Nigerian prince who wanted to share his wealth with me. He told me it was millions and millions of dollars. However, he needed a few thousand dollars from me upfront to help cover bank fees and other expenses. I’d have to be a fool to turn him down, wouldn’t I? What could go wrong? I just received a text from a bank where I don’t have an account. They said they had four million dollars to transfer to me from a great uncle I can’t remember. All I had to do was click on the link in the text. I’d have to be a fool to turn that down, wouldn't I? What could go wrong? Preying on the newly landed These are the types of scams a lot of people fall for and it’s nothing new. Preying on people’s greed is probably as old as time itself and, yet, we fall for it again and again. Perhaps one of the most infamous people to prey on that desire for easy riches was George C. Parker, a New York-based confidence man.  In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Parker made a habit of meeting the immigrants getting off the boats at New York’s Ellis Island. While many of the immigrants coming in at the island were the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, some came to America with substantial amounts of money. It was these that Parker sought out. When he was able to strike up a conversation with one of these wealthy individuals, he would maneuver the discussion to the topic of the Brooklyn Bridge. This New York landmark, joining the districts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, is visible from Ellis Island. In the late 1800s it was one of the most recognizable symbols of the prosperity of the mighty America. Just imagine how much money you could make if you owned the bridge and were able to charge tolls to cross it. Once, twice, thrice... When Parker managed to get his new immigrant friend to the beginning of the bridge there was, as if by magic, a "For Sale" sign attached to the bridge. Like other con men who tried to sell the structure, Parker likely learned the schedule of the regular rounds of the New York City beat cops. If the police never saw a sign advertising the sale of the bridge, they really couldn’t get upset about it.  To further the scheme, Parker apparently had impressive, but forged, papers showing him to be the owner of the famous landmark. And so with the documentation, the "For Sale" sign, and the promise of fabulous wealth from tolls, Parker managed to sell the Brooklyn Bridge to the gullible immigrant. And, being successful as a con man - if successful is the right term - Parker sold the bridge to someone else as well, and then he sold it again, and again, and again. It wasn’t until the unfortunate purchaser of the bridge tried to set up toll booths that they learned from the police that they’d been fleeced. There’s a story that Parker bragged about selling the bridge twice a week for decades on end. And while no one I read believes the claim, it highlights Parker’s audacity. He got caught sometimes, being convicted of fraud on three occasions. But in 1908, after his second conviction, he put on a sheriff’s coat and hat that had been left lying around and simply walked away from the courthouse.  "I've got a statue to sell you.." The man was flexible as well. If the bridge had no appeal for his mark, Parker was not above trying to sell the person Madison Square Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or the Statue of Liberty. What did him in was not trying to sell New York infrastructure, but passing a bad check. A state law imposed a mandatory life sentence on anyone convicted of four felony offences. Though the check was only one hundred fifty dollars, and not the fifty thousand that he’d sometimes scammed from his victims by selling the Brooklyn Bridge, the offence sent Parker to prison for the last eight years of his life. He was said to be a popular prisoner since, as a scam artist, he had learned how to spin a tale and most of those tales were of his own exploits. Something for comparitively nothing is a bad deal What allowed Parker’s career was simple human greed. Greed blinds us. We see an enormous profit and we fail to understand the risks. We fail to do what the investors call “due diligence.”  Wanting something too badly can blind us to the risks whether in our finances, our relationships, or our careers. We can’t – or won’t – see the obvious peril right in front of us.  It’s a risk we all run, and we’ve all certainly felt the sting out of wanting something a bit more than is good for us. And if you don’t believe me there, let me just say that I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. James Dykstra is a sometimes history teacher, author, and podcaster at History.icu “where history is never boring.” Find his podcast at History.icu, or on Spotify, Google podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts....

News, RP App

Canadians retiring in record numbers

Statistics Canada recently reported that Canadians have retired in huge numbers over the past twelve months: 306,000 citizens retired from full-time work from September to August of 2022. That’s 70,000 more than the corresponding period ending August 2021. The increase is particularly marked among those ages 55 to 64: 155,000 in the past twelve months, versus just over 100,000 the year earlier, and that’s 10,000 more than those aged 65 or older. Among all the G7 countries, Canada has the largest percentage of its citizens actively working, but with one in five workers over the age of 55, and many of these retiring, the nation’s workforce may be shrinking. As Reuters’ Julie Gordon put it, “More than a year after the Great Resignation took hold in the United States, Canada is grappling with its own greyer version: The Great Retirement.” As has been discussed in the days since her death, Queen Elizabeth II set quite a different example: for over 70 years, well past what we would call “retirement age,” she performed her duties as monarch without public complaint. In fact, just two days before her passing, she was able to officially appoint Liz Truss as her Prime Minister for the nation of England Christians must have this different perspective on work and retirement. While what we do on a daily basis may change as we age, the Lord requires that, as members of His church, each of us “use (our) gifts readily and cheerfully for the benefit and well-being of the other members” (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 55). What a joy it is when the “silver-haired” among us share their wisdom and experience with those who are younger, and continue to be actively involved “doing good to all men, especially those of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10)....

Culture Clashes, News, Recent Articles, RP App

Peppa Pig propagandizes preschoolers

During the COVID lockdowns, some North American children began developing a British accent, and started using words like “mummy” and “water closet.” This development was tied to watching Peppa Pig, a popular British animated children’s show about a 4-year-old piglet. Too much TV isn't a good thing, but if ever your children were going to overdose on a TV show, this was one of the better options. Peppa is occasionally bratty, but more often kind, her dad is a bit too bumbling, but he is also very loving, and overall the show is gentle but not inane. For 18 years now, Peppa has been a peaceful pig, but not a bore. In fact, the most controversy the show has previously garnered was for having a stay-at-home mummy – that was seen as misogynist. However, on the September 6 episode, the show decided to begin promoting homosexuality to their young viewers. The scene involves Peppa’s classmate, a polar bear named Penny, explaining, “I live with my mummy and my other mummy. One mummy is a doctor, and one mummy cooks spaghetti.” Peppa is only the latest of many children’s shows to bow the knee to the LGBT lobby. Arthur has featured a teacher having a same-sex “marriage,” and a few years back Muppet Babies had baby Gonzo put on a dress and heels to become princess “Gonzorella.” And last year Nickelodeon's Blue's Clues and You featured an animated drag queen leading an animated gay pride parade to celebrate "Pride Month." Some conservative commentators have criticized this “woke” turn, but with one arm tied behind their back. For example, Matt Walsh described princess Gonzo as “silly,” “ridiculous,” and “creepy.” But because the Catholic Walsh studiously avoids basing any of his objections on what God says in His Word, he can’t go much beyond name calling. What could Walsh offer, if he was asked why a children’s show featuring a boy in a dress is silly? What Walsh doesn’t address is the real reason it is creepy: that it is rebellion against God, and against His plan for men and women and for marriage. That rebellion has consequences, which can include separation from God, emotional turmoil, radical disfiguring surgeries, the inherent instability of same-sex coupling, and the impact on a child of not having a father in their life. That's something a lot more substantial than mere creepiness. So what can we do about it? Should we start a petition? Maybe we can develop our own children's programming? Not bad ideas. But the easiest and quickest response is simply to tell our kids to turn off the TV, shut the laptop, and go outside and play. The picture is a screenshot from the 7th season, Episode 41 show titled "families."...

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Saturday Selections – September 17, 2022

What happens in a 2nd trimester D&E abortion (4 min) While this is nearly bloodless, and the animation as underplayed as possible, the topic matter means this is not a video for young children, though it might be something to show to your teens after previewing it yourself. This is also a vital tool in that it can be easily shared on your social media accounts. To the young inexperienced counselor In the course of our friendships and marriages and responsibilities we are often called on to offer advice, or, as it is otherwise known, counsel. So what if we're young and don't have a lot of "lived experience" to call on? That could work out to be a strength because older Christians can sometimes rely more on their own experiences, instead of their own experiences tested against God's Word. So if a young person has little experience, but loves the Word, he might actually have more to offer. Though this is an article directly addressed to counselors, it will be encouraging for young and old in our own personal counseling encounters, to challenge us to stand on God's Word when helping others, just as Paul encouraged Timothy to do. Queen Elizabeth's reign was the afterglow of a Christian civilization I love this tribute to the queen (though the title is a bit too dour – what God has enflamed once He can light up again). Greenland is not as big as you thought The curvature of the Earth means that the outer edges of any flat map you see are going to be stretched outward. The effect, as seen on a typical "Mercator projection" is to make Greenland look roughly the size of South America. But as you can see below, it's actually smaller than Argentina alone. Click on the link above to see an animation of the countries shifting from their Mercator size to their real size. Wow this #map does bring some perspective! #mercator Real Country Sizes Shown on Mercator Projection - Engaging Data https://t.co/3qs1NsXIOv — Saskia Vlaar (@LaVlaar) June 2, 2019 Could monkeys type the 23rd Psalm? "Darwin's Bulldog" Thomas Huxley famously argued that six monkeys, given eternity to type on six eternal typewriters, and with an endless supply of paper and ink, could eventually produce "a Psalm, a Shakespearean sonnet, or even a whole book, purely by chance that is, by random striking of the keys." This was his explanation/analogy for why we should believe that, given enough time, evolution could produce Man. What he fails to acknowledge is that it's quite a leap to go from Chance producing a psalm, to it producing a someone. But it turns out even the inconceivably easier task of typing a psalm would still take more time than even evolutionists believe the universe has existed.  And we could add trillions more monkeys and it wouldn't make a dent. State abducts child and church abandons her Abigail’s daughter Yaeli began to struggle with depression when she was in the 8th grade, her school steered her to "transition" without parental input, and eventually moved her to a group home, all in the name of helping her mental health. But, at age 19 she took her life. This was a state-perpetuated grave evil. But, as John Stonestreet writes, so too was her church abandonment. Making the moral case for mockery? (3 min) This week Seth Dillon, the CEO of the Babylon Bee, was discussing the morality of mockery with Allie Beth Stuckey. Watch: Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon discusses the “moral case for mockery” with Allie Beth Stuckey https://t.co/9ETOnfsNEF — Not the Bee (@Not_the_Bee) September 15, 2022 ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

The Riot and the Dance: the TV series

TV series 2022 / 30 minutes RATING: 9/10 The folks who brought you the documentaries Riot and the Dance: Earth and Riot and the Dance: Water are now hard at work creating a TV series and you can watch the pilot episode for free now. This is God's creation accompanied by a classical/rap soundtrack, and viewed through the eyes of a poet and an adventurer. The narrator, Dr. Gordon Wilson, shares that while he teaches a marine biology class, he "needed to go back to school for this film - scuba school!" Why? "I don't want to just sit back and narrate over some pretty picture. I wanted to get as close as I can to as many divinely crafted underwater miracles as possible." First up is an encounter with a round-eyed, chubby-looking, hard-shelled critter. Dr. Wilson can't help but gush: "I love turtles, their eyes, their beaks, their scales like tiles on a fancy floor. What hilarious cartoon characters they are, and what a fantastic cartoonist God is." Next up is a dip down into shark-infested waters, and with no cage to protect him or his crew. Isn't that crazy? Wilson had this reply: "Many, many people have asked why we got in that water with sharks, especially without a cage. The thing is they're amazing. They have an extra sense - electroreceptors that detect even very small disturbances in the water. We saw them respond to a single leaf that landed on the surface of the water.... We need to stop being so distracted at how frightened you're supposed to be, open your eyes and look intently and see their amazing design!" This is creation depicted in a very unique light. Many a Christian nature film will focus more on rebutting evolution than celebrating creation. Or they'll go in the other direction, and celebrate the creation but fail to mention the Creator. Riot and the Dance gets it right on both counts, with nary a mention of evolution, but all sorts of admiration expressed for the God Almighty who can make these marvels. But in addition to the wonder and the intricate dance we see performed throughout all of God's creation, there is also the riotous nature of our fallen world. So it is that we have deadly sharks. And also a giant water-bug that can liquify the insides of a frog many times its size and drink it like an "amphibian-flavored Capri Sun - a frog-shaped juice box." Afterward, we get to briefly gape at a breaching humpback whale, and then swim up close with sea cows. These are quick but amazing clips. And then we're done. This is only a half-hour show, but the first of what they hope will be many. And I do too. You can watch this pilot episode below for free, and if you like it you may want to rent their two feature films, Riot and the Dance: Earth and Riot and the Dance: Water. ...

News, RP App

Pro-life Leslyn Lewis comes third in Conservative leadership race

On September 10, Canada’s Conservative Party announced that their new leader would be Pierre Poilievre, taking 71% of the votes cast on the first ballot. It wasn’t a surprise that he won, though the margin of his victory – 59 percentage points better than the second-place finisher – was stunning. His total percentage was better than any Conservative leadership candidate before him. But what of the only pro-life candidate in the race? How did Leslyn Lewis do? She finished third, a placing that was celebrated by some social conservatives. She was neck-and-neck with runner-up Jean Charest, finishing less than 2,000 votes behind with 11.1% of the votes compared to his 11.6%.  She could also celebrate increasing her vote total from the 2020 leadership race – she got 3,000 more first ballot votes this time around. But even as Lewis did better, things got much worse for the unborn. The Conservative Party has shifted enormously since the 2020 leadership race, where the two pro-life candidates, Lewis and Derek Sloan, combined to receive 40% of the first-round votes. Two years later, Lewis, now the lone pro-life candidate, got just 11%. Only 1 in 10 of the ballot-casting members of the Conservative Party believed the unborn should be a priority. While we might wish things were otherwise, we need to put to rest any notion that there might yet be “hidden pro-lifers” in the party. Couldn’t there have been some pro-lifers who voted for Poilievre because they were worried that otherwise Charest might win? No. Under the ranked ballot used in this race, there was simply no reason for a pro-lifer not to support the only pro-life candidate. If Lewis had gotten eliminated early on, and a second ballot was still required, then any who’d voted for her could still have had their ballot count against Charest by listing Poilievre as their second choice. There was no strategic reason to do anything other than vote pro-life if you cared for the unborn; Lewis’ 11% is an accurate representation of the sum total of the Conservative’s pro-life membership. That’s it, and that’s all. The temptation here is to despair. The only major party open to pro-lifers is stacked against us 9 to 1? But there is something we can thank God for, even in this defeat. Hasn’t He freed us from a very different temptation, the temptation to silence? We can know for certain now that the politicians and major parties aren’t going to try changing any hearts and minds about abortion. So, if the unborn are going to have defenders, it’s going to have to be God’s Church, and God’s people. Instead of succumbing to despair, we can thank God for this clarity. And we can ask Him to give us the courage to: Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly;   defend the rights of the poor and needy. – Prov 31:8-9 Photo by John Balca and used under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license....

Culture Clashes, News

Lorie Smith: another Christian battling to preserve a freedom we all need to use more often

Lorie Smith is a Colorado website designer and graphic artist who wants to expand her business to include wedding clients. While she’s worked with homosexual clients in the past, that hadn’t involved weddings, and she knew that she wouldn’t want to design wedding websites for same-sex “marriages.” The Colorado government has declared that her stand amounts to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Smith’s pastor suggested that she contact the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the same legal team that represented Jack Philips, another Coloradan who got in trouble for refusing to design wedding cakes for same-sex “marriages.” While he eventually won his case in front of the Supreme Court, the ADF confirmed that the Colorado officials would still come after Smith. So Smith decided to challenge the law with the help of the ADF. Since she first began her challenge 6 years ago, she’s had to endure rape and death threats against her and her family and she’s lost both clients and friends. Through it all, she could take comfort knowing that what she was doing was for God and to His glory. And now, this fall, she will have a hearing before the Supreme Court. Hers is only one of many cases this year involving compelled speech. In the UK earlier this year, a small bakery finally won their case. Their journey started in 2014, when British LGBT activist Gareth Lee ordered a cake from the Belfast shop, 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. But Lee wasn’t finished, and took the case to the European Court of Human Rights. Fortunately, 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. Interestingly the bakery got support 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.” What Tatchell was echoing here (however unintentional) was Jesus’ warning against judging others by standards we wouldn’t want applied to ourselves (Matt. 7:1-2). That might even be the message a Christian should get cake-printed from the nearest gay bakery: “Do not judge… for in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” As with Lorie Smith’s battle, this was been defended as a matter of free speech. It is that, most certainly. But what has largely been lost is how the decision affirmed Ashers Bakery’s right not to harm others. That is the more important battle, in part because it is the fight we’ll be fighting alone. Even an LGBT activist may, in his own self-interest, defend a Christian’s right to free speech. But what only Christians will defend is God’s Truth that gay “marriage” is harmful, and, thus, so too is its celebration. It’s one thing to fight for a right to free speech, and quite another to exercise that freedom to explain that the reason we don’t want to bake the cake or make the website is because we don’t want to hurt homosexuals by promoting a sinful lifestyle that separates them from their Savior. That’s a message no LGBT activist is ever going to speak. But is a message that desperately needs to be heard more often, and more clearly. It’s also a message that’ll require even more courage....

Economics, Recent Articles

An abundance mentality in business

Christian entrepreneurs may be positioned to help the next generation become entrepreneurs too ***** Christian business owners often speak about an “abundance mentality”: the idea that God, in blessing their companies richly, has allowed them to be a blessing to others, providing a stable place of work for their employees while at the same time taking great care of their customers. And God’s generosity enables them to practice generosity to all sorts of good causes too. I recently had the privilege of speaking with a few Reformed Christian business owners, and I was struck by an additional characteristic of this mindset they shared. These men had a desire to see their valued employees become business owners themselves. Ryan VanDelft Ryzer Construction Services Bellingham, WA Ryan VanDelft initially started his company without any business partners. He set up Ryzer Construction Services after moving across the border from British Columbia to Washington State, and they’ve been installing and supplying windows, doors, and other materials to builders of higher-end homes since 2015. After some years of slow but steady growth, Ryan decided it was time to expand what the company offered its clients, and to give more responsibility to the growing team of employees he had developed. And as anyone familiar with Ryan knows (we go to the same church), one of Ryan’s passions is mentoring the young people who work for him – he’s eager to invest in their skill development, and coach them in the soft skills that will enable them to be successful in business, even while he’ll take time to help them outside of work. A walk around the Ryzer warehouse and board room shows a commitment to sharing the company’s statement of purpose, its values and strategies, and its mission statement – they are proudly displayed on banners for all to see. The last line of Ryzer’s statement of purpose reads “Grow profitably, and enjoy the process,” and references Psalm 127:1 – “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Ryan also refers regularly with his team to “the Four E’s” – his shorthand for the mission statement to “Empower people. Embrace Craftsmanship. Enrich Lifestyles. Enjoy work.” VanDelft has taken on a partner, Dave Hommes, a fellow believer whose skills in finance and organization complemented his colleague’s gifts. Ryan’s long-term plan is to bring in additional partners who have shown promise as employees, helping them to share in the risk and reward of business ownership. He talks about “making the pie bigger.” While some might see additional partners as a potential drain on a fixed profits number, Ryan hopes that enlarging the business as opportunities allow, while growing the talent pool of employees and associates, will result in a larger number of satisfied clients, and a larger “pie” to share with his partners. Bruce DeBoer Ontario Metal Products and Ontario Outbuildings Dunnville, ON Bruce DeBoer joined partner Brad Schutten in Ontario Outbuildings, and Ontario Metal Products just a few months before COVID came calling. Their company supplies metal roofing panels, siding, and accessories to local builders, priding itself on good pricing with excellent service. Despite the current challenging supply chain environment, Bruce and Brad have been able to grow their sales volume substantially. The whole team of about twenty associates begins their week with a staff meeting, that includes Bible reading and prayer, before launching into the goals and plans for the work week. DeBoer takes a keen interest in his associates, providing a listening ear in times of stress, and trying to understand what are the most important things in their lives. “We’ve switched to an employee market. Life is different than it was twenty years ago. Most families are double income now, so what they need is different. A husband might have to stay home when a child is sick, where years ago, that would have been the wife’s role.” DeBoer advises that in a low unemployment environment, it is wise to find what benefits and other intangibles might be important for your colleagues, and it’s not always about hourly wages or salary. DeBoer and Schutten have taken an innovative approach in helping employees become business owners. While it might be simpler and more profitable to continue with an owner-employee relationship, the business partners have encouraged those associates who show promise to form companies with DeBoer and Schutten: continuing to do the same work of installing or building, but enjoying a portion of the fruits of their labors as owners. The new companies take advantage of the all the economies of scale of a larger company – sharing bookkeeping systems, quoting software, and administrative expertise together. This makes the process of becoming self-employed less daunting than it might otherwise be for a young entrepreneur. The author of Ecclesiastes recognized the value of teams and partnerships: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow… a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Eccl. 4:9-12) When asked what advice he would give anyone looking to advance their career or become a business owner, DeBoer did not hesitate: “Find a mentor!” That’s good advice, and it doesn’t need to be complicated. Find someone with experience and ask them out for a coffee. Most business veterans are eager to share what they know, and more than willing to help someone avoid the same mistakes they may have made or seen. King Solomon agreed that finding a mentor is a good path: “Listen to advice, and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” (Proverbs 19:20) “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” (Proverbs 18:1) ***** It was wonderful to hear about how the Lord has blessed these business owners in their decisions to help their employees also grow and prosper. Both VanDelft and DeBoer emphasized that their workplace mindset is not all about financial gain, and that part of their joy in their daily work is seeing others achieve more than they would have thought possible. Marty VanDriel is a writer and Assistant Editor for Reformed Perspective, a TV and film critic for WORLD magazine, and a Christian entrepreneur himself as the CEO of TriVan Truck Body....

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Saturday Selections – September 10, 2022

Economics 101: how profits answer the "knowledge problem" How can we know what to make? And how much to make? And who would be best to make it? This is a "knowledge problem" facing every economy: we need answers to these questions, but how do we get them? A centrally managed economy (socialism, communism, dictatorships of all sorts) looks to someone at the top being able to figure it all out. The problem is, their leader would need to be near-omniscient – he'd have to be god-like – to be able to pull that off. So how does the decentralized free market manage it? Well, it isn't going to pull it off perfectly – nothing ever is perfect this side of heaven – but it does have an answer to the knowledge problem that doesn't require anyone to be a god. As this video explains, the much-maligned "profit" is not simply a reward to the industrious and entrepreneurial, it is also a source of information for what to make, how much, and by who. Why the Dutch farmer protest is your cause too What's happening in the Netherlands isn't limited to that nation. "The ongoing food crisis in Sri Lanka is a particularly gruesome display of just how tragic the results of heavy farming regulation can be. About 90 percent of Sri Lankan families are skipping meals due to widespread food shortages and food price inflation of roughly 60 percent.....There are many reasons, but as Bloomberg explains, a major one is that, 'In April 2021, the government, led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, banned synthetic fertilizer imports to push the country toward organic farming.'” Evolution can't explain over-engineering in nature "Tardigrades can survive being subjected to extreme laboratory treatments (radiation, cold temperature, hydrostatic pressure) far more severe than any Earth environment." But why would evolution so equip them, when there weren't any evolutionary pressures for such an adaptation? Don't put off having children Nathanael Blake wants to remind us of practical reasons to place the having of kids ahead of your education or career advancement, including how much easier it is to deal with sleepless children and the sleep deprivation they cause you when you are in your 20s as opposed to doing so in your late 30s. (There are biblical reasons too – Prov 17:6 Ps. 127:3, Gen. 22:18). Most interesting tidbit from the article? Government-subsidized university tuition is backed by the best of intentions. But here's one negative impact it also has: encouraging young people to go as far as they can with their post-secondary education, even as they build up debt, means they'll likely put off having children for years, and have fewer of them. Faith in God is the only coherent basis for reason An atheist who thinks he came about without intent or design has no reason to trust his own thinking or senses... Trust the science? John Stossel highlights some of what's passing for science in the US, and the government's role in producing this material (particularly in the social sciences). ...

News

Queen Elizabeth II, dead at 96

Queen Elizabeth II died on September 8, 2022 at the age of 96, after reigning as Queen of Great Britain and the Commonwealth for over 71 years. Hers was the longest reign of any British monarch. The queen also served as head of the Church of England for that same span, with the official titles of “Defender of the Faith,” and “Supreme Governor of the Church of England.” In recent years, the Queen spoke more openly of her faith in Jesus Christ, particularly in the annual Christmas messages of the past decade. In December 2020 she said, “The teachings of Christ have served as my inner light, as has the sense of purpose we find in coming together to worship.” Addressing the 2021 General Synod of the Church of England, Elizabeth reflected that it had been fifty years ago that she and her husband Prince Philip attended a General Synod together: “None of us can slow the passage of time, and while we often focus on all that has changed in the intervening years, much remains unchanged, including the Gospel of Christ and his teachings.” Elizabeth’s oldest son now becomes King Charles III, at the age of 73. The new king is better known for his passion for the environment than for his Christian faith, which does not appear to be as orthodox and traditional as his mother’s. At one time, Charles reportedly proposed that his future title in the Church of England be “Defender of Faith,” rather than “Defender of the Faith,” although he has since walked back that idea. We pray that Charles may serve wisely as king, that his faith in the God of the Bible may be sincere, and that he may follow his mother in being led by the teachings of Jesus Christ. Picture credit: Shaun Jeffers / Shutterstock.com...

Pro-life - Abortion, Recent Articles, RP App

No place for pro-life cynicism

Roe’s reversal shows us what God can accomplish for and through His people.  ***** “In the days when the idea of a surprise pregnancy was only an abstraction, I had never suspected that I could feel fierce love for an embryo. I wanted to discuss my mixed-up feelings with Jon, but I didn’t know how, especially since it was clear that his mind was already made up…. Whatever else I might be able to do for our child, I knew I could never force Jon to love it. Of all the pains that await us in this world, I most desired to protect it from feeling unwanted.” This is how Jess explains her rationale for why she had an abortion. The embryo was loved but unwanted; protected from future emotional pain, but killed. Jess’ story captures so well our culture’s cognitive dissonance regarding life in the womb. We know full well that a pregnant woman has a growing, developing human being in her womb. But we legally allow that human being to be dismembered or poisoned for any reason the mother chooses. Here in Canada, we allow that fate right up to birth. The pro-life movement exists because we see this tragedy, we seek to expose the cognitive dissonance, and we strive to save lives. There are those who are deeply cynical of pro-life work. I’ve had many express to me how futile they think pro-life activism is in a pro-choice culture like Canada. Why the skepticism? Should we really believe that things will only get worse when it comes to abortion laws? That opinion certainly isn’t based on historical trends. Legal slavery was ended, we don’t legally subjugate women anymore, and many oppressive regimes have been defeated. Just because a mountain is difficult to climb, and we can’t see every part of the path from where we stand, doesn’t mean that the mountain is insurmountable. Look south of the border and ask, how many thought Roe v Wade would be overturned in our lifetime? Yet, that happened in June 2022 when the U.S. Supreme Court released their Dobbs decision which found: “The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives .” This incredibly huge win means that now individual states are free to enact near-total bans of abortion! Examining how this came to be and recognizing the power of God’s hand in human political affairs, is an encouragement and call to action for Canadians who also want to see pre-born children in Canada protected in our lifetime. The state of affairs pre-Roe Unlike Canada, where criminal law is passed federally, in the U.S. criminal laws are passed by the individual states. Alongside Canada and many European countries, there was a growing trend in the U.S. toward legalizing more abortions that started in the 1960s and continued in the 1970s. What I didn’t know until reading the Dobbs decision was how slowly that movement was happening in the U.S. In fact, in 1973 when Roe was decided, 30 states still prohibited abortion at all stages. Well over half the country banned abortion, regardless of the age of the pre-born child. With one fell swoop from the U.S. Supreme Court that all changed, requiring states to allow abortions before the pre-born child was viable – a standard that was preserved and modified in the 1992 Casey decision. Now, in 2022, that decision has been reversed. The pro-life movement in the U.S. has exemplified tireless work toward this day, always striving to produce quality legal literature, educate the public, and continue to work one step at a time. Of course, it wasn’t just the effort of the pro-life movement that brought us to this point. Had Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg retired during President Obama’s tenure, President Trump would not have had the opportunity to appoint three Supreme Court Justices. Those three justices were needed to overturn Roe. We can praise God for granting growth and in His providence providing favorable circumstances for this huge victory. It clearly was God’s blessing, along with the faithful labor of many, that resulted in this success. But we don’t immediately go back to where we were. We don’t see 30 states banning abortion at all stages. Ground was lost in the decades since Roe, not to mention millions of lives. All to say, this ruling is a victory, but it still comes with mixed emotions. There is still so much more that needs to be done. Yet, as Canadians we can take encouragement from the victory and take note of the work yet to do resulting from the Dobbs decision. Dobbs and freedom An abortion supporter carrying a "Freedom is for every body" sign that is inadvertently pro-life, sharing a message we desperately want the other side to understand. What did Dobbs decide? If you believe one of my law school classmates, “The decision also opens the door to forced abortions. Either way, your uterus belongs to the state now.” How could someone as intelligent as this guy come to such a strange conclusion? It comes from a very deliberate framing of the abortion issue by abortion proponents. We’ve known this for quite a while – we call ourselves pro-life because we want to emphasize that unjustifiably taking a human life is wrong. Abortion advocates call themselves pro-choice because they want to emphasize that mothers ought to be free to make choices. This was described in another abortion case in the United States, this one from 1992 and referred to as Casey. Incidentally, Casey was also overturned by the new Dobbs decision. In Casey, Justice Kennedy said, "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." The awful extension of having this liberty to define the mystery of human life is that mothers have had the freedom to define pre-born human beings out of existence, therefore making them discardable. The Dobbs decision addresses Justice Kennedy’s definition of liberty head-on by trying to clarify that it is a good thing when, at times, there are limits on liberty. Such a definition of liberty cannot plausibly be absolute, the justices say in Dobbs, because “while individuals are certainly free to think and to say what they wish about ‘existences,’ ‘meaning,’ the ‘universe,’ and ‘the mystery of human life,’ they are not always free to act in accordance with those thoughts.” Liberty with such an individual source cannot be absolute. The state has a role in limiting it. Was my classmate right then? If the State can infringe liberty, does this mean that states are now able to force abortions? Certainly not by the logic in Dobbs. Liberty is important and does require a justification to be impinged. The justification is present here because according to Dobbs, “Abortion destroys what those decisions call ‘potential life’ and what the law at issue in this case regards as the life of an ‘unborn human being.’” That is, you have the freedom to do so much, but you don’t have the freedom to take a life. It’s quite something to see the U.S. Supreme Court say this regarding abortion. Forced motherhood The pro-abortion side is insistent that this is an unjustifiable limitation on women’s freedom, sometimes utilizing the term “forced motherhood.” The idea is that abortion restrictions are forcing women to become mothers by not allowing them to end a pregnancy. Early feminists were also concerned about forced motherhood, but they had a very different concept of what that meant. In their view, the motherhood was forced if the sex was forced. The problem was never the child who resulted from the sex – the problem was the man who did not respect the woman. And certainly, the child should not forfeit their life to alleviate the parents from the consequences of their actions. So much of the language has been twisted when it comes to discussing abortion. When a woman chooses whether to give birth or whether to have an abortion, the choice is not whether or not to become a mother. Once pregnant, the freedom to choose to be a mother is, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “Free, as a man is free to drink while he is drinking. He is not free still to be dry.” Once pregnant, a woman is a mother – she cannot choose otherwise. It isn’t the law that forces that choice, it’s biology. She can end her pregnancy by ending the life of her child, but that does not rewind the clock back to before she became a mother. Sex comes with the potential for procreation. Once procreation has occurred you can kill the resulting life, but that just makes you the mother of a dead child. Are women doomed then? It turns out, the answer is no. In fact, when women are denied the choice to end the life of their child, they don’t generally view motherhood as forced. In The Turnaway Study, researchers looked at women who went to an abortion clinic but were denied having one because they were past the gestational limit in that state. They found that women’s choices changed. Within a week after being denied an abortion only 65% of women surveyed still wanted one. By the child’s first birthday this was down to 7% and five years later it was only 4%. Remember, these are women who chose abortion. These aren’t women who just thought about abortion, these are women who made it to the abortion clinic, despite travel expenses and the logistics of actually getting there. The wanted or unwanted response to the pregnancy faded. The bond between parent and child persisted. Children are a gift No one is suggesting that pregnancy and raising children are easy. But it must be admitted that our abortion culture has fixated on the difficulties. Legal scholar Erika Bachiochi sums it up this way: “Pregnancy, with all its risks and demands, is seen primarily as a burden when viewed from the perspective of the unencumbered, autonomous male. Seen from the perspective of most women, and the men who love them, childbearing is a great gift.” Throughout all human history, mankind – men and women – have viewed the risk and hardship of pregnancy to be worth it. For those of us who believe what God tells us in the Bible, we understand that this great gift is one that comes from our loving, sovereign Savior (Psalm 127:3). Children are entrusted to the education and care of parents but are not property to be disposed of at will (Ephesians 6:4). All parents fail to some extent, but the further promise for us and for the countless pre-born children at risk of losing their lives to abortion is that even if “my father and my mother have forsaken, but the LORD will take me in.” (Psalm 27:10). That is the ethic the pro-life movement continues to exhibit and teach to our abortion-minded culture. The Dobbs decision demonstrates it, and it’s up to us to continue that work here in Canada. There is no place in this work for cynicism or for giving up when we serve a God who works great and mighty wonders for and through his people. Tabitha Ewert is We Need a Law’s Legal Counsel and a member of ARPA Canada’s Law and Policy team. Top picture credit: Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Mount St. Helens: Modern day evidence for the world wide Flood

Documentary 2012 / 36 minutes Rating: 7/10 Thirty-four years ago Washington State’s Mount St. Helens blew its top. The eruption on the morning of May 18, 1980, knocked 1,300 feet off the top of the mountain, sending a massive landslide down its slope, clearing out a forest of trees, and washing out the lake at its base. For nine straight hours it put out the energy equivalent of about one Hiroshima-type atomic bomb every second. The sheer power of this eruption makes it interesting, but this event is of particular interest to creation scientists like Dr. Steve Austin. The eruption scoured the area clean, but also lay down layers and layers of rock strata from the volcanic ash. The eruption also caused the creation of deep, new, instantaneous canyons, that – if we didn’t know better – looked to be many thousands of years old. In other words, the Mount St. Helens eruptions showed that catastrophic events can rapidly create huge geological features. Dr. Austin shows how this has implications for the Flood, showing how it too could have rapidly laid down many layers of rock strata, and carved out even huge features, like the Grand Canyon. Just because its massive does not mean it took long to form! I gave this a 7/10 rating, because it is well done, but I do want to note that if you aren't already interested in this subject matter, this isn't the sort of documentary that will just grab you. There is clearly a professional behind the camera, but overall the visuals are pretty tame (no computer graphics and no visualization of the actual eruption). So this is one you watch for the fascinating information. The DVD can be ordered at AnswersInGenesis.org and Creation.com or at FloodGeologySeries.com and right now you can watch it for free below. If you enjoy this, you may enjoy 3 other films in this "Flood Geology" series all of which can be watched for free: The Ice Age (96 minutes) The Missoula Flood (81 minutes) The Receding Floodwaters (89 minutes) ...

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The coming battles over church property

Same-sex “marriage” and sexual morality were hot topics in evangelicalism in the late-90s and early 2000s. Since the legalization of same-sex “marriage” in 2005, the issue appeared to have been resolved within the church: the affirming and orthodox churches had staked out their respective positions. However, the issue has recently resurfaced in several denominations and will likely lead to further schisms in those communities. Denominational schisms Perhaps the most prominent of these recent examples is in the Christian Reformed Church in North America (“CRC”) whose Synod, at a meeting in June of this year, affirmed the orthodox biblical view of marriage and sexual morality. It raised the issue to the status of an explicit confession stating that “The church must warn its members that those who refuse to repent of these sins – as well as of idolatry, greed, and other such sins – will not inherit the kingdom of God.” The consensus is that many congregations will split from the CRC over this issue. Several CRC churches have, over the years, admitted individuals who are married to their same-sex partners or otherwise openly and unrepentantly living a homosexual lifestyle into church membership and even church leadership. How can these churches remain in the CRC? Will they warn their membership of the consequences of engaging in these sins, while some of their leadership does so? That is unlikely, and thus a schism will develop within this denomination. And the CRC is not the only denomination facing this challenge. There are other denominations where particular congregations are no longer operating within the theological parameters of their denomination. The CRC is simply more front-and-center right now, given the publicity generated by their June Synod. Legal implications Many complex legal issues arise when churches split from their denominations or associations. Churches whose names include “Christian Reformed” will likely need to amend their legal names and any trademarks they may hold. CRC-affiliated educational institutions which have adopted an affirming stance on same-sex “marriage” and sexual morality, like Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, may need to re-apply for government accreditation under their new identity. Perhaps the most difficult and important issue they will face is related to church properties. Over the last decade, church property disputes arose after splits relating to beliefs over same-sex “marriage” in both Anglican and Episcopal churches in Canada and the USA. The schism resulted in protracted litigation over the proper ownership of church buildings and lands in both examples. We will likely see similar litigation here in Canada, perhaps in the CRC, or perhaps in other denominations or in non-denominational churches. Different churches have different property ownership and governance structures. There could be a variety of legal cases and outcomes. Who owns the church building or the private school? Some may be owned by the congregation. Some congregations may be incorporated while others are not. Some may be owned by the original trustees who founded the congregation. Some may have been bequeathed by an estate for specific use by the CRC. Some may have been purchased by an existing congregation. The issues are complex and case-specific. Some congregations’ membership or leadership may disagree on whether to split from the denomination. Divisions may arise not only within denominations but within individual congregations and councils. In the past, we’ve seen such schisms divide communities and families. Churches need to brace for controversies that may be coming – theologically, relationally, and legally. Be clear, early I write this as a Christian first and a lawyer second. I am deeply concerned about churches caving to cultural pressures and denying Scriptural truths. I am also concerned about such practical costs as I see in my line of work – legal disputes that are financially and relationally costly. Denominations need to prepare themselves for potential battles ahead and should be consulting legal counsel pre-emptively to examine their risks and responsibilities. Ask yourself: is it clear where your church stands on certain controversial issues? Are you prepared legally to address divisions over such issues within your church? Albertos Polizogopoulos is co-founder of the Acacia Group and a constitutional litigation lawyer who specializes in freedom of religion. The Acacia Group is Canada’s only openly Christian law firm devoted to offering legal and crisis communications services to churches, organizations, individuals, and businesses. ...

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Saturday Selections – September 3, 2022

Birds are crafted (2 min) In this clip from the documentary Flight: the Genius of Birds, we get to explore how the depth of design needed, even merely in a bird's muscles, shouts out that it has a brilliant Designer! Counseling our teens from Proverbs (30-min read) " said that the average father spends seven to eleven minutes a week in meaningful conversations with his children beyond short phrases like 'pass the butter,' 'pass the salt,' or 'thank you for the meal.' When I thought about that, it was tragic.." - Ron Allchin, author of Growing in Wisdom: A Bible Study in Proverbs for Fathers and Sons More on projectors in worship A pastor and a church organist share some thoughts... How the American recycling programs failed Much of the material being collected via separate garbage trucks, and sometimes brought to separate processing centers to be recycled is, after all this added expense, then dumped into a landfill. That's a problem, clearly. But is the problem to be found only at the end, when the recycling is dumped, or is the bigger problem right at the start, with the waste of resources spent in separating it in the first place? Two tales from the Euthanasia Dystopia Spain doesn't have the death penalty for criminals... but will euthanize them. And in Canada, a veteran suffering from PTSD couldn't get the care he needed but was offered euthanasia instead. And as Breakpoint Ministries notes, next year it looks like they'll be offering it to children, or as they put it, "mature minors." 5 tech questions to ask every school principal The folks at Covenant Eyes have created a short list of questions parents should ask their school’s administration to get a good idea of what sort of digital risks their kids will be exposed to at school. Mikhail Gorbachev (1931-2022) Mikhail Gorbachev, the last President of the Soviet Union, died this week. He oversaw the dismantling of an empire that was, literally, set on world domination. Many today are too young to know just how bad the Soviet Union was, so to honor Gorbachev's passing, here's Ronald Reagan reminding us by telling jokes at the Soviet Union's expense. ...

Book Reviews, Teen fiction

The Charlatan’s Boy

by Jonathan Rogers 2010/ 305 pages I love love loved Jonathan Rogers’ Wilderking Trilogy, a children’s fantasy series that echoes the story of David and Saul, though without ever mentioning it, and is set in a kingdom made up of sheep farmers, nobles, castles, and swamps populated by “feechie” creatures that might be men or might just be myth. It was great fun, and when I was done reading it to my daughters, we all wanted more so we were happy to learn that Rogers has also written this stand-alone set in this same universe called. But as much as I enjoyed the story, my girls did not. One reviewer described it as “C.S. Lewis and Mark Twain rolled into one” and while my girls love Lewis, they aren’t about Tom Sawyer-type tricks and hijinks. Twain is simply too nasty for their liking. So I stopped reading it to them, but kept on myself and enjoyed it more and more the further on I went. Floyd is the title charlatan, Grady his boy, and the two of them travel from village to village trying to trick folks into believing that a mudded-up Grady is one of the fearsome and fabled feechies. But when time passes and villagers stop believing in feechies – it’s been so long since anyone’s seen one out in the wild – they stop paying to see feechie acts. So it’s up to Floyd and Grady to make them believe once more. If this was just a tricky Twain story, I don’t know that I would have liked it either. Floyd is a shyster and little more, but Grady's biggest fault is merely the company he keeps. So we've got reason to root for Grady, and reason to hope too. This, then, isn’t a kid’s tale like Wilderking, but something intended for a slightly older crowd, maybe comparable to how Tolkien wrote The Hobbit for the young'uns and Lord of the Rings for the adults – same world, but two different target audiences. So for teens and up, so long as Lewis/Twain is an intriguing combo to you, you’ll really enjoy it....

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Good news: CRC Synod reaffirms homosexual sex is sin

At their annual synod this earlier year, the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) took a stand for biblical sexuality. They officially accepted – by a majority vote of about 70% – a 2020 report from the Committee to Articulate a Foundation-laying Biblical Theology of Human Sexuality. The Human Sexuality Report affirmed the traditional Biblical teaching that homosexual sex is sinful and clearly forbidden by Scripture. The report also recommended that Synod 2022 declare that this traditional stance already has confessional status within the CRC. In other words, the committee’s report stated that the Three Forms of Unity currently declare homosexual sex (along with all other forms of unchastity such as premarital sex, extramarital sex, adultery, pornography, and polyamory) to be sinful and against God’s Word. In a separate vote the next day, Synod 2022 accepted this recommendation with just slightly less support: about 69% of delegates voted in favor. This decision by a relatively small (in North American terms) denomination received much attention within and outside the CRC. More liberal-leaning CRC members – including a large group of Calvin University professors who had signed a petition urging non-acceptance of the report – expressed dismay at the decision. Some publicly stated that this may be the impetus for them to leave the federation or their current role at Calvin. Outside the CRC, orthodox Christians rejoiced that sound Biblical teaching was upheld, and that the Bible was used as the main authority by which to arrive at thoughtful conclusions. Writing for “World Opinions,” Steven Wedgeworth, an Anglican rector from Indiana, called the decision “a valiant stand… The CRC has defended moral orthodoxy.” Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, also lauded the decision: “All those who have a Biblical understanding of sexuality (should be) celebrating what the CRC has done!  It has taken the bold and convictional step of confessionalizing what it knows the Bible to teach on homosexuality.” Many readers are familiar with past CRC Synod’s decisions that went against traditional interpretations of Scripture. My own family left a CRC in the 1980s when Synod allowed women to serve as ministers, elders, and deacons. We pray that this may be a sign of an increasingly faithful view of Scripture and the Confessions in the CRC....

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Tidbits – August 2022

Great Communicator on communication and diaper changes Ronald Reagan was nicknamed “The Great Communicator” for his ability to connect with his listening audience. But that wasn’t something he was just born with – he thought a lot about it, as evidenced in this joke he told. I've always thought of the importance of communication and how much a part it plays in what you and I what all of us are trying to do. One day…a sports announcer, Danny Villanueva, told me about communication. He said he'd been having dinner over at the home of a young ball player with the Dodgers. The young wife was bustling about getting the dinner ready, they were talking sports, and the baby started to cry. Over her shoulder, his busy wife said to the ball player, “Change the baby.” Well, he was a young fellow, and he was embarrassed in front of Danny. He said, “What do you mean change the baby? I'm a ballplayer; that's not my line of work.” Well, she turned around, put her hands on her hips and she communicated. She said, “Look buster, you lay the diaper out like a diamond, you put second base on home plate, you put the baby's bottom on the pitcher's mound, you hook up first and third, slide home underneath. And if it starts to rain, the game ain't called; you just start all over!” God can use even a stolen book … A former homosexual, Rachel Gilson, recently explained how God turned her around. The author of Born Again This Way: Coming Out, Coming to Faith, and What Comes Next, shared that it began with her girlfriend dumping her for a guy who was basically homeless, living in his van. Then at an acquaintance’s house, a non-practicing Catholic, she noticed a bookshelf. “…and one of my favorite hobbies is to look at people’s bookshelves and judge them, you know? So, I’m checking it out, looking up and down.  And there was a copy – there was a book on this shelf. The spine read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, and so I thought, ‘Oh, I really want to read that book,’ but I was too embarrassed to ask my friend for it. So, I just stole the book because, again, I had no moral code, right?.... So, I was sitting in the library soon after that, reading Mere Christianity, and while I was reading it one day, I was just overwhelmed with the realization that God exists….. I was just overwhelmed with the reality of God. And not like a store brand, you know, like Zeus or something, but the God who made me and who made everything and who was perfect. It was like I could sense God’s holiness even though I didn’t know that vocabulary and the only thing I felt was fear. I’m arrogant. I’m cruel. I’m sexually immoral. I lie. I cheat. I’m reading a stolen book. It’s clear all of the chips are in the guilty category, right? I had no confusion at that moment either, but really quickly with that I also understood that part of the reason Jesus had come was to place Himself as a barrier between God’s wrath and me. And that the only way to be safe was to run towards Him, not away from Him. SOURCE: John Stonestreet’s “On being saved from confusion: the testimony of Rachel Gilson” posted to Breakpoint.org on June 10, 2022. Gratitude lurking… In his autobiography, G.K. Chesterton expressed how even in the depths of despair, a man might not be so far from optimism. Though there is a chasm between the two, the bridge over is that of amazement, leading to gratitude. “No man knows how much he is an optimist, even when he calls himself a pessimist, because he has not really measured the depths of his debt to whatever created him and enabled him to call himself anything. At the back of our brains, so to speak, there a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and spiritual life to dig for this submerged sunrise of wonder; so that a man sitting in a chair might suddenly understand that he actually alive, and be happy." The Journalist In the past, he had to “pay dues” And develop “a nose for the news.” Well, he still has a nose, But, my, how it grows When the facts must conform to his views. – F.R. Duplantier (used with permission) 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 in The Weight of Glory 10 reasons English is a silly language Homophones – words that sound alike but have different meanings – are unique to the English language, but we have an awful lot of them. In looking at the examples below, I felt like I almost saw the thread of a story moving from one sentence to the next. If an aspiring student wants to try to make a coherent story using as many of these homophones as possible, please send it on in. You can reach the editor via our contact form. 1) The bandage was wound around the wound. 2) The farm was used to produce produce. 3) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert. 4) A weak spring means I have wind my wind gauge once a week. 5) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes. 6) Excuse me but there’s no excuse for this. 7) I need to read what I read again. 8) Wait just a minute – that’s making a mountain of something minute! 9) I object to that object and I’m not content with this content. 10) As there’s no time like the present, they’re going to present their present. SOURCE: here and there on the Internet Marriage matters materially “What do you think distinguishes the high and low poverty populations? The only statistical distinction in both the Black and White populations is marriage. There is far less poverty in married-couple families, where presumably at least one of the spouses is employed.” - Economist Walter Williams (1936-2020) Someone wants you to talk Many a famous quote can’t be traced back to the person who was supposed to have said it. Here’s three of just that sort, the first two likely not said by who there are attributed to, while the third remains a maybe. So why pass them on? Well, after reading these three on the problem with silence you’re going to feel challenged to speak… even if you don’t know who exactly issued the challenge. “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” – attributed, almost certainly falsely, to Martin Luther Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. – attributed to, but probably not by, Dietrich Bonhoeffer “When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become your sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.” – credited to Abraham Kuyper (and it may be so) A law even a libertarian could love “Even many of us who believe in free enterprise have fallen into the habit of saying when something goes wrong: ‘There ought to be a law.’ Sometimes I think there ought to be a law against saying there ought to be a law. – Ronald Reagan...

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Why the Right always drifts Left

"O’Sullivan’s First Law" states: "All organizations that are not actually right-wing will, over time, become left-wing.” Coined by journalist John O'Sullivan back in 1989, it described the leftward tilt that we see happen among politicians, parties, and organizations of all sorts whenever they refuse to loudly and clearly establish their conservative bona fides. A recent example happened in the last Canadian election, when Conservative leader Erin O'Toole led his party so far leftward they shared the Liberal's positions on abortion, euthanasia, and all things LGBT. Then, once the campaign started, O'Toole also flipped his position on conscience protection, again adopting the Liberal Party position. This isn't simply a Canadian phenomenon, as this video highlights. However, as insightful as O'Sullivan's First Law is in its diagnosis, it doesn't point us to a cure. He might have thought he did: actually be right-wing! But O'Sullivan first wrote his Law in National Review, a magazine as firmly rooted as any conservative organization could expect to be (it was, at one point, described as "the bible of American conservatism"). Yet today the publisher is a man "married" to another man. They drifted too. The fact is, stopping the drift requires a firmer foundation than mere "conservatism." The need for a firm footing The weakness of conservatism is that it isn't even a foundation to stand on. At best it's an anchor that can be thrown out to slow down our rate of descent. O'Sullivan is partly right that the more energy a group expends in defining their brand of conservatism, the more weighty the anchor, and the longer they may be able to hold out. But to actually make headway back up the slope again requires a firm foundation to push off of, and that's something that mere conservatism doesn't offer. Conservatism is rooted only in human thought. A firm footing can only be found in God's thought, and in His Word. Conservatism is moveable; only God is not. So, O'Sullivan got us off to a good start, but we can take things further by riffing off of Matt. 12:30: "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." The result is "O'Dykstra's First Law": "Those who are not unabashedly Christian, will over time – along with the organizations they make up – become unabashedly anti-Christian." The diagnosis is once again well established. Universities (Harvard and Yale), mainline denominations (the United Church of Canada), and charities (Bethany Christian Services), that were founded to spread God's Word, got embarrassed by parts of it, got quiet about those parts, and are now, in this way or that, actively opposing God and His law. So how about us? Are we embarrassed by God's Word? How often do you hear Christians – not simply politicians, but anyone at all – speaking in the public square and unashamedly presenting God's thoughts on an issue as God's thoughts? Conservative arguments have no foundation That doesn't really happen. Instead: When Christians defend the unborn they'll most often do so without any mention of the biblical principles involved, as they're found in Ex. 20:13, Gen. 1:27, and elsewhere. Instead, we'll focus on how the fetus can feel pain, or on when its heartbeat begins. We'll oppose euthanasia without mention made that our lives are not our own to dispose of as we wish. We'll instead point to the potential euthanasia laws have for abuse. We'll combat pornography, but not because it violates God's plan for sex, but because of its linkage to mental health issues like depression. We use these godless arguments because our target audience is a godless culture. We do it in the name of strategy, effectiveness, and common sense but, in an ironic twist, it is none of those things. Consider the arguments we just made, and how easy it is to rebut them. Abortion is wrong because the fetus feels pain? Implicit in this objection is the approval of abortion for children who don't yet feel pain. Did we mean to do that? The world says our value comes from what we can do, and they justify abortion because the unborn can't do much. We'll adopt the very same "able-ism" ideology to tout what the unborn can do. But the same argument protecting a 21-day-old unborn child because his heart has just now begun beating out its rhythm, is the same argument that condemns a 20-day-old who can't do it yet. If euthanasia is wrong because it can be abused, that's only an argument for more safeguards. It's, at best, just an anchor slowing the decline, with no effort directed at an actual reversal of course. Pornography is bad because it causes mental health issues? Well, that all depends on what we mean by "mental health." Some among the LGBT lobby have touted pornography for its mental health benefits since those who partake are more open to their "alternative" lifestyles. Standing unmoved Why is it so easy to rebut these conservative arguments? It's because they have no foundations. Abortion is wrong, not because the unborn can do this or that, but because the unborn are made in the very Image of their Creator, just like you and me. It's only when we offer up God's own Truth that we get to the heart of the matter. It's only then that we're actually countering the lie with Truth. It's only then that we're standing with feet firmly planted. Will the world listen? That's not in our control. But by setting our own feet firmly on God's Word, we can stop our own drift. When we profess His Name, and find our confidence in the victory He has already won, then the world won't be able to move us. And who knows how God might make use of our faithfulness?...

Christian education, Recent Articles, RP App, Theology

Why biblical poetry matters

Skim through any modern Bible and you will notice something peculiar: many pages are laid out as poetry, with appropriate spacing and indents. But have you ever wondered what makes these verses poetic? For most people, this subject remains an enigma, and some will wonder why they should even care. Poetry seems like the wrapping around a present, or the envelope for a card — superfluous and largely decorative. It is the message that is important, and paying attention to the form may be a distraction. Of course, for a believer that should be a flimsy argument. Surely God loves beauty and complexity (Gen 1:31, Psalm 139:14), and although beauty is fleeting (Prov. 31:30), that is no excuse to ignore it.1 It does not make sense when Christians stand in awe of a gorgeous sunset, or we all hang the same poem about footprints on our walls, but we cannot be bothered to learn how the Psalms were composed. Beautiful in any language The astonishing thing about biblical poetry is that it generally translates into any language. The principal technique is not a matter of meter or rhyme: it has to do with the structure of the lines. In most cases, two or more lines run parallel to each other. Consider Psalm 122:7: May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels. You can see that the terms run parallel. Peace and security mirror each other, as do the walls and citadels. The name for this type of poetry is Hebrew Parallelism. In what follows, we’ll explore how this poetic technique works and why it matters. Robert Lowth’s rediscovery of Parallelism It was the Anglican Bishop Robert Lowth who in the 18th century rediscovered Hebrew Parallelism. For centuries, Christians had been confused about how best to describe biblical poetics. According to Lowth, Hebrew parallelism typically follows one of three patterns: Synonymous Antithetic Synthetic2 Let’s take a closer look at each of these. The example we just looked at is a form of synonymous parallelism. In such cases, the same idea is repeated in similar language. One of the more famous examples of consistent synonymous parallelism is Psalm 114: 1 When Israel came out of Egypt, Jacob from a people of foreign tongue, 2 Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion. 3 The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back; 4 the mountains leaped like rams, the hills like lambs. 5 Why was it, sea, that you fled? Why, Jordan, did you turn back? 6 Why, mountains, did you leap like rams, you hills, like lambs? 7 Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, 8 who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water. In this psalm, every verse consists of a mirroring of terms. Lowth felt that parallelism might be compared to the way two choirs can sing back and forth — a type of chant known as antiphony. Lowth speculated that the Jews might have incorporated something similar in their worship. Think of Psalm 136, where the refrain “His love endures forever” is a repeated response. Lowth’s second type, antithetic parallelism, involves a sharp contrast. It is particularly common in the book of Proverbs: A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Prov. 17:22) The poor plead for mercy, but the rich answer harshly. (Prov. 18:23) The idea is that when we reflect on such contrasts, we can grow in wisdom. Finally, Lowth used synthetic parallelism as a catch-all category for anything that is not synonymous or antithetic. Synthetic parallelism typically involves a progression of ideas, so that one thing follows another. Take this passage from Psalm 84: 5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. 6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. While the end of verse 6 may contain an element of synonymous parallelism, these verses are more about developing an idea. In keeping with the focus on pilgrimage, the emphasis is on movement. Two of Lowth’s examples of synthetic parallelism eventually came to have their own names. The first is now usually called staircase or climactic parallelism. Psalm 93:3-4 provides a dramatic example: 3 The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. 4 Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea— the Lord on high is mighty. The repetition of phrases (like a staircase) creates a crescendo that builds to a climax. In this passage, we can imagine the waves growing in size! Another type of synthetic parallelism is commonly called numerical parallelism. This is a poetic use of counting, something that is used to great effect in Amos 1: 3 For three sins of Damascus, even for four, I will not relent. The same device occurs four more times in the rest of the chapter. The Sharpening Theory Robert Lowth established the basics of Hebrew Parallelism, yet his simple categories were not beyond criticism. Scholars objected that the synthetic category was ill-defined, that the term parallelism may imply too much similarity between the lines, and that parallel structures are not exclusive to poetry, but can be found elsewhere in the Bible as well. The most forceful critique came in 1981 from James Kugel, the author of The Idea of Biblical Poetry: Parallelism and Its History.3 Kugel developed what we might call the “Sharpening Theory” of Hebrew Parallelism. To understand what he meant, it is good to reflect on the nature of proverbs. Proverbs are a bit like riddles. When someone says, “the apple does not fall far from the tree,” it takes us a moment to figure out what that really means. A proverb makes us stop and think. James Kugel points out that in the Bible this quality is sometimes described as a certain sharpness. A proverb pricks our conscience and makes us reflect on the proper way to act. Unfortunately, the fool feels the prick, but does not benefit from it: Like a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool. (Proverbs 26:9) If we take these observations about proverbs and apply them to Hebrew Parallelism, then we see that the parallel lines also force us to slow down and consider their relationship. At first, we might observe mostly repetition, but a closer look reveals that there is more to the picture. The unique features of each line stand out in sharp relief. This makes reading the Bible exciting. The following verse provides a good example: Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided. (Proverbs 16:6) Is the same thought expressed twice? Not really. Not only do the lines mention different, yet related actions (love and faithfulness; the fear of the Lord), but the verse makes us contemplate the connection between atonement and avoidance of sin. Atonement might make up for past transgressions, whereas avoidance is about future temptations. In this way, the proverb creates a complex picture that encourages the righteous to live wisely. Midrash James Kugel further pointed out that Jewish rabbis who interpreted the Bible preferred to focus on the differences between parallel lines. In the Jewish tradition, the word Talmud refers to a variety of rabbinic texts that came to supplement the Old Testament books. After the return from exile in Babylon (6th century BC), the Jews increasingly developed an oral tradition that interpreted the Torah (the five books of Moses) and added further regulations and customs. Written compilations of the Talmud stem from as early as the third century AD. The act of interpreting the Talmud and the Bible came to be known as Midrash. This word refers to both rabbinic interpretation and an actual written collection of such interpretations. Rabbis who practiced Midrash (especially during medieval times) often came up with ingenious ways to contrast poetic lines that seemed to say the same thing. Let’s look at a couple of examples that Kugel provides. First, we read in Genesis 21:1: Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised . Sounds the same. But at least one commentator suggested that the last “he” might refer to Abraham. A couple of verses earlier (Gen. 20:17), Abraham had prayed on behalf of Abimelek: Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again. Taking this line into consideration, Gen. 21:1 might be interpreted to mean: Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he, Abraham, had spoken to God about in his prayer, namely to provide fertility. Suddenly the two lines become quite different in meaning. The second pronoun he now refers to Abraham. Here is another example, from the instructions for Passover celebrations: Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread. (Deuteronomy 16:3) A midrashic reading might note that these are two different commandments—a negative and a positive one. Not only must bread with yeast not be eaten, but unleavened bread must be eaten. It is in part because medieval rabbis were so focused on the differences that a full understanding of Hebrew Parallelism was lost during this time and had to be recovered by scholars such as Robert Lowth. At the same time, the Midrash does remind us not to assume that parallelism is always about exact similarity. The differences are important! A dynamic movement Kugel’s Sharpening Theory has us examine each set of parallel lines on its own terms. Instead of reducing parallelism to a few main types, we look for a wide variety of features. For each verse, the question is, how does the second line (B) extend the first (A)? To use Kugel’s wording, it’s not “A=B” but “A, and what’s more, B.” Instead of Lowth’s three main categories, we can now have any number of relationships between A and B. It is up to each reader to meditate carefully on the subtle similarities and differences between the lines. The scholar Robert Alter, expanding on the work of James Kugel, provides a great description of this relationship between A and B. He talks about a “dynamic movement.”4 The second line should never seem predictable or merely repetitive. There’s something captivating about the way the thought is extended. For Alter, the second line often includes an intensification or focusing of the first thought. You can compare it to seeing something and then getting out the binoculars or microscope to take a closer look. The tricolon (a triple parallelism) in Psalm 100:3 provides a great example: Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Each line zooms in a little. Each line makes the thought more specific. This dynamic movement between the lines requires our participation. As readers, we are drawn into the text. If that sounds like a lot of work, then recall that Hebrew Parallelism is also quite slow-moving and unhurried. Each idea is expressed in multiple ways. The effect is somewhat like hearing a choir sing in a cathedral, repeating phrases and letting their voices echo through the cavernous space. This is not to say that an Old Testament psalm is like a Bach aria, but that in both cases the speed and cadence is measured and controlled. Important phrases and ideas come back in new form, so that we do not only listen for individual lines, but we also gradually gain a sense of the whole piece. The big picture Speaking of the composition as a whole, the final step is to put it all together. It is one thing to spot parallel structures, but it requires more practice to discern how the lines work together. For example, Psalm 133 has quite a neat and tidy structure, with two similes (verses 2 and 3a) framed by an opening statement (1) and a conclusion (3b): 1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! 2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. 3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. Verse 2 is a great example of what Robert Lowth called staircase parallelism. This technique is all about movement and intensification. Just as the oil runs down the high-priest’s beard, so the lines flow on and on. The liquid imagery is extended in the comparison to dew. Clearly, the author of Psalm 133 thought carefully about best to match the form of the poem to the content. The poetry helps to express the message. In other words, not only should brothers live in harmony, but the psalm itself has to have a sense of “unity.” Conclusion In addition to Hebrew Parallelism (the main feature of biblical poetry), God’s Word displays many other poetic techniques (personification, chiasmus, etc.). For a long time, Christians have been content to ignore these features, whereas in reality the beauty of the Bible provides an incredible appeal. Why is a passage such as Isaiah 53 so moving? Why do we memorize Psalm 23 or 103? The poetry in these passages does not detract from the truth of scripture, but makes it resonate in our hearts. I imagine many conversion stories also include an element of awe at the sublimity of Holy Scripture. Mission work is enhanced by bringing out those qualities that make the Bible the Great Book. I would therefore encourage Christian parents and educators to know the basics of biblical poetry, not only for their own appreciation, but also so they can teach children to marvel at the beauty of the Bible. Psalm 19 describes how the heavens “pour forth speech” (verse 3), before adding, paradoxically, “They have no speech, they use no words; / no sound is heard from them.” Creation can speak of the glory of God, without using actual words. Indeed, we teach children that Nature displays God’s goodness and faithfulness. But Psalm 19 points out that God’s Word (the “law”) is likewise worth meditating on, and it does contain words and speech. The “precepts of the Lord” are “sweeter than honey” and give “light to the eyes.” The fact that the Psalmist used paradoxes, metaphors, and parallelism to describe his delight in the Word can only mean that biblical poetry is an equally nourishing and eye-opening experience. So, take the time to study and appreciate the poetry of the Bible, not just to know why some lines are indented on the page, but to truly savour the divine artistry of the Word. Dr. Conrad van Dyk is Professor of English at Concordia University of Edmonton, where he teaches everything from medieval literature to children’s classics. Recently he has started creating online literary courses from a Christian perspective (and for a reasonable price). The very first course is a detailed introduction to biblical poetry which you can find at LitCompanion.com. Portions of this course have been used in this article. He attends Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church in Edmonton. Endnotes 1) Quotations from the Bible are from the NIV, with one exception. For Psalm 133, I have reintroduced the word “brothers.” 2) I have used G. Gregory’s English translation (1753) of Robert Lowth’s On the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, which is freely available online. 3) See James Kugel, The Idea of Biblical Poetry: Parallelism and Its History (Yale UP, 1981). The examples of Midrash are taken from Kugel, pp. 98-106; the discussion of how A and B relate can be found on p. 8. Kugel’s ideas were developed by S. E. Gilllingham, The Poems and Psalms of the Hebrew Bible (Oxford UP, 1994), who suggests that we tend to see three patterns of parallelism, i.e., A=B (comparison and contrast), A>B (the second line is subordinated to the first), and A<B (where the second line develops the first, for example through intensification or comparison). A summary of Gillingham’s approach can be found in William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Thomas Nelson, 2004), p. 289ff. Personally, I prefer Kugel’s less formulaic approach, where each set of lines is treated on its own terms. 4) Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Poetry (Basic Books, 1985), p. 10....

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Life's Story 2: the reason for the journey

Documentary 2006 / 107 minutes Rating: 6/10 This is the sequel to Life Story: the one that hasn't be told, and once again there's loads of gorgeous nature footage, and lots of fascinating information shared. There's ongoing commentary about how each animal's abilities show the impossibility of evolution. And the whole film is a Gospel presentation using the animals as illustrations of God's amazing handiwork, and their predatory abilities as evidence of a broken world. The documentary is divided into two roughly equal parts, with the first exploring life under the oceans. A strength of the film is how many different animals are covered, but a weakness might be that it goes so quickly from one to the next. We get to see the octopus's astonishing ability to camouflage right before we jump to the goatfish to learn about their special whiskers that serve as a tasting tongue and probing fingers. Then we're on to turtles and how they can navigate the vast distances of the ocean to lay their eggs back where they were first hatched themselves. And on it goes, for at least a dozen sea creatures. The second part starts off with monkeys, and touches on springboks, zebras, millipedes, elephants, rhinos and more. The anti-evolution commentary here focuses especially on the supposed link between monkey and Man. Caution The way the narrator describes evolution you'd have to conclude only small children and complete morons could ever fall for it. Evolution is foolish, but what this film doesn't acknowledge is that some very smart people hold to it, and the Devil is also quite clever, which means there's been some serious brainpower at work for a good long while now to come up with some creative just-so stories. And they can sound really good. The objections to evolution that the film raises are valid, but they aren't slam-dunks, mike-drops. As an evolutionary takedown, this is only good for the already convinced. One other caution would be if you're watching this with young children, there are a few brief shots of animals eating animals, and a second-or-two long clip of elephants mating, though shown from a distance (I don't think kids would even know what's going on, except that the narrator is talking about "reproduction" at the same time). Conclusion Life's Story 2 is at its best when it's highlighting cool bits of information about the various animals, and thankfully there is a lot of that. The reason this rates only a 6 out of 10 is because, as a nature film there's too much anti-evolutionary commentary, and as an evolutionary takedown there's too little. And what's said is too simplistic. However, for a younger audience, especially if this is their first exposure to evolutionary thought, Life's Story 2 might be the simplified introduction they need. So this could be a good one for a family movie night. And one big mark in its favor is you can watch it for free below. ...

News, Recent Articles, RP App

Saturday Selections – August 27, 2022

Joe Rogan vs. Babylon Bee on abortion! (10 min) Last week Seth Dillon of Babylon Bee made an appearance on the world's most popular podcast, where he did a solid job of defending the unborn. Calling it "convergence" doesn't explain away the evidence of a Designer  When two species exhibit similar traits or organs but are otherwise so different from one another that even evolutionists doubt they had a common ancestor then what they share – ie. both man and octopus have a "camera-type eye" – will be said to have happened via "convergent" evolution. This is just saying that the same feature must have evolved two entirely separate times... or maybe even thrice, or many more times than that. But if a scientist isn't already committed to evolution, these similar traits in divergent species would instead be understood as evidence of a common Designer. Don't miss the Abbot and Costello "Who's on First?" comic at the bottom of the linked article. Can we get kids to 15 without a phone glued to their palm? A group in Australia is making the case for parents to push off giving their kids a smartphone until at least 15. Is depression caused by a chemical imbalance? Evidence is lacking Evidence of experts' fallibility came out earlier this summer when an umbrella study found that the idea depression is caused by a chemical imbalance – a theory presumed true for decades now – lacks empirical evidence. This seems another instance of what the experts know, not necessarily being so. That people get things wrong shouldn't be shocking to Christians, but as some in the world urge us to let the so-called experts handle the running of larger and larger aspects of our lives, it's worth remembering that experts can get it really wrong. (One caution: the article author has a passing reference to David Murray that is a bit of a shot, and doesn't line up with my own recollection of Murray's position.) Girl identifies as cat, and school runs with it Who defines reality? That's what this comes down to, with the Bible offering one answer, and the world another. So each instance like this is an evangelistic opportunity to contrast God's Truth with the world's foolishness. The temptation that Christians often succumb to, is to simply point out the foolishness and leave God's Truth implicit. But we ain't doing anyone any good if we point out foolishness and then presume that a world so blinded as to fall for believing people can be cats is somehow smart enough to figure out for themselves a Truth we aren't brave enough to share. What's the deal with BeReal? Chris Martin gives parents a heads-up on the newest social media app, BeReal: "The app creates this more “authentic” (theoretically, anyway) environment by notifying users via a smartphone notification that it is “⚠️ Time to BeReal. ⚠️” at a random time each day—users in the same timezone will have the same posting time each day—during which the users have two minutes to post." Jordan Peterson's message to the Church Jordan Peterson gives here, what one pastor has called "straight talk from a crooked foundation" and another describes as "painfully... mostly spot on." This is an outsider's perspective – Peterson is not (yet) a Christian – which makes it all the more remarkable that he has here accurately diagnosed, and has the courage to share, one of the Devil's key strategic efforts in undermining the Church: Satan is going after young men. Where Peterson falls short is in his response to Satan's attack. Yes, the Church needs to go after young men, and needs to disciple them, but not to save our families and our culture. That is not the purpose young men (or young women, or any old or young) are being called to. That is, instead, the fruit that comes with returning to the purpose for which we have been created: the worship and glorification of God. One word of warning: in the concluding seconds Peterson interjects God's name in a manner that on the one hand is actually factually so – "You are churches for God's sake" – but which here is being misused by Peterson as an expletive for emphasis. ...

Parenting, Recent Articles, RP App

Quantity, not quality: good parenting takes time

In The New Tolerance authors Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler share the way one parent taught his teenage son to see through the worldly messages being presented in pop music. The son was allowed to buy any album he wanted so long as Dad listened to it beforehand. "If Dad approved not only of the language but of the more subtle messages in the music, fine; if not... Dad would always explain his decisions." At one point this father rejected three straight albums, which didn't leave his son all that happy. And it wasn't so easy on the dad either; he had to spend a long time listening to some lousy music. Now this was almost 20 years ago, so it took a lot longer than it even would today. Whereas we can read song lyrics online and preview many tracks via YouTube, back then the only way to check out an album was to go to the store, buy it on CD, and take it for a spin. But this dad was up for it. He knew that by investing "quantity time" with his son – by spending hours slogging through, and talking through, album after album together – he'd help equip his son to know and appreciate what was praiseworthy and to see through what was shameful and unworthy. The Bible speaks about quantity vs. quality time. Or, rather, it assumes quantity time. In Deut. 11:19 God describe our parenting task – raising up children in the ways of the Lord – as an always and ongoing activity. "You shall teach to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up." Raising up our children in the way they should go is going to take time. And energy too. There are going to be moments when you'll feel downright exhausted. But, be encouraged: this is what we supposed to be doing; it's what we're called to do. And sure, it can be draining, but let's not forget how much joy there is in the process too. We get to not only listen to music together but: share meals teach them how to ride a bike and mow the mow the lawn study God's Word as a family show them how to bake play games together and tell them for the hundredth time to stop picking their nose This is what we get to do. Tired or not, there is no task more important: God has entrusted us with the care of his covenant children. When we consider we're going to spend our hours some way or the other, what better investment is there? Keep at it. Take the time....

Animated, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

The Jim Elliot Story

Animated / Family 30 min/ 2005 Rating: 6/10 This is a half hour animated version of a true story your grandparents might still remember hearing on the news back n 1956. That was the year that Jim Elliot and his four friends sought out a group of Ecuadorian natives who have never heard the gospel. After making contact, the young missionaries were murdered for their efforts, the natives spearing them to death, and the shock was such that the whole world heard about it. Years later, when one of the men’s wife, and a sister, also sought out the natives, this time to forgive them, their example serves as a powerful testimony to the truth and power of the Good News. Many of these same natives then converted in a powerful example of how God can completely make over a man, from murderer to humble follower. If this animated account grabs your kids' attention, you might want to follow up with the feature film version or, better yet, the documentary that really gets into the native's spiritual transformation. Cautions Though this is a cartoon it should definitely be previewed by adults as some scenes – specifically when the missionaries get speared – will be too intense for young children. So I'd suggest this is for kids 10 and up. Conclusion "The Torchlighters" is a series of animated films created by Voice of the Martyrs to teach children from 8-12 about the many people who have been persecuted for their love of God. The animation is consistently solid, and while the topic matter – persecution – is somber, the depictions of torture are quite muted, and age-appropriate. That said, I'll note again that parents should preview this one, because it is one of the more visually shocking. The Jim Elliot Story is reasonably entertaining, but more to the point, it is highly educational. To put it another way, children should see it, and won't mind seeing it, but likely won't want to watch it again and again. So it's a good one for Christian schools, but not ideal for the family video library. And right now you can watch it for free below. ...

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: 42 The minister – Jim Witteveen: 50 The editor – Jon Dykstra: 48 Reviews NOVEMBER 28 Eric Metaxas has written best-selling biographies of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and William Wilberforce, and while his Letter to the American Church (2022, 139 pages) is not nearly as weighty as those two books in terms of size, it does pack an outsized punch, given its relative brevity. Metaxas does refer often to both Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer in this book, as outstanding examples of men who did not shrink back when confronted with opposition for the sake of their faith. Metaxas doesn’t mince his words in this book, and it is not surprising that it has provoked some strong negative reactions within the evangelical world. However, I believe he hits the nail on the head with his passionate critique of North American evangelical culture, which, he argues, must repent for its silence in the face of evil. Metaxas outlines four areas in which he believes that the Western evangelical church has fallen short in recent decades. The first error, writes Metaxas, is a misunderstanding of the word “faith” and everything that faith entails. The second error Metaxas calls “the idol of evangelism.” While evangelism is an important part of the church’s calling, Metaxas writes, there is a tendency in the modern evangelical church to believe that the church’s only real calling is evangelism; therefore, “we must never say anything that might in any way detract from our pursuing this single goal.” Metaxas sums up the third error as a false commandment: “Be Ye Not Political,” the idea that politics is off limits and beyond the boundary of our faith. The final error that Metaxas includes in his list is the error of pietism - the idea that our Christian faith is lived out “principally by avoiding sin, so that we must place our own virtue and salvation above all other matters.” This is not a perfect book, nor is it an exhaustive study of how Christians should engage with their culture and participate in the public square. That being said, I do think that Metaxas expresses serious concerns that are based in reality, and while his conclusions may offend some, I believe that they deserve to be humbly received, seriously considered, and acted upon. – Jim Witteveen NOVEMBER 25 The Case Against the Sexual Revolution (2022, 216 pages) left me with a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, it is a strongly-written, powerfully argued book that support a premise that I already know to be true. Louise Perry rightly argues that the Sexual Revolution has been an overwhelming disaster on any number of levels, and that our society continues to pay the price for the “freedom” that was “won” in the 1960s, and will continue to do so unless the tenets of this revolution are abandoned. However, Perry argues from a starting point of evolutionary psychology, which obviously runs counter to a Biblically-formed worldview. The presuppositions that undergird this book form its major weakness. However, the fact that an evolutionary psychologist can rightly argue in favour of monogamy within the marriage relationship, against “hookup culture” and sexual promiscuity, and recognizes the dangers of pornography and various sexual perversions, is fascinating to consider in the light of Biblical wisdom. According to the wisdom literature in Scripture, living wisely means aligning your life with God’s created order. The Lord created the world in wisdom, governs it in wisdom, and his moral law shows us how to live a life characterized by wisdom. To put it very briefly, God’s way works! And because God’s way works, the evidence of history proves that monogamy within marriage is, pragmatically speaking, the basis of a successful, well-ordered society. Restrictions on sexual expression protect human beings (especially women) from abuse and a great deal of pain. Classifying some materials as obscene, and forbidding their production, prevents a great deal of damage to both the user and the producer of pornography. And I could go on. So it’s not surprising that an evolutionary psychologist has also come to these kinds of conclusions. However, Louise Perry’s erroneous starting point can only take her so far; from there, she can’t get to the root of the problem, or discover where the solution that goes far deeper than mere behavioural change can be found. That being said, I would recommend this book to the discerning reader, with a warning that, given the subject matter and the worldview of the author, it does make for some rough reading at times. – Jim Witteveen NOVEMBER 23 Though it was written years before, Connor Boyack's Feardom: How politicians exploit your emotions and what you can do to stop them (2014, 160 pages) is certainly about the COVID lockdowns too. He notes that as US president John Adams once wrote, "Fear is the foundation of most governments" and in recent years we've seen that proven true time and again. Politicians have used voters' fear – of climate change, terrorism, fiscal collapse, and viruses too – as justification for the State to come to the rescue. And at what cost? Well, the measure isn't simple in dollars, but also in lost freedoms. Terrorism and climate change brought government intervention on an enormous scale, which got bigger still with COVID. The bright side? As the author notes, this is nothing new, and it might not even be as bad today as the past, when even a historical luminary such as Abraham Lincoln, would throw some of his critics in jail simply for being critics. Boyack is Mormon, and clearly libertarian, which means he's generally Judeo-Christian, and more hardcore about small-government than most RP readers. But, regardless of where readers stand, the point he is arguing – that politicians and government officials are using fear to push us – isn't a partisan position, but more a matter of verifiable history. So how, then, can we inoculate ourselves against such manipulation? He has a few suggestions, beginning with anticipating the manipulation: "develop a healthy skepticism of those in power" but not simply to doubt everything, but rather to better assess who is worthy of trust. We should actively assess our media sources, and our political leaders, for just how consistently honest they are... or aren't. This will involve reading diverse news sources. It will also means sharing what truth you discover with family and friends. The point he most strongly emphasizes is one we can certainly agree with: to follow the Golden Rule, treating others, including those on the opposite side, as we'd like to be treated, and more specifically that means accommodating them as much as we possibly can. While there were nits I could pick with Feardom, that doesn't stop me from giving it an enthusiastic recommendation for the politically discerning. – Jon Dykstra NOVEMBER 22 I thoroughly enjoyed reading Rembrandt Is In the Wind: Learning to Love Art Through the Eyes of Faith by Russ Ramsey (2022, 256 pages) and not just because my wife is an artist (though the book did spark some great conversations!) Ramsey opens the book with a chapter on the three transcendentals – truth, goodness, and beauty – and how they relate together, how they are attributes of God, and how beauty is essential for applying goodness and truth for the benefit of others (it’s a profound chapter!) He then works through nine great artists, starting with Michelangelo and working his way toward the 20th century. With each artist, he examines their life and their works, with a special focus on a single piece. And in each chapter, either through the artist’s life or work, Ramsey tells us a parable of sorts, a way to see and appreciate their art through the eyes of faith. Ramsey is a great story-teller, and the book felt more like an anthology of short stories than an art history book or theology of art text. Ramsey also includes a couple helpful appendixes for improving the way you can look at art and how you can visit an art museum like you own it. I hope he writes a sequel! I highly recommend this book, whether you are an art aficionado or an art ignoramus. – André Schutten NOVEMBER 20 Way back in the 1990s, when the Internet began to enter public consciousness, and soon thereafter into everyone's daily life, it seemed to most of us that it just sort of came into existence from nowhere. We weren't much aware of the history of the Internet, of where it came from or how it was developed. And even today, after decades of exponential growth, the roots of the Internet are still a mystery for most of its users. In Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet (2018, 371 pages), Yasha Levine's deep-dive exploration of the history of the Internet, is a revealing look into the Internet's roots in the American military industrial complex. In this meticulously-researched book, Levine details the way in which the Internet's history has been shaped by the defense industry, espionage agencies, public officials, and big businesses, with each actor working in concert with the others to achieve its own purposes. Levine recounts the origins of the Internet as a project of the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, its development in partnership with a number of American educational institutions (where the project was vigorously opposed by many who understood the purpose behind it), and the central role that American military and security agencies continue to play in the ongoing development and growth of the Internet's reach into every aspect of our daily lives. Levine refers to the Silicon Valley, the northern California location whose name has become synonymous with the Internet, as “Surveillance Valley.” Because, writes Levine, while corporations like Google continue to market themselves as companies that “embody every utopian promise of the networked society,” what they are in fact doing is continuing to build out “the old military cybernetic dream of a world where everyone is watched, predicted, and controlled.” Surveillance Valley is an important exploration of the way in which information technology has been “weaponized” in the 21st Century. If you read it (and I do recommend it highly), you will be challenged to rethink your use of the Internet, and you may even be encouraged (as I was) to “de-Google” your life. – Jim Witteveen NOVEMBER 19 When my 13-year-old got a gift certificate to the local bookstore, it was an excuse for the two of us to spend some serious time perusing the shelves. But after an hour we'd discovered there wasn't much there for her that she hadn't already read. The teen books were either silly stories about teen crushes, or weird stuff about witches, demons, and vampires. We finally settled on something with a cover that looked almost liked some 1950s nostalgia, only to later discover one of the key characters had two dads. Another trip to the same story ended up with a decent book, but on the final page the author noted he uses "they/them" pronouns. That's all a prelude to saying that while I didn't love Margaret Peterson Haddix's Found (2008, 314 pages), I do appreciate it as a basically harmless read. It's a time travel adventure/mystery, with a bunch of adopted children trying to figure out where they came from. There's the typical cautions – kids acting behind their parents' backs, along with a couple passing mentions of evolution – but none of the newer cautions needed. Peterson isn't advocating for amputative surgeries on youth or adults (as the fellow with the "they/them" pronouns implicitly is, by pretending that gender is changeable), or for alternative lifestyles. The biggest caution I'd have concerns the fact that this is just the first of Peterson's eight-book The Missing series, and at roughly 300 pages each, even if they all turn out to be mostly harmless, that's a lot of cotton candy for any kid to be ingesting. I'll also add a concern about whether this would be good or bad for adoptive kids to read, as the topic of adoption, and kids searching for who they are, is a big part of the story. Finally, as just a general caution on the author, I do know in another book (Double Identity) a female pastor is a major character. So... one thumb up? While I won't be continuing on with this series, it was good enough to have me interested in checking out Haddix's other books. – Jon Dykstra NOVEMBER 18 Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn is best-known for his magnum opus, The Gulag Archipelago, a history of the Soviet Gulag, the system of forced-labour camps for political prisoners that was implemented under Lenin in 1918. The system was (officially) dismantled in 1956, three years after the death of Joseph Stalin, although the practice of political imprisonment did not itself come to an end in the Soviet Union at that time. Solzhenitsyn wrote not only as a historian, but from personal experience; he had spent eight years in the Gulag himself for the crime of speaking ill of Joseph Stalin at the end of the Second World War. While writing The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn was also working on a short novel based on his own experience in the Gulag, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962, 143 pagers). Unlike The Gulag Archipelago, which was never officially published in Russia until 1989, One Day made it to publication in 1962 because it had become officially acceptable to criticize Stalin when Nikita Kruschev came to power. As is clear from its title, the book is an account of one day in the life of a political prisoner named Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. A summary of Shukhov's day would be very mundane indeed, and I can imagine that it would hardly compel a reader to seek out this book for a light and entertaining read. Man wakes up. Man has breakfast. Man goes to work. Man comes back from work. Man goes to bed. That, in brief, is Ivan Denisovich's day. And as Solzhenitsyn writes in the book's closing paragraph, Shukhov would live through 3,653 more days just like this one. There is nothing in this day that makes it stand out from the rest, but Solzhenitsyn's account of the monotony of camp life, along with the challenges with which the prisoners were confronted on a daily basis, makes this book a compelling read. Shukhov is resourceful and knows his way around the camp, but he is almost constantly on edge. In the dining hall he manages to find enough food to satisfy himself for the day, despite the meagre rations allotted to each prisoner. While working, he takes pride in his brick-laying skills, despite working conditions that made his job nearly impossible. He begins the day with an attempt to get into the sick-bay, but at the end of the day his illness has disappeared, he has managed to hide a little bit of seemingly insignificant contraband, and he lies in bed with the feeling that the day had been a success, despite it all. Throughout the story of this single day, Solzhenitsyn keeps the reader intrigued, waiting to see what will happen next despite the bleakness of the story. As we get to know Shukhov and his fellow prisoners, we learn about the ways in which they were able to cope with situations that most of us can't even imagine dealing with. In the end, we gain insight into the nature of life in a totalitarian state, we're introduced to the conditions in a 1950s-era Soviet prison camp, but we also are brought into the lives of the novel's characters in an understandably limited but profound way. If you've always wanted to read The Gulag Archipelago but were intimidated by its imposing length, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich may serve to encourage you to take that next step! – Jim Witteveen NOVEMBER 17 David L. Bahnsen's There's No Free Lunch: 250 Economic Truths (2021, 308 pages) is a wonderful primer on economics from a conservative Christian perspective (and the second There's No Free Lunch book I've read this year  – see my Sept. 17 review). Bahnsen is the son of famed Reformed presuppositional apologist Greg Bahnsen, and is famed in his own right as a hedge fund manager for a billion-dollar fund. Here he's collected 250 concise quotes by a host of famed conservative economists, one per page, and then expanded on each point being made. The quotes are grouped under headings like: Crony Capitalism, Minimum Wage, Division of Labor, and Socialism. To give you a taste, here's a couple shorter quotes, this one from Milton Friedman: "One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results." Here's another, this time from Thomas Sowell: "The first lesson of economics is scarcity. There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics." These are worth chewing on, and both show why No Free Lunch should be read slowly. But as meaty as these thought are, Bahnsen has made them digestible to all by packaging them into one-page, bite-size servings. Well done!  – Jon Dykstra NOVEMBER 16 Rev. Paul T. Murphy is both a Reformed pastor and, as he notes in his introduction, a reformed drug user, both of which add to the credibility of his Stone-Cold Crazy: The Dangers of Legal Marijuana (2021, 29 pages). This is more booklet than book, but it is an important one, highlighting how the four big arguments for legalization all fall short: 1) it isn't medical, in that it has never gone through the same evaluation as other medical drugs, 2) it doesn't need to be made legal to end the mass incarceration of marijuana users as there is no such mass incarceration, 3) legalizing won't eliminate the criminal black market for it since legal weed is much more expensive, and 4) states won't get a tax revenue windfall from legalization because marijuana use also comes with costs for the State. Murphy notes that Christians might be able to support decriminalization – making it a fine rather than a crime – but as he quotes John Stonestreet, "Legalization says a lot about the worldview of our culture – one in which the State wishes to aid and abet the inability of people to deny themselves any pleasure. That's called state sponsored hedonism." This would be an important read for church councils, and its small size make it one that parents could read along with their teens.  – Jon Dykstra NOVEMBER 15 Many Christians have some understanding that the Angel of the LORD, who revealed himself to Abraham, Gideon, Manoah, and others, was the Son of God, appearing visibly before his incarnation. Many theologians throughout church history have recognized this, although in recent years scholars have become increasingly skeptical when it comes to equating the Angel with the Son. In The Angel of the LORD: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological Study (2022, 447 pages), authors Matt Foreman and Doug Van Dorn seek to counter this kind of "minimalistic" interpretation of the Old Testament, and examine the Biblical texts (including many that you may not have considered before) to learn more about how the second Person of the Trinity often mediated God's presence to his people. This book leaves no stone unturned, and is a detailed, comprehensive, and wide-ranging study that digs deep into God's Word and the history of Biblical interpretation before drawing conclusions about how God's people can apply this part of God's self-revelation to their own lives. While the book is not a brief one, its logical organization and the authors' clarity of expression makes it accessible to readers who may not consider themselves to be "theologians" (although every Christian is a theologian)! The authors offer some profound insights into the text of Scripture, and this book will lead the reader to appreciate all the more the way in which God has graciously revealed himself throughout the history of redemption, to strengthen, encourage, and challenge his people. Highly recommended! – Jim Witteveen NOVEMBER 14 Earlier this year I read and reviewed Carl Truman’s heavy but magnificent Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self (see the Aug. 21 review further on down this same article). The ARPA Canada team decided to work through his shorter and more accessible version of that book titled Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution (2022, 204 pages). It was so good to read this book as a relatively quick refresher on the meat of Rise and Triumph. Truman is a master of the written word and is well known as a powerful communicator to diverse audiences; the complexity and depth of the earlier book is still present in this book, but in a way that is much easier to understand. While Rise and Triumph is essential reading for pastors, elders, teachers, and university students, Strange New World is written to be understood by upper-year high school students and would make an excellent resource for a small group bible study. In particular, Truman’s final chapter is a pastoral plea for how to respond as church to the cultural moment we find ourselves in. He urges us to allow our Christian community to help shape our identity (rejecting the purely individualistic age we are in). But for that to happen, we must commit to our church, through thick and thin, and make it our most important community. Highly recommended. – André Schutten NOVEMBER 13 Bjorn Lomborg's False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet (2021, 321 pages) is incredibly encouraging. As Lomborg notes in his introduction, "we live in an age of fear – particularly a fear of climate change." As a Christian I'm not as worried about the catastrophic sort (see my article here) but I will say that the constant barrage of panic in all our media outlets can be wearing and worrying, even when I know better. So while I wouldn't agree with Lomborg on much – he's gay, and I believe agnostic, and also far more trusting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports than I am – what I appreciate is that he knows we can't help the planet at the expense of the people on it. Using the very same IPCC reports as the fear-mongers, he shows how they don't speak of the world ending in 12 years, or anything like it. Rather than facing a catastrophic situation, we are facing a manageable one.... but one we can greatly mismanage to the harm of millions if we continue to panic. If you, too, are getting worn down by the constant drumbeat of certain doom, I'd highly recommend False Alarm, though I would also encourage even more skepticism (or, rather, discernment) than that offered by the author.  – Jon Dykstra NOVEMBER 12 I read part of Patrick Lencioni's business book, The Advantage (2012, 205 pages), to my kids on what Lencioni referred to as the fundamental attribution error (FAE). This is "the tendency of human beings to attribute the negative...behavior of their colleagues to their intentions and personalities while attributing their own negative...behaviors to environmental factors." So, for example, in our household, if one little bumps another, the bumped might well accuse the bumper of doing that "on purpose!" while the bumper might point to how narrow the hallway was, or how much mom was asking them to carry, to show how "it totally wasn't my fault." It is the victim accusing the bumper of malice aforethought, and the bumper pointing this way and that to everything except their own carelessness. So we had a fun little chat about how God wants us to "attribute to others as you would like others to attribute to you" (Matt. 7:12). And, it turns out, in addition to the parental applications, Lencioni's lessons have something to offer a workplace setting too. He offers 6 key questions that each organization (business, charity, police department, etc) needs to answer with the first and most important being: Why do we exist? This had echoes for me of both another business book, Simon Sinek's Starts With Why, and the opening question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, "What is the chief end of Man?"As Christians, we understand that properly understanding our purpose is going to be the driving force behind all else we do. The other questions are: How do we behave? What do we do? How will we succeed? What is the most important, right now? and Who must do what? While I don't know if Sinek is Christian, I wasn't surprised to discover that Lencioni is, as it comes out implicitly throughout the book, like his purpose-driven focus, but also in how he describes holding one another accountable as being a matter of love - as he admits, that's an odd term in a business book, but very true (Gal. 6:1-2, Prov. 25:5-6). I really appreciated The Advantage, with so many good thoughts in it that I'll be rereading it very soon. I'd recommend it not simply to businesses, but as being potentially useful for our Christian schools too. – Jon Dykstra NOVEMBER 11 I read The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo (2003, 270 pages) to my eight- and five-year-old over the past month or so. The story is of a castle mouse (the title character), his love for the princess, and his willing self-sacrifice to rescue her from an evil rat and a misled and abused servant girl, despite all the odds stacked against him. While we did find the plot slow at first, the story does pick up toward the end. More than that, there are good moments in the story to pause and ask children about bravery, self-sacrifice, cruelty, honor, disability, revenge and forgiveness, perseverance, and more. There is no obvious Christian perspective in the story (I have no clue if the author is a Christian) but the story is written in a way that a parent can easily apply a Christian perspective in discussion with their children and apply the lessons to real life. I enjoyed the story, though the cruelty shown to the servant girl Miggery I had to tone down for the sake of my five-year-old. There are a few abuses of God's Name, but in French, which made them easy to skip over. – André Schutten NOVEMBER 9 Matthew Rueger’s Sexual Morality in a Christless World (2016, 178 pages) is a Christian apologetic for holy sexuality. What it does differently than any other book on the subject is that it takes pains (the first third of the book) to examine what sex was like before Christ came into the world. This is particularly helpful, and the first chapter on sexual morality in ancient Rome is worth the price of the book on its own. I have interacted with so many people (Christians included!) who fail to understand just how radically the spread of the gospel changed the world for the better, also in relation to sexuality. By examining both the political and the religious climate at the time of Christ, Rueger shows that biblical sexuality is nothing but a beautiful and good design that richly benefits all of society, particularly the vulnerable. The middle third of the book is an examination of what the bible actually says about sex and sexuality. Rueger writes: “Examination of the passages addressing sex shows that there is more to God's Word about sex than just prohibitions and laws. Behind those prohibitions is a concern for the souls of individuals, as well as for their peace and well-being in this life. God cares about human suffering, and sexual immorality hurts a lot of people. The passages of the Bible give voice to a higher form of love that empties itself for the sake of the other, a love that points beyond sexual desire and reminds the world of the saving love of God's Son” (p. 95). This is a great reminder to Christians who focus on the truth of God’s Word, to the exclusion of the goodness and beauty of God’s proscriptions. We can and we must also be able to communicate the latter. The final third of the book works through common objections to holy sexuality and a natural law argument in defence of opposite-sex marriage which may be a helpful tool for Christians entering post-secondary schools. The writer is unapologetically Lutheran in his theology, and on this issue a Calvinist would wholeheartedly agree with what’s written (with perhaps a slightly different emphasis on the natural law argument for opposite-sex marriage). Heartily recommended. – André Schutten NOVEMBER 7 After writing 10 books about rabbits with swords in his Green Ember kids' fantasy series, S.D. Smith has now teamed up with his 16-year-old son, J.C. Smith, to start a new story in Jack Zulu and the Waylander's Key (2022, 292 pages). Jack Zulu is a kid with serious athletic potential, the best at everything he tries. But we learn right off he isn't full of himself, and is best buds with Benny, a decidedly average athlete, whose parents own the local pizzeria. That's where Jack has been spending a lot of his time, after his police officer father was mysteriously killed, and now that his loving mother has been stuck in the hospital slowly losing her cancer battle. If that sounds like a sad set-up, well it is, but this is a kids' story, so the Smiths lighten things up with loads of comic relief, including Jack's crush on the popular, but also level-headed Michelle. I loved the dialogue between the two friends as Jack gets tongue-tied, or caught up in a coughing fit, or just generally does something to embarrass himself in front of her. "'There are,' Benny reasoned... 'different ways we could look at tonight's events. Blame could be passed around. Or, we could just get you out of town on the next bus. You could change your name and join the circus. I think we both know that returning to school is off the table.' 'It was pretty bad,' Jack sighed and rubbed his face. 'It started bad,' Benny said, ' then got much, much worse.'" That's some fun dialogue. And that isn't even when the story gets exciting. Echoing Lewis's wardrobe, Jack Zulu discovers a doorway to another world, the Waylands, and a quirky mentor, and a possible way to help his mom. This book has some real strong points, including when Jack is coerced into agreeing to do whatever the winged evil guy tells him to do (or his friends will be killed). Afterwards his quirky mentor notes that if you promise to do something bad, then it would be bad to keep that promise. Such a simple and straightforward answer - I love it! Another really fun quirk: Benny visits the Waylands, and tells his parents about it - a kid being totally honest with his parents? When'd you last read that in an adventure book? The authors are Christian, which comes out in other ways too, including passing mention of God, and prayers to Him. There is some magic, on pretty minimal and par with what you'll find in Narnia; this story is more about sword fights and bravery and knight-ish type stuff, and friends just being loyal friends to one another. I'll say I didn't love the end - the solution to their dilemma was a total surprise to me, so either I missed some foreshadowing, or that wasn't the best resolution. But the journey was fun and I'll certainly be picking up the sequels! – Jon Dykstra NOVEMBER 6 I read Kevin DeYoung's Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me (2014, 138 pages) over a Saturday and Sunday afternoon. The book is an excellent and easy to read overview of the doctrine of the Word of God, "a book unpacking what the Bible says about the Bible... a doctrine of Scripture derived from Scripture itself" (p. 23) a topic which is usually covered in multi-volume, dense theology texts. DeYoung gives us a simple, straightforward, readable, and still biblical version instead. He opens with a chapter reflecting on the longest chapter of the Bible, which is a love poem about the Word of God. He explains that the purpose of his book is to get us to fully, sincerely, and consistently embrace the attitude of the Psalmist, so that we can say, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" every time we read Psalm 119. In chapters two through six, he works through five attributes of Scripture: 1. it is sure and true and without error, 2. it is understandable and clear such that the saving message of the gospel is made plain on its pages, 3. it is sufficient and contains everything we need for knowledge of salvation and godly living, 4. it is final and authoritative and takes precedence over science, human experience, or church councils and traditions, and 5. it is necessary to tell us how to live, who Christ is, and how to be saved. DeYoung concludes with two chapters, first by laying out what Christ himself thought and taught about the authority and nature of scripture, and ending with an exhortation to embrace the Word of God ourselves. I finished the book with a deeper appreciation for the rich treasure we have free and immediate access to, and a stronger desire to enjoy being in the Word more often. Each chapter opens with a short passage of scripture which provides the launching pad for the subject of the chapter, thus making this book a useful one for a bible study group or personal or family devotions. Highly recommended! – André Schutten NOVEMBER 1 The book of Proverbs was written specifically to instruct young men in the way of wisdom. In Solomon Says: Directives for Young Men (2020, 148 pages), Mark Horne unpacks that instruction in a way that is accessible to both parents, who could use this book to help them to disciple their children, and young people, who could use Solomon Says as a good starting point for a group or personal Bible study. Horne explains that the way of wisdom taught by Solomon involves taking dominion – fulfilling the dominion mandate instituted by God when man was created. The book of Proverbs is training for kings; young men are taught that they must take ownership of their own lives and govern themselves. The warning that is implicit in Proverbs, Horne writes, is that "if you don't learn to govern yourself, you will be governed by others, and your own impulses will be the reins they use to lead you." As young men struggle to grow in maturity, with many caught in a kind of perpetual adolescence, the message of Proverbs becomes all the more relevant. In his review of Solomon Says, author Jerry Bowyer (whose book The Maker Vs. The Takers I reviewed earlier this year)  points out that men like Jordan Peterson have developed large followings because they tap into a need that has been recognized by many. But, writes Bowyer, real solutions won't be found in the writings of Carl Jung (one of Peterson's major influences), but from Solomon: "Horne's book points the lost boys to go deeper into the real answer to their problem: Biblically-defined wisdom." I heartily recommend Solomon Says to parents. It's a book that fathers can read with their sons, and although Horne's main focus is on young men, he does emphasize that Proverbs is "written to young men (and everyone else)." As we seek to raise our children to fulfill their God-given callings in a world that encourages life-long immaturity in many ways, Mark Horne's book serves as a helpful resource that opens the doors to understanding and applying the depths of Solomon's Spirit-inspired wisdom. – Jim Witteveen OCTOBER 31 Uri Brito and Rich Lusk's The Reluctant Prophet: Jonah Through New Eyes (2021, 113 pages) is one of a series of Biblical commentaries in the "Through New Eyes" Biblical Commentary Series published by Athanasius Press. It is a brief commentary on a brief book, more devotional than scholarly in nature, but packed with insight about the book of Jonah and its importance. The commentary itself takes up only 72 pages of the book, with appendices making up the remainder of the book. In the first appendix, the authors provide their analysis of Jonah as a "biography of human maturation," with four distinct stages: the call to obedience, the response of grace, the rituals of sanctification, and the taste of mercy. Appendix B explores the subject of God's unchanging nature, and what Jonah has to teach us about this attribute of God. It can be a difficult topic to wrap your head around, but the authors do an admirable job of explaining the nature of prophecy, divine providence, and God's personality, concluding this discussion by providing a well-argued and clearly-explained answer to the question, "Does God change his mind?" The final appendix is an essay on Jonah and the "Missional Church," a discussion on what Jonah has to say to the Church as it seeks to fulfil its calling in a post-Christian, biblically illiterate society. Anyone looking for a helpful guide to the book of Jonah will benefit from The Reluctant Prophet. While brief and written to be accessible to a general audience, it is sure to lead readers to discover aspects of Jonah that they had never seen before, and appreciate all the more the gracious and powerful workings of the God who sent his reluctant prophet to Nineveh. – Jim Witteveen OCTOBER 29 I've read bigger books on this topic, but I don't know that I've read any better. Barry Cooper's Can I Really Trust the Bible? And other questions about Scripture, truth and how God speaks (2014, 83 pages) nails all of the most pressing questions, whether that's about how the Bible came to be, what the Bible says about itself, whether the Bible is culturally outdated, and whether justifying the Bible using the Bible shouldn't be discounted because, after all, isn't it just circular reasoning? The bigger books  might be the go-to for dealing with hardened skeptics (F.F. Bruce's The Canon of Scripture, Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge's two-volume How Do We Know the Bible Is True?, Neil Lightfoot's How We Got The Bible, etc.) but for the honest enquirer, Cooper's concise overview will be perfect. This is, as another reviewer put it, the book I wish a younger me could have been able to read.  – Jon Dykstra OCTOBER 28 I used to enjoy West Wing, a TV drama about fictional US president Josiah Bartlet, despite the left-leaning nature of his administration. Bartlet was still admirable because he was principled, willing to speak the truth (or, rather, what he thought was the truth) even when it was unpopular, simply because it needed to be heard. How often do we find that in the real world? But then I came across Sofia Warren's graphic novel tome Radical: My Year With a Socialist Senator (2022, 328 pages). The title real-life senator, Julia Salazar, is just as wrong as the fictional Bartlett – she is a self-proclaimed socialist, and seems to oppose what I'd support, and support what I'd oppose. But she is earnest. This is largely a hagiography, only presenting her flaws to make her more likable, but I found it an interesting read to better understand how our opponents see themselves. As opposition research it was worth a peruse, but I won't be passing this on to anyone. That's due to the scattering of f-bombs and abuses of God's name, and also the caricatured presentation of the political issue central to this story. Salazar pushes for various forms of rent control but seems to have never encountered any arguments against it – according to Salazar the only people opposed are greedy landlords. West Wing at its best made the Republicans smart and sincere too, so as to have an actual battle of ideas (even if the left-leaning writers did stack the deck in their direction). But here we have the opposition dismissed as simply one-dimensional villains. So, it wasn't a waste of time, but I'm sure glad I borrowed it from the library and didn't buy it.  – Jon Dykstra OCTOBER 27 Up until relatively recently, the mainstream media, and particularly those on the left of the political spectrum, spent a great deal of time and resources on researching and investigating the activities of multinational pharmaceutical companies and the global health industry. One such investigative journalist is Alan Cassels, a drug policy researcher at the University of Victoria, and past contributor to the CBC documentary program "Ideas." In Selling Sickness: How The World's Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All Into Patients (2005, 254 pages), and Seeking Sickness: Medical Screening and the Misguided Hunt for Disease (2012, 177 pages), Alan Cassels investigates two sides of the modern medical industry: the categorization of new illnesses and the development of pharmaceutical treatments for them, and the widespread promotion of medical screening as a diagnostic tool and preventative measure. In Selling Sickness, Cassels explores the marketing efforts that have gone into raising public consciousness about a number of maladies, and the subsequent marketing of their treatments. The book contains a chapter on each of the following conditions and the pharmaceutical industry's role in "selling" them to the general public: high cholesterol, depression, menopause, attention deficit disorder, high blood pressure, pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder, social anxiety disorder, osteoporosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and female sexual dysfunction. Cassels' conclusion? "The pharmaceutical industry is working behind the scenes to help define and design the latest disorders and dysfunctions in order to create and expand markets for their newest medicines." Their aim, Cassels concludes, is to "turn healthy people into patients." In Seeking Sickness, Cassels turns his attention to the world of medical screening. As with his previous book, Cassels devotes one chapter to each of a number of ways in which medical screening is used, including chapters on mammography, cholesterol screening, colon and cervix screening, and mental health screening. Cassels does not deny that screening can be a useful tool, but he brings up a number of questions that must be considered when thinking about medical screening and its utility. The world of medicine has evolved a great deal over the years, both in terms of technology and guiding philosophy. Whereas in the not-too-distant past patients would go to the doctor when they had a problem that they believed needed to be dealt with, it is just as likely today for patients to visit their physician not because they are sick, but because they want to stay healthy. Cassels' important question about all of these "preventative" measures is this: Are all of the advances that have been made in diagnostic technology truly beneficial to those who are well? Or have they instead led to over-diagnosis and over-treatment? These are important questions, and Cassels explains the issues in a detailed yet readable way, so that the reader need not have a medical degree or scientific background in order to not feel completely out of his depth. In an era in which serious investigation into the workings of the pharmaceutical industry seems to be ever rarer, Cassels' work serves as an excellent example of how that kind of investigation should be done. – Jim Witteveen OCTOBER 26 The Singularity is near, declared inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil in 2006. And today, at least in the minds of the "singularitarians," the Singularity has grown nearer still. But what is this "Singularity," and why does it matter? The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology (2006, 487 pages) goes a long way toward answering the first question, and a look into the life and influence of Ray Kurzweil will answer the second. This is one of those books that I recommend not because I agree with the philosophy it promotes (I couldn't disagree more) or because I believe the author has some wisdom to share. Rather, I believe that it, along with Kurzweil's earlier The Age of Spiritual Machines (originally published in 2000), provides important insights into a movement that has steadily grown in power and influence in the last several decades, the Transhumanist movement. The Transhumanist project is working to overcome the limits of human biology, through physical processes (such as genetic manipulation) and mechanical or electronic means (the melding of man and machine, human and computer). Ray Kurzweil is one of the modern "prophets" of Transhumanism, and his influence goes deep, especially in the world of Big Tech. That being the case, books like The Singularity is Near provide a useful entry point for those who wish to understand the worldview that forms the foundation of this movement. Throughout the book, Kurzweil promotes a worldview that sees the Singularity as the ultimate goal of humanity - a time in which all of humanity, and indeed the entire cosmos, is brought together as a single, united entity by means of the most advanced technology imaginable. Each chapter concludes with an imagined conversation between the author and various interlocutors, who propose objections to Kurzweil's ideas, to which Kurzweil responds in turn. This technique adds some life to the book, but doesn't lead me to revisit my own conclusions about Kurzweil's proposed program - rather than a dream, it sounds much more like a nightmare to me. – Jim Witteveen OCTOBER 25 Eugenics and Other Evils, by G.K. Chesterton (1922, 201 pages) was an interesting read for three reasons: to learn of the historical context in which it was written (exactly 100 years ago), to learn what the brilliant Chesterton had to say about the subject of eugenics, and to stand amazed at his prophetic insight. In 1922, the medical, philanthropic, and political elite were outspoken fans of eugenics. Against this establishment Chesterton was a voice in the wilderness, calling eugenics what it is: a great evil. We can learn from his example. Do we measure the soundness of our arguments against the prevailing winds of our culture or according to sound doctrine rooted in Scripture? Chesterton chose the latter and was (to borrow a phrase) proven to be on the right side of history. Chesterton has a clever and engaging style. This quote gives a taste: “Most Eugenists are Euphemists. I mean merely that short words startle them, while long words soothe them. And they are utterly incapable of translating the one into the other, however obviously they mean the same thing. Say to them ‘The persuasive and even coercive powers of the citizen should enable him to make sure that the burden of longevity in the previous generation does not become disproportionate and intolerable, especially to the females’; say this to them and they will sway slightly to and fro like babies sent to sleep in cradles. Say to them ‘Murder your mother,’ and they sit up quite suddenly. Yet the two sentences, in cold logic, are exactly the same.” This is exactly spot on. And it is a clarion call for us today to speak plainly and accurately, even as some Quebec doctors call on Parliament to extend “the benefits” of “MAiD” to “suffering infants” (by which they mean, they want a licence to kill infants). Another point Chesterton drives home is the totalitarian tendency of “Science.” Chesterton again: “The thing that really is trying to tyrannize through government is Science… And the creed that really is levying tithes and capturing schools, the creed that really is enforced by fine and imprisonment, the creed that really is proclaimed not in sermons but in statutes, and spread not by pilgrims but by policemen—that creed is the great but disputed system of thought which began with Evolution and has ended in Eugenics. Materialism is really our established Church; for the government will really help it to persecute its heretics…I am not frightened of the word ‘persecution’…It is a term of legal fact. If it means the imposition by the police of a widely disputed theory, incapable of final proof—then our priests are not now persecuting, but our doctors are.” Again, this is as true in 2022 as it was in 1922. Think of the passage of so-called “conversion therapy bans,” the killing of pre-born children, or the total shutdown of all of society on the advice of a handful of doctors. And when Christians (and others) are mocked, shushed, or shamed for raising concerns about threats of tyranny, as Chesterton did in 1922 (proved right in the rise of Nazism a decade later), he warns those skeptics, “People talk about the impatience of the populace; but sound historians know that most tyrannies have been possible because men moved too late. it is often essential to resist a tyranny before it exists.” There is so much packed into this book. It is insightful, written by a courageous writer who history has repeatedly proven right. I can’t recommend it enough. One bonus: many e-book versions are free, including on Kindle. One caveat: Chesterton, writing as a Roman Catholic, really doesn’t like Calvinist theology (though it seems he has a bit of a strawman view of predestination). He throws a few barbs our way over the course of the book. Don’t let that detract from the rest of his message. – André Schutten OCTOBER 24 This book's subtitle says it all, and throughout The Victim Cult: How the Grievance Culture Hurts Everyone and Wrecks Civilizations (2021, 316 pages), Canadian author Mark Milke makes a powerful case for his thesis - "grievance culture," the culture in which everyone has become a victim of someone or something outside of themselves, leaves no individual, and no civilization, unscathed. The cult of victimhood is a disaster on a personal and on a societal level, and Milke does an outstanding job of defending his subtitular claim. The grievance culture, Milke writes, is nothing new; in fact, it goes back to time of Cain and Abel, when Cain became the first member of the victim cult, declaring himself to be the victim, despite his role as aggressor and murderer. Adolf Hitler's political program was built on victimhood; the Rwandan genocide was the poisonous fruit that grew from grievance culture roots; and, writes Milke, the victim cult cannot be limited to only one side of the political spectrum. Milke makes the compelling argument that Donald Trump has himself ridden the wave of the victim cult mentality in his own political career. How has the cult of victimhood become so entrenched in our day? Milke offers three possible (and popular) possible answers to that question. First of all, many people have indeed been victimized, leading "victim thinking" to become entrenched. The second argument makes the claim that European imperialism and colonialism are largely to blame for the growth of grievance culture. The third explanation is that elites often seek to divide people and lead populations down the path of the victim cult in order to serve their own agenda. Milke argues that, in the end, none of these arguments can completely explain the "why" of the entrenchment of grievance culture. The explanation that Milke offers is compelling; grievance culture has become so powerful because of the widespread belief in man's perfectability (which Milke traces back as far as the Greek philosopher Plato) and the belief that civilization itself is the problem (which goes back to French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau), combined with a third pernicious influence: "the suicidal self-loathing of a mainly Western class of intellectuals and academics (and others who follow them), who breathe in the assumptions of Western guilt." The Victim Cult does not only focus on the problems of the grievance culture (which are many). Milke also proposes solutions, and offers positive examples of groups that have refused to fall victim themselves to the victim cult, as well as positive steps that all of us can take to avoid being taken in by this powerful and destructive ideological movement. As the culture of victimhood becomes an ever more pernicious influence on our cultures throughout the Western world, we need to be equipped to understand and counter it. For this reason, I highly recommend The Victim Cult as a work that not only points out what's wrong with the world, but also will provoke healthy reflection and self-examination on the part of the thoughtful reader. – Jim Witteveen OCTOBER 23 In 1971, when Richard John Neuhaus wrote In Defense of People: Ecology and the Seduction of Radicalism, (1971, 315 pages) he was a young, liberal-leaning Lutheran pastor working in one of New York City's poorer neighborhoods. Over the years, Neuhaus's ecclesiastical vision changed quite radically (he would go on to become a Roman Catholic priest), as did his socio-political views. But In Defense of People shows that, even as a young, idealistic, and left-leaning pastor, Neuhaus was an often profound thinker who was not afraid to challenge his own thinking and worldview. In Defense of People makes for very interesting reading for anyone interested in Neuhaus and his development as an influential Christian public intellectual (he would also go on to found First Things magazine and to serve as an unofficial advisor to President George W. Bush). But even more, this book is an important historical work because of the first-hand account that it provides of the origins of the modern environmentalist movement. Neuhaus was there when the very first Earth Day celebrations were held in New York City on April 22, 1970, and his evaluation of the event, and the movement behind it, is astute and often very revealing. Neuhaus shows that, far from being the grass-roots movement that it is often painted as being, the ecological movement was, from its very beginnings, the product of aristocratic impulses, guided and formed by big money interests and the political establishment. Neuhaus focuses on the anti-human philosophy of the environmental movement and its wealthy and powerful backers, arguing that the very history and structure of the ecology movement contains "a bias against the poor, if not against people." Some five decades on, Neuhaus's book remains relevant and just as applicable (if not more so) than when it was written. The book is out of print, and used copies aren't cheap, but it is very much a worthwhile read. – Jim Witteveen OCTOBER 22 I enjoyed reading the book No Apologies: Why Civilization Depends on the Strength of Men, by Anthony Esolen (2022, 204 pages). This book will be unpopular with most readers in our current cultural moment as many critics will dismiss it as a form of “toxic masculinity” without actually reading it. It’s those critics who really should read this book. I’ll be honest with you: there were times reading this book that I felt a bit uncomfortable, where I wondered if Esolen was going too far. But when I stopped to think why I felt uncomfortable, I couldn’t disagree with him from a biblical/creational or historical perspective; my emotional discomfort was due to cultural factors or pressures. Indeed, Esolen does not hold back: men build civilizations, and men should not apologize for that. This book is a say-it-as-it-is, courageous, passionate defense of men as men. Men are created very differently from women. There are many differences, but the biggest (and most obvious) difference is that of physical strength. We should celebrate and not loath that difference! He shows with a multitude of examples how men built buildings and transportation networks, cleared ground and explored continents, created great works of art and invented great technological developments. But the book is not a defense of machismo: men ought not to swagger and boast. But neither should they cringe and cower. Esolen tears down many modern feminist denigrations of masculinity and calls men to use their strength for the common good. I recommend it to high school aged men. I dare women who are wary of toxic masculinity to read it too, and after completing it, to let me know what you think. – André Schutten OCTOBER 21 Perhaps it’s bad form or poor taste to include a book here that I co-wrote, but I did read this book this year (many times!) and so I’ve decided to include it. A Christian Citizenship Guide: Christianity and Canadian Political Life, by André Schutten and Michael Wagner (2022, 256 pages) is a readable book, written with a grade 10 student in mind. The first chapter of the book covers Christian influences in Canada’s history, often overlooked or taken for granted today by most political commentators. The second chapter covers our constitutional history in England from the time of Robin Hood and bad king John to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 (and why that matters to Canada and the government we have). The third chapter covers some more legal history in Canada, and explains how the government in Canada (the judicial, executive, and legislative branches) works at the federal and provincial level. The fourth chapter covers the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and explains some of the more significant sections in it, particularly as it relates to issues and concerns that Christian citizens might have. The fifth chapter covers the issue of human rights, and shows how Christians should reclaim this concept. The sixth chapter explains how the big idea of sphere sovereignty can help us think through political issues, and the seventh (and final) chapter encourages the reader to be politically engaged as a faithful citizen. The book will be available for the first time on ARPA Canada’s fall tour. – André Schutten OCTOBER 19 The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886, 110 pages) is a classic work of fiction, and there’s a good reason why it’s a classic. I quite enjoyed reading it for the first time, even though (due to many popular references to the book) I knew how it would turn out. The book is a murder mystery written from the perspective of a lawyer named Utterson. He is investigating peculiar events that occur between his friend Dr. Jekyll and a creep of a man, Mr. Edward Hyde. The reader is left sharing Utterson’s confusion as to what in the world is going on with Dr. Jekyll until the end of the book. There are two reasons I’d recommend this book. First, the book is very well-known, and there are many cultural references to it. To better appreciate those types of references, you should read the original work. It is a classic, after all. But it’s also worth reading from a Christian perspective. The novel wrestles with the question of good and evil as found within us and whether these are two opposing spirits or an infection or fallenness of one. Stevenson seems to embrace a dualism in his novel (which a Christian should reject). I also appreciated the discourse with Dr. Jekyll at the very end of the book and the picture of what sin in the form of addiction is like. Evil personified in Mr. Hyde is voracious and cunning and demanding. Dr. Jekyll cries out with the helplessness of Paul in Romans 7:21-24, but he completely despairs without the hope of 7:25. These biblical themes are worth discussing with Christian and non-Christian friends. Recommended. – André Schutten OCTOBER 18 If you have ever wondered why people who claim that "tolerance" is the virtue that trumps all others are themselves so intolerant of dissenting viewpoints, you need go no further than Robert Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore, Jr., and Herbert Marcuse's A Critique of Pure Tolerance, (1970, 123 pages), and especially Herbert Marcuse's contribution to this collection of essays, "Repressive Tolerance." Marcuse was perhaps the best-known member of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, one of the leading lights in the 1960s "New Left," and among the most influential public intellectuals in mid-Twentieth Century America. As a cultural Marxist, he exerted his influence in the academic world, following in the footsteps of Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist imprisoned under Benito Mussolini. Gramsci had argued that the Marxist vision for society could best be implemented by a process of "cultural hegemony" in which the Marxist philosophy could infiltrate every sphere of society by means of a "long march through the institutions." In "Repressive Tolerance," Marcuse argued that there can only be tolerance of opinions and ideas that challenge the "repressive" status quo. There are certain activities and expressions of opinion that should not be tolerated, Marcuse wrote, "because they are impeding, if not destroying, the chances of creating an existence without fear and misery." Marcuse argued that concepts like freedom of speech and freedom of expression were instruments of the dominant class, used to maintain, promote, and excuse the rampant inequalities of American society, and the continued exploitation of the underclasses by the powerful. Reading Marcuse in an era in which his ideological descendants have themselves become a dominant force in academia, the media, and politics, it is striking to see how his philosophy spread from the realm of higher education through all levels of society. While his writing style is dense, often difficult to decipher, and, in the end, logically incoherent, Marcuse's writings remain important reading for anyone seeking to understand the spirit of the age in which we live. – Jim Witteveen OCTOBER 17 Francis Schaeffer’s No Little People (2021, 304 pages) is a collection of 16 of his sermons on a wide range of passages and topics, originally published in 1974. The collection has been nicely republished by Crossway just last year. I originally bought the book as a farewell gift for my friend and former colleague Mark Penninga because the title of the book corresponds to a point Mark has made many times to me and my colleagues at ARPA Canada: God is pleased to work with the weak and foolish and lowly, so that if anyone boasts, we boast in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Schaeffer’s point in his opening sermon is that, if God is working through us and in us, then there are no little people – we are instruments in the hands of the living God! I found all the chapters encouraging (I’d recommend not reading more than one a day). The chapter on the Ark, the Mercy Seat and the Incense Altar was particularly moving, opening my eyes to see what God was showing his people about himself through the particular details of the design of the tabernacle. My only caveat is the chapter on Revelation might not align with your eschatology. Otherwise, highly recommended as a devotional book for private worship or for group study. – André Schutten OCTOBER 16 If you’re looking for a cheeky spoof of pretentious literary critics, you’ll enjoy Frederick Crews’ The Pooh Perplex (2003. 164 pages). This book was first published in 1963 and has become a classic piece of satire. It is written as a casebook for a university English class and contains 12 chapters, each written by a different adherent to a particular school of literary criticism, all of whom evaluate or critique “one of the greatest literary works ever written” that being, Winnie-the-Pooh. The short bios of the fictional authors, as well as the footnotes and study questions, add to the humor. The fictional chapter contributors include a committed Freudian, an angry Marxist, an overzealous Christian, an Aristotelian, and more. Crews’ book – in a funny and exaggerated way – shows us an important truth: that most critics (and all of us really) have biases. Some with the strongest biases are the most blind to them. Recommended! – André Schutten OCTOBER 15 I pulled John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life (2003, 191 pages) off my shelf after a young man in my congregation decided to start a young men’s bible study group with this as their first book. In it, Piper begs Christians in America (and this applies to Canada just as much) to take risks and make sacrifices for the glory of God. His book is punchy and includes various stories of sacrifice and service which are inspiring and keep the reader’s attention. The book is easy to read in its style (much more so than Piper’s magnum opus Desiring God), and as such makes a good book for a high school student to read. But it is certainly not only for high school students. Piper also challenges Christians in their careers and in their retirement years to ask the question, “Am I wasting my life?” I appreciate how Piper is not shy in challenging us to live fully for the glory of God while remaining encouraging. He wants us to see that “pursuing God's glory virtually the same as pursuing my joy… millions of people waste their lives because they think these paths are two and not one.” Instead of proposing a how-to list or a multi-step program, Piper urges us to be single-mindedly passionate for glorifying Christ above everything else in our lives. Considering our cultural placement, I heartily recommend this book for North American Christians to read, consider, discuss, and apply. – André Schutten OCTOBER 13 Christianity and Social Justice: Religions in Conflict (2021, 146 pages) is author Jon Harris's followup to his 2020 book Social Justice Goes to Church, a history of the origins of the progressive movement in the American evangelical church. In Christianity and Social Justice, Harris begins with a much briefer overview of the history of the social justice movement, before moving on to a more in-depth evaluation of the ideology behind the social justice movement in the light of current events. While Harris covers much of the same material that can be found in other books on this subject that I have read and reviewed over the past year, he does offer a very helpful perspective on subjects like social justice epistemology and social justice metaphysics – subjects that may sound complicated, but that Harris manages to explain at a level that an average reader should be able to understand. I found Harris's explanation of "Standpoint Theory" – the theory that makes the claim that only certain groups can have a genuine understanding of certain issues, while those who do not share their experience cannot truly understand – to be particularly helpful. Harris's discussion of the dangers of unquestioning acceptance of the dominant narrative is also particularly insightful; his explanation of many evangelicals' immediate reaction to the 2019 Nicholas Sandmann incident (in which a young man who was participating in the March for Life was unfairly characterized as being a racist and subsequently exonerated after the whole story was revealed) is but one example of many in which prominent evangelicals have jumped on media-propelled bandwagons, only to be proven wrong when the truth was brought to light. Harris explains his purpose in writing on these issues as follows: "The first step in fighting against the social justice movement is understanding what it is. That is the primary purpose of this book. The second step is loving others and telling the truth." Christianity and Social Justice certainly meets the goals that Harris set out to achieve. – Jim Witteveen OCTOBER 11 "There are ultimately only two alternatives in the intellectual life: either one conforms desire to the truth or truth to desire." So writes E. Michael Jones in his introduction to Degenerate Moderns: Modernity as Rationalized Sexual Misbehavior (2012, 237 pages). In this work, Jones examines how many very prominent public intellectuals have in fact done the latter - "conforming truth to desire," or arguing for positions that seek to justify their own behavior, creating a version of "truth" that justifies their own lifestyles rather than seeking to lead lives in accordance with THE truth. Jones uses a number of case studies to support his thesis, including the stories of anthropologist Margaret Mead, "sexologist" Alfred Kinsey, and artist Pablo Picasso. The most extensive chapter, however, deals with the two fathers of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, and the ways in which their own personal sins, struggles, and guilt were formative in the development of their theories of human nature and psychology. The way in which Freud's personal pathologies influenced his conclusions, which have proved over the ensuing decades to have a lasting influence, despite being largely debunked, is clear; and the way in which his theories were so widely accepted in the intellectual world reveals that many scholars, who theoretically should know better, are easily swayed when the conclusions drawn by researchers serve to support their own worldviews and resulting lifestyles. Jones writes as a Roman Catholic of a very traditionalist bent. He likes to cite Augustine, the church father whose writings are treasured by both Roman Catholics and Protestants. However, Jones's staunch Roman Catholic views, combined with an obvious lack of deep understanding of the issues that led to the Protestant Reformation, led him to include a chapter on Martin Luther which many reviewers have noted is much weaker than the rest of the book. Thankfully it's a brief chapter, and it does not take away from the quality of Jones's work in the rest of the book. With that reservation, I do recommend Degenerate Moderns as a helpful exploration of the way in which many modern intellectual trends have been shaped by the errant desires of their originators. – Jim Witteveen OCTOBER 10 In his graphic novel tome, Joseph Smith and the Mormons (2022, 456 pages), author Noah Van Sciver presents a sympathetic portrayal of his subject even as he seems to doubt Smith's claims. What former Mormon Van Sciver doesn't understand is that Smith was either the prophet he claimed to be, or a liar and blasphemer, demon-possessed or manufacturing his lies all on his ownsome. I picked this up because I have a long-time Mormon friend, and was disappointed that it didn't prove to be the useful historical overview I was hoping it'd be. The problem is the lack of clarity over which portions of it would be accepted by Mormons, and which parts they'd dispute. So, for example, is it accepted among Mormons that Smith lied to his suspicious wife Emma, even as he was secretly "celestially sealing" himself to more and more women? Or would they dismiss that as mere rumors? Van Sciver doesn't make it clear, which limits his book's value. – Jon Dykstra OCTOBER 9 Frances Stonor Saunders' The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters (1999, 424 pages) is considered a classic work of investigative history, and it certainly deserves the accolades it has received. Saunders has dug deep into the history of the relationship between the American Central Intelligence Agency and the movers and shakers in the world of literature, music, fine arts, film, and even religion, and the results of her research are eye-opening to say the least. The CIA founded and promoted European literary magazines that were staffed by people you would least expect to be working to produce pro-American and anti-Soviet propaganda; the organization's connections with the Museum of Modern Art and the Abstract Impressionist movement shows that politics and money can indeed make for some very strange alliances. Of particular interest to Christian readers will be the influence that the CIA exercised in the theological world, to the point of having its own favored theologians. This is a fairly heavy tome, packed with information on a number of different subjects and historical figures. Saunders's research included personal interviews with a number of people who were involved in the CIA's cultural adventures, either knowingly or unwittingly, and the book is heavily footnoted. I recommend it as a revelatory account of the ways in which seemingly "organic" cultural movements may be anything but. It will perhaps lead readers to wonder what future historians will be writing about the ways in which our modern culture has been shaped and moulded in similar ways, and will certainly help to build a healthy skepticism about the messages and worldviews that are being promoted in the various wings of popular culture today. – Jim Witteveen OCTOBER 1 In Thea Beckman's Crusade in Jeans (1972, 275 pages), Dolf is a modern-day Dutch teen accidentally teleported back in time to the 13th century. He appears right in the middle of thousands of German children marching their way to free Jerusalem from its Muslim conquerors. But before they can get there, this "children's crusade" will have to cross the Alps... and who will help the littlest ones find food, and keep warm in those barren peaks? Dolf discovers that his schooling has given him tools and knowledge that could save lives, and his modern diet has given him a stature that gets him a hearing. While he doesn't share the Christian faith of the children, Dolf joins the crusade anyway, both to help as many of the children as he can, and because he doesn't know where else to go. It's a fish-out-of-water tale that introduces us to another time, and treats us to the clever ways that Dolf and his medieval friends employ to solve all the problems they encounter. I've been reading this with my three pre-teen girls, and while the youngest at 9 hasn't found it too scary, my wife, overhearing, was surprised by how matter-of-factly brutal the story sometimes is – hundreds of the children die along the way, from sickness, or in battles. But some of that is softened by the story arc of each chapter: each time Dolf is shocked by the time's poverty, its cut-throat politics, or the general disregard for life, the chapter will ends on rescue, or some other encouraging note. It's a great story that is marred by a single misuse of God's name. Another caution: the Children's Crusade was a real historical event, but young readers should be told we don't really know what's fact and what's simply legend. – Jon Dykstra SEPTEMBER 27 One of my bookshelves is home to a very nice-looking collection of about fifty little books – the "Puritan Paperbacks" series published by The Banner of Truth. I purchased the series with good intentions, knowing that it offers some of the best writing of the Puritans, offered in a more readable form than many of their lengthier, unedited works. But despite my good intentions, most of these books have not yet been cracked open. But looking on the bright side, that means that I have a lot of good reading to look forward to! Christian Love (2004, 106 pages) by Hugh Binning was first published in 1735, nearly a century after the author's death at the age of 26. Beginning with John 13:35  –"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" – Binning explores what true Christian love really is, and how we are called especially to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. Binning goes through the attributes of love as laid out in 1 Corinthians 13, and provides practical advice on how we can show our love for one another, in imitation of Christ. I found Binning's chapter on humility and meekness as prerequisites to Christian love to be particularly insightful. Binning emphasizes that true humility doesn't mean denying the specific gifts that we have received, or denigrating our own strengths. "Humility," he writes, "does not exclude all knowledge of any excellency in itself, or defect in another it can discern; but this is its worth, that it thinks soberly of the one, and despises not the other." Wise words from a young man who wrote them while still in his early twenties! Christian Love is not a book that you will want to read in one sitting. It is not long, but it is densely written, and although modernized, the language and sentence structure is still more challenging than most modern writing. But I would highly recommend this book as devotional reading, perhaps taking a chapter a night to read, digest, and apply. I'm sure you'll find it to be worth the effort. – Jim Witteveen SEPTEMBER 25 One of four books in the "Theopolis Fundamentals" series published by Athanasius Press, Peter J. Leithart's Theopolitan Reading (2020, 116 pages) is a concise, readable, and fascinating guide to the most important reading we'll ever do - Bible reading. Peter Leithart, a prolific author who has written a number of books on Biblical interpretation, church history, and literature, has a knack for helping Bible readers get the most out of their reading. He also understands how important it is for Christians to have an intimate familiarity with God's Word, emphasizing that Scripture speaks to all of life as "the ultimate authority for everything, in all circumstances." Here Leithart offers himself as a mentor and model of the "Spiritual reading" of Scripture - not just reading the Bible, but reading the Bible well. A Spiritual reader, Leithart writes, demonstrates the fruits of the Spirit in his reading. The first fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5 is love, and Leithart makes a connection between that fruit of the Spirit and the definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13 to show how we should approach Scripture. Approaching the text of Scripture with love first of all means being patient – reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading in the patience of the Spirit. In the second place, it means coming to the text with an attitude of humility. In order to truly understand God's Word, we need to humble ourselves before its Author! In theological terms, Theopolitan Reading is a primer in Biblical Hermeneutics – a study of the interpretation of Scripture. Leithart is not impressed with much modern Biblical scholarship, and argues that the best mentors and guides for reading Scripture are the Lord Jesus and his apostles. His approach has been called "interpretive maximalism" and "symbolic interpretation," but Leithart argues that the Spiritual reading that he advocates is more of an art than a "mechanistic process." And while this discussion may seem a bit heavy for a general audience, Leithart takes pains to explain his approach to Scripture not only to "specialists," but to the average "Theo and Thea," the names he gives to the typical Bible reader. After introducing the concept of Spiritual reading, Leithart spends the majority of the book discussing Scripture's central themes, imagery, types, and themes that are found on every page of the Bible. He begins by discussing the Biblical view of the world, spends a chapter on Adam (and the last Adam), moves on to discuss Eve, before concluding with an exploration of Eden. Leithart's work evidences a high regard for God's Word, and his literary and interpretive skills are impressive. He knows his Bible, and he explains its message well. Despite its brevity, Theopolitan Reading is packed with insight into the Word and how to read it, and my appreciation for the profound depth of the Word only grew. For those who want to plumb those depths, it will be a very useful aid. – Jim Witteveen SEPTEMBER 20 Over the course of this year, I've read and reviewed several books on Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the Social Justice movement. There are a number of excellent resources out there that deal with these issues, but if I would be forced to recommend only one of them to an interested Christian reader, it would be Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism's Looming Catastrophe (2021, 251 pages) by Voddie T. Baucham Jr. Currently serving as the dean of the School of Divinity at African Christian University in Lusaka, Zambia, Baucham has written several books on other issues that I would also highly recommend. As a Reformed Baptist, his work evidences a high regard for Scripture as well as an informed and critical eye on culture and its impact on the church. In Fault Lines, Baucham addresses Critical Race Theory (and, more generally, Critical Social Justice) as a movement that has created a dangerous divide in the evangelical and Reformed/Presbyterian world. Some Christians have knowingly and deliberately adopted the tenets of CRT and CSJ, while others, Baucham writes, have naively begun to use the language and categories of these movements, without being fully aware of what they stand for. A good part of this book is autobiographical in nature, as Baucham describes his own experiences as an African-American, from growing up in a single-parent family, to his educational experiences, to his conversion to Christianity and his life as a pastor, writer, and speaker. Countering the conclusions drawn by Critical Race theorists, Baucham points to his own personal experience, and the experience of many others like him, to emphasize the importance of good parenting in children's lives. While he emphasizes the centrality of God's grace in leading him to where he is now, he acknowledges the importance of the role his mother played in his life: "I thrived in large part because, by God's grace, my mother protected me, sacrificed for me, advocated for me, and disciplined me," he writes in the conclusion of his chapter on his childhood. Fault Lines is much more than an autobiography, however. Baucham also goes into great detail about the religious nature of Critical Race Theory, a movement that has its own cosmology, its own version of original sin, a new law (the work of antiracism), a new priesthood, and a new canon. In the end, Baucham argues, CRT is a false religion that is absolutely incompatible with the Christian faith. There is much more that could be said about this book, but I hope this brief review will suffice to encourage you to pick up a copy of this book yourself. As CRT continues to make inroads in the Reformed and Presbyterian world, we must be prepared to "rise to the challenge," as Baucham writes in his conclusion. Baucham writes with passion, and his arguments are based in sound theology and a good understanding of Scripture. This book not only reveals the fault lines that exist in the church, but also provides encouragement and good counsel on how to find a way forward, remaining on solid ground. – Jim Witteveen SEPTEMBER 19 In 1971, under the leadership of Pierre Trudeau, Canada became the first country in the world to officially declare itself to be "multicultural." This declaration became the law of the land in 1988, when the Canadian Multiculturalism Act was passed during Brian Mulroney's tenure as Canada's Prime Minister. Over the past fifty years, multiculturalism has spread to many countries of the world, particularly in the West. Over time, it has become more and more difficult for people in the public square to question the wisdom of multiculturalism, to ask whether it is possible for multiculturalism to be successful, or to suggest that multiculturalism will inevitably lead to a nation's decline and fall. Salim Mansur is a Canadian academic who has dared to put himself in the sights of multiculturalism's proponents by confronting it head on. Mansur is a columnist and author, and professor emeritus of political science at the University of Western Ontario who ran as a candidate for the People's Party of Canada in the 2019 federal election. He is also a Muslim. In Delectable Lie: A Liberal Repudiation of Multiculturalism (2011, 183 pages), Mansur argues that multiculturalism is inherently destructive to a liberal society (using the word "liberal" in its classical sense, not to describe the political ideology also known as progressivism or democratic socialism). The dreams of multiculturalism, and the promises it makes, Mansur writes, are nothing more than a lie. As an ideology, multiculturalism holds a certain appeal to many people – thus the word "delectable" in the book's title – but ultimately, the cultural relativism of multiculturalism is its fatal flaw. Ultimately, Mansur writes, "the worm inside the doctrine of multiculturalism is the lie that all cultures are worthy of equal respect and equally embracing of individual freedom and democracy." While proponents of multiculturalism argue that cultural relativism is the result of open-mindedness and tolerance, Mansur argues that just the opposite is the case; political correctness has led to the stifling of free speech and the expression of differences, has led to shallow thinking about cultural issues, and discourages reflection and debate about the qualities of different cultures. Mansur writes from the perspective of a Muslim classical liberal, and his liberal ideals appear to be the guiding principle behind his political and social philosophy. He rightly recognizes that the foundations of classical liberalism can be found in what he calls its "faith tradition anchored in Judeo-Christian ethics," and while his arguments are based more on the primacy of liberal ideals than on the Christian principles that undergird those ideals, he puts forward a strong challenge to the accepted wisdom that has all but excluded every other opinion from public debate. The book does not make for the easiest reading, but it is a worthwhile contribution to what has become a very one-sided debate, not only in Canada, but in many parts of the world. – Jim Witteveen SEPTEMBER 17 Every now and again I'll hand out a book to any nephews or nieces willing to give it a go. And with Caleb Fuller's No Free Lunch: Six Economic Lies You've Been Taught And Probably Believe (2021, 138 pages), I've found the next book I'm going to pitch to them. While Fuller addresses six lies, there is one truth he's trying to present: that every opportunity you pursue, comes at a cost. What cost? The time and money you put into it – and here's the important part – which can't then be spent on other opportunities. This "opportunity cost" could be known as the "you-can't-have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too principle" or, as the book title puts it, "there's no free lunch." So, then, when a government jobs program funds summer work for students, what we see is all the students getting jobs. But what we don't see is the opportunity cost to this program – we don't see all the other jobs that companies might have started on their own – and maybe full-time even – had the government not taxed them to fund their summer jobs program. Fuller shows how much damage is done by the well-meaning, but economically ignorant, and highlights how there is on many issues a consensus among economists on both the Left and Right, that politicians on the Left will simply defy. My only disappointment with this punchy book is that this Christian professor never makes plain why the Left fails, and the free market works. He never mentions how the foundation for the free market – private property rights – is simply obedience to God's command, "Do not steal" (Ex. 20:15). In fact, God is not mentioned in the whole book.  – Jon Dykstra SEPTEMBER 15 I really enjoyed Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales (2013, 448 pages), the third Randy Singer novel I've read for this challenge. But I would place it as the third of those three, simply because of how it started. The prologue doesn't describe it in any detail, but the reader is made aware that in this Syrian jail a woman is being raped and killed in the cell next door. That's a grim beginning for a book I'm reading only for enjoyment. Fortunately, the story heads in a completely different direction starting with Chapter 1. Landon Reed found God in jail and found a good woman and daughter still waiting for him when he got out. The disgraced former college quarterback, indicted for point shaving, spent his time in prison studying. Now that he's out he wants to be a lawyer, to help others make the same life-turn. It is hard for a convict to get a job though, particularly in the legal field. So when he does land a position, and the law firm's other employees start getting murdered, Reed's too grateful to leave. He's going to find out who's murdering his colleagues... even if it kills him. The book's brutal start had me almost quitting before I started, and also had me wondering how far Christian authors can go in depicting evil, and having their characters contend with evil, without making light of the warning in Ephesians 5:12 that "It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret." To be clear, I don't think Singer crossed a line here – he might even be the example of how to speak of vile deeds in a restrained manner since he kept the details sparse. But I still didn't like the beginning, though the legal twists and turns that followed were intriguing indeed.  – Jon Dykstra SEPTEMBER 12 In 1984, George Orwell envisioned a world in which "every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered." This process has been unfolding before our eyes, and the evolution (or devolution) of the academic discipline of history over the past forty years has been rapid, and drastic, exemplifying the rewriting of books and falsification of records that Orwell foretold. In The Killing of History: How Literary Critics and Social Theorists are Murdering Our Past, (1996, 372 pages) historian Keith Windschuttle explains the disastrous results that have resulted from the wholesale takeover of historical studies by literary criticism, social theory, and various postmodernist movements. Studying a number of historical events and their re-interpretation by contemporary historians, Windschuttle clearly shows how "truth" has been lost as efforts have been made to re-interpret and re-imagine the events and developments of history. Windschuttle focuses his attention on modern reinterpretations of the conquest of Mexico, the mutiny on the Bounty, the first arrival of Europeans in Hawaii, as well as on Australian history, which is the subject of several of his other works. Readers without a history background will likely find Windschuttle's discussions of academics like Tzvetan Todorov and Michel Foucault difficult to wrap their minds around; but as Windschuttle himself says, if you find this stuff hard to understand, you're not alone: "One of the reasons the humanities and social sciences have been taken over so quickly by the sophistry described in this book is because too few of those who might have been expected to resist the putsch understood what its instigators were saying." So although the appeal of this book would probably be limited to those who have studied history in post-secondary settings, I highly recommend Windschuttle's work as a trenchant critique of the current state of historical study. The importance of this subject goes far beyond the halls of academia, as the postmodernist reinterpretations of history have had a serious influence on political decision-making, especially in the area of aboriginal studies and the world of Identity Politics. Windschuttle is a rare bird in the academic world, a scholar who is willing to challenge the "consensus," despite the costs associated with non-conformity. The Killing of History is an important work, and Windschuttle offers a valuable critique of modern historiography that deserves to be heard. – Jim Witteveen SEPTEMBER 9 On occasion, I have described myself as a "libertarian Christian," meaning by it that I was for a much much smaller government. How small? Don't know, but we could cut for a long long time before we'd run the risk of going too far. But libertarians can often be moral libertines seeing little to no role for the government in restricting prostitution, pornography, drugs, and even abortion. That's what prevents me from embracing the term. Still, I was curious to read Faith Seeking Freedom: Libertarian Christian Answers to Tough Questions (2020, 142 pages). It's an FAQ-style book by a group of writers who are not at all reluctant about describing themselves as Christian libertarians. The work's strength is in the unique ideas being expressed. Have you ever considered whether, in this Internet Age, the government should be funding libraries (and using your tax dollars to buy all sorts of inappropriate children's material)? Where else would you get hit with a question like that? The book's weakness comes in the divide the writers make between God's law as revealed in the Bible (his special revelation), and natural law which is the portion of God's law that's evident even to people who have never read the Bible (God's general revelation). On the issue of abortion, they basically elevate natural law to a position on par with or even above biblical law. The result is that they take an issue that is clear in the Bible – don't kill image-bearers of God – and waffle on it because, based on natural law alone, there might seem more room for arguing either position. They are choosing their libertarian values over their Christian ones here, and it's wrong. That's why, even as I remain a small government proponent, reading Faith Seeking Freedom has made me more hesitant about labeling myself a "Christian libertarian." – Jon Dykstra SEPTEMBER 5 Over the last ten years hyperinflation has wiped out the Venezuelan currency, reducing it to 1/40 billionth of what it once was, and for years now I've been wondering, aren't we in danger of heading in the same direction? Isn't it just a matter of math that if our governments keep printing more money, that money will be worth less – if they double it, shouldn't each bill end up being worth half as much? And if that's so, what with Western governments' stimulus handouts, quantitative easing, and COVID emergency spending, why haven't we become Venezuela already? That's the lead question that Pastor Douglas Wilson asks financial manager David Bahnsen in Mis-inflation: the truth about inflation, pricing, and the creation of wealth (2022, 140 pages). The book is a series of back-and-forth emails, with Wilson the interviewer, and Bahnsen (son of Reformed presuppositional apologist Greg Bahnsen), giving his best replies. The short answer is, that we probably don't need to worry about Venezuelan-type hyperinflation (and, consequently, don't need to start buying gold), but stagnating like Japan is a real danger. More important still was a connection made between economic worries and the Parable of the Talents. The unfaithful servant fearfully buried his talent, but we are called, even in economic downturns, to take what God has given us and seek a return on it to His glory. Now, if economics is not your interest, this will be a tough read - it took me about three chapters to begin to understand what Bahnsen was explaining (though Wilson's questions did help unpack Bahnsen's answers). However, if you are interested, this has some helpful answers that don't seem readily available anywhere else, which makes it worth the effort! – Jon Dykstra SEPTEMBER 3 Matt Walsh's recent documentary, What is a Woman? was released earlier this year to coincide with Pride Month, and it is not surprising that it met with mixed reviews. On the one hand, Walsh was accused of being a hateful transphobe, while on the other hand his documentary was praised as revealing the incoherence of the "trans" movement and its inherent dangers. Those who are familiar with Walsh know that he has a rather acerbic style, and that he pulls no punches when it comes to questions of culture and morality. While that style may rub some people the wrong way, I believe that it suits this subject perfectly, because it reveals the absolute absurdity of this cultural phenomenon. His book What is a Woman? (2022, 253 pages) is basically a recapitulation of the documentary of the same title. Walsh sets out to answer what he refers to as "the question of a generation" - a question that many seem to be unable to answer. His journey takes him to various "experts" on the subject, medical and psychological professionals, as well as a transsexual who regrets her sex change surgery. Walsh also goes into some detail about the history of the transgender movement, revealing the often sordid history behind the ideology and its promotion, and details the forces that are behind the spread of transgenderism today. In the end, the simplicity of the question (and its correct answer) is revealed through an account of Walsh's discussion of the issue with a group of Massai people in Kenya, whose response to Walsh's titular question reveals that it's not so hard to answer after all. What is a Woman? is a well-written and engrossing book, an informative and interesting read. It does include some foul language (albeit lightly censored with the use of asterisks), mostly in direct citations of Walsh's interviewees. With that proviso in mind, I do recommend this book as a revealing look at the true nature of the transgender movement, which reflects a worldview that cannot maintain itself, because it rejects the wisdom and truth of God himself. – Jim Witteveen SEPTEMBER 2 If your concern over the state of our society has been growing in recent years, you probably have a list of culprits in mind when you consider who is actually responsible for the negative developments that have seemed to overtake us so rapidly. Regardless of the kind of problem we're considering, one question always seems to be close at hand: Who is to blame? Generally, our response is this: "Someone else." This has been true since the fall into sin, when the blame game was first played. But as the subtitle of David L. Bahnsen's Crisis of Responsibility: Our Cultural Addiction to Blame and How You Can Cure It (2019, 170 pages) says, our culture is addicted to insisting that everything negative is someone else's fault, and we as individuals cannot be held responsible in any way. It is this addiction to blame that Bahnsen takes on in this interesting and challenging book. Bahnsen, who is the son of the well-known Reformed apologist and theologian Greg Bahnsen, is a Christian financial manager who has become a respected figure in the world of finance and investment. While this book largely focuses attention on political and financial matters, its thesis is broadly applicable to all of life. Bahnsen leads the reader to consider his own responsibilities, and to examine the areas in his own life that need to change, and reminds us that we must take responsibility for our own actions and the results that those actions have. While not denying that "the usual suspects" (big government, big business, the media, and the educational system) have all played an important role in leading us to where we are today – socially, politically, economically, and culturally – Bahnsen emphasizes that "what we need now is to end our addiction to blame and accept the responsibility that comes from being part of a society governed of, by, and for we, the people." I believe that Bahnsen shows a tendency toward under-emphasizing the deliberate work that has been done to undermine our culture by ideologues in the mass media, the political sphere, and the educational establishment. But at the same time, this book offers a healthy corrective to those who are tempted to neglect their own responsibilities and cast the blame on one of the various institutions that he refers to as "the bogeymen." It's an important message that needs to be internalized by every generation of God's people, and for this reason Bahnsen's book is a worthwhile read. – Jim Witteveen SEPTEMBER 1 I grew up reading and re-reading the "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I loved those books - both the stories themselves and the iconic illustrations by Garth Williams, which made the story come alive for me. By the time I finished reading the series of books, the Little House on the Prairie television series had already been running for several seasons, and it became "must-watch" TV in our home. I knew that the TV series took liberties with the content of the books, but the overall focus of the story remained the same – one family's experience of making a life for itself on the American frontier. Fast-forward a few decades. The naivete of childhood long past, I was aware that the "Little House" books could not be an exact account of what had actually occurred in the lives of the Ingalls family and young Almanzo Wilder in 19th Century America. So it wasn't a shock for me to learn in Christine Woodside's Libertarians on the Prairie: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and the Making of the Little House Books (2016, 259 pages) that the driving force behind the "Little House" books was actually Rose Wilder Lane, Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter. A successful author herself, Rose Wilder Lane took her mother's writing (which itself took some liberties with the actual events upon which they were based), rewrote the manuscripts, polishing them up and shaping them into the best-selling series of books that they became. What is particularly interesting, however, is the way in which the political convictions, both of mother Laura and daughter Rose, shaped the stories that they told. Rose Wilder Lane is known as one of the mothers of American Libertarianism, and her book The Discovery of Freedom (first published in 1943) is still considered a must-read in libertarian circles. It was Laura and Rose's emphasis on personal freedom, personal responsibility, and self-reliance that shaped the message of the Little House books, as well as the events in the Ingalls family history that they chose to include, as well as exclude. Libertarians on the Prairie is a well-written account of the writing of the Little House books, an honest yet sympathetic look at the lives of the Wilder family and the books that made them famous. The author's original research into the lives of Laura, Almanzo, and Rose is presented in a readable and engrossing way, and the result is an enjoyable book that captured my interest and held it from beginning to end. Libertarians on the Prairie, beyond being an interesting read, also reveals how an author's worldview shapes his or her work, and how effectively good authors can influence the thinking of their readers. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of the Little House books, or for anyone who enjoys history and biography.  – Jim Witteveen AUGUST 27 You don't want to get between a mama bear and her cubs - every hiker knows that! A mother bear will do whatever is necessary to protect her young when she believes that they are in danger. And the authors of this book (whose blog and podcast can be accessed at MamaBearApologetics.com) understand that their role as Christian mothers is to protect their children from spiritual harm, just as the mama bear protects her cubs. Their goal is to prepare mothers to "learn how to raise kids who think critically, love biblically, and stand firm against the cultural tide." In Mama Bear Apologetics (2019, 287 pages), they address the issues of self-helpism, naturalism, skepticism, postmodernism, moral relativism, emotionalism, pluralism, the "new spirituality," Marxism, feminism, and progressive Christianity, covering almost all of the bases when it comes to the numerous "ism's" that seek to lead our children astray. Each chapter concludes with helpful advice on how to use the chapter's content with children and young people through discussions, discipleship, and prayer, as well as a list of discussion questions that are well-formulated to contribute to an engaging and useful group study of the material. On a whole I found that the book addresses the ideological challenges that confront our young people in a way that is helpful and encouraging. At times I found myself wishing that the authors were a bit less gentle and a little more "mama bear-ish," but the end result of their work is a book that will certainly serve to equip mothers (and fathers!) to understand the spirit of the age, and apply that understanding to their God-given task of leading their children along the way of truth. The enemy uses many means to get at our children, and we need to recognize those means, and how they are being used, in order to withstand them ourselves, and prepare our children to do the same. Mama Bear Apologetics will certainly help parents to do just that! – Jim Witteveen AUGUST 26 I enjoyed making my way bit-by-bit through Darwin on Trial by law professor Phillip E. Johnson (the 2010 20th anniversary edition, 247 pages). I’ve followed the evolution/creation debate since my undergraduate years with interest and have always felt that the evolutionary position rests on many unproven assumptions. This book proves that hunch correct. Johnson is no amateur when it comes to testing evidence to see if it holds up to scrutiny. He taught law and evidence at a prestigious American law school for decades and approaches the claims of Darwinism with courtroom rigor. He exposes huge gaps in logic or evidence when it comes to things like the irreducible complexity of the eyeball or other organs or organisms (an irreducibly complex organism can’t evolve – all of the working parts need to be there, at the same time, for it to work). He exposes the gaping hole in the fossil record for any transitional organisms (Darwin himself predicted there would be millions of such organisms, but today there are as yet none found) and he highlights over and over again the circular logic and tautologies of leading evolutionary advocates which would never hold up as evidence in court. Though the book is at times a bit technical when discussing some scientific concepts, it’s still a highly recommended read, especially for any Christian science students and teachers. – André Schutten AUGUST 25 Over the last couple weeks I read Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars (1989, 137 pages) to my eight-year-old son. Lowry’s short novel is set in Denmark during World War II. It tells of two friends, Annemarie and Ellen, aged 10, who need to deal with the ravages of war and, particularly, the cruelty of the Nazi occupiers towards Jewish Danes. Ellen is Jewish. The narrative is told from Annemarie’s perspective, and is built around trying to protect her friend from the soldiers looking for her. Two of the themes in the book provide great fodder for discussion with an 8 to 12 year-old: truth-telling versus preservation of life is a tension throughout the book (Annemarie must lie to a German officer to protect her friend, for example), and another theme is simply the difficulty of living during war. The name of the book comes from Psalm 147:4 (which is referenced in the book) and also ties to the Star of David, worn by Ellen at first, and then hidden from the Nazis, and then worn by Annemarie in anticipation of Ellen’s safe return. While this book does not have nearly as many explicit Christian or biblical references as Dutch children’s stories set in World War II might have (see Piet Prins books, for example), the story is still highly recommended for Christian children aged eight and higher. – André Schutten AUGUST 24 In his Christian fantasy novels The Seraph’s Path (2019, 476 pages) and The Seraph’s Calling (2020, 729 pages) Neil Dykstra has shaped a world with not only exotic creatures and nations to discover, but layer upon layer of legend and history shaping the events. There’s quite the cast of characters, but this is mostly the story of Dyrk, a young horse trainer who can’t please his family, so he sets out to make his own fortune. Through courage and luck he wins a combat competition – the last man standing – and gains entrance into the king's military college. But his career gets stolen from him when he's kicked out of the school without explanation. To Dyrk it seems he's at the whim of the fates. Or is it the Seraphs? In this world the god Arren is served by seven Seraphs, and each night Dyrk sends up his prayers via these Seraphs because, so he has been told, Arren is too holy for common man to approach directly. If that strikes you as Roman Catholic, I think you're on to something. The author is Reformed (and despite sharing a last name, not related to me) and this sort of prayer life is one of the many reasons that Dyrk feels distant from his Maker. And, as noted, the other reason Dyrk feels abandoned is that for every good thing he experiences, bad soon follows. As with all good fantasy fiction, the author is using his made-up world to teach us a little something about our own – Dyrk is wrestling with why bad things happen to good people. The first answer he gets to this question is along the lines of, you're not so good as you think: Dyrk gets caught up in sexual temptation (this event isn't lurid, but is sad and realistic enough that pre-teen readers might find it distressing). The second answer he gets is of the sort that Job was given – Dyrk finds out that his Maker doesn't have to answer to him. I suspect that, along with Dyrk himself, some readers might not find that as complete an answer as they'd like. The Bible does offers another, much more satisfying, answer to this question in the life and death of Jesus Christ. In Christ we learn, not simply that God is God and we are not (the Job answer) but that God loves us, and so much so that He gave His one and only Son to die for us. Job and. Jesus. Both answers are true, but the second far more complete... even as we all can't help but wonder still, when we're faced with suffering. So why didn't the "Jesus answer" show up in the book? It's because, with one notable exception, Christian fantasy can only offer the "Job answer." Why? Because as connected as any Christian author's fantasy world will be to the real world, it can only offer, by necessity, a reflection of God as he revealed Himself in the Old Testament. C.S. Lewis is the exception, offering up the New Testament "Jesus answer" by having Aslan the Son of the Emperor-Over-the-Sea show his love by dying in Edmund's place. But if another Christian author were to now try to give their own version of this answer, they'd be copying Lewis copying the Bible, and it couldn't help but be horrible. And that's why we get only the Job answer here. So who would like this book? Well, if you never made it through The Lord of the Rings, then this might be too intense a read for you. But if you're looking for a book you'll ponder as you read, and for weeks after, you'll love it. – Jon Dykstra AUGUST 23 A classic American novel, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850, 178 pages) was an interesting read, if only to make myself familiar with the classic and the many cultural references to it. The story is set in a Puritan Massachusetts village in the 1600s. The young Hester Prynne, after giving birth to her daughter Pearl out of wedlock, is accused of adultery and made to wear a scarlet letter “A” on her front for the rest of her days as punishment for her sin. The book is obviously a critique of the (exaggerated) harshness of Puritan moral codes, but more than that, an exploration of public shame and guilt. In fact, Hawthorne’s characters in this book are very complex, and his wrestling with these themes of evil, sin, shame, guilt, and forgiveness or redemption are artfully done. While Hawthorne’s theological position is unclear, his writing shouldn’t be dismissed. I also appreciated that there are no salacious details despite the novel being premised on adultery (Hollywood – it can be done!). Recommended. – André Schutten AUGUST 22 Why Lord? That's the question 12-year-old Julian van Popta, his parents, and his siblings had to contend with when this young man was diagnosed with leukemia. Only When It's Dark Can We See the Stars: a father's journal as his son battles cancer (2022, 194 pages) is an account of the four years that followed, as written by his father, Pastor John van Popta. The chapters are made up of the regular updates Rev. van Popta sent out to friends and family during the rounds of Julian's treatment. What's striking, and what makes this such a valuable read, is the trust the author demonstrates in God, even as the van Poptas struggled with why God would bring such sickness. As the author shares, it is one thing to face cancer as a pastor comforting parishioners, and another thing to do so as a parent seeing their child too weak even to eat. The question Why Lord? is made all the more urgent when, during Julian's repeated hospital stays, they meet other children also battling cancer, and the van Poptas share in these families' hopes and their losses – Julian does eventually recover, but many others do not. While this is a deeply personal account, the struggle to trust God in the face of death is one that we'll all have to face, and this then is an example of how to struggle well. It is a father writing, but there's no missing this is also a pastor who wants to feed the sheep with what he knows we need: to understand that my only comfort is that I am not my own but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. That truth, powerfully delivered, makes this not simply a good book, but an important one. – Jon Dykstra AUGUST 21 It took me all summer, and an encouragement from a friend to see it through, but I finally took up and finished The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution by Carl Truman (2020, 432 pages). The genesis of the book was Prof. Truman’s desire to answer the question of how our entire culture came to accept the statement, “I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body” as true or reasonable. It's a dense read, especially in the first quarter, where Truman explains some important cultural theory from three modern philosophers. However, the concepts like “political man, religious man, psychological man” and “the social imaginary” explained in this first part are helpful to understand our cultural moment. In part 2, Truman covers the philosophical and cultural impact of thinkers like Jean Jacque Rousseau, the three English poets Shelly, Blake, and Wordsworth, and the philosophers Marx, Nietzsche, and Darwin. All of these thinkers shifted the understanding of who man is inward, Rousseau particularly with his ideas of the “authentic self”, and all attempted in their own way to tear down various institutions like the family and the church as oppressive. In part 3, Truman explains the impact of Freud’s thinking on our culture: Freud asserts that to be human is to be a sexual creature from birth. Marcuse and others combined these ideas with the themes of oppression from Marx and Nietzsche, producing a sexual revolution that saw moral (sexual) codes as not merely outdated but oppressive to the authentic self. Truman’s book was enlightening for me, stitching together various parts of history, philosophy, and cultural analysis to make a compelling case for how we got to where we are: the dominance of the LGBTQ+ alliance and the triumph of transgender politics. He does so while remaining quite objective throughout (though his postscript adds the necessary pastoral perspective and an encouragement for the church as she moves forward in this new reality). I recommend this book particularly for pastors and teachers to make sense of the times. Tip: while reading, when you come across a name of a person or a term that Truman explains, write it out with a brief description at the back of the book. One improvement to the book would be a glossary of characters and terms. Truman has since published a simplified version of the book covering the same material in just under half the number of pages, called Strange New World (2022). – André Schutten AUGUST 20 After finishing my second time through Rebekah Merkle's Eve in Exile, and the restoration of femininity (2016, 205 pages) my copy might now have more sections highlighted than clear. I'll have to give it a longer write-up another time because there's just too much gold to unpack in a short review. The bare bones? Eve in Exile is a feminism takedown with its idea that men and women are identical, and women should be evaluated by how well they match up against the men. It is also an exploration of what it means for a woman to be both her husband's equal and his helpmeet. And it corrects the notion that freedom is found only outside the home, and it does so, not with the 1950s caricature of womanhood, but with the Proverbs 31 sort. Finally, it is a celebration of childraising. As Merkle writes: "...a woman raising her children is not only shaping the next generation, she is also shaping little humans who are going to live forever. The souls she gave birth to are immortal. Immortal. And somehow, our culture looks at a woman who treats that as if it might be an important task and says, 'It's a shame she's wasting herself. She could be doing something important – like filing paperwork for insurance claims." Merkle pairs wit with insight in a book that's so encouraging you'll want to buy extra copies to hand out. There's also a documentary version now, and while I haven't seen it, I've heard good things - you can find out more at EveInExile.com. – Jon Dykstra AUGUST 15 The first half of Steven W. Mosher's Politically Incorrect Guide to Pandemics (2022, 343 pages) is an overview of pandemics of the past – the Black Death, bubonic plague, the Spanish Flu, the Swine Flu, etc. – and the various responses to them. This history was new to me: Mosher outlines how the Roman Empire's demise was likely due to a devastating smallpox outbreak, and how the feudal system ended when the Black Death killed off so many serfs the remaining men and women gained some leverage. He shares how the Church's response to the outbreaks – believers risking death to help the sick even as doctors were fleeing – was a powerful witness to Christians' security in God. Moving forward in history, Mosher recounts how the Japanese weaponized the bubonic plague in World War II, killing tens of thousands by dropping plague-contaminated fleas and food over China. The chapter on "The Great Swine-Flu Hoax of 1976" had me consulting the Internet to see if it was actually true 45 million Americans had been vaccinated for a flu that only infected 4 people. Might Mosher's strong and obvious bias – he opposed the COVID lockdowns and mask mandates – have led him to make an utterly ridiculous claim here? But it turns out, it did happen. Some reports put it at 200 soldiers initially coming down with the flu, but others note that only 2 of these were found to have this unique new strain. Whatever the exact number, a vaccine rollout happened without an outbreak to prompt it. The second half of the book is devoted just to COVID-19, and particularly criticisms of governmental responses. Though this is recent history, it was still a shock to recall "two weeks to flatten the curve," encouragements to wear two masks, the characterization of ivermectin as "horse-dewormer," and people being prevented from worshipping even in their cars. In this second half Mosher also defends his premise that "The China Virus turned out to be the most effective weapon in history." While he provides enough evidence to show it is a reasonable premise – the Chinese have an interest in biological weapons, the Wuhan lab was involved in coronavirus research, and China lied about the virus' impact which allowed it to more easily spread to the rest of the world – I don't know that he would convince anyone not already sympathetic. – Jon Dykstra AUGUST 12 At the midpoint of my reading challenge, I read the best book on my list yet, The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom (1971, 272 pages). Though a type of autobiography, the book is nevertheless a page-turner. It tells the true story of a Dutch 50-year-old spinster, her sister Betsy, and her 80-year-old clockmaker father and how they came to hide several Jews from the Nazis in their home during World War II, and to coordinate the escape of dozens and dozens of others. Eventually their work is discovered, though the Jews they are hiding are not. Corrie and her sister and father are arrested and interned in a concentration camp, where both Corrie’s father and sister Betsy eventually die. What moved me most profoundly, and multiple times throughout the book, was the total and complete faith of these three in the sovereign goodness of God despite the horrific evil all around them, and also their humble service to Him by loving their Jewish neighbors, their commitment to persevere in faith and to love even their enemies, and how God sustained them through his Word and Spirit (and not a few miracles!). A recurring theme that I found particularly important is the centrality of the reading of the Bible in their lives before the Nazi occupation. While today we might dismiss the habitual readings as pietistic or legalistic, it was their familiarity with the Word of God that sustained them through their suffering and trials. The Hiding Place put my life into perspective. And if you or someone you know thinks life is too hard, that God is not being fair to you, that you are more a victim than anything else, read this book! Let Corrie tell you how she could count it all joy to suffer for the sake of the gospel. To rejoice and give thanks for a flea-infested hut in a concentration camp, to love and forgive a Nazi officer, or to share incredibly scarce food and vitamins with others, as Corrie and her sister do over and over again, is a reminder of just how radical the call to love your neighbor as yourself is, and how rewarding it can be. – André Schutten AUGUST 8 While unsuccessfully trying to track down an audio version of The Screwtape Letters read by John Cleese (sadly only available on audiotape) I came across Cleese's Creativity: a short and cheerful guide (2020, 112 pages). It was a small book, but had some really useful tips and encouragements worth sharing. Two main differences between creative architects and their less creative contemporaries were 1) creative sorts still knew how to play with, and consequently enjoy, their work for the activity it is, rather than trying simply to get 'er done, and 2) creative sorts "always deferred their decisions for as long as they were allowed" which left them more time to use any great, but late, ideas that might come up. Cleese also encourages his readers to make full use of their unconscious brain's impressive problem-solving abilities by putting in the time when you are awake, but then feeling free to sleep and see what might pop to mind in the morning. There's no big huge idea that will revolutionize your creativity, but there is some good small thoughts, and, as the subtitle says, they are cheerfully presented. – Jon Dykstra AUGUST 1 In Gladiators Arising: Blood-Bought vs. Blood Sport (2022, 138 pages) Trent Herbert begins with a look at how Christians opposed the Roman gladiator games. Whether it was Christians or slaves being forced to fight, or even willing combatants, Christians were against it, eventually helping put an end to these games because of the abuse done to these Image-bearers of God. With that point made, Hebert then draws parallels to modern-day Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), boxing, and even football. This extensively footnoted, yet still slim volume, has got lots of stats and stories about the damage these sports do. One example: "American footballers sustain a blow to the head equivalent to a severe car crash in every game." My one critique would be Herbert's inclusion of his belief that the growing popularity of MMA has some End Times implications. Other than that, no space is wasted – this is a good quick read that forcefully argues what Herbert calls a "pro-life case" that "Christians should... not be supportive of any sports that intentionally attack the image of God."  – Jon Dykstra JULY 31 This summer I tackled a modern classic Christian book that has been highly recommended to me by a few Christian friends over the years. And Knowing God, by J.I. Packer (1973, 286 pages), was, in my opinion, worthy of its high accolades. The book is theologically rich, and intellectually engaging. But if that’s all you walk away with, you’ve completely missed the point. Packer is a pastor first and he wants his Christian readers to not just know about God, but to truly know Him. And the best way to know God is to know his Word which reveals God’s character. Chapters in the book are topical reflecting their origin (it was originally a series of articles for a Christian magazine), but they build on each other, growing in the Christian a love and reverence for our awesome, triune God. I found the book’s culmination particularly beautiful. Packer makes the case for why adoption is the best paradigm or illustration for understanding God’s love for us and our response to Him (his explanation on this point also gave me a fresh and compelling way of understanding the relationship between law and grace), and his concluding chapter on the book of Romans is absolutely magnificent: it would make a riveting hour-long sermon to introduce a series on the book. I highly recommend Knowing God, and plan to re-read it within a year or two. – André Schutten 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 21 I love love loved Jonathan Rogers' Wilderking Trilogy, a children's fantasy series that echoes the story of David and Saul, though without ever mentioning it, and is set in a kingdom made up of sheep farmers, nobles, castles, and swamps populated by "feechie" creatures that might be men or might just be myth. It was great fun, and when I was done reading it to my daughters, we all wanted more so we were happy to learn that Rogers has also written a stand-alone set in this same universe called The Charlatan's Boy (2010, 305 pages). But as much as I enjoyed the story, my girls did not. One reviewer described it as "C.S. Lewis and Mark Twain rolled into one" and while my girls love Lewis, they aren't about Tom Sawyer-type hijinks. Twain is simply too nasty for their liking. I stopped reading it to them, but kept on myself and really quite liked it. Floyd is the title charlatan, Grady his boy, and the two of them travel from village to village trying to trick folks into believing that a mudded-up Grady is one of the fearsome and fabled feechies. But when time passes and villagers stop believing in feechies – it's been so long since anyone's seen one out in the wild – they stop paying to see feechie acts. So it's up to Floyd and Grady to make them believe once more. If this was just a tricky Twain story, I don't know that I would have liked it either, but it wraps up with a Lewis-esque moral to the story that is equal parts justice and mercy. This, then, isn't a kid's tale like Wilderking, but something intended for a slightly older crowd. For teens and up, so long as Lewis/Twain is an intriguing combo to you, you'll really enjoy it. – Jon Dykstra JULY 20 Consulting a book written by a minister of the United Church of Canada on the subject of "homosexuality and the church" may seem to be an odd choice to make. Today, the website of the United Church of Canada "affirms the value and dignity of all people and rejects any therapy or practice that labels LGBTQIA+ and Two-Spirit people as abnormal, broken, or otherwise not whole individuals" and "strongly condemns the practice of conversion therapy or any efforts that attempt to change a person’s sexual or gender identity through treatment that is hostile to a person’s identity, unethical, spiritually and psychologically damaging, and not supported by evidence." But in 1989, the UCC was only taking its first steps down the path of officially affirming sexual behavior and lifestyles that had been universally rejected by the Christian church throughout history. There were still voices within the United Church like that of Rev. Donald L. Faris, who argued strongly against allowing the "Trojan Horse" of homosexual ideology to enter into the church. Sadly, some 33 years later, such voices are no longer heard. For this reason alone, Faris's Trojan Horse: The Homosexual Ideology and the Christian Church (1989, 80 pages) is a little book that is well worth reading, if only as a cautionary tale. It serves as a warning about the speed at which serious deviations from the teaching of Scripture can overtake a denomination when its Biblical foundations are destroyed and the prevailing ideology of the surrounding culture is allowed to take the place of God's Word. However, this is not the only reason why I would recommend this book. Faris lays out solid Biblical, psychological, and factual arguments against the church's acceptance of homosexuality in the name of "social justice," "acceptance," and a skewed definition of "love." He presciently argues that this ideology is like a Trojan Horse, which, if approved, would bring a wider sexual ideology, "grounded in the self-regarding relativistic individualism which is the ideology of the liberal middle class in North America," into the church. Over the three decades that have passed since this book was published, his insight into the inevitable results of this movement have been proven true. What's more, the last chapter of the book outlines ways of helping homosexuals leave the lifestyle – ways that have now been made illegal in Canada. In the end, while Donald Faris's call to faithful obedience to God and his Word was not heeded by his own denomination, his work remains a valuable and useful resource for 21st Century Christians seeking to defend the truth in their own ecclesiastical and cultural contexts.  – Jim Witteveen JULY 14 I've been reading a three-book series, Matthew Christian Harding's The Peleg Chronicles, as a bedtime read with my daughters for months now, and we've all really enjoyed it. It's quirky Christian fiction, with a fantasy feel (though there isn't any magic) set in biblical times. I'm not normally wild about biblical fiction because I don't want to get confused between what a novelist presents and what the Bible actually says. But Harding has picked a time – the days of Peleg (Gen. 10:25) after the Tower of Babel and before Abraham – when the Bible doesn't say much, and that eliminates any chances of confusion. He depicts a post-Flood world in which the followers of Noah's God are few, dragons exist but are rare too, and a sect of Dragon Priests is gaining power. In the first, Foundlings (256 pages, 2009), we're introduced to Lord McDougal a hero who is as graceful and deadly in battle as he is awkward around ladies. This is just such a fun flaw, but it's more than just a foundation for comic gold - McDougal's social bungling might be what keeps this mightiest-of-all-warriors a humble servant of all in need. Dimwitted giants and a cowardly-lion type warrior add to the comedy. But what makes this a book worth reading is the Christian depth. I was so struck by how deep the dialogue could get – when the going gets tough, different characters struggle with doubt, and the answers offered by the followers of "Noah's God" aren't pat or simple. It's that depth that had me reading chunks to my wife; this a teen series that could also encourage adults. That said, I'll also note it could have done with one key edit: when characters praise God, or speak a prophetic word, they do it in King James language. Fine for an older guy like me, but I had to "translate" as I read it to my kids. I also wish that cover photos were more attractive because we do still judge a book by its cover. So this will be best suited for teens who have already shown an ability to tackle bigger books that require an attention span. For them, I'd give two thumbs up to Foundlings and its two sequels, Paladins (2010, 272 pages) and Loresmen (2014, 278 pages). And to offer up a taste, the author has made the first book available for free as an ebook on Amazon.com. (The author also has a fantastic picture book, only available as an e-book, called Ebenezer's Bedtime Adventure, which my kids have repeatedly begged me to read.) – Jon Dykstra JULY 10 Maria Keffler's Desist, Detrans & Detox: Getting Your Child Out of the Gender Cult (2021, 233 pages) is a book that would seem to have a very limited audience - parents of children who have been deceived into believing that the "sex they were assigned at birth" does not align with who they really are. Sadly, the number of such children has grown exponentially in recent years, which means that books like this one have become all the more necessary. Keffler is a co-founder of Partners for Ethical Care, which describes itself as a "watchdog group which works to safeguard parents' rights and children's safety in public education." Desist, Detrans & Detox is a manual for parents of children who have been tempted to transition to the opposite sex, or who have actually gone through with such a transition. The book provides much helpful information on what Keffler refers to as the "gender cult," including some history, and details of practices and techniques that are being used by those who are promoting the agenda of what another author refers to as the "gender industrial complex." Keffler, a teacher with a background in educational psychology, does write from a Christian point of view. So while I would take issue with some of her terminology (which at times echoes the jargon of secular psychology) and with some of the means that she recommends to deal with struggling children, on the whole this book offers good counsel to parents who may be unsure about what steps they should take and how they should respond in the midst of a very difficult and challenging experience. I would recommend this book to Christian parents of children who have been seduced by the gender cult, and to others who are interested in learning more about the dangers and destructiveness of this movement and how to challenge it.  – Jim Witteveen JULY 7 Every so often I'll pick up a book on writing and whenever I do, without fail, I always benefit. This time, to put that trend to the test, I decided to read Gail Carson Levine's Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly (2006, 168 pages). The author writes fiction for teens, with most of it being of the fractured fairytale or fantasy type. So...not really what I do. And despite that – or maybe because of it – I once again learned a lot of useful nuggets. The one that'll most stick with me is Levine's encouragement to not simply "show rather than tell" (that's a common bit of writing advice) but to recognize that telling has its place too. Showing draws readers in, but takes time and space to do it, so the strength of telling is that it can be a lot quicker and shorter than showing. There is then a time to show and a time to tell. – 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 policymakers 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...

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Come, sweet death, Come blessed rest!  

Last week, while working in the backyard, I chanced to speak with one of our neighbors. There is only a wire fence which separates our properties and talking across it makes for good contact. "Bob," our neighbor, was weeding his garden on his hands and knees.  Quite a feat actually because he is in his middle eighties. When I strolled over, he hoisted himself upright and we chatted about the weather, about the weeds and about our children. "I've got to do something today," he inserted into the conversation, "that I've been putting off for a long time." "What's that, Bob?" I asked. "I've got to bury my wife," he answered. I was floored for a moment. My husband and I knew that his wife had died some years ago before we had moved into the neighborhood. "Bury your wife?" I repeated. "Yes, and last week I dreamed that she told me: 'Bob, it's about time.'" I really had no words and stared at him. "We're going to the cemetery this afternoon to bury her ashes," he clarified. "Oh." It was all I could come up with. "My daughter's coming along. My wife's always wanted to be buried in the local cemetery here, the one by the Mennonite church." We stood in silence for a moment before he continued. "I contacted the gal over at the church who's in charge of the cemetery and she said it was fine." "That's good." It was a neutral comment. "Yes, but there was one problem. My wife, you see, was born Catholic and the priest said that the burial ground had to be consecrated. But when I mentioned that to the gal over at the Mennonite church, she said: 'Bob, ground's ground', and that's all there is to it." "She was right," I agreed. "Yes, I thought so too. So this afternoon's the time." "You must miss your wife a lot." "Every day," Bob responded. "You know," I said, and at this point my husband had also walked up to the fence, "if your wife believed in the Lord Jesus and that He forgave all her sins, then the moment she died she was with Him." "She did," he said. "And if you believe that too, Bob," I tacked on, "then you will someday see the Lord Jesus and your wife as well." "I know," he said. My husband then asked Bob if he ever read the Bible. "It's a difficult book to read," he responded, "and so many people interpret different parts of it in different ways. How are you to know what's right and what is meant?" "It's true," my husband allowed, "and some interpretations are wrong. But basically if you read the Bible, Bob, you will understand most of what you read and it will help you in living." "There are so many things," Bob came back, "and where do you start?" "By talking to your neighbors," I said. And we left it at that, until next time. And Bob went to bury the ashes of his wife. ***** Bach, (1685-1750), used the lyrics of an unknown poet to compose the music to one of his wonderful, melodious works. The words ask death to come quickly and to bear the singer to heaven to see the face of his Savior. It is a moving song with an emotional text. If you can sing it, how blessed indeed you are! Come, sweet death, come, blessed rest! Come lead me to peace because I am weary of the world, O come! I wait for you, come soon and lead me, close my eyes. Come, blessed rest! As Paul said in Philippians 1:21: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." ***** Just last week we received notice that a dear friend had died. Betty was in her eighties and I was asked to write a remembrance. Betty was a friend I loved dearly. Her middle name could have been "helpful" and she was full of faith. There would only be a small service at the funeral home and perhaps people would be there who had no knowledge of Jesus. This is what I wrote. Betty - a remembering and a looking forward to "Faith" Hebrews 11 tells us, "is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." It is a faithful friend who always points you towards things hoped for, and who tells you of her conviction of things not seen. Such a friend was Betty. She constantly pointed me to the protection of our heavenly Father. Betty and I shared thoughts and ideas for the last twenty years or so. Letters were often sent to her address and, much to my regret, I can't do that any longer. Not much of a letter writer herself, she would phone me and we would chat. It was great! She can't phone me any longer. And yet it is at this point that I recall Hebrews 11 and 12. Hebrews 11 is one of the most beautiful chapters of the Bible and one of the most encouraging. But Hebrews 12 follows hard on its heels and shines just as brightly if not more so. It begins with, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses... let us look to Jesus...." That is to say, since we have access to so many ordinary people who lived faithful lives before we did, we can never use the excuse that we were not told about Jesus. Betty lived before us; Betty was an ordinary housewife; Betty was gifted with remarkable and sturdy faith; and Betty is now part of the Hebrews 12 cloud of witnesses. She is now one of those who surrounds us and points us to look to Jesus. Betty ran her earthly race, a race that was often marked with difficulties and loneliness, with endurance. She unfailingly looked for and spoke of Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of her faith. She did so for the joy that was before her, the joy of going to heaven to see, not just her family, but her Savior, Jesus Christ. When we miss Betty, let us remember her Creator and Savior. For she was with Him in Paradise at the exact moment she drew her last breath. I'm thankful to God that I knew her and that I will see her again. Christine Farenhorst's most recent book might be her best yet! Read our review of "The New Has Come" here, and check out most any online retailer to order a copy. ...

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Saturday Selections - August 20, 2022

Trick shots from level 1 to 1oo School has been out for a while now - are the kids getting antsy with nothing to do? Here's something that may inspire a bit of fun! Indoctrinated by the Matrix "In itself, indoctrination is good; children have to learn the rules and virtues, and be molded gradually into adults who will be capable of living wise and good lives. But how are they indoctrinated, and into what? We used to assume that each generation would be a lot like the one before it. No longer. But why not?" Scientists are undermining our trust in science "A just-published exposé in the journal Science claims that a seminal study on the causes of Alzheimer’s disease may contain falsified data...." 4 guidelines for dating without regret Stop acting like you're married when you're not Make intentions known when you're dating - ie "I would like to take you on a date this weekend” vs. “Let’s hang out some time” Foreplay is not play Realize that you are not already committed Monkeypox: we can stop it but health authorities aren't shouting out how Even as authorities said COVID-19 necessitated church closures, they let BLM protests proceed. We'd be mystified as to the contradiction if God hadn't told us there are spiritual forces seeking to oppose His Church and champion chaos. More recently the Devil's fingerprints are evident in how monkeypox has been declared a "global health emergency" even as the obvious cure isn't being shared. It is getting attention because of the group afflicted (homosexuals), however the prevention (stop messing around!) is only being obscured because it involves taking at least a step toward God's standards for sex. Privacy: who needs it? We're getting tracked by giant social media companies, but, more importantly, by our governments too. But if we're not doing anything wrong, why should we care if they know what we're up to? Well, in a world where the norms are constantly changing, your politics and especially your biblical stances on sexuality could be used against you at a later date. The video below is a libertarian perspective but it offers thoughts worth Christians' consideration too. ...

Book Reviews, Teen non-fiction

Nero

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

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Noah’s Ark: Thinking outside the box

Documentary 35 minutes, 2008 Rating: 8/10 This is a fun and fast look at what Noah’s ark might really have looked like.The picture most of us have in our heads comes from classic paintings, which show an ungainly, rotund, oversized rowboat that simply doesn’t look seaworthy. Or we see in our mind’s eye those cute cartoon depictions we remember from our children’s story bible that had an ark so small the giraffes had to stick their necks out the top. No wonder then, that so many people – Christians included – are skeptical about the Bible’s account of Noah, his ark and the Flood. But that's not at all what the Bible described. As Tim Lovett shows (in both this documentary and the fantastic book that shares the same name), close examination of what the text says gives us dimensions that have more in common with a modern ocean-going oil supertanker than with the bathtub toy ark we played with as a kid. Lovett has also studied ancient shipping building practices and finds in them a hint as to how the bow and stern might have looked. He argues that ancient (post-Flood) boats probably copied these distinctive and stabilizing design features from the ark. While a lot of this is guesswork, these are educated, and more importantly, respectful guesses, and highlight what God has actually shared in His Word. Crisp computer animation, large-scale models and a liberal dose of good-natured humor make this a documentary that parents and teens will enjoy. You can see the trailer below, and find the film on various streaming platforms, and also watch it for free on Answers in Genesis's website here. ...

Book Reviews, Children’s fiction

Snow Treasure

by Marie McSwigan 1942 / 196 pages In 1940, shortly after the Germans invaded Norway, a Norwegian freighter arrived in the US city of Baltimore carrying $9 million worth of gold bullion. This cargo has been smuggled out of the country to keep it from the Nazis, and as a news account from the time noted, children on their sleds had been used to slip it past the invaders. Snow Treasure, published two years later, expands on those scant details to give young readers a story that should be understood as much more fiction than fact: 12-year-old Peter Lundstrom, and all the other children are made-up characters, as are all the events and details. But what's true about this tale, and the reason it is worth reading is the bravery of not just the children, but the parents too in putting their children at risk to keep this wealth out of the hands of men who would use it only for evil. It's this celebration of courage and conviction that's likely kept this continuously in print since it was first published 80 years ago! (It was awarded the Young Reader's Choice Award back in 1945 when winning it meant something.) There are no cautions to offer. While there is peril, no one dies or even gets shot at. Snow Treasure will be best enjoyed by children in Grades 2 and 3, and might be a quick fun read for those even a little older. Over the decades it has been published with all sorts of covers, both terrible and terrific, so be sure to get a good one....

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Hospitality hacks for folks who want to be, but keep finding excuses not to be, hospitable

As Christians, we know that hospitality is important, but if you've ever tried it, you also know that it can be really hard, and we can find so many reasons to put it off. When I moved out of my parents' house five years ago, I decided to try to invite everyone from my church over at least once in the space of a year. As a single person, I had to get creative as I set out on this endeavor. Here are some things I learned by doing and by observing. 1) Just do it Hosting people can be very intimidating. What will we talk about? What if they don't like the food I made? Just remember that God blesses all obedience and He has clearly commanded that we show hospitality (1 Peter 4:9). Even if at the end of the visit you feel that it went poorly, remind yourself that God is pleased with your obedience, and His pleasure is ultimately what we're after.  2) Think about inviting more than one family When you invite more than one family that means you can leave them to talk to each other while you prepare food/get things ready. This also takes the pressure off you to keep the conversation going because if you have more people together, naturally there will be more opinions and topics coming up. 3) When inviting strangers, have some prepared questions/topics to discuss If I don't know the people coming over, I try to have some getting-to-know-you-questions and interesting topics in the back of my mind so that if the conversation gets stale I can revive it. 4) Know how to cook something You don’t have to be a master chef to have people over - most people don't care what you feed them (though it is always wise to ask about allergies and if there are any foods they don't like). But it is good to put in some practice until you have few staple recipes up your sleeve so you can cook without getting stressed. It's also handy to have extra cookies in the freezer – cookies are a treat even unthawed – and ingredients for a meal that's quick to put together for when you haven't had time to prepare. 5) Take people up on their offers Often, when I invite people over, they ask if they can bring something. Say "yes." If you're making soup, one family could bring buns and another family could bring dessert. This helps cover the cost of feeding a lot of people and it makes people feel more comfortable when they've helped out. 6) Remember the kids Own toys and books for children. This doesn’t need to be costly if you keep an eye out at garage sales or visit a thrift store or two. And if you have children, hosting families with other children is a wonderful opportunity to teach them to look not only to their own interests but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). 7) Know it doesn't have to be perfect It's more important that you actually practice hospitality than that you're all put together. It's nice if your house is clean, but it's okay if it's not. We all have homes. We all know homes get messy. Some of the best visits have happened when I've left the dishes heaped on the counter, thrown together some macaroni, and we ate off plastic plates. Conclusion Finally, when it comes to being hospitable perhaps the most important thing of all is deciding that you will be. God doesn't call us just to host the people we like. We are to welcome strangers, our neighbors, and our church families. Maybe you're church is too big to have everyone over in a year. Could you do it in two years? Three years? At the very least you could try to talk to everyone in the lobby after church in the course of a year. Give it a try. Don't know your neighbors? Start by saying "hi" and learning their names. You could host a games night, invite them over for pizza, shovel their driveway, or plan a block party. The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon is a good resource on neighboring well. And remember, hospitality is how you get to know strangers. Look around you at church on Sunday morning, I'm sure there will be visitors you could talk to. If you invite them into your home that's fantastic, and if you simply talk to them at church it's still showing hospitality as you welcome them in your church setting. Through hospitality we tangibly show God's love to those around us. Prayerful consider how much you and your family can do this year. And then do it....

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Saturday Selections – August 13, 2022

Fantastic fireflies! (8 min) Most everyone would say fireflies are super cool, but we really have no idea. God has crafted a creature that has a near 100% efficiency in turning the energy they produce into light. Compare that to an incandescent bulb that might well be just 10% efficient. A A biblical case for limited government (15-min read) J.P. Moreland offers up his 7-point argument for why Christians should want, and so far as they are able should promote, limits on government. Pastor, what are your 30-year goals? This is directed at pastors, but relevant to us all. It's said "man makes plans, and God laughs" but that's not a discouragement to making plans, but to making arrogant plans – it's in line with what Jesus said about a fellow building his "farming empire" who gave no thought to how God could call him to account that very night (Luke 12:16-21). For God's people, prayerfully setting off in a deliberate direction is about trying to best use the talents God has given you (Matt. 25:14-30). On job satisfaction Some are blessed with many job opportunities, particularly early on in their lives, so if they don't like what they have, the possibility exists for seeking out something more enjoyable. But what if you're stuck in a job you don't like, and there aren't options for anything better? Tim Bayly offers some insights and encouragement... 5 guidelines for dating without regret Tim Challies weighs in with some helpful direction... China's social credit system (6 min) A refugee from China warns us of the oppressive government monitoring system he fled. What he describes happening there is not simply technologically possible here, but is becoming ideologically so, as more and more are demanding government manage ever-increasing portions of their lives. ...

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Here’s the problem with just closing your eyes during the sex scenes

Several years ago, Kate Beckinsale was conned into signing a movie contract that required nudity—something she didn’t want to do. With her acting career in jeopardy, she found herself browbeaten by the director. At long last, she gave in to intimidation and performed the nude scene, which made her feel, as she put it, “violated and horrible.” Afterwards, she secretly urinated in the director’s thermos in revenge. In more recent history, Jennifer Lawrence wrestled with inner turmoil while filming her first sex scene (for the sci-fi movie Passengers). During an actress roundtable” for The Hollywood Reporter, Lawrence described the experience: I got really, really drunk. But then that led to more anxiety when I got home because I was like, “What have I done? I don't know.” And he was married. And it was going to be my first time kissing a married man, and guilt is the worst feeling in your stomach. And I knew it was my job, but I couldn’t tell my stomach that. So I called my mom, and I was like, “Will you just tell me it’s OK?” Notice three sobering facts about Lawrence’s experience. First, she battled anxiety before and after filming the scene. Second, she felt intense guilt for sexually acting out with a married man. Third, she tried several coping mechanisms to eliminate her distress: alcohol (which only made things worse), telling herself everything was okay, and asking for consolation. 1 Would you believe me if I told you that stories like these are numerous? Sadly, it’s true. The amount of pressure and intimidation Hollywood places on actors – especially women – to undress and sexually act out for the camera is commonplace. When asked about sex scenes, celebrities often reply with something like, “We’re actors; it’s a part of the job.” Indeed, those who want to make it as an actor won’t be taken seriously if they have qualms about nudity and bed scenes. The movers and shakers in Hollywood have acquired what seems to be an almost limitless amount of power to enforce the sexualization of actors. To cite one more example (this time from the world of television): director Neil Marshall once commented on how he was pressured by an HBO executive to put more sex and nudity in an episode of Game of Thrones: …one of the exec producers…took me to one side and said, “Look, I represent the pervert side of the audience, okay? Everybody else is the serious drama side – I represent the perv side of the audience, and I’m saying I want full frontal nudity in this scene. So you go ahead and do it.” Notice the implicit acknowledgement that the nudity had nothing to do with art – that it was designed solely for the satisfaction of a perverted audience base. The producer pushed his weight around, and the director (and everyone else) acquiesced. All of this to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Follow the money What gives entertainment executives the authority to force others into such compromising situations? What gives a producer the power to manipulate a director into catering to perverse fantasies? What gives a director the right to coerce an actress into agreeing to do more than she meant to? If this page was a mirror, you would be looking at the answer. You see, when average folks like you and me support films and TV shows like these, we are perpetuating the sexualized culture we say we deplore. My guess is that, because it’s often hard to see how “A” eventually leads to “X,” we think little of doing “A,” even if we abhor “X.” We may complain about the objectification of women (and men) in our culture. We may complain about how movies are ruined by sex scenes and gratuitous nudity. But if we then turn around and financially support that culture, something is askew. It doesn’t matter if you avert your eyes during sex scenes – at the end of the day, studios care about profit margins. That being the case, prudes and perverts give equal support for a film when they buy a movie ticket or purchase a DVD. The truth is, if people stopped financially supporting the abuse of actors, the industry would change. But producers follow the money, and there’s money to be made through the objectification of entertainers. As one acquaintance of mine with ties to Hollywood once put it in a Facebook discussion: I know how many of the women in these scenes (and probably men too, you just don’t hear from them) have talked about throwing up in the bathroom between scenes, crying, stressing out constantly, etc. So basically, I’m paying for that person to do that for me? .... There are perhaps no handcuffs involved with these performers, but social constraints/expectations/demands/culture can be equally, if not more, powerful. And that’s the problem. I’ve lived in Hollywood. I’ve worked with prostitutes one on one. The line between the two worlds is thin. I know no other culture more willing to use people and throw them away. Consider also that plenty of actors in the entertainment industry are not professing believers. They do not subscribe to a Christian sexual ethic. Still, their consciences bother them when it comes to nudity and sex scenes. Yet most moviegoers, including many professing believers, say their consciences are clear when they watch the consciences of others be violated – for entertainment, no less. They pay for actors to be abused or debased and experience no qualms about it. In contrast, Paul calls Christians to give up their rights if it means hurting the conscience of others (see 1 Corinthians 9 and Romans 14). We have it backwards: we participate in the violation of others’ dignity so we can benefit from their moral and emotional compromises. Granted, the context of Paul’s teaching on this matter is the relationship between members of the church, but I don’t think that gives us an excuse to disregard the wellbeing of unbelievers. As patrons of Hollywood, our pursuit of personal freedom has hijacked our ability to consider the needs of others. We have adopted a consumeristic mindset that disregards most every other factor in favor of us having a positive, cathartic experience. If the story is interesting enough, and if it “demands” the objectification and dehumanization of actors, then the needs of the story win out. Brothers and sisters, this should not be! What about actors who undress willingly? Now, it is true that some actors do sex and/or nude scenes willingly, with little or no manipulation involved. Even so, that shouldn’t be of supreme importance to people of faith. Not if we take seriously God’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves. With this command in mind, whether or not actors agree with the nudity and sex acts required of them is actually beside the point. Why? Because it doesn’t negate the fact that they are being objectified and degraded as human beings in what is essentially a pornographic act.2 It is unloving of us as Christians to support such actions, even when they are free from coercion. We see this principle at work in Romans 13, which says loving your neighbor includes avoiding adultery. The point is not that all adultery is rape. Some adultery – much of it, in fact– takes place by mutual consent. Does that suddenly make the adultery excusable? Not according to Scripture. By its nature, sexual perversion is sin, even if it takes place between consenting adults. All forms of immorality are inherently unloving. That’s the Bible’s stance. That should be the Christian’s stance. In contrast to this, the film industry has created a socially acceptable ménage à trois: two actors commit sexually intimate acts, and audiences sit in on the proceedings with complete approval. The law of love What finally opened my eyes to this culture of sexual abuse was Wayne A. Wilson’s book Worldly Amusements. Wilson himself became aware of the issue after watching a movie in which the director had his own daughter perform sex acts on screen. The fact that a director would sacrifice his child’s dignity for the sake of a movie changed Wilson’s perspective. He now implements what he calls the “law of love” in his movie watching habits: he refuses to support films that sexually objectify or degrade actors. He now asks himself, “Would I approve if my sister were asked to behave or expose herself in any way that undermined her purity?” It is a question we would do well to ask ourselves. This law of love exhorts us to consider the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of men and women in front of the camera. Is that restricting for a movie-going audience? I suppose so. It has definitely kept me from visiting the theater on several occasions where I otherwise would have willingly and excitedly done so. Not a restriction But this law of love is not “restricting” in a lastingly negative sense any more than monogamy is a negative restriction for married couples. It’s a law that protects, not harms. It’s a law that governs for good, not evil. It’s a law that helps one cultivate the greatest motive known to humankind. In the end, what is truly more freeing: living a self-centered or an others-centered life? The Bible’s answer is the latter. Think about the implications here. How would it affect you if you put the law of love into practice? What if you refused to financially support movies that objectified actors because you wanted to treat them with the humanity they deserve? Would you not start viewing the actors you encounter in the movies as real people and not just potential sources of eye candy or gratification? Would the law of love not help you fight sexual lust even more effectively with gospel power? Would it not help you keep from focusing on yourself (which is what lust does) and instead focus on the needs of others (which is what a healthy, Biblically-informed sexuality is all about)? Would that not be a gloriously countercultural way to demonstrate God’s love to your fellow human beings? I think it would. In fact, my personal experience has been that it does. I dare you (in the most positive sense possible) to prove me wrong. Endnotes 1 For a more in-depth treatment, see “A Tale of Two Sexual Assaults on Jennifer Lawrence” at CapStewart.com 2 This argument is fleshed out in my article “Promoting Porn for the Glory of God?” at CovenantEyes.com, and in the “Sex Scenes = Porn” blog series at CapStewart.com Cap Stewart blogs about movies and the arts at CapStewart.com. This article first appeared in the Jan/Feb 2017 issue....

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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). ...

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Virginia Lee Burton: Queen of nostalgia

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. These are classics!  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 stories are all 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 buses. 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 as the majority says so, it's okay to use tax dollars for non-necessities of all sorts, including wistful ones. 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....

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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. ...

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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....

Adult biographies, Book Reviews

Only When It’s Dark Can We See the Stars: a father’s journal as his son battles cancer

by John van Popta 2022, 194 pages Why Lord? That’s the question 12-year-old Julian van Popta, his parents, and his siblings had to contend with when this young man was diagnosed with leukemia. Only When It’s Dark Can We See the Stars is an account of the four years that followed, as written by his father, Pastor John van Popta. The chapters are made up of the regular updates Rev. van Popta sent out to friends and family during the rounds of Julian’s treatment. What’s striking, and what makes this such a valuable read, is the trust the author demonstrates in God, even as the van Poptas struggled with why God would bring such sickness. As the author shares, it is one thing to face cancer as a pastor comforting parishioners, and another thing to do so as a parent seeing their child too weak even to eat. The question Why Lord? is made all the more urgent when, during Julian’s repeated hospital stays, they meet other children also battling cancer, and the van Poptas share in these families’ hopes and their losses – Julian does eventually recover, but many others do not. While this is a deeply personal account, the struggle to trust God in the face of death is one that we’ll all have to face, and this then is an example of how to struggle well. It is a father writing, but there’s no missing this is also a pastor who wants to feed the sheep with what he knows we need: to understand that my only comfort is that I am not my own but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. That truth, powerfully delivered, makes this not simply a good book, but an important one....

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! ...

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. ...

Magazine, Past Issue

June/July/Aug 2022 issue

WHAT’S INSIDE: Rev. Christopher Gordon's The New Reformation Catechism on Human Sexuality (watch the Real Talk episode with Pastor Gordon here)/ 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