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Animated, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Torchlighters: the Eric Liddell Story

Animated / Family 2007 / 31 minutes Rating: 6/10 Eric Liddell is best known for the stand he took to not compete in the 1924 Olympic 100-meter race. He was among the United Kingdom's best chances at a medal, but he didn't want to run because doing so would require him to run in a heat on Sunday. Despite enormous pressure to compromise for the sake of his country, he still refused, pointing to the 4th Commandment's call to "remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy." His country was important to him, but it came a distant second to his God. Eventually, a different sort of compromise was struck, which had Liddell run in the 200 and 400-meter races instead, winning a bronze and a gold. His firm convictions, and his outstanding athletic performances, were the subject of the 1981 film (and Oscar winner for Best Picture) Chariots of Fire. However, Hollywood indulged in a bit of artistic license. They made it seem as if Liddell only found out about the Sunday heat on the boat ride to the Paris Olympics, but the truth, as shown much more accurately in this animated video, is that Liddell knew months before. While both film and video cover Eric-the-athlete, this video covers his later years too, as Eric-the-missionary. Liddell was born in China, to Scottish missionary parents, and while educated in Scotland, actually spent most of his life in China. He returned there after the Olympics, serving as a missionary from 1925, until 1943, which is when the Japanese invaded. He could have fled, and he did send his family away, but Liddell stayed to continue telling the Chinese about God. That cost him, as he ended up in a Japanese internment camp, but even there he remained a faithful witness until his death in 1945, likely due to a brain tumor. Cautions This would have gotten at least a 7/10 if not for the choice the creators made to have Chinese characters speak broken and stilted English – their inarticulate language skills make them look a little dumb. Liddell was raised in China, which means his Mandarin was likely excellent, and for important conversations, they likely would have all used the language they all knew well, and his Chinese friends could have been shown speaking clearly and articulately in their native language. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they were all trying to learn English, and so that's the language they all spoke all the time, some better, and many worse. But I doubt it, and that's why I knocked a star off what is otherwise a solid account of a faithful and fascinating man. Also, as noted earlier, Liddell does die in a Japanese camp, and while that is not depicted, if you have some sensitive younger souls, you might want to give them a heads up early on, so that ending doesn't come as a shock. Conclusion This is more educational than entertaining, but I think families could enjoy watching this together – that it is a true story does make it compelling. To say it another way, this might not be the sort of video your kids will ask mom and dad to put on, but if you start it going, and the whole family is watching together, I don't think there will be many complaints. So sit back and be inspired by a man who knew that God was worthy of all honor, and most certainly came before fame and before his own safety. You can watch The Eric Liddell Story for free below, though with quite a lot of commercial interruptions. For an ad-free presentation, you can sign up, also for free, at RedeemTV.com. ...

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Broken Beauty – Reflections of a Soul Refined by Cancer

by Helena Bolhuis 252 pages / 2020 It’s kind of exciting when someone you are personally acquainted with publishes a book. It’s a bit of a thrill to hold the book in your hands, read their name on the cover, breathe in the new book smell, and anticipate sitting down with a cup of tea to crack it open and begin to read. I certainly felt this way when I purchased Broken Beauty – Reflections of a Soul Refined by Cancer, written by Helena Bolhuis. I don’t know Helena well, but having sat under her teaching on a couple of occasions – there experiencing her warmth, wisdom, and openness and seeing in her a sincere love for the Lord – I was definitely looking forward to reading her book. Attending her book launch at the local Free Reformed bookstore only heightened my eagerness, for that morning we got a glimpse into the beautiful and emotional journey this book would take us on. Yet – dare I admit this? – I also felt a little bit of wariness, maybe even skepticism about the book, and at first I could not put my finger on why I felt this way. But on reflection, I realized what was making me uneasy: how could a book detailing someone’s personal experience not be a bit self-glorifying? How could the author, in human weakness, write about themselves without it being… all about them? Would God be given His proper place in this story? And now, having read the book, I can answer that last question with a resounding “Yes!” Broken Beauty is, indeed, not a book about the author, but about the faithful God and loving Father who carried and led her through her cancer journey. From the dedication on the very first page – “for You, Father, for Your glory” – to the thanks at the end of the book, and everywhere in between, God is given the glory. Again and again, Helena points us to the Lord who supplied her every need in a time of sickness. The reader is left with a renewed sense of awe for the Great Physician, the God who refines us and draws us to himself through times of trial and weakness. The Father who carries us on eagle’s wings is the loving Author of this author’s story. The book is organized in three main sections: the journey the provisions and the destination “The Journey” tells Helena’s cancer story as it unfolded in her life, describing doctor’s visits, waiting for and receiving test results, and the various treatments she had to undergo. And throughout this section of facts and details, Helena weaves the story of her inner struggle – emotional and spiritual – as she faced the very real possibility of her own death. In the second section, “The Provisions,” Helena speaks about how God provided for her in so many ways along her cancer journey, and she draws a parallel here to how God provided for the Israelites as they journeyed through the wilderness. He provided for her relationally through the people in her life, and mentally through prayer, meditation, music, and books. God also supplied what she needed emotionally, physically, and spiritually in tangible ways. It was beautiful to read how every need was met by the loving hand of our Father. “The Destination” describes the emotional and spiritual process of adjusting to life post-cancer, navigating life outside the close “cocoon” of God’s shelter and love that Helena experienced during her illness and recovery, and then having to move forward. The cancer journey was at an end, but regular daily life continues on towards the final destination – eternal glory! Written with warmth, raw honesty, and so much hope, Broken Beauty gives the reader a close glimpse into a heart-rending yet beautiful time of suffering and sickness. Saturated with references to God’s Word and the comfort that Helena received from it, this book will be a real encouragement to anyone going through a period of trial or illness. It would also be useful to read when walking alongside a friend or relative experiencing a tough time, for throughout the book there is helpful advice and practical wisdom on how to be there for someone who is suffering. In this world broken by sin, we will all encounter suffering during our lives, whether our own or that of someone we love, and Helena’s book shines a bright light on how God turns our suffering into something beautiful, to His glory. I highly recommend it! “Now I understood that life is all about God’s glory in my story and my delight in Him through that story. Now I understood that through His glory, my joy is made complete.” (p.239) Broken Beauty is available at Amazon, including as an audiobook read by the author. A version of this review will also appear in Una Sancta....

News

Saturday Selections – May 8, 2021

Moms rock! (6 min) An ode, of sorts, to moms everywhere. <span data-mce-type="bookmark" style="display: inline-block; width: 0px; overflow: hidden; line-height: 0;" class="mce_SELRES_start"></span> My 3-year-old son is now a girl (4 min) This is some jaw-dropping, hind-quarters-kicking, satire. While these folks are politically conservative (libertarian?) they don't seem Christian. That means, as brilliant as this is in pointing out the craziness, they can't get to the root of it: that in rejecting God, the world is rejecting not just male and female, not just parental authority, but reality itself. This skit isn't on the creator's public YouTube page, presumably because they'd get in trouble for it. But you can view it at the link above on Facebook, and here on their unlisted YouTube page. Free John Piper booklet: Don't waste your cancer A frequent RP contributor, Dr. Wes Bredenhof, recommends this 18-page, free e-book, as being "helpful for anyone dealing with cancer or any other serious life-threatening (or even chronic) illness." How secure is your password?  The linked-to graphic makes the disturbing claim that if you have an 8 character password, even if it is different cases and a mix of numbers, symbols, and letters, it can still be hacked in 8 hours. More disturbing: the graphic is from September 2020, and presumably hackers are only getting faster... Finnish politician facing jail for defending the biblical view of homosexuality Jonathon Van Maren interviews Päivi Räsänen about the charges laid against her. Multiverse myth frees atheists from real science If you have to admit the odds are incomprehensibly stacked against our universe being as finely tuned for life as it is, it isn't an evolutionary save to, on the basis of no evidence, propose there must be countless other universes out there - a multiverse of them - so as to even out those incomprehensible odds. Mark Penninga on the start of ARPA Canada (18 min) The Pro-life Podcast Guys interview ARPA Canada's executive director, Mark Penninga. ...

Assorted, Economics, Science - Environmental Stewardship

Manure into mattresses – we can "create" resources

Economist Julian Simon's key insight is that man's creativity – his brainpower – is a resource that creates other resources. So while some view a rising population as a threat to limited resources ("We're going to run out of oil!") Simon viewed a growing population as a growing resource base. Our brains, when properly applied, could in a reflection of God's own creativity, turn nothing (or next to it) into quite something. For example, when copper – a key element in our phone lines – started getting very expensive, this motivated some smart chaps to develop a much cheaper alternative: sand! That's what our telephone lines are today: Sand (silicon) + Human Creativity = Fiber optic cables Making sand into something is amazing enough, but a much more impressive example of "resource creation" is the way some farmers have turned poop into bedding (or if you prefer alliteration, manure into mattresses). It is quite a story! Rising prices prompts creative thinking Down where I live, in the Northern Washington/Southern BC area, some dairy farmers used to use sawdust as a cheap bedding material for their cows. The cows could sleep in it, poop on it, and the farmer could then come along, clean it out, and put a new layer down. Sawdust clumped together, making it easy to scoop away, but perhaps its most attractive quality was its cheapness. Sawdust used to be viewed as a waste product from the lumber industry – they couldn't give it away and would even bury it. But then creative farmers created a market for this castoff. Or to put it in more mathematical terms: Sawdust + Human Creativity = Cow bedding Some time later, other creative folks started to see more ways that sawdust could be used, including as fuel. Because it originated as a lumber waste product it was cheaper than many other fuel options. So some greenhouses owners figured out a way to use it to heat their buildings, and started to outbid the farmers. This result was this waste product – nothing more than garbage before human brainpower got involved – had so increased in value that farmers could no longer afford it. They needed to find a cheaper option for their bedding! And then it happened. Some ingenious dairy farmer, probably sitting out on his tractor staring out across his manure lagoon, started thinking about the possibilities in all this poop. The result was a separation system that used the undigested fibers found in cow manure. This is fed into a rotating drying drum, where high heat kills the germs, and the output is fibrous bedding material for the farmer's cows. Poop + Human Creativity = Cow bedding Manure has been turned into mattresses! Conclusion Julian Simon was an atheist, so he didn't understand why we have this capacity – why we have a mysterious, awesome ability to use our brains to create something out of nothing. But Simon did recognize Man was more than his mouth; he understood that Man wasn't best understood as a consumer of scarce resources, but that instead Man has an ability (and Christians would add, a calling) to be a producer of plenty. So, in this limited way, Simon has a more accurate understanding of Man than any of his critics. So where does our creative capacity come from? It is a reflection of God's creative Genius. We can't create ex nihilo – out of nothing – like God does, but when we take what was once useless, and put it to productive use, we show ourselves to be His image-bearers....

Family, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

The Sparky Chronicles: The Map

Family / Children's 28 min / 2003 Rating: 7/10 When their beloved Sparky is dognapped by the infamous international criminal known only as "The Clip," three college-age friends – Ethan, Jeffrey, and Christina – vow to find their pooch, no matter how long it takes. We join up with the search three years in – that's 21 doggy years! – and despite a Volkswagon van full of advanced tracking technology they still seem no closer to finding their four-legged buddy. Sparky Chronicles is a Christian spy spoof, with sting operations, tranquilizer darts, explosions, and one chase scene after another. These aren't high-speed chases, mind you – and at one point the villain gets away by walking at a brisk trot – but that's the point. The pounding music, the quick cuts between the determined pursuers and their frantic prey, and then the shots of the speedometer needle slowly edging past 35: as spoofs go, they're pretty much nailing it. So what makes this tweenish tale a Christian one? Well, during their long fruitless search the three friends come to realize it would be really helpful if they had some sort of guide to help them know which way to go. And when they happen upon a map that The Clip has left behind, Christina makes mention of how the Bible is the same sort of thing for life: a guide that tells us what's right and true. That's the lesson being taught, but unlike what happens in many a Christian production, this is an almost subtle presentation. Sure, they explicitly spell it out, but they don't beat kids over the head with it. I'd recommend this for tweens, but younger kids might enjoy it too. And while this isn't going to be mom and dad's favorite, it'll be more interesting for them than some other children's fare. The only real downside is that while things are set up for a sequel, there isn't one. You can watch it for free below, with some commercial interruptions. ...

People we should know

Betsie, the watchmaker's daughter

“But I tell you: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” – Matthew 5:44. ***** Extraordinary stories of extraordinary men and women make up the fabric of history books: men and women who by some incident in their lives have been able to capture the attention and imagination of those living today. They usually comprise those of outstanding intellect; those who have invented things; those who have led armies to victory; those of noble birth who have ruled well; or those who have explored unknown territories. We rarely delve into the lives, however, of the little folk, of those who merely accomplish the sometimes boring, day-by-day tasks that God has assigned to His people. Yet the days written in God’s book of those little people - the widow who dropped a seemingly worthless mite into the temple treasury, the man who provided a donkey for the Master’s use, and those who shared bread and fish in times of hunger – are endless. There is the story of Betsie – Betsie the watchmaker’s daughter – Betsie, an ordinary, little woman - who used her time well. Father’s arms - 1889 A 1950s picture of the ten Boom watch shop. She often sat on the single stone step leading down from the doorway of her father’s shop on the corner of Barteljorisstraat, watching the children of the neighborhood run by. The ragtag and bobtail of the city’s youngsters sprinted by her as they kicked a ball, skipped noisily with skipping ropes and ran helter-skelter in all directions playing hide-and-go-seek. Soft auburn hair framed her face and she smiled into the shouts as if she were participating in the games. Her feet in the high, laced-up shoes, tingled. They longed to gallop and rush about in wild abandonment as well. “Betsie, meisje (little girl).” A strong hand touched the small, hunched up back. “What are you doing sitting here on these cold steps? You’ll get sick again.” Betsie turned her head and looked up, smiling at the bearded man framed in the open door of his shop. Then she slowly stood up and father Ten Boom picked up the four-year-old, carrying her into his workshop. “So,” he whispered softly into her ear, “you are studying the other children running and playing and inside you there are some tears because God did not make Betsie strong and able-bodied and fit.” Betsie’s arms tightened around her father’s neck. His beard scratched her cheek and she nuzzled into it. “Yes,” she whispered back. All around them in the 1889 watchmaker’s workshop clocks ticked and chimed and spoke of time. Father Ten Boom sat down on his chair by the workbench and settled the child onto his lap. He rocked her back and forth. “God has a reason for making each one of us the way we are, Betsie. Perhaps you are often tired and ill in your body so that your spirit might grow strong.” The child sighed and thought of the wind on her cheeks and how she would love to run into it, stretching her arms wide to receive its blowing head-on. “You are very special, Betsie. God loves you very much and maybe you can show others His love also.” He kissed the top of her hair. “Now then, let’s go upstairs and see if mother has some tea and if your brother Willem is home from school yet.” He stood up and the child, light in his arms, was strangely solemn as she looked towards the street door – a door she passed with her father as they made their way up the stairs. ***** The years passed and the watchmaker was blessed with two more children, two more daughters, who were named Nollie and Corrie. There were also the three aunts, sisters of Mama ten Boom, who lived in their brother-in-law’s home until they died. The watchmaker’s house, though overflowing, was filled with happiness as he taught his children and his neighbors how to live faithfully before the face of God. 2 Peter 1:5-8 teaches a very important precept which is that certain qualities will produce a well-rounded, productive Christian life. The passage reads: “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Not everyone in the world is born with amazing talents, with awe-inspiring gifts. Although there are some who can sing as if they were Caruso, and others have the ability to draw in the manner of Michelangelo, and still others play the violin like Itzak Perlman, the truth is that most people are run-of-the mill, ordinary people; people who appear average and unremarkable. And yet it is good to remember that all mankind is made in the image of God and that all Christians have access to the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Betsie ten Boom was spoon-fed on 2 Peter 1’s promise and as a child, and later as a young woman she strove for godly qualities; as she labored, she increased in faith and in compassion. She developed a deep love for other people who experienced pain or trouble. The years passed, and God blessed the frail child in ways that may not have been obvious to others. Times changed in the ten Boom household after World War I. The children grew older. Nollie and Willem married. The aunts and mother ten Boom died. Betsie’s health, although fairly stable, was never quite up to scratch and she made a conscious decision not to marry but to stay home and take care of her aging father and her younger sister, Corrie. Initially, she helped her father in the watch shop downstairs, but Corrie took her place and Betsie was happy to take charge of the household side of things. There were scores of foster children who passed through the ten Boom household, all receiving Christian nurture, love and care. Together with Corrie, Betsie, a single mother in Israel, was effective and productive in God’s eyes. The radio address - May 1940 The year 1940, a year, which would celebrate Betsie’s fifty-fifth birthday, also hosted the onset of World War II for the Netherlands. Although the Dutch had hoped to remain neutral in the looming conflict which was already raging in Europe, this was not to be. The Third Reich, after invading and occupying Poland, Norway and Denmark, also invaded her little western neighbor. The evening prior to this invasion, on May 9, 1940, father Ten Boom, Betsie and Corrie stayed up to listen to their radio. After their usual prayers and Bible reading, they were getting sleepy. It was past their usual bedtime, but the Prime Minister of Holland, his Excellency Gerbrandy, was slated to speak and most of the people in Holland were eager to hear what he had to say. Flowers were blooming in the parks and in the ten Boom windowsills. Conflicting rumors flew around. Betsie heard them from the people next door; she heard them in the shops when she bought food; and she heard them on the steps of the St. Bavo church after she worshipped each Sunday. Holland would be drawn into the war, many said while others were convinced that the German Nazis, who had pledged goodwill to the people of the Netherlands, would not invade. But France and Britain were already in the war and shouldn’t those countries be supported? The radio crackled and both Betsie and Corrie sat up straight in their chairs. It was 9:30. They strained their ears towards the wireless. Prime Minister Gerbrandy’s voice was mild. There is nothing to worry about, he assured his radio audience. War will not happen. Had he not just spoken with influential government officials? Father Ten Boom, Betsie, and Corrie looked at one another skeptically. The Prime Minister’s words seemed to be full of air, unrealistic, carrying no weight. Father ten Boom turned off the radio. Then the family rose quietly from their high-backed, wooden chairs, kissed one another goodnight and trudged up the stairs to bed. Sleep was difficult to come by even though the blankets were tucked in tightly. There were too many thoughts running around in Betsie’s mind. She sighed, tossed and turned. The city of Amsterdam lay seventeen kilometers to the east. Betsie noted through her window that the sky was aglow with a strange color. It was an unearthly glow, and the house on Barteljorisstraat seemed to be shaking from time to time. Corrie, who was huddling next to Betsie, whispered: “I had a dream.” “What did you dream, Corrie?” “I dreamt that I saw a big wagon in the middle of Haarlem. Four huge, black horses pulled the wagon. I was in the wagon, Betsie… and you were too… and father was in it as well… and some of our friends.” She hesitated and Betsie waited for her to continue. “The horses began to pull the wagon and we couldn’t get off but we didn’t want to go where they were taking us.” Corrie stopped again and then leaned heavily into the curve of her sister’s back. The house shook again. “Oh, Betsie! I’m so afraid! Do you think the dream was some kind of vision?” Betsie answered softly, turning and putting her arm around her sister. “I don’t know. But if God has shown us the bad times that are coming, it’s enough to know that He knows about them. That’s why He sometimes shows us things – to tell us that He is in control.” Amsterdam was bombed on May 11, 1940. ***** The ten Booms became acutely aware, as the next few months passed, that life was being made extremely difficult for the Jews living in Holland. First posters, then signs, shot up reading “No Jews Allowed.” After this yellow stars became mandatory as part of the dress code for the children of Abraham. Finally, groups were seen being herded onto trucks and taken away. Father ten Boom said, “Those poor people,” but it was the soldiers perpetrating this ungodly work to whom he was referring. Betsie understood her father with her deepest spirit. Were not the Jewish people the apple of God’s eye? And were not those who hurt them to be pitied? A secret room was constructed in Corrie’s bedroom behind a false wall. It had a ventilation system and could hold six people. A buzzer was installed which could be heard throughout the house to warn refugees to retreat to the secret room as quickly as possible if a raid was imminent. Almost overnight the ten Boom home became part of the resistance movement - a sanctuary where Jews could turn up and hide from their oppressors, from those who sought to kill them. Eight hundred Jews were eventually helped as father ten Boom and his two daughters risked their lives in feeding and sheltering the persecuted. “Fear God and honor the queen” – February 1944 For four years things went well until a German raid on the ten Boom residence in February of 1944 seemingly brought Jewish aid to a grinding halt. The raid happened on a day when Corrie was not feeling well. Feeling miserable and running a high temperature, she was roughly pulled out of her bed by Nazi soldiers. Permitted to put on clothes over top of her pajamas, she was taken downstairs. Her father and Betsie were sitting on chairs pulled back against the living room wall. “Where are the Jews?” The Nazis barked out the question and when no answer was forthcoming, Corrie was struck twice, so hard that she almost fainted. “Lord Jesus,” she whispered, “Protect me.” “If you say that name again, I’ll kill you.” Betsie was led from the room and returned later with swollen lips and a bruised cheek. “Oh, Betsie,” Corrie moaned, “They hurt you.” “Yes,” Betsie answered thickly, “and I feel so sorry for them.” The German officer in command turned, yelling: “Prisoners will remain silent!” He then turned to father ten Boom. “You, old man, I see that you believe in the Bible. What does it say in your Bible about obeying the government?” “Fear God,” father ten Boom answered in a clear voice, “and honor the queen.” The German officer stared at him suspiciously. “The Bible doesn’t say that!” “No,” father ten Boom admitted, “It says ‘Fear God and honor the king,’ but in our case that is the queen.” ***** In this 1950s picture, a man points to the entrance to the secret room. The secret room was not found during the raid although it was not for lack of trying by the Nazis. They ransacked the house from top to bottom. The ten Booms, however, were not allowed to go free. Along with thirty-five other people they were herded to the police station where they were put in a room together. There were mats on the floor where they were told to sleep. Father ten Boom read to the entire room from the Bible: the Bible which was stored within his memory. “Thou art my hiding place and my shield…” The old man’s voice was firm and the others who had been arrested drank assurance from it. “Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe.” They all slept soundly that night. ***** The next morning, after another period of questioning, they were all packed onto a bus. “The dream,” Corrie spoke under her breath to her sister, “It’s the dream, Betsie.” After a lengthy drive of more than an hour, they were ordered off the bus and lined up against a yellow wall. The men were separated from the women at this point. As the sisters were being led away, Corrie turned her head to look back. “God be with you, father!” Father ten Boom turned his face away from the wall also and answered, calling back clearly, “And with you, my daughters!” These were the last words Betsie and Corrie heard their father speak on earth. Becoming ill in the Scheveningen prison to which they had been taken, he died in a hospital corridor only ten days after the arrest. Vught camp - June The next months in prison were difficult. For the first time in their lives, Betsie and Corrie were separated. Providentially, four months later, as women were being loaded onto a transport train to a different internment camp at Vught they were reunited. Vught was a political concentration camp. With barbed wire fencing surrounding it, the place appeared both dismal and terrifying. The women guards were cruel and made the inmates stand for hours on end. It was a somber, desperate and dirty place and it never had enough food for the people housed within its enclosure. Roll call each morning was five o’clock sharp and if only one prisoner was late, all the other prisoners were punished. ***** “Betsie,” wailed Corrie, one early morning, “How long do you think we shall be here?” “Perhaps a long, long time, Corrie,” Betsie answered slowly and thoughtfully, “Perhaps many years. But what better way could we spend our lives?” “What are you talking about, Betsie?” Corrie was frustrated at the answer. “These women here with us, Corrie, look at them. If people can be taught to hate, then they can be taught to love as well. And we must find a way to teach them.” ***** Betsie’s work assignment was sewing uniforms, whereas Corrie’s job was labor in a factory. They had been able to smuggle a Bible inside the camp and took turns carrying it about in a small cloth bag hanging from their neck. In the evening, prayer meetings were held and many women crowded around the bunks to hear the comforting words of the Bible. Ravensbruck – Sept In September of 1944, the sisters were transported once again. This time it was to Ravensbruck. Fifty miles north of Berlin, it was the largest concentration camp for women in the German Reich and housed political prisoners, gypsies, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others deemed dangerous by the Nazis. If conditions had been bad in Vught, conditions in Ravensbruck were far more brutal. The straw that covered the bunks in the eighteen barracks that made up the main camp was filthy. Women prisoners slept in three-tiered wooden bunks, and each barracks had but one washroom and toilet. Food rations were meager and sanitary conditions abominable. Many women were subjected to unethical medical experiments as SS doctors put chemical substances on wounds to ascertain what the results would be. These doctors also tested women on various methods of setting and transplanting bones and they cruelly amputated limbs to facilitate these tests. Countless prisoners died as a result of these horrific experiments. It was in such an environment that the ten Boom sisters arrived in the last winter of the war. ***** “We should cut our hair, Corrie.” Betsie’s advice was down-to-earth and practical. Everywhere around them women were cutting each other’s hair. Long hair was difficult to keep clean. “Oh, Betsie!!” Corrie sobbed as she snipped several inches off Betsie’s thick dark hair. Later, they buried their hair in the sand around their barracks. The three-tiered bunks were appallingly grimy. Rotting straw had been placed on top of broken wood and the women were so crowded that they were forced to lay three in a single bunk – making it very taxing to get any rest at all. “How can we live in such a place, Betsie?” “Show us how, Lord,” Betsie prayed in reply and then she opened her eyes and said, “Corrie, what did we read this morning?” “We read from Thessalonians.” “And what did our text say”? Reluctantly, Corrie answered her sister: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances.” “That’s it. That’s God’s answer.” “What is His answer, Betsie?” “To give thanks … to give thanks in everything.” The sour smell of human sweat and dirt drifted around them. Lice moved the straw in the bunks. “In everything, Betsie? Must we give thanks in everything?” Corrie’s voice was small and resigned. “Yes, in everything. Listen, Corrie. We’re together. That’s a blessing, isn’t it? And then, well we have a Bible. Think of it!! A Bible!! And then, last of all, we’re really crowded and that means we’ll be able to tell more women about Jesus.” Corrie nodded, subdued. “So then,” Betsie closed her eyes again, “thank You, Lord, for the lice…” “Oh, Betsie,” wailed Corrie, “not the lice!” “It says ‘in everything,’ Corrie.” ***** Barracks 28, where Betsie and Corrie were housed, was an extensive melting-pot of nationalities. The women housed there came from a diverse number of countries – Germany, France, Poland, Holland, to name a few. Because the quarters were so cramped, there was much quarreling. In the dark of the night Betsie took Corrie’s hand. “Lord Jesus,” she prayed out loud, “send your peace into this room. There has been too little praying here. The very walls know it. But where You enter, Lord, the spirit of strife cannot exist.” Gradually things quieted down and the angry mutterings stopped. ***** Ravensbruck held no sewing detail for Betsie, nor a factory job for Corrie. Both sisters had to work outside, leveling rough ground. Lifting shovels full of heavy dirt was almost too much for Betsie. She staggered if the load was too massive and at one point a guard struck her. Corrie, seeing her sister hurt, lost her temper and wanted to fly at the guard with her shovel, but Betsie restrained her. A red stain became visible on Betsie’s shirt. “Oh, Betsie!” Corrie was overcome with sadness, but Betsie covered the bloodstain with her hand. “Don’t look at it, Corrie. Only look at Jesus.” ***** There were worship services. These services were not conducted in a chapel or in a church of any kind but were held at the back of the barracks under a dangling, pitiful little light bulb. These services were conducted, not just on Sunday night, but every night. More and more women attended these services. First they sang softly, the Polish women singing a Polish hymn or the French women singing a French hymn. Then either Betsie or Corrie would open the Bible, translating the words into German as they read. And one of the women would translate their words into Polish and another would translate into Russian and another into French. In this way, all the women would hear the Word of God in their own language. Sometimes Betsie and Corrie wondered why no one interrupted these services. Later they discovered that the lice – the thanked-for lice – kept the guards away from Barrack 28. ***** Betsie was not growing stronger. The frail child, who had sat on the front step of her father’s workshop watching other children play, had run with the best of them. But she was now visibly wasting away. There was a small vitamin bottle that Corrie had carefully saved. Whenever Betsie was especially weak, Corrie would insist that her sister take a vitamin drop. But there were other women who were also ill. Corrie tried to save the drops for those who needed it most. But there were so many ill women. First there were fifteen, then twenty, and then still more. Yet every time she tilted the small bottle, another drop petered out. “There was a woman in the Bible,” smiled Betsie, “whose oil jar was never empty.” One day one of the other women prisoners managed to obtain some more vitamins, several large bottles of vitamins. The prisoners felt rich but they decided together that before they use their new cache of nutrients, the small bottle should be finished off. But when Corrie tried, at this point in time, to shake another drop out of the faithful jar, nothing happened. No matter how hard she shook the bottle, nothing materialized. It was finally empty. ***** “Corrie!! Corrie!! Wake up!” “What is it, Betsie? It’s in the middle of the night. We need our sleep.” “I have to tell you something important, Corrie.” “Can’t you tell me tomorrow?” “No, it’s really important. It’s about what God wants us to do after this war and I’m afraid that I will forget it if I don’t tell you now.” “All right, Betsie, go ahead. I’m awake now.” Through the darkness of the barracks, Betsie’s hands found Corrie’s hands and squeezed them. “We must rent one of these camps after the war, Corrie. And we must clean it and make it comfortable so that the German people who will have no home left can begin a new life. And in Holland, Corrie, in Holland we must find a house where we will be able to take care of all those who will survive these concentration camps.” “Where would we live, Betsie, in Holland or in Germany?” “We would live in neither place, Corrie. For you will travel all over the world and tell everyone what we have learned here: that Jesus is very real and that He is stronger than any power of darkness.” Released - December The days passed. Betsie grew more tired each day and was barely able to fill her quota of work. One morning a fit of coughing seized her and when it was over a blood stain darkened the straw on which she lay. “Are you sure we’ll be together after the war, Betsie? You said that we would…” Corrie could not finish and helplessly watched as her sister coughed again and again. But afterward Betsie did answer. “Always, Corrie … you and I.” The morning dawned when Betsie could move neither arms nor legs. She was carried away on a stretcher to another building where the very sick were kept. Corrie managed to find out that Betsie had been put on a cot next to a window. She stood by that window, smiling at her sister until the camp police shouted at her and told her to move along. At noon Corrie tried again. Betsie looked tremendously thin and frail in the cot. Her lips were blue. But those blue lips smiled at Corrie and formed words. “So much work to do.” It was not until the next morning that Corrie was able to visit the window once more. But a nurse blocked her view. Corrie pressed her face against the pane. She tried to peer past the white form. Another nurse entered. When they both moved to the side, Corrie finally saw Betsie. That is, she saw what had been Betsie. There was only a body now – a thin, yellow skeleton whose soul had flown straight into the arms of a waiting and loving God. Corrie sobbed as the two nurses wrapped her sister’s body in a sheet, lifted her off the cot and carried her away. There was a room where the dead were kept. Bodies were piled on top of one another along the wall. Betsie’s body was put there alongside all the others who had died that night. But her face was no longer lined with sorrow, hunger and pain. She looked peaceful. She appeared to be sleeping. She seemed to be leaning on her father’s lap, as she was wont to do when she was a little girl. And so she was. Betsie ten Boom had reached her Shield and Hiding Place. Two days after Betsie’s death, Corrie’s name was called out during morning roll call and she was commanded to stand to the side before reporting to the administration barracks. When she came to the administration barracks, a clerk stamped papers on which was written “Certificate of Discharge.” Although it was later discovered that this was a human clerical error, it truly was God’s providence. After a brief hospital stint because of her swollen legs, Corrie was released from Ravensbruck at the end of December 1944. Reunited - 1985 After the war Betsie’s sister, Corrie, was able to open a camp in Germany for the many homeless people there. God also permitted her to begin a home in Holland for war victims. Later she traveled all over the world, carrying the message of Jesus until her death in 1985. “Are you sure we’ll be together, Betsie?” Corrie’s question echoes down the corridors of time. And always Betsie’s answer rings out firmly, rings out firmly to encourage all followers of Christ. “Always, Corrie … you and I.” And so they are, even as all Christians will be, together before God’s throne. The “Voor Joden Verboden” picture is adapted and used with permission under a CC BY-SA 3.0 NL license, from the original at the Museum Rotterdam....

Adult biographies, Book Reviews

R.C. Sproul: A Life

by Stephen J. Nichols 2021 / 400 pages Stephen J. Nichols has produced the first biography of Sproul since his death in December of 2017. The author, teacher, and pastor truly appears here as a man after God’s own heart: a man in pursuit of his Maker’s holiness – eager to understand it, to mirror and communicate it as faithfully as he might. Following his conversion very early in his college years, Sproul’s zeal drive him and his wife, Vesta, to hunt after vital educational and ministry opportunities, both formal and informal. As a result, they relocated almost annually during the first decade of marriage. Very soon Sproul’s winning personality, warmth, seriousness, and authenticity as a “battlefield theologian” make him a magnet for those determined to grow in – and publicly defend – the faith. We see the launching of the Ligonier Study Center in 1971 in rural Western Pennsylvania, the writing of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, and Sproul’s costly stand against reductive ecumenicism. Nichols gives ample space, as well, to the substance and impact of Sproul’s many books and the Renewing Your Mind radio program. Finally come the stories of his Florida pastorate, the building of Saint Andrew’s Chapel, and the founding of Reformation Bible College (RBC). Nichols succeeded Sproul as president of RBC in 2014, and his writing is aided by close acquaintance with Sproul and his family, colleagues, and friends. One can hardly imagine major detractions to Sproul's legacy and certainly will find no ammunition for that here – though glancing notice is made to R.C. Junior's sudden resignation from the board of Ligonier and RBC in 2016. The Sproul we meet in these pages is the gentle lion so many of us felt we knew, at least distantly and casually, through the books and radio program. Nichols has chosen to write an everyman biography, an accessible book with a tone popular rather than scholarly. And here we rediscover several Sproul family anecdotes which many have encountered previously in his teaching. Sometimes the stories are expanded, sometimes the reader can anticipate and supply added detail. Yes, we meet again an old friend, and a true one. Without a doubt, Sproul loved the church, and he immersed himself in the vocation of shepherd. Nichols's book is both deeply encouraging and even convicting as we view the whole-life portrait of this dedicated, faithful teacher unfolded before us. The church in the 21st century, as much as any time before, greatly needs the stories of such brothers and fellow saints....

News

Saturday Selections - May 1, 2021

Metamorphosis (5 min) Something new from Tim Nijenhuis based on Col. 3:1-17... Mosquitos are wonderfully and fearfully made? We might not like how they bite, but they do reflect the brilliance of their Designer! Pixar to introduce first transgender character Your kid's favorite superheroes, movies, TV programs, and book characters are being used to push an agenda on them. Baptism: a personal journey (10-minute read)  Pastor David Robertson, on his journey from a believer's baptism-holding Brethern and then Baptist, to an infant baptism-holding Presbyterian. In California, hundreds of men are transferring to women's prisons This is a sad opportunity for Christians to contrast God's Truth – that He made us male and female – with where the world takes us when we reject His Truth. Tennis trick shots by Mansour Bahrami (8 min) You don't have to be a tennis fan to enjoy this! ...

Christian education

Reformed teachers are different... right?

Bobby Knight had a rather unique teaching philosophy: he’d do whatever it took to get through to his young charges, up to and including yelling at them, swearing at them and even kicking the occasional pupil or two. And for the most part, the infamous NCAA basketball coach got away with it. The tirades and physical abuse that would get other coaches and teachers fired were an accepted part of his routine. It would be going a bit far to say no one minded his bombastic approach, but he got away with it because it was expected from him. Everyone entering his program knew what was coming – his teaching philosophy was obvious to anyone who’d met him. Reformed teachers have a teaching philosophy too. It is assuredly a deeper and more civil one...but is it as transparent? Do we as a parents know the teaching philosophy and overall worldview of our children's teachers? Why care? If you’re sending your kids to a private Christian school then you already recognize the way a teacher thinks and what they believe is important. You’re spending thousands of dollars a year to send your children to a Christian school, and it’s not just because they have morning devotions and lunchtime prayers. The daily Bible class is an important element, but if that was all there was to it we could save a lot of money by just sending our kids to a Saturday morning Bible study. So why do we spend the money? Because our children spend half the time they’re awake in the care of teachers. They’re supposed to listen to these same teachers and even jot notes down to help them remember what the teachers have said. The other half of their waking day might be spent with their parents, but children certainly won’t be taking notes, and they often won’t remember what you say from one minute to the next (especially if you ask them to clean up their rooms). Obviously teachers have an enormous influence over the intellectual and spiritual development of our children. Through the twelve years they have our children under their charge they may even have more influence in these areas than parents. In a secular setting that influence is going to be used to teach students one sort of lesson. Children will be taught that when it comes to every one of their school subjects, God isn't all that relevant; He doesn't even need to be mentioned! And if God isn't relevant in Math and Chemistry and Physics and English and History and Biology, then how can a child help but wonder if God is relevant in Work and Dating and Sports and Politics....and Life? That why we have Christian schools; devotions and Bible classes are important, but teachers exert a powerful influence on our kids in every class they teach. They are an example to the kids all day long about how God is relevant to all the big and little things they do. So we spend the money because we know our Reformed teachers' beliefs impact everything they say and do. We may not know exactly how they make a Math class Christian but we know they must, because that’s why we’re paying all that money. Why pay for a Reformed Chemistry teacher if he says and does everything exactly the same as his secular counterpart? Assumptions are not enough But do we really know the worldview of our children's teachers? Or are we simply making assumptions? Because sometimes assumptions can be wrong. In Edmonton, Alberta, parents found that out when a local Christian high school considered joining the public system. Parents were paying thousands of dollars a year to send their children to the Edmonton Christian High School, but would only have to spend hundreds if it became public. That was a powerful enticement, but before they approved the merger parents wanted to know what else would change if the school went public. They were assured nothing significant would happen; the same teachers would teach the same children in the same way they always had. Except the children’s teachers would now have to join a secular union. Many of the parents thought this would be a problem, but the teachers didn’t. They overwhelmingly approved a move to join the Alberta Teacher’s Association, although they did promise everyone they would try to make the union more Christian by working from within it. That surprised a lot of parents. They had assumed the teachers shared their own opposition to secular unions. Both the teachers and parents were Christian, and in many cases they were Reformed but they still held to very different worldviews. And most parents didn’t even know that. Maybe you don’t think a teacher’s stand on unions is significant, but really, that’s not the point. The point is that these parents did think it was important, and assumed the teachers agreed with them. This aspect of the teacher’s worldview, the same worldview parents are paying extra for, wasn’t what the parents thought it was. Find out Do you know the worldview of your children's teachers? Parents shouldn’t have to make assumptions. A Reformed teacher’s philosophy is their greatest selling feature, and it should be in plain view for all to see. If it isn’t, parents will quite rightly start questioning the importance of Reformed education. Parents have to know what they’re paying extra for or they won’t be motivated to pay. What makes our schools valuable is the teachers in them. And what makes those teachers different, distinct, and superior, is their worldview, and the wisdom they've acquired. So are we giving this the attention it is due? When we realize it is the teachers and their worldview that make the school, then we're going to set the very highest standards for hiring. We can't – as happened in the Edmonton Christian High School – end up with teachers who don't share the same worldview as the parents. For us, in our churches, the divide probably won't happen over union membership, but what about creation and evolution? Do your children's teachers believe the same as you do about how we are to understand the opening chapters of the Bible? Do you think it is important they do? There's a diversity of views in our church circles on some pretty fundamental issues like these, so parents should not assume that teachers believe as they do. We need to ask. After we put the needed care and attention into hiring wise teachers, then it is just as important to showcase their wisdom. That's how we can get the next generation excited about Christian education. We can promote our schools by explaining how our Chemistry class is better because it is taught by a Reformed instructor. We'll share why it is so very important that the teacher instructing our son or daughter in English is a good and godly man or woman. When we have wise teachers, we'll be able to point to our Math class and make it plain to parents how a biblical worldview is coming out even in the midst of numbers, formulas and quadratic equations. We started our schools to help pass along our Reformed worldview to our children. If our schools are going to continue it will be not only because we've made the right hires, but because all the parents have been shown why our teachers' worldview is worth more than gold, and is, in fact, quite the bargain at only thousands a year. A Portuguese translation of this article can be found here....

Theology

HERETIC? Let’s not throw bombastic terms around glibly

I was once labeled a heretic. In fact, I’m sure it’s happened more than once. And no, it wasn’t Roman Catholics or Muslims saying this – although they would/should certainly classify me as such. This was other Reformed believers. The occasion was a blog post where I shared Richard Sibbes’ answer to the question of whether saints in heaven are aware of our trials and miseries (he said they aren’t). Some didn’t agree with that and I was therefore labeled a “heretic.” There are at least two related issues involved here. First, there’s a popular notion amongst some Reformed believers that every theological error is a heresy. This notion equates error with heresy, as if they are complete synonyms. Second, there’s another notion (found with some) that treats all theological errors as if they were of the same weight. Every theological error then becomes a matter of heaven or hell. In such thinking, to administer the Lord’s Supper differently is virtually in the same category as denying the Trinity. It might not ever be said that crassly, but when you look at what’s said and done, it often seems to come down to that. Heresies put salvation in jeopardy To really understand what’s involved here we need to turn to church history. Today’s misuse of the terms “heresy” and “heretic” are often caused by a lack of understanding of how these terms have been used historically. In the centuries after the apostles, debates raged about certain doctrinal points. In these debates, certain teachings were ultimately considered to be heretical. By “heretical,” the Church understood that holding to such doctrines put one’s salvation in jeopardy. In fact, there were certain teachings where, if one held them consistently and unrepentantly to death, one would not be saved. The word “heresy” was reserved for these teachings that struck at the heart of the Christian faith, attacking fundamental doctrines. One of the most obvious examples is the doctrine of the Trinity. Denying the doctrine of the Trinity (in various ways) is regarded as heretical. The Athanasian Creed lays out the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity and then says in article 28, “So he who desires to be saved should think thus of the Trinity.” If in any way you deny that God is three persons in one being, you’re a heretic. Another example has to do with Christ and his two natures. Says the Athanasian Creed: “It is necessary, however, to eternal salvation that he should also believe in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now the right faith is that we should confess and believe that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is equally both God and man.” If you deny that Christ is both true God and true man, you’re a heretic. When we say that, it should be clear that we’re making a statement about the seriousness of this error, namely that this is an error for which someone can be damned. A heresy is a deadly error. The biblical basis of making such strong statements is found in places like 1 John 2:22-23: “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” Another classic example of a heresy is Pelagianism. Pelagius and his followers denied original sin and taught a synergistic view of salvation: since humans are not dead in sin, they can cooperate with God in salvation. The Council of Carthage in 417-418 condemned Pelagianism as a heresy and declared that those who held to it were anathema – “anathema” means “eternally condemned and outside of salvation.” The Council could confidently assert that because of what Scripture itself says in passages like Galatians 1:8: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let me him be accursed.” In Greek, Paul used the word anathema. The Church has always regarded Pelagianism as another gospel, and therefore an accursed heresy. Reformed confessions use heresy with restraint Our Reformed confessions are rather careful in what they label as heresy. Canons of Dort 3/4 article 10 reaffirms that Pelagianism is a heresy. Belgic Confession article 9 mentions several “false Christians and heretics”: Marcion, Mani, Praxeas, Sabellius, Paul of Samosata, and Arius. These were in deadly error with regard to the Trinity. Certain Anabaptists are also described as holding to heresy in Belgic Confession article 18. Though they’re not mentioned by name, the Confession is referring to Menno Simons and Melchior Hoffmann. They taught that Christ doesn’t have a real human nature from Mary but that, in his incarnation, he took his human nature from heaven. This is a heresy because it runs into serious trouble with the two natures of Christ, and specifically whether his human nature is a true human nature. 2 serious errors that aren’t heresy Let me now mention two prevalent errors that aren’t heresies. Theistic evolution isn’t a heresy. It’s a serious error which may lead to heresy, but as such, it’s not a heresy. I’ve never referred to it as such and I’ve cautioned others against describing it as such. Women in ecclesiastical office is a serious error conflicting with Scripture. It emerges from a way of interpreting the Scriptures which could lead to far more serious doctrinal trouble. However, you shouldn’t say it’s a heresy. That wouldn’t fit with the way this term has been understood and used in church history and in our confessions. Too loaded a term for smaller disputes Not every theological error is a heresy. Certainly, someone’s disagreement with you on a particular doctrinal point doesn’t allow you to loosely throw the term “heretic” around. The words “heresy, heretic, heretical” should be reserved for only the most serious doctrinal errors, the ones where the Church clearly confesses from the Scriptures that these views are salvation-jeopardizing. By that, we also recognize that not all errors are of the same seriousness. We definitely want to strive for doctrinal precision and accuracy, but we also have to realize that not all points of doctrine carry the same weight and therefore we can, even in confessional Reformed churches, have some room for disagreement. If that’s true with regard to doctrine, it’s even truer with respect to practice. True Christians eager to follow what the Bible teaches reach different conclusions on such things as vaccinations or the lockdowns of the last year. When you see a fellow believer with different convictions about living as a Christian, be careful before you bombastically toss around that label, “Heretic!” It’s a loaded term never to be used glibly....

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

A Return to Grace: Luther's life and legacy

Docudrama 2017 / 106 minutes Rating: 8/10 What makes this a must-see is its unique mix of drama and documentary. Other great Luther documentaries exist, but the most engaging of "talking heads" can't really grab the attention of a broad audience. I have seen even children enjoy one of the many dramatized accounts of his life, but drama can't go into the same depth as a documentary – an actor can show us Luther's despair or his joy, but they can't depict the greatness of God's grace, so, in this genre, it goes largely unexplored. A Return to Grace is a docudrama – half documentary and half drama, making good use of the strengths of each. There are learned theologians to give us the background and explain the Scriptural debates that occurred, and there are also elaborately set and well-acted scenes from Luther's life. I would guess it is a near 50/50 split. Pádraic Delaney's Luther is very believable (and maybe second only to Niall MacGinnis' 1953 portrayal), speaking volumes with not just his tongue, but his grimaces, smiles, and silences. I've probably watched at least a half dozen Luther films, and I've never seen the chronology of Luther's life depicted as clearly. There are also explanations offered here that are left as mysteries elsewhere. Have you ever wondered why the Pope didn't just crush this monk early on when he was still seemingly insignificant? The answer shared here is that the Pope didn't want to make an enemy of Luther's prince, Frederick III, because the prince was one of the seven electors who would choose the next Holy Roman Emperor. The Pope had no direct say in that selection, and if he hoped to have any sort of influence at all, he would need to be on the good side of the electors. God so set the scene that the Pope had to act cautiously and with restraint and couldn't just burn Luther at the stake. While I was familiar with only one of the theologians interviewed (United Reformed professor Carl Trueman), they all had some great Luther gems to share. James Korthals, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary contributed this one about Luther's view on vocation: "The  farmer out in the field pitching dung is doing a greater work for God than the monk in the monastery praying for his own salvation." This was, at the time, a revolutionary idea of vocation. Even today, many seem to think that minister and missionary are the true God-glorifying jobs, and all else is second best. In saying all jobs could be done to God's glory, Luther presented all fruitful work as being worthy of respect. This is one of the ideas highlighted in the film's alternate title: Martin Luther: The Idea That Changed the World. The story here is first and foremost about Luther rediscovering the gracious nature of God, but it is also about Luther's influence as it impacted people far beyond the church door, and about the ripples that continue to be felt even today, and even in the secular world. Cautions I have no real cautions for the film. I was a little concerned when a Roman Catholic Cardinal, Timothy Dolan, made a few brief appearances. But he doesn't say much of anything, and even concedes that Luther's rebellion was understandable against that old corrupted Roman Catholic Church. He might be implying that today's Roman Catholic Church is different, but he isn't given the time to make that case. Conclusion Return to Grace's drama/documentary combination draws viewers in without sacrificing depth. I'll add that this still isn't one for preteens, but for adults, and teens who are on their way, this will be a fascinating presentation of the man, and what he learned about our great God. So don't save it for Reformation Day – it's free to see now (though with some commercials). ...

Book Reviews, Children’s non-fiction

God’s Big Book of Animals

Edited by Shirley Rash 248 pages / 2019 Did you know that baby elephants drink three gallons of milk each day? Or that “woodcock” means “roosters of the forest” And did you know female great white sharks are actually larger than the males? God's Big Book of Animals is GIGANTIC - it's bigger than any other book I've read. It is filled with amazing information about intricate animals – like the great white shark! – all created by God. Each of the 60 animals are given 4, bright, beautiful pages full of descriptions, fun facts and pictures. Plus each animal has their own 14 x 10 inch full-page photo. More examples: “Turtles do not have teeth. They have strong, jagged jaws that help them take bites.” “Komodo dragons are also called monitor lizards.” “Elephants have long trunks, longer then any living animal. Their trunks are heavy, and can weigh over 300 pounds! They move their trunks from side to side, and when they want to rest, they lay it on their tusks. God gave elephants the ability to lift pieces of straw and push heavy pieces of wood.” “A group of butterflies is called a kaleidoscope of butterflies, a swarm of butterflies, or a rabble of butterflies.” “Baby octopuses can hatch in different colors. They can be orange, red, yellow, or different shades of blue.” I think kids 7 and up would love this! But even kids younger would like the many pictures inside....

News

Saturday Selections – April 24, 2021

Man describes criminal in 2021 (2 min) "In this first episode of Better Cops, a man who has just been robbed tries to describe his assailant to a police sketch artist. But these cops are better than normal cops - they require no exclusionary language of any kind be used." IntelligentDesign.com is your one-stop spot for ID A new website has all sorts of great, short, very clever videos touting the brilliant design evident throughout creation. And it has other materials grouped into Introductory, Intermediate, and Advanced categories. This is the place to go to get introduced to the idea that evidence of an intelligently designed world is all around us. But there is a problem with the Intelligent Design movement: it never names who that Designer is; they never give God His due. Imagine a woman who praised "Man" but never had a thing to say about her husband – ID is weird like that. And because they aren't loyal to the God of the Bible, it leaves them vulnerable to some aspects of evolution, including an openness to long ages. So, it is a fascinating site, but discernment is a must. Will we work on the New Earth? We have good reason to think so. Why one small town hid Jews when so many wouldn't Earlier this year a Holocaust survivor left millions to the French town that hid him. But what was behind this town's World War II “conspiracy of goodness”? Live not by lies - orthodox and not In his review, Dr. Wes Bredenhof has some kudos and and also cautions to share about Rod' Dreher's latest book. On free trade, tariffs, and bananas (2 min) While the tune is catchy, and the bit is humourous, the topic is an important one. When tariffs are imposed to protect markets for homegrown producers they do so at the expense of homegrown consumers who will have to pay more. Because some of those consumers are also producers, tariffs make their input costs higher, which forces them to raise prices, and that, in turn, makes them less competitive. So tariffs protect some producers at a cost to other producers. Finally, some tariffs are imposed on the exports of poorer countries, protecting first-world industries at a cost to third-world industries. This video only offers the brief, practical case against tariffs, but additional points for Christians to consider would include: The proper role for government – Should they be actively picking one side over another, producers against consumers (Lev. 19:15, Prov. 28:21)? Implications here of the command to "do unto others" (Matt. 7:12) – Would you want the government to enact a tariff that would increase your business's costs? If not, should you push for a tariff that will protect your business by increasing others' costs? Our attitude towards the poor – Should we protect our industries at the expense of the third-world (Deut 24:17)? ...

Assorted

When promises hold up as well as pie-crusts...

"Promises and pie-crust are made to be broken," wrote the British satirist Jonathan Swift. Swift’s bit of cynicism seems to be aimed squarely at politicians. After all, some politicians make promises only to just as quickly break them – what they say and do are two different things. For example just before Canada’s 2006 federal elections David Emerson, a former Liberal industry ministry, promised voters that he would fight the Conservatives, calling them "angry" and "heartless." But as soon as Emerson was elected he joined the Conservatives and was given a senior government post by the new Prime Minister, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper. Another infamous example is Conservative Belinda Stronach who ran for the leadership of the Conservative Party before defecting to the Liberal Party and immediately became a member of the Liberal government’s cabinet. Hence, the generally low opinion of politicians. But how important is a promise? What does it really involve? And is promise-breaking only a bad thing to do in politics Importance of promises The keeping of a promise is a form of truthfulness in which an individual makes his actions conform to his words. A promise is an assurance one gives that he will do, give, or refrain from something to the advantage of another. It offers security for those who receive our promise that they can now count on our action. It creates an obligation: it is a declaration we will perform a certain act in the future. Fidelity to one's word is an absolute essential – without it we simply can’t get along with one another and live together in community. Therefore, the deliberate violation of a solemn promise is gravely sinful. If making promises is such a serious matter, why are they so readily broken? Typical excuses are offered by way of rationalization for breaking promises. Thus a failed marriage is labeled "a mistake," as if the promises made when they exchanged their vows were really a miscalculation and not a covenant with another person. Of course, there are occasions when a promise cannot be kept. Exceptions may be made when, for example, fulfillment would involve sin or an unlawful act. But the more flexible approach must, however, take account of the consequences of undermining general confidence in the act of making promises. After all is said and done, failure to keep a promise reveals either deception in its making or inconstancy, both are contrary to the character of God and the spirit of Christ. Ignoring the invisible The readiness to go back on one's words shows the moral illness of our times. Why do we see in our Western culture such increase in pornography, homosexual rights, and abortion-on-demand? Why the high divorce rate, the weakening of family bonds, the deterioration of citizenship and civic virtue? Why have so many Canadians lost their trust in governmental institutions? Some may say, “What else is new? Were there no unsavory politicians in the past?" Of course, there were. History has always been marred by opportunists and traitors. But Western culture used to understand the matter differently. Modern readers of the medieval poet Dante, for instance, are often perplexed by Dante’s view that betrayal and treachery are lower (and thus worse) among the circles of Hell than crimes of violence. The difference between Dante's age and ours is theological. Our modern age has lost sight of God. Lutheran theologian and preacher Helmut Thielicke (1908-1986) pointed out, "As soon as the world loses the Father of the world, as it is deprived of God, it must necessarily be stripped of the invisible. And among invisibles, naturally, are norms such as justice and also the ethical laws of value that determine good and evil." And not mincing words Marcus Honeysett in his book Meltdown: Making Sense of a Culture in Crisis said; "Our culture is in a state of meltdown because we have disposed of truth in order to live without God." We’ve let it happen We can blame society for the godless ways of our country, but really it is our fault. While Biblical Christianity is concerned with the whole of life – with public matters and with those that go on in private, with social, economic, and political matters, with all matters! – Christians leave our faith behind when we walk out our front doors. We think it normal that our faith is privatized, something we do on Sundays but no other day of the week, and certainly not at work or in public. Privatization of the Christian faith is now part of the story of Canadian religion. Our faith has become limited to a Sunday gospel. Vincent Massey, the first Canadian Governor-General, in his address to the Montreal Council on Christian Social Order in November 1953, ably described the situation as he saw it then: "In our modern world, we have suffered an un-Christian division of life into two spheres one of which is secular and public, and another which being religious, is looked upon as private." In 1971 Dr. Robert N. Thompson, evangelical parliamentarian and educator, argued then already that Christians "are by and large living on the reservations of Canada." He stated that: "Our churches have become reserves where we retreated from the life-and-death battles that must be fought against the forces of evil six days of the week. We have allowed those who would make man the measure of all things to have free rein to work out their sinful designs largely unchallenged and uncriticized in all the public place where important issues are being determined. We are limited to a Sunday gospel, for all intents and purposes." The Gospel is a promise Over against privatization of the Christian faith and secularism, which have been sapping our Canadian society for such a long time, stands Biblical Christianity. It alone provides a reliable alternative to individualist-self-created values so many use for their ethical guidance. The God of the Bible, and God alone, certifies an objective moral order. He alone provides a source of moral authority, an absolute standards for ethical behavior, and the incentive and power for character, promise-making and keeping. The idea of a promise is at the core of the Christian faith. The covenant of God with Israel may be viewed as a type of a promise. God makes promises and keeps them. And these promises were not for His own benefit. The bridge between God and mankind is built not from our side but from God's side, and this is a matter of grace. God's promises as interpreted by the New Testament were fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Acts 26:6). And those who have received Christ in faith become heirs to these promises (Eph. 3:6). We will witness the complete fulfillment of all God's promises when our Lord returns in glory. Martin Luther & C. S. Lewis If we take the Bible seriously, our model for promise-making and keeping is the Triune God Himself. And for the strength to be faithful to our promise we must depend on God's grace. For our society to survive, it must rediscover objective-eternal values. It must give serious attention to the acts of the will – promises, resolutions, covenants, laws, all of which are meant to express binding principles that rise above the considerations and politics of the moment. Two examples leap to mind of men who were unswerving in their commitment to eternal standards. In 1521 Martin Luther had to appear before Emperor Charles the Fifth at the Diet of Worms because of "his teaching and books." He did not go back on his word. Instead, he was able to say: "I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted, and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience, I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen." Martin Luther's courageous declaration was not primarily a sign of an upright, decent character, but rather a sign of a foundation upon which that character was built. Ultimately he knew he had to give an account of his actions to his God, who He knew through Jesus Christ. Another man of integrity was C.S. Lewis, who receives much attention today due to the Narnia phenomenon. He made a promise to his friend "Paddy" Moore, who was killed in the First Word War, that he would care for his mother Janie. When he made that commitment to "Paddy" he knew to some extent the enormity of Janie's demanding nature, and of her senseless wranglings, lies, and follies. But he did not go back on his word. He told his brother Warren that he had made a choice, did not regret it, and would stick by it. Only after her death did Lewis begin to realize "quite how bad it was." He stuck to his promise because he knew the God Who made and kept promises. Conclusion Promises should not be treated like "piecrusts" which can be broken at every whim and wish. Instead, we need enduring commitments to those we love and civic friendship toward our fellow citizens. We need not only hold our elected politicians accountable in keeping their promises, but also one another. Ultimately, it is still up to us as Christians to show what it means to be a promise keeper in today's society. Rev. Johan Tangelder (1936-2009) wrote for Reformed Perspective for 13 years. This first appeared in the April 2006 issue under the title "Are Promises Like Pie-Crusts?"...

Current Issue, Magazine

Mar/Apr 2021 issue

WHAT’S INSIDE: Why you should keep reading to your kids / Love your emotions by making them obey Jesus / Books for all ages on the origins debate / A husband reads "Lies Women Believe" / The $15 minimum wage: good intentions are not enough /Why we don't evangelize and why we must / A better brand of Christian fiction / The wacky wombat / Report of a meeting which was never held / The necessity of creeds and confessions / You believe you are the center of the universe...and social media isn't helping / All-time classic family films / Why didn't Samson get sick? / Is God a gentleman? / and more… Click the cover to view in your browser or click here to download the PDF (18.3 mb) ...

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

Replacing Darwin Made Simple

by Nathaniel T. Jeanson 85 pages / 2019 How's this for an intriguing thesis for a creationist book: Darwin got it right. So what exactly is the "it" Darwin got right? Author Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson argues that in On the Origin of Species Darwin's scientific argument/approach did successfully poke holes in creationism...but the 1859 version, which held that all the species were created exactly as they are, remaining unchanged. This "fixity of the species" isn't found in the Bible. God tells us He created "kinds" (Gen. 1:11, 21, 24, etc.) but why would we assume that has to mean species? We never see horses becoming deer, but we do see them becoming a whole host of different sorts of horses. So, might the "kinds" God created encompass larger groupings? We know, for example, that horses can breed with zebras. Might they belong together in the same "kind"? As Jeanson explains, this is how Noah could fit the animals on the ark: he didn't have to take horses, zebras, and donkeys, but instead took a representative pair of horse kind, from which these threes species eventually descended. And the same for dogs, and cats, and more. The author not only gives Darwin credit for highlighting the problems with a "fixity of species," he wants today's scientists to question like Darwin. Jeanson argues that if they used this same scientific critical approach it would back today's creationism and tear down today's evolution. Then scientists would find creationism has explanations for some of the same observations evolution is said to explain. And they would also find that evolution has problems that creationism does not when it comes to sexual procreation, rapid speciation, mitochondrial "clocks," and more. Made Simple is actually a simplified version of Jeanson's 2017 Replacing Darwin: The New Origin of Species, which clocks in at 335 pages. The larger version is written for the skeptic, something you can give to a curious friend, and it is larger because skeptics have lots of questions – it is a thorough overview of the creation vs. evolution debate. And that's also why it is the much more technical of the two. Both do require effort, but Made Simpler is probably accessible to anyone who had some high school science and is interested enough to put in the effort – the author describes it as the "Cliff Notes" version. Parts of the larger original are probably at a university level, but don't let that dissuade you if the topic is of interest – you don't need to (and I didn't) understand every last little bit to find it fascinating. So pick up a copy of Replacing Darwin Made Simple to get a good overview of a compelling argument: Darwin rebutted 1859 creationism, but would also do damage to modern-day evolution. And if you want to dig deeper (or have a skeptical friend) then pick up Replacing Darwin: The New Origin of Species. You can also listen to Dr. Jeanson give a presentation on the same subject matter in the 1-hour lecture below. ...

News

Saturday Selections – April 17, 2021

In Canada, abortion is legal for all 9 months (1 min) This is a fantastic one to copy and paste to your own social media page... Pasteur was right: life from non-life is impossible! (10-minute read) "Louis Pasteur famously stated the Law of Biogenesis: life begets life. No experiment has ever refuted it. Evolutionists must believe it was violated in the past when life spontaneously originated somehow, somewhere." This is a longer read but a great overview of evolutionary explanations for how life began. For those that just don't have the time, here's the five-word summary: they don't really have any. How the Bible defines anxiety "Jesus knows that no one wants to be anxious, and that most often it feels as if it is happening to us more than we are actively choosing to be anxious. The Word of God first helps us by defining anxiety so that we will understand precisely what we are up against..." Big Tech deciding what the scientific consensus is YouTube recently censored the Florida governor's roundtable COVID discussion because his experts said children don't have to wear masks. "Ironically, the World Health Organisation (WHO) itself advises that children under five should not be required to wear masks and that those between ages six and 11 need only wear masks in areas of 'widespread transmission'." There are no egalitarians when the dog attacks A little boy stepped in front of the dog when it was set to attack his sister. Why? Because he figured, “If someone had to die, I thought it should be me.” Thomas Sowell...a Marxist until the facts turned him around (5 min) Thomas Sowell's great strength is that he understands Man is a limited creature, and that our intentions, however noble, can't simply eliminate those limitations. In short, he understands that neither Man, nor government, is God. His weakness? He rarely if ever acknowledges God. So for Christians who have embraced socialism, thinking it compassionate, Sowell can offer only a practical, not biblical, corrective: he won't tell us, "That's not what God intended" but will instead note, "That doesn't work." (If you want to know more about the man, you can see a documentary about him at the link above.) ...

Theology

Infant baptism vs. believers-only baptism: What’s the main difference?

The fundamental difference between the two positions is revealed in how one answers this question: Is baptism primarily God’s action or is it a human response? The Bible tells us that we are dead in sin (Eph. 2:1). Consequently, it is God who makes us alive in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:4). Even our faith, which is our response to God’s great work of salvation, is of divine origin. Faith itself is gift of God (Eph. 2:8). Infant baptism testifies to the grace of God in salvation: God is the one who initiates, acts and saves. Believers-only baptism testifies to our response of faith to God’s saving work in ourselves. On this view, baptism is a sign and seal of my public profession of faith in Christ Jesus. An overlooked argument There are plenty of helpful resources on infant baptism, and most of them rightly link baptism to circumcision. In Genesis 17, God promises to be “God to you and to your offspring forever (Gen. 17:7). There is great comfort in knowing that God binds himself by covenant to infants even before they can respond to him by faith. Truly, we love him because he first loved us. Often overlooked, however, in the discussion on infant baptism are Paul’s remarks in 1 Corinthians 10:1-5. Although these verses do not provide a comprehensive understanding of infant baptism, they provide another important line of thought. Put simply: Paul assumes that New Testament baptism is the fulfillment of Mosaic baptism. Paul writes: "For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness." (1 Cor. 10:1–5) Four observations There are many golden truths that need to be mined from these few verses but consider the following four simple observations, which help us understand the meaning of infant baptism. 1. The Church is the new Israel First, in 1 Corinthians 10, Paul applies lessons from Israel’s history to the church. Paul can do this only because he sees the church as the fulfillment of Israel: the church is the new Israel (Gal. 6:16). More specifically, Paul sees Mosaic baptism as having relevance for the Christian church. This explains why Paul can tell the Corinthians that this event – Israel’s baptism in the Red Sea – is an example for them (1 Cor. 10:6). The Old Testament is not a random collection of stories in which God interacts with a people that have no connection to us. No! For Paul, the Old Testament is part of our story. The story of Israel is the history of the church. These are our parents - these are our “fathers” (1 Cor. 10:1) – and since God does not change, he continues to relate to us in the same way he related to Israel: by means of the covenant. 2. In this case all means all Second, Paul notes that all of Israel was baptized, ate the same spiritual food, and drank the same spiritual drink. In this case, “all” means “all.” The elderly, the infants and everyone in between were baptized. Whatever else we can say about this passage, it is clear that infants were baptized when they crossed the Red Sea, as they escaped from Egypt. And if infants were baptized, numbered among God’s people, and partook of Christ in the Old Testament, it only makes sense that they would enjoy the same privileges and blessings today. 3. The Red Sea was the work of God Third, Israel’s baptism was pre-eminently the work of God. It was God who led our fathers by pillar of cloud. It was God who opened wide the Red Sea and provided the dry ground. It is true that the adults had to respond to God’s work by faith – they had to walk on the dry ground. And it is also true that the infants who could not walk, but were carried by their parents, were beneficiaries of this baptism. They were delivered from Egypt along with their parents. 4. Baptism is not a guarantee Fourth, baptism does not guarantee salvation. Paul says that God was not pleased with most of Israel, and they were overthrown in the wilderness. Who were these people? They were the adults who rebelled against God and the leadership of Moses. They wandered in the wilderness for 40 years until they died off and their baptized children were old enough to enter the Promised Land. God was indeed the God to these children despite the apostasy of their parents, and their baptism reminded them of God’s faithfulness toward them. Conclusion There is much more than can be said about this passage. However, these brief observations are sufficient to lead us to the following modest conclusion: The Apostle Paul retells the story of Israel’s baptism in the Red Sea because he believed that they participated in an event that corresponds to the sacrament of Christian baptism.1 Endnote 1 Meredith G. Kline, By Oath Consigned: A Reinterpretation of the Covenant Signs of Circumcision and Baptism(Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975), 67. Rev. Garry Vanderveen blogs at Show, Don’t Tell where a version of this first appeared. It is reprinted here with permission....

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – April 2021

Richer than you knew Today's complaints about "income inequality" mask the fact that, in the West, anyone who can afford a smartphone is richer than the richest oil baron or railroad tycoon of one hundred years ago. Just consider all the features our phones have on them that people of that time could never have dreamed of. We have in our back pocket: instant access to newspapers, stock reports, and a library larger than any building could hold all the music we own, and the ability to hear tons more our very own personal GPS - try explaining that one to a 1920s tycoon our own video recorder all of our photos carried along with us at all times our own TV, radio, camera, calculator, alarm clock, and calendar That doesn't even get into what all our apps can do. And just to underscore just how rich we are, let's mention a big one that, admittedly, isn't phone-related, but is appreciated by all: indoor plumbing – once a luxury item, now, thankfully standard issue! If some today want to focus on how much more Jeff Bezo, Bill Gates, or Elon Musk have compared to the rest of us, we should instead remember how richly God has blessed us! Is God a gentleman? – an Arminian standard If you’ve ever discussed God’s sovereignty and Man’s free will with an Arminian friend, you may have heard them say: “God is a gentleman, so He would never force Himself on us.” How should we answer this claim? First, it’s good to note that your friend may think this a positive portrayal of God – after all, when has being called a gentleman ever been an insult? But there is a problem: if the debate is framed this way, then the Calvinist understanding of God is truly horrific because if God were not to act the part of a gentleman, if He was to “force Himself on us,” then what is God being likened to? However, unintended, this treats the Calvinist position on God’s sovereignty as God the rapist. How, then, can we answer this charge? By going to Scripture. Do we find God as a gentleman there? No – He reveals Himself as a parent – God is our Father. As a parent myself, I know that sometimes my love is expressed by forcing my will on a child: they will go to bed, eat their vegetables, do their homework, and more, whether they want to or not. My dad tells a story about when he was a kid out biking in the Netherlands with his own father. They were on the top of a hill with a major road below and my dad pointed his bike down the hill and started pedaling when, suddenly, his chain fell off. On this kind of bike that was the only brake so now he was flying faster and faster towards a major highway with no way to stop – he was heading towards certain death. My grandfather yelled at him to tip his bike to wipe out because as much as that would hurt it was better than getting killed. But he was just a kid and not thinking logically, so he wouldn’t do it. My grandfather raced after him, caught up to him just in time, and then pitched both of their bikes over just short of the highway. It hurt a lot but saved his life. My grandfather forced his will on his child...because he loved him. God is not a gentleman; He is our Father and He will turn His children back towards Him.  Just checking… There’s a custom, still in use in many weddings, for the bride to come down the aisle with her face covered by a veil. The groom will then, right before the vows, lift the veil over her head. One interesting theory (impossible to prove) for the origins and timing of this veil flip is that it may be a response to Jacob’s marriage to Leah where the groom didn’t realize who he was marrying until it was too late (Gen. 29:22-25). Thus the veil flip – in the thousands of years since, no man has wanted to make that same mistake! Why didn’t Samson get sick? Most guys hold to the 5-second rule: should I drop food on the ground but pick it up before 5 seconds pass, it is safe to eat. The rule has some wrinkles: for something truly delicious there are provisions for an extension of even 3 or 4 seconds more. Some criticize this rule, pointing to studies that say bacteria can latch onto fallen food in an instant. But while such studies have done little to dissuade dads from brushing the grass off a fallen hotdog or hamburger patty,  we know there are limits. Even the manliest man isn’t going to pick something up off of the slaughterhouse floor. So what was Samson thinking when he ate honey out of a rotting lion carcass? This wasn’t after just 5 seconds either, so why didn’t he get sick? The answer lies in the amazing properties of honey. Pots of it have been found in Egyptian tombs, thousands of years old and still unspoiled. How many other foods can do that? What gives it not only this long life but the sort of anti-bacterial properties that allowed Samson to eat it out of a carcass? There are a few things, including a lack of water, and a degree of acidity (with a pH of 3 to 4.5), but the secret ingredient is…bee spit! Their stomach acid breaks down the nectar they ingest, creating a by-product of hydrogen peroxide. That isn’t something we’d normally want to ingest, but it is tiny and just enough to help prevent spoilage. It is also just enough to give honey medicinal properties that benefit us too, like being a low-cost, readily available treatment for burns – it reduces scarring and even offers some pain relief. While we prefer to get our honey from non-carcass sources, this is why Samson could chow down, and share it with his parents, without any digestive consequences. Because even honey is fearfully and wonderfully made! Ready for bigger things While Covid has closed schools, that hasn’t squelched some kids’ creativity. On January 25 @ChrisArnoldInc tweeted: “My wife is a teacher and apparently one kid has been changing his name to 'Reconnecting' during the Zoom lessons so that he doesn't get asked any questions. Been doing it for weeks. The lad doesn't need to worry about his education, he's already a bona fide genius.”  Good intentions don’t make the minimum wage good President Biden’s administration seems intent on more than doubling the US federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour. The intent of this minimum wage hike (and minimum wage laws generally) is to help the country’s poorest, by giving an instant boost to their income. But what the late Walter Williams (1936-2020) wanted to know was, what will happen to the worker who doesn’t already have the skills to produce at least $15 an hour worth of value to their employer? “A lot of people will say, ‘The minimum wage is an anti-poverty device.’ That is utter nonsense. For kids who grew up in broken homes, who’ve gone to rotten schools ... if they’re going to learn anything that will make them a more valuable worker in the future, they’re not going to learn it in their neighborhoods, they’re not going to learn it in their schools. So they have to learn it on the job. And what the minimum wage law does, it nixes that learning.” The wit and wisdom of C.H. Spurgeon “…idle men tempt the devil to tempt them.” “…they are always talking about their rights; I wish they would give an eye to their own wrongs…” “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.” “Is there nothing to sing about today? Then borrow a song from tomorrow; sing of what is yet to be. Is this world dreary? Then think of the next.” “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” A Christian case for Free Speech The Christians case for freedom of speech is based on knowing: Truth is real Man is fallen That there is a Truth to be found gives Christians a reason to permit even very offensive speech, to allow truth and lies to battle it out under the bright lights. We wouldn’t want an atheist banned from questioning God’s existence because to do so is going to make it impossible for him to get answers. But Christian support for free speech is not absolute. We should censor some sorts of “speech” – pornography, slander, yelling “fire” in a crowded theater – because of the great harm these lies cause.  But the fallen nature of Man is why we would only restrain speech in the most extreme circumstances, as Douglas Wilson explains: “The foundational reason for insisting on free speech has to do with the Christian doctrine of the nature of man. Every restriction that is placed on men is a restriction that must be enforced by men. And the men who enforce are almost always a greater hazard to our liberties than the man in the street who wants to pop off about something. The men who enforce any restrictions on free speech have the same problem of sin that the general populace does, and in their case this sinfulness is combined with political power. This means that if you grant the authorities the power to punish the one who would yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater, which they need to have, they will be tempted to use that power to punish citizens who are critical of them…. I do not want to defend free speech because each of us is so wise that we all must be given our chance to contribute our wisdom. No. Rather, I maintain that we are a fallen race, and cannot be trusted to police certain things. To the extent that the authorities have any power to regulate speech, that power must be carefully balanced and held in check…” Tyranny of the busybody “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” – C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock...

Parenting

21 things I learned living with teenagers

We're almost running out of teenagers in our family. Our eldest of six is well past the mid-twenty mark, and our youngest is less than a year away from getting his driver's license. And then time will really speed by. By the time our last hits twenty, Peter and I will have been parents of teens for twenty-six years. Well, not surprisingly you do learn a thing or two in such an extended period of time. Here are some important life lessons we've learned as parents of teens.  On curfews and cars A mother's imagination is a terrible thing. If your kids are a half-hour late, you imagine them in all sorts of trouble. This feeling becomes almost a certainty if you happen to hear police and ambulance sirens in the distance. Fathers can sleep through anything. "What's the point of staying awake? If something's happened, we'll find out soon enough." You can fold a lot of laundry while you're waiting for your sons to come home. And then when everything is stacked and put away, you can start on the ironing. Getting all this work accomplished will prevent you from blowing your stack when they walk in the door an hour and half late....maybe. You should never throw apples in anger. You might hit someone...or you might not. Late, late one night, having completed all the waiting-for-son-to-come-home-chores, a mother—whom I happen to know rather well—decided she might as well pick the apples off the ground in the back yard, since making applesauce was on the agenda the next day. By the light of the moon, she trudged to the back of the yard and began gathering the fruit. Shortly thereafter, her tardy son drove in. He slowed carefully to a stop on the noisy gravel, opened his door, slid out, silently closed the door and tiptoed toward the back door, humming softly under his breath. An apple whizzed past his head. Splat! It hit the shed door. So did the next one. Wisely, the son said nothing and calmly though hurriedly continued in and went to bed. So did mother. If you and your husband come home late one night, and you start to fret and fume because your son isn't home yet, don't drive around town looking for him and don’t start phoning his friends to find out where he is. Check his bed first. He may have come home early and be sleeping peacefully. Life is less stressful if your son's girlfriend has to be home by 11:00 p.m. When you're driving with a son who has his learner's license, it does not help to push your right foot through the floorboards on your side of the vehicle. The car will not slow down. If the phone rings at midnight it might be your son informing you that he's had an accident with your recently purchased car that you reluctantly let him use. Remember to first ask him whether anyone's been hurt and if he's all right, before you ask if there's any damage to your car. At some point, you will learn to love the sound of your son's car's stereo. I have discovered this to be true when I hear it half a block away, fifteen minutes before curfew. On food Your teens and their friends will instinctively find and consume all the food items you were saving for your Sunday evening visitors. You will begin to hide these special food items in the master bedroom, something you told your own Mom you'd never, ever do. If you want to prevent your teens from eating the special dip you made for tomorrow night's party, stick it in a wrinkled brown lunch bag at the back of the fridge. No one is interested in old lunches. Homebaked cookies last a long time if you put them in the freezer in an ice-cream bucket marked "Soup Stock." They'll last even longer if you mark the pail, "Liver." If your son or daughter phones a half-hour before Sunday supper and asks, "Can I bring my friends along?" say, "Yes, of course." Just add four cups of hot water and a package of chicken noodle soup to the pot and defrost another dozen buns. If they show up without having phoned, the same instructions apply. On housework, homework and bedtime You can tell a teen has cleaned her bedroom by the number of her clothing items you find in the laundry hamper. If they're still folded, you can probably get away with just putting them back into her bedroom. Sometimes all you need to do is fluff up those only-worn-once-for-one-hour-jeans in the dryer with a sheet of Fleecy or Bounce for ten minutes, then fold them and put them away. Teens don't like being told what to do. They prefer to make up their own mind about things. So ask them, "What would you rather do today? Dust and vacuum or clean the bathrooms?" Teens are just as hard to get to bed at night, as they are to get up in the morning. The ideal life for them would start at noon and go till midnight or two. The trouble is, no schools can find teachers who want to be up that late. The most reticent teen becomes the world's greatest talker, one hour after Dad and Mom had planned to be sleeping. Teens who cannot stick to homework for more than thirty minutes without needing three snacks, can play video games for three hours without even a bathroom break. Interest in school projects increases greatly the night before they're due. There is never any glue in the house at 11:00 p.m. the night before a project is due. Someone has also stolen all the scissors. And worst of all, the printer is out of ink. But the most comforting thing I've learned…. You can never pray too much for your teens. So, just when you think you've got it all together, the next one becomes a teen, and the roller-coaster ride starts up once more. But remember, take time to listen with your heart, not just your ears. Keep smiling and give lots of hugs. Before you know it, your grandchildren will be teenagers and you can stand on the sidelines smiling encouragingly, remembering with a sigh what it was like. This article first appeared in the June 1999 issue of Reformed Perspective....

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

Foresight: How the chemistry of life reveals planning and purpose

by Marcos Eberlin 2019 / 147 pages Back in 1996 "Irreducible complexity" was Michael Behe's contribution to the origins debate: he argued that some biological structures couldn't possibly have evolved because there is no way they could have come about by evolution's stepwise-process – the complexity of micro-machines like a bacteria's flagellum motor was irreducible. Now Marcos Eberlin is making a similar point, but bringing a new piece of rhetorical ammunition to the fight with Foresight in which he argues the deeper we delve into the biological world the more we discover "artful solutions to major engineering challenges." These solutions, he explains, look to "require something that matter alone lacks.... – foresight." With this term "foresight," Eberlin is arguing some biological abilities couldn't have come about as a response, but had to be the result of anticipation. So, for example, cells, right from the beginning, had to anticipate the problems that would come with using oxygen: The oxygen (O2) molecule is essential to life, but only a life form that can efficiently wrap and transport the devil O2 exactly to a place where it can be used as an energy source would benefit from its angel side. Otherwise, O2 becomes life’s greatest enemy. Rupture the membrane of a living cell, exposing it to the air, and you will see the great damage O2 and a myriad of other chemical invaders can do to a perforated cell. Death would be swift and sure. From an engineering standpoint, then, it was essential that a way is found to protect the cell, life’s most basic unit. The solution was clever: The cell was surrounded by a strong chemical shield, from the very beginning. It is often said that a solution always brings with it two additional problems, and a cellular membrane shield is no exception. A simple shield could indeed protect the cell interior from deadly invaders, but such a barrier would also prevent cell nutrients from reaching the inside of the cell, and it would trap cellular waste within. Small neutral molecules could pass through the membrane, but not larger and normally electrically charged biomolecules. A simple shield would be a recipe for swift, sure death. For early cells to survive and reproduce, something more sophisticated was needed. Selective channels through these early cell membranes had to be in place right from the start. Cells today come with just such doorways... .....a gradual step-by-step evolutionary process over many generations seems to have no chance of building such wonders since there apparently can’t be many generations of a cell, or even one generation until these channels are up and running. No channels, no cellular life. So then, the key question is: How could the first cells acquire proper membranes and co-evolve the protein channels needed to overcome the permeability problem? Even some committed evolutionists have confessed the great difficulty here. As Sheref Mansy and his colleagues put it in the journal Nature, “The strong barrier function of membranes has made it difficult to understand the origin of cellular life.” So Eberlin concludes: "There would be no hope for a cell to become viable if it had to tinker around with mutations over thousands of generations in search of a functional membrane. It's anticipate or die." This is but his first example – Eberlin is arguing that wherever we look at life, "the evidence of foresight is abundant." That's true in the fine-tuning of the universe, where gravity had to be just so, Earth had to be just the right distance from the Sun, and had to have enough water, and water needed to have certain specific properties. Oh, and the planet needed to have just the right amount of lightning too. That foresight is also evident in the structure of our DNA - which has to be stable – and RNA - which has to be malleable. He goes on and on, diving into these examples, and showing how brilliantly problems have been anticipated and solved. But by who? Well, Eberlin doesn't really get into that until the final chapter, and it is in the book's very last line that he gives credit where it is due: "Great are the works of the Lord." I loved this whole book, but will confess to only understanding about two-thirds of it clearly. But even when it got more technical, the gist I did catch was still utterly fascinating. I'd recommend it to anyone with an interest and at least some high school science....

News

Saturday Selections - April 10, 2021

Education as Warfare (1 min) While this is from a Reformed homeschooling curriculum company,  the overall message applies to Christian schools of any sort. Help for doubting Christians "Sooner or later every thoughtful Christian will feel the unsettling, soul-gripping claw of doubt.... In Mark 9, God helps His people process doubt by describing three kinds of unbelief." How would your child draw Noah's Ark? Even Christian kids have mistaken ideas of the size and dimensions of Noah's Ark and it matters. This article comes with two free coloring sheets at the end that you can print off for your kids. Humanists know something many Christians don't: that school teaches worldviews "Education is thus a most powerful ally of Humanism, and every American public school is a school of Humanism What can the theistic Sunday-school, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?" – Charles Francis Potter, founder of the First Humanist Society of New York (1929). Letter from a mourning mother: “When the trans movement discards my daughter, I’ll be here for her.” In the transgender debate, the Christian defense often comes off as being about our rights to use whatever pronouns we want. But the reason we want to be able to speak God's truth freely – that He determines gender and not Man – is because of our heart for the confused and rebellious people who desperately need to hear that Truth. An article like this shows that love and concern for these confused folk. Greg Bahnsen on evolution and the development of the eye (3 min) Apologist Greg Bahnsen talks about the foolishness of believing in evolution. ...

Articles, Book Reviews

A better brand of Christian historical fiction

As a history buff, historical fiction has long been one of my favorite genres. Unfortunately, I rarely read fiction anymore, as much of modern historical fiction is so rife with sexually explicit scenes and blasphemous language that it should be avoided by the discerning reader. I’ve tossed several in the garbage over the past few years despite incredible writing and riveting plotlines for these very reasons. Another key issue with much historical fiction is the inability of modern authors to actually infiltrate the mindset of those they are attempting to bring to life. Too often, the sentiments of historical characters end up resembling those of the late 20th century or the 21st. Especially when it comes to the treatment of religious belief, authors frequently prefer to portray faith as feigned and religious practice as cynical. One of the best authors of historical fiction writing today, Conn Iggulden, fell into this trap in Dunstan: One Man. Seven Kings. England’s Bloody Throne, a fictional rendering of the great Archbishop of Canterbury. While Iggulden’s Wars of Roses series is excellent, he portrays Dunstan as a Machiavellian figure, taking pains to explain away anything spiritual or miraculous. The result is deeply unsatisfying. The Christian fiction industry, however, is plagued by its own problems. Many authors appear to have a single good idea, write one or two good books, and then settle down to replicate variations of the same story over and over again. The cottage industry of Amish romance is a good example; Christian romance, in general, is a tired genre in which the reader faithfully plods the worn and weary path to the inevitable conclusion (often some variation of: non-Christian falls in love with Christian; they agonize over this and part ways; the miracle occurs and they live happily ever after.) You get what you pay for, and it isn’t literature. This also applies to the hundreds of cookie-cutter historical novels that are often laughably short on research and simply place the same plot in a different time period. In short: Just because it’s “Christian” doesn’t mean it’s any good. Badly-researched historical novels are painful pablum and generally, in my view, a waste of time. But there are some magnificent examples of historical fiction by Christian authors that easily rival some of the best works by non-Christian writers. This list could be much longer, but I’ll highlight just a few. Paul Maier Paul Maier is a historian and writer born in 1930, and formerly served as the Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University, where he still retains the title of professor emeritus in the Department of History. He’s written many books, but his two “historical documentary” novels, Pontius Pilate (1968) and The Flames of Rome (1981) are outstanding. Drawing from all available historical sources, Maier renders the ancient world in vivid color. Pontius Pilate follows the career of the Roman Empire’s most famous provincial official while detailing the politics in painstaking detail. The Flames of Rome follows the family of Flavius Sabinus, the mayor of Rome under Nero, covering the Great Fire of Rome and the religious clashes that defined Christianity’s early beginnings. I’ve read both several times and learned more with each reading. Francine Rivers’ The Mark of the Lion Trilogy Also set in the first century is the Francine Rivers’ magnificent Mark of the Lion series, which begins with the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD and follows the life of a Jewish slave girl, a young Roman aristocrat, and a Germanic barbarian captured in battle and trained as a gladiator. The decadence of Rome is detailed with both bluntness and prudence: promiscuity, abortion, materialism, and the ugly spectacles of public blood sports are all present, and the world Rivers’ renders bears eerie similarities to our own. I should note here that the distinctly evangelical Arminianism throughout the series is unfortunate, but the trilogy is still a brilliant achievement. Brock and Bodie Thoene’s historical fiction The Thoenes are a ferociously productive writing team (more than 65 books), and not everything they’ve produced is of the same quality. But the five-book series The Zion Chronicles, detailing the lead up to the State of Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, is one of the best historical works on this period ever written (easily matching Leon Uris’s Exodus but without the objectionable material). Their prelude series, The Zion Covenant, which covers the run-up to the Second World War up to the Blitz, is also rich with historical detail, well-rounded characters, and riveting plotlines. Along with the Shiloh Legacy series, which covers some of the same characters during the Great Depression, these books alone place the Thoenes in the top tier of historical fiction writers. Bodie was a journalist before she was an author, and it shows. Some of their other works – the AD Chronicles, for example – do not possess the same level of detail, historical research, or character development. To be honest, the shift in quality from the Zion and Shiloh books to some of the others (including the short-lived and apparently discontinued series the Zion Diaries) is somewhat jarring. These books are still quite good – I’ve read them all – but I’ll admit I was somewhat disappointed after having the standard set so high by their first historical works, which I’ve re-read multiple times. (As a side note, some readers may be interested in an interview I did some years ago with Brock Thoene, a historian, on how legal abortion paved the way to eugenics in Hitler’s Germany.) Davis Bunn’s Priceless Collection Davis Bunn’s Priceless trilogy follows a young American business executive who leaves the rat race to join an antique shop in London. Mentored by an older relative, Jeffery Sinclair pursues exquisite treasures behind the Iron Curtain during the lead up to the collapse of Communism, and the totalitarianism and suffering he witnesses are derived from scores of interviews the author conducted with eyewitnesses. Bunn only wrote three books in this series – Florian’s Gate, The Amber Room, and The Winter Palace – and I wish he’d written more. He captures life in the Warsaw Pact; the antique trade; and the suffocating soullessness of both Western materialism and Communism in a fashion reminiscent of Solzhenitsyn’s Warning to the West. The detail, however, doesn’t suffocate his characters, and even the somewhat stereotypical romantic subplot flows seamlessly. Michael Phillips’ Secret of the Rose Trilogy In this masterful set, Michael Phillips traces a family through wartime Nazi Germany into East Germany under Communism. They’re thick novels – Phillips is a fan of the historical fiction master James Michener – but riveting nonetheless. Many novels set during this period use historical events as mere backdrop (generally for romance), but Phillips takes his time setting the scene and the result is well worth your time. Jonathon Van Maren blogs on life and cultural issues at TheBridgehead.ca where this first appeared. It is reprinted with permission....

Family, Movie Reviews

Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates

Family 90 min / 1962 Rating: 8/10 When Hans’ father is hurt repairing a dike, young Hans drops out of school to take care of his family. But the Netherlands in the 1860’s were a hard place to find work and try as he might Hans can’t find enough work to pay for both his family’s food and the medicine his father needs. He is fast though, and when he hears that the prize for the annual 26-mile skating race is 300 guilders, both he and his sister Gretel enter in the hopes of winning the money his family and father so desperately need. Like the book that it is based on, this is a non-Dutch look at the Netherlands, and that comes out most noticeably in the accents, which are Scandinavian rather than Dutch. (The book’s American author Mary Mapes Dodge did her research, but mistakenly gave her characters German-sounding names rather than Dutch). But overall, this is a great family film, showing how we should love our neighbors in need. It’s also a wonderful sports movie without the typical sports movie ending. But be sure you get the 1962 film, as there is also a shorter, black and white, 1958 version that it is often confused with....

Assorted

Love your emotions by making them obey Jesus

Emotional control is a wonderful thing, but it is also much misunderstood. Whenever I say something like the quote included here above, women rush to assume that I am saying emotions (in and of themselves) are a bad thing. Or that a godly life is a life where you stoically don’t feel or express anything. Neither of these things are accurate – and there really is another way to live with your emotions that is not indulgence or suppression. Imagine a person with dogs in their house who are entirely untrained and untended – tearing up the couches, relieving themselves in the house, biting people who come to the door, and fighting with each other. Compare that to a dog owner whose dogs are well behaved, getting exercised well, fed well, trained well, and like to sleep by the fire on their monogrammed dog beds. Which owner actually appreciates and enjoys dogs? Which can truly be said to love dogs? Which owner understands the value and gifts of dogs? Clearly the second! The first is a style of ownership which we would not be wrong to call abusive. It is unkind and actually hateful. The second is characterized by love. To refuse to discipline your emotions is not loving them, but rather hating them. It is to have a worse emotional life. When we require obedience of emotions, we are actually appreciating and loving them. There are times when your emotions want to do what is right – that’s like when we take our dog on a walk and she joyfully runs off in the fields looking for pheasants, doing exactly what she was made to do. It is a delight. But there are also times when our emotions want to do what they may not – like when our dog wants to go kill one of the neighbor’s chickens. To love her is to restrain her. To appreciate her is to not allow her to do whatever she wants. Sometimes she has really terrible wants – just like us! Self-control is a good thing – it is a fruit of the Spirit! If you have been living a life where your emotions are tearing apart the couches and destroying your peace and all those around you, you need to ask the Lord to intervene and help you learn to control them. He will. Rachel Jankovic is the author of “Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches,” “Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood,” and “You Who? Why you matter and how to deal with it” which we’ve reviewed here....

Articles, Book Reviews, Parenting

Why you should keep reading to your kids

Parents read to their pre-school kids on a pretty regular basis – it’s a great way to snuggle up for some one-on-one time with mom or dad. But once school starts, and especially after Grade One, those times reading together begin to peter out. It might be because your little one isn’t asking you as often, or maybe it’s because you’ve stopped suggesting it. After all, why would you keep on reading together when Junior is ready and rarin’ to read on his own? Well, before you close the book on that part of your life, here are a few reasons why you’ll want to keep on reading with your kids for as long as you can. 1. It’ll keep them interested in reading A First Grader is going to be excited to read about how “Ike and Mike both got a bike.” But it won’t be long before they start noticing there’s something missing here. Ike and Mike are fine fellows, but there’s no real tension, no suspense, no conflict to overcome in their story. So if all your child gets to hear are Cat in the Hat and books like that – only the stories that he’s able to read on his own – it’ll be no wonder if he gets bored with books. There’s no payoff: the reading takes lots of effort, and the reward is a downright boring story. But if mom is still snuggling up with them on the couch to tackle In Grandma’s Attic, or dad is sharing his favorite Piet Prins book at night, then your young reader can still grow in his love for great stories, even as he might be a few years from tackling these bigger books on his own. We parents can whet their appetite for the future, by feeding our kids great books now. One reason to keep reading to your children even after Grade One is to show them what there is to look forward to. 2. It’s a way to shape their tastes Just as many kids prefer candy to vegetables, their literary tastes would gravitate to empty calories like Captain Underpants and Magic Kittens if it were only up to them. You can impact what they read by going on library runs with (or without) them, or by developing a decent home library. But even when you’re picking out the selections, you’re likely to find them heading straight to whichever of those books are the most candy-like. So another way you can help them develop a taste for more substantial, meatier fare is by reading it to them yourself. We’ve been doing a bedtime story for almost ten years now, and while we’ve read lots of their requests – I don’t know how many times I’ve tackled Elephant & Piggy, Fancy Nancy, and the Little Critter series – we’ve also fed them the Chronicles of Narnia, Winnie the Pooh, and The Big Goose and the Little White Duck, none of which they would have picked up on their own. I’ve done most of the bedtime reading, but my wife will read when I have meetings, or have to catch up on some work in the evenings. That has allowed both of us to share our own favorites. So my wife likes Little House on the Prairie and I like great Christian fantasy like Jonathan Rogers’ The Wilderking Trilogy, and between the two of us, we now have girls who like both. 3. It’s a time to connect Reading together is about more than just words on paper; it’s a time to connect, maybe cuddle side by side on the couch, and just spend time together. That’s one reason why many a kid will keep asking, “Can you read this mom?” even after they can tackle a book on their own. I sometimes find life is just too busy, with many evenings filled with work. But because we’ve made a commitment to always end our day with story time, that means that, at the very least, I have this time to talk with my girls. We end the days with prayers, and then a story. With the story comes questions (not too many, but there’s always time for a good one), and that’s when I get the best measure of how my girls are doing. My wife is with them more than I am, so she can get the measure of things other ways too. But for me, this nightly ritual is a time for me to not only read, but hear, and help. 4. It’s a way to learn from other’s lives Our kids can learn from us, and whereas we’d like them to learn from our example, we can also pass along the hard-won lessons we’ve learned from our own mistakes. But their lessons don’t need to stop with just us – they can learn from fictional lives too. They will need some parental guidance to get the benefit, otherwise our elementary-age kids could miss the point of a story entirely, or even learn the wrong lesson. That’s because some of them are reading too fast to really chew on anything, but when dad is reading and they are forced to slow down to his speed, they really start hearing the story. Other kids might miss the lesson because they didn’t understand parts. It’s only when mom is reading, and they have her there to ask their questions, that they can figure out what’s going on. We can also help them understand by asking our own questions. Something as simple as The Three Little Pigs can be fodder for a great discussion if parents ask their kids to pause and consider: “What do you think this story is trying to tell us?” We can even “riff” off of what’s on the page, asking questions that might not even have clear answers in the story like: “Do you think it was just luck that Pig 3 got the strongest building material? Or was he looking for something like that?” When parents read, that makes it possible to go beyond picture books and on to bigger books and their deeper lessons. One example is Sigmund Brouwer’s Innocent Heroes, about the many animals that helped the Allied soldiers in World War I. Each chapter “stars” a different animal, but the deeper story is about the Canadian soldiers that cared for them. When the group's one native soldier returns home to his reserve we learn that Canadian natives at this time weren’t allowed to leave the reserve without getting approval from the local Indian agent. So my girls were angry that this returning soldier was getting treated as a second-class citizen, even after fighting for his country. That was a great opportunity for me to talk not simply about racism, but also about governmental paternalism, and ways to (and ways not to) stick up for your friends. I don’t know when I would have discussed these topics with my girls if not for us all reading this rich book together. Of course, not every book has to lead to a long discussion (especially if you’re reading to them for bedtime and actually need them to go to sleep). Kids will benefit from and be inspired by the determination and Christian faith of a Robinson Crusoe. In Grandma’s Attic offers all sorts of lessons, but the biggest is simply that some older people, like grandmas, are wise, so it’s smart to listen to them. The lessons learned don’t have to be complicated to be good. Sometimes I vary how deep we’re going to go by how tuckered I might be feeling. If I were reading Anne DeVries’ fantastic Journey Through the Night series about the Dutch Resistance in World War II, I might limit my commentary to highlighting that this was ordinary people doing these extraordinary things. I’d want my girls to understand that their courageous example is the type of courage God calls all his people to, in the face of evil. But on another night, maybe when I’m sufficiently caffeinated and if one of my girls wants to know, I might talk about how the Dutch Resistance is an example of what godly civil disobedience looks like. It doesn’t matter whether any particular discussions are big or long or on important topics; if you keep reading to your kids, then over the years you’ll have lots of these discussions and with that volume will come opportunities to address the important topics you might not get to any other way. 5. It’s a way to foster discernment There’s a moral to every story, and a lot of the time what’s being pitched at our kids is something we wouldn’t want them to swallow whole. So another reason to keep reading with your kids is to help them learn to discern what messages and morals they are encountering. Sometimes the moral is simply silly: I was reading an abridged version of King Arthur to my girls and after the teenage Arthur pulls the sword out of the stone, the chapter concludes that, just like Arthur, if we want something strongly enough, then we’ll be able to get what we want. This is the moral of our age: that believing makes it so. But in addition to being nonsense, this moral also ran in direct opposition to the events of the chapter, in which dozens of dukes, earls, and other nobles had tugged at the sword with all of their might – they had all strongly wanted to be king. Yet despite their passion and desire none of them had been able to pull it loose. The girls didn’t spot the contradiction at first, but they sure appreciated the irony afterward: believing does not make it so. Other times even the tamest, most G-rated of stories can still teach a moral that runs right up against what parents are trying to teach. A couple of weeks ago my wife was reading a book about talking kittens – kittens! – with our youngest, and one of the cats asked the little girl in the story to promise to keep a secret from her mom. That was quite the request, but the kitten had a very good reason: if anyone found out that she was a talking kitten she would be in danger! So, on the one hand, our daughters have all been told that if anyone ever wants them to keep a secret from their parents then they should go straight to us and tell us the secret, since only bad guys would make such a request. But on the other hand, this kitten was clearly not a bad guy. So our soft-hearted little girl decided that in this case it would be good to keep the secret from the mother. That was not what we were hoping she would say. But because my wife was reading along, this became an opportunity to reiterate what we’d want her to do, and explain it more clearly. What would have been the wrong lesson learned if our daughter had been reading this alone, turned into another teaching opportunity because mother and daughter were reading it together. I’m currently reading a series with my oldest daughter that is also as G-rated as you could ever expect a secular series to be: the tiniest bit of flirtation, and minimal violence. But to deal with guilt, the creatures in this story would methodically suppress and deny it, lest it drive them crazy. This is a book for teens, and my oldest isn’t yet, so I wasn’t surprised that she didn’t spot that this response to guilt was problematic. And because I was reading right along with her, it just became another opportunity for a good discussion. It’ll be when she can spot these elements herself and bring them to my attention that I’ll know I can start backing off and not being so protective. But until then, it's just more fodder for a good discussion. To spur on some of those discussions the most common question I ask is, “Who or what is the ‘god’ in this story?” What is the story presenting as the ultimate good, or the ideal we should pursue? It’s quite the question for kids to answer, and it’s very interesting to see how perceptive they can sometimes be. 6. It’s fun for the whole family Reading together is just fun. Whether it’s at bedtime, or on a road trip, the family that reads together ends up having great books as a common experience, and a shared vocabulary. Now, I’ll admit that on nights when I’m just barely chugging along, the idea of reading a bedtime story doesn’t always excite me. But even that can have its amusements: I’ve discovered that I can actually read out loud, in my sleep (is that my superpower?). My daughters say that sometimes I’m barely understandable, but I do keep reading. The unfortunate thing is, when I resume the next day, I’m a chapter behind everyone else. When I’m awake, it’s something I absolutely love. Your kids, especially if you start reading to them early, are going to be a very good audience. They’ll be up for your bad pirate accent, and your even worse grandmotherly voice. And you can try it all with them, even if you’d never do so in public. Reading together is also fun because a good book, read with the whole family, is a shared experience and it becomes part of a shared vocabulary. So if we’d recently been reading Winnie the Pooh, and a child is down but not sick, we might talk about how they are feeling like “Eeyore” right now. Or if we’d recently read Pollyanna we might try to apply her “glad game” (finding the silver lining to every ill). The logistics That’s the why for reading to your kids as long as you can, but what about the logistics? What’s the best way to actually do it? It’s all about finding good books, and finding a good time. In our family, bedtime is best, but I know some people use that time to read the Bible with their children (in our house we read the Bible at mealtimes). Other families will create a regular time, maybe every day, or once a week, with everyone sitting around the living room, and parents and children taking turns doing the reading. Another opportunity is any time your family is out driving. Whether you’re heading out on a 20-minute drive to Costco or a 16-hour trip to grandma and grandpa's, those are perfect times to read or listen to an audiobook. One family takes the time after Sunday services to read through some wonderful classics with their grown kids. Regularity is more important than the specific time. For us, reading at bedtime is a bit of a motivator: the sooner to bed, the sooner the story starts. One problem with bedtime stories is that it isn’t the best time to read anything remotely scary. One option is to save those bits for the trip to Costco. Another workaround is to either read the scary bit in as unexciting a voice as you can, or for you to quickly read ahead and then give an abbreviated summary of that section before continuing on to the next chapter. Logistics can be even more challenging if you’re reading to more than one child. All three of my girls are in the same room, so that makes it simple. But bigger groups can still get it done. One father, whose girls are in one room and boys in another, alternates the room he’s going to read in. When he reads in the girls’ room, the boys bring their pillows and a blanket to curl up and listen on the floor. And vice versa when he reads in the boys’ room. However you work out the logistics, it’ll be worth the juggling. The final ingredient is good books. You can find all sorts of recommendations online, and our family’s favorites can be found here. I’ll wrap up here with Albert Mohler, from the March 4 edition of The Briefing: We need to read to our children…. There is something that is expressed in tangible love when parents read to their children. Choose well, read well, read carefully to your children, but yes, read to your children. You're shaping hearts and minds, and furthermore, expressing love to your children in a way you might not think of as a hug. And one of the axioms of our time that wouldn't make sense to most previous generations, but certainly makes sense with urgency now: put down the smartphone, turn off the television, get disconnected from anything that requires a power cord, other than a reading light. Put a child in your lap and read that child a good book....

Assorted

Woven Together

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:15-16) ***** It was a rather warm, early afternoon, if I recall properly, a long-ago day in April of 1978. Our oldest daughter was in grade one, our second daughter was attending kindergarten and the two younger ones were napping soundly. I was cleaning up after lunch and rather contemplating a nap myself when the telephone rang. Picking it up, the voice of an old acquaintance came through. "Christine? This is Anna Piller." "Yes, how are you Anna? Good to hear your voice. I haven't heard from you for quite a while." "I'm fine." There was a silence and I heard the clock ticking through it. "How are your girls?" I recalled that Anna had four daughters. She had taught at the local Christian school for a while, but had left to move south to the London area. "They are fine." There was another silence. Then Anna continued, continued rather hesitantly. "Actually, they're not fine. That is to say, Rachel is...." I tried to help her: "Is something wrong with Rachel, Anna?" "She's pregnant, Christine. And here's the thing. I wonder if she can stay with you for a while? If you would take her into your home." Rachel was the second of Anna's daughters. Anna was a divorcee. Her husband had committed adultery, had not repented and had left her and the girls a number of years prior to her teaching at our school. "Is the father of the baby," I began softly, but was interrupted. "There's not going to be any wedding, Christine." "Oh," I answered, and then went on, "and you want Rachel to stay with us?" "You have such a nice family," Anna rushed on, "and I would feel so good to know that she is with you." When someone tells you that you have a nice family, pride oozes through your veins. You instantly feel good about yourself and when Anna complimented our household, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to help. "How far along is she?" "She's only two months and she feels sick as a dog every morning." I was expecting our fifth and not sick in the least. But I felt instant empathy for Rachel. No husband to help her, she was probably worried about what the community would say and she was so very young. I ventured to guess she was only seventeen or so. Compassion filled me. "I'd have to speak with my husband, Anna, but I think that we could make room for Rachel." "There's something else, Christine. Rachel is going to abort the baby before coming to your house." I was knocked for a loop and honestly did not know what to say for the next minute or so. "Oh, Anna." "Yes, I know." There was a long drawn-out sigh and the clock on the wall kept ticking. "You know this is not right. Why would she...." "I've spoken with her, Christine. I've tried to persuade her to keep the baby but she won't listen to me. There are counselors.... and they say.... I just think that after the abortion she's going to feel pretty low and that she won't feel good about being here and being with you might just raise her spirits and be a good influence on her. Again Anna's sentence stopped midair. Unconsciously I had put my hand on my belly, as if to shut out the influence of the secular world from my unborn, and very much wanted, fifth child. I took a deep breath. "I'll drive down to where you live, Anna, and speak with Rachel myself. I'd like to try and change her mind. You see we are also expecting another baby and maybe I could....” In the end, after discussing it at length, my husband and I decided that Rachel would be welcomed into our home with open arms if she chose to keep the baby, if she chose to stay pregnant. We would help her, encourage her, pay for what she needed and love her. But if she chose to abort prior to coming to our home, she would have to make other arrangements. I drove to the London/Woodstock area shortly after that and had two long conversations - one with Anna and another with Rachel. Rachel almost agreed to come home with me, but in the end she changed her mind and opted for abortion. Anna, the grandmother of the little unborn, was sorry about the situation but it was obvious that she would have found it most convenient to board out her daughter. I drove home sorrowful and have never found out what happened. Both my husband and I were convinced that God would provide for Rachel through ourselves if she chose life. Perhaps, in the end, she did and we were never apprised of the fact. We pray that she did. ***** Mark Jones, pastor of the Faith Reformed Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, Canada, has recently (2019) written a book entitled If I Could Speak - Letters from the Womb. In it are fifteen chapters. Each chapter is a letter written from the womb by a tiny fetus named Zoe. Zoe begins each of her letters with a statement – statements such as "I can hear your voice," and "You and daddy put me here," or "I'd rather be adopted than aborted." The letters are obviously beyond the capacity of a little fetus. The reader is asked to overlook that and to indulge pastor Jones who in this touching and straightforward manner is arguing for life. He's making the case that abortion stops a human being from being able to laugh; from being able to give love; from being able to graduate from school; from caring for parents; and so on. He is, in effect, making the case that abortion is murder. (There is one troubling aspect in chapter 11 of this little tome in which pastor Jones begins by having the fetus say "I wish I were a baby eagle." Going on to laud the parental virtues of the eagle family, he suggests that scientists would be aghast if eagles, or other animals, would poison their offspring. He says: "We would even say a mutation has happened in the so-called 'evolutionary' process. I mean, as far as evolution is concerned, one of the main goals of animals is to leave offspring (DNA) behind in order that the stronger may survive. So to kill one's offspring is a fundamental reversal of the evolutionary process. A bit of a suspect paragraph that. Does pastor Jones believe in evolution? Just be forewarned. Evolution denies God's existence and in doing so negates the intrinsic value of human beings.) In these days when new laws are being enacted and abortion in Canada is legal at all stages of pregnancy, (funded in part by the Canada Health Act), it is good to make this a matter of much prayer. Canada is the only nation with absolutely no specific legal restrictions on abortion. Human life is sacred because we, all of us, have been made in the "image of God." God alone has authority over life because He alone is its Author. Christine Farenhorst is the author of many short story collections including “Hidden: Stories of War and Peace” which you can find on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca....

News

Saturday Selections - April 3, 2021

Bach, in the forest, on a really, really long xylophone (3 min) The phone this advertizes is long gone, but its commercial is standing the test of time. More on Rod Dreher's "Live not by lies" "Solzhenitsyn...told the Russian people that totalitarianism is built on lies and the people’s fear. The way to defeat it is to not live by lies." In other words, if you are scared to stand up for the truth, at the very least commit to not speaking the lie. Protecting minors from pornography This free 33-page e-book from the computer monitor company Covenant Eyes is aimed at Church youth group leaders, but there is lots here for parents, pastors, and elders to benefit from. Many college grads believe life has been created in the lab "...more than 41 percent of respondents thought that origin of life researchers had created 'complex life forms from scratch,' such as frogs, using simple chemicals and conditions that “approximate Earth’s early atmosphere.” .... To put it kindly, the respondents’ great expectations about the accomplishments of origin of life researchers are wrong. Wildly so. Origin of life researchers have not created a frog or a bacterium.... they haven’t created a functional membrane, or a ribosome, or flagella or cilia, or any of dozens of additional parts and molecular machines required for even the simplest living bacterium..." How Canada's government is supposed to work, and how it does (15-minute read) A very helpful overview of the state of things, by REAL Women of Canada. When good intentions harm children It's a no-brainer that we should ban child labor, right? But what if doing so leaves some children in an even worse situation? How did people live to be 900 years old before the flood? (10 minutes) Lifespans that passed 900 years have critics dismissing the reliability of early biblical genealogies. But as Dr. John Sanford has noted, the long ages then, and shorter ages now, can be attributed to genetic degeneration - accumulated mutations that have caused us to be far less fit than our ancestors once were. This one is very interesting! ...

Internet

You believe you are the center of the universe

David Foster Wallace was an American thinker and writer, best known for his novel Infinite Jest. He passed away in 2008, which is a loss to all of us because we could desperately benefit from his thinking right now. In 2005, just a few years before his death, he gave a commencement speech at Kenyon College that has become known as the “This Is Water” speech. It was turned into a very short book which you can buy here if you’re so inclined (I bought a used copy for, like, $3). Much of Wallace’s speech is focused on how the liberal arts are designed to teach us how to think differently and maybe get a bit outside of ourselves so that we may have a bit more critical awareness of ourselves, to realize, “a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded.” He goes into one such example here (bolding mine, italics his): Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness, because it’s so socially repulsive, but it’s pretty much the same for all of us, deep down. It is our default setting, hardwired into our boards at birth. Think about it: There is no experience you’ve had that you were not at the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of you, or behind you, to the left or right of you, on your TV, or your monitor, or whatever. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real. You get the idea. First, the comment about our self-centeredness being our “default setting” struck me as soon as I read it because when I talk to the students in our youth ministry about original sin, I use the “default setting” language and they get it. But isn’t this posture true of all of us, not just Wallace? It’s really just natural to see yourself as the center of the universe, even apart from the sinfulness of it, because you see the entire experience of life from your perspective. As close as you are to your spouse or your children or your church family, it is impossible for you to literally experience life as they do. No amount of time or investment of social energy can lead us to truly live life in through the eyes of others. How easy is it, then, for everyone in our lives to become characters in a movie all about us? Our spouse is the love interest of the main character. Our boss is the curmudgeonly-but-lovable villain who means well but is too old-fashioned for his own good. Our kids are the comic relief and the way we learn about our own selfishness. Everyone else is just extras on our movie set. Wallace is right: our default setting is to see the entire world in relation to ourselves. We never think about the fact that we are actually a supporting actor in someone else’s movie. The connection to social media and the broader age of the social internet ought to be clear, right? Social media perpetuates the idea that we are the main character in our own story. It allows us to take our personal movie to market and share it with the world. It’s no fun being the star of your own movie if no one else can experience it. But now, with the innovation of social media, we can take our performance on the road and show everyone that we are the stars of our own lives. The Christian implications of this phenomenon are many. Perhaps we are best off seeing ourselves as supporting actors or even extras in God’s story at which Jesus Christ is the star. God is the star of the human experience. If you’ve ever wondered about or maybe been skeptical about social media perpetuating self-centeredness, this should ease your skepticism and confirm your wonderings. The idea that social media is a neutral tool equally possible to be used for good or bad is genuinely foolish. I used to believe this, so I’m not being critical of anyone in particular here. I am a convert from this wrong-headed idea. As you tap and swipe and scroll, consider how your favorite social media platforms may be training you to see yourself as the center of your universe, and perhaps as the center of others’ universes. How does this change how you view other people? Perhaps it makes you see them as less important and their needs as unfortunate consequences of not being the main character of the story. The pings and red dots and notifications and hearts and thumbs-ups on all of our manicured content feigning authenticity reinforces the reality that “there is no experience that you were not at the absolute center of.” This originally appeared in Chris Martin’s “terms of service” Feb. 26, 2021 blog/newsletter and is reprinted with permission.  “Terms of service” looks at the social internet from a Christian perspective and comes in both a free and paid subscription, either of which you can sign up for at www.termsofservice.social....

Family, Movie Reviews

Jack and the Beanstalk

Children's 1952 / 83 minutes Rating: 7/10 Bud Abbott and Lou Costello star in their own version of this classic tale. The story begins with the desperate-for-work pair signing up for a night's work as last-minute babysitters. We get to the fairy-tale part when Costello asks the boy they are sitting to read him a story. Then, when we shift from the real world to the fairy tale, the film switches over from a sepia-toned black and white to full color, like happens in The Wizard of Oz. And also like Oz, the people populating this fairyland look awfully familiar. While the story continues on in the usual way, there are some wrinkles, including Jack (Costello) getting a buddy to come along for the adventure – Abbott is the village butcher who wants to retrieve his stolen cow. A princess and prince are two more addition, both of them kidnapped by the giant and held for ransom. This is the romantic angle, the two of them starting as strangers, unable to see each other in their adjoining cells, but falling in love as they talk and sing to one another through the bars. When we meet the villain of the piece, parents might be surprised to see that he's only 7 or 8 feet tall – big, sure, but are we calling that a giant? But that only shows this is intended for children, more than families. Sure, mom and dad can come along for the ride, and they'll like lots of bits of it too, but this is meant for the undiscerning younger viewer who isn't going to find fault with a short giant, a singing harp whose lips don't move, or duels done with bending rubber swords. They'll laugh the first, second, and third time that Jack trips or gets bonked on the head, even as mom and dad will get their main enjoyment vicariously, watching their kids. I should mention one joke that parents will have to explain. At one point Costello inadvertently mixes some gunpowder into the chicken feed, and while I won't give away what happens, kids who have never seen a powder horn will have to be clued into what just happened if they are going to get the joke. Cautions A minor caution would be that the boy they are babysitting is uppity...but mom and dad can point that out. The main caution is with the physical humor. The fights with the giant are all played to comic effect, and I think today's kids will get that. The only scene I found off-putting was in the black and white conclusion, where Abbott slaps Costello for sleeping on the job. Costello seems to feel no ill effects, but I mention it only because it happened in the "real" world and isn't the kind of thing you'd see in today's children's films – this is the slap in slapstick, and it just struck me as mean, not funny. Conclusion This is a good film for the kids, but in need of some parental guidance because of the slapstick. For the parents it is a little slow, and a little too silly, but still enjoyable over all. The film's copyright has expired which has allow all sorts of publishers to put out their own tweaked versions. That means you kind find copies that are entirely black and white, and the different versions vary in length from 78 to 83 minutes. So be sure you find a good one. You can watch Jack and the Beanstalk in low resolution for free down below, but better quality versions are widely available on all sorts of streaming service. ...

Parenting

Parenting: many different approaches - only one set of guiding principles

Empty threats – that's what they are called – and some are more ridiculous than others. I once overheard an employee at Target, a young mother, telling her co-worker: "He keeps hitting Steven all the time. So the next time he punches Steven in the face, I'm gonna say, Robert, next time you punch Steven in the face, I'm going to punch YOU in the face. ...Of course, you can't really punch a 4-year-old in the face, so I never would." That's extreme, but then there are also the more common variety that we're likely to hear at church, or at school, or coming out of our own mouths: "If you don’t get into the car right now, I’m going to leave without you." "You'd better stop crying. This restaurant doesn't allow any crying, so if you cry they're going to kick us out of here." "If you don't stop fighting back there I am turning this car around and we are not going anywhere." Empty threats can seem effective, at least in the short-term. But is "effective" the measure by which we evaluate our parenting approach? We all need parenting help There are strong differences of opinion regarding the discipline of children, and not all techniques work for all kids, even in the same family. We do have to consider the different ages and personalities of different children, so what works with one child may not be a good approach for another. But we also know that all approaches are not equal. That's because some techniques and methods align with what God has revealed in his Word, and some run at right angles to what God has said. So we need to seek out the scriptural principals of discipline, and we need to hear what God says about love and kindness, and then make this foundational for all of our interactions with these small brothers and sisters in Christ. And, in addition to these scriptural principles, we can also seek out tried and tested methods from older, godly parents. God puts us in a community so we can learn from one another (Prov. 15:22). Finally, there are excellent Christian books on the topic of parenting. We need to read such books because of our own sinfulness, which we too often overlook when we are frustrated with our disobedient children. It is way too easy to justify our own behavior, and prayerfully reading through these books will help us analyze where and when we are a part of the cause. For instance, if we scream in anger because our children have gotten angry with one another for the tenth time in the day, we teach them that screaming in anger is the proper response to a frustrating situation, even though that is not our intention.If we force them to endure a shopping trip without regard for their hunger, thirst, fatigue, and need for movement, we are more to blame for their meltdown than they are. We must plan wisely for delays and not expect them to have more patience than we do. If we fail to educate them as to what they will soon encounter and the specific behavior that is expected (because they do not know good behavior by instinct) then we are not helping them to behave properly. Most children love their parents and feel grateful whether they say it out loud or not. They need our love and acceptance and they struggle with the constant tension between wanting to please us and, like all of us, wanting to follow their own sinful nature. They are sinners and they will behave badly. Sometimes we forget to apply our Bible beliefs to the situation and realize that “There is none who does good, there is not even one” (Romans 3:12). Or, as it says in the Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Day 2, “ have a natural tendency to hate God and neighbor.” In communion One of the very best of the books available is Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp. Tripp explains that there is a “circle of God’s favor.” When a child is, from love and gratitude to God, being obedient, he or she is in this circle. When a child strays outside of this "circle of favor" the parents’ job is to pull the child back inside. If he lies, we must teach him not to lie. If he throws a selfish tantrum or punches his brother in the face, we must teach him that this is not acceptable behavior. We may not abuse him, but we must find an effective way to influence him to end that behavior. When discipline is needed, Tripp says we should start with a statement giving the reason for the punishment, then give the punishment, and then remind them why they were punished (preferably when everyone is calm). Then comes repentance. Their “Sorry, dad” may or may not be sincere, but the pattern will be established. Last of all, there must be forgiveness and restoration, just as our Lord gives to us. This usually includes a hug and a statement, but most importantly: the freedom from having the sin mentioned again (Psalm 103:12: "as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us"). Here we must squelch our own anger rather than sin by constantly bringing up their wrongs, or humiliating them by relating the deeds to other people, especially within their hearing. We ruin our child’s good name when we tell about his sins, and if we tell the child he is a “brat” or a bad boy, even jokingly, we reinforce to him that we do not have higher expectations. As far as specific punishment methods go, some use a careful spanking (a slap on the hand or thigh for a toddler – their bottom has too many layers to feel the sting! – or a few spanks on the bottom for someone already potty-trained). Others use a time-out location, which, to be effective, requires a timer and constant monitoring by the parent, especially when it is first being established. But to be effective it must be a true punishment to the child. For example, if they think time-outs are no big deal, then something that is a big deal to them must be substituted. Anticipation Parents should, with experience, be able to steer their children clear of situations that might otherwise lead to the need for discipline. For example, inexperienced parents tend to overestimate the amount of noise stimulation that a young child can handle, even for “fun” times like DisneyWorld or an overcrowded family get-together. As we learn how much our children can handle, we can, when we see them being overwhelmed, remove them from these situations. (Ephesians 6:4 is relevant here; these are both examples of parents heeding the instruction for "fathers not provoke your children to anger...") Another example: we can take a suggestion from Dr. Raymond Moore of Home Grown Kids who always used this rule of thumb for birthday parties – the number of guests at the party should not exceed the child’s age. Adults tend to think more is better, but a young child will do better to have a couple of play dates than one big bash. Only truth Empty threats should never, ever be made. They are ineffective when smart children realize their parents are not serious. These threats may even cause a rebellious child to disobey just to see whether we really meant what we said. They can also be counter-productive to the fellowship goals of your family. Would you really cancel Christmas or attendance at a friend’s birthday party because of a child’s disobedient behavior? That would punish people outside of your family as well. Should you frighten your children, as some have, with abandonment at an orphanage, leading them to experience fear and lack of assurance of your love and acceptance, and therefore desperate to please you? Children take our words very literally. Our goal is to teach them about sin and repentance and forgiveness by modeling it, not to beat them physically or emotionally into subjection to us. An awesome and brief task It is important to plan our system of discipline ahead of time so that mom and dad will both know what they are going to do when their kids behave badly. You need a plan, and a backup plan and perhaps even a third plan for the stubborn. Don't let disobedience surprise you. Don't let it make you angry as though it were a direct attack on you. God has called us to teach our children to do what is right, and that task exceeds any housework or leisure goals that we might have had for the day. Pray for patience, because your effective plan may need a hundred applications! I overheard a conversation at 11 pm in a restaurant parking lot between a father and his sobbing three-year-old. He yelled at her to “Stop crying and behave” inside the restaurant. It was tempting to intervene and point out that he was being selfish – caring more for his social goals than he did for the welfare of his little girl, who pretty obviously needed to be home in bed. “Children are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3). Though it feels like we will always be raising and disciplining them, it is less than a third of our lifetime that we have this privilege. Something to keep in mind. This article appeared in the Jan/Feb 2021 issue....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Echoes of Ararat: a collection of over 300 Flood legends from North and South America

by Nick Liguori 2021 / 300 pages Why are there Flood myths all over the world? Christians can explain it by pointing back to Noah: these myths are so widespread because they find their origin in a real event, common to all mankind – every last tribe and nation can trace their origin back to the small family that lived through this cataclysmic worldwide deluge. But how can skeptics explain it? If it was just one or two stories, maybe they could attribute it to coincidence. But confronted with these 300-some accounts – and that's just from North and South America – the case for coincidence just isn't plausible. What Nick Liguori has done here is collect the oldest known written accounts of these indigenous tales, dating back a hundred to two hundred years or even more. While they were originally a part of native oral tradition, these accounts were written down after they were told to European explorers, missionaries, and settlers. So, for example, this is from the Caddo tribe, told to a group of explorers who were mapping the Arkansas/Texas Red River in 1806: They say that long since, a civil war broke out among them, which so displeased Enicco, the Supreme Being, that he caused a great flood, which destroyed all but one family; consisting of four persons, the father, mother, and children. This family was saved by flying to a knoll at the upper end of the prairie, which was the only spot uncovered by the water. In this knoll was a cave where the male and female of all the kinds of animals were preserved. After the flood has continued one moon, they set a bird, called the O-Wah, at liberty, which returned in a short time with a straw. The family then set out on a raft in search of the place from whence this straw was brought, and pursuing a west course for two leagues they came to land. Some of the elements from the Genesis account include: God is displeased with the world, a great flood, one family saved, a bird sent out and coming back with something, two of each kind of animals saved, and a boat of sorts. Other stories have only a glimmering of the original remaining. Moravian missionaries arrived on Greenland in 1733 and the following is an account David Cranzz (1723-1777) included in his History of Greenland: Almost all heathen nations know something of Noah's Flood, and the first missionaries found also some pretty plain traditions among the Greenlanders; namely that the world once overset, and all mankind, except one, were drowned; but some were turned into fiery spirits. The only man that escaped alive, afterward smote the ground with his stick, and out sprung a woman, and these two re-peopled the world. As a proof that the deluge once overflowed the whole earth, they say that many shells, and relics of fishes have been found far within the land where man could never have lived, yea that bones of whales have been found upon a high mountain. In story after story, we see echoes, not just of the Flood account, but also of the events of the Tower of Babel. This is a fascinating book! So, again, how do the skeptics explain it? The best secular explanation is that these myths and legends are of a recent origin, only coming to be after natives first heard the story of the Flood from missionaries spreading the Bible. But that supposes that native oral tradition could change that fast, and that easily. And why would they adapt their traditions to incorporate part of the Bible account while ignoring the rest of it? Doubters will doubt, but they really have to work at it to dismiss all the stories collected here. While the bulk of the book is stories, one of the appendices contrast and compares these American myths with both the biblical Flood account and the one found in the Epic of Gilgamesh. This epic is probably the second most famous flood account of all, and skeptics will say that the Bible's version was inspired by it. But as Liguori shows, that idea is preposterous (you can also learn why that's so here). If you enjoy Echoes of Ararat, you'll also appreciate Charles Martin's Flood Legends: Global Clues of a Common Event which is a much shorter (just 150 pages) overview of Flood legends, this time from around the whole world. Echoes of Ararat is far more weighty, but consequently is a book you're more likely to just dip into. Meanwhile, Flood Legends is something you'll read all the way through. Both would be fantastic resources for your church or school libraries, and also good gifts for Christian school history teachers. And if you want to learn a bit more about Noah's Ark, and Flood myths, be sure to check out the 10-minute video below. ...

News

Christian college to replace plaque that calls murderers “savage”

Wheaton College, a US evangelical liberal arts college, has taken down a plaque “dedicated to the glory of God” and “in loving memory of” two martyred alumni, because it used the adjective “savage” to describe their murderers. The plaque was erected in 1957, exactly one year after five missionaries, including the two Wheaton alumni, were killed by the tribe they were trying to reach with the Gospel. But now the plaque is down, with plans to have it reworded and replaced. Wheaton’s president Philip Ryken explained in an email: "Recently, students, faculty, and staff have expressed concern about language on the plaque that is now recognized as offensive. Specifically, the word 'savage' is regarded as pejorative and has been used historically to dehumanize and mistreat indigenous peoples around the world. Any descriptions on our campus of people or people groups should reflect the full dignity of human beings made in the image of God…" But is this a problem of word choice? Did the Class of ’49, who erected the plaque 64 years ago, use a word that they shouldn’t have? Here is the problem passage, in context, (with “savage” highlighted in bold – emphasis mine): Because of the Great Commission Ed and Jim, together with Nathanael Saint, Roger Youderian, and Peter Fleming, went to the mission field, willing for “Anything – anywhere regardless of cost.” They chose the jungles of Ecuador – inhabited by the Auca Indians. For generations all strangers were killed by these savage Indians. After many days of patient preparation and devout prayer the missionaries made the first friendly contact known to history with the Aucas. On January 8, 1956 the five missionaries were brutally slain – martyrs for the love of God. The story of Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Nathanael Saint, Roger Youderian, and Peter Fleming might be best known today for what happened afterward. Two years after their murders, Rachel Saint, sister of Nathanael, and Elisabeth Elliot wife of Jim, went to live with this same tribe, to evangelize to them.  What they did was remarkable, because they were not going to a peace-loving tribe. And the miracle God worked in many tribesmen’s hearts was all the more remarkable precisely because of how savage they had been before – six of the very men who murdered the missionaries later turned to the Lord. So is it wrong to call murderers “savage”? To answer that question we must first establish by what standard are we going to assess what is “offensive” and “pejorative.” Christians should, of course, turn to the Bible for our standard. In the world, many today think feelings – and their feelings in particular – are the measure of all things. Before we roll our eyes and be done with this nonsense, let’s remember there is a biblical command that takes feelings into consideration. Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would want done unto you” (Matt. 7:12). And since we wouldn’t want to be called savage, we shouldn’t call others savage, right? As the college president noted, this word has also been used to dehumanize indigenous peoples in the past. So, case closed? Well, no. This “Golden Rule” applies to our own actions: what we should or should not do. Thus if you find “savage” a “pejorative” and needlessly “offensive” word, then you really shouldn’t use it on any plaque you might be planning to erect. But how do we assess the actions of another? By what standard should we judge the word choices of a previous generation? In Matthew 7, just a few verses earlier, Jesus shows us the way here too: “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get” (7:1-2). So the question we should ask is, how would we want a generation, 64 years from now, to evaluate the words we say today? If there is no offense expressed and no offense intended when we first say them – if there was no sin at the start – would we want them to read in a sin six decades hence? Would we want our bronzed words taken down because they offended the current day's sensibilities? There is, of course, an argument to be made here since, as the Wheaton president noted, some peoples in the past have been written off as "savages," as if that was an irredeemable part of who they were. But that overlooks the completely opposite point this plaque is making: what is being celebrated here was an attempt to bring the message of redemption to the Aucas Indians. The five men who went, and the class that celebrated their efforts, did so because they knew the Word of God was for every tribe and nation, and because they knew that the Aucas were made in the Image of God too. There is no attack on anyone's dignity or any dehumanization being done here. While the word "savage" is a very good adjective for murderers, it is, of course, okay if today's Christians don't want to use it. What's worrisome is when they want to scrub it. If God's people become so sensitive about offense that could be taken, even when no actual offense is committed, that they feel the need to edit bronze, it's hard to imagine how they'd ever have the courage and frankness to speak to the world about such sins – such sensitive issues – as homosexuality, transgenderism, and abortion. This plaque was erected to remember how these five missionaries were willing to risk everything to bring God’s good news to a savage people desperately in need of it. Instead of finding fault where none exists, we should be looking to these missionaries' example, asking, "What are we willing to risk to present His Word to our own savage culture?"...

News

Saturday Selections - March 27, 2021

Greg Bahnsen on presuppositional apologetics and circular reasoning (4 minutes) Lots to chew on in this short 4-minute video. While it isn't for everyone, if you've heard the accusation that presuppositional apologetics is "begging the question" or circular reasoning, then you need to give this a listen. Why does it take so long to explain infant baptism? R. Scott Clark has a 15-episode series explaining infant baptism. But "why does it take so long to explain and defend infant baptism? If it is true, should we not be able to explain and defend it more briefly?" Well, if short is what you are after, Clark also has a 52-word explanation. But, what he explains/argues here is that our understanding of baptism is based on the way we understand the Bible in general... which is why it can be a big topic! What is Critical Race Theory? The folks at Breakpoint Ministries give their best go at a short answer in the linked article above, while James Lindsay digs deeper in a 1-hour presentation here. Why do algae "know" how to deal with rough seas? Single-cell algae have a plan for how to deal with rough seas that might otherwise destroy them. How does this plan get triggered...and where did this plan come from?  This is a bit of a technical read, but it is very short, and well worth the effort. Americans wildly misinformed about Covid dangers A majority of Americans surveyed overestimated the chances of Covid landing the average person in hospital by anywhere from 4 to 10 times the true danger. The study's authors concluded: "The U.S. public is also deeply misinformed about the severity of the virus for the average infected person.” Is it okay to do "x" on Sunday? A great succinct answer, from Sinclair Ferguson... What is your only comfort in life and death? (3 min) The Heidelberg Catechism's first question remains a thought-provoking (and an evangelism-helping?) one even today. ...

News

War on gender leaves BC father in jail

Once upon a time, there was a little girl. She had a mommy and a daddy who unfortunately divorced. She lived with her mom, but her dad had contact with her and still loved her. In high school, the girl had emotional difficulties, as many teens do. She was taught BC’s radical sex education, SOGI 123. She was not happy with her life; she wanted change. At age 14, she decided that she wanted to change her gender. People at her school tried to help her, but not by counseling her to be at peace with her existence and gender. Instead, they “helped” her to begin the process of change, including puberty-blockers. When her dad found out, he was alarmed. He wanted the process to be stopped, believing that his daughter was not old enough to make such a life-altering decision. He tried his best and did everything he legally could to truly help his daughter, whom he loved dearly. Unfortunately, this is a true story and it does not have a “happily ever after” ending. Neither is it over. But the father, when he ran out of legal options, decided that he would have to break court orders and speak out about this situation to raise public awareness. Now, he has gone to jail. Normally, an account like this would give more exact details, background, and links to articles and other sources for the points we are trying to make. For the details around this case, we have to be very careful because both Reformed Perspective and my organization, the Christian Heritage Party, being Canadian, are not allowed to publish the father’s name or the name of the doctor who is doing the body-altering surgery on the daughter. The daughter, who now considers herself male, is a minor, so we would not want to publish her name, even if we knew it, but the publication ban on the father’s name is more questionable. You can easily find articles about this (including the father’s and doctor’s names) online using your favorite search engine by entering search terms such as “dad of trans teen breaks court order.” (The publications that use the actual names of the father and doctor are not Canadian-based, and thus not constrained by the court order.) This is an extremely sad account of where our society is at, both morally and legally. On the moral side, our culture has accepted the lie that advising someone not to attempt to change their gender is immoral and unloving; this could be codified in law if Bill C-6 passes. On the legal side, we now have judges and laws that don’t allow a father to truly help his teen in her emotionally difficult teen years. Instead, the easily-influenced and changeable wishes of an immature and inexperienced teen are taken to be better than the wisdom of his/her parent(s). The father, who has gone to jail in BC for his actions, is mourning – less for his own fate than for that of his daughter. She might (and probably will, as others have) come to regret her decision and find out far too late what damage she, with the “help” of “doctors,” has done to her body and future. Many, possibly most, Canadians would be horrified by the depths to which our courts and medical profession have fallen. Due to the publication ban, most Canadians will never know the details of this case. Even without any publication bans, it’s likely Canada’s mainstream news outlets would probably have just buried this story. They are, for the most part, friendly towards the anti-morality of those who are waging a war on gender and trying to “normalize” transgenderism. Time Magazine recently featured a celebrity actress on their cover who had herself surgically altered so as to present and think of herself as male. Earlier, Bruce Jenner had himself altered to appear to be female. These people are given several moments of glowing fame. But afterward, they are left with their decision. Their war on their gender is a war on themselves, and they – and many impressionable youths – are damaged and hurt by this battle against reality. Reality is not always easy. It is not always fair. The burdens that many have to bear are unspeakably difficult. We cannot deny that the struggles young people are facing today – especially in this age of sexual perversion – are more complex and insidious than many previous generations have faced. But that reality should drive us to care for and support them in the difficulties. Children and teens are not helped when their delusions are accepted as reality and acted upon. Believing that you can fly by flapping your arms does not make it possible, no matter what height you jump from. “Helping” someone who thinks he/she can fly to jump from a higher height is not truly helping him/her at all. “Helping” people who think they would be happier as the opposite gender to try to change their gender is not really helping them at all. All the hormones a person may take do not change his/her DNA, and more importantly, they cannot give true satisfaction or meaning to life. A father in BC has gone to jail because he really wants to help his daughter. The war against gender is getting more real. When will it end, and how many lives will it ruin? Even one is a tragedy. Far more will follow if people of goodwill and common-sense don’t speak up and stand for truth. So please take a stand for God-given truth and against the war on gender by speaking up and getting involved. Peter Vogel is the Deputy Leader of the Christian Heritage Party. A version of this article first appeared as a “CHP Communique” on March 23rd which you can find at CHP.ca....

Drama, Movie Reviews

The Adventures of Robin Hood

Drama/Action 101 min / 1938 Rating: 8/10 Aside from a little medieval Roman Catholicism in the character of Friar Tuck (for instance, asking a woman to swear by "Our Lady" that what she is saying is true), you'll never find a better version of the Robin Hood legend. Why? Four reasons. The first is respect for authority. The movie makes it clear that the villain, Prince John, is conspiring against the regent placed in charge by the absent King Richard, his brother, so that Robin Hood's apparent rebellion actually upholds the true authority of the rightful king. The second reason is Robin Hood's courage in standing against tyranny. Robin Hood and his band demonstrate bravado in taking on Prince John's minions with a quip and a quiver, and with grim determination, thwarting those who would assassinate King Richard. Then there is what particularly impresses Maid Marian about Robin Hood: the manly compassion and protection he offers to those oppressed by Prince John, which is the third appealing feature of this film. Finally, in his treatment of Maid Marian and other female characters, Robin Hood exemplifies respect for women. All in all, an engaging portrait, for boys and boys at heart, of hearty, healthy masculinity. ...

Assorted

Why we don’t evangelize and why we must

If there is a time to be silent, there is also a time to speak (Eccl. 3:7). If the gospel is the Good News entrusted to us, we heap upon ourselves guilt if we neglect to pass it on. In his book Our Guilty Silence, Dr. John Stott lists four major causes for our silence. He said, “Either: we have no compelling incentive even to try to speak, or we do not know what to say, or we are not convinced that it is our job, or we do not believe we shall do any good, because we have forgotten the source of power.” And we can add a few causes of our own. Some have identified evangelism as an outgrowth of American activism – they think of it as just a bag of clever tricks and techniques to gain church members. Other are caught up in the tension between evangelism and preserving the purity of the church. They struggle with the question: What comes first, preserving the truth of the gospel and restoring the church through a Reformation or evangelism and missions? But the Bible does not allow us to emphasize the purity of doctrine at the expense of evangelism. Of course, we must stress purity of doctrine and contend for the faith once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3). But a church which keeps her doors closed out of fear that the world may enter is not faithful to the Gospel. A church which does not evangelize can be compared to a crew of a lifeboat anxious to save the souls of her own members. She certainly does not resemble a rescue brigade out to reach our fellow men, who are perishing without the Savior. When we live the Gospel, the tension between maintaining purity of doctrine and outreach into the community and world will not exist. We will spend our time and energy on both. So in this article I will point to six reasons why we must be active in congregational outreach. 1 - The Glory of God First, we must evangelize because we are zealous for the glory of God. As Reformed Christians we must always have the glory of God as our motive for action. That’s why Reformed Christians have been instrumental in establishing Christian schools, a Christian labor movement, a Christian businessmen’s organization, and we are involved in Christian politics and in a host of other Christian activities. And rightly so. These very activities attracted me to the Reformed faith. But we must not only strive to win all things for Christ, but also all people for Christ. The ultimate goal of all things is the glorification of God. “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36). Our Savior Himself regarded the salvation of man as a means to bring glory to God. In His high priestly prayer He prayed, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” (John 17:4). Therefore, through evangelism we bring glory to God’s name. 2 - Obedience to God Second, we evangelize because our Lord commanded it. Evangelism is not an option, but a sacred duty and a high calling. We evangelize because we are commanded to as part of the all-inclusive task of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Our Lord’s assignment is to proclaim the Gospel, bring new converts into the church, lead them to the sacrament of baptism and disciple them. Evangelism, then, is the work of the church in obedience to her Lord to make known the Gospel to those who are estranged from it or who have never heard it before and to call them to repentance, faith and conversion. 3 - Love for God Thirdly, love for God should motivate us to do evangelism. R.B. Kuiper called it, “The motive for evangelism, embracing and excelling all other worthy motives.” If the love for God does not compel us, what will? Yet in much current literature on evangelism this love motive is rarely mentioned. The emphasis is more on the felt needs of the non-Christians and on outreach techniques rather than on the force that should drive us to proclaim the Gospel - the love for God. “God is love” (1 John 4: 8,16). He has shown His love to us by sending His only Son into the world for our salvation (John 3:16). When we know why we are Christians and what we are saved from, we want others to share the same privilege. We cannot even begin to love people, if we have no love for God. John says, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). The greatest command is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). As God has freely loved us, so we love Him. R.B. Kuiper comments: “Love for God and His Christ guarantees on the part of the believer loving, hence genuine and devoted, in distinction from external and legalistic, obedience to the divine command to evangelize the nations. And this love for God will keep us going even in the face of disappointment, lack of immediate results and discouragements.” I too, am convinced that we must focus on God’s love. We love God for His own sake. And when we love Him we will be affected by His love. The love for God will enable and encourage us to witness boldly for Christ. 4 - Love for our fellow man Fourthly, we evangelize because we love our fellowman. Yes, we must love God for His own sake, yet love for God must find its expression in our love for our neighbor. Jesus said that the first and greatest command is to love God. And He added, “the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). And I know no greater expression of love for God and our neighbor than to bring the Gospel to him and in this way bring glory to God. If we believe that our non-Christian neighbor is eternally lost unless he hears the gospel and responds to it, how can we remain silent? There is a heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned. Hell has not frozen over. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). This is as true today as it was back in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve’s fall into sin. Jesus spoke of eternal punishment for the wicked, but for the righteous, eternal life (Matt. 25:46). Those who are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). Shouldn’t we ask, when we are honest with ourselves, “Don’t we suffer from the sin of omission?” God does not want anyone to perish (2 Pet. 3:9). He finds the salvation of one sinner so important that the angels in heaven rejoice every time a sinner repents of his sin and trusts Jesus as His Savior and Lord (Luke 15:10). But how can sinners put their trust in Him if they have never heard of Him? How can they hear unless someone preaches the Gospel to them? God will save many of the lost in the world, but He will do it only through men and women willing to go into the world with the Gospel (Rom.10). How can we, who subscribe to the truth that all who believe in Jesus Christ will be saved and all others are bound for hell, neglect to persuade them to turn from the road of destruction upon which they are walking? If we still believe in the reality of hell, evangelism will be indeed seen as a sacred duty. And we will say then with the apostle Paul, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:20). The late Rev. J. Overduin, a well-known Dutch author, pastor and evangelist, told the story of an atheist who had come to Christ and had become filled with love for Him. The converted atheist said that one thing he could not understand was that he had been living in a neighborhood where church people lived, but not a single one had ever told him the Gospel. I wonder how often this story can be repeated in our own neighborhoods. 5 - Love for the Church                                Fifthly, we evangelize because we love the church and long for her expansion in the world. By and large, today’s church gets bad press. But the church is still the bride and the body of Christ (Eph. 5:22ff; 1 Cor. 12). In His great commission, our Lord commanded His church not only to make disciples of all nations, but also to baptize them (Matt. 28:19). Evangelism, therefore, is not completed until the convert has joined the church. Professor Lindeboom aptly said: “Evangelism is not only a sign of health of the church, it also keeps her healthy. It is for every church a question of life and death. Through evangelism the church is concerned about her own well being.” 6 - Advance of the Kingdom of God Sixthly, we evangelize to advance the Kingdom of God. The Gospel which Jesus preached is described as “the Gospel of the Kingdom” (Matt. 4:23). Our Lord also said that He will not return until the Gospel of the Kingdom has been preached in all the world for a witness to all nations (Matt. 24:14). Our Lord taught us to pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is heaven.” Lord’s Day 48 confesses that this petition means: “Rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you. Keep your church strong, and add to it. Destroy the devil’s work; destroy every force which revolts against you and every conspiracy against your Word. Do this until your Kingdom is so complete and perfect that in it you are all in all.” The Gospel of the Kingdom focuses on the whole person: the hungry, the naked, the afflicted, the mourning, the despairing, the exploited. Our world must be confronted with the claims of Christ. All who receive Him should honor Him as Lord. He is Lord of lords and King of kings (Rev. 17:14). The aim of evangelism, therefore, is to bring the world to the recognition of Christ’s Kingship. As a hymn writer put it: “Let every kindred, every tribe, on this terrestrial ball, To Him all majesty ascribe, and crown Him Lord of all.” Conclusion Since evangelism is imperative, I focused on the motives for reaching the lost for Christ. When we are rightly motivated, evangelism will be spontaneous. No packaged programs, no gimmicks, no marketing techniques will succeed in making permanent waves for evangelism. Only when the church is excited about the Gospel and Biblically motivated, will we see spontaneous evangelism. And this Biblical approach requires patience, understanding and empathy. As we reach the lost for Christ in obedience to the Great Commission, driven by our love for God and for our fellow man, we should remember what our primary calling is - not that we should be necessarily successful but faithful. In conclusion, consider the apostle Paul’s word of encouragement to the church in Corinth, which was troubled, yet engaged in evangelism: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (1 Cor. 3:6). A version of this article first appeared in the February 2001 issue under the title “Our guilty silence.” Rev. Johan Tangelder (1936-2009) wrote for Reformed Perspective for 13 years and many of his articles have been collected at ReformedReflections.ca....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Marriage

A husband reads "Lies Women Believe"

Have you ever read a book specifically written for the opposite gender? I’ve just finished Lies Women Believe: and the Truth That Sets Them Free by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and boy, what a read! As an elder in our local church, I have the opportunity to speak with sisters in Christ about various challenges, and I appreciate their willingness to share. I try to be careful with my words in all visits, and I pray for wisdom when pastoring to the specific needs of these beloved sisters. One of the books that I have encouraged some to read is DeMoss’s. While I’d previously perused it, I was making this recommendation based on my wife’s, and other’s, high praise. But as I started to recommend it, I became convinced that I really ought to read it myself. I’m glad I did. Before I continue, I’m going to express a word of caution. If you think you are such a “good husband” with an “unappreciative wife,” this book is not for you. If your marriage is going through a rough patch, this might be a very good book for a wife, but not for the husband. DeMoss is honest in her assessment, and strives to be thoroughly biblical, but in the context of a challenging marriage, a bitter husband could use this book to point out the flaws and lies that his wife is perpetuating, even subconsciously. And he could then use this as ammunition against her, and this would be grossly inappropriate. But if you are a husband who loves his wife, an elder who loves his sisters in Christ, or a dad who loves his growing and maturing daughter, then this is a good book for you to read to better understand how you can help, and not hinder, your sisters in seeing through these lies, and learn how you can stop feeding these lies yourself. Lots of lies Throughout the book, DeMoss addresses forty lies that women believe, and she addresses them under eight different areas. These include lies women believe about: God themselves sin priorities marriage children emotions circumstances This list isn’t exclusive to women, of course, but DeMoss’s target audience is clearly women. She starts each chapter with ideas that Eve might have struggled with, and includes engaging real anecdotes from some women’s experiences, and discusses the lies specifically as women might grapple with them. What made it so interesting to me, as a dad, husband, elder, and Christian man, is that it made me reflect on how I might perpetuate the lies to the women in my own life – how men might feed the lie, as it were. While I strongly recommend the book in its entirety, in this article, we’ll limit the focus to the lies women believe about marriage, and we’ll explore how men might believe similar lies, or even feed the lie. 1. He’ll complete me The first lie is, “I have to have a husband to be happy.” As men, we might believe that “I have to have a wife to be happy.” Of course, our happiness or blessedness has to be rooted in Christ. He taught that the blessed ones were the poor in spirit, peacemakers, those who mourn, etc. (cf. Matt. 5:1-12). James teaches us that, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (1:17). If we are married, that is a good gift for us, and if we are not married, what the Lord has given is also good for us – we are blessed because it comes from the Lord. This does not mean that it is easy to accept God’s plans over our own. Neither is it wrong to desire marriage in the Lord. But our happiness and contentment needs to be rooted in Christ and the blessings of belonging to him. In this respect, I think of my daughter and other single sisters in the Lord. I wonder how we might perpetuate the lie to these women and young girls that marriage is needed for happiness. Do we repeatedly ask single women why they are single? We ought not. Do we repeatedly tell them of some single men who are really nice? If we thought two people would be a good match, we could carefully and prayerfully introduce them to each other and then wait to see what the Lord has in store. But it is important that we do not try to play matchmaker flippantly. Do we ever ask them what they would like, or how they feel about their current state of singleness? Perhaps they enjoy the freedom to serve the Lord and their neighbour in various capacities and places. Do we invite them to be a living member of our family so that they can experience the blessedness of being an integral part of a family? Belonging to the church family is not something single people, or anyone, should only experience on Sundays. Do we really believe and accept what we read in Proverbs 16:9, that we may make our plans, but that the Lord determines our steps? Our married state is not by chance but is under God’s fatherly providence and love. Whether we are in a hard marriage, great marriage, single, or dating, today is from the Lord, and He has determined our steps. Instead of trying to “solve a problem” we should work hard at not perpetuating the lie that one has to be married to be happy. 2. I will change him A second lie about marriage that we might believe is that “it is my responsibility to change my mate.” In her commentary on this lie, DeMoss writes, “I sometimes wonder how many husbands God would change if their wives were willing to let God take over the process” (p. 140). Interesting point, and such a crucial discussion to have before marriage. I wonder if we spend enough time with young dating couples, having serious conversations with them. Are moms and dads, elders, or other couples challenging the couple’s compatibility, especially when there is evidence that the couple is not a good fit? Or do we simply “mind our own business”? Are ministers the only ones who are having somewhat serious conversations with a couple, and only after they are engaged? This is a lie that needs to be addressed before a couple gets married, to be sure. But what about when a couple is married? What happens when the initial euphoria of marriage has passed? Or what happens when our spouse doesn’t live up to our expectations? Can we just tell our spouse to change, tell them their faults, how to be better, and why we’re in the right? DeMoss suggests that “a godly life and prayer are a wife’s two greatest means of influencing her husband’s life” (cf. James 5:16; 1 Peter 3:1-4; p. 162). That can, of course, be said of husbands, too. Do we regularly pray for our spouse? Do we thank the Lord for our spouse? Do we see our spouse as an image-bearer and fellow believer? Do we wonder if our marriage expectations are biblical, and if they are, do we have patience with our spouse’s weaknesses and recognize our own? This second lie about marriage can be tied into the first one. If we keep repeating that we have to be married to be happy, then we might manipulate someone into getting married to an unsuitable spouse. That could lead to more grief and pain than we might ever anticipate. Have you ever told a young woman who doubted if she ought to get married to a particular man, that marriage would make things better? Have you told a man that if he didn’t marry a particular woman, that he could well end up single his entire life? We need to be careful that we do not perpetuate the lie. 3. He’s supposed to serve me A third lie is that “my husband is supposed to serve me,” and in this case it might be more likely that a husband believes the lie that “my wife is supposed to serve me.” A husband ought to be chivalrous towards his wife and daughters, and to teach his sons to be likewise. However, DeMoss points to Scripture in explaining how the woman is created to be a help-meet to her husband. But she makes the lynch-pin point for both spouses when she writes, “The Truth is that we are never more like Jesus than when we are serving Him or others. There is no higher calling than to be servant.” Indeed, that is what being Christ-like or being imitators of Christ looks like. Both spouses need to model Christ-like service as the normative act of love within the family, both the immediate and church families. 4. Submission is miserable Connected with this is the fourth lie that “if I submit to my husband, I’ll be miserable.” This is a lie that is repeatedly echoed throughout the secular world in which we live. It reminds us of the desire for autonomy or self-rule. The world around us views marriage as a contract between two independent individuals who agree to cohabitate, share some responsibilities, but remain independent. And if things do not work out, then we can mutually agree to terminate the contract. Of course, this independence is a lie right from the start. No one is truly independent or autonomous. We all serve God, or Satan and many other idols of the heart. It is possible that Christians have bought into the lie that submission implies inferiority, silence, or cowardice. We all need to submit to the Lordship of Christ as we seek to serve him in the various roles given to us. This once again reminds me, as a husband and father, how I might perpetuate the lie. Do I make my wife miserable by being over-bearing, proud, and inflexible? Do I honor her, and do I love her as Christ loves his bride? Am I miserable when I don’t get my way? Do I say one thing with my words and something else with my actions? My daughter is quite young, but if she starts dating, I’ll be looking out for her and wondering if her boyfriend is treating her in a godly way. It reminds me, too, to train my sons to honor their wives, should they get married. I am setting an example in my home in how I love and honor my wife – the question is if it is a godly example. 5. I should take the reins The fifth lie is “if my husband is passive, I’ve got to take the initiative or nothing will get done.” Immediately, as a husband, I reflect on if I am being too passive or becoming too dependent on my wife’s initiative and becoming lazy. A wife is not meant to take on the role of her husband because he is unfaithful in fulfilling his tasks, but we can understand why that might happen. Now, it is possible that when a husband does make an effort to do something helpful, that his wife tells him it isn’t good enough, isn’t done rightly, or it would be better if he just left it to her to do. DeMoss writes: “I can’t help but wonder to what extent we women have demotivated and emasculated the men around us by our quickness to take the reins rather than waiting on the Lord to move men to action. We can so easily strip men of the motivation to rise to the challenge and provide the necessary leadership. To make matters worse, when they do take the action, the women they look to for encouragement and affirmation correct them or tell them how they could have done it better.” Once again, as a husband and father, do I model a sense of laziness in my family? Do I show proper initiative? Am I balanced, patient, kind, loving, and self-controlled? Do I come home, expect the beer or coffee to be served, expect supper to be ready, house to be cleaned, bills to be paid, children to be quiet, etc., all because I spent eight hours out of the home? Am I obedient to the Lord in how I lead my family, or have I given up because of a few hurtful comments in the past? Do I argue for peace instead of for what is right? My children need an honorable dad, a father figure and role model, not a deadbeat dad. My wife needs a leader who loves her rightly and serves as a head in our marriage and family – there’s no room for being passive or lazy. 6. Divorce is good The last lie about marriage that I think both men and women might struggle with is that “sometimes divorce is a better option than staying in a bad marriage.” To be clear, DeMoss doesn’t delve into the permissible reasons given in Scripture for divorce. Her focus is more on other things that make marriage more challenging – bad situations, but not the sort which have been understood to be grounds for divorce for Christians. I can’t help but wonder if this is becoming a harder situation today. The church has always echoed Scriptures teaching that “God hates divorce.” When Christ was asked by the Pharisees if it were lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause, he replied: Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them make and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate… Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so…” (Matt. 19:1-9) This article doesn’t have room to go through the challenges of divorce and remarriage. Nevertheless, as an elder in the church, I find myself struggling with giving sound counsel and wisdom in various circumstances. Strength comes from speaking the Word of God to married couples as they struggle through some challenges. But finding the wisdom to rightly apply God’s Word in every nuanced circumstance is hard and requires humility and love. I probably get it wrong a lot of the time because I would be relying too much on man’s wisdom. Divorce is never a commandment, and in rare cases it is permitted. This is an important starting point in Christian marriage. We can’t just “give it a shot” and see what sticks. We can’t treat marriage as a contract between two people, but we must treat it as a vow that both spouses make, and to the Lord in the first place. It is not that I promised my wife that I would love, cherish, and care for her, as much as that I made those promises to the Lord. He is the Lord of my marriage, and if I strive to be faithful to him, I must be faithful to my wife. Conclusion My hope in writing this article was two-fold. First, I hope I demonstrated how DeMoss grapples with some real and challenging issues that women (and men) struggle with. Secondly, I hope that I was able to show how this book has much to commend it to both women and men. While most men would probably skip over a book with this title, we do so to our detriment. As we love our wives, daughters, sisters-in-Christ, and even as we love our sons, we can make good use of this book as it draws us to Scripture’s teaching on how we ought to live as citizens of God’s kingdom. Now that I’ve finished “Lies Women Believe,” I am looking forward to reading “Lies Men Believe: and the Truth that Sets Them Free” by Robert Wolgemuth (2018) who married Nancy Leigh DeMoss in 2015. Perhaps I’ll be able to recommend that book as strongly as I recommend DeMoss’ book....

News

Does Canada’s Bill C-7 ignore a dark lesson from history?

Lebensunwertes leben is German for “life unworthy of life.” As a justification for killing, this idea led to the Holocaust. Alarmingly, there is growing acceptance in Canada of lebensunwertes leben. Think of Canada’s Bill C-7 and its expansion of “medical assistance in dying” (a euphemism for physician-assisted suicide, i.e. killing done by doctors). Instead of first helping vulnerable people by providing much-needed medical and social supports – such as top-notch palliative and hospice care for all – the Canadian federal government is pushing Bill C-7, which promotes death. Of course, medical assistance in dying is advertised as a “choice.” But a choice isn’t much of a choice if there are few or no good alternatives. In fact, top-notch palliative and hospice care is not available for most Canadians. Moreover, via this “choice,” C-7 promotes ableism. Ableism is the view that able-bodied people are superior – more worthy of life. C-7 presumes that living with a disability or with a chronic or terminal illness amounts to a life that is less worthy, so assistance in death should be available. And, if Canada’s government has its way, C-7 will offer death to persons suffering solely from mental illnesses. In other words, Bill C-7 encourages death – a “final solution” – for people who are … inferior. Have Canadians become dullards? Have Canadians not learned a dark lesson from 20th-century history? Consider the following observations from Dr. Leo Alexander, a medical advisor at the Nuremberg Trials, trials in which representative Nazis were convicted of crimes against humanity (this passage is from New England Journal of Medicine, July 4, 1949): “Whatever proportions these crimes finally assumed, it became evident to all who investigated them that they had started from small beginnings. The beginnings at first were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of the physicians. It started with the acceptance of the attitude, basic in the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as life not worthy to be lived.” (Yes, pause and notice that phrase: “life not worthy to be lived.” Reminder:  In German, it’s lebensunwertes leben – and it led to the Holocaust.) Alexander continues: “This attitude in its early stages concerned itself merely with the severely and chronically sick. Gradually the sphere of those to be included in the category was enlarged to encompass the socially unproductive, the ideologically unwanted, the racially unwanted, and finally all non-Germans.” Dr. Alexander adds: “But it is important to realize that the infinitely small wedged-in lever from which this entire trend of mind received its impetus was the attitude toward the nonrehabilitatable sick.” Let. That. Sink. In. I don't believe that there is a Nazi Party on Canada's horizon. But there might be something as dark, or darker. What former Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) called the “culture of death” is becoming normal in Canada. Indeed, Bill C-7 “solves” medical and psychological problems by doling out death—and a majority of Canada’s Members of Parliament (mostly Liberal and Bloc Quebecois) approve. Canadians should resist. How? An important first step would be to remind politicians that medical and psychological problems require medical and psychological solutions, not killing. Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is a retired philosophy professor who lives in Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada. Hendrik’s parents survived the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands. He is the author of “Untangling Popular Pro-Choice Arguments: Critical Thinking about Abortion” which is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca....

News

Saturday Selections - March 20, 2021

Gospel patrons: equipping others to spread God's name (7 minutes) Is being a minister or missionary the only way to do God's work? We know it's not, and what this short film shows is the vital role God calls businessmen to.  Businessmen provide for their own families and also create jobs for others. It is also through their efforts as "gospel patrons" that the other "missions" type work can even be done. Businessman Peter Thomas notes, "If you have a business that makes a profit, that's a special thing. That's very useful in God's kingdom." If evolution is true, how can Pepé Le Pew be bad? The Loony Tunes skunk Pepé Le Pew is getting criticized for perpetuating "rape culture" and the general conservative response has been to see this as one more example of "cancel culture." But Gary DeMar gets to the heart of it, asking how can a culture that says we're all animals - all just products of evolution - even object to rape? Ain't that what animals do? Pointing out the world's contradictory thinking is a helpful activity - it is tearing down idols and false arguments (2 Cor. 10:5) - but in our age of tweets and other brief social media posts, there can be a tendency to leave things only half said. So tear down lies, point out hypocrisy and contradiction, but then follow through and point your listeners – your social media followers – to God and the Truth He has to say. Evangelism starts with being able to really talk with people Some folks are natural conversationalists, always knowing just the right questions to ask. The rest of us can use some help, and this article has just what we're looking for! Pornography: you don't beat something with nothing "Naked flesh can’t hold a candle to beauty and curiosity and good music and danger and games and reading and fruitful work you get to sit back and gaze on with pride when you worked hard, you did it well, and you’re finished. The point is, saying 'no' to your children’s sin is necessary, but sort of pathetic. Why not enlist them in the joys and beauties and comedies of life, pushing it all on them so hard that they can’t help themselves as they laugh and sing and wonder at it all? Which gets back to the same thing we quoted from God’s Word yesterday: 'Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good' (Rom. 12:21). Yes, it takes a lot of energy to stop being a lazy dog; and even more energy not to raise a son to be as much of a lazy dog as you are. But souls are at stake." Why sperm donations should be banned  It's recently come out that an infertility doctor used his own sperm to father hundreds of children. His patients are outraged. But as John Stonestreet notes, the outrage should actually be that "Sperm donation intentionally creates fatherless children, treating both men and children as products to serve adult happiness." This isn't how God intended, and the harm that comes is predictable and inevitable, which is why sperm donations should be banned. Are bigger people worth more? (1 minute) Our worth comes, not from what we can do, where we are, or how big we are, but from being made in the very Image of God (Gen. 9:6). ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Babes in Toyland

Family /Musical 1961 / 105 minutes Rating: 7/10 Babes in Toyland stars all your children's nursery rhyme favorites. There's Little Jack Horner, Simple Simon and the pieman, Jack and Jill, Little Bo Peep and her sheep, and of course, Mother Goose herself. That might make this the perfect way to introduce your little ones to the musical genre. Our story begins with preparations for a wedding. Tom (as in, "Tom, Tom, the Piper's son") and Mary (quite contrary) are going to get married and the whole village is so excited they just have to dance and sing! There has to be a villain, of course, and the black-hatted, black-caped, black-elevator-shoe-clad Barnaby Barnacle is such an over-the-top meanie that only the youngest of children might be scared by him. He knows something Mary doesn't – that when Mary is married, she's going to inherit a large sum, so Barnaby wants to marry Mary, instead of Tom! To that end, he hires two henchmen – the very large Gonzorgo, and the entirely silent Roderigo – to, first, kidnap Tom and throw him into the sea, and then steal Mary's sheep so that, impoverished and alone, she'll be forced to marry Barnaby. Crooks that they are, the two henchmen instead sell Tom to the gypsies so as to get paid twice. And that sets the scene for Tom's eventual return. But there are still sheep to recover, and that leads to an almost "second chapter" for the film where Tom and Mary head into the ominous "Forest of no Return" to search for the sheep. There they find "the Toyman" who is a Santa-like figure, making toys for girls and boys. Further hijinks ensue, with Barnaby still trying to marry Mary, but this time using all sorts of toys and gadgets from the Toyman's workshop to try to put an end to Tom. When he gets his hands on a shrinking ray he thinks he can finally cut Tom down to size. It turns out, though, that even pipsqueak Tom, with the help of a toy army, is more than a match for Barnaby! Cautions Not much to note here: the talking trees in the Forest of No-Return were the only truly scary characters for my sensitive 7-year-old, and it helped to assure her that they turn out to be not so bad after all. Also, Tom briefly plays the part of a gypsy fortune-teller, and that might have been problematic if it wasn't all just a prank on Barnaby. Conclusion The acting is over-the-top and the characters are all from nursery rhymes so the target audience is clearly children. But there's so much color and energy and action that older kids and parents will enjoy it too. ...

Economics

The $15 minimum wage - good intentions are not enough

In the US, the latest COVID-19 relief package has re-awoken the debate on minimum wage increases, and that policy conversation is spilling over into Canada, Australia, and much of the Western world too. Often policy proposals put Christians in difficult territory. The Bible was not written during a time where every person would be personally accountable for participating in the governing of a nation. There’s very little in the way of advice to voters on specific policies. However, this doesn’t mean Christians can’t form educated opinions about policies like the minimum wage. To do so, believers can evaluate the fruits of the policy.  Good intentions One way to evaluate whether the minimum wage increase would be a good thing is to see if the intended fruits of the policy are good and analyze whether the actual fruits will match the good intentions. Supporters of the minimum wage increase are ostensibly trying to help lower the level of poverty. Higher wages for the lowest wage workers could give them a chance at a better life. This intended fruit appears to be good. Lowering poverty seems to be unambiguously good. And a reasonable interpretation of Matthew 22:20-22 could claim it’s within the state’s right to take money from business profits and give it to workers. Combining this logic with verses like Psalm 41:1 could make a powerful case for this proposal. A Christian might be tempted to stop thinking here. Perhaps the increased cost to businesses is worth the poverty alleviation. However, even if someone does accept this trade-off, the biggest problem with increasing the minimum wage lies more in the results than intentions.  Bad results Good intentions are not enough to eliminate poverty, as evidenced by the American “war on poverty,” now entering its 58th year. The minimum wage law does not guarantee every person a job at $15/hour. In actuality, what the minimum wage law does is make it illegal to gainfully employ any worker whose skills don’t bring in $15 of hourly revenue. Economists refer to the revenue an additional worker brings in as “marginal revenue product.” For any worker with a marginal revenue product less than the minimum wage, employing them would either mean making a net loss on the hire or breaking the minimum wage law. Businesses must make a profit. If a business fails to do so, it will eventually have no option other than shutting its doors. If businesses fall behind competitors in making a profit, they also run the risk of being driven out of business. As such, hiring decisions in business are based on whether they generate profit. If a salesman, for example, sells $8 worth of products an hour, and he gets an offer for a wage of $7.50, the company finds hiring him to be worthwhile. However, a company that pays a salesman who sells $8 worth of products per hour a wage of $15 is losing $7/hour. Companies that hire this way will be outcompeted by those who don’t. So, what is the result of a minimum wage? Workers who don’t make their companies enough to warrant getting paid the minimum wage are fired. Economic theory suggests this, and a recent working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research surveys studies on the topic and shows the research overwhelmingly finds that unemployment results from the minimum wage. Not only do some workers not have their poverty alleviated, but the workers with the least opportunity are more impoverished. In fact, evidence suggests this unemployment is imposed on minority groups and women disproportionately. The problems don’t stop there. Unemployment increases, but some workers who previously made a minimum wage will keep their jobs. Aren’t these workers made better off? Not necessarily. If a worker was previously willing to work a job for $8 (as evidenced by the fact that they accepted the job), but now the same worker is being paid $15, this doesn’t mean they are $7 better off. Why? Well, since the employer is mandated to pay a higher wage, they are going to try to get the most work out of the worker possible. Workers might find that these new expectations and pressures make the job less enjoyable than if they were paid an $8 wage. Also, if you’re getting paid more than you would have needed to accept a job, and there are a lot of unemployed replacements waiting, you’re going to be willing to accept a less pleasant job to keep that high-paying job. A higher minimum wage gives workers less bargaining power and, as such, will lead to workers taking on jobs with bosses who don’t need to offer them as much dignity. This is not to say all bosses will take advantage of this position, but it seems unrealistic to assume none will. In sum, if we judge a policy by its fruits, a $15 minimum wage will increase the poverty of those with the lowest opportunity, and it carries the possibility of work becoming less dignified for those lucky enough to keep their jobs. Despite potentially good intentions, the results speak for themselves. Instead of giving more dignity to work and lifting people out of poverty, the minimum wage exacerbates both problems.  Bootleggers, Baptists, and bad intentions For argument’s sake, I’ve assumed good intentions on the part of minimum wage policy advocates to this point. However, it’s important to point out that the minimum wage is utilized as a tactic by racists and labor unions to cut out the competition. Stanford economist Thomas Sowell has chronicled how a Canadian minimum wage has racist roots. Sowell argues: “In 1925, a minimum-wage law was passed in the Canadian province of British Columbia, with the intent and effect of pricing Japanese immigrants out of jobs in the lumbering industry.” A largely automated company would love to increase the labor costs for its competitors. The results of the Australian minimum wage were similar. Sowell points out: “A Harvard professor of that era referred approvingly to Australia’s minimum wage law as a means to ‘protect the white Australian’s standard of living from the invidious competition of the colored races, particularly of the Chinese’ who were willing to work for less.” Whenever Christians support policy, they should take care to avoid contributing to the “Bootleggers and Baptists” phenomena. This phrase describes how, when the US passed alcohol prohibition, the two major groups who supported it were Baptists who opposed alcohol and illegal alcohol bootleggers who stood to profit if legal alcohol distributors were closed. In supporting prohibition, Baptists supported the profits of bootleggers with bad intentions. In the cases Sowell cited, the “bootleggers” were racist who wanted to eliminate minority labor competition. Today, bootleggers can come in the form of a business like Amazon, which, as a largely online company, doesn’t rely on laborers who make less than $15 per hour. Since Amazon already pays its warehouse workers $15/hour, an increase in the minimum wage would do little to impact their costs, but it would raise the costs to one of Amazon's biggest competitors – Walmart. Bootleggers could also be skilled labor unions that lobby for the minimum wage to limit the competition from unskilled, but lower cost, labor. In these cases, the special interest groups intend the policy to prevent less fortunate low-skill laborers from having jobs. To make a positive difference in the world, Christians must consider more than their intentions behind policies. Instead, it is part of our responsibility, given the form of government God has allowed us to participate in, to be educated about the results of policy. In the case of raising the minimum wage, the results are in. Christians need to do better if we want to help the suffering of “the least of these.” Peter Jacobsen is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Ottawa University and the Gwartney Professor of Economic Education and Research at the Gwartney Institute. He has previously written for both the Foundation for Economic Education and the Institute for Faith, Works, and Economics....

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – March 2021

On mundane faithfulness… “Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help mum do the dishes." - P. J. O’Rourke  Francis Schaeffer on being a cobelligerent, not an ally Francis Schaeffer made an interesting distinction between allies and cobelligerents that any Christians involved in any sort of political movement needs to understand: "Christians must realize that there is a difference between being a cobelligerent and an ally. At times we will seem to be saying exactly the same thing as those without a Christian base are saying. If there is social injustice, say there is social injustice. If we need order, say we need order. In these cases, and at these specific points, we would be cobelligerents. But we must not align ourselves as though we are in any camp built on a non-Christian base. We are an ally of no such camp. The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is different – totally different; it rests on the absolutes given to us in Scripture. “My observation of many is this: suddenly they are confronted by some two camps and they are told, “Choose, choose, choose.” By God’s grace they must say, ‘I will not choose between these two. I stand alone with God, the God who has spoken in the Scripture, the God who is the infinite-personal God, and neither of your two sides is standing there. So if I seem to be saying the same thing at one point, understand that I am a cobelligerent at this particular place, but I am not an ally. “The danger is that the older will forget this distinction and become an ally of an establishment elite, and at the same time his son or daughter will forget this distinction and become an ally of some ‘leftish’ elite. We must say what the Bible says when it causes us to seem to be saying what others are saying, such as ‘Justice!’ or ‘Stop the meaningless bombings!’ But we must never forget that this is only a passing cobelligerency and not an alliance." – A Christian View of the Church Forgetting this distinction is where some Christians went off the rails with Donald Trump, excusing his evident sins (pride, arrogance, advocacy for homosexuality) because they thought he was our ally, and not just, at times, a cobelligerent. Canada’s Conservative Party under the pro-choice Erin O’Toole, presents another such dilemma/temptation: if we can use it – if we can treat it as a cobelligerent on some issues – wonderful, but Christians must not mistake it for an ally. “But the Bible promotes slavery!” C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity gave guidance on how we should approach people who ridicule the Bible by taking a small bit of it out of context. He was specifically addressing ridicule directed at the thought of people playing harps in heaven (Rev. 14:2) but his point can be applied broadly to any instances – tolerance, judging, slavery, homosexuality, gender roles, etc. – where people know only a scant verse or two, but feel knowledgeable enough to mock the Bible: “The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them.” Psalm One Hundred and Sixty-Six Anyone who knows anything about Corrie Ten Boom knows that this was a woman of great faith – she hid Jews in World War II because she trusted the Lord would take care of her, no matter what might happen. In her autobiography The Hiding Place she also shows herself to be a woman of great humor, recounting a version of this joke/riddle from those days. Do you know how Psalm One Hundred and Sixty-Six begins? But there is no Psalm One Hundred and Sixty-Six! It goes only to 150. Shall I recite it for you? Please do! “Shout for joy!” Ah, but that’s only the beginning of Psalm One Hundred! And Sixty-Six too! Inerrancy: a small huge difference In his book Everyone’s a Theologian, R.C. Sproul notes how two very different positions on inerrancy can seem quite similar at first glance. He writes: ...note the difference in the following two statements: The Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and practice. The Bible is infallible only when it speaks of faith and practice. The two statements sound similar, but they are radically different. In the first statement, the term only sets Scripture apart as the one infallible source with authoritative capacity. In other words, Scripture is the rule of our faith, which has to do with all that we believe, and it is the rule of our practice, which has to do with all that we do. These words change their orientation in the second statement. Here the word only restricts a portion of the Bible itself, saying that it is infallible only when it speaks of faith and practice. This is a view called “limited inerrancy,” and this way of viewing Scripture has become popular in our day. The terms faith and practice capture the whole of the Christian life, but in this second statement, “faith and practice” are reduced to a portion of the teaching of Scripture, leaving out what the Bible says about history, science, and cultural matters. In other words, the Bible is authoritative only when it speaks of religious faith; its teachings on anything else are considered fallible. Say it out loud An Albertan, a Quebecer, a Spaniard, and a German were all on a Zoom call with their boss, who asked, “Can everyone see me?” to which they responded “Yup,” “Oui,” “Si,” “Ja.” (h/t to Al Siebring) Lyric of the month: “Chasing after the wind” In the remarkable Christian film The Song (reviewed here,) singer Jed King learns life’s big lessons the hard way, much like King Solomon. He realizes, as Solomon teaches in the book of Ecclesiastes, that success apart from God is empty, a “Chasing after the wind.” Why have everything? You’re leaving here with nothing. Can't take anything, because you have to move on. You were the wise one, putting your disguise on. Lying to pretend, you're chasing after wind. Why should you be, if no one's there to see? All your deeds are like raindrops in the sea. What do we mean, if nothing has meaning, If in the end we’re chasing after wind? I have everything; that don't leave me anything. I have my plans crumbling in the sand. Now I understand, I was born a natural man, racing to the end, chasing after wind. Why should I be, if nothing has made me? All that I've done, will flame out with the sun. Why should I sing, if nothing has meaning? SOURCE: Written by Richard Ramsey and performed by Alan Powell Jesus never said homosexuality was sinful? In a guest appearance on the Piers Morgan Live talk show that used to run on CNN, the host asked Dr. Michael Brown about Jesus’ thoughts on homosexuality. PIERS MORGAN: Can you point to a single public utterance by Jesus Christ – the Christ in Christianity – about gay people or about a gay lifestyle? Can you name one single thing? MICHAEL BROWN I’ll name you three for you Piers. Number one, in Matthew 5 Jesus said he didn’t come to abolish the Torah but to fulfill. He takes the central morals of the Torah to a higher level. In Matthew 15 he says that all sexual acts committed outside of marriage defile a human being, and in Matthew 19 He says marriage as God intended is the union of one man and one woman for life. Look, Jesus did not address wife-beating or heroin-shooting, but we don’t use that argument of silence .... We should love our neighbor as ourself, but that doesn’t mean that we approve of everything of our neighbor....

Science - General

The wacky wombat

Baby wombat peaking out from mother's rear-facing pouch. Back when I was a missionary in British Columbia, we had a friend visit from Australia. I asked him, “Have you ever seen a bear in the wild?” He hadn’t. “Would you like to see one?” He certainly did, but expressed his doubts whether I could just conjure up a wild bear for him. We drove for about 15 minutes north and arrived at the fish-counting weir on the Babine River. And sure enough, as always at that time of year, there were grizzly bears about, fishing for spawning salmon. Our Aussie friend was duly impressed. Now if you were to visit our part of Australia today, I’d ask you, “Have you ever seen a wombat in the wild?” The wombat is as close as we get to a bear here in Tasmania. We’d have to drive a little bit, but there are some spots here where I can guarantee you’d see one — places like Maria Island, Cradle Mountain, or Narawntapu. And there are plenty of other places where, even if we didn’t see an actual wombat, we could definitely see evidence of them. The main evidence you’d find would be their droppings. They’re rather distinctive. Wombat droppings are cubic, you see. Yep, they’re the only animals in the world that poop cubes. How does a wombat manage this feat? According to a recent study of wombat intestines, rather than being consistent like most animals, wombats have areas of varying thickness and stiffness. The droppings go through grooved tissues and irregular contractions and this produces cubes. Now not all wombat droppings are perfect cubes, but apparently the more cubic they are, the healthier the wombat. Wombat's squarish poop. When most people think of marsupials, they think kangaroos. However, wombats are marsupials too. The wombat’s pouch faces backwards between its legs. So you could very well see a momma wombat wandering away with a baby wombat peeking out from the pouch. Wombats are also renowned road kill in Tasmania and elsewhere. Adult wombats can be a meter long and weigh in at 35 kg or 77 lbs. They are like little bears. If you hit one with your vehicle, you’re going to feel it and it’s going to do some damage. This is because a wombat is not only large and heavy, but also built tough. Wombats may look soft and cuddly, but they’ve been designed like a tank. It’s especially their backsides that present a formidable wall – they have four fused bony plates. They use their backsides for defense and mating. When they’re in their burrows and an animal threatens to invade, they’ll just stick their bony butts out. They’ve been known to crush their enemies with their ample derrieres. Male and female wombats bite each other in their solid back ends as part of their mating rituals – and are none the worse for it. Other wacky wombat facts: Baby wombats hiccup when they’re stressed. Wombat digestive processes include fermentation, a process which lasts weeks. Some early European arrivals mistook the wombat for a badger. Hence Tasmania has a “Badger Beach” on its north coast. Wombats create lengthy and complex burrow systems. In 1960, a 15 year old Australian schoolboy began exploring wombat burrows by crawling through them. Peter Nicholson’s research is still used today. There are three species of wombats: the common, the northern hairy-nosed, and the southern hairy-nosed. All are only found in Australia (in the south and east). The Latin name of the common wombat is vombatus ursinus – literally, “wombat bear.” If you know your Heidelberg Catechism history, Zacharias Ursinus’ original German surname was Baer (=Bear). God has certainly put fascinating creatures on this earth. Wombats are among them, animals that illustrate our Maker’s creative genius. Here we have an animal that looks a little bear, but could hardly be more different than a bear. I can’t help but exclaim with the psalmist, “O LORD, how manifold your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures” (Psalm 104:24). Dr. Bredenhof blogs at CreationWithoutCompromise.com where this first appeared, and it is reprinted here with permission....

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

The old house

by Pamela Duncan Edwards 2009 / 32 pages This is a sweet picture book about a self-absorbed house who learns to think about others. Why is the house self-absorbed? Well, "no one had lived in it for a long, long time," so it was quite lonely. And when people passed by, they would often say, "Did you ever see such an unhappy old house?" The house does have friends - birds, a squirrel, wildflowers, and a large oak tree - who do their best to encourage it. But it feels so empty inside that when people do come by to see the house would quickly leave again. "The only thing to do with that dump is to knock it down," a man sneered. But then, one day, a family stopped by. They liked the house. They had never lived in a house before. But just as they were considering whether to buy the old house, it let out "one of its big, sorrowful sighs," and the family quickly left. "I think it might have rot," said the father. Poor house! When the family comes back for a second look, the house takes a long look at the family and saw wishful, uncertain, eager faces. "This family needs me," thought the old house... and it shook off its self-absorbed sorrow and stood tall. But the family left once again. I won't tell you how it ends, but I will note that the house's friends – the oak and the squirrel – were encouraged that finally, the house had stopped feeling sorry for itself. That makes this story with a moral that any kid can understand. Both my older daughters, 3 and 5, really enjoyed it....

News

Saturday Selections - March 13, 2021

Our weird and wonderful brain (4 min) This is what Paul means when he says in Romans 1:20, that God's power and divinity are clearly perceivable in the things that God has made. You don't have to understand everything being said here to be awed by what God has done inside our brains. Christian adoption agency now serving gay couples Bethany's capitulation to cultural pressures is sad. But with 20% of gay couples looking to adopt and only 3% of Christian couples doing so, is one takeaway that the Church must do more for orphans? Are lockdowns one of the most catastrophic policy errors of the century? In many countries, there has been a systematic and mandatory paralysis of worship, schooling, work, leisure, mobility, and hospitality. And of the churches that are now worshipping in person, attendance is down. Water, water, everywhere! Lots to celebrate in this story of how Christians brought water to every village in Liberia! Why just two? What's coming next in the sexual revolution... God designed and defined marriage, and we know His way is best. So it's no wonder then that "children living with a mother and her boyfriend are eleven times more likely to be sexually, physically, or emotionally abused than children living with their married, biological parents." But as REAL Women explain, the push for legal recognition of polyamory is already happening... Cosmic child abuse? (17 minutes) An accusation sometimes leveled against God is that the atonement is an example of "cosmic child abuse" - the Father monstrously taking out his anger on his innocent Son. This excerpt from the excellent documentary American Gospel: Christ Crucified, answers this objection by showing that this isn't simply a child having punishment inflicted on it, but Jesus freely taking this one. And this isn't God inflicting this punishment on someone else, but in Jesus, taking it on Himself. It's worth noting that this "cosmic child abuse" accusation does have application to Jehovah's Witness theology (and maybe Mormons too?) that sees, not eternal God, but a created being taking on other created beings' punishment. You can find out how to rent and stream American Gospel: Christ Crucified here. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

The Sign of Zorro

Family / Drama 1958 / 90 minutes Rating: 8/10 Is Zorro a Spanish version of Robin Hood? The Spanish California of the 1800s stands in for medieval Sherwood Forest, but both men are outlaws who rescue the oppressed, and both frustrate the local tyrannical authorities even as they remain loyal subjects to their king. There's also a dose of Scarlett Pimpernel, with the young Don Diego disguising himself as a fool, an academic with his nose buried so deeps in his books, that no one would ever suspect him of being the brave and brilliant Zorro. As the story begins, Diego has been away in Spain for three years, studying at university. Now he's on his way home, summoned by his father because a new Commandant is making life miserable for poor and wealthy alike. It's on the long sea-voyage back that Diego decides to play the part of absent-minded egghead. He commits to the charade, staying in character even when meeting his own father, who is disappointed to find that the son he'd summoned is no man of action, but a foppish fool! Only Diego's loyal manservant Bernardo knows different. There is a lot going on in this film and it's all great fun. We have a mute pretending to be deaf, a hero pretending to be a fool, a villain impersonating the hero, and a tyrannical commandant who might be despicable, but he isn't stupid. And Diego, while playing his eggheaded academic part, has to figure out how to survive a swordfight without giving away that he does actually know which is the pointy end! Cautions I'll note that while there is violence – a whole lot of sword fighting! – no blood is shown and no one dies. The other caution concerns a couple of Spanish dancing scenes, where one dancer swishes around her dress such that we can see a few flashes of her underwear. However, any immodesty here is comparable to what would be shown by a grandmotherly bathing suit. More off-putting is the dance itself. It is not graceful or beautiful, but almost violent, with the dancer whipping her long dress back and forth so aggressively she could put out an eye! The men at the local pub are clearly meant to find this alluring, but I am mystified as to why. Conclusion This is one the whole family could enjoy. It is black and white, which might make some younger viewers skeptical, but if you can get them to commit to watching for 15 minutes, it's sure to grab and keep their attention. I can't imagine too many kids – at least those who have watched TV at all – finding this too scary. Zorro could be fodder for some good family discussions about what it means to live in submission to the proper authorities. When Diego defies the local corrupt Commandant, is he doing so in defiance of authority, or in submission to a greater authority? However, it isn't simply the educational possibilities that make this a great film; The Sign of Zorro is a classic worthy of the label, with enough action, twists, and turns, for two films!  ...

Church history

The necessity of creeds and confessions

Many years ago, ten Christian men got together and decided to start a church. For several weeks they met together every evening to discuss what they believed to be the essentials of the Christian faith. As they charitably reflected and discussed these matters, they discovered that everyone had a slightly different view on what constituted the essentials. They began to despair as they realized that their deliberations were not yielding any fruit. Out of frustration, Mr. Unity asked a simple yet profound question, “Brethren, on what basis will we come together as a church? What exactly is it that we believe concerning God and the Gospel of Christ Jesus, our Lord?” Mr. Calvin, the leading thinker of the group, pondered the question for some time as he gently tugged at his beard with his eyes closed. Suddenly, Mr. Calvin responded, “Yes. That’s it! We must put in writing what we believe the Scriptures teach concerning God and the Gospel of Christ Jesus, our Lord! What is it that we can all agree upon? What is it that we all believe the Holy Scriptures teach? What is it that we together confess with heart and mouth? Of course, there will be more work to be done. We will need to write a few procedures on how we will deal with conflict, choose leaders, worship, but for now, let us put in writing exactly what, as a church, we believe. Let us put in writing our official position on those issues that will form the basis of our life together as a Christian church.” Mr. Luther, the man who struggled with his salvation – “How can God love a wretched sinner like me?” – immediately responded to Mr. Calvin’s suggestion. “Mr. Calvin,” said he, “Your proposal is great. Is it acceptable to you and to you, my dear friends, if we begin with the existential question, What is your only comfort in life and in death?” Mr. Luther continued, “As you know, I often struggle with comfort and I need to be reminded daily of the greatness of my Savior.” Mr. Calvin and the others agreed, and so the hard work of writing a confession began. Mr. Ursinus was the first to speak. He opened his Bible and turned to Romans 8:35-39 and said, “Brothers, I believe that our greatest comfort is that we belong to Jesus Christ. Therefore, I propose the following answer, My only comfort in life and in death is that I am not my own but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.” Everyone agreed. Mr. Olevianus spoke next. He said, “My dear brother, what you say is true, but more can be said.” With his already opened Bible he turned to 1 Peter 1:18-19, which he read aloud and then said, “We need to add the following, ‘He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood.’” Before he could finish, Mr. Unity interjected, saying, “I like the sound of it. ‘My only comfort in life and death is that I am not my own but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with this precious blood.’ I really like the sound of that. Deep. Rich. Biblical.” Several others in the group nodded their heads approvingly and said, “Yes,” or “Amen.” Then Mr. Trent spoke up. “Hmmm… I like where we are going with this statement, but we need some more precision. We all agree that the devil is in the details and I’m worried that we might be giving the wrong impression. I fear that some of the weaker brethren might conclude that since Jesus has done everything for us, they might not be concerned about living a faithful life. Why don’t we make a slight change, an ever-so-slight change? How about this? ‘My only comfort in life and death is that I am not my own but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has paid for my sins with this precious blood.’ By eliminating the words ‘fully’ and ‘all’ we can affirm the necessity of works and merit. To have comfort in this life, we must not only trust in Jesus: we also need to have confidence in our works and the work of the saints.” Much discussion ensued, but Mr. Trent was unable to convince anyone of the merits of his position. The group was almost ready to vote on the final wording: What is your only comfort in life and in death? My only comfort in life and in death is that I am not my own but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood. However, Mr. Arius, the gentle, kind, and soft-spoken grey-haired man, stood up and pleaded with the brethren. He said, “Dear brothers, I am concerned that we are giving too much weight to our interpretation of Scripture and not enough consideration to Scripture itself. The Bible says that Jesus is the son of God. Hence, he is not God himself, but the son of God. Therefore, we must say, with the Apostle Paul that our only comfort is in God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 1:3). Please, brothers, let us not divide over man’s words. Let us be content with Scripture itself, which clearly teaches us that Jesus is not God and not our greatest comfort.” Though Mr. Arius spoke with sincerity, compassion and pastoral sensitivity, the group could not adopt Mr. Arius’ interpretation of Scripture. Not even Mr. Trent could agree with him. When the time came for the ten brothers to vote, they voted on the following motion: Whereas the following question and answer reflects our interpretation of Holy Scripture, which is our highest and only infallible rule for faith and life: What is your only comfort in life and in death? My only comfort in life and in death is that I am not my own but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood. Resolved: This question and answer is our official understanding of Scripture. It is our confession of faith; it is our position paper on comfort; it is our doctrine; it is part of the “pattern of sound words” that Paul calls us to follow; All pastors, elders and deacons in our church must sincerely receive and adopt this confession as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures. The motion passed 8-2, with Mr. Trent and Mr. Arius voting in the negative. Mr. Trent decided to join a church that regarded Scripture and Tradition as co-equal authorities, denying Sola Scriptura and Mr. Arius joined a local cult that denied the deity of Christ. Rev. Garry Vanderveen blogs at Show, Don’t Tell where a version of this first appeared. It is reprinted here with permission. FAQ Do confessions undermine the authority of Scripture? No. Confessions are a common/shared interpretation of Scripture, which is the highest and only infallible rule for faith and life. Can confessions undermine the authority of Scripture and create dead orthodoxy? Yes. The ungodly suppress the truth in all kinds of ways, so it is entirely possible that one masters the Confessions and the Scriptures, yet hates Christ. Can confessions create lazy Christians, Christians who love God but do not study his Word? Yes. I have experienced the following exchange several times. Me: Why must we obey the commands of God? Other: Because God has saved us we must obey his commands as an expression of gratitude. Me: Are there any other reasons? Other: No. This is the reason the Heidelberg Catechism gives. Although the Heidelberg Catechism provides a biblical answer it is not the only biblical answer. The Bible says that since we are united to Christ, we must live his life (Rom 6:10-11; Gal. 2:20). Since Christ obeys the commands of God, we who are united to Christ must obey them because this is who we are. Can one have a saving relationship with Christ and reject confessions? Perhaps. However, as soon as someone summarizes the Bible on any given matter, he is offering a “confession” of sorts. Unless someone recites the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation in response to a question about the Bible, one is involved in confessional activity. Should the church embrace old confessions? Yes. Absolutely. Without a doubt. The truth of God’s Word is not new, nor is the Spirit’s work of opening our eyes to the truth of his Word a recent occurrence. God’s Word endures throughout all of history – it never changes (Isaiah 40:8); and, the Holy Spirit continues to sanctify his church into that unchanging truth (John 17). Should the church write new confessions? Yes. Every age has its particular challenges and questions, and the church must address them. How should a church write a new confession? Since a confession is an official interpretation of Scripture by the church, confessional writing should involve many churches. What happens when a church doesn’t subscribe to a written confession? In such cases, the church usually succumbs to the tyranny of the loudest, most powerful, and persuasive member(s). When there is no objective confession that the church embraces, someone will rise to the top and impose his or her confession upon everyone else....

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

The Bug Zapper: The Ant Arrives!

by Tom Eaton 2018 / 108 pages Bug Zapper is a superhero that fights a bevy of bug-themed villains like Mean Mosquito, Butterfly Bob, and the Black Ant. His powers are the ability to jump really far – I think he's jumping and not flying – and, like his namesake, a nasty jolt of electricity that stops bug villains in their tracks. This is more of a gentle spoof of the superhero genre than a genuine batman or spiderman-type comic. Yes, villains do get zapped, but no one gets really hurt. Artist and author Tom Eaton makes good use of bright colors and simple lines – the drawings strike me as a little Peanut-esque – to create a comic book that'll draw kids in. It's hard to walk by this without picking it up for a peek. There are two books so far – Bug Zapper and Bug Zapper: The Ant Arrives! – and both my Grade Three daughter and I thought the second was the better of the two with just a bit more action and humor. But the first has the Bug Zapper's origin story, which every Bug Zapper fan will want to know. And the first also has an interesting plotline about bias in reporting. Robert, an elementary student who would love to be the Bug Zapper's sidekick, also writes about him for the school newspaper. Amber, the daughter of one of Bug Zapper's archnemeses, also goes to the school and accuses Robert of being biased for writing such a nice piece about a hero while saying nothing nice about villains. Then the teacher gives Robert an assignment to write his next article about a supervillain! But does being unbiased means saying nice things about both sides? That's what Amber thinks. But Robert knows that good journalism is more about being fair, trying to share the truth as accurately as he can. That's some pretty weighty material for a comic that's otherwise just lighthearted fun! And Tom Eaton pulls it off well. I would think this best for Grades One to Three, but the video version will let you gauge how it matches up with your children. You can find another video and color sheets at bugzappercomics.com. ...

Pro-life - Abortion

Investigating the Birth Control Pill

I was married in the summer of 2015, and a few months prior to this my fiancé and I began researching Christian methods of birth control. The minister officiating our wedding gave us two articles to read.1,7 This was the first time I had really read anything about oral contraceptives, aka the Pill. When I was in high school, I knew girls who were taking the Pill to help ease menstrual difficulties, so I was aware that it existed. But I had no idea how it worked, or whether there were problems with using it as a contraceptive. The two articles the minister gave us noted the Pill was not only a contraceptive, but could have an abortive function, acting after a new baby was already conceived. In conversations with other women my age, it became clear that doctors weren’t talking about the Pill’s role as an abortifacient (something that causes abortions). They had never been informed. 3 ways the pill works So how does the pill work? It has three different mechanisms, and the first two do indeed act to prevent pregnancy. The most well known mechanism of the pill is prevention of ovulation. And if there is no egg for the sperm to fertilize then there is no possibility of pregnancy. The pill also causes cervical mucus to thicken, making it more difficult for sperm to reach the egg if the woman still ovulates. These first two mechanisms are indeed contraceptive, in that when they work, they serve to prevent the joining of the egg and sperm. But there is also a third action, and this one is not contraceptive, but abortive. The hormones in the Pill cause the lining of your endometrium (on the wall of the womb, where the egg needs to attach) to be very thin so the baby cannot implant. And because it can’t implant it has no chance to grow and develop – it is chemically aborted.2 When contraception doesn’t “contra” conception This third action isn’t well known, perhaps because it is still called “contraceptive” even though it acts after conception. You see, if you look up the definition of “contraception” it isn’t what you might expect. In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary it says “contraception: deliberate prevention of conception or impregnation.” In other words, when we read on a box that something is a contraceptive, that doesn’t mean that it just prevents conception – the word also includes the abortive function of preventing a newly conceived little human being from implanting in its mother’s womb. That may be why most people don’t know about the Pill’s abortive function. Physicians use this word contraception, but mean something very different by it than we might be assuming. But information about this can be easily found on the Internet. For example, an article on Webmd.com describes this third function this way: Hormonal contraceptives can also prevent pregnancy by changing the lining of the womb so it's unlikely the fertilized egg will be implanted.2 As pro-lifers, we understand that “the fertilized egg” they are talking about here is actually and already a human being made in God’s image. Another sort of pill? I now thought I knew how oral contraceptives worked, so my fiancé and I would not be considering this “option” of birth control. This does not mean that we were not scared that our other options would not be as effective. We also knew they would require more “work” than taking a pill (condoms, tracking basal body temperatures and cervical mucus, etc.). Then I started hearing from various women that "my pill is different, my doctor says it's not the type that can cause abortions." I was quite interested, thinking that since I had only read two very religious articles, perhaps there were other, different pills the article authors didn’t know about – ones that do not have the third abortive mechanism of action. Wouldn't that be great? But it didn’t take long, searching with Google, to dig up clear information on the many different brands of oral contraceptives. There are over 80 different names but they all contain either progestin or estrogen or a combination of both (most common), and therefore they all have the same three potential actions. I began reading more research articles, both Christian-based and non-Christian, and they amusingly enough agreed that it happens but then draw different conclusions as to what we should then do. CHRISTIAN SOURCES: We do not and cannot know how often the third mechanism has to kick in because the first two fail, but we know it can and does happen, therefore we should not be willing to risk killing our baby.1,4,6,7 NON-CHRISTIAN SOURCES: There is no precise medical testing that exists which can prove how often a fertilized egg is not implanting and so Christians should not worry or care about a non-statistic.5,9 Not care about a “non-statistic”? Just because we cannot get a precise number, does that mean we should just ignore that it is happening altogether? Even with perfect use, babies are conceived We might not have clear numbers, but we do know babies are being conceived in women who use the birth control pill. There is no such thing as a birth control pill that has a 0% pregnancy rate…even with perfect use.8 We should also note that on most websites it states users of the pill must take it at the same time every day and not miss a pill.2,10 This would be considered “perfect use” and even with perfection, pregnancies are still occurring.3 And the pregnancy rates go way up under “typical use” (missing a pill or taking a pill late). In an article by Dr. William F. Colliton Jr., he shared that: "...medical literature documents an incidence of 3-5 pregnancies per 100 women per year for Pill users. Dr. Don Gambrell, Jr., a renowned gynecological endocrinologist….noted a 14% incidence of ovulation in women taking the 50 microgram . This rate varies from pill to pill and from patient to patient. Now, every case of fertilization that does occur in women on the pill, in which the pill has made it difficult or impossible for there to be implantation, contradicts the thesis of those stating that the is not abortifacient."4 If 3-5 pregnancies are occurring despite all 3 actions of the pill, how many more ovulations are occurring that we don't see because the conceived baby is then terminated because it can’t implant in the thin endometrium? What about a 14% breakthrough ovulation rate? We don’t know how many children are killed by the Pill’s third mechanism, but the numbers could be very high. As Randy Alcorn writes: The Pill is used by about fourteen million American women each year and sixty million women internationally. Thus, even an infinitesimally low portion (say one-hundredth of one percent) of 780 million Pill cycles per year globally could represent tens of thousands of unborn children lost to this form of chemical abortion annually. How many young lives have to be jeopardized for prolife believers to question the ethics of using the Pill? This is an issue with profound moral implications for those believing we are called to protect the lives of children. We could guess the numbers for Canada might be around a tenth of the American figures, potentially amounting to thousands of children lost. Regardless of what the numbers are, as Christians can’t we agree that if our birth control choices risk killing even just one baby, then we need to use some other method? Conclusion While I was quite uninformed on this topic, it didn’t take much time to work through the readily available information and realize that the Pill is not for us. So with all this in mind I would like to encourage anyone who reads this with the following: If you are a parent of a teenage girl, (and, even teenage boys should be informed too!) please talk with them about the birth control pill. Don’t let them find out for themselves or assume that they know already. I didn’t know, and many others did not and do not. This is important stuff because it truly is a matter of life and death! If you are an engaged couple considering different birth control options please do more research than just asking your doctor for a non-abortive pill. The chances are high that your doctor does not have the same beliefs as you and does not consider hormonal oral contraceptives to be abortifacient (because he may regard implantation, rather than conception, as when new life begins). Don’t be tempted to take the easy way out and not ask questions. This topic is important enough to spend a few hours of your time researching it before putting hormones into your body uninformed. The information is all out there; you just have to look for it! If you are married and currently taking one of the many brands of birth control pills, please don’t let guilt get in the way of change. What you’ve done in ignorance, you can turn from now that you know better. And because our God is merciful we can depend on His forgiveness, and live lives of thankfulness. I believe that this conversation is extremely necessary, and as important, if not more so, than walking in a March for Life or standing in a Life Chain or any other pro-life work. We cannot tell others that it is wrong for them to kill their baby before it is born if we are ignoring the safety of our own unborn children. If we are pro-life, then let us truly be pro-life! Endnotes 1 Randy Alcorn’s Does the birth control pill cause abortions? A short condensation. 2 Todd Nivin’s (MD) “Birth Control Pills” Retrieved August 16, 2016 3 Contraception: Success and failure rates of contraceptives. Retrieved January, 2017 4 W.F Colliton’s “The birth control pill: Abortifacient and Contraceptive” in Life and Learning X, 5 J.L. DeCook & D. Harrison & C. Hirsch & S. Crocket’s “Hormone contraceptives controversies and clarifications” in Prolife Obstetrician (1999) 6 M.A. Grisanti’s “Birth control and the Christian: Recent discussion and basic suggestions” in The Master's Seminary Journal 23(1) 7 N.D. Kloosterman’s “The pilgrim's pathway” in the Oct, 1994 issue of Christian Renewal 8 I. Milsom & T. Korver’s “Ovulation incidence with oral contraceptives: A literature review” in J Family Planning Reproductive Health Care 34(4) 9 C. Page’s “Much ado about nothing: Prolife misconceptions about contraception” posted Aug 22, 2008 10 U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Birth control: medicines to help you” This article first appeared in the March/April 2017 issue....

News

Saturday Selections - March 6, 2021

Tim Challies on 10 books every Christian should read Challies is a Reformed baptist so it isn't surprising that Reformed baptists Charles Spurgeon, John MacArthur, and John Piper have a place of prominence on his list. What books would you put on your own list? British doctors order "Do not resuscitate" for the mentally handicapped Here's one to share, with the note that this is the logical result of denying we are all made in the very Image of God. If our worth doesn't come from Him, but from what we can do, then those who can do less are treated as being worth less. COVID charts that CNN forgot This is a free ebook offer for The Covid Charts that CNN Forgot by Tom Woods. It's just 30+ pages, and while it can be argued that any covid comparisons of one place to another are apples to oranges, I think, by weight of one comparison after another, Woods makes a good case for his position, which is: " admit that they don’t fully understand it, and that it doesn’t behave the way their mitigation guidance seems to suggest it does....Graph the results any way you like: lockdown stringency, people’s mobility patterns, mask mandate dates, whatever. The results are completely random. They absolutely do not show a clear pattern whereby ruining your life solves the problem." Woods is a libertarian Roman Catholic, and the libertarian comes out far more than any Judeo-Christian perspective. But what libertarians and Christians both know is that government isn't God, and thus it doesn't have God-like powers - there are things beyond its control. That's a point that seemed seldom raised over the last year, but it is a point this booklet drives home. To get it you do need to give your email, but you can unsubscribe easily (he's not a spammer). An Australian human rights tribunal is being given the authority to investigate prayers "...Parliament has outlawed praying and even talking with another person about sexuality and gender. People are free to discuss, pray, and counsel so long as their view of sexuality and gender conforms to the current set of theories being preached by activists." A boy who has a smartphone/laptop/TV in their bedroom has a fool for a father This pastor puts it plainly and that may offend some. But isn't repentance the better response? Jay Adams tribute (3 minutes) Jay Adams (1929-2020) can rightly be called "the Martin Luther of biblical counseling" because, like Luther, he was pointing people back to the Bible. Like Luther, others came after and built on his work, and differed with it. But these differences only underscored the importance of his initial insight – that we need to go back to the Bible! – so long as the discussions involved turning to God's Word for direction. ...

Politics, Theology

Haggai and the call to rebuild the temple: a case study in Church/State relations

Canadians find themselves beginning 2021 under varying levels of lockdown. Across our country churches are wrestling with how to respond. The Bible seems to contain few practical examples of believers facing something comparable to our current scenario. However, over the Christmas break, I stumbled across an article about the story of Haggai and its connection to the book of Ezra. The story struck me as having particular relevance, or at least uncanny parallels, for the church in Canada today. I offer this reflection not to recommend a particular way forward for churches in Canada as it relates to restrictions on corporate worship, but to at least help some Christians better understand the decisions of some church leaders who have made the decision to continue worshipping corporately despite (near) total prohibitions in their province. In the May 2020 edition of The Messenger (a denominational magazine of the Free Reformed Churches), the late Pastor Gerald Hamstra published a meditation about the rebuilding of the temple in the post-exile period. Though the books are spaced far from each other in the Old Testament canon, the events of Haggai and parts of Ezra occur simultaneously. Many of us are familiar with the narrative of Haggai, where the prophet calls on the people of Israel to rebuild the temple: "This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’” "Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 'Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?' "Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.'" – Haggai 1:2-6 It appears, on first reading, that the people of Israel were selfishly caring only for themselves and their own houses and ignoring the worship of the Lord without a thought for the temple in ruins. However, that is not the whole picture. In the book of Ezra, we find the rest of the story. Why had the rebuilding of the temple ceased? King Cyrus had issued a decree permitting the Jews to return from Babylon to Jerusalem and charging them to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:2-5). But the Jews, soon after their return, faced many challenges and obstructions from those living in the region and even from the local civil magistrates (Ezra 4:1-5). Eventually, these opponents, with malicious lies, convince a subsequent king, King Artaxerxes, to stop the building of the temple entirely. Having been persuaded by the reports of the local magistrates in Judea, the king concludes that the temple-building efforts are a threat to the security of his kingdom and decrees that the temple work must cease. "As soon as the copy of the letter of King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum and Shimshai the secretary and their associates, they went immediately to the Jews in Jerusalem and compelled them by force to stop. Thus, the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia." – Ezra 4:23-24 For some sixteen years, the temple lay in ruins because of the king’s edict. Over the course of those years, the crops began to fail and the people were struggling. They were not flourishing following their return from Babylonian exile. Pastor Hamstra, reflecting on this story, explains: “ interest in the temple and the worship of God was waning. They erroneously viewed the encountered opposition as a divine indication that the work on the temple should be discontinued.” (emphasis mine) It is worth noting that the order from King Artaxerxes for the Jews to cease building the temple was not a form of direct persecution. The king was not operating with anti-Semitic animus or anti-religious prejudice. He had been convinced by his officials that there was a threat to the safety and security of his realm. So, he ordered the project to cease. Questions of safety and security are under the proper authority (or “sphere”) of the king. So, the Jews submitted to the civil government, ceasing work on the temple. But in this case, the people of God had mistakenly viewed the challenges to building the temple and the intervention of the local authorities as an indication from God that the temple work must stop. God sends Haggai to call the people to repent, to return to building the temple, and to observe the corporate worship of the Lord in the way He prescribed. Haggai makes it clear that the worship of God is to be held in the highest regard, and that King Artaxerxes had been wrong to stop the building of the temple for the worship of God. In the face of opposition, the people begin to rebuild God’s people respond in faith to the call of the prophet. They recognize the punishment for their disobedience, and the suffering they were enduring because of it. Just a few weeks after Haggai delivers his message and encouragement from the Lord, the Jews restart the temple building project. In Ezra 5 we read that the local magistrates came to the building site to see why the people had begun building again in apparent defiance of the king’s orders: "At that time Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates went to them and asked, “Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and to finish it?” They also asked, “What are the names of those who are constructing this building?” But the eye of their God was watching over the elders of the Jews, and they were not stopped until a report could go to Darius and his written reply be received." – Ezra 5:3-5 Though the local rulers questioned them, the Jews continue to rebuild the temple. The call from Haggai was to obey God, regardless of what the earthly king or the local magistrates declared or forbade. They obey God unquestioningly. Interestingly, as the Jews resume their work, the local governor Tattenai sends another report to the Persian king, King Darius, about how the Jews were rebuilding the temple contrary to the decree of the previous king, Artaxerxes. In that report, Tattenai lists the Jews’ legal defense: that King Cyrus had decreed that they should build the temple (Ezra 5:6-15). King Darius orders a search of the archives and confirms the truth of the matter. He orders the local governors and their associates to “keep away” and to “let the work on this house of God alone” (Ezra 6:6, 7). The Jews are vindicated! Are there any lessons here for today? The parallels to today are striking. In this Old Testament story, we see conflicting government decrees, human opposition to corporate worship, the disdain of the people of God by some levels of civil government, and hasty orders by rulers motivated by fear for safety. We also see commands from God and confusion on the part of His people as to the right way forward. We also see God giving direction, and redirection, patient with His people while unwavering in His call to worship. We see His mighty hand turning the hearts of leaders for His glory and the good of His people. Some lessons in this story for the people of God today include how God’s people can appeal to, and be vindicated by, the higher laws and decrees of civil governments. Perhaps appealing to the original decree of Cyrus (where he first granted permission to the Jews to build the temple), is comparable to church leaders appealing to a constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion and freedom of assembly. Perhaps the Jews’ refusal to abide by the second decree of Artaxerxes while their appeal makes its way to the court of Darius is comparable to the path chosen by some church leaders to resume corporately worshipping God while challenging the legality or constitutionality of overly broad public health orders through the court system. Though I don’t think this story is prescriptive of the way forward for churches in Canada today, the story of the rebuilding of the temple does provide some insight for the 21st-century church to ponder in light of significant restrictions by the civil government on corporate worship. Even if you don’t agree with the decisions made by some churches to continue worshipping, that decision should at least be understandable in light of the Ezra and Haggai story. One thing we can remain confident in is that God rules over the nation of Canada today, just as He has over the nations and empires of the past. He is faithful to those who put their trust in Him. It is our daily duty to pray, work and worship to the glory of His name! "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit." – Jeremiah 17:7-8 This article first appeared on the ARPA Canada blog here. Colin Postma is the Federal Issues Manager for ARPA Canada...

Assorted

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out

New Year's resolutions - we all make them and then we all break them. Perhaps praying the first part of the Proverbs 30:8 prayer is a great reminder as we move further into 2021: Remove far from me falsehood and lying... ***** I can't lie; my bed is broken. This small one-liner has you thinking twice, and is designed to create a smile in those who hear it. The underlying sad truth, however, is not really funny because all of us can, and do, lie. Every day we lie, again and again. We are surrounded by lies. We only have to turn on the daily news to be overwhelmed by the untruthfulness of the world around us. The voter fraud that has gone on in the presidential election of the US, (and many other countries), is only a small example of continual lying. There is nothing in the world so abysmally sad as to catch someone we love and admire in lies. The October 2020 edition of WORLD magazine ran an article by Emily Belz on Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias. Sexual misconduct claims on this well-known figure were investigated. Accusations were addressed in which a number of women, who provided regular massage therapy to Zacharias at spas he owned, claimed he had touched them without their consent. A nasty business and one which dishonors our Lord! Zacharias died in May of 2020 of cancer. While alive, he steadfastly denied all these accusations. Refuge for those who seek We've all had to deal with lies, disappointments, and broken promises. We all live in a world tainted by sin. As such we need help, we need a place to which we can run, a place in which to hide, a place which has comforting truth. There are stories of hiding, especially stories dealing with Jews during the Second World War when they were so brutally hunted down by the Nazi regime. There is the accounting of a husband and wife, a Jewish couple, who were hidden in a church in Rotterdam, a church situated on Breeplein. They had three daughters who were taken care of by way of foster homes throughout the duration of the war, but they themselves were hidden by the pastor of that church in an area behind the organ. One of the granddaughters, Daphne Geismar, later wrote: “Access to the attic hiding place was by a retractable ladder, through a trapdoor, which was covered with a cloth when closed. The attic sat below a steeply pitched roof, its brick and cement walls were windowless, and there was no floor—only joists, forcing one to step from beam to beam to avoid falling through the ceiling below. It was frigid in winter and suffocating in summer.” Her grandparents thankfully made it to the end of the war and thought themselves ”lucky” to have done so. This despite the fact that each Sunday, they must have been privy to preaching, to the proclamation of God's Word; this despite the fact that hopefully the pastor would have testified to them by his words and actions of Jesus Christ. This truly might have been their hiding place in a deceitful and perfidious situation. But as far as we know, they did not avail themselves of it. In his The Treasury of David, a commentary on the Psalms, Charles Spurgeon writes a note on Psalm 32:7. He says: "Suppose a traveler upon a bleak and exposed heath to be alarmed by the approach of a storm. He looks out for shelter. But if his eyes discern a place to hide him from the storm, does he stand still and say, ‘I see there is a shelter, and therefore I may remain where I am’? Does he not betake himself to it? Does he not run in order to escape the stormy wind and tempest? It was a 'hiding-place' before; but it was his hiding-place only when he ran into it and was safe. Had he not gone into it, though it might have been a protection to a thousand other travelers who resorted there, to him it would have been as if no such place existed." It is a good thing to remember that the Judge of all the earth is merciful and kind, not holding us accountable for our sinful lies if we go to Him, confess our sins to Him, and repent before the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. But that is only if we, as the Prodigal Son did, run to Him. If liars, if sinners, do not do this, then it is vital to know that the Judge of all the earth will do what is right. An allegory There is an allegory, and I'm not sure where it came from but I will recount what I remember of it. There was a man who had been heavily involved in the hunting down of Jews during the Second World War. He was a fellow whose days had been filled with murder and bloodshed. He had personally been responsible for the killing of thousands during the Holocaust. Cruel and willful, he had no thought of repentance to either man or God, but he was afraid. To the outward eye, to his post-war neighbors, he appeared a gentle and successful businessman, but inside his mind and heart he continually relived his war days. His fear, a fear which ate him up every day, was of being caught by earthly authorities and earthly judges. Sadly, instead of turning to Jesus Christ and pleading forgiveness for his heinous past, he tried to devise a means of escape on his own. This man, we'll call him Esau for the sake of clarity, concocted a strange plan to escape his feared earthly judgment. He loved paintings. Each week he would spend hours in the museum gazing at masterpieces. One painting which he loved above all other paintings was an idyllic nature scene. Visible peace oozed from the canvas. In the center of the painting was a small boat. A man sat in that boat, a fishing rod in his hand. Mountains lined the background and the sky above was vast and still. There was a bench in front of that painting and Esau often sat on that bench drinking in and contemplating the peace and the quiet of that scene. He coveted it. There were times that he was almost transported, almost becoming the man in the boat. He then fancied that one day he would be able to relocate himself into the vessel and literally sit in the boat. It became a fixation for him and he was sure that he could become that man, and thus be freed from all his worries. Inevitably the day arrived when Esau's wicked past came to light and the police began to investigate and search him out. Esau became aware that they were about to arrest him and he panicked. Leaving his house in the dead of night, he drove straight to the museum. Able somehow to enter, he made his way through the dark corridors of the building and came to the room where the painting he so admired hung. But it was very dark and his steps were unsure. He knelt in front of where he thought the picture was hung and tried harder then he ever had before, to transfer his entire being into that painting. He felt himself succeeding. A few hours later the police finally traced Esau to the museum. Eventually they too came to the room where the painting Esau had so admired hung. "Nice painting," one commented and another agreed with him. They both failed to notice that next to the peaceful, pastoral scene hung another painting, a painting depicting pain and the crucifixion of criminals. They also both failed to notice that the contorted face of one of those criminals was eerily like the man whom they were seeking. “But I have stripped Esau bare; I have uncovered his hiding places, and he is not able to conceal himself. His children are destroyed, and his brothers, and his neighbors; and he is no more” (Jeremiah 49:10). We enter 2021. Who knows what the year will hold? Oh, Lord, remove from us falsehood and lying....

Animated, Movie Reviews

The Wright Brothers (Animated Hero Classics)

Animated 27 minutes / 1996 Rating: 7/10 As an educational tool, this is amazing, and it's a pretty solid family movie too. In just the first 15 minutes we get to see the history of aviation develop from disastrous first attempts at gliding to the Wright brothers' first successful powered flight. But it doesn't stop there. In the second half we see aviation take its first faltering steps - the Wrights continue to refine their design, but others are flying now too. And because the Wrights are content to do their work in private, their achievement is disputed. Even the American press doesn't believe they've flown. And when the Brazilian-born Alberto Santos-Dumont gets his own plane up in the air, he claims the title "first man to fly." It seems as if the Wrights "have lost their place in history." It's all here: tension, amazing inventions, and loads of historical detail packed tightly into just a half-hour package. On top of all that, this is entertaining too. Our whole family loved it, though for different reasons. My wife and I were fascinated by the history, and our children, from 2 to 6, were swept along by the story. This would be an unmatched resource for schools, and it's also good fun for the whole family. The Wright Brothers is good enough to send parents and teachers looking for others in this "Animated Hero Classics" series so I wanted to add a warning. Not every film in the series is good: other gems can be found, but stinkers too (we were all quite bored by the one on Leonardo da Vinci). So don't buy others without doing your research (especially since they are quite expensive). ...

Politics, Theology

2K is not OK

A review and discussion of Willem J. Ouweneel’s The World is Christ’s: A Critique of Two Kingdom’s Theology **** A tour a few years back by ARPA Canada prominently featured a famous statement by Abraham Kuyper: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” Many Christians undoubtedly agree that Christ is king over every aspect of human life. However, there is a relatively new theological movement within conservative Reformed and Presbyterian churches in North America that stands in direct opposition to Kuyper's view. This new movement draws a sharp distinction between the kingdom of God and a secular “common kingdom” that is not directly under the rule of Christ. Hence the movement is often referred to as “Two Kingdoms” or 2K theology. Sometimes it is known by the acronym NL2K which stands for “Natural Law Two Kingdoms” theology. This is because it teaches that most institutions in society (e.g. schools, businesses, civil governments, etc.) are to be governed by “natural law” (or the law that we can deduce, not from the Bible, but from the “natural” world around us. And the reason these institutions are to be governed by natural law, rather than the Bible, is because schools, business, the civil government and more, are said to be in that secular “common kingdom.” Two Kingdom’s growing popularity in some Reformed circles has prompted Dutch scholar Willem J. Ouweneel (who holds PhDs in Biology, Philosophy, and Theology) to write an extended analysis called The World is Christ's: A Critique of Two Kingdoms Theology (Ezra Press, 2017). This book demonstrates that 2K is highly problematic from a confessional and biblical perspective. New, but not so new It is legitimate to label 2K as “new” because it has only appeared within the Reformed and Presbyterian churches in the last decade. However, there is a sense in which it can be considered to be the return of an old error. According to Ouweneel, 2K is deeply rooted in medieval scholasticism which has a dualistic perspective that divides human activities into the sacred realm and the secular realm. For 2K, the authority of the Bible is restricted to the church and the life of individual Christians. It is not to be used as a guide for politics, economics, science, literature, etc. because those fields are part of the “common kingdom” governed by natural law. Ouweneel’s simple summary of scholasticism also functions as a summary of the basic 2K perspective: “there is a spiritual (sacred, Christ-ruled) domain and a natural (secular, common, neutral) domain, which have to be carefully kept apart. There is a domain under the authority of God’s Word and a domain that is supposedly governed by the God-given ‘natural law’ . . .  There is a domain under the kingship of Christ and a ‘neutral’ domain (which is at best a domain that falls under God’s general providence)” 2K versus the early Reformers However, 2K advocates claim that their view is the original Reformed position. They believe Abraham Kuyper’s “not one square inch” perspective added a new twist that conflicts with the teachings of the Reformers. The confessions indicate otherwise. The confessions formally summarize the essential theology of the Reformers, and their statements on civil government demonstrate 2K to be in error. The original wording of the Belgic Confession on civil magistrates included this statement: “Their office is not only to have regard unto and watch for the welfare of the civil state, but also that they protect the sacred ministry, and thus may remove and prevent all idolatry and false worship, that the kingdom of antichrist may be thus destroyed and the kingdom of Christ promoted.” The Belgic Confession (at least in its original form) saw an active role for the civil magistrate in advancing the kingdom of God. He was not outside the authority of the Bible. Modern Christians may not agree with that statement in the Belgic Confession, but it is clearly in conflict with 2K. The original Westminster Confession contains similar statements about the civil magistrate. For example: "...it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire; that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed; all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed; and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed.” Ouweneel summarizes the confessional point this way: “it would have been unthinkable for the divines who wrote the Belgic Confession (Guido de Brès, d. 1567) and the Westminster Confession to accept the idea that the “secular” state falls outside the kingdom of God.” Therefore, if we use the confessions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as the standards for determining early Reformed and Presbyterian theology, 2K cannot be said to represent the original position. 2K versus Christian schools Many Reformed Christians send their children to Christian schools because they want their children taught from a Christian perspective. Each of the subjects in such schools is rooted in a Christian approach. However, according to Ouweneel: “This is the very reason why many NL2K advocates object to Christian schools: they do not believe in the possibility of a Christian approach to all these disciplines. In their view, both the school and the disciplines taught there belong to the ‘common realm,’ which is neutral and secular. So why should we need Christian schools?” If there is no distinctively Christian perspective for subjects like English, science and history, then there is no need for Christian schools. This is a consequence of the NL2K theology. Neutral history? Ouweneel asks, “Can you imagine studying history from a ‘neutral’ perspective?” How is that even possible? How do we determine whether particular historical events or people are good or bad without a biblical perspective? Someone may argue that a figure like Adolf Hitler is widely regarded by almost all people, Christian and non-Christian alike, to be evil. Therefore that demonstrates the existence of a common “natural law” standard for judging historical figures. But wait just a minute. In the 1930s there was no consensus that Hitler was evil. In fact, he was supported by millions of people in Germany and he had numerous admirers in other countries as well. It was only after he lost the war that he was regarded everywhere as being evil. If he had won the war, Hitler would have likely remained popular, at least in Germany. From a biblical perspective, Hitler was evil right from the start. But from a “natural law” perspective (whatever that means), things aren’t so obvious. As Ouweneel writes: “If a person is a radical Christian, let him look for an equally radical Muslim or Hindu, and try to find out how much ‘natural law’ the two have in common!” Natural law does not provide a clear and objective standard for determining right and wrong. But the Bible does. Ouweneel describes 2K’s usage of natural law as follows: “Such a Scripture-independent natural law is nothing but a loincloth, a fig leaf, to hide the shame of refusing to acknowledge Christian philosophy, Christian political science, a Christian view of the state, etc.” Two kingdoms in the Bible Now, the Bible does teach that there are two kingdoms. However, they are not the kingdom of God and a “common kingdom,” but the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan (Matt. 12:25-28). According to Ouweneel, every societal relationship (e.g. family, school, business, political party, etc.) is either a part of the kingdom of God or a part of the kingdom of Satan. As he puts it: “in every societal relationship, the kingdom of God can be, and is, manifested if this community is, in faith, brought under the rule of King Christ Jesus and under the authority of God’s Word.” This means that a political community where the citizens and government have placed themselves under the authority of the Bible manifests the kingdom of God. There are historical examples of such communities: “The kingdom of Christ did indeed clearly come to light in various German lands and European countries (Scotland, England, the Netherlands) in which Protestant convictions dominated public life (sixteenth and seventeenth centuries).” Clearly, the early Protestants did not believe 2K theology. And as Ouweneel asks, “Can you imagine John Calvin telling the city council of Geneva that they had to be ‘neutral,’ and that for their rule it did not matter whether they were Christians as long as they were good rulers?” The key issue Ouweneel sees the dispute over 2K coming down to one key point: “This is the issue: either God’s Word has full authority over the entire cosmic reality, or only over a limited part of it: the church.” For 2K, the Bible is authoritative only over the church. It does not have authority over politics and government or the other spheres of the “common kingdom.” The real-life consequences of 2K are serious. As mentioned, it undermines the rationale for Christian schools. Another effect is to remove all Christian influence from political life. As Ouweneel points out, 2K plays “…into the hands of all the atheists and agnostics who propagate the neutral, secularized state and wish to restrict religion to the church and to the private religious lives of people. The growing number of non-Christians in North America should be thanking their new gods for the support they are receiving from NL2K advocates with their commitment to a secular state.” Conclusion The consequences of embracing 2K theology would be devastating to Christian influence in politics and society. Public policy in Canada, the United States and other Western countries has been moving in an increasingly anti-Christian direction for years. If Christians were to abandon their distinctively Christian efforts to influence government, that trend would only get worse. Yet that is what 2K theologians essentially advocate. Abraham Kuyper was certainly correct that Christ is sovereign over every square inch “in the whole domain of our human existence.” Excluding the Bible from certain spheres of society is a recipe for accelerated decline and ultimate disaster. As Ouweneel puts it, “All talk about a so-called ‘common kingdom’ means in the end that we allow the kingdom of Satan to prevail in the public square.” Michael Wagner is the author of "Leaving God Behind: The Charter of Rights and Canada’s Official Rejection of Christianity,” available at Merchantship.ca....

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Down to the sea with Mr. Magee

by Chris Van Dusen 2006 / 36 PAGES Mr. Magee and his little dog Dee love camping, skiing, and sailing the sea They meet moose and birds and milkman and whales. These are certainly extraordinary tales! Preschool through Grade 1 will have such fun reading about the adventures of Mr. Magee and his little dog Dee. Down to the Sea, and the other two Mr. Magee adventures – A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee (2003) and Learning to Ski with Mr. Magee (2010) – are told entirely in rhyme, making these a fun early exposure to how poetry can sometimes be better than prose. I began this review with my best imitation of author Chris Van Dusen and now here a few "stanzas" from the man himself: MAGEE was downhearted. Just what could he do? They seemed hopelessly stuck, but little DEE knew. The secret to get the boat safely unpinned Was to rock back and forth and wait for the wind. So they rocked and they rocked for an hour or so. But the boat didn't budge 'cause the wind didn't blow. Just when they thought they'd be stuck there all night They spotted, far off, a spectacular sight. I won't let you know what the spectacular sight is - for that you'll have to check out the book youself. These are wonderful books, with my only criticisms being that there are only three! If your kids are excited about Mr. Magee you can check out a lesson from the author, down below, about how to draw Mr. Magee's dog Dee. ...

News

Saturday Selections - February 27, 2021

Actors react to facts about the "wage gap" (3 min) These actors were asked to give a "cold read" – they hadn't previously had a chance to see their script – to a list of facts about the wage gap, and other male/female differences. The point of the video isn't explicitly stated though: that evidence of differences isn't evidence of victimization. Our modern culture largely treats the genders as interchangeable and if that were true, then if men make more on average, such a difference would have to be because of unfair discrimination against women. But if God made the two genders different, with different roles even, and equipped us to those roles, then there'd be another possible explanation – overall, men and women might have different priorities. Newspaper associates Free Reformed church's repentance message with shock therapy, so the pastor clarifies "To clarify, our church does not provide exorcisms, electroshock therapy, or aversion therapy. We only hold out the same hope God offers to all people:  forgiveness through Jesus Christ and grace to change.  Let me further clarify by quoting my submission to the Tasmania Law Reform Institute:  “…our church preaches and teaches what the Bible says, including what it says about sexual orientation and gender identity. We do this out of our ultimate commitment to God, our love for him, and out of love for the people around us. We counsel accordingly. We pray publicly and privately accordingly. According to the working definition the Issues Paper provides, we are involved in SOGI conversion practices." Covid absolutism and unintended consequences "...during public health emergencies, absolutism — the idea that people should cease any and all behavior that creates additional risk — is a tempting response. Times writer David Leonhardt gives various examples of this 'absolutism' on display in America today. 'People continue to scream at joggers, walkers and cyclists who are not wearing masks. The University of California, Berkeley, this week banned outdoor exercise, masked or not...'" What you should know about the arrest of Pastor James Coates James Coates, an Alberta pastor, has been arrested for defying Covid-related restrictions on public worship. "Christians can disagree in good conscience with this church’s specific contravention of public health orders. But those who support freedom of conscience and religion should oppose any disproportionate use of the law to criminalize Pastor Coates." Or, as someone else put it, it might be that Pastor Coates isn't being persecuted for your beliefs, but he is being persecuted for his religious beliefs. Do we need to agree with Pastor Coates, to defend his freedom to worship as he feels he is called by God to do? We condemn China for violating their Uighur population's religious convictions even though we don't share their Muslim convictions. We respect others' religious convictions, as far as we are able, because we know: we can't force people to believe anything. to try to force them to act contrary to their convictions is to try to force them to be hypocrites. So, are present circumstances so dire that they require the Alberta government to imprison this pastor for his beliefs? No. Alberta's stats aren't readily available, but one province over, in BC, just 0.25% of cases are traceable to religious settings. If you are a citizen of Alberta, the linked article above shows how you can send a letter to Premier Jason Kenney. 74 books I have read aloud to my children Lots of inspiration here for parents who are already, or want to start, reading to their kids each night. The porn playbook: deny, disinform, defame (12 minutes) Porn producers are taking a page from the old Tobacco Playbook to obscure the harm their "product" causes. These plays are also used by pro-choicers, by the transgender lobby, evolutionists, school choice opponents, and more. If this video has been a specifically Christian presentation they'd likely have realized that what they are talking about is actually the devil's playbook...although he has more plays than just these three. A caution: while nothing "adult" is shown, there is lots of adult material discussed, and in frank language, so this is not all ages viewing. ...

Articles, Book Reviews

200+ free e-books worth checking out

We live in an age in which so many wonderful resources are available for free. Of course, with the sheer numbers being passed along here, we haven't been able to read, let alone review all of them so, as always, be sure to use discernment. But there are certainly a good number of gems here. The books below aren't broken up by subject, but are, instead, divided into three categories based on whether you can easily download them, or whether some personal information might be required, or whether the book has to be read online. This is a list of recent books, with most published in the last decade or two. Monergism.com has a list of much older titles, with most published at a minimum of 100 years ago, and many springing right out of the Reformation 500 years past. Their list amounts to more than 700 titles and can be found here. 1. Downloads These books are completely free and can be downloaded with minimal fuss (usually just a click and you are on your way). Almost 100 from John Piper and friends John Piper seems to have released all of his books in free pdf versions, and has tackled topics as diverse as biblical manhood and womanhood, abortion, sex, retirement, C.S. Lewis, Open Theism, racism and biographies. On occasion, some of Piper's writings are clearly directed to specifically Reformed Baptists. So, for example, in his biography of Adoniram Judson, he lauds the missionary for coming to reject infant baptism in favor of adult baptism. But for the most part his books are intended for a larger Reformed audience. But with so many available, what should you start with? His short biographies are excellent, each about 70 pages or so, and one of his most popular is Don't Waste Your Life. Oh, and while the majority of the books here are by Piper, there are many exceptions, and that's important to note because if it isn't by him, it likely isn't free. 16 by WORLD magazine's Marvin Olasky The editor of the Christian WORLD magazine has written books on Journalism and how Christians should read the news (and write it), on the history of abortion and the fight against, on a Christian perspective on compassion and the government's role in it, and even written a novel about radical Islam. There is lots to love here! 20+ from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church I still haven't had a chance to check these out, but plan to download Ned B. Stonehouse's J. Gresham Machen: A Biographical Memoir. 4 volume set of S.D. DeGraaf Promise and Deliverance series The four volumes of S.D. DeGraaf’s Promise and Deliverance series are a very expensive and rare find – they haven’t been in print for a decade or two. But these volumes would be very useful for parents and teachers who are trying to share the Bible stories with children. The set is a sort of commentary, or a set of outlines, for all the stories in the Bible, and done from a covenantal perspective. Maybe the best way to think of it would be as a sort of “cheat sheet” for parents – S.D. DeGraaf comes alongside us to prepare us to teach these stories, this biblical history, to our children. It could also be read as a devotional of sorts for teens, or even adults. These have been used in Dutch Reformed circles for generations now, but were also recognized by Christianity Today as a "landmark in interpreting the simple stories of the Bible." The free pdfs below are scanned, which means they aren't searchable or highlightable, but they are certainly readable. You can download them by clicking here for: Volume 1: From Creation to the conquest of Canaan Volume 2: The failure of Israel's theocracy Volume 3: Christ's ministry and death Volume 4: Christ and the nations You can find a longer review of these books here. Social Justice: How good intentions undermine justice and the Gospel E. Calvin Beisner is probably best known as the head of the Christian stewardship group the Cornwall Alliance. But before he started speaking on the environment, he researched and wrote a lot on poverty and economics. In this booklet, he outlines how good intentions are not only not enough, but often harmful. 31 days of purity This is a 31-day devotional to encourage and challenge the Church in regard to sexual purity. With contributions from Tim Challies, David Murray, and Joel Beeke, there are some insightful, trustworthy folks behind this. Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? This is an important topic for any Christian considering the pill. Randy Alcorn's 200-page book can be downloaded for free, or, click here for a shorter overview. Abolition of Reason Jonathon Van Maren, Scott Klusendorf and other “incrementalist” pro-lifers argue against "abolitionism" or “immediatism.” Memoirs of an ordinary pastor: The life and reflections of Tom Carson Well-known Reformed Baptist pastor D.A. Carson on his unknown, faithful father. False Messages: A Guide for the Godly Bride Aileen Challies, wife of the Reformed blogger Tim Challies, has written a booklet for women on a biblical view of sexuality (it is near the bottom of the list). The Holy Spirit Kevin DeYoung with a short 30-page introduction to the Third Person of the Trinity. Scripture Alone: The Evangelical doctrine In this 40-page booklet, RC Sproul does a wonderful job of defending this key Reformed doctrine. Why sex is the best argument for creation The folks behind the fantastic documentary Is Genesis History? have created a short 115-page e-book with ten of their most popular essays, including the title essay. You can download the pdf for free here, the Mobi (Kindle) version here, and the Epub version here. How should Christians approach origins? At just 67 pages,  John Byl and Tom Goss have put together an incredibly succinct overview of an incredibly important topic. 2. Download for free, but they want some information These books are free, but getting them will require you to give your email address, or create an account, or in some way provide them some information. But these aren't spammers, so you can always opt out of their email lists. 35 booklets from RC Sproul In the last few years RC Sproul released a series of "Crucial Questions" booklets, all in the range of 40 to maybe 80 pages. That made them concise - something that could be read in an evening or two. And Sproul managed to pack a lot in these few pages while still keeping it readable. I will say, they still aren't light reads, but because of their small size, if anyone is interested in the question, then they should be able to work through Sproul's answer. I haven't read all 28 of them, but have appreciated each of the half dozen or so I've read so far. They tackle questions such as: Can I know God's will? Can I lose my salvation? What is baptism? Who is the Holy Spirit? The e-book versions are free and will be forever. Love the least (a lot) Michael Spielman is the founder of the website Abort73.com, one of the most comprehensive pro-life websites on the Internet. And his Love the Least (A Lot) is one of the most readable, most motivating, pro-life books you could ever read. God and the gay Christian: a response to Matthew Vines This is a response, by Reformed Baptist leader R. Albert Mohler Jr., to a popular book by Matthew Vines called God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships. Mohler has also written a short book Homosexuality and the Bible. Parenting the Internet generation This is such a helpful book! It's by Luke Gilkerson, one of the folks working at Covenant Eyes, a Christian Internet accountability company, and his goal is to help equip parents to protect and guide their children when it comes to all things online. This is a thoroughly biblical resource, and as much a parenting guide as it is an Internet guide. You can find a longer review here. Covenant Eyes has many other booklets available on the topics of sexual purity and online safety such as More than single, A parent's guide to cyber bullying, Equipped: Raising Godly Digital Natives, and more, that can be found here. 3. Read online These books are free too but are only available to be read online, usually one chapter per webpage. 30+ Creationist resources from Answers in Genesis Answers in Genesis is a creationist group with a presuppositionalist approach to apologetics, which means there is a decided Reformed influence in the group. But while all Reformed folk should be creationists, not all creationists are Reformed, so these books are not specifically Reformed. Answers in Genesis has done something curious here, in making their books available for free reading. You can't download them, but can read them, chapter by chapter, on their website. That makes things a little more troublesome, but if the book interests you, it is a minor inconvenience. The very best is In Six Days, in which 50 scientists each take a chapter to explain why they believe in creationism. Old Earth Creationism on Trial and In the Beginning Was Information are also very good. 8 more great Creationist books Dr. Jonathan Sarfati’s Refuting Evolution, and Refuting Evolution 2 are available for online reading here. Letters to a Mormon Elder James White’s fantastic resource can be read for free online. Be a bit patient – it does seem to take a minute or two to load....

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

The Hobbit: an illustrated edition of the fantasy classic

by J.R.R. Tolkien  adapted by Charles Dixon illustrated by David Wenzel 1990 / 133 pages There's a hierarchy so unfailingly true it could be carved into stone: the book is always better than the movie, and the movie better than the graphic novel adaptation. But this otherwise unfailing rule does have an exception! I'm not going to start talking all crazy and tell you that this comic is better than the book – that has never been and never will be! – but it is better than the film! It is even better than many a book, paling in comparison only to its original source material. For those unfamiliar with the epic tale, this is the story of Bilbo Baggins, the titular hobbit, which is basically a human-like creature though half the size, and with twice the hair on their feet. Hobbits are homebodies so Bilbo isn't exactly sure how he joined a dwarfish expedition to steal back their treasure from an enormous talking dragon. Small and retiring though he might be, Bilbo is big in character, and while he doesn't think himself brave, in meeting up with trolls, goblins, giant spiders, and the even more gigantic dragon, he ends up doing many a brave thing. This is an old fashioned epic tale with good eventually triumphing over evil...but not without paying a price. That's the original, and the 133 pages of this graphic novel adaptation provide the space to capture it all. Illustrator David Wenzel has given this a classic look for this classic tale - there's a reason that in the 30 years since this adaptation first came out, no one has even attempted to improve on it. Its size and depth do mean this isn't for the casual comic fan, but for fantasy fans 14 and up, this will be such a treat!...

Gender roles, Theology

Who’s Afraid of Proverbs 31?

I can still see the cartoon in my memory – she was robed in white, her nose in the air, gracing a marble pedestal under which lesser women cowered. Inscribed on the pedestal were the words, “The Proverbs 31 woman.” It was illustrating a comedic piece in a Christian women’s magazine, describing exactly what the author felt when faced with such a perfect, perfect woman. My mother lifted the magazine out of my hands. “Don’t read that nonsense,” she said. “Why not?” I wanted to know. She thought a moment. “People like to mock her. It’s easy to make fun of her. But I don’t like it.” *** Lots of women do feel intimidated by Proverbs 31. We feel if we were to meet her in real life, we would only meet with judgment. We react to her as if she is a standard that points out all our inadequacies. And authors who write about her know this – they feel compelled to include an apologetic paragraph somewhere near the beginning of their article: Don’t worry, everyone comes from a different life situation. Don’t worry, this woman appears to be rich, and you might not be. Don’t worry, everyone is unique, and not everyone needs to live up to this passage in the same way. A recent article I read started off with, “Reading Proverbs 31 can be discouraging! Who can live up to such expectations?” The first reaction to her is to downplay her a little, and make her more approachable. The assumption is that an unsoftened look at the woman in Proverbs 31 will lead to discouragement. The assumption is that the first emotions this passage will raise in us will be negative emotions, and that these negative emotions will need to be navigated and managed before we can get anything useful out of the passage. I don’t deny that this is often the case, that often these are the emotions stirred up by this passage. But I don’t think this needs to be the case. It should be possible to re-frame the passage as a whole, from discouraging and disheartening to uplifting and inspiring. Maybe the Proverbs 31 woman can be encouraging without being softened. Actually, I know it is possible. I have often read this passage with a sense of excitement, a sense of possibility. In contrast to many human writings, it does not downplay the capabilities of woman, and it acknowledges and appreciates them (and urges the rest of society to do so). It is not a passage that needs to be clarified with the sentence, “oh, this applies to women too,” but it is directly applicable. However, this woman can clearly inspire either excitement or discouragement in many women. What causes the difference? Can she be inspiring to everyone? The value of ideals One problem is that we tend to think of ideals in the wrong way. The woman in Proverbs 31 is an ideal, and ideals are judges. Ideals are meant to draw our attention to the gap between them and us. They do give a verdict on our conduct by demonstrating the ways we fall short of them. But ideals are meant to be a vision of what could be, of what we can strive for, rather than a standard that is meant to crush and punish us. They aren’t there to push us to quit, but instead give us a vision of a different way to live. Our modern world doesn’t like ideals very much. In the past, people did frequently talk about the ideal country or ideal city or ideal king. But nowadays, who talks about the ideal prime minister? We don’t believe any politicians could ever be ideal. Our cynicism is unavoidable – we are much more comfortable speaking about the way our current society is not just and equal, than speaking of what a just and equal society would actually look like. Human realities have led us to give up on utopias, and create lists of our problems instead. But maybe we should take our eyes off our lists of problems, and learn to feel inspired once again. We can draw fresh enthusiasm from working towards a vision of the good. When presented with an ideal, we feel like ideals force conformity on us, tell us to be all the same, and can only make us feel bad about ourselves. But instead, the power of ideals is that they can open our eyes to a better way of living. In that way they are not limiting, but rather are a demonstration of opportunities we would never have imagined in our current circumstances. After all, children look to their parents to see what it is like to be a person who can accomplish more than what their childish limbs can manage. They can’t do what their parents do, but they can imagine growing into a future where they will be able to do more. When they look to their parents they can see an example of how to live a life they have never yet experienced – an adult life. And Christians are inspired by Christian role models too. Paul the apostle advises the Corinthians to imitate him as a model in their Christian life, as an example of a more mature Christian (1 Cor. 11:1). Having examples can be freeing rather than limiting, because we see how different lives than ours can be lived. Yes, visions of what could be are intimidating. But to erase them is to limit ourselves only to what exists right now. An ideal woman And this is the way I think the woman in Proverbs 31 can function. She can demonstrate the power of a virtuous woman, and lead us in turn to feel enthusiasm about what is possible for us in our femininity. After all, it does not take much for us to feel ground down in our femininity – we're confronted daily by negative portrayals of silly women, clingy women, bullying women, or passively helpless women in media, online, or just mentioned in general conversation. We can feel hormonal and wonder if our genetic makeup is a curse. We can struggle to perform heavy labor and feel dependent on others as a result of who we are. We can hesitate to speak up and make our voice heard, and feel held back. And when others reject us and label us or neglect to appreciate us, and we become vulnerable to harmful images of femininity. When we turn to our Bible to counteract this, we find the Bible itself does not shy away from portrayals of the shortcomings of women (just as it does not shy away from the shortcomings of men). Women can be gullible (2 Tim. 3:6), weak, (1 Pet. 3:7), or just unpleasant (see elsewhere in Proverbs itself, such as Prov. 21: 9). Faced with all this, how does one remain hopeful about womanhood? Is there any vision of a woman being a woman in a positive way? Yes, there is. When we need a picture of a woman exercising female traits and positively affecting the world around her as a result of being a woman, we can look to Proverbs 31. We can look to Proverbs 31 and begin to heal from our doubts and worries about womanhood. There are many things a woman can do, even a very “traditional” woman such as this woman. She can be strong, both physically and mentally, even though we’re tempted by negative images to believe we’re doomed to be fragile and unstable. She can be effective, even though we’re afraid we’ll only be passive and ineffective. And she can be courageous, even though we’re worried and anxious. In this way she is purely encouraging. We are not fated to be that taunting caricature of ourselves that may live in our imagination. When we need to insist our womanhood is a gift God has given us and the world, she is on our side. “A heroic poem which recounts the exploits of a hero,” is how one commentator classes this passage. Another calls it, “an ode to a champion.” What women do is not only worthy of being recorded, it is worthy of being applauded in exactly the same way as a warrior who slew a lion. But she girds her loins and takes up the heroic role in a very different setting. We can feel confident in this picture that we receive in Proverbs 31. This is not like the argument over whether Cinderella is a good role model for girls or not; we can take it as a given that this woman is a good role model. And if she is, what opportunities does that present to us?  She brings so much to the discussion that I cannot begin to include everything in a single article, so I’ll have to limit myself to the example of her strength. Strength is not the first word I associate with women, but it is the first association brought out here, in the very first line: “A woman of strength, who can find?” She draws our eyes to the quality of female strength specifically. Looking for a strong female character What is a strong woman? On one hand, we have many talking heads in media calling for more “strong female characters” in entertainment. On the other hand, strength is not typically the first female trait that comes to mind. If asked to come up with a list of feminine qualities, and you weren’t too afraid of going with the honest associations that came into your mind, you might come up with words like delicate, soft, gentle, meek. Asking for strong female characters is seen as one way to counteract this, to create new stereotypes that counteract the old. But too often “strong females” are interpreted as physically strong, as demonstrated by the number of “kickass” female characters who keep up with, surpass, or beat up men. But this kind of knee-jerk, opposing reaction to the stereotype of a weak female often glosses over the reality that women actually live. Women live their lives under the awareness that they will never be as strong as men. There is a limit to what we can physically do, and aside from a few exceptional women, most of us will burn out measuring our strength against men’s. Because of this, some of us can conclude it is not worthwhile to develop our own strength and capacity. Or others may choose to highlight only these exceptionally strong women as a defense against perceptions of weakness, in a way that makes regular women feel inadequate. Another way we do not feel strong is in our awareness of our vulnerability—we live knowing we can be overpowered and harmed by others with more strength. We structure our lives because of our awareness of our vulnerability, not walking alone in the dark, or holding our keys in our fists when we feel threatened. So no, I don’t believe that physically strong female characters in media are enough by themselves to encourage and inspire us in our regular lives. Strong and weak stereotypes However, it does not follow that in order to be a woman, we must emphasize our weakness. There has been a growing awareness through time that strength in women is a benefit and not a drawback, starting with the nineteenth-century encouragement to throw off tight-laced corsets and be physically active. Nowadays, the capacity of women is recognized on a society-wide level, and women are encouraged to develop and use their abilities to accomplish what they set their hand to do. And Proverbs 31 gives no support to ideas that weakness, fragility or delicacy are defining characteristics of womanhood. It is at this intersection between “kickass” female stereotypes and the experiences of regular women that the woman in Proverbs 31 stands. Remember, this passage is “a heroic poem which recounts the exploits of a hero,” or, “an ode to a champion.” In this way, she stands alongside Achilles and Beowulf. And yet she is not unreachable or alien to us in our everyday life. In fact, one thing many commentators notice about her is the mundane normalcy of what she is described as doing, even as the passage uses phrases such as “girds her loins” as she does these things. We might expect a woman who does “great things for God” would have more in common with female superheroes than with us. But we can relate to the strength needed to consider a field and buy it – or, in more modern terms, decide to launch a business, or plant and harvest a garden, or challenge ourselves with an activity we have never tried before. Let’s take it a step further and compare the Proverbs 31 woman with some older female stereotypes – she may be rich and of high status, but she does not spend her days in the cool shade of her porch, being fanned by servants. She has not retreated from the world to seek the safety of a carefully ordered life, buffered from anything that might jolt her poor nerves – an image of femininity that would be unreachable to most of us, even if we did desire such a life. Instead, her strength is demonstrated by taking up the task of living, including the hard things, and by working with her own hands. In other words, she demonstrates that strength is a non-gendered Christian quality. It is not men with strength, and women with fragility. But both draw on God’s strength to use their full capacity. Christianity has never been about strong men and weak women. Christianity has always been about strong men and strong women. A woman of strength We’re not used to hearing the first verse of this passage quoted as, “a woman of strength, who can find?” It is more recognizably quoted as, “a wife of noble character.” The description is translated in various ways: a wife of noble character, an excellent wife, a virtuous woman. Literally, it is a woman of valor, and the description is the same description given to Gideon (“The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor”) and Ruth (“I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman”). When we read it translated as “virtuous woman” we might not quite get all the overtones of power, competency and initiative this word carries. But it would be misguided to read this chapter and come away thinking this woman is not empowered (she is a woman of power), or that she is a passive housewife experiencing a lack of control over her life. And it doesn’t really matter if the power this woman possesses does not come through in every translation, because further verses in the passage underscore it: “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong,” and “Strength and dignity are her clothing.” If there exists any strong female character, it is this female character! She is the purest demonstration that strength and women can, in fact, go together. It is clear that while she is described with power, capacity and strength, this is not reduced to the physical ability to bench-press heavy weights. It is not an ability to defend her home from intruders, or protect herself through hand-to-hand combat. The various translations demonstrate the meaning of this word is much broader. Her strength is her competency at what she does, and her capacity to consider a plan and complete it. Strength in this passage is not only physical strength (though a certain amount of physical strength would be necessary for her to accomplish all the things she does), but also includes competency and strength of character. And when we talk about “strengths” we tend to use this term in a broad way as well. Strength of character in particular is important, as she is “a woman who fears the Lord.” When we think of that other “worthy woman,” Ruth, we understand it was her character that brought her notice, and not only her unflagging energy while gleaning for grain. Lastly, don’t forget that this passage is directed to a man – a king, instructing him on what kind of wife to look for. A strong woman will not be a drawback for him. “She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” Strength in action There is, then, such a thing as female strength, in that woman can develop and exercise their strength. There are some aspects of this that are uniquely female, such as the ability to bear a child, but in a more general way it is women intentionally developing their capacity, skills and character. Developing one’s individual capacity is something everyone can do, regardless of what your starting point is. Sometimes women don’t realize how strong they are. They may hesitate to do things by themselves, or to take initiative to develop an idea of theirs, or to build on their skills and talents. There is nothing wrong with depending on other people, as humans are made to interconnect and rely on the strength of each other. But sometimes, if we habitually rely on others, we forget what we ourselves can do. In Proverbs 31, it does not mention her consultations with her husband over her initiatives, such as buying a field or planting a vineyard – this is not to say that she did not consult her husband (and I would argue most likely she did, and it says he trusts in her completely and her plans always brings him good).  But it does demonstrate that the emphasis in this passage is that this woman can have an idea and carry it through. She knows her strength, and does not shrink away from taking action. She makes plans, and then puts in the grunt work necessary to bring her vision into reality. This is especially true when it comes to our own faith life – we all need spiritual leaders to follow, but we also need to be able to study, learn, grow, tell truth from error, and so on, even when not directed by someone else. When many sections of Christian publishing target fluffy, easy, devotional reads to women, we can get a glimpse at what some marketing bodies think of the readers of these books. But we can also counteract these stereotypes by growing in our own faith. Strength can be used wrongly, of course. Strength can be used to bully. Strength can be used to overwhelm others. This is true of female strength too, and there can even be extremes such as female-on-male abuse. However, strength and gentleness are not contradictory. After all, 1 Peter 3:4 still applies: “let your adorning be… the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” If you can think of strong men who are gentle, you will know strong women can be as well. Am I a strong female character? There are two responses to this idea of strength. The first is to glorify the strength of women as if this strength did not come first from God. To elevate the strength of women to the point where we almost require women to attain the same level of strength as men, or to speak as if female strength always surpassed men’s. We are afraid we’d be betraying our gender by speaking of our fragility A broader understanding of strength is a good defense against this. The other response is to feel intimidated because we personally feel so very beaten down and weak. There are many of us who hate hearing about how strong women are because we don’t feel able to take even another step. Can you tell I relate more to the second? I have never considered myself the strongest, and because of health reasons I’ve spent the past couple years feeling very weak. I was weak to the point where, when certain types of men have expressed the idea that women are inconveniences, I felt like I agreed, in that I wasn’t sure I could help anyone much. It is a modern cliché – “the strong, female hero”– but I tend to notice all the ways I am not strong, physically and otherwise. And then I am reminded of verses like 1 Peter 3:7: “live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel,” and I feel like a weaker vessel. “A woman of strength, who can find?” In this regard, it’s worthwhile to remember that weakness is not a gendered characteristic either. What does Paul say about weakness? “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” he says, because as he says elsewhere, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” He knows his weakness points him to the power of Christ. We all know what it is to be weak, and we all need to know where to turn to be strong. The modern female hero can feel intimidating and unreachable and alien, in a way the woman in Proverbs 31 is not. Female superheroes might be fun to watch, but they do not change how I live. But Proverbs 31 is different. Proverbs 31 inspires me, because she is both like me and better. She challenges me to reach higher, through Christ who strengthens me. The greatest ideal Let me conclude with a question: what do you do if you don’t feel this way? What do you do if, instead of being inspired, you feel ground down by Proverbs 31 and don’t feel enthusiastic about its picture of opportunities for women? First, you need to recall there is another ideal that is very familiar to Christians, and that is the ideal of Jesus Christ himself. All Christians are called to conform themselves to Christ. And all Christians are aware of where we fall short in this. Do we look to Christ to feel bad? Of course, the woman in Proverbs 31 is not an ideal in the same way Christ is. We are not required to live up to the ideal of Proverbs 31 in the same way we are commanded to put on Christ-likeness.  But while pursuing Christ we can see the examples of other Christian role models, who give us ideas about how to apply Christ’s work in our own lives. The Bible has not neglected women – rather, it speaks right to us. Second, there is an undeniable cultural context here. It’s not wrong to point out that this woman is set in a specific place and time, and this affects the way she is described. She acts in the way a wife of a rich, high-standing husband would act. And since this passage is advice given to a king by his mother (see Prov. 31:1), it is, in a sense, an ideal woman viewed through the eyes of a man who will need to find a wife someday, which does explain why some features are emphasized more than others. After all, Jesus Christ himself put on human flesh in a specific place and time, and we still understand that the universal application of his example is not tied to being an unmarried carpenter. It is correct to say she’s rich and you’re not, but not as a way of downplaying her achievements or making her easier to stomach, but rather as a way of re-contextualizing your response to her. In your circumstances, what can she inspire you to do? Therefore, the third point is that we can see her as an example of a different way to live, rather than a standard meant to intimidate us. We are not doomed to some of the repeated negative stereotypes about females that are spread around: neurotic, weak, anxious, gullible. None of this is our destiny. It is not encoded in our genes, a sentence given by God at birth. No, we can draw enthusiasm about our femininity from this picture presented here. The woman in Proverbs 31 does many things. As Wikipedia sums it up, she is “an industrious housewife, a shrewd businesswoman, an enterprising trader, a generous benefactor (verse 20) and a wise teacher (verse 26).” You can look at all that and think, oh wow I have to do all that? Or you can think, wow, I could be a businesswoman. I could be a trader. I could be a benefactor. Look at all the things I could do and be. And that sense of possibility is a good place to start. Don’t be afraid of her. Remember, she comes to you with words of kindness in her tongue. Author Harma-Mae Smit loves theology and loves the Lord. If you want more articles like this, you’ll be interested to learn she has started a monthly newsletter (where this article first appeared) as an antidote to the shallow and negative stories that tend to get shared online. Join her by signing up at the bottom of this webpage to get a new issue every month, and engage in discussion....

News

UK hospital to get more "gender inclusive"

Pop quiz: if you heard that a hospital was offering “gender inclusion” mid-wifery, what would you expect that to involve? The problem here has to be the gendered mid-wifery term, right? So are the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals planning on swapping that out for “mid-spousery”? Or maybe they’re adding an option for “mid-husbandry.” Of course, husbandry deals with crop and animal care, so that might create some confusion…but who cares about a lack of clarity when we’re fighting for sensitivity? It turns out that the gender inclusion had nothing to do with renaming mid-wifery, but instead had to do with offering pregnant “trans men” – i.e. pregnant women pretending to be men – the option of having their breasts called chests. Why? Because breasts are female body-parts, and that’s a truth that they would desperately like to obscure. To do so they’re embracing a craziness that’s comparable to calling a man’s testes his ovaries, if that’s what he’d prefer. The Times reported that the new “trans-friendly” terms were going to replace the originals. “Midwives have been told to say ‘chestfeeding’ instead of ‘breastfeeding’…. Staff have been instructed that ‘breastmilk’ should be replaced with the phrases ‘human milk,’ ‘breast/chestmilk’ or ‘milk from the feeding mother or parent.’” While that got even some liberal reporters outraged – Piers Morgan called it “nonsense” – these trans terms aren’t actually replacements. They are additions, to be used only with individuals who prefer them. Had Morgan known that, he couldn’t have objected, since he’s previously conceded that men can “transition” to women. That’s nonsense too, but nonsense he’s agreed to spout, so on what basis could he object to a “breast to chest” transition, so long as it’s optional? That means we can’t expect help from the mainstream media; it’s going to be up to Christians to take a lonely stand for sanity. We should do so as Christians, boldly proclaiming that God, and not Man, decides our gender. Once that's established, we can build on that truth by highlighting where denying it leads: to nonsense like pretending breasts can become chests. Or testes can become ovaries. If your conversational partner has gone to just the right sort of public school, he might, at this point, start scratching his chin, seriously considering whether testes can become ovaries. When that happens, borrow a page from The Babylon Bee and demand he start using your “preferred adjectives.” “Here are the adjectives I identify with… ‘cool, witty, handsome, innovative, fun.’ Please use one of these adjectives when describing me.” Then he’ll have to concede that a man’s preferences can’t turn him into what he ain’t...or he’ll have to start using your preferred adjectives. Either you convince him of the truth, or you make his foolishness all the more apparent to everyone who has the eyes to see it....

Magazine, Past Issue

Jan/Feb 2021 issue

WHAT’S INSIDE: Who is afraid of Proverbs 31? / Parenting: one set of guiding principles / The Great Reset: don't let a crisis go to waste / Music from the eyes: Jamie Soles on what turned him into a songwriter / A more generous ministry of mercy? / 2K is not OK / Rod Dreher's "Live not by lies": a review and a discussion / Feature author: David Macaulay / When Big Tech comes after anyone / The con in compromising / What's God's favorite verse? / Comics for every age group / Archer Fish: a wonder of Creation / Hospital to get more gender-inclusive / and more... Click the cover to view in your browser or click here to download the PDF ...

News

When Big Tech comes after anyone

In early January, when Facebook and Twitter suspended Donald Trump’s accounts it might not have worried most Christians. Yes, these “Big Tech” companies has just cut off a sitting president’s access to the more than 120 million followers who had sought him out on these social media sites. French and German leaders were concerned, with Steffen Seibert, chief spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, arguing that while the right to free speech is not unlimited, those limits should be imposed “by law and within the framework defined by the legislature – not according to a corporate decision.”  Still, Big Tech was doing this to a man who’d often been rude and rash on his social media missives, so his suspensions didn’t have implications for the reasonable, responsible rest of us…did it?  It turned out Trump’s deletion was the start of something. Over the course of the next weeks: YouTube shut down a pro-life news channel with its 300,000 followers. LifeSiteNews.com had built up its audience slowly over the last 10 years. They have now transitioned to Rumble where they have 22,000 followers. Amazon Web Services announced it would no longer host the social media site Parler, effectively booting it off the Internet for a month until Parler could find someone else to host them. This came after Google and Apple had already banned Parler from their app stores, making it much more difficult for people to sign up to this social media competitor. When Parler went offline, the Christian satire site Babylon Bee lost access to their 1.2 million Parler followers, and Prager U lost access to its more than 2 million Parler followers. Twitter suspended one of Focus on the Family’s accounts after they tweeted that the new Assistant Education Secretary, “Dr. Levine is a transgender woman, that is, a man who believes he is a woman." Actor and professing Christian Kevin Sorbo reported that Facebook had deleted his account without explanation. He had over 500,000 followers.  The conservative news outlet Epoch Times was demonetized by YouTube, probably for running stories that disputed the results of the US election. Prager U has also had YouTube videos demonetized. Facebook shut down links to Australian news providers after the Australian government considered a (highly problematic) law that would charge social media sites for carrying such links. Amazon blocked sales, on its site, of Ryan Anderson's When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement. YouTube removed a doctor's testimony about Ivermectin as a Covid treatment, deciding it was misinformation.  So what can we do to counter Big Tech’s influence and power? By no longer relying on them as we do! This can even involve old school tactics – in mid-January this headline popped up on a popular Christian satire site: "To Avoid Tech censorship The Babylon Bee Announces Innovative New Print Edition." What Babylon Bee proposed in jest is what Reformed Perspective is doing in earnest. We’ve started delivering our print magazine in bulk subscriptions to churches, tripling our print numbers in the last year. And as the Bee noted in their article, it is “a technology and distribution method that Big Tech can't touch." We’re also migrating to other social media sites like MeWe, where there seems to be an already growing conservative Reformed presence. We might try Gab, Rumble, and perhaps Parler too. It seems it’s not a matter of if but only when we get kicked off Facebook and today’s other social media favorites. To be prepared we need to build up our own alternatives....

News

Saturday Selections - February 20, 2021

Organ harvesting and more in China (7 min) What China is doing in its various prisons and "re-education" camps is slowly coming out. But why so slowly? Might it be that the evil done is so outrageous as to be almost unbelievable? If so, this video from David Kilgour might be of help – a few years back already, one of Canada's most respected politicians brought his credibility to the charges against China regarding Falun Gong And in the linked article above, the BBC reports on the credible charge of genocide that China is perpetrating on its Muslim Uighurs population. Australian church set to defy gay conversion ban bill "A law before the Victorian parliament seeking to outlaw parental, therapeutic or religious discussions on issues of sexuality and gender is the biggest threat to our democratic freedoms in Australia’s entire legislative history." In response, the Presbyterian Church of Australia is going to "preach the whole counsel of God." Why not cut off more? What's coming after the transgender revolution... Wesley Smith explains that since transgender breast and genital amputations are now being celebrated, the next inevitable step is for delusional people to start lobbying for a right to cut off their limbs. This lobbying is already happening, and after conceding on transgenderism, the world won't be able to marshal a logical argument against this "transablism." But we can. So it is up to us. This is why Christians can't speak someone's "chosen" pronouns, because we can't hurt them by going along with this destructive lie. God made us male and female, and if our minds think we should start cutting off healthy body parts, then it is our mind (and spirit) that needs help, not our body. The Aetherlight: a Christian online video game Our household isn't much for videogames but one game we've been playing – maybe once a month, a few hours at a go, with dad and the kids together – is The Aetherlight. The linked article above shares a lot of helpful specifics, but gives an overall middling grade to the game. I will note, however, that their grade is based on how an experienced gamer would view Aetherlight, and yes, for them it would be quite tame. But for us, with kids 5-9 when we first started playing, that "tameness" is a feature, not a fault. The story is also a Christian allegory though not all that overtly, which might also be a feature. I liked that the bad guys are robots, so there's no ethical problems in beating them up. For my girls, their favorite feature might be the different wardrobe options (all of them modest) that our character can change into. While you can start playing for free, we ended up putting some money down to continue the adventure - I think maybe $15 so far. Not bad for a couple of years' worth of play so far. Christian mom, others, gave up their liberty to protect her daughter A now Christian mom, originally in a lesbian relationship, had to flee the US to keep her child away from the LGBT lifestyle that her former lesbian lover wanted to expose the girl to. More than ten years later, now that her little girl is an adult and free from the threat of court-ordered visitations, her mom has turned herself in to the authorities. Some podcasts be like... (1 minute) https://twitter.com/jogdenUK/status/1346442437376552962?s=20  ...

Culture Clashes, News

The Great Reset: don't let a crisis go to waste

Over the past several months, the phrase The Great Reset has swirled around media headlines and social media. Many Christians are asking, should we support The Great Reset? But a better question would be which Great Reset should we support? We should also consider why any great reset is needed in the first place, and why now might be the time for it. So, why now? So why is there a push for big changes right now? To answer that we can turn to a quote, often attributed to Winston Churchill, which argues we should: “Never waste a good crisis.” Democratic governments normally change course gradually. Since humans are slow to change their minds and admit that they'd been wrong, the political views of an entire population of a country tend to change slowly rather than very quickly. Thus governments’ policies will also tend towards incremental rather than revolutionary change. Thus, during regular times, the window of opportunity for policy change is open only a crack. But a crisis swings this window wide open. When the perspectives of an entire citizenry change rapidly, the revolutionary becomes ordinary. We see this in our country’s response to COVID-10. In the eyes of most Canadian citizens, journalists, and politicians, COVID-19 has triggered a crisis. This social, economic, and health crisis – and the fear that it provoked – have enabled the federal and provincial governments to do the previously unthinkable in an incredibly short time: prohibit international travel restrict religious worship services shutter businesses spend hundreds of billions of dollars And this isn’t just the preferred response of politicians and scientific experts foisted on an unwilling public. Public opinion polling throughout the pandemic consistently reports that a significant majority of Canadians support these measures. COVID-19 has thrown the policy window wide open for change. The question is, what sort of change, what sort of great reset, will take advantage of this opportunity before it closes? The Great Liberal Reset The World Economic Forum (WEF) has one proposal to seize this opportunity. The WEF is an international organization aimed at improving partnerships between governments, corporations, and non-profit organizations. With governments unshackled from normal budgetary and policy constraints, the WEF proposed that government use this opportunity to tackle current public policy issues in new ways. The World Economic Forum calls this general plan The Great Reset. The Great Reset was the theme of the Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, which took place in the last week of January. On their website, the World Economic Forum describes The Great Reset: “The Covid-19 crisis, and the political, economic and social disruptions it has caused, is fundamentally changing the traditional context for decision-making. The inconsistencies, inadequacies, and contradictions of multiple systems – from health and financial to energy and education – are more exposed than ever amidst a global context of concern for lives, livelihoods and the planet. Leaders find themselves at a historic crossroads, managing short-term pressures against medium- and long-term uncertainties. As we enter a unique window of opportunity to shape the recovery, this initiative will offer insights to help inform all those determining the future state of global relations, the direction of national economies, the priorities of societies, the nature of business models and the management of a global commons. Drawing from the vision and vast expertise of the leaders engaged across the Forum’s communities, the Great Reset initiative has a set of dimensions to build a new social contract that honours the dignity of every human being.” More concretely, The Great Reset focuses on strengthening environmental protection against pollution and climate change; encouraging private companies to do more to care for their workers, their communities, and the environment; fostering multilateral cooperation; and promoting a rather left-leaning interpretation of inclusion, justice, and equality. So, let’s call this The Great Liberal Reset. To be clear, this is not a conspiracy by a secret elite. No, this is all out in the open. This is about world leaders (politicians, businessmen, activists, the wealthy) who share a common idea of how the world could be a better place trying to implement their vision through conventional channels – government policy, business decisions, grassroots advocacy, and targeted private investments. They are using the policy window opened by COVID-19 to advance their vision. While there are aspects of this vision we might be able to support, Christians should be cautious about supporting this Great Liberal Reset, as it also includes policies that Christians should oppose. More fundamentally, The Great Reset misdiagnoses what ails the world. That ailment is not COVID-19. The Great Moral Reset? Christians know that sin, not COVID-19, ails the world. Rather than reshaping the world according to a liberal vision (or conservative, or socialist, or libertarian agenda for that matter), we should seek to shape the world according to God’s Word. Christians should support a "Great Moral Reset" of sorts, one in which our government’s policies would be aligned with the morality of God’s Word. COVID-19 has opened the possibility for this sort of change. Our society has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect the lives of those vulnerable to COVID-19. Now we should go to even greater lengths to protect lives vulnerable to abortion and euthanasia, and provide better care for our elders. Many provinces have closed schools or moved classes online in their monolithic education system in their response to COVID-19. Promoting educational diversity, including supporting independent schools, homeschooling, and distributed learning in a decentralized education system where parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their children, should be the new priority of provincial governments. The federal government has poured hundreds of billions of dollars into supporting families and businesses through the pandemic. It should continue to defend the vitality of families by upholding a biblical understanding of marriage, gender, and sexuality and uphold the dignity of work. But a Great Moral Reset isn’t enough. The Great Spiritual Reset Ultimately, Canada and the world do not need a Great Liberal Reset or even a Great Moral Reset. It is useless for our country to be a whitewashed tomb on the outside but full of dead bones on the inside. Our society needs a Great Spiritual Reset like the Great Awakenings spurred by George Whitefield, John and Charles Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, and Dwight L. Moody. This spiritual reset isn’t the task of governments, businesses, or general non-profit organizations. This spiritual reset is the responsibility of the Church. COVID-19 has opened the window wide open for evangelism. With millions of fellow Canadians searching for hope, worrying about their employment stability, struggling with their mental and physical health, and mourning the passing of loved ones, many more people may be receptive to the Good News right now. As Jesus testifies, the gospel isn’t for those who are healthy and those who think that they have life figured out. The gospel is for those who have realized their brokenness and their need for a Physician. Are all our efforts directed to defending our personal freedoms (even if they are unjustly infringed upon)? Or are we bringing the gospel to our neighbors who need it now more than ever, using both our words and our deeds? Jesus calls us to be the salt and the light of the world, two metaphors that ARPA often draws upon. Christians have taken more seriously their calling to be a salt and a light in the realm of politics and public policy through the COVID-19 pandemic and the infringements on our freedom to worship. Let’s not miss the opportunity to also speak the gospel of life to a suffering world. Let’s not waste this crisis. Levi Minderhoud is the BC Manager for ARPA Canada. For more on the Great Reset, be sure to check out Chris deBoer's Focal Point podcast episode on the same topic which you can download here, or watch below. ...

Book excerpts, Book Reviews

Free book: How should Christians approach origins?

Blaise Pascal once quipped that he had written a long letter because he hadn’t had time to write a short one. Well, in this booklet it is evident that authors John Byl (who blogs on evolution and creation at Bylogos) and Tom Goss put an enormous amount of time and effort to boil down the key issues of the origin debate. In just 67 pages they gave an overview of: the difference between historical and operation science why secular scientists deny miracles as a matter of dogma why many professing Christian scientists do, but shouldn’t, deny miracles the basics of materialism and naturalism what the various origins positions are why Christianity is incompatible with any form of evolution how dating methods can be unreliable what books would be good for further reading And that isn’t even all of it! Both authors are professors, and one, John Byl, is Canadian Reformed. He has his Ph.D. in astronomy, and if this slim book has you ready for more, then you’ll want to take a look at his larger and more comprehensive God and Cosmos: A Christian View of Time, Space, and the Universe. But this smaller book, at just 67 pages, is an ideal size to share with any university student, or anyone looking for an introduction to the origins debate. You won’t find any better! The book concludes with Resource Pages that list two dozen books – these are the very best books on various aspects of the origins debate. So not only is this is an excellent introduction, it also points you to where you can go for much much more. And the authors have now made the book available to RP readers, for free! Click the cover to view it online or click here to download the PDF. ...

Family, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Patterns of Evidence: Young explorers

Docudrama 190 minutes / 2020 Rating 7/10 This didn't grab me on a first viewing but as I wasn't the target audience, I thought I would still test it out on my kids. I'm glad I did: what's good-but-not-great for dad turned out to be downright funtastic for the younger set! This 5-episode series is based on filmmaker Timothy Mahoney's full-length documentary Patterns of Evidence about his search for evidence of Israel's captivity in Egypt. The original was part mystery, part biblical history and my wife and I both enjoyed it immensely, which is why I ordered this sequel of sorts. But what initially put me off of the Young Explorers version was the added element of a whole gang of kids helping Mahoney investigate this mystery. This is now not simply a documentary, but a docudrama, with fact and fiction, education and entertainment, all mixed together. The kids were decent actors but still kids, and while I enjoyed the gags and dry humor, it all struck me as just a bit...cheesy. However, after testing it out on my daughters, I realized what I was bristling against wasn't cheese so much as enthusiasm, and though the greybeard that I am should know better, I still sometimes succumb to that weird teenage cynicism that believes enthusiasm is the opposite of cool – I was actually faulting Mahoney's junior investigators for being eager beavers! But watching this with my own kids, then the gangs' enthusiasm became a key feature of the film: here were 10 keeners sharing their passions, and no one was getting mocked for gushing about this or that. It was a whole group of geeky kids encouraging and cheering each other on. Would that my own kids can be like that (would that I can be like that!). So yes, a cynical, edgy, or critical audience will find plenty to mock here, and consequently won't be interested in the gang's big adventure. But if you've got geeky kids of your own, then they may just love it! There's a lot of love in the more than 3 hours of content. One highlight is the "Exploration Chamber" – a fictitious holodeck that the group can enter to then see and explore Egypt as it once was. Adults will appreciate how we hear directly from the horse's mouth, with Mahoney often interviewing the very critics he is trying to rebut. On my second viewing with the family I caught how there is humor on two levels here, with pratfalls for the kids, and dry humor for the adults - there are some snort-worthy moments! The five episodes in order cover: The adventures begins when the kids hear about Timothy Mahoney's work and are eager to help They learn that we may know where Joseph lived in Egypt The team searches for signs of captive Israel's population explosion The Young Explorers go search for signs of the 10 plagues The search continues on into Israel, where the team now investigates the fall of the walls of Jericho Caution There are no real content concerns so the only caution I'll offer is not to take Mahoney's conclusions as the final word. Mahoney isn't the only one trying to solve these mysteries, and while his answers are especially compelling, there seem to be some other creationist contenders. Conclusion While this isn't something for dad to watch on his own, it could be some great viewing for the family...if your teens aren't going through that overly critical phase. Or skip the teens altogether and watch this with your elementary ages kids: they love it...and mom and dad will too. The one downside? It is pricey, running between $30-$45 US. You can buy it for online streaming at Christian Cinema, and Christianbooks.com, or buy it on DVD at PatternsOfEvidence.com. You can also watch it for free (you will have to register an account) at RedeemTV.com here. To get a feel for the series, check out the trailer below and find other sneak peeks here. ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - February 2021

Sign seen on a… Whatever your business, there’s a pun for you. Here are some signs that probably never were but definitely should be… IRS building: “It’s better to give than deceive!” Lumberyard fence: “Come see. Come saw.” Locksmith shop: “Let me help you out…or in” Electric company van: “Power to the People!” Blood bank: “Don’t let us be caught with our pints down!” Home security store: “Been burglarized? Get alarmed!” High-rise condominium elevator wall: “Do under others as you would have them do under you.” SOURCE: Collected from Art. Moger’s The Complete Pun Book The leaders we should look for “We are perpetually being told that what is wanted is a strong man who will do things. What is really wanted is a strong man who will undo things; and that will be the real test of strength….We do not need to get good laws to restrain bad people. We need to get good people to restrain us from bad laws.” - G.K. Chesterton God comes to us “…if we are really to know anything about God it will probably be because God has chosen to tell it to us. Many persons seem to go on a very different assumption. They seem to think that if they are to know anything about God they must discover God for themselves. “That assumption seems to me to be extremely unlikely. Just supposing for the sake of the argument that there is a being of such a kind as that He may with any propriety be called 'God,' it does seem antecedently very improbable that weak and limited creatures of a day, such as we are, should discover Him by our own efforts without any will on His part to make Himself known to us. At least, I think we can say that a god who could be discovered in that way would hardly be worth discovering. A mere passive subject of human investigation is certainly not a living God who can satisfy the longing of our souls. “A divine being that could be discovered by my efforts, apart from His gracious will to reveal Himself to me and to others, would be either a mere name for a certain aspect of man's own nature, a God that we could find within us, or else at best a mere passive thing that would be subject to investigation like the substances that are analyzed in a laboratory. “I think we ought to stick to that principle rather firmly. I think we ought to be rather sure that we cannot know God unless God has been pleased to reveal Himself to us.” – J. Gresham Machen, Is the Bible Inspired?  A fearsome pun Three creatures – a hawk, lion, and skunk - were arguing about which was the most feared. The hawk insisted that his ability to swoop in suddenly, from above, had everyone scared of him. The lion said his loud roar and scary teeth were far more frightening. The skunk made the case that his spray could keep anything and everything at bay, so he must be the most feared. But as the three were arguing a grizzly bear showed up and, with just one bite, swallowed them, hawk, lion and stinker. SOURCE: Adapted from Art. Moger’s The Complete Pun Book  It won’t ever happen, but when it does… Back in 2013 commentator Rod Dreher coined the “law of merited impossibility” (LMI) to describe what was going to happen with gay “marriage.” He defined his law thusly: “It is best summed up by the phrase, ‘It’s a complete absurdity to believe that Christians will suffer a single thing from the expansion of gay rights, and boy, do they deserve what they’re going to get.’” So it is that the very same folk who asked then “How does letting gays marry hurt you?” now want to fine photographers, and bakers who don’t want to celebrate these “nuptials.” In our current context it's not hard to see the LMI's application to conversion therapy bans: it is impossible that Christians would ever be fined for speaking the gospel to homosexuals…but if they are, it’s because they have it coming! The transgender debate too: “Me being transgender has no impact on you, but if you won’t use my new pronouns you deserve to get fired.” Dreher’s LMI is a helpful warning. Those who reject God’s Word aren’t going to abide with Romans 12:18 either and live peaceably with others in as far as it is possible for them. They are after capitulation. So how exactly is that helpful to know? Well, if you’ve ever been tempted to compromise your Christian convictions for the sake of keeping the peace, keeping friends, or keeping your career, then it is a peculiar and emboldening blessing to know that such peace can’t be had. God is making it all the easier for us to take up the battle, by eliminating any options for retreat. Now that’s punny! Is a minister, busy rehearsing his sermon, practicing what he preaches? SOURCE: Art. Moger’s The Complete Pun Book Flies’ eyes Flies don’t have eyelids but they do still need something to help keep the dirt and water away from their peepers. So God has given some the equivalent of a Teflon non-stick coating for their eyeballs, to repel the water. This anti-adhesive coating has gotten scientists’ and engineers’ attention because, as Dr. Margaret Helder notes in the Winter 2020 Creation Science Dialogue, it is “highly versatile, stable and eco-friendly” which are improvements on the industrial coatings we currently have. Looking to nature for design inspiration is a field of study called biomimcry, and other examples include investigating how geckos defy gravity while climbing across ceilings, and, going years back, turning to birds to figure out how to fly. There’s another lesson to be learned here. When creatures exhibit design that is more fantastic than the best Man can produce, even using the smartest brains, biggest labs, and most powerful computers, is a clear indicator that an even greater Designer is at work here. The sin of omission If Margaret E. Sangster’s (1838-1912) poem is in need of an addendum it would be only this: when we repent Jesus can wash us clean of this sin too. It isn't the thing you do, dear, It's the thing you leave undone That gives you a bit of a heartache At setting of the sun. The tender work forgotten, The letter you did not write, The flowers you did not send, dear, Are your haunting ghosts at night. The stone you might have lifted Out of a brother's way; The bit of heartsome counsel You were hurried too much to say; The loving touch of the hand, dear, The gentle, winning tone Which you had no time nor thought for With troubles enough of your own. Those little acts of kindness So easily out of mind, Those chances to be angels Which we poor mortals find - They come in night and silence, Each sad, reproachful wraith, When hope is faint and flagging, And a chill has fallen on faith. For life is all too short, dear, And sorrow is all to great, To suffer our slow compassion That tarries until too late: And it isn't the thing you do, dear, It's the thing you leave undone Which gives you a bit of heartache At the setting of the sun.   Did you know? Did you know that the word “incorrectly” is spelled incorrectly in every single English dictionary?  And the word "wrong" is spelled wrong! Thankfully at least the word “correctly” is spelled correctly. “You are that man…” I once heard RC Sproul Jr. lay out a useful, but unusual tool to help a reader better understand the point of a Scripture passage. The key, as he explained it, was that when you’re reading the Bible and you come across someone doing something very stupid, you should not say “How could they be so dumb?!” Instead, you should ask, “How am I doing something stupid just like that?” Or, as the prophet Nathan put it to David in 2 Samuel 12, “You are that man!” No doctor in this house A young theologian named Fiddle Refused to accept his degree. He said, “It’s bad enough being Fiddle, Without being ‘Fiddle D.D.’” SOURCE: Art. Moger’s The Complete Pun Book...

Culture Clashes

"Let's meet in the middle": the con in compromise

A new administration has taken over in the US, and President Joe Biden and friends are using a lot of conciliatory talk about unity, and working together. This same sentiment made an appearance during Superbowl LV, where the viewing audience of millions was treated to a sermon from Jeep and Bruce Springsteen about "meeting in the middle” as Americans. But the middle of what? "We should meet in the middle" is: a charitable statement if you and your friend live an hour away, have relatively equal means, and want to get dinner at a central location. a terrible idea if there's a yawning chasm between the two of you. Without fixed goalposts, you really don't know where you'll end up when you aim for the middle. Republicans in the States would agree that meeting in the middle with former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, an outspoken moderate Democrat, is a very different thing from meeting in the middle with Sen. Bernie Sanders. And Democrats would agree that meeting in the middle with Mitt Romney, a moderate Republican, is a very different thing than meeting in the middle with Donald Trump. If you’re negotiating the price of a house, there’s a great difference between meeting in the middle on a price with someone who starts the bid at $1, and someone who starts the bid at $100,000. A tactic Often in negotiations the term functions in a similar manner to the word "fair." Nobody wants to be thought of as unfair, so by leading off as the “fair one” you can cast your opponent as the other, unfair side. The same tactic is sometimes stated as “finding the common ground.” When your opponent in the negotiation is not budging, or more often, before they even know what direction you want them to budge in, you establish that you are, in point of fact, aiming for "the middle." It sounds so agreeable, but just as soon as a political actor says, "We hope to meet in the middle" he is maneuvering to make his opponent look like the stubborn and unreasonable one. The effect and often the intent is to weaponize people's sense of neighborliness and appeasement to push a point of view. In short, it's not negotiation, but manipulation. We can’t compromise with evil This middle-ground appeal is both caused by and a symptom of the general lack of conviction of our society. If there is no absolute truth, it’d make sense for everything to be negotiable, right? In fact, meeting in the middle may be entirely sensible on how the last $10 million of the budget should be allocated between 3 worthy projects. But meeting in the middle about whether a panel should decide who lives or dies by euthanasia is impossible. There is a fixed right response to euthanasia as an idea, because the government is tasked with punishing evil and murder is evil. Because believer and unbeliever alike know of the Truth (Rom. 1:18-22), and especially because those of us who have the Spirit have had our eyes opened to see and understand it, we must reject "meeting in the middle" on morality. We must reject "compromise" and "fair-mindedness" whenever it is proposed on principles that cannot be compromised. Right and wrong cannot be bargained, and the man on TV telling you they can is manipulating you. Need for uncompromised truth As Christians, we understand the need for showing love to our neighbors and seeking the peace of our community. But we also heed the warnings of David in Psalm 28, who pleads with God to “Not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do evil, who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts.” This ought to lead us to recall the words of Christ in sending his disciples out, saying “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matt. 10:16) And as Christians, we are called to seek the peace of the country God places us in, and to love our neighbors. But these commands find their grounding in the first and greatest commandment, to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:36-40) This calls us to exercise wisdom in identifying where there is common ground to stand on, and where the only ground to stand on is the solid Rock that is Christ. In so doing we will ensure that we are no more: “tossed to and fro, carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:14-15)....

News

Saturday Selections - February 13, 2021

Who was Saint Valentine? The ads might make this day seem to be mostly about earthly love, but the fellow it is named after gained his fame for his love of the Lord. Soft tissue in 180 million-year-old ichthyosaur There is a joke told about a man who was convinced he was dead. No one could convince him otherwise, and so, in desperation, his wife took him to the doctor. The doctor grabbed a small pin and asked the man, "Do dead men bleed?" The man thought about it for a moment before answering, "No, dead men certainly don't bleed." The doctor then pricked his finger with the pin, and when a big red drop formed the man looked down and replied: "Oh doctor, I was entirely wrong - it turns out dead men do bleed!" When soft tissue was first found in dinosaur bones, mainstream scientists ridiculed the find since millions-of-years-old dinosaurs couldn't possibly still have soft tissues. Strangely enough, on that point, both evolutionists and creationists were in agreement. But as more of these soft-tissue finds were unearthed, evolutionists were faced with the choice of either backing down on the fossils actually being millions of years old, or backing down on soft tissues not being able to survive millions of years. They picked the latter. They concluded, in effect, that like dead men, long dead dinosaurs might well bleed. Ravi Zacharias seems guilty as charged An investigation conducted at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries' (RZIM) request has found lots of evidence that their late founder was guilty of sexual misconduct. Ray Comfort weighs in here, and, for those with Facebook, James White has some helpful thoughts here. How to show hospitality I loved the opening experiment, picking which of a dozen faces was a "neutral" expression. The one almost everyone picks is neither mad nor happy, but, as author Nick McDonald notes, how would we feel if someone greeted us with just such a face? Would we feel they were being neutral...or cold? BC gov't requests authority to detain folks who might be planning to go to church "Many politicians have gotten far too comfortable with far-reaching powers over the last year, and this is an extremely unsettling example." A return to multi-generational households This isn't a specifically Christian movement, but it's something Christians can get excited about...particularly as a means of living out the Fifth Commandment. About to start caring again (2 min) With a Democrat president now in office, a Republican congressman finds he's back to caring about the budget deficit once again... ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution

Dismantled: a scientific deconstruction of the theory of evolution

Documentary 2020 / 93 minutes Rating: 8/10 The Creation vs. Evolution debate is sometimes portrayed as being the Bible vs. Science, but Dismantled wants us to know that while creationists certainly stand on the Bible, they aren't conceding on Science. Flipping the script, the documentary begins by asking if evolution should be considered scientific. "Is it proper to equate evolution with science? Does science have the ability to address questions regarding past events that we were not there to directly observe or verify – events like the spontaneous origins of the universe, the origin of life from non-life, and the evolution of the earliest life forms into mammals? Or might we be giving science a power that it does not have? To answer this, it is important that we accurately define science, as well as its limitations." Evolution has street cred because it's supposed to be scientific – it claims to come from the very same source of knowledge that gave us rockets, microwaves pizza, smartphones, and self-driving cars. But as Dismantled notes, evolution has little in common with that sort of science. A quote from the film, taken from a biology textbook, explains that: "Scientific inquiry is a powerful way to know nature, but there are limitations to the kind of questions it can answer. These limits are set by science's requirements that hypotheses be testable and falsifiable and that observations and experimental results be repeatable." It is precisely the testable, repeatable, falsifiable nature of operational science that got us a man on the moon, and it is precisely those points that evolution's historical science doesn't share. Our origins involve events that happened long ago and aren't repeatable, making these events hard to test, and these theories hard to falsify. So the origins debate isn't about the Bible vs. Science, but more about one historical account vs. another... with the notable difference that one of those historical accounts is thousands of years old and unchanging, and the other is a recent creation and constantly being revised. That's the film's lead-off point, and it takes the first 20 minutes to make it. From there, they go on to assess which of these two historical accounts seem a better fit with the world we observe around us. That's the bulk of the film, and this 70-minute tour takes us through topics including: the micro = macro fallacy which assumes, without evidence, that small changes can add up to bigger ones genetics including the limits of supposed "beneficial mutations," and the problem of genetic entropy – that we as a species are breaking down faster than natural selection could ever build us up – and the supposed genetic similarity between man and apes the fossil record including Man's supposed ape-like ancestors, and the humanity of Neanderthals radiometric dating and its problems Dismantled is a slick production – the visuals are fantastic! – but its strength is in the scientists consulted. Whether it is Jason Lisle, John Sandford, Georgia Purdom, Rob Carter, Andrew Snelling, Nathaniel Jeanson (PhDs one and all), they all know how to explain big ideas to the rest of us who may not have been in a science class for decades. That doesn't mean this is all easy to understand, and I think most of us will have to (and be happy to) watch this twice, just because there is so much here to chew on. Cautions The one caution I'll note regards a mistake the film could, indirectly, encourage: believing the Bible only when the evidence says it is reasonable to do so. It is important to remember the evidence discussed in Dismantled wasn't available 100 years ago, and yet God's Word was just as true then. We need to know the Bible isn't true because it syncs up with the evidence; rather, the reason the evidence syncs up with the Bible is that the Bible is true. If that doesn't seem like much of a difference, its significance becomes apparent when the evidence doesn't seem to fit with the Bible. In those circumstances, if our trust is grounded in the evidence rather than the Bible, then we will side with it, against God's Word. But if we trust God, then we'll always stick with the Bible, trusting that any apparent conflicts will be resolved in time. Conclusion Dismantled is superb, summarizing important foundational concepts even as it presents the most current findings. I'd recommend it as a purchase, rather than a rental, because you'll want to watch it again to be able to properly digest all that is on offer. The target audience is high school and up, and for those who want to dig in even deeper, a great place to start is the recommended resources list available on the film's website. You can check out the trailer below, and then rent it on Amazon.com or buy the DVD or Blu-ray at Creation.com. ...

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Rod Dreher’s "Live not by lies" – a review and a discussion

I recently spent several months leading a Facebook group discussion of Rod Dreher's Live Not By Lies. Each week I would post a summary of a chapter, and the members of the group would discuss it. That experience led me to do a closer reading of Dreher's book than I would normally do. And it also led me to appreciate all the more the importance of the message of this book for God's people. The genesis of the book began back in 2015 when Dreher began to speak with Christians who had once lived under communism in the former Soviet-bloc countries. They told him they believed America was drifting toward some sort of totalitarianism, and they were upset that their fellow Americans weren’t recognizing what is happening. Building on these interviews, and first-person accounts of those who survived life under anti-Christian, totalitarian rule, Dreher lays out what he sees happening in the United States (and throughout the Western world), and his conclusions as to how Christians can effectively deal with it. Realism, not pessimism Some reviewers have said that Dreher is overly pessimistic. Totalitarianism? Really? Dreher says the reason many can’t see it, is because what’s happening here is different from what we see in China and saw in the USSR. That’s the old “hard totalitarianism,” while Dreher say what we’re facing could be described as “soft totalitarianism.” What others have characterized as his “pessimism,” I would call “realism.” Dreher understands what is happening in the Western world, and what he sees rightly concerns him. So what is this "soft totalitarianism" that Dreher is talking about? There are many ways in which our freedom to express ourselves honestly is being taken from us, and we are being pressured to conform to the world's narrative. Recently, Focus on the Family had one of its Twitter account suspended for “violating rules against hateful conduct.” They will not be allowed access to their account until they delete the offending comment, which said only: "On Tuesday, President-elect Joe Biden announced that he had chosen Dr. Rachel Levine to serve as Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of HHS. Dr. Levine is a transgender woman, that is, a man who believes he is a woman." Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram police "hate speech" – and it is those who define "hate" who make the decisions about who can stay and participate, and who must be excluded. Christians who have expressed "unacceptable" opinions on Facebook have been forced to participate in "sensitivity training" sessions in their workplace, after their posts were reported to management and deemed unacceptable. The private sector and government work together to expand surveillance and data collection, whether for the purposes of public safety and "homeland security," or for public health and "bio-security," or to combat the most recent threat to be uncovered, that of "far-right domestic terrorism." Increasingly repressive measures are being enacted to stifle the ministry of the Church, as bills are passed that ban activities like "conversion therapy," which seek to help those who are struggling with their gender identity. Speaking out against sin is defined as "bullying" (regardless of whether it is done compassionately and lovingly or not), and events like Pink Shirt Day, anti-bullying initiatives, and government-mandated school clubs all have a chilling effect on the free exchange of ideas, especially those that are no longer accepted by the mainstream. When Biblical teaching is defined as "hate speech," and those who dare to publicly contradict mainstream orthodoxy on subjects like sexuality and gender ideology can be silenced and excluded from public discourse, we are well on our way toward this state of soft totalitarianism. This isn't the hard totalitarianism of the old Soviet Union; but in the end, the results of Soft Totalitarianism are the same. Outward conformity to the prevailing ideology is demanded, inappropriate use of language is censured, those who express the wrong kinds of ideas are branded as intolerant, hateful, and dangerous to society. We’re doing it to ourselves What is particularly concerning about this move toward soft totalitarianism is the fact that it is being done with the largely unquestioning acceptance of the populace. We have willingly given up our privacy and control over our own data for the sake of convenience, to remain connected through social networks, and to have “free” access to entertainment and consumer goods. And as we have done that, often unthinkingly, we have opened ourselves up to the growing influence of corporations like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, and their policy-makers who are using these tools to shape public discourse, control what can be communicated publicly, and influence the way we think. What can we do? Live not by lies! Dreher’s realism also leads him to recommend steps that Christians can take to remain faithful in the face of ever-increasing pressure. This is where the rubber hits the road for the Christian reader. I often hear this question in response to my writing on current events: “What can we do to stop this?” And realism leads me to say that, humanly speaking, there is very little that we as individuals can do to halt a process which has been gathering steam for decades. The combined forces behind soft totalitarianism appear, on the surface, to be unstoppable. But that does not mean that the situation is hopeless, and that there is nothing we can do as individuals, each within our own sphere of influence. The first thing that we need to do is live according to the injunction of the book’s title, which itself was taken from the title of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s essay “Live not by lies!” Solzhenitsyn wrote that we as individuals may not have the strength to stand up in public and say what we really believe, but we can at least refuse to affirm what we do not believe. We may not be able to overthrow totalitarianism, but we can, individually and as a community, find the means to live in “the dignity of truth.” So that’s the first important step we need to take. In a world that is demanding more and more that everyone affirm ideals that are inherently non-Christian, and in fact anti-Christian, we need to live in the truth. What does it look like to live in the truth? It means refusing to take over the language that the world uses, and refusing to use it as our own. There is a reason so much emphasis is put on policing speech and policing the way in which certain words and expressions are used – it’s because controlling language is the first step in influencing and controlling thought. Over time, the words we use shape the way we think. We can see this happening with the transformation in the use of the word "gender." In the past, "gender" was a grammatical concept. In languages like Spanish and Portuguese, nouns are either masculine or feminine, and while English is not a gendered language, there are still a few examples of gendered words; for example, ships have often been referred to as "she." But the meaning of the word "gender" has shifted, largely under pressure from activists who would like to believe that gender is a fluid concept, a kind of sliding scale between masculine and feminine. So now, instead of "sex" with its binary male or female biological reality, we have "gender" and a world of multiple options, based on personal choice and identification. So how can we "live not by lies" in this area? We can, in our speech, show that we do not buy into the idea of a shifting scale of "gender," by maintaining the distinction that reflects reality, and not the ideology of the activists who have taken control of public discourse. Does this mean we have to correct people every time we hear the word "transgender" being used instead of "transexual"? No. But it does mean maintaining the created distinction between male and female by the way we ourselves use words, and the way that we teach our children. But there is more that we can and must do. In the second half of the book, Dreher closes each chapter with a section with the heading, “See, Judge, Act.” In this section, he provides the reader with practical advice gleaned from his interviews with Christians who lived under hard totalitarian regimes and kept the faith. While Dreher was raised Methodist and is now an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I think his vision of how Christians can counteract soft totalitarianism has much in common with Reformed thinking, and specifically the distinctly Reformed emphasis on the doctrine of the covenant. Dreher doesn't use the term, but we could summarize his practical steps under the heading of “covenant living.” So in our families, we must deliberately focus on teaching our children, reminding them of who they are, and of the realities of history in world in which history is being rewritten or even erased. In our churches, we need to continue to use the means of grace faithfully and passionately. Dreher recommends the gathering of small groups for teaching and discussion, with believers encouraging and instructing one another about how to “live not by lies.” In a world in which social units are fracturing and social connections disintegrating, we need to make the effort to not only preach covenant theology, but to live out the covenant theology that we confess! Conclusion I highly recommend Live Not By Lies, and believe that its message is vitally important for God’s people today. The first step that we need to take to remain faithful to our calling as followers of Christ is to recognize that we are in a battle, and understand that battle. Dreher does a commendable job of revealing the reality of our current situation, as he seeks to open the eyes of those who may not recognize the seriousness of what is currently happening in our society. He also provides realistic counsel to Christians, based on the experiences of those who have lived through totalitarianism themselves. History is in the Lord’s hands. He is directing all things according to his purpose, and he is in absolute control. For us, that is the greatest encouragement of all, and internalizing this truth is how we’ll steer clear of pessimism and hopelessness. At the same time, we must be realists, and not live in denial about what is happening. The forces united against Christ and his Church are becoming stronger, and we need to recognize that there is a battle, we need to know who the enemy is, and we need to be prepared to fight the good fight of faith in confidence. Live Not By Lies will help you to do just that. Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative magazine. He’s written and edited for the New York Times, and has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Beliefnet, and Commentary and numerous other publications. "Live Not By Lies" is his fifth book, and his fourth, "The Benedict Option," dealt with similar themes....

Assorted

A more generous ministry of mercy?

The Lord loves his church and gave her the gift of the ministry of mercy. But is this blessed ministry as active as it can or should be within the communion of saints? Let’s consider the following scenarios and the possibilities they present.  1. After a miscarriage A sister has had a miscarriage or stillborn child. Initial visits by the elder and/or minister have taken place. There is concern that it will take some significant time before the sister will have the energy and emotional strength to take on the regular management of the household. The husband has a good paying job so doesn’t think to ask the deacons for help. A few sisters have dropped off meals, and this has been a godsend. Nevertheless, laundry is piling up, the kids are not bathed, the house is not getting cleaned. The sister knows that this is not the way it should be, but that only makes her feel more guilty and incapable of taking next steps. Her husband has tried to take on more responsibilities, but now he is also starting to feel overwhelmed and is afraid of coming across as insensitive. They need more help! Do the deacons know that there is a problem? Maybe not, but perhaps it should be expected that they inquire again two or three weeks after the loss of the child, to see how things are going. If the deacons were to follow up with the brother and sister, and to inquire how things are going, they might find that while there isn’t any help need financially, the family does need to experience the love of the communion of saints in other tangible ways. 2. In the face of cancer A brother has been diagnosed with cancer. He is sixty years old. The news is shared with the congregation and the minister/elder come to make a visit. After the initial shock is over, the couple decides that it is best that they move out of their large home and into a smaller place. They have children all over the country but who here in town can help them move? Members of the congregation can get together, but the deacons can also take a lead here. They can ensure that this couple, under their care, has the physical help they need. And, of course, the deacons will want to ensure this couple has adequate financial means after the cancer diagnosis led to the brother’s necessary decision to stop working. 3. An unplanned trip A brother in Ontario has a father deathly ill in British Columbia. The deacons or close friends in the congregation know that this family does not have a lot of financial resources. The brother takes his wife and three children to BC to make a visit. He can afford this trip because he has a line of credit, and feels such a trip justifies the expense. Who would disagree? This brother would not be likely to ask for assistance from the deacons because he has a full-time job. But might it be good if the deacons (or other church members) made a visit? Could they, or other members, inquire as to the cost and conceivably gift the family with a signed cheque to help cover some of these unexpected costs? Was this family in dire straits? No. Could they use the help? Absolutely! **** I am sure we can come up with a plethora of other examples in which the minister of mercy, led by the deacons, can be administered within congregational life. Nevertheless, let’s return to the question we began with: is this blessed ministry as active as it can or should be within the communion of saints? My hope is that this article causes all of us to reflect on God’s Word to determine the answer to the question: Is the ministry of mercy equipping all the saints to live in the joy of being redeemed? Loving and caring as God does I strongly recommend Dr. Van Dam’s book “The Deacon” available at Amazon and elsewhere. The New Testament church of our Lord Jesus Christ is blessed to have a formal ministry of mercy as ministered by men serving in the office of deacon. As Dr. C. Van Dam notes in The Deacon: Biblical Foundations for Today’s Ministry of Mercy, seven men were originally chosen in Acts 6 with the task “to see to it that there were no needy so that everyone could rejoice and celebrate the salvation and freedom given in Christ.” As the number of followers was increasing, there seemed to arise a tension between the Hellenists (Greek-speaking Jews) and Hebrews because the Hellenist widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. In order to ensure that the ministry of the Word was not hindered, brothers were appointed to an additional office to begin exercising the ministry of mercy. These men were “set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them” (Acts 6:6). And so the ministry of mercy is initiated. How does this office function today? In the first place, this ministry of mercy proceeds from the love of our God and Saviour. While he was on earth, Christ fed the hungry, healed the sick, and showed compassion to the afflicted. And while the formal ministry of mercy was not initiated in the Old Testament, the loving covenant God provided numerous laws to ensure that the poor and afflicted were cared for in generous ways (e.g., gleaning, labor, and marriage laws). God loves and cares for his people. That is a consistent characteristic of our covenant God throughout scripture. In Matthew 26:34-40, Christ teaches that on judgment day: “the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” “The Form for Ordination of Elders and Deacons” used in many continental Reformed churches summarizes Matthew 26 with the conviction that “no one in the congregation of Christ may live uncomforted under the pressure of sickness, loneliness, and poverty.” Living uncomforted is not an option for the Christian community; rather, we should be living in the joy and comfort of our freedom in Christ. And so, the Form explains, it is for the sake of this service of love, that Christ has given deacons to his church. Diaconal work is made possible by the congregation sharing their resources, monetary and other gifts, with these office-bearers, for distribution in one’s home congregation and beyond. Sharing resources is rooted in our love for each other. We love each other because Christ first loved us. Scripture also teaches that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7). And it remains an important principle that collections are done in such a way that members can give in secret, without sounding the trumpet and making a public show of their generosity (Matt 6:1-4). When we give generously, there is no need for brothers and sisters in the Lord to experience the burden of poverty or the suffering of want. Not waiting to be asked However, while there is no need for poverty and suffering of want in Christ’s church, for some of us, it is a challenge to ask for help, especially financial help. When we lose our job, become seriously ill, or struggle with frailty, we are often not prepared to ask for help. In The Deacon, Dr. Van Dam suggests (insists) that deacons should be visiting the members under their care in order “to give those he visits the opportunity to feel comfortable with him.” The idea is to build mutual trust. The deacons can learn a lot about family life when they make a visit, and can quickly learn to trust a member in their ward when they have the courage and humility to ask for help. Likewise, when a member trusts the deacon, confident that neither an audit or interrogation will take place, he can ask for help without shame or fear. In addition to building this trust, deacons can also ascertain “whether church members have any needs, financial or otherwise, that are not being met… ideally can see or anticipate needs and offer to help rather than waiting for those in need to come to them.” Love is the greatest command within the congregation of Christ. We love, because he first loved us. It remains important that office-bearers practice servant-leadership as they serve the congregation in which they are appointed. Love requires a servant’s attitude. This means that when they hear someone has lost their job, deacons make a visit and offer help; when a member is diagnosed with a serious illness, deacons should make a visit; when a baby is born and requires a lengthy stay in the hospital, the deacons should ensure the parents have sufficient kinds of help during that challenging time. Deacons do not wait to be asked for help, they need to take the initiative to offer help to the members. Deacons need help too At the same time, deacons do not always know when there are needs. Communication is a two-way street, and the members can also take initiative. When we lose our jobs, we confess that this is under God’s providence. There is no shame in asking the communion of saints for help. This can be done by asking members directly, if a solid relationship of trust has already been established. There is no rule that suggests that members should not help each other directly, rather it should be encouraged. Nevertheless, the ministry of mercy is there to provide for the financial and physical needs of those in need. A relationship with deacons helps members ask for such assistance. The ministry of mercy is a gift – it bears repeating. Do we make good use of this gift? And, yes, like all good gifts, we can abuse them, but let’s leave that for another article. Let’s first commit to making good use of this godly gift of our Lord for His children. For more on the ministry of mercy, be sure to check out the episode below of the Focal Point podcast where Dr. Chris deBoer, along with special guest Dr. Cornelis Van Dam, discuss the why, what, how, and where of the Church's ministry of mercy. ...

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

It goes without saying: Peanuts at its silent best

by Charles Schultz 2005 / 160 pages There seems something almost wrong with using a multitude of words to recommend a wordless book so let me hit just a few highlights and be done. This is Snoopy and the gang but with not a word spoken in this 50-year collection of "Peanuts pantomime strips." The brilliance manifests in at least three different ways. This is all ages. With no words to struggle over, my 6-year-old, still-learning-to-read daughter enjoyed this just as much as me. Might it be a gem for a reluctant reader? This is unique. We're all used to the regular puns that populate the newspaper comics page and know what to expect, but the sight gags here are humor of a whole different sort, and that curveball is sure fun. This is art. Author Charles Schultz does a lot with a little - not just wordless, but his artistic style is also sparse, and it is amazing to see what he can communicate with just a few lines here and there. I'll only add that if you enjoy It Goes Without Saying, you might be interested in Garfield Left Speechless. It doesn't have the same charm – Garfield is sometimes meanspirited in a way that Snoopy never is – but it has some of the same slapstick creativity. (For a twist, check out the website Garfield minus Garfield ...although this one will be above kids' heads.). ...

Letter Writing

How letters mingle souls

"Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls, For thus, friends absent speak. – John Donne (1572-1631) When my father courted my mother, he wrote her sonnets in Dutch, German, English and French. Amazing! I think she was truly impressed and also touched by the fact that he took the time to do this especially for her. The personal touch I do not know a great many people who still write letters, let alone sonnets, to dear ones to express their feelings of love, appreciation and other issues. Letter writing seems to be a lost art. When we first immigrated from Holland to Canada, it was a happy day when an overseas blue vellum envelope was delivered by the mailman through the mail slot in our door. I can vividly recall my mother's happy face as she opened such a letter, avidly reading the news that my maternal grandmother sent her across the ocean. I also retain the memory of sitting around the luncheon table, home from school for an hour or so that first year in Canada, while my father read family bulletins in the form of letters from aunts and uncles to all of us – so that we would not forget the family we left behind. I can't think of anyone who does not enjoy receiving a card or letter with some encouraging words, some personal sentence, written next to the text. But truthfully, I can think of very few who actually put pen to paper to communicate such things. Yes, there is e-mail, but you cannot hold an e-mail in your hand. You cannot fold it up and put it in your pocket or purse, or lay it on your night table next to your bed to reread at your leisure before going to sleep. E-mail, although it is an easy way to correspond, has a certain amount of machine-feel to it, a good dose of impersonal touch. The flick of a button can send the exact same greetings to others besides yourself. An e-mail is simply not as individual as that letter which arrives in your mailbox addressed to only you. Actually, I remember a funny anecdote in which a teenage nephew of mine was so infatuated with a pretty face that he sent her a long letter in which he declared his undying devotion to her. In the epistle he detailed the girl's pretty cheeks, eyes, eyebrows, hair, and so on. On that same day he penned a letter to my father, his grandfather, telling him about his studies at medical school, his progress with those studies, and so on. When he got around to mailing these two letters, however, he put the wrong address on the envelopes. The girl received the letter intended for my father, and my father received the letter intended for the girl. I think I've never seen my father laugh so hard, and he certainly lost no time in phoning his grandson to tell him he was very touched by the fact that his elderly face was held in such high esteem. Seriously, to write something by hand forces one to think carefully and sincerely. You can't erase what you have written without making a bit of a mess. Scratching out words or sentences can create unsightly black blobs. Consequently words should be wisely chosen while reflecting on needs and encouragement needed by the recipient. Writing by hand makes one think carefully, slowly, and forces you to build relationships with others. More than anything else they remind the one receiving the letter that you are thinking of them, possibly praying for them and loving them. Letters, written in the right spirit, have an amazing ability to console, strengthen, and soften hearts that might have contained bitterness towards the world and God. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: loving, letter-writing husband One of my favorite preachers, although he died a great many years ago, is Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981). Strongly opposed to liberal theology, he became the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, England in 1939, and he remained in that church for thirty years. A gifted speaker, he preached to thousands, but classified himself, with regard to letters, "... a truly bad correspondent." Martyn Lloyd-Jones, however, had an intense affection for his wife. If he was away from her for more than a day or two, he always wrote her a letter. Iain Murray, who edited a book of his letters in 1994, more than twenty years ago, wrote about Bethan Lloyd-Jones, Martin's wife: "She was in every sense a partner in all that her husband did. Although a medical doctor herself, she happily gave her life to keeping him preaching and to the care of the home." They had a very good marriage. In 1937, while still a pastor at Sandfields, Aberavon in Wales, Dr. Lloyd-Jones went to the United States on a speaking trip. Bethan could not come with him as their youngest daughter Ann was only 5 months old. He wrote her: There is one constant regret right through everything – that you are not with me. I was counting it out in bed this morning, that by three weeks today, I ought to be with you again. You said in your letter that you hoped I would not forget you – I am prepared to enter into a competition with you on that score without the slightest hesitation! ... All my love to you, dearest girl in the world. There is no one like you anywhere. The more I see of others the more obvious does this become. Kiss each of the girls for me. Yours for ever and ever, Martyn. If you have ever heard Dr. Lloyd-Jones preach, his serious, throaty voice punctuating Biblical truths, and if you have stood in tremendous awe of his God-given ability to argue and defend the faith, these touching words in the letter to his dear wife will undoubtedly raise him to higher levels of affection and esteem in your heart. At the conference in Ohio, he penned thoughts to his dear spouse again: I have not had a letter from you since I left New York, but I have just realized that letters take an extra two days to arrive here. I felt very homesick on Monday. With me on the train was Dr. Wilson from New York... In the Pullman he met another minister and his wife. After talking for a while Dr. Wilson said to the other minister's wife; “You know, you make me feel very homesick for my wife - I think I'll send a card to her to come along.” “Yes, do,” said the other, “most of the wives are coming this time.” And me, having to think of the dearest little wife in the world, thousands of miles away, across the sea! I became totally depressed as I thought of it. When we arrived here, I saw that the wives were here by the dozen! This is surely one of the best hotels in the world. I never saw anything like it. I have a double-bedded room with a private bathroom, toilet, etc. This is real luxury. But Oh! the bed is much too big for one! You ought to be here with me. How wonderful it would have been for Mrs. Bethan Lloyd-Jones to receive that letter and to be able to read and reread her faithful husband's declaration of love, of his missing her. His words were simple and unadorned words – words we can all understand – and words which came straight from his heart. Saying it with written words With Valentine's Day on the loom, Hallmark cards and Hershey Kisses are for sale in supermarkets, drug stores and dollar outlets. It's a great market. Good business! Sales experts know that deep within all human hearts there lies that desire to be told they are special – loved as no other. Ironically, there is one letter which is addressed to all people and one which we can read and reread again and again. Sadly it is probably a letter which is gathering dust on bookshelves throughout North America. Yes, of course I mean the Bible. Listen to the words of the greatest of all Lovers, the Lord God Himself. ... Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, Who has compassion on you (Isaiah 54:10). And, "...I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness..." (Jer. 31:3). These sentences are part of that old, extant letter which has been delivered to all mankind. We should read them aloud to our children so they will be caught up on the news of their Father as they gather around the lunch or supper table; and it is a letter which we should place on our night table so that we can reread its words when we feel lonely at night. Perhaps, lacking in ability to formulate words ourselves, we can even copy this letter's words and put them on cards for relatives and friends. For even as John Donne said a long time ago, "...more than kisses, letters mingle souls. For thus friends absent speak." Happy Valentine's Day! This first appeared in the January 2016 issue....

News

Saturday Selections - February 6, 2021

The jewels of winter (6 minutes) You might sort-of know how snowflakes are made, but how they are actually made is more amazing than you knew! If $2,000 stimulus checks are good, wouldn't $200,000 be better? (10 min read) We've gotten so used to the government handing out money it no longer seems crazy or outrageous. But what if we took the same logic behind the US $2,000 "stimulus" and used it to argue for $200,000 checks for everyone? To frame this another way, does God encourage us to help the world by spending and consuming? Or by producing? (Eph 4:28, Matthew 25:14-30, Gen. 1:28). Where Salome danced Archeologists make a fascinating find that verifies once again "the Bible is the best-attested book of antiquity, and nothing else comes close." Addictions: a banquet in a graveyard A solid review of an important book looking at addictions from an explicitly biblical perspective. Do as I say, not as I do? An American group has mapped out instances where political leaders have imposed COVID restrictions they haven't then followed. That raises the question of whether these politicians believe in the rules they have imposed. If they find the restriction too strict to be able to follow themselves, shouldn't they ease them for others? The two helmet act In light of the two masks talk... ...

Apologetics 101

I love apologetics

Don’t be intimidated; sharing the good news isn’t as complicated as we make it  **** The Evidence Bible is filled with my favorite apologetical arguments. I love to use these arguments to pursue the lost. I also enjoy watching instructional videos about the subject of apologetics. One of my favorite Bible teachers explains how to defend the faith. He is so eloquent and has such a brilliant mind, it makes me want to never open my mouth again. Plus, he is incredibly gracious and humble. I say that because I want you to know that what I’m going to say is not a criticism. It simply illustrates a very important point when it comes to sharing our faith. I remember him speaking of the importance of truth when reasoning with the unsaved. He spoke of five critical grades to keep in mind when it comes to reaching the lost. He said that when testing truth there are two theories – the “correspondence theory” and the “coherence theory” – plus there is consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance. Then he added, “There are four questions to be dealt with – our origin, meaning, morality, and destiny – and to deal with those questions there are five disciplines you have to pull together: theology, epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and anthropology.” He also spoke of three cultures that we deal with: the theonomous culture, the heteronomous culture, and the autonomous culture, which dictates a “mutual autocracy.” Got it? If you did, you’re more intelligent than most people. Most people have trouble even pronouncing those words, let alone knowing what they mean. And that’s okay. That’s because proclaiming the gospel can be as simple as doing what Jesus did: use the Ten Commandments to stir the conscience, and show the sinner that he needs the Savior. I rarely get into arguing about apologetics, the infallibility of Scripture, the deity of Christ, evolution, why there is suffering, etc. When I do enter that territory, I am always aware that there is a way out, and I take it. I can get out, because I have learned the importance of having control of the conversation. I know our ultimate agenda; it’s to “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). If I wanted to teach you how to fish, I could take you to a quaint little pond and catch a nice small fish. But I’d rather take you deep-sea fishing and let you see some action. If you watch a deep-sea fisherman, when he gets a marlin on his line he will let it run. He does this because he knows that at any time he chooses he can pull back the rod and get the hook deeper into the fish’s jaw. The “hook” that Jesus used was the moral Law (the Ten Commandments), and the “jaw” is the sinner’s conscience. It is because of this knowledge that I can let him run off in any direction he wants to, because I know that any time I choose I can take complete control, simply by asking the question, “Do you think you’re a good person?” and bringing out the Ten Commandments as Jesus did in Mark 10:18–21. That gives me a level playing field because I’m not talking to his contentious intellect. I have moved to his conscience. This puts even Einstein on the defensive. Never be intimidated by so-called intellectuals. Our Creator has put something infinitely more powerful into our hands: the gospel. It is “the power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16). This article is reprinted with permission from LivingWaters.com....

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Facing darkness

Documentary 99 minutes / 2017 Rating 8/10 In early 2020, when New York was hit with a surge of serious Covid-19 cases, Samaritan's Purse set up a mobile field hospital to relieve the State's overwhelmed health services. Running towards danger was nothing new for this Christian group – they'd already been busy helping with the Covid outbreak in Italy. And years earlier, when West Africa was faced with an Ebola outbreak, they led the way there too, despite the horrorific nature of that disease. Facing Darkness is a documentary about that 2014 outbreak, and Samaritan's Purse's courageous response to it. This is certainly not a film for everyone, but it might be great viewing for anyone feeling overwhelmed by our current Covid situation. Here are Christians facing risks many times greater, and while they are afraid – terrified even – it isn't a contradiction to say they were not fearful. They kept working. They kept helping, even when one, and then two, of their own staff became infected. As Samaritan's Purse president Franklin Graham detailed, when he got the news, it was devastating: "My phone rang...and Ken Isaac said, 'Franklin, one of our doctors, Kent Bradley has ebola.' I didn't even know how to pray. I just kept saying, 'Lord, why? We were there to save life. We are there in your name. Why?'" And, of course, they weren't the only ones impacted by the outbreak. The film begins with a young man sharing, one after another, the names of his aunts, uncles, his mother, brother, sister, nephews, and other relatives, who were all taken by Ebola. It is heartbreaking! So why should anyone see this film? Why would anyone want to? Because, at a time when the world is overwhelmed with fear, here are Christians who were certain God was with them, and trusted He would provide for them even in the face of sickness and death. These are people who live out the promise God has given, that whatever the here and now, He has treasure stored up for them in heaven. That makes this such a hope-filled film. It is wonderful! Caution With death an ongoing topic, no matter the safe visuals, this is not a film for children. Conclusion Facing Darkness tells an amazing and encouraging story – brothers and sisters in the Lord showing what it means to trust Him with our all – and that's an example that we can all benefit from. Check out the trailer below, and watch the documentary for free (with ads) at Tubi, or rent it at Amazon, Vimeo, and elsewhere. ...

Book excerpts, Book Reviews

Live not by lies, in 7 quotes

In Live not by lies, Rod Dreher shares the warning he's hearing from former emigrants from the Soviet Union and other Iron Curtain countries. They lived through totalitarianism and fled from it, and they told Dreher they are seeing signs of a "soft" totalitarianism now showing up in the West. This soft sort is less about the State imposing its will, though conversion therapy bans and requiring a hospice to provide euthanasia, show that is happening too. But the soft totalitarianism is more about a culture that will cancel Parler, block Focus on the Family, demonetize The Epoch Times, and keep conservative speakers off university campuses. This soft sort also evidences itself when people, out in public, start feeling the need to whisper their opinions, afraid others will hear that they still think boys can't be girls, abortion is murder, homosexuality a sin, and Donald Trump was actually the lesser of two evils. Dreher wants Christians to hear these former Soviets' warnings so we can be prepared for what they think is coming. What does being prepared mean? Dreher's particular focus is to have us ready to face persecution. To give you a feel for Dreher's argument, and a flavor of his writing, here are seven quotes from Live not by lies. Silence can be a stand “‘Our way must be: Never knowingly support lies!’ You may not have the strength to stand up in public and say what you really believe, but you can at least refuse to affirm what you do not believe….If we must live under the dictatorship of lies, said, then our response must be: ‘Let their rule hold not through me!’” Government that cares for you cradle to grave “The term totalitarianism was first used by supporters of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who defined totalitarianism concisely: “Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” Free to say all that Google and Twitter will allow "Today’s totalitarianism demands allegiance to a set of progressive beliefs, many of which are incompatible with logic – and certainly with Christianity. Compliance is forced less by the state than by elites who form public opinion, and by private corporations that, thanks to technology, control our lives far more than we would like to admit." Don’t bat for the other team “What did it mean to live by lies? It meant, Solzhenitsyn writes, accepting without protest all the falsehoods and propaganda that the state compelled its citizens to affirm – or at least not to oppose – to get along peaceably under totalitarianism. Everybody says that they have no choice but to conform, says Solzhenitsyn, and to accept powerlessness. But that is the lie that gives all the other lies their malign force. The ordinary man may not be able to overturn the kingdom of lies, but he can at least say that he is not going to be its loyal subject.” Demanding you call him “her” “According to Hannah Arendt, the foremost scholar of totalitarianism, a totalitarian society is one in which an ideology seeks to displace all prior traditions and institutions, with the goal of bringing all aspects of society under control of that ideology. A totalitarian state is one that aspires to nothing less than defining and controlling reality. Truth is whatever the rulers decide it is.” Judged by our group, not our character “In classic Marxism, the bourgeoisie are the oppressor and the proletariat are the oppressed. In the cult of social justice, the oppressors are generally white, male, heterosexual, and Christian. The oppressed are racial minorities, women, sexual minorities and religious minorities. (Curiously, the poor are relatively low on the hierarchy of oppression. For example, a white Pentecostal man living on disability in a trailer park is an oppressor; a black lesbian Ivy League professor is oppressed.)” Christians as the enemy, not as allies “Consider that the civil rights movement of the 1960’s was led by black preachers who articulated the plight of their people in biblical language and stories. Those days are over, and we will not be able to take the measure of the long struggle ahead if we don’t understand the essential nature of the opposition. It regards Christians as the most significant remaining obstacle, bearers of the cruel and outdated beliefs that keep the people from being free and happy.”...

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

Freiheit! The White Rose graphic novel

by Andrea Grosso Ciponte 110 pages / 2020 I grew up reading stories about the Dutch resistance during World War II, and it was only years later that I realized the Germans had their own committed dissenters. Freiheit! is the story of one such group, "The White Rose." These university students wrote and distributed pamphlets urging Germans to rise up and actively resist their government. The problem, they said, was not that everyone supported Hitler, but that too few opposed him – too many were being silent bystanders. "We are your guilty conscience" their pamphlets declared, as the group tried to prod their fellow Germans to oppose Hitler, not just in thought, but in deed. The White Rose story doesn't have the happy ending we'd want: within a year the group's leaders - all of them 25 or younger - were caught and executed by the Gestapo. But their bravery inspired others, and when the Allies got a hold of their pamphlets they ended up using quotes from the final one in a flyer, and dropped five million copies of it as leaflets over Germany. Today that willingness to stand up to wicked leaders, no matter the cost, continues to inspire. That's the appeal of this graphic novel – this is good food for our own young men and women. The White Rose's pamphlets, translated and printed in the back of this graphic novel, make it clear that there were some Christian underpinnings to what they were doing. Andrea Grosso Giponte's art style is effective, and unlike anything I've seen before, at times photo-like, but of the low-resolution newspaper sort, and with the sort of angles and shadows that made me feel like I was watching an artsy spy movie. Check out the book trailer below to see what I mean. The story is a bit jumpy, so this isn't a graphic novel for pre-teens. It requires some work from the reader because the author isn't holding our hand, explaining every last thing. He expects us to think through and fill in what must have happened between those jumps. It is worth the effort. I'd recommend this for 16 and up, not because of any content cautions, but only because of the effort it requires. If Freiheit! is of interest, you may also enjoy The Faithful Spy, about German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer and a plot to kill Hitler. ...

News

Saturday Selections - January 30, 2021

Should we erase income inequality? (5 minutes) Abraham was rich and Solomon too. So how should we respond when we're "in a conversation and someone says, 'In America, the richest 1% have 40% of all the wealth. This kind of inequality shouldn’t be tolerated.'” Never let a crisis go to waste The latest survey on persecution found that many governments are using the COVID-19 crisis as an excuse to oppress their Christian populations. On the Enneagram personality test "...we have always known forever that there are different kinds of people in the world, some gloomy and some cheerful. This is the result of people having eyes in their head, and I am not complaining about that. But there is a clear tendency to take this way too far." – Douglas Wilson. And Kevin DeYoung weighs in on enneagram here. Still no evidence for an RNA origin to life When some evolutionists propose an RNA origin of life, that's more an acknowledgment that DNA couldn't do it than that they have any evidence that RNA could. In fact... "there is precisely zero evidence of any 'RNA World' organisms. Now or ever. There is no organism that does this. There is no organism that does anything like this. There is no controlled, laboratory, version of such a thing. There isn’t even a computer simulation of it, at least in any kind of detail." "But animals do it!" - the anti-science extremism of the Left "Here’s the premise: Whatever animals do in nature is natural. What’s natural is normal. What’s normal is moral....Homosexuals extrapolate that what animals do naturally in nature applies to what higher “animals” can do naturally without any moral judgments attached. But the lower animal/higher animal model breaks down when other so-called natural behaviors in animals are considered. For example, the Bible states, “It has happened to them according to the true proverb, ‘A dog returns to its own vomit’ (Prov. 26:1)..." Cookie monster is a rock! This is just fun...and it is real! ...

Parenting

If you want to spank your child, don't

Discipline is controlled, calm and loving...or it's sinful ***** The photo website I use for most of the pictures for Reformed Perspective has more than 24 million stock pictures, so no matter what the topic, I usually have piles of options to choose from. But when I tried to find something to illustrate an article on parenting, and I punched in the search term "parents" along with "discipline" or "punishment" I got only one basic type of picture: glowering, shouting, finger-waving moms and dads. The variety from one picture to the next was only whether the parent had already lost it or was just about to. This seemed to be the world's idea of parents doing discipline, and no wonder then that they want to ban spanking. No one wants to allow enraged adults to vent their frustrations by hitting kids! But, of course, this is not what discipline should ever be. In Proverbs 13:24 we see that God both clearly encourages corporal punishment, and prescribes the boundaries under which it is to be administered: Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. It can be easier not to discipline our children, to let things slide, to pretend we don't see and don't know what they are up to, and to just hope that they will smarten up without us having to get up from the couch. But if we love our children more than the TV program we're watching, the book we're reading, or the friend we're talking to on the phone, then we will stop what we are doing and apply the corrective that is needed when it is needed... which is immediately. But this verse is about more than a willingness to discipline; we're told that this discipline is motivated by love. There was no love to be seen in any of the website's stock pictures. These screaming, reddening, out-of-control parents looked like they wanted to hit their kids. As Pastor Douglas Wilson explains: Discipline is corrective, and it is applied for the sake of the one receiving it. It is not punitive, and it is not rendered for the sake of the one giving it. When you are spanking a child, you are either being selfish or you are being selfless – one or the other. You are doing it because you are exasperated, frustrated, beside yourself, and frazzled, or you are doing it as a fragrant offering to the God of your fathers.... When you are highly motivated to discipline your kids, you are not qualified. When you are qualified, you don’t feel like it. Screaming and spanking simply don't go together. Or rather, they often do go together, but as parents we need to recognize this for the sin it is. Discipline must be an act of love....

Theology

Fighting error in the Church

Sometimes it may seem that we spend too much time refuting falsehood.  All of us are chagrined at the preponderance of error both within and without the Church.  We may write off those who attempt to combat it and set forth the truth in clarity over against it as “heresy hunters.”  The term is used pejoratively; but should it be?  Take a quick look at the Books of the New Testament, merely scratching the surface, and see what you think. In the Gospels Jesus warns against false teachers, speaks of wolves in sheep’s clothing and the “leaven of the Pharisees.” The record of His ministry is one of conflict with those who refused to accept the teaching He set forth. Acts contains the record of the church’s first major controversy over whether or not a person must become a Jew before he could qualify as a Christian. A church council was called to settle the matter. Paul goes to lengths to warn the Ephesian elders about wolves who would devour the flock and schismatically draw away disciples to themselves. Romans is an entire doctrinal treatise about justification by faith alone in contrast to salvation by works, and how sanctification follows thereafter. In it, Paul also takes up the rejection of the Jewish church. I Corinthians is loaded with problems; schism, misuse of gifts, church discipline, marriage and divorce, and on, and on, on. II Corinthians takes on false apostles who had invaded the church and charged him with pretending to be an apostle. The place of apostolic authority is set forth, along with the qualifications of an apostle. Galatians is a sterling defense of Justification by faith alone over against those who taught otherwise, and were upsetting the church by Judaistic legalism. Ephesians is less controversial, being a universal epistle rather than directed to the adverse circumstances of an individual or a congregation Philippians deals with a split in an otherwise good church. But it has to do with self-centeredness and sets forth a key Christological passage. Colossians is consumed with fighting Judaistic Gnosticism. I & II Thessalonians take up false teaching about the Lord’s coming and eschatology. I & II Timothy & Titus teach “healthy” doctrine over against many false ideas. And, in them, Paul doesn’t hesitate to name specific heretical individuals. Philemon is a welcome exception Hebrews, in its entirety, combats all influences that would cause Jewish Christians to revert to Judaism. James utterly destroys the idea that one can have genuine faith that does not result in good works. I Peter explains how the New Testament church is no longer a physical political entity, but that the church is now the spiritual people of God, the new Israel. II Peter warns against scoffers and libertines unsettling the church and reveals the true picture of final things. I John argues quite effectively throughout the book against Gnosticism of a Cerenthian sort. II John warns against hospitality for heretics III John deals with church discipline gone so far astray as to virtually destroy a church. Jude throughout its entirety is an exhortation to contend against the libertines who invaded the church that failed to listen to the warnings in II Peter. Revelation speaks of the warfare of God against apostate Judaism, the first persecutor of the church, and Rome, the second persecutor, and predicts the fall. It also mentions cults like the Nicolatians. Now, in light of the above, if you can, tell me why we should not be prepared to detect and refute falsehood in the Church? This originally appeared on Dr. Adams’ blog at www.nouthetic.org and is reprinted here with permission....

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Theology, Watch for free

The Marks of a Cult: a biblical analysis

Documentary 2005 / 115 minutes Rating: 8/10 How would you define a cult? Some think of them as being deadly, like the 900 followers of Jim Jones who, in 1978, committed suicide en masse by drinking cyanide-laced kool-aid (this is the origin of the phrase "drinking the kool-aid"). What this documentary focuses on are religious groups that have some connections to biblical Christianity, but which have departed so far from it, that they are worshipping another God. Overview One of the film's objectives is to give Christians an easily understandable way of spotting those departures. And to make it memorable, host Eric Holmberg uses the four common math symbols: +– x ÷. As he explains it, "A group can be classified as a cult when they: Add to the 66 books of the bible... Subtract from the triunity of God by either denying the personhood or the deity of one or more members of the Godhead Multiply works necessary for salvation Divide the loyalties of their followers from God..." These math symbols are then used as the documentary's four "chapters" and serve as logical breaks for any who might prefer to digest this 2-hour documentary in chunks. 1. Additions (starting at 24:50) Holmberg explains that the first sign of a cult is that it will add to God's Word, "relying on some new, so-called revelation. either new scriptures, or by the discovery of some new interpretive key to the Bible that has somehow been hidden from the historic church." But why would such additions be needed? As Dr. Curtis Crenshaw notes: "If anything is contrary to Scripture, it is wrong. If anything is the same as Scripture, it is not needed. If anything goes beyond Scripture, it has no authority." 2. Subtraction (starting at 47:30) Cults will also subtract from the "triunity of God." Sometimes this involves denying the Holy Spirit's deity, but more often, it involves a denial of Jesus as being fully God. 3. Multiplication (starting at 1:11:35) Another sign of a cult is that they multiply the works needed to be saved. This springs directly from the subtraction or undermining of Christ's deity because, as Jerry Johnson highlights, when Christ is no longer God (or at least fully God), then his sacrifice will no longer suffice. And then Man will have to step in and do his own "share." "To downplay the divinity of Christ is to ultimately to surrender the doctrine of justification. Now, why is that? We must remember that God is holy, holy, holy. He is a thrice-holy God. Our mildest sin offends Him greatly....God doesn't wink at our sin. God is offended by it. He doesn't even want to look on us because we are not reflecting the character of being made in His Image. And when we think about that, and think about the fact that Christ came as deity to die in our place, that's because our sins are an infinite offense to the infinite nature of God, and therefore an infinite payment had to be made, and we couldn't make it. So to take away the deity of Christ does what? It opens up the door. You have got a satisfaction that isn't a full satisfaction. It's a partial satisfaction. And therefore, something else has to be added to it. And that's what the cults always do. None of them believe in justification by grace alone through faith alone. They always add some works to salvation. Christ's work is not complete, because Christ is not diety. 4. Division (starting at 1:35:40) A fourth sign of a cult is that they will divide their followers from God so that their first loyalty belongs to the group or to the group leader, rather than to God. Conclusion Marks of a Cult is a lot of things: a history of how some of the biggest cults began; a rebuttal to some of their aberrant theology; an explanation of how they have different definitions for key theological terms like grace and justification; and a primer on the beliefs that Christiandom hold in common. It is also entertaining – this is education made, if not easy, then at least engaging. But it's also important to mention what this is not: this is not a film you'd show your Mormon or Jehovah's Witness friend to convince them they are worshipping a false god. This is a film for Christians, intended to clarify the conflict more than argue for the historic Christian side. That makes it a great introduction to the topic of cults. Those who want to go deeper can turn to the resources suggested throughout the film, including the likes of Dr. James White's The Forgotten Trinity and Dr. E. Calvin Beisner's God in Three Persons. Overall, Marks of a Cult is an outstanding documentary, and what's even better, you can watch it for free below! ...

Assorted, Book excerpts

10 QUOTES: On technology and the family

We need to control our technology; it can't control us   “…it is absolutely completely possible to make different choices about technology from the default settings of the world around us….it is possible to love and use all kinds of technology but still make radical choices to prevent technology from taking over our lives.” – Andy Crouch, author of The Tech-Wise Family “The essential question we must constantly ask ourselves in the quickly evolving age of digital technology is not what can I do with my phone, but what should I do with it? That answer…can be resolved only by understanding why we exist in the first place.” – Tony Reinke, author of 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You “Am I entitled to feed on the fragmented trivialities online? In other words, am I entitled to spend hours every month simply browsing odd curiosities? I get the distinct sense in Scripture that the answer is 'no'.” – Reinke Your family may need to restrict technology “There is a better way. It doesn’t require us to become Amish, entirely separately ourselves from the modern technological world, and it doesn’t require us to deny the real benefits that technology provides our families and our wider society. But let me be direct and honest: this better way is radical. It requires making choices that most of our neighbors aren’t making. It requires making choices that most of our neighbors in church aren’t making. Let me put it this way: you don’t have to become Amish, but you probably have to become closer to Amish than you think.” – Crouch Parents need to be examples “Can we really tell our kids, ‘Do as we say, not as we do?’” – Delaney Ruston, doctor and the documentary filmmaker of Screenagers “The kids know we need help too….An awful lot of children born in 2007...have been competing with their parents’ screens their whole lives.” – Crouch Parents need to act sooner than later “Many parents fear that if they approach certain topics too early it will give their kids ideas about those things before they actually need to face them. Let me ask you some questions…. Do your kids ride the school bus with older kids? Are there older kids in your neighborhood? …. You may shield your tweens from talk of dating and teen relationships, but what about the eleventh graders making out in the back of the bus? You might supervise Internet activity, but what about the computers at friends’ houses?” – Nicole O’Dell, author of Hot Button Topics: Internet Edition “An astonishing 62 percent of teenagers say they have received a nude image on their phone, and 40 percent say they have sent one.” – Crouch We need to be parents, not policemen “Research shows that parenting with rules and boundaries but with love and caring promotes better everything; better grades in school, better relationships with their friends and family, everything!” – Ruston “Our children need to feel love, not condemnation. They should trust that we’re an ally, not the enemy. You’re not fighting against your kids in hopes of coming out victorious over them; you’re in a battle for them.” - O’Dell...

Adult biographies, Book Reviews

The hardest peace

Expecting grace in the midst of life's hard by Kara Tippetts 2014 / 189 pages In this part biography, part devotional Kara wants us to understand it was not in spite of her long battle with cancer, but because of it and through it, that God showed his goodness to her. She writes of how her life hasn’t always been pretty – full of surgeries, and chemo, and hair loss, and scars, and medical tests, and radiation – but God has ensured it was beautiful. This is a must-read for everyone – I'd recommend it to young and old, married or not, men and women. Whether you are near death or far from it, there is but one end for us all – death is the final enemy, but before it comes there is the loss of strength and loss of ability, loss of friends, and loss of family. It is easy to trust God when the going is good, but what of when we have to ask, "Who is our only comfort in death?" At one point Kara shares how, as one of her daughters was being tucked into bed, the girl asked her father, "Is Mama going to die of cancer or old age?" Kara's husband couldn't find the strength to say the words and asked Kara for help. So Kara padded down the hall and slipped under the covers with her daughter. She wasn't asking for false hope; she wanted me to love her with honesty. I told her I had heard her question, and I asked her my own question in response. I asked her if she believed God would meet her in both of those places. I looked at her face and wondered at her love, her beauty, her tenderness and I asked her a question many grown people cannot answer or embrace. In the most painful fear and hurts of our lives, will God be good? Not just the simple: God is good, indeed always good. Not the rote, recited, memorized answers we have been trained to give in the edges of life. But the asking: Is Jesus really good in the awful of cancer, fire, heartbreak, and devastation? In the face of all that is broken, is God good? We all know the answer, but it is one thing to know the answer and another to believe it when the going is not good. This is why I loved this book: Kara praises God for his goodness, and all that He provided her, and she also acknowledges her own weakness and doubt. She asks, How do you speak to your young child of grace you struggle to have the imagination to behold? You just do. It’s the raw places of faith without sight. It’s the painful moments of preaching a sermon to yourself you know you struggle to believe. It’s the quiet prayer from Mark: “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). That is what we are all struggling with: we trust God in the good times; help us trust You in the bad! Kara is wonderfully encouraging in showing how she came to understand that God is faithful, even in the bad, and even in her doubts. He is good, and He can be trusted. Several months after finishing the book, on March 22, 2015, Kara Tippetts died and went to be with the Lord. If you loved the book, you'll also want to see the documentary, The Long Goodbye: The Kara Tippetts Story which we review here....

News

Saturday Selections - January 23, 2021

The magical birth canal The state of things under Canadian law... How to enjoy wealth to the glory of God In 1 Tim 6:17-19, the Apostle Paul gives 3 warnings about wealth and teaches 4 purposes it can be put to. What they aren't telling us about electric cars The push is on to move from gas to electric autos, but what we're not hearing about are the downsides to electricity. Everything in life requires tradeoffs because we have limited time and resources: what we spend in one place can't then be spent in another. That's why, when one side presents their idea as trade-off free – as if it has no notable downsides – we should seek out further information. Pandemic parenting: why some kids are less stressed than usual COVID, coupled with the government's restrictions, has left some of us extra anxious. However, it seems that some children are actually less stressed than normal. How could that be? Might it be related to extra time and attention from mom and dad? A final assessment of the Trump presidency (15-minute read) How should Americans (and others) assess the Trump presidency? David Bahnsen offers this: 1) With gratitude that...we have bought ourselves time as it pertains to the Supreme Court’s protection of our most basic liberties; 2) With regret for the significant losses, embarrassments, and failures evident throughout the last four years; and 3) With renewed wisdom and understanding that the “character doesn’t matter” angle didn’t work for us... How to speak during the coronavirus A little levity to lighten the load... ...

Science - Creation/Evolution

Our remarkable Sun

Evolutionists like to claim that our Sun is merely an average star, just one among billions. There’s no reason to believe our Sun is unusual…or so they say. After all, if our Sun were special, that might support the idea that a benevolent Creator made it for us! Nevertheless, our Sun is special indeed. As I pointed out in my DVD, Our Created Stars and Galaxies, stars come in a variety of sizes, colors, and temperatures. As a single “Class G” star, our Sun is very well suited to support life on Earth. Most other stars are not. Calm… For example, the most common stars (about 75 percent of all stars) are red dwarfs. These stars commonly emit flares: eruptions of superheated material, radiation, and charged particles blasted out into space. They do this so frequently that they’re often called “flare stars.” Large-enough flares can sterilize any planets orbiting these stars. Although our Sun occasionally releases small flares, they’re gentle compared to what we see elsewhere. We’ve seen other stars produce “superflares” up to 10 million times more energetic than those from our Sun. Is our Sun so quiet merely because of its size, temperature, and other characteristics? No. Even among Sun-like stars, our Sun is unique. A 2012 study of solar-type stars found that many had erupted in superflares. Of 83,000 stars that were observed, 148 erupted in just 120 days of observing. Extend this rate out, and each solar-type star would have more than a 50% chance of erupting every 100 years. This result is consistent with previous studies that showed that solar-type stars erupt about once per century. …and quiet Over thousands of years, a typical Sun-like star should have multiple massive eruptions. Yet there is no evidence that our Sun has ever emitted a superflare. As the study’s summary in Nature noted, “The flares on our Sun are thousands of times punier than those on similar stars.” But why? Secular astronomers are scratching their heads over this. They attribute the Sun’s gentleness to a lack of large sunspots. But that doesn’t really explain anything. Why should the Sun have smaller sunspots than other solar-type stars? They don’t know. But creationary astronomers aren’t surprised by this. As Isaiah 45:18 says, the Lord created the heavens and Earth “not in vain… He formed it to be inhabited.” Since our Sun was designed by a masterful Creator to support life, we shouldn’t be surprised that it supports life very well. Meanwhile, secular scientists are still grasping for some excuse to deny a Creator. They still wish to find other worlds like ours, so that ours won’t seem so unique. But even the most “habitable” places they can find are hellish planets like Gliese 876d. Here’s artist Inga Nielsen’s conception of what the surface of this planet might be like. Conclusion Our Earth, Sun, and Solar System are fearfully and wonderfully made to be our home – and to proclaim the glory of their Creator. May His name be praised! This first appeared in the October 2015 issue. Spike Psarris was once a member of the United States military space program, entering it as an atheist and evolutionist and leaving it as a creationist and a Christian. He has produced three wonderful DVDs about what God is up to in space – “Our Created Solar System,” “Our Created Stars and Galaxies,” and "Our Created Universe". They are available at his website CreationAstronomy.com. For Spike Psarris' testimony about how he became a creationist first, before he became a Christian, see the video below (7 minutes).  ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

The Free Speech Apocalypse

Documentary 89 minutes / 2015 Rating: 8/10 In 2012 Pastor Douglas Wilson gave a public lecture on the contentious topic of sexuality God's way. But it wasn't simply a public lecture: his event took place on the campus of a large university and was advertised well ahead of time, giving campus LGBT groups and their supporters time to arrange protests and arrange to fill the auditorium seats. In addition, this wasn't just any university campus: it was Indiana University, home of the Kinsey Institute, where the infamous sexologist Alfred Kinsey helped launch the Sexual Revolution. For a talk on God's thoughts about sex this was as hostile a setting as could be had. His talk, and all the hysteria and hoopla that surrounded it, is the centerpiece of director Darren Doanne's new documentary The Free Speech Apocalypse. Doanne uses the event to tackle three related subjects: The intolerance of the Left – As the title suggests, free speech and tolerance are the main topics tackled. Douglas Wilson comes to Indiana to dialogue, but that's not what the Left wants. Instead activist students scream and shout: "We believe in free speech, but this is hate speech!” False allegations made about Douglas Wilson – When students chant, "Racist, Sexist, Anti-Gay; Douglas Wilson go away!" we get to see how Wilson is able to respond and rebut these accusations. The difference between Left and Right – Wilson notes, "this is the difference between the conservative mindset and the liberal mindset: The conservative thinks always in terms of tradeoffs. The liberal thinks in terms of solutions. The liberal wants solutions. And he doesn't want to think in term of tradeoffs. He doesn't think there is ever a price tag for what he is advocating." Liberals demand more and more, not thinking about how someone will have to pay for this. Conservatives are grown up enough to realize there are no perfect solutions – everything comes with a cost. Related to this last point, the American Civil War is touched on. In the US it is a near universal belief that this was a good and just war because it ended slavery. But it also resulted in 600,000 dead - that was the tradeoff that liberals don't consider. American presidential candidate Ted Cruz appears in the film for less than a minute, but his interview highlights how even conservatives and Christians can forget to consider the tradeoffs. Concerning the Civil War he says it "was absolutely a just war" but concerning abortion, "We have the ability to change this, and to change this without a war fought in the streets." So he understands that war would be an unsatisfactory tradeoff for today, but won't even consider whether that might have been true for the Civil War. Cautions The topic matter – sexuality God's way vs. the world's way, and tolerance God's way vs. the world's way – means this is a film for mature audiences only. The F-bomb is put to regular use by students, and these occurrences are not bleeped out. The one thing I found surprising was the selection, by the director, of some backing music for a ten-second segue that also included multiple f-bombs – an unnecessary, but fortunately very short, addition. There are also a few brief shots of homosexuals and others prancing about, and one line-drawn diagram shown for a few seconds that includes a depiction of a naked male butt. Conclusion This is an enormously ambitious film but because it tries to fit so much in, it might leave viewers exhausted by the time the credits role. But it is worth putting in the effort. Few Christians are both able and willing to beard the liberal lion in his den, and it is fun and encouraging to watch Wilson venture forth. Here we get to see a brave man standing up, outnumbered, but not outmaneuvered because he stands on God's Word. This film is also a must-see because it shows what is coming and what we are up against. As the Left continues to marginalize Christians, it may well be that in some circumstances no matter what we say or do we will not be able to win the debate. And not because of any weakness in our position, but rather because the other side has no interest in discussing. They'll want to meet our words with their shouts, or their claims of victimhood, or even their fists. However even then our light can shine. If our words are shouted down, our demeanor can stand in sharp contrast. In Wilson we see a joyful warrior, secure in the knowledge that God has already won. This is how we need to be. The Free Speech Apocalypse can be bought on DVD or purchased for streaming here. ...

Culture Clashes

Animal rights vs. animal welfare

If you think that a dog’s owner shouldn’t be allowed to beat it for fun, you might think you support animal rights. But Wesley Smith, the author of The War on Humans wants us to understand that as a stand for animals' welfare. Why the different word choice, and why does it matter? It’s because those making the loudest call for animal rights are also those who have the least interest in animal welfare. As Smith explains: Advocates of animal rights ideology seek to end all domestication of animals. Advocates of animal welfare, on the other hand, seek to create ever-improving standards of animal husbandry. Christians know we have been put in charge of the animals – we are stewards of creation, and animals, even the wild ones, are ours to be managed and cared for. But animal rightists want us to think of animals not as objects of care, but as our moral equivalents. As Ingrid Newkirk (one of the founders of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) put it: “When it comes to pain, love, joy, loneliness, and fear, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” No Ms. Newkirk: while a lonely boy is a sad situation, a lonely rat is often a cause for celebration, as rats without playmates cannot beget more rats! As Smith concludes: You may think you are for animal rights when you are really for animal welfare. It is time to use the correct terminology so that "animal rights" becomes a scorned and shunned movement. This post first appeared in the Oct 2015 issue....

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Feature author: David Macaulay

David Macaulay (1946-) is a children's author who loves to investigate how things are made and how they work. He covers everything from architecture (skyscrapers, bridges, etc.) to machines (computers, inclined planes), and even biology (cells, the human body). Macaulay is first an artist and then an author, so even though he writes for all ages, his books are always picture books. His first, Cathedral: the story of its construction (1973), set the template for much that would follow. It was filled with detailed, full-page illustrations showing the whole construction process, right from the decision to build in 1252, all the way to the church's completion more than a hundred years later. It isn't the history of any real, specific cathedral, so, to give added color, Macaulay included a fictitious backstory. While this narrative is interesting, it's also quite bare-bones - we learn the architect's name and hear about some of the monetary troubles involved in paying for the cathedral, but not much more than that. Most of the "story" details the construction challenges these ancient builders faced, and the ingenious solutions they came up with to solve them. Many people are mentioned, but the story is more a biography of the building than its creators. A combination of detailed text, and big pictures, gives Cathedral a cross-age appeal. Younger, elementary-aged children can flip through it (maybe with some help from mom or dad), while teens and adults will likely read it front to back. Cathedral was followed by others of a similar sort, exploring how pyramids, jet planes, inclined planes, and even toilets work. Then, in more recent years, Macaulay has delved into the way our bodies work. RECOMMENDED So what Macaulay books would be great to check out of your local library? Or might be good purchases for your home or Christian school library? The following list isn't exhaustive - Macaulay's output is impressive, so I haven't gotten to them all yet - but what follows are my recommendations, grouped by age group. Kindergarten to Grade 4 While many Macaulay books are oversized, these are more typically sized, just right for the younger reader to hold and flip through. But mom and dad will also enjoy reading these to their kidlets. Toilet: How it works 32 pages / 2013 A great one to start boys on. Considering the topic matter, it is quite remarkable that this is free of any potty humor. Jet Plane: How it works 32 pages / 2012 Eye: How it works 32 pages / 2013 A very fun look at just how amazing the eye is. Castle: How it works 32 pages / 2012 A much simpler version of his earlier Castle (1977) book, it might create interest in that bigger volume. Shortcut 64 pages / 1995 This is a creative mesh of several seemingly unrelated storylines, and the fun for kids is to figure out how they are all interconnected. This brightly colored picture book is a departure from any other Macaulay book, being more a mystery than anything architectural. Black and White 32 pages / 1990 A Caldecott winner, this unique book has 4 stories being told simultaneously on each two-page spread. Or is it all just one story? Very fun, but not for the impatient, as the answer reveals itself slowly. How Machines Work: Zoo break 32 pages / 2015 This is a pop-up book with flaps and gears and more, that uses the escape plans of two zoo animals – Sloth and Sengi –  to teach us all about basic machines. The two friends make use of inclined planes, levers, pulleys, and more, to try to make it over the wall. By then end we're cheering them on, and while they never quite pull it off, it's wonderful to see they do get a happy ending. Grades 3 to adult - bigger books These architectural books are all big, but not too big to scare away the elementary reader. I've grouped them in order of preference, leading with the very best. But if a child loves any one of these, they'll likely enjoy them all. Castle 80 pages / 1977/2010 A Caldecott Award winner, it tells the detailed, historically-accurate (though fictitious) story of how an English castle was constructed in the late 1200s. Be sure to get the 2010 version, which has all the full-page pictures in full color. Castles are the coolest, so if you were to get just one Macaulay book, this should be it. It won a Caldecott award. Cathedral 80 pagers / 1973/2013 The one that started it all. Its oversized pages showcase in words and wonderful, detailed pictures how a medieval people, lacking all our modern construction tools, could build something that would marvel us still today. The black and white original was redone in color in 2013, and the added vibrancy is wonderful. UnBuilding 80 pages / 1980 A fictional, fantastically illustrated story of how a rich Arab prince buys the Empire State Building to move it to his home country. It is a floor by floor account of how something this big would be “unbuilt.” City 112 pages / 1974 Describes how the Roman Empire would plan and build their cities. Pyramid 80 pages / 1975 As you might imagine, there is some mention made about the ancient Egyptians' pagan beliefs, but nothing that the target audience, Grade 3 and up, shouldn't be able to see through. But they might not realize that Macaulay is including some guesswork in amongst the facts since there are a few theories about how exactly the pyramids were made. Grade 6 and up - huge tomes Building Big 192 pages / 2000 This might be my favorite of all Macaulay's books, with short treatments of various historic bridges, tunnels, dams, domes, and skyscrapers. More than 30 structures are covered, going as far back as the Pantheon, all the way to today's skyscrapers. It's a treat to see just how creative engineers have been in building bigger, higher, and deeper, even as they used less and cheaper materials. I'll own up to not understanding even half of what Macaulay explains, but that didn't detract from the enjoyment. Crossing on Time 128 pages / 2019 This is part autobiography, sharing the author's trip across the Atlantic Ocean when he was only a young boy and his family immigrated from Great Britain to America. But it is, even more, a story about the development of the steam engine, passenger ships in general, and the SS United States specifically. As always, detailed pictures provide lots for the viewer to explore. TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT Mosque Another big book about how a building gets built, and while there is no real reason to avoid it – it treats Islam with deference, but doesn't actually promote it, as this is about a building rather than the religion – there is also no pressing reason to get it either. I know it wouldn't have interested me as a boy, especially when compared to his book on castles. The Way We Work In this enormous tome (300+ pages), Macaulay explores how amazingly well-designed we are (though he doesn't put it quite like that). He details it from the atomic level on up to cells, eyes, and even our reproduction system. It is the brief section on sex that makes this a take-it-or-leave-it book. It is quite restrained and comparatively tame to what else is out there, but this isn't a topic that kids should tackle without adult supervision, making this a questionable book for a school library. And while parents could conceivably use it to introduce and discuss this topic with their kids, there are better, specifically Christian, books available. So I'd only recommend this for an age group who already knows the basics about sex since for them this could be a fascinating overview of the whole body (and the sex section isn't remotely titillating). I'll also note the passing mention made, 2 or 3 times, of ancient ancestors or of evolution. However, the more important worldview implication is the glaring omission of any mention of God, even as His handiwork is explored and praised. The creation is praised rather than the Creator, and kids may miss the significance of that misdirection, so parents will need to make that plain. The Way Things Work Now Macaulay uses cute mammoths to explain everything from how basic machines like screws and inclined planes work, to the inner workings of computers and jets. There is the very occasional mention of millions of years, and, on a few pages, some tiny angel-like creatures appear to help illustrate how a machine works. It's a mystery why he uses them there instead of the mammoths that are everywhere else. Mammoth Science Mammoths are used to illustrate and introduce scientific topics as varied as light, molecules, density, bacteria, pressure, hydraulics, and magnetism.  But evolution is a minor theme, popping up at least a half dozen times, including a couple of pages devoted specifically to it. Angelo This is the story of Angelo, who cleans and restores ancient architecture, and the pigeon he saves. It is a charming and different perspective on these ancient buildings, but Angelo dies at the end and that made my girls cry. So, at least in our house, two thumbs down. DON'T BOTHER Baaa Strange dystopian picture book in which humans have disappeared due to overpopulation, and then sheep follow in their footsteps. A Malthusian/overpopulation allegory. Simply nonsense. Underground This is not a bad book, but it isn't a good one. It details what is found underneath a downtown city street, but the book is dry and dusty because there is no story element. Great Moments in Architecture This is an attempt at humor, with various strange works of impossible, fanciful architecture shown, but it ends up being odd and weird, not funny. TV SERIES While this review is about Macaulay's books, I'll briefly mention a video series based on one of them. The Way Things Work is 26-episodes long and utterly fantastic, and while the $200+ price tag is too expensive for parents to buy, many public libraries carry it. To learn more, see my review here. CAUTIONS There aren't many worldview conflicts to be found. It comes out that Macaulay does think people are really something, which, of course, we do too, though likely for a different reason. We know our worth comes from outside ourselves – it comes from being made in the very Image of God (Gen. 1:26-27) – whereas Macaulay seems to believe that what makes us special comes from what we can do. In the preface to his updated Cathedral (2013), he writes: “Whatever magical or superhuman notions these buildings may stir, castles and cathedrals are tangible reminders of human potential. Understanding how they came to be is just the first step in recognizing that potential in each of us.” If you were to ask, "Who or what is the 'god' of Macaulay's books? Who or what is the object of worship?" this would be the answer: human ability and human potential. In the same book, he also offers a seemingly cynical take on medieval Christianity: “For hundreds of years the people were taught by the church that God was the most important force in their lives. If they prospered, they thanked God for his kindness. If they suffered, they begged for God’s mercy, for surely He was punishing them.” Of course, as children of the Reformation, we know there was a good deal about the medieval Church to be cynical about, so maybe there is no fault to find here. A clearer problem lies in the one or two dozen mentions Macaulay makes about evolution and millions of years. But these mentions are spread out over his many books, such that in a book of 300+ pages it might happen twice or thrice, and in his shorter books, not at all. The most overt worldview conflict I've found is in his strange dystopian Baaa (1985), in which humans have overpopulated themselves out of existence, only to have sheep take their place and then repeat their mistake. The overpopulation lesson preached here is in opposition to God's command to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28). CONCLUSION If you have a budding engineer in your family, they'll love David Macaulay. He has books for all ages, and sometimes two books on the same subject, with one for a younger age group and the other for a couple or so years older. Because so many of these books are about engineering marvels, they might be categorized as "boy books" but my girls were interested too. I think they could also be a way to hook a reluctant reader into working through a very big book – they might open the book for the illustrations, but then curiosity will get them to start reading this page and that. There's certainly good reason that David Macaulay remains a favorite of so many, even 50 years after his first book!...

News

Saturday Selections - January 16, 2021

Sea shanties go viral (7 min) If you have boys who think singing is girly, there's a new viral trend of men singing manly. For more on this sea shanties trend, and the Nathan Evans performance that started things off, click on the link above. 50 countries where it’s most dangerous to follow Jesus Every day, 13 Christians are killed, 12 unjustly arrested or imprisoned, and 5 are abducted - so reports the 2021 World Watch List. Our politics are cracking under the weight of a thinning civil society "...agitators, after making their violent intentions clear on social media, successfully incited Trump supporters to mob the Capitol. Still, even the most-crafty agitator can only agitate a crowd that is agitate-able." This flower can "hear" bees Bees' buzzing can actually trigger a flower to increase its nectar output, and the flower's petals function as a type of "ear" to amplify the buzzing. Alternatives to Google Google makes its money by selling users' information. And it gathers that information a lot of different ways! Here's alternative services that can provide some of the same features. Annecdotally, it seems like MeWe is becoming an alternative to Facebook, at least for some Canadian Reformed folk. Is Capitalism all about greed? (5 min) This video is fantastic, even if it doesn't get to the root of the issue. Capitalism stands on property rights, which we find in the Bible as well, when God forbids us from stealing (Ex. 20:15). In contrast, socialism presents it as right, and even just, for me to look over my back fence and covet my rich neighbor's goods (Ex. 20:17). While capitalism has this spiritual benefit (that it can be practiced in a way that aligns with God's Law), this video highlights its material benefit. To give one more perspective, a quote from Walter E. Williams (1936-2020): "Prior to capitalism, the way people amassed great wealth was by looting, plundering, and enslaving their fellow man. Capitalism made it possible to become wealthy by serving your fellow man." ...

Culture Clashes

What’s the best response to a wedding cake request?

What do you say to a homosexual couple who asks you to bake a cake for their wedding a month from now? That was the question that Joel Belz posed in his WORLD magazine column a few years back. A little over a month later, he revealed the difficulty that both he and over 200 readers (including five in prison!) had in answering it – by the end of this second column, Belz was no closer to an answer. What made Belz’s challenge tougher were two of his conditions: it had to be a brief reply, and, like Christ himself was prone to do, the couple’s request had to be answered with a question. What further complicates the situation is the fact that we don’t know the couple’s motivations. Are they simply unaware of our Christian moral convictions? Or are they trying to cause trouble? That's why any answer to the question needed to challenge the couple to make their intentions clear, so that we need not cast pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6) if they hate the gospel and those who bring it. And our response needs to honor “Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). So if this stymied Belz and his readers, how can we answer it? Well, we can start with what we’ve been given in the first question of our Heidelberg Catechism. Here is my response to, as Belz calls it, “the baker’s challenge”: "I am a conservative, Bible-believing Christian, and I believe that I belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to my faithful Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Do you want me to disobey my Savior?" The couple (one or both of them) have three possible responses: “Yes, we do!” in which case, you may still face a human rights tribunal, but you have made the issue clear and exposed their hostility to Christ and Christianity; “No, we don’t, so we withdraw our request!” which may keep you out of legal trouble and still give you a chance to explain your moral stance as an working out of your hope in Christ, rather than as simply an individual issue of conscience; “We don’t understand the problem” which may be the answer we should most hope for since it allows us, with gentleness and respect, explain how our hope in Christ compels us to honor the commands of God. There seems to be an increasing number of situations in which we might be pressed to do something that compromises our Christian convictions: Sunday work, using certain pronouns, shading the truth on a tax return, celebrating a homosexual wedding, etc. What is most important in any response is to love Christ more than even our conscience (because it’s about Him, not us), and to confess, as it says in Lord’s Day 1: “Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”...

Assorted

"I’m fine"...and other lies we tell

In Canada we don’t have Nazis at our doors asking whether we're hiding Jews. And yet we still lie. When a telephone solicitor calls we tell him we “can’t talk right now” whether we can or not. The waitress asking “How are you?” is given an “I’m fine” whether we are or not. And children who want to play with Mom or Dad are told “later” whether there will be time then or not. No lives are at stake and no one is in danger; our lies don't save anyone. So why do we – Christian folk that we are – lie like this? Half truths? We lie because at the time it seems the quicker thing to do, and because the “half-truths” we’re telling seems harmless enough. We lie because we doubt the sincerity of the people around us: “He can’t really want to know how I'm doing, can he?” And when we lie often enough, then the lying spills out of us as a matter of habit. There is a temptation to dismiss these “little lies” as harmless. However the Bible is quite clear about the overall need for honesty and the value of truth in our day-to-day lives (Col 3:9, Lev. 19:11-12). We find that the very character of God prevents Him from ever lying (Num. 23:19) and indeed Christ is so inseparable from honesty He is called “the truth” (John 14:6). So if we want to imitate Him then we too should be concerned about honesty. Half trusted Consider also the damage done from our ordinary lies. One example: how many parents make a habit out of lying to their kids? How many of us make promises we can’t keep and making threats we don't carry out? When a parent’s “yes” doesn’t mean “yes” and our “no” doesn't really mean “no” how can we be surprised when our children don't accept anything we say as the final word? Experience has taught these kids that Mom and Dad’s “no’s” are at best half-truths, because half the time a bit more badgering will result in a favorable “yes.” Now, in some instances we may not be able to deduce the harm caused by a bit of deception – who gets hurt when we lie to a telephone solicitor? But consider the harm that comes from the fact that if we are not habitually honest we all too easily become habitually deceptive. Sin separates us from God (and would do so permanently but for the grace of God) so we should never dismiss any sin as inconsequential. An experiment If you don’t think you lie, consider this challenge, taken from Diane M. Komp’s book Anatomy of a Lie: carry a small notebook with you to tally every time you lie, or are tempted to lie, and ask yourself “why?” Keep this up for a week, or even just a day, and if you may well be astonished at how often you are lying, and how often it is for no discernable reason at all! Of course becoming more aware of our sin isn’t any sort of place to stop. Now that the need for repentance is clear, go to God, ask Him for forgiveness, and ask Him to help you speak the truth in big things and small....

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - January 2021

Silent Cal speaks American president Calvin Coolidge was so close-lipped his nickname was “Silent Cal.” A popular joke told about him had an attractive young lady approach the president to explain that she had made a bet with her friend that she could get him to say more than two words. "You lose," the president replied. But while he didn’t say much, when he did speak up, it was worth hearing. Here are some of the best quotes from Silent Cal. "Don't expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong." "No man ever listened himself out of a job." "No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave." "Prosperity is only an instrument to be used, not a deity to be worshipped." "Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business." “I favor the policy of economy, not because I wish to save money, but because I wish to save people. The men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear the cost of the Government. Every dollar that we carelessly waste means that their life will be so much the more meager. Every dollar that we prudently save means that their life will be so much the more abundant.” History majors can be wise before they're gray “History maketh a young man to be old, without either wrinkles or gray hairs; privileging him with the experience of age, without either the infirmities or inconveniences thereof.” – Thomas Fuller It is scientific to say the Sun goes around the Earth Some Bible critics say that Joshua 10:12-14 can be used to show that the Bible is not trustworthy when it comes to scientific matters. Here we read that at Joshua’s command the Sun stood still, and yet as we all know, it is the Earth that moves, not the Sun. So this passage gets it wrong, right? Not so fast! Even today, we talk about the Sun as if it moves – setting and rising – and no one complains that we’re unscientific when we do so, or doubts our ability to be clear about other matters. When a house builder says his latest building project will be done in six days, we won’t assume he actually meant six million years just because we also heard him talk about seeing the sun rise that morning. Days still mean days even when someone talks about the sun rising. But let’s pick nits for the moment and consider if there is any way at all we can find fault with Joshua’s statement. Sure, it makes sense in common terminology, but it still doesn’t make sense scientifically speaking, right? Not so fast! It turns out it is perfectly valid, scientifically speaking, to talk of the Sun being in motion around the Earth. Why? Because all motion is relative – i.e., it is measured compared to some other object. Most of the time, the other object we are comparing our motion to is not explicitly stated – when we go driving, running, or even biking, we measure our motion relative to the ground, but we never actually state that. So when we say a train is traveling 20 miles an hour east, it would be more scientifically precise to say it is traveling 20 miles/hr. east relative to the ground. But the ground isn’t the only frame of reference we use – we can choose to use another. If a fellow was on this train and walking 10 miles an hour towards the back (westward), we could say he was traveling 10 miles an hour eastward, relative to the ground, or we could say he was moving 10 miles an hour westward relative to the train. When it comes to our Solar System, we most commonly – because it has the strongest gravitational pull – speak of motion compared to, or relative to, the Sun. And relative to the Sun, it is the Earth that is doing all the moving. But we could choose a different frame of reference. Relative to the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, the Sun is moving too! From this vantage, the Earth isn't simply orbiting the Sun, but spiraling around it...and have you ever heard someone describe it like that? Now, if we chose the Earth as our frame of reference (a logical choice, since this is our vantage point) and described all motion relative to the Earth, then we could say, scientifically and accurately, that it is the Sun that goes around the Earth! And that’s the reference point that Joshua chose to use. So Joshua 10:12-14 can’t be used to undermine the clarity of the clear six-day creation account in Genesis 1 and 2. In fact, if you find someone trying to do just that, we should instead understand this attempt as undermining the critic’s credibility – they have no interest in being fair. The wit and wisdom of Winston Churchill “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” “Politics is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen.” “Everyone remembers the remark of the old man at the point of death: that his life had been full of troubles most of which had never happened.” Words that mean their opposite (or close to) Stylist to customer: I can clip your hair, certainly, but would you like me to clip it off or together? The sales manager was tired of his job and wanted to resign. But the money was too good, so instead, he decided to resign, this time with a four-year contract. Giving the very forgetful Fred oversight of the packing led to many oversights. The UN gave us sanction to impose sanctions on Iran. C.S. Lewis on humans' historic, hopeless quest for happiness apart from God “The moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of putting yourself first – wanting to be the center – wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the human race. Some people think the fall of man had something to do with sex, but that is a mistake... What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’ – could set up on their own as if they had created themselves – be their own masters – invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history – money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery – the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” – Mere Christianity...

Adult biographies, Book Reviews

Saint Patrick

by Jonathan Rogers 2010 / 132 pages While legends about St. Patrick (385-461) abound, facts about this Irish saint are hard to come by. Jonathan Rogers explains that the most substantive information we have about Patrick comes from just two documents, which are the only pieces of writing we have from the man himself. The Confession of Saint Patrick, lays out his theological beliefs, even as he shares the story of his capture by Irish slavers, and his later escape back to civilization. The Letter send to the soldiers of Coroticus, was a plea to a British raider to return the newly baptized Irish Christians the man had stolen and taken off to slavery. These two documents are included, in their entirety, as appendices in the back of this slim volume. Rogers uses the remaining 100 pages to put Patrick's writings in a historical and cultural context. The biggest eye-opener for me was the reason Ireland hadn’t yet been evangelized. With the Christianization of the Roman Empire, people of this time saw “outside the Empire” as being “outside the Church.” So to most it was unthinkable that the barbarian Irish could even become Christian. But it wasn't inconceivable to Patrick. My takeaway from this book is that what made Patrick special was his zeal for lost people that others thought irredeemable. That’s a takeaway worth applying. While new copies are getting scared, used copies abound, and the e-book is readily available on Amason....