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Internet, RPTV

Talking to teens: How does social media fit into a Christian worldview?

TRANSCRIPT Welcome to Reformed Perspective; I'm Alexandra Ellison. Did you know that in Canada almost everyone is on social media? About 89% of the population uses it, making Canada one of the most online countries in the world. Given the prominence of social media in our society it's crucial to understand how it's being utilized. For Christian parents it's especially important to be aware of their kids' online activities. In today's video, I visited a high school to talk with Christian teenagers about their experiences with social media. Q. 1 Are you on social media? If so, what apps do you use? Student 1: "Not too much but I am on YouTube and Messenger Kids." Student 2: "Not really. A little bit. I have Google Chat so I can text my friends; they live like an hour away from me so I don't get to see them too often, so I text them sometimes and sometimes do a video call with them." Student 3: "Yes, I am. I use Tik Tok quite a bit, as well as Instagram." Student 4: "Yes I'm on social media. Mostly Instagram and Snapchat." Q. 2 What are the benefits of social media? Student 2: "I get to talk to my friends. If I didn't have it I wouldn't be able to communicate with them too much." Student 1: "I get to catch up with my friends because I don't live close to them and I get to just be entertained and, um, find out a little bit about like movies that are coming out that I might like or just, um, stay current." Student 3: "I mean, it's entertaining. I also have communication with some of my friends as well via social media, so it's a good way to stay in contact with them. Also, with Instagram, I'm able to look at my family's posts to see what they're up to, especially if I'm not able to see them. I have a cousin overseas so I'm able to see what she's up to overseas, via her posts on Instagram." Student 4: "Most of the benefits are communications; I've been able to communicate with one of my Bible studies that happens on social media, and also a lot of my friends: church friends, school friends." Q.3 What are some of the negatives? Student 2: "If you are with a person, sometimes they're too busy with their phone to actually be with the person. When you're with the person they're too busy on their phone, not with you." Student 1: "There are a lot of downs to all of these different websites, so you need to be careful on them." Student 3: "I know people think that they can handle it, so it lessens my time doing other more productive things. As well, it does have things on there that one should not look at." Student 4: "The negatives of social media are distractions. Sometimes it can just be really distracting, like you want to go do your work and then you just get distracted looking at something on Instagram and then you get down a rabbit hole, down there for an hour." Q. 4 What should parents be aware of? Student 2: "Make sure that what they're watching is good content not bad." Student 4: "They should be aware of who their kids are following 'cause there's a lot of people who maybe seem like they're good people but then they give false information or just a lot of things that can be not honoring God on social media. Sometimes they post something inappropriate that you don't want to see in your feed, or randomly comes up. You especially don't be following those type of things." Q.5 How does your Christian faith guide you in using social media? Student 3: "My faith comes into play for what I'm looking at so that I don't look at the negative things. As well, it keeps me honest with what I'm looking at, and how I use my time on social media, and what I use it for spreading God's Word, or at least not getting into different areas of social media where they would be putting God down or just not following Him." Student 4: "Well, when I use social media my faith can come into play through communications with friends. Especially since I'm at a Christian school, so I can talk with Christian friends, have good conversations, as well as being able to have my Bible study that we have on Instagram. And we meet up and stuff, so it helps me communicate with others and helps me grow in that. And I think that's pretty good, to have that space to be open, when sometimes you can't communicate with others." Q.6 Can social media be used to glorify God? Student 2: "I think so. You can tell your opinion on your worldview; share your views of the world on social media." Student 1: "Well I would say they would have to be extremely careful, and pretty much not really interact with it that much at all. And maybe just talk about the Gospel and all the benefits and all the good things to spread the message because God wants us to spread His Word to the world. There are adults and other people that also do that on YouTube and other platforms, but young kids can also try to do that, to show that the youth also love God as well. But there are risks to that – major, major risks – because some people do, when they're on these platforms, they might get caught up with the fame that they might be getting, and more want what the public wants instead of what God wants them to want." Student 3: "I think that they can use social media to their benefit and to our benefit as Christians, as you can spread the word of God via social media to a large group of people especially if you have a large platform like these influencers do. As well, you can find communities on Facebook, for example, you can join a Facebook group of Christian people, whether they're doing a Bible study or they just talk about their views on Christ." Student 4: "Pages like I follow, a few that put a Bible verse a day, or follow like YouVersion, the Bible app. Ways like that. And then also through communication with other Christians, like if you're just find spaces through different apps, you can find people on things like Discord or Facebook. There's just many ways you can connect with others." It's important for us to reflect on the profound impact our digital interactions can have on our faith and our relationships. Just as we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, let us extend that love into the virtual realm remembering that every interaction carries the potential to glorify God. In a world often filled with noise and distraction if we do choose to use social media maybe use it as a tool for spreading the light of Christ for building up one another, and for fostering genuine connections rooted in love and grace. As we navigate the ever-changing landscape of technology, may our faith serve as a compass guiding us towards discernment and ultimately towards God's eternal truth. Thanks for watching this episode of Reformed Perspective. Make sure to subscribe and share this video with family and friends....

Economics - Home Finances

Tiny home contentment

As dusk was settling in on a foggy November day in BC’s Bulkley Valley, I parked my car on the driveway next to the home of Matt and Montana Slaa. String lights were glowing around their home, which overlooked a rolling field, and also came equipped with a stunning view of two mountain ranges. It wasn’t hard to find the entrance, as there was only one door. Matt and Montana, along with their daughter Gabriella, welcomed me into their tiny home. I had to be careful where to put my shoes, as there was no boot room or entryway, and I had a hard time reaching the hanger for my coat as it was about 8’ high. But it only took a few seconds to feel an overwhelming sense of coziness and tranquility, radiated by the character of both the home and my hosts. In an age where it has become a momentous challenge for young men and women to get into the housing market, I visited with Matt and Montana to discover whether their outside-the-box solution of living in a tiny home with children is a practical solution that others may want to consider, or more of a romantic notion than a practical one. When dreams and practicality unite With marriage, God joins two people into one. For Matt and Montana, that happened in the summer of 2020. Montana grew up in Smithers, the daughter of a school teacher and an artist. Matt’s family moved into the area as his father is a pastor who accepted a call to serve in a local Reformed church. “I always wanted to live in a cabin,” shared Montana. “It was right from when I was young. That was my dream.” The happy couple as they move in... Matt was in university while they were dating, preparing to become a teacher. They wanted to get married, but how were they going to afford that? “I felt like I had to come with a financial plan for Montana and her dad,” Matt explained. The problem was that he still had to do more studies to get his education degree to become a teacher. That itself would come with a big cost, as they were planning to move away and study for a year in PEI. They proceeded to estimate the cost of building a tiny home, using the money they had saved. They had a year and a half to plan the project, using software from SketchUp to design it around the materials they collected. “We did it very cheaply,” explained Matt. “Wood and windows we collected from someone who was getting rid of them for free.” At this point in the conversation, Montana kindly offered me a cup of tea. Since a coffee table doesn’t fit in the room, she pulled out a tall block of wood, which they use not only as a coffee table but also a dinner table (when it is laid down on its side), and a stool for their daughter to stand on when helping with the dishes. I learned that the Slaas didn’t experience tiny home living prior to jumping in with both feet. Most of their inspiration came from online research and books, but they “just learned along the way.” At one point they decided “we've seen what we want to see. So we stopped looking at ideas, and worked with what we had liked, to come up with our own plan.” They purchased a 20’ trailer to go under the home for about $5,000, and built the home 22’ long and 10.5’ wide. That is about the maximum width to still be road legal if it was ever to be moved. Since both Matt and Montana are tall, they didn’t bother with a loft but kept the ceiling vaulted, with a curved ceiling over their bed. Their bed is raised, with a lot of storage underneath, and space too for Gabriella to enjoy some quiet time. Windows dominate two of the walls, to take in the views of fields and mountains. Freedom from debt and materialism Spending more time outside was part of the appeal for the couple. The small quarters force them to get outside for more space. A highlight of each morning involves Montana taking Gabriella out to the chickens, which currently live in a greenhouse for the winter, to collect the eggs. I asked them what else inspired them about tiny house living. For Matt, a big motivation was the freedom that comes from building his own place and living mortgage-free. “That is what came first.” But he was quick to see that it provided so much more, including spending a lot of time together. “So many people, when we talk about tiny homes are like, ‘we can never live that close.’ But we love it.” The couple acknowledged that they aren’t naturally bent towards a minimalist lifestyle. But this home forces them to do with less. “We always say you fill the space that you have,” Matt said. “So every few months, we have to do a purge through all our storage space.” “There's so many things that you don't really need because you have something that works,” added Montana. “Just the other night we were talking about how we don't have an electric mixer, even a handheld one. It's going to be another thing that we have to put somewhere. I have one whisk and I use it for everything. We make whipping cream all the time.” They originally didn’t think they needed a toaster either, but decided that toasting their bread over the fire wasn’t a sustainable option. “We just learned to really love the idea that we can do it with less,” said Matt. “And then there's the financial benefit of that too. We started to save a lot of money.” Matt contrasted this with the year they spent in PEI, where they lived in a larger home that was 600 or 800 square feet. “We saw an espresso machine for sale, it's like, ‘oh, you should get that.’ And we loved it. But there were so many things that were like, ‘oh, we should get that’ or ‘we should do that.’ Just because it was possible. Before you know it, we had spent quite a lot of money doing all these things. And we had to sell a lot of it when we left, so that we can fit back into this.” Building from scratch Tiny homes have become popular, and it isn’t hard to buy them new or used throughout the world. I asked Matt if he had experience building homes before tackling this project. He always loved creating things as he grew up, and did some woodworking. But for the most part, he figured it out as he went and thinks most people can do the same. “I'm convinced that given enough time, and commitment to learning, you can do it.” That even included the wiring, though not without getting shocked once. Northern BC gets cold over the winter, and the Slaas’ walls are framed only with 2x4 lumber. Yet the home stays plenty warm thanks to a tiny wood stove. The stove requires very small pieces of wood, so they use less than a cord of wood each year. (A cord is 4’ wide by 4’ tall by 8’ long – equivalent to a pickup truck load piled high.) This is about 20 percent of what most homes in the area use. And the stove plays an important role in keeping the home dry, which can be a challenge for a small space with a few people breathing, cooking, and showering in it. Because the fire burns out after about four hours, the Slaas sometimes wake up to a cool home (about 12 ºC). But it warms up quickly again when a new fire is lit in the morning. Matt showed me their bathroom, complete with a compostable toilet. A small bin of wood shavings paper sits next to the toilet, to assist with the composting. I don’t notice any smell (an improvement over many bathrooms with flush toilets). They also have an on-demand hot water system for their shower, but the water has to be collected in a bucket so the showers aren’t long. Their total cost to build the home was about $15,000. That includes the trailer under it, the wood stove, and the propane water heater, which were the more expensive components. Prioritizing family With another baby due in the new year, the couple has started building a second unit, with about the same dimensions, next to this home. The plan is to connect the two dwellings with an indoor walkway – a four foot-wide hallway which will also be their new main entrance/ boot room. The added space will make it much easier to put the children to bed without worrying about waking them up, and Matt and Montana are also looking forward to an eating area. The new quarters won’t be built on a trailer, but this new unit can still be loaded onto a trailer if it needs to move in the future. A little help in the kitchen can always be had. The Slaas are realistic that this setup is not going to be too long-term, because they hope to have a big family, the Lord willing. That is why they are building the addition as a separate structure. “The idea is that, very easily, we can pull it apart. And it will be its own tiny home unit,” Matt explained. “We could sell it, or Airbnb it, or rent,” added Montana. “But we are determined to make it work as long as we literally possibly can. And even after that, we are quite keen to explore other options,” shared Matt. “I've looked at yurts that are almost 1,000 square feet. And they're $40,000 to $50,000. Why not?” I asked Montana what it is like to be a mom in a tiny home. “There's definitely things that you just do differently,” she explained. “Like sometimes I think, oh, it'd be really nice if I could get up more easily without waking up in the morning. So most of the time, I would just stay in bed with her until she wakes up because I don't want to disturb her. I get up, I sneak out of bed and then sit here, in the dark, so that she can keep sleeping, and I quietly just read and do really quiet things…. “As soon as you have kids, it is not about you. It's a sacrifice that you make. And it's a really good one…. “But then we just do our morning routine and eat breakfast together and then we try to get out of the house and go outside and do the chickens in the morning and that breaks up the morning for Gabriella. And she does get a little bit cranky in the morning. I think sometimes she just gets kind of bored.” Gabriella doesn’t get the boatload of toys that many other children experience, even in homes with less means. She plays with kitchen utensils and the kindling for the fires, in much the same way that kids play when their parents are camping. “So we've been really trying to teach her that it's okay to play or read a book by herself.” Gabriella also ends up doing a lot with Montana. “She'll stand at the counter on the stool with me while I make dinner or do the dishes, she loves to help with the dishes. She wants to do what I'm doing. And I think that it's a big difference to having a house with more rooms.” Montana admits that some things just don’t work in the tiny home, including her passion for painting. That’s hard to do with a little one in close quarters, so Gabriella will often go up to her oma’s house for an afternoon, which is on the same property. Hospitality can also be a challenge. “Generally, if we have people over, it's for coffee. Maybe a cup of tea and chat for a couple hours,” explained Matt. It doesn’t work well to have people over for a meal unless they can eat outside, which is seasonal and weather-dependent. Saving to buy dirt A look inside, with bed in the back, play nook underneath, and the wood burning stove to the left. They are also transparent that this is not meant to be an alternative to getting into the real estate market, but a step towards it. “This allows us to dream of and hope for a future in buying real estate, because we do hope to have our own property, hopefully with a good bit of land, that we can farm and garden and have lots of animals,” Matt shared. Because they live on someone else’s property, tiny home living allows them to save a lot of money. Some time ago they put a note on Church Social (a congregational app) to see if anyone would be up for having them park their home on their property, and were amazed that four or five families were willing. Their monthly costs for utilities total about $100, so they are able to save $20,000-$30,000 a year towards buying their own land, which they hope to do in about five years. “This lifestyle allowed us to go to PEI to go to school for entire year, not even working, and to be loan free and to come out so much further ahead than we could have,” shared Matt. “So financially, it's a no-brainer.” “If we had a $400,000 home we'd be struggling to buy groceries. That doesn't sound at all better than where we're at now.” Matt later added that because of this arrangement “we've never had any financial stress whatsoever.” This is far less expensive than renting. Most Canadian communities, including Smithers, have seen rental rates skyrocket to between $1000 and $2000 per month for a modest unit with one or two bedrooms. Matt noted the contrast: “If you live in your tiny house for a year and a half, it's paid off.” He also respectfully disagrees with those who challenge them that a tiny home won’t increase in value. “If you build it yourself, you can almost always sell it for what you spent on it if you're smart with it. And likely more. And you have an option of renting it out.” Matt emphasized the importance of keeping the costs down by working with what is available rather than insisting on a particular design. “We're not set on what's on our walls or whatever we're going to put on our ceiling. Something might come up that will work good for us.” “The fact that we built it ourselves makes a big difference too. We built it while we were engaged and it's kind of part of our marriage story, our love story. I think if you just bought a tiny house for $100,000 you wouldn't be that attached to it or invested in wanting to stay in it.” Matt explained that because tiny homes are built on a trailer, they aren’t subject to the rules that governments have about building structures on a property. It is similar to an RV being parked on a property. Contentment personified As I left their home and drove to mine, one word was impressed on me: contentment. In 1 Timothy 6: 6-8 we read that: “godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” I also can’t help but be convicted at how much effort we put into pursuing possessions, caring for them, storing them, and then getting rid of them. Instead of giving us contentment, they so often choke us like thorns among the wheat (Matt. 13:22). “In a sense, we feel very wealthy,” Matt reflected. “We have so much more than what so many people have. And we're so thankful for how the Lord has directed us along this path and taught us to love it.” Pictures are thanks to the Slaas. For bigger pictures, read this article as it is featured in the Jan/Feb 2024 issue....

Science - Creation/Evolution

My dog ate the evidence for evolution

3 evolutionary theories that are based on the lack of evidence for evolution ***** There are plenty of great, readable books that expose the many problems with evolutionary theory. These include Gordon Wilson’s Darwin’s Sandcastle, Change Laura Tan and Rob Stadler’s The Stairway to Life, and Marcos Eberlin’s Foresight: How the Chemistry of Life Reveals Planning and Purpose (just to name a few). But what about something shorter? My daughter is sometimes allowed to take a notecard full of key facts with her into a test. That’s what I was looking for: not a book-sized rebuttal, but something short enough to remember and use. That meant it couldn’t involve stacks of studies and countless facts to counter the evolutionists’ mountain of materials. Those facts can be had, and include revealing quotes, like this infamous admission by one of the world’s leading evolutionary biologists, Richard Lewontin (1929-2021). Back in 1997 he acknowledged that it wasn’t the evidence that drove evolutionists to accept evolution, but their ideology: “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. “It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” As impressive as that admission is, it’s just one guy. I was after something bigger, and also simpler – an argument where, even if I didn’t recall all the details, I might still be able to recall and relay the gist of it. What I found are three instances where evolutionists have accidentally acknowledged the lack of evidence for their theory. That acknowledgement comes, not from anything they’ve said, but instead by the “sub theories” they’ve offered to explain away the missing evidence. And what’s the evidence for these “sub theories”? Only that Evolution needs them to be true. This is akin to the student who, to explain why he hasn’t handed in his homework, claims his dog ate it, and when he’s asked for proof that his dog did indeed chow down on the assignment, he points to what’s missing: “My dog must have eaten it, because my homework’s not here, right?” As his teacher knows, the missing paper isn’t proof at all; the boy is simply presuming the very thing – that he actually wrote a paper – he was being asked to prove. And when he resorts to this kind of logical contortions, all it really evidences is that he has nothing better to offer. I think the same is true in the three evolutionary examples that follow. The most compelling evidence on offer is only the lengths evolutionists are willing to go to, to prop up their theory. Two pillars When it comes to the Theory of Evolution we all know the basics: once there was no life on this planet, but then simple cells formed in the primordial soup. After millions of years, and through the process of natural selection, these simple cells eventually spawned more complex cells and even more complex organisms, until finally we arrived. Greg Koukl has called this the “Molecule to Man Hypothesis.” And as Koukl also noted, if we’re going to take this nice story seriously, then evolutionists would have to prove two key things: 1) That life can come from non-life 2) That transitions from one kind to another do happen. These two ideas are so pivotal to evolutionary theory that if they can’t both be proven, then Evolution wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. 1. Life from non-life The Stanley Miller experiment (also known as the Miller-Urey experiment) consisted of a closed system with tubes connecting a heated water (ocean) chamber down below, with a gaseous chamber above, with sparks simulating early Earth lightning.        One of the problems with the Stanley Miller experiment is that it turns out amino acids come in left-hand and right-hand varieties – mirror images of each other – and the experiment produced equal quantities of each.         But our bodies don’t use both. Living creatures use the left-hand sort, and just as you can’t fit your right hand into a left glove, the cell can’t use right-handed amino acids – they aren’t a good fit. In fact, their presence can harm cells, and at a minimum, they would need to be sifted out. That means, even before the first cell ever formed, there would need to be some sort of mechanism present which could separate the righties from the lefties. That separation can be done in a lab through intelligent intervention. But who or what could do the selecting on early Earth after that lightning bolt blasts out that first batch of amino acids? Cells don’t exist yet, so there are no cellular mechanisms present to do the separating – there’s nothing in place. It’d be more accurate to say the Stanley Miller experiment didn’t produce building blocks of life so much as a muddled mess. The idea that life came from non-life used to be known as Spontaneous Generation. Maggots, it was thought, were spontaneously formed in dead rotting meat, and many believed that mice and flies were formed the same way. After a bit of investigation this was shown to be untrue. Today the idea persists under a different name: Abiogenesis (literally life from not life). Everyone knows maggots could never spontaneously form from non-living matter, but what if the organisms being formed were much simpler? What if it was only a single cell? And what if we gave it millions and millions of years to develop? Could it happen then? Well, if you read the scientific literature you’ll hear that yes, under those circumstances abiogenesis could happen, and indeed did happen. However, even though scientists are very sure it happened, even they’ll admit they haven’t worked out exactly how it happened. But isn’t evolution supposed to explain the “how” part? To be fair, they do have a variety of interesting ideas, but all of their proposals have serious problems. Let’s take a look at the best-known example – the Stanley Miller experiment in 1953. Though it happened 70 years ago, this experiment is still getting in the news today, because it was so influential. For decade upon decade the experiment has been cited in textbooks as proof that life could arise through a series of random chemical reactions. It’s so pivotal, that many a time it is presented as the proof for life from non-life, with no others given. So what happened in the experiment? Miller subjected a mixture of chemicals to an electric spark. The mixture of chemicals was supposed to mimic Earth’s early atmosphere and the electric spark was supposed to represent lightening. A week later, Miller discovered that some amino acids had been formed, which was significant because amino acids are a vital component of living cells. It should be noted though, that amino acids are not living themselves, but are merely a necessary component of cells. So they are a basic building block of life in much the same way that steel is a necessary building block for cars. These amino acids were presented as proof that life could arise from random chemical interactions. Consider for a moment how overstated this claim was. Miller hadn’t shown how life could be created from non-life, he had only shown how one necessary component might be formed. Going back to the car analogy, this is akin to someone zapping a rock of particularly pure ore and then declaring that the puddling blob of molten metal that results proves a car could come about by chance. Overstatement aside, there were other significant problems with the experiment and its results. For example, at one point many evolutionists thought that Earth’s early atmosphere was in some ways the opposite of what we have today: they believed back then it was hydrogen rich and lacking oxygen. Why? Well, at least in part because they needed it to be that way; oxygen would have interfered with the chemical reactions that they needed. And yes, to work, Miller’s experiment required a lot of hydrogen and absolutely no oxygen. But today even evolutionists will concede that our environment has always had oxygen in it. And that means that the amino acids could never have formed here on Earth via anything remotely resembling Miller’s method. The fix: extraterrestrial life from non-life So here’s where things get interesting. Put yourself into the shoes of an atheistic scientist who knows that Abiogenesis couldn’t have happened here on Earth. What “logical” conclusion will he be forced to draw? That’s right – life must have originated on some other planet first, and then come to Earth! This idea is known as Panspermia and while it’s not evolutionists’ consensus position, that it is seriously discussed at all only emphasizes the problem that evolutionists have with life arising here on Earth. The only “evidence” for Panspermia is that life exists here on Earth and it seems impossible for it to have started via evolutionary processes on Earth… therefore it must have started elsewhere. So Panspermia – this theory of an extraterrestrial origin for life – is actually an acknowledgement that evolutionists can’t explain how life could have arisen on Earth. 2. Transitions from one kind to another Things don’t get any easier for evolutionists when it comes to transitional forms. Evolutionary theory says that molecules evolved into man over millions of years and via millions of tiny changes. So when we start searching through the fossil record we should come across literally millions of transitional forms as one species turned into an entirely new one. Now, depending on which side of the creation/evolution debate you are talking to, the fossil record either doesn’t provide any examples of these transitional forms, or there are museums’ worth of such fossils. The Archaeopteryx has often been mentioned as a transition between dinosaurs and birds, and you can go to Creation.com or AnswersInGenesis.org, to learn about how it and other supposed transitional forms fails as a true transition. (The short summary: if birds evolved from dinosaurs or reptiles, then feathers must have evolved from scales and their wings must have evolved from arms. The Archaeopteryx has true wings and detailed advanced feathers, similar to those of bird species today. It only seems fair that when evolutionists are asked for transitional forms between reptiles and birds they should have to produce the half feather, half scale versions – the true transitional forms. The Archaeopteryx is at best a questionable example of an intermediary stage.) But what I want to highlight is the kind of argument evolutionists have to resort to if they acknowledge that there aren’t good examples of transitions. How would they explain away that lack of evidence? The fix: transitions few and far between Well, if someone absolutely refuses to believe in Creation, what “logical” conclusion will they be forced to come to? Then evolution must have happened in quick spurts, leaving few evidences of transitions in the fossil record! This theory is called Punctuated Equilibrium and was first proposed by Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge in 1972. Again, this theory is not based on the evidence, but rather the lack of it: we’re missing the transitional forms that would be needed to prove Evolution, but since Evolution must be true – that presumption is beyond question – then Evolution must not need transitional forms all that badly after all. Punctuated Equilibrium is an acknowledgement that evolutionists don’t have the abundance of transitional forms they expected to find. It’s also worth noting that until Gould and Eldredge, the lack of transitional forms was not really acknowledged. As Gould put it in 1977, “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of palaeontology.” Creationists were pointing out the lack of transitional forms long before Gould and Eldredge…but secular scientists don’t listen to creationists. 3. The Anthropic Principle At this point we should see the beginnings of a pattern in the Evolution/Creation debate. And the Anthropic Principle only makes that pattern all the more evident. The phrase “Anthropic Principle” was first coined to describe the amazing way in which our universe seemed to be designed specifically for human life. For us to live here on Earth it seems we need physical constants, laws, and properties to fall within certain narrow ranges. In Designer Universe: Intelligent Design and the Existence of God, authors Jimmy H. Davis and Harry L. Poe give these three examples: Protons and electrons have to have just the right charge. Atoms are composed of two charged particles: a positively charged proton and a negatively charged electron. The proton is 1,836 times larger than the electron and yet these two particles have exactly equal charges. If the two charges weren’t exactly equal in magnitude, if say, there was a charge difference of only one part per billion, all the pieces of your body would fly apart. Our Sun has to be just the right type of star. The Sun is not a typical star, being bigger than 95 per cent of all other stars. These smaller stars aren’t as hot so a planet would have to orbit much closer to stay warm enough. But at closer distances the rotation of a planet becomes locked so that one side always faces the star. This would cause one side of the planet to freeze and the other side to burn (sort of like our moon, or like Mercury). Additionally, our sun is a single star. 70 percent of stars are estimated to be binary or multiple star systems. It is hard to imagine how habitable planets could exist in such systems. Jupiter is just what we need, just where we need it. Jupiter turns out to be in just the right orbit and the right distance away to protect Earth from bombardment by killer asteroids or comets. Jupiter’s large size and high gravity makes it act as an asteroid and comet catcher. Some other stars have Jupiter-like planets orbiting them, but in most cases they are either in the wrong orbit, or are too near the sun, or may be spiraling inward toward the sun. While our Jupiter is necessary for life on Earth all the other “Jupiters” detected so far would prevent life from living in those systems. These are just a few examples of the anthropic (man-centered) nature of our universe. When you add all the factors together that would have to be just so for life to exist in our universe it turns out the odds against life are astronomical. The odds are so amazing even evolutionists are astounded. This makes the Anthropic Principle a powerful piece of evidence for a universe Designer. The fix: An infinite multiverse But imagine you are an atheist and evolutionary scientist who has been confronted with the Anthropic Principle and the astronomical odds against life in this universe. What logical conclusion are you going to be forced to draw if you want to remain an atheist? That’s right – if the odds are infinitely stacked against life in any one universe, wouldn’t the odds even out considerably if there was an infinite number of universes? This universe would then just happen to be that one universe in a million billion where the odds all worked out in our favor. This multiverse theory has become a staple in Star Trek and Marvel superhero movies, but once again there is no actual evidence for it. None at all. It’s another evolutionary story used to fill in for a lack of evidence. Thus the Multiverse Theory is an acknowledgment of just how implausible it is that an undesigned universe would be so well-suited for life. One last example I'll include one bonus example of an evolutionary theory based on a lack of evidence: the Oort Cloud. This is a theorized cloud of icy planetesimals that are said to be on the outer fringes of our Solar System. This cloud is beyond the limits of our current observational technology, so how do we know it is there? Because evolutionists need it to be. We still have comets, and if our Solar System is 4.6 billion years old, as the evolutionists presume, then any icy comets passing around the Sun should long ago have melted away. So, the continuing existence of comets would seem to be evidence of a Solar System that is much much younger – just thousands, not billions of years old.. But, no, evolutionists see them instead as evidence of a comet breeding ground way, way out there, where billions of icy chunks will sometimes bump into each other in just such a fashion as to direct an ice ball inward towards the Sun, starting a new comet. So the evidence for the Oort Cloud is lacking, and based only on the fact that evolution needs it to exist. Conclusion I haven’t tried here to provide facts to counter the evidence for evolution. Instead what we’ve explored is how evolutionists themselves have highlighted the lack of evidence for their theory by coming up with theories to explain away that lack. Evolution’s two pillars – life from non-life, and species’ transition to new species – were supposed to have lots of proof to back them up. But evolutionists have had to come up with “sub theories” – Panspermia and Punctuated Equilibrium – to explain why that proof is missing. And these sub theories are themselves supported, not by evidence, but by the lack of it. When Christian scientists pointed out the amazing odds against a universe supporting life, evolutionists answered this evidence with another unsupported story – the Multiple Universe Theory. Finally, the Oort Cloud is yet another example of evolutionists, instead of relying on evidence, turning to stories that already assume Evolution is true. Reflection questions What are the two pillars of evolution? Explain "Abiogensis." Is it possible? Explain "Panspermia." What does the theory of Panspermia show? What problem is there with the theory of transitional forms? What is meant with "Punctuated Equilibrium”? Why have evolutionists come up with the idea? What is the "Anthropic (man-centered) Principle”? What is the "Multiple Universe Theory"? A version of this article was first published in the January 2003 issue under the title “The Science is underwhelming.”...

Pro-life - Abortion, RPTV

Pro-life legislation attempts in Canada

TRANSCRIPT Welcome to Reformed Perspective. I'm Alexander Ellison. Since the Morgentaler Decision in 1988 there has been no abortion law in Canada. The Supreme Court struck down the existing law, stating that it hindered equal access to abortion. However, it's essential to note that the Court's decision did not endorse the absence of federal legislation on abortion, or protection for pre-born children. In fact, it affirmed Parliament's right to create new legislation. In response to the Morgentaler Decision, Brian Mulroney's Conservative government attempted to draft a compromise abortion law in 1990. Despite efforts to balance pro-life and abortion advocate perspectives, Bill C-43, which permitted abortion only if a physician deemed it necessary for a woman's health, passed in the House of Commons, but was later defeated in the Senate. Since then, Member of Parliament Cathay Wagantall has championed change by introducing three private member's bills, each aimed at recognizing and upholding the inherent value of human life. Cathay Wagantall: So, I'm Cathay Wagantall and the Member of Parliament for Yorkton-Melville which is a riding along the Manitoba border, a couple hours north of Regina, our capital. It's 42,000 square kilometers and it's rural and I've been a Member of Parliament for eight years now. The first was – we called it Cassie and Molly's Law – protecting pregnant women and their pre-born children. An individual named Jeff from Windsor had reached out. I think at one point in time he had become friends with folks at ARPA Canada. It was actually Mike Schouten who introduced me to the possibility of doing a bill in relation to what happened to Jeff when he lost his partner Cassie who was 7 months pregnant at the time. They weren't together anymore, but they were still in a very good relationship and had named Molly Molly and were ready to raise her together in their homes about a block apart. And was attacked in her home by someone who knew both of them and it was horrific. What Jeff didn't expect, and was thoroughly blown away, was that there was no recognition of Molly. So Cassie and Molly's Law was to protect pre-born children by basically bringing in a law that gave serious criminal charges for also either injuring or taking the life of a pre-born child. That bill used words like "pre-born child" which is in the Criminal Code but not in this context. And so it, of course, raised the angst of the House, well pretty well every other party, who are very very anti- pro-life legislation, and are very pro-abortion. So that's the direction that they wanted to take this bill, which they did. But I was very fortunate that my colleagues all supported it, except for two and one abstained for various reasons. But that being said, it did wake the House up to the fact that there was someone there who was willing to bring those issues to the floor. When I do trade shows or anything like that, I always have petitions. So I would have one on Firearms – I live in rural Saskatchewan – one on palliative care, and one on life issues. And I realized that although people want abortion to be available, they have this idea that it's already a law in Canada and it's minimal. So when I brought forward the next it was a sex-selection abortion bill, that basically should be illegal. And God is really good; He times things often to assist with what He's put you there to do, and at the same time a poll came out that made it clear that in Canada Canadians are not as divided on this issue, is what it said, as honestly, the media and politicians want you to think they are. What it did is it showed that the majority of Canadians want access to abortion, but as you dug deeper with their questions they totally want a law against sex selective abortion, late term abortion, they want more pregnancy counseling centers, not less, and they want doctors to have to share with their patient exactly what the dangers and and potential complications are of this type of surgery, which is not required in Canada. I mean, I've had my gallbladder out; I spent half a day at the hospital being told a number of things, and that does not happen in this case. So I brought it forward and people would come to sign my petitions and they'd go "I believe in access to abortion, I'm a nurse" or whatever, and I'd say "Oh, so you're okay with sex-selective abortion?" and they said "No." And then I explained the dynamics that are in Canada right now, where besides North Korea we're the only country without any laws. And they would sign my petition. So I realized that although was not going to pass in the House, and this is one of the challenges of this area, is that you have to win in different ways until it becomes something that can happen within our government, and because of the way the House is set up right now, the only political party that you can be a part of, that does not insist that you have to be pro-abortion is the Conservative Party. So you know you're not going to win a vote in the House. But it's important that we always keep these things in front of Canadians. I believe that as legislators we have a responsibility to respond to culture, but we are also responsible for shaping what our values are in Canada and this is part of that. So again, of course, the bill didn't pass and it was very vital if you ever want to go and listen to some of the speeches it's very clear that there's a lot of anger, and and an attempt to make those of us that are pro-life look like terrible people. Yeah, it's the House of Commons. But we made headway because across the country people woke up to realize that in Canada we we don't have these laws. As Wagantall mentions with the current political climate it's challenging to get parties with hard stances on abortion to side with pro-life bills. A policy analyst with ARPA who has worked on these pro-life bills explains why she says they take the incremental approach: Anna Nienhuis: Yeah, so we take an incremental approach just because of the legal reality in Canada. Right now there is no abortion law, so there is no legal protection for any pre-born children, and there's this polarized debate that kind of pits the pro-choice and pro-life side against each other, so we work to find common ground where Canadians can agree so that we can protect some pre-born children while we work for that cultural shift to be able to protect them all. This past spring Wagantall had the opportunity to introduce another private member's bill. Cathay Wagantall: I have to admit that after the third election I said, okay, Lord, I'd be okay if I didn't have another private member's bill, and He said no, nope, that's not how it's going to be, so I did get an opportunity again this last time around – number 62 or 63 – and I brought forward the violence against pregnant women act which is similar to Cassie and Molly's law but far more targeted. It didn't bring in any sentencing or anything like that but what it did is said that if an individual has committed this crime and that crime has been recognized by the courts and this person has been found guilty then the judge must consider that a child was also physically harmed or murdered as an aggravating factor and what that means is they absolutely must take that into account when they're sentencing and there's only about a handful of, circumstances where aggravating factors are required, but this is about violence against pregnant women and violence against women is a priority of this government and something that they want to champion that they're about. And, of course, I was able to indicate that well if that's the case then they definitely should be supporting this bill and again they took the same approach they always do, which is attack in the House of Commons. Then the Prime Minister, and a number of women Liberal Members of Parliament did a Twitter attack on me, and of course they tried to make it sound like this is all about abortion. Again, it's a hidden attempt, all that kind of thing. And it was amazing because, right across the country, people responded to that with their comments with saying here's the actual feedback on this bill – it's two sentences long and it's about women who want to have a child – and they really lit into them for taking advantage of this in the way that they did. Now, again, of course it didn't change the vote in the House unfortunately. They're representing – everyone else in the House of Commons is representing – about 16% of Canadians who are on the extreme perspective of abortion at any time for any reason. So it was exciting. It was exciting. Fortunately my leader was very supportive, as was our whole caucus. So we feel like a number of other issues around , and circumstances where this government is offside with Canadians because they're not out there representing the true perspectives, they have their own ideology and their own purposes, and their own attempts to use an issue as a wedge issue, that they're losing the ground to do that. Having a child is the most impressive thing that a human woman can do, is have those children. And there are many women who would love to have children that can't. And we need to, at the very least, continue to push for the fact that this is something on which women are being misled. They're being misled to think that they can't afford or they can't handle it. We're women; we can handle anything. And sometimes a bad choice is made, but that doesn't mean that you have a bad choice and you follow it up with another bad choice. So it's important to me that we celebrate life, and the beginning of that is we're knit together in our mothers' wombs (Ps. 139:13) and it's a spiritual experience and a privilege to be a mom and to have a child. Thanks for watching this week's episode. Please feel free to like this video and share it with family and friends. For Reformed Perspective, I'm Alexander Ellison in Ottawa....

RPTV, Sexuality

RPTV: Jojo Ruba talking about Canada's Conversion Therapy Bill

 Welcome to Reformed Perspective, I'm Alexandra Ellison. Today we're here in the Canadian History Museum, reflecting on Canada's past. We're right now in front of the LGBTQ history section, and it's quite interesting to reflect on how things have changed. Today we're going to be talking about Bill C-4, which was first passed in 2021: the conversion therapy bill. I had a conversation with JoJo Ruba, a Christian apologist and communications director at Free to Care, reflecting on the history of the conversion therapy bill, and what this means for Christians, churches, and the general public. JoJo Ruba: Free to Care was a ministry that started about two years ago when conversion therapy legislation and bans were being put in place, particularly here in Alberta where I live; and these bans are so intrusive and badly written, that simple counseling by consenting adults is now criminal. And LGBTQ people no longer have access to that and Christians can no longer provide that support; so Free to Care now, as there's been legislation passed federally, is working to educate and equip churches and pastors and ordinary Christians to continue to support their LGBTQ-identified friends and family, and to continue to share the gospel even in this issue, believing full well that God can do wonderful things for people who are same-sex attracted, like myself. Alexandra Ellison: Yeah, and you know, going back to 2021, when Bill C-4 – the conversion therapy bill – was passed, could you kind of talk about that for people that maybe haven't heard much about it, or maybe just heard what they saw from the mainstream media? JoJo Ruba: Yeah, no, the mainstream media didn't cover much of it. It actually started with a man named Kris Wells out here in Alberta. Kristopher Wells : So today, in 2019, conversion therapy largely takes place underground; you won't be able to walk into a licensed counselor’s office and ask them to engage in this practice, because it would be deemed to be unethical and unprofessional. So we largely see conversion therapy happening underground in faith-based communities, which makes it harder to detect, but also more dangerous, the more underground a practice like this goes. JoJo Ruba: So the bylaws here in Alberta actually define conversion therapy as any practice, treatment, or service that offers even LGBTQ people simply to help reduce unwanted same-sex sexual behavior; not just attraction, behavior. So we called up about 25 counseling agencies, secular psychologists and psychiatrists, asked them for help with porn addiction. And all of them that did sexual addiction counseling said yes. But when we said it was gay porn addiction, suddenly they didn't want to help anymore. And two counseling agencies even said, we will let you get help, but you can't mention it's gay porn. So which is exactly the point we're making, right? This isn't a ban on torturing people, which is what the common mindset was, as with why the LGBTQ people were pushing this was because they had said, ‘Many of us have experienced torture, we were forced under, were tricked into getting counseling from these churches. And all they were trying to do is make us not gay.’ And so this narrative that homosexuality is this immutable identity was really at the heart of the debate, Alexandra, and the challenge was for us to actually speak to that mindset, to say as Christians, we actually don't believe sexuality should be your identity; we believe that we are much bigger, much better, more important than who we want to sleep with, or what kind of clothing we want to wear today. And we think God has designed us to find our identity in Christ, which means our priorities or choices are all about following how God designed us and not how we think about ourselves. And that we love people because we and they are made in God's image, not in our own image. That's the big mistake that this legislation is pushing. And so after the Calgary bylaw was passed, the same organizers, Kris Wells in particular, brought this to the federal level. So what happened was the Liberals called an election, the Bill had to be reintroduced as Bill C-4, it was called C-6 before – and Bill C-4, that's when they actually added that this also, this bill also applies to consenting adults. Before, consenting adults may have been challenged, but it wasn't specific, now it is specific that consenting adults, consenting Canadians can no longer access the counseling that they want if they're simply wanting to reduce same-sex sexual behavior. So we pointed out at this point, if you're providing marriage counseling, if your pastor is providing a marriage counseling – and of course marriage counseling means that you make a commitment to say, hey, we're not gonna be sleeping around with anyone other than our spouse, right? Of course, I mean, this is 2000 years of Christian teaching and the Jews before that, right? It's not a surprise, we teach that. Well, if that counseling includes, well, you can’t have sex with someone of your own sex, that's technically conversion therapy counseling now, and that's technically criminal, when by the way the results of that, the punishment, is five years in jail for offering that kind of counseling, and three years in jail for simply giving the phone number out of a pastor or Christian counselor, who would help you reduce your same-sex behavior.  That Bill went through, who because of the Conservatives and Liberals and the rest of the parties coming together said we're not going to debate it, even though it was radically changed by adding consenting adults. And we're going to pass it without any public inputs. Speaker of the House of Commons : Accordingly, all those opposed to the honourable Member moving the motion, will please say nay. Agreed. The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed to the motion will please say nay. There being no dissenting voice, I declare the motion carries. JoJo Ruba: All they needed was one MP to say no, we're not going to let that happen; we need it to go through a democratic process. No MP from the Conservative Party; to vote against that, all we needed was one. And so it became law, the end of 2021, beginning of 2022. But here's the problem. The Liberals actually passed legislation that said, the Justice Department has to provide legal analysis for any new criminal legislation that would change the Criminal Code. Well, that analysis never came out until the day this Bill got royal assent and became law. So there's no way the Members of Parliament would have read that legal analysis. And particularly that legal analysis said exactly the same thing we were saying during committee stage: what you're doing is potentially violating the Charter rights of consenting adults to have the conversations that they want to have. And this Kris Wells guy actually compares people like myself, who’s a consenting adult, to drunk drivers who are incapable of making decisions. He actually did a CBC video saying that. So this is the kind of mindset that we're dealing with. And Alexandra, just to summarize all of this, it's been a year and a half now, almost two years since the Bill was passed. And not one person has been charged under this law. But what's interesting is during the time of this debate, the people who were pushing for this law said thousands of gay kids were being tortured in church basements as we speak. That's the kind of language they were using, ‘thousands.’ Well, if that's the case, then we should have had at least one person being, you know, rescued from these awful Christians, torturing them in the church basements. But again, torture and kidnapping are already criminal beyond this law. So that hasn't happened. And in fact, the first conversion therapy events in Vancouver and in Ontario for kids already were passed around 2015. So none of these laws or bylaws, both provincially and municipally, and federally, have had any one person convicted, or charged. So that tells me there's something else going on here in terms of legislation. And what we think it is and we've seen this sadly happen is it actually creates a chill effect among churches and pastors – so that churches are themselves self-censoring. One large church here had their pastor actually tell someone, that if someone, even a member of his own congregation, came to him asking for help dealing with same-sex attraction, he would refuse to help them. And that's the kind of stuff we're sadly seeing, because Christians are not understanding the ramifications of this. If the government can dictate what we believe, and how we practice our beliefs, even within our own members, in terms of how we teach the Bible, what the Bible teaches on sexuality, on this issue – they can do that on any issue. And the secular government coming into the churches, saying we will police you if you start praying for gay people and to help them not act the way they don't want to act themselves as consenting adults. That has to be something we understand is the most egregious religious freedom violation – in fact, human rights violation that is the case right now in Canada, I would argue. Alexandra Ellison: Yeah, well, I think it's great. Just, you know, thank you for taking the time to go over the history and what has happened. Kind of reflecting on that, as Christians, especially, you know, a large audience who's watching us are Christians, how should we react to this and is there anything that we can do to fight against legislation like this, even though it has already been passed? JoJo Ruba: Well, any legislation that's passed, of course, is always subject to the will of the democracy. So, as Augustine, I think it was, I think it was one of the one of the Catholic MPs actually told me, culture is always affecting politics. In fact, politics is downstream to culture. Which means if we want to change the law, we want to change the culture first. And part of the conversations that the church has to have is on sexuality and gender identity, being able to give a positive, life-affirming, real-person discussion, where we focus on God's truth and love for humanity. And the fact that because He loves us, He gives us rules on how we ought to behave. Right. So that's part of the conversation training I provided for you. I’m writing a book on that actually, hopefully, you guys here, your audience, I'd love to hear your prayers for this. And if you want to order one next year, hopefully, it'll be done by this time next year. We would love to share that with you. But it's about redeeming conversations. So that's part of the title, where we want to redeem the opportunity, so to have conversations with people. One of the saddest things, Alexandra, that I saw was the Members of Parliament debating the issue during question period during the debate on the Bill. And you could just see how ignorant so many of these Members of Parliament are not just of the Bill itself, but of Christians in general. So there were several Bloc Québécois MPs, for example, en français, who said we need to re-educate these ignorant, small minority groups of people who are torturing kids, basically, with Bibles. They often reference movies where kids were tortured with Bibles. When I went through my counseling that never happened, the person read the Bible with me, we prayed together. And he helped me understand that sexual attractions are things that I have, it's not things that we are unless we want to make them that way. And I've never acted on or identified as gay, because that's not what I am. And I think it's important to give that kind of messaging to the culture around us, especially to young people. But there's gonna be many times where we will find ourselves sexually attracted to or sexually confused in all kinds of ways. That's okay. But that's part of a fallen world. The challenge is, what do you do with that? What do you do with those attraction? What do you do with those feelings? Do you take the time to submit them to God and trust that God's design is good? Or do you act out and follow what the culture says you ought to become or do or be, right? So the first step is really we need to get our house in order if we as churches want to deal with this issue publicly. And with this law, we want to make sure our Christian community is actually solid on this issue. And sadly, there are Christian denominations, including Reformed denominations, that have gone completely off their rocker on this issue. As we reflect on the two years since the passage of Bill C-4, it's essential for Christians to stand firm in their faith and continue to reflect biblical sexuality, even if that means going against what the world has to say. If you enjoyed this video, make sure to give it a thumbs up and share it with family and friends. For Reformed Perspective, I'm Alexandra Ellison in Ottawa....

RPTV

Canadian women's unfulfilled fertility goals and the country's declining birth rate

TRANSCRIPT Welcome to Reformed Perspective. I'm Alexander Ellison. Today we are diving into a pressing issue – Canada's record low birth rate. Statistics Canada recently confirmed that in 2022 just over 350,000 babies were born, marking the lowest number of live births since 2005. This raises a critical question: what do Canadian women really want when it comes to family size? "So, do you guys have children?" "No, no." "Yes." "Do you have children?" "No." "Uh no." "Do you have children?" "Yes." "Do you plan to have children in the future?" "We don't think so. We actually just talked about it, like two days ago, and I don't know. Everything is just getting so expensive. We rarely know if we will make it, everything's rising up so much." "Honestly, I did think I was going to do it when I was younger, but recently, I've changed my mind, not just because of the whole financial thing, but security, and everything in my country. And then the whole idea of having children is just so big a responsibility. I don't know if I want it or not." "I had three, and that was enough." "I feel like I'd like to build a family of my own. I found that quite a nice future idea, to kind of like raise people like I was raised, hopefully give them a good future." "Yeah, pretty much the same. I just like the idea of family."  "Just having people to support you..." "Yeah, by your side." "It's really important, especially the fact that I don't have siblings, you know. So I want to have children." "Well, we had four children, two girls and two boys, and life was busy, but it was enough. I wouldn't want it to be busier, but I can't imagine my life without them." A Christian think tank, Cardus, took a closer look, through a survey they did, discovering some eye-opening facts. They found that when it comes to family size, there's a significant gap between what Canadian women desire and what they actually have. Andrea Mrozek: "So we found that almost half of Canadian women wish they'd have more children than they do have at the end of their reproductive lives. So we asked a range of women, up to the age of 44. And that's the key takeaway: that women would like to have more kids than they have. Fertility ideals are much higher than intentions. What that means is that the future people have for their family is not typically fulfilled. "My thought for changing the culture is around recognizing that you can be fulfilled over the life course in every way – that the career is something you can have the entire life course to work on – but having children is something you only have a more limited amount of time to work. I think we're really fortunate to live in a world where we have a lot of options and possibilities as women today. I think now is the time to speak more strongly to the joys of a family life. At one point in time you needed to speak more strongly to the desires of doing waged work and getting out into the world and having a career, but those things are completely accessible, they're accessible over the life course, but having a family is something that is deeply fulfilling and can only be done in a certain time frame. We kind of lost the plot on why that matters, how it feels to not achieve that. I really am hoping young men and young women can live in freedom and trust God with their lives. That means trusting him with every aspect of our lives including our family and our fertility. In a secular worldview, it's quite constrained – you have to do things in a particular way, in a particular order, and definitely take the birth control pill till you're good and ready, and really constrain, actually, how you live your life. I think you could view a secular worldview as being quite constrained. Then the joy of being Christian, and the beauty of being Christian is living in the freedom of God's plan for us, and being open to all aspects of that, at whatever time in life that they do come. I think we as Christians have more capacity to live imaginative lives, and that includes our family lives." As we conclude our discussion on women's fertility goals, let us remember that children are a blessing and an integral part of God's plan for families. In a world where fertility rates are declining, it is crucial to support and understand the desires of women when it comes to building their families. We hope this video has shed light on the importance of considering women's wishes in family planning and how societal challenges can impact their fertility choices. Remember in all our pursuits let us honor the call to "be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28), trusting in God's divine wisdom. Thank you for watching this video. Please like this video and subscribe to this channel, and feel free to share with friends and family. For Reformed Perspective, I'm Alexandra Ellison....

News, Pro-life - Abortion

Pro-life flag proposal gets town talking about worldviews

A proposal by the Smithers Pro-Life Society for their community to fly a pro-life flag was unanimously rejected by their town council, but not without exposing their worldviews and getting the entire community talking about life and freedom and what to do when worldviews conflict.  An unlikely catalyst Along with many other communities located towards BC’s west coast, the town of Smithers has embraced a very secular ideology, which it understands to be “progressive.” As a part of its recent “Pride” celebrations, the town welcomed a drag queen story reading for children at the public library. Not impressed, over 800 members of the community signed a petition to express their concerns. Jessica Vandergaag, a board member of Smithers Pro-Life, was in attendance when the town council responded to this petition. “The councillors reiterated over and over how inclusive and diverse our community is and that the public square was for ‘everyone.’ Their words rang through my head all evening.  A thought came to mind – why not ask for the pro-life flag now when we can hold them to their words of inclusion and diversity? While they still remember the words they said!” Since the town flies rainbow flags on its main street, Smithers Pro-Life was planning to request next year that a pro-life flag be hung as well. But with the town council’s declaration that the public square is for everyone, now seemed the time to act. In the same month Vandergaag, along with board member Betty Bandstra, stood before Smithers council, backed by a crowd of supporters in the gallery. They requested that the town hang the pro-life flag or paint it on a crosswalk in the same intersection as the rainbow crosswalk. Vandergaag proceeded to give an impassioned speech to Council, explaining that “the pre-born remain the group that is most ignored, even though it has the highest death rate, 100,000 killed per year in Canada.” After quoting the mayor’s and councillors recent comments about welcoming different perspectives and worldviews, Vandergaag had the pro-life flag held up, and she made the case that the most vulnerable deserve public recognition “because it is through the awareness of human rights abuses that empathy is developed and public opinion is changed.” A confused response What was the town council going to do? How could they turn down a request for a symbol that shows inclusiveness for vulnerable citizens, with so many in the community demonstrating their support? The local newspaper gave the story its front page, providing coverage that was surprisingly fair to Smithers Pro-Life. Council put the request on their next meeting agenda, and the pro-life community showed up once again, filling the gallery to show their support for the initiative. Each council member spoke, and their words exposed the impact this proposal had on their hearts and souls. They were emotional and passionate… and also confused. One council member, Genevieve Patterson, who identified herself as both pro-choice and Christian, was in tears as she shared her story of multiple miscarriages. She explained how she had three pregnancies where the baby had died after the first trimester, requiring her to have a D&C procedure, to remove the baby. She went on to call the D&C her “abortion” and said that “I am grateful for my right to choose. It saved my life.” She added “As a Christian woman, and a leader in my community, I will never use my relationship with God to rationalize my political beliefs, as I believe my relationship with God is just that – my own.” Although everyone should sympathize with her experience, it is a fallacy to compare what she went through with abortion, as an abortion involves purposeful action to end the life of a preborn child. The pro-life perspective would adamantly support her in her D&C. And although she professes to keep her faith separate from her political beliefs, her pro-choice stance made it very clear that her beliefs dictated her political beliefs. The one member of Council who is known as a Christian and a member of a local Reformed church also voted against the flag. He explained that the feedback he read about the proposal included the concern that: “there will be women in our town, who might have had an abortion, not because they wanted to but because life circumstances forced them to such a decision. The presence of a pro-life flag or crosswalk could be very triggering.” He could understand why they would conclude that. His other comments made it evident that his main concern was about how people from both sides of these issues talked about the other side. Somewhat ironically, the only Council member who showed support for the proposal explained that he was an atheist, and had opposed the original rainbow crosswalk proposal on the grounds that it would raise one ideology or group over others. He sees this current proposal as proof that he was correct, and voted against it for the same reason as the rainbow crosswalk. He said he wanted to see a new proposal to not allow the town to make any more symbolic statements like the rainbow crosswalk, though he wouldn’t remove that crosswalk now because he isn’t in favour of removing symbols. Gladys Atrill, the town’s mayor, started her speech by reflecting that “residents of Smithers have challenged council in the past two weeks with big issues: issues about who we are, what we believe, our worldviews, what is OK in public, what symbols we should consider.” She proceeded to contrast the rainbow flag, and its alignment with the Canadian Human Rights Act, with the pro-life flag, which contradicts the reality that abortion is legal in Canada. “As such, I’m not in favor of placing symbols in public places that relate to health procedures since there are many that are viewed as controversial….. Miss Vandergaag linked her strong faith in God to her pro-life belief. Others hold different views, that abortion is a medically-necessary procedure and that women have the right to self-determination.” Mayor Atrill failed to recognize that the right to life is foundational to all other rights and is included in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which the town is bound to uphold. She also failed to recognize that many things were legal and even celebrated in the past which we are ashamed of today (including how women were not recognized as persons under the law). The fact that something is recognized by law doesn’t make it right. To add to this, the mayor had no issue imposing her worldview (the right to abortion), over Vandergaag’s and others who are pro-life, within the same minute that she claimed that “The debate over abortion belongs at other tables than this one.” From town hall to town square After the town’s unanimous decision against the pro-life flag, the local media covered the story again. And this sparked a conversation that has carried on in the following weeks. In July, a local radio station invited Vandergaag and Bandstra, along with the drag queen story hour host, to an hour-long discussion about the pro-life flag proposal. Although she was nervous about taking part, she reflected after that “the conversation went well and I really felt at the end that God gave me words and guided me through quite the monologue.” She added that the others who took part expressed thanks to her and Bandstra for the civil conversation and the councillor in particular seemed “quite moved” by it. “I really pray and believe that even if it is not aired, that God did some planting there between the six of us.” Reflecting on the whole ordeal, she commented “while the result was not as we hoped, we do believe it to be a positive experience in the grand scheme.” She proceeded to give one example. “I was contacted by a former co-worker, whom I had no idea was pro-life, wondering what the result from Town Council was. Her family was visiting from Ireland and it was a topic of their conversation. I shared that it had been voted down and she expressed her sadness. I was touched that she contacted me and that conversations about it were still happening over a month later!” Not only do these conversations bring attention to our preborn neighbours, they also break through the veneer of “inclusivity” and “equality” that our secular leaders often champion, without having to defend. It was rather obvious that the council members only welcomed some perspectives, and these were ones that aligned with their own worldviews. The antithesis is as real in 2023 as it was in the Garden of Eden. Vandergaag “absolutely recommends” others to do this in their communities, both because of the conversation it creates and as a voice for the preborn who are otherwise not heard. But she also advised that it be done as a “delegation request” rather than simply a letter request. This is a request to address town council in person about a matter that important to a citizen or group, before a decision is made. “Letters can get passed by but a delegation request gets you extra time to present your request and the town council has to act on it with a motion in the following meeting.”...

Politics, RPTV

RPTV: MP Arnold Viersen on the legal fight against pornography

OVERVIEW 1:05 - Beginnings with local ARPA chapter 3;30 - Why don't you do it, Arnold? 4:09 - Why learning French isn't always a bad idea 5:05 - Three reasons Viersen ran 5:48 - Private Member's Bill on pornography 8:01 - Mindgeek, the Canadian pornography company 9:53 - On protecting children online 12:23 - Ways to fight pornography and human trafficking 14:21 - Christian worldview as a launching pad TRANSCRIPT Welcome to Reformed Perspective; I’m Alexandra Ellison. In today's video, I had the privilege of sitting down with a dedicated Member of Parliament who has been actively using his Christian worldview to champion the cause of human dignity. Arnold Viersen is the Member of Parliament for Peace River-Westlock in northern Alberta Today, let's learn more about how he got into politics and what he is currently doing to combat online pornography. So, to start off, could you introduce yourself and just talk about how you got into politics. Arnold Viersen: Well, thanks for interviewing me. My name is Arnold Viersen. I'm the Member of Parliament for Peace River-Westlock, which is a big chunk of Northern Alberta. I mostly just say Northern Alberta, because... several European countries are smaller than that. I'm married. I've got six kids – my oldest is 11, the youngest is two and we're expecting one in February, so it's exciting. How did I get involved in politics? It was through an organization called ARPA Canada. There was a guy named Mark Penninga – you might have heard of him before – and he came to Edmonton I think back in 2010, just before I got married. There was a notice in the church bulletin – organization called ARPA, a guy named Mark Penninga, be here on Wednesday night, kind of thing – and so I convinced my brother-in-law to drive with me. It was about 50 kilometers to church, so it was a bit of a drive. I said, hey we should go to this thing, And he says, "Well, what is it?" I said that's what is for, to tell us what this is. So we showed up and four other people showed up so there was six of us that showed up to this event. Mark was telling us how he wanted to set up local ARPA chapters all across the the country, and that a local board was, he was kind of hoping for seven people to be on these boards and seeing as there was six of us there, he just kind of told us that we were now the ARPA board for that area. So that was back in 2010 I became a local board member with ARPA. Then I moved to Neerlandia, Alberta – that's where I'm born and raised – and I moved back there, bought a house there. I got married and joined the local ARPA board in in Neerlandia. I was involved with organizing a God and Government in Alberta, and then the following year we organized it for Ottawa. ARPA's big thing was "get to know your Member of Parliament so that you can have some influence with them" and so I went there and got to know my Member of Parliament. Then in 2013, where I lived became a brand new riding. There was no incumbent, there was no Member of Parliament at all. I thought, Well, rather than waiting to get to know my Member of Parliament, if I work hard to elect somebody then I'll know them before they get elected and I'll probably have more influence. So starting in 2013, I started going around asking my friends if they thought they should be Members of Parliament – three friends in particular I talked to, and one was like, "Wait a minute, I've got six kids; I can't do that." The other one was "I've just started a new business here; I can't take my foot off it." And the third just thought it was crazy. But all all of them said. "Hey Arnold, if you think it's such a good idea, why don't you do it?" So I was 27 at the time. I didn't think 27-year-olds were old enough to be Members of Parliament, but turns out there's only three requirements for being a Member of Parliament – be a Canadian citizen, be 18 years old, and get the most votes – so that put me on the path to running in the nomination for the Conservative Party of Canada, and running to be the Member of Parliament. The Reformed community came out very strong in support of me, in the nomination in particular – that was a really important piece that led me on the path to doing this. People always say, "Did you dream of this your whole life?" and, definitely not. I remember Mr. Wielinga in grade seven trying to teach me French and I said, "Why are you teaching me French? Probably Dutch would be a better language to learn than French, seeing as I could probably use that more." And he said, "Well, you never know, you might work in the Parliament building one day." And I said to him, "Fat chance of that happening!" He came back – he lives in South Africa now – he came back a couple years ago and walked to my office and said, "Fat chance of that happening, Arnold!" So, it wasn't something that was on my radar, prior to 2013. That's really interesting to hear how God puts different people in your life to lead you down a different path. So over your years in politics, you've worked on many issues upholding human dignity. Why has this been so important to you? Arnold Viersen: So when I ran in the nomination, there was three things that motivated me to get involved in politics. One was the defense of Alberta. I generally find that the rest of the country doesn't understand Alberta, and also generally is trying to shut down all the things that were we're trying to do – so that was one of the things. I'm a firearms owner and I also find that the country is pretty hard on firearms owners so I wanted to defend firearms owners. And the unborn or pre-born – that was another motivator for me. In Canada there's no protection, there's no law for the pre-born so I wanted to get involved in politics to defend the pre-born. That has branched out into probably more of just a defense of human dignity. Back in 2015, right after I got elected, I had the opportunity to do a Private Member's Bill, and everybody in the whole country shows up with ideas for a Private Member's Bill. Seeing as you get to make the decision on what that is, I just started writing a list. And there's a guy named Mark Penninga again – a character that reappears in my story of politics often – I just remember I had narrowed it down to 12 items that I was interested in. I remember going through it with him, and his criteria for whether it should be a go or no go was how many other MPs would do it. If the issue had wide support and other MPs would probably do it, he said "Arnold, you don't have to do that one; somebody else will do it." So that's how I came to the issue of combating pornography in Canadian society – we eventually settled on doing a private member's motion on the impacts of pornography on Canadian society. That has basically drawn together a whole bunch of groups from across the country that care about that issue, and human trafficking and prostitution. That area, that's kind of been my niche in the world of politics. So I'm a Conservative Member of Parliament – I fight alongside my Conservative colleagues, and then my kind of special thing that I bring to that Conservative movement is the combatting of human trafficking, prostitution, and pornography. And this seems to be fairly well accepted within the Conservative movement and I'm able to get some some action happening on it in other parties as well. Focusing in a little bit, I've seen a lot of kind of campaigning for online safety of children. Would you be able to expand on that, and introduce what is is Mindgeek for people who don't know about that. Arnold Viersen: Mindgeek's a company that owns a whole host of websites in the world. They're based in Montreal, Canada, so they are a Canadian company. They claim that they own 80% of the pornography in the world, and I don't have any reason to doubt that either. Their ownership structure is really murky. We're never quite sure who's in charge and who owns it. We do know that they make a lot of money, despite it being a private company so their are not publicly available. But they brag about how much money they make, which is approaching a billion dollars a year. They've gotten into hot water – we've kind of been pushing this – in that they have no controls on who is viewing pornography, but also who is showing up on their site. In Canada there's non-consensual images laws; there's underage images laws; all this kind of stuff. But Mindgeek doesn't seem to care about the law, and they just want to make a lot of money. They have a big office building in Montreal; I've been out there protesting outside of their office building in Montreal. They are two main executives that we know of, based in the Montreal area, so this is a particularly Canadian story, although the ramifications of their actions are felt all across the world. I know that you've been working on legislation and also working on spreading this message. What do you see the future of protecting children online? What do you hope to get? Arnold Viersen: While my private member's motion way back in 2015/16, kind of opened the door to this discussion, I've seen of other countries – France, Germany, the UK, Australia, and then states like California, Utah – have all really been grappling with this as well. While we got accolades in Canada early on for starting to tackle this, other countries have very much leapfrogged us. There's some good stuff happening in terms of age verification of those that are using pornography, and then also of those showing up in pornography, that's kind of happening all around the world. It's branching out a little bit beyond that, to child safety online becoming more of a much broader topic than just pornography use. It's about, what are the impacts of social media, why are our children more depressed and more sad and participating in other socially detrimental activities? Instagram for example – their own internal documentation showed that one of their notification features was causing suicides in 12-year-old girls. So this whole online safety world and regulation is growing. While I started in this fight around the pornography issue and keeping porn out of the hands of kids and keeping kids out of porn, it's broadening out from there into this whole online safety world. I liken it to traffic laws. When the car was first invented, it was cars and horses and buggies and there were no laws around how the roads work. We've made decisions on which side of the road to drive on; we've made decisions about painting lines on the roads, and the lights on the roads, and what the lights mean, and putting guardrails, and all this kind of stuff. So we're likely going to proceed down a similar path when it comes to the use of the Internet. For a lot of the audience, they're very passionate about these issues but they're not necessarily sure kind of where to start on, you know, wanting to get involved; how can people get involved? Arnold Viersen: Well first, the biggest thing is, just quit looking at porn. That's a big challenge. In Canadian society we know from the stats 85% of the population is participating in the use of porn. So the most impactful. I would say it's the simplest; it's not necessarily the easiest but it's the simplest. Beyond that there's local organizations that are fighting human trafficking in your local area. Human trafficking happens within 10 blocks or 10 minutes of where you live. There's likely an organization in your community that's already participating in the fight against human trafficking, sheltering the victims of human trafficking, that sort of thing. If you want to get involved politically, there's huge opportunities for all of these things municipally, provincially, and federally. Municipally, you have the licensing of body rub parlors, that kind of thing. That all municipal. Libraries, what kind of content is available on library computers, that kind of thing, that's all municipal. Provincial, you have the education system – how do we train our children to identify victims of human trafficking and also to not become victims of human trafficking. So there's education opportunities. Then federally, becoming a Member of Parliament – the more Reformed Members of Parliament we have here the better, in my opinion, so... get involved with your local Conservative association, run for nomination, that sort of thing... Thank you so much for sharing. My final question would be, how do your Christian convictions come into play in everyday life on the hill as an MP? Arnold Viersen: Being a Christian on Parliament Hill is a luxury – it gives me a solid worldview, a launching pad from which to launch from for the issues I work on. It also allows me to see issues clearly, having a solid worldview. Being a Christian on the Hill also sometimes pigeonholes. People see you coming, which has its advantages as well – people, generally, because they know I'm a Christian, they think I'm going to think in a particular way, which often I do. So it opens the negotiation up on any particular issue; you have a good starting point, a good basis point Being a Member of Parliament is an extremely rewarding position, and one that you have to enjoy every day that you're here, because I've watched many Members of Parliament come and go, so make the most of it. Thank you so much for coming on to speak with me today. Be sure to go check out . Arnold Viersen: Yeah, check out my website and follow me on Facebook and Instagram so you can keep up with all the work that I'm doing in Parliament. Thanks for watching this episode. If you would like to support this work, please consider liking this video, subscribing to this channel, and sharing it with friends and family. For Reformed Perspective, I’m Alexandra Ellison in Ottawa....

Pro-life - Abortion, RPTV

RPTV: Katrina Marshall on being a pro-life advocate

TRANSCRIPT Welcome to Reformed Perspective, I'm Alexandra Ellison. Today we bring an inspiring video of a young woman who has been working to make a difference in the pro-life movement. Her journey has taken her to the heart of Canada’s capital, Ottawa, where pivotal decisions about the sanctity of human life are made. Through dedication and passion, she has been working tirelessly to reshape the way people view the value of every human life. Join us to learn more about her challenges and her commitment to a cause that has the power to change lives. Katrina Marshall: "I'm Katrina Marshall. I wanted to be in Ottawa. I was connected with a church here, sort of online during COVID, before I was actually in the city. And it's not too far away from my parents in Kingston." Marshall got involved in the pro-life movement after an internship with the Canadian Center for Bioethical Reform (CCBR), an educational human rights organization dedicated to making abortion unthinkable in Canada. Katrina Marshall: "I actually heard about the CCBR internship from an ARPA Canada newsletter – my brother shared the ad with me and I applied to their four-month internship March of last year, and I could not go back from that experience. So it's been kind of life-changing." As part of the internship Marshall spent the past two summers traveling around western Canada educating people about the truth of abortion. Katrina Marshall: "Basically we spend most of it doing pro-life street outreach and various projects. We do what we call 'Choice Chain' which is basically a public protest. We use abortion victim photography in all our projects, and we do things like door-knocking, and we do flyer delivery known as postcarding. So we are witnessing to a world that is often very pro-choice in our society, and we have conversations with people. Sometimes we'll just display the photos so that everyone knows what abortion actually looks like, and it's incredible. It's very hard work to do it all day, every day, but it's so rewarding. "It's hard to summarize, but you live for those conversations where they do end up changing their mind. They often end up sharing a lot, even a person, male or female, starts out completely supporting abortion, often by the end of the conversation, they will completely reject abortion in all circumstances, including the hard ones. So when that happens, it's almost hard to believe, because it's such a controversial topic. And often we see a lot of people who are really set in their ways, and who don't want to give us an inch. So when someone changes their mind it kind of just makes your day, sometimes even makes your week, depending on how it goes. But it's also definitely something that we get a lot of hate for, as you can probably guess. So we get a lot of verbal abuse, and things like that, but it is really worth it for the positive moments." Marshall spoke about the process of what having on-the-street conversations is like. Katrina Marshall: "Everyone is coming from a different place. So we always just try and ask them what they think about abortion, get their viewpoint. Often they'll bring up a hard circumstance where they think it is justified. Some people support abortion for any reason; some – in fact many, mostly – for limited reasons. So we always want to speak into that, into the specific situations they're discussing, and the issues they're raising. Not only that, but find out where their ideas are coming from, where that opinion was formed, and what's going on in their life, to really have compassion for them, and not just for the babies (as we are often accused of). "So if someone said they supported abortion for most situations, but not for casual encounters which they deem is irresponsible, I would ask them to consider a toddler in that same situation. If someone brought up the case of poverty, I would ask them if they would tell a mother who is in poverty, a mother of a 2-year-old, if she could kill that child to solve that problem. People are often taken aback: 'Of course not; of course we can't do that!' We use this common ground especially to begin. Then we use that analogy with the toddler and question, 'If we can't harm born humans, then why can we ever harm the same humans a few months earlier?'" Changing the general public's mind about abortion can be a path toward succeeding in political legislation. Katrina Marshall: "A lot of people have asked me why I do this specifically, and my answer is that there are so many people, especially pro-lifers, who don't recognize the value of educating the public on the issue of abortion, and how that plays into other arms of the pro-life movement, such as the political arm, or the pastoral crisis arm. If the public doesn't see that abortion is wrong then these other arms will not succeed. I see a large gap in the educational arm of the movement. What better way to save babies than to to talk with people who don't think that abortion is wrong at all, and in fact it's often celebrated." As a Christian, Marshall says that she can educate others about abortion as much as possible but at the end of the day it is Jesus Christ who saves lives. Katrina Marshall: "You can't change everyone's mind. When you realize what abortion is, how children are being starved to death, and ripped apart, and no one loves them, it's hard to recognize that sometimes you're the only one that will stand up for them. You're the only one that will love them, and honor their legacy, and it's hard to recognize that only God can change minds and only He can save lives in this work and you have to surrender that to Him." For Reformed Perspective, I'm Alexandra Ellison in Ottawa....

Indigenous peoples

Residential schools: the lesson that’s being lost

Our government needs to stop indoctrinating children ***** As history teachers never fail to remind us, “those who don’t learn their history are doomed to repeat it.” The double meaning is most often lost on their students – that if they don’t pull up their grades, they’ll be doing History 11 next year too. But as adults, it’s the original intent of this adage that we too often overlook: that if painful lessons of the past are forgotten, then we’re going to feel that same pain again. That’s especially true when it comes to the history of Canada’s Indigenous residential school system, where one of the key lessons is being lost. As Canadians have become aware, the history of the schools is a history of sins being committed against the country’s Indigenous peoples. The sins were of two different sorts, and both have been publicly acknowledged, especially in recent years. But sadly, only one of the two is being universally rejected. 1. Ideological indoctrination INDOCTRINATION CONDEMNED: Justice Murray Sinclair, who headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, called the residential schools, “cultural indoctrination centres.” (Picture credit: Art Babych / Shutterstock) The first sin involves the indoctrination of Indigenous children. It’s been more than a decade now since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) started traveling the country to collect testimonies about Canada’s residential schools. As a nation, we learned about how the schools had been intended to teach the children a government-approved ideology, even over the objections of their parents. When the TRC report was released in 2015, the chief justice of Canada’s Supreme Court, Beverley McLachlin, said the findings amounted to “cultural genocide.” The chair of the TRC, Justice Murray Sinclair, agreed with her assessment: "The evidence is mounting that the government did try to eliminate the culture and language of Indigenous people for well over a hundred years. And they did it by forcibly removing children from their families and placing them within institutions that were cultural indoctrination centres.” 2. Abuse It’s the second sin that’s dominated recent headlines. In May of 2021, news broke that “a mass grave filled with the remains of 215 Indigenous children, some as young as three…” had been discovered on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. The reaction across the country was immediate: impromptu memorials appeared, and flags were lowered and kept at half-mast for the next half year. Just a few days later a bill passed unanimously in the House and Senate that declared a new statutory holiday: Sept. 30 would be the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Today, eighteen months later, it’s starting to look like this mass grave might not be a grave at all – no bodies have been unearthed. But the initial reports made headlines across the country, and around the world, and in the process brought more attention to the physical harms that had been done within the schools’ walls. The TRC had interviewed more than 6,000 former students and staff, and their testimonies included thousands of instances of molestation and all sorts of physical abuse. The Kamloops mass grave might not be real (and as Mark Penninga notes further on in this issue, it is important to find out one way or the other), but the outrage it spawned brought renewed attention to very real sins of the past. A difference REPENTING OF PAST, BUT NOT PRESENT SINS: The caption for this June 1, 2021 stock photo noted it was part of a “memorial in tribute to 215 aboriginal children whose remains found in Residential School in Kamloops.” Though the 215 graves look like they won’t turn out to be graves at all, their “discovery” in Kamloops was still a pivot point for the country. It shifted attention from the ideological indoctrination that was behind the creation of these government schools to the physical and sexual abuse that were not. To state it another way, government schools have always been about ideological indoctrination, but it’s only with the residential schools that this indoctrination has been recognized for the wicked government overreach that it is. And then with Kamloops, the nation’s attention shifted. This shift of focus has allowed the government to get away with repenting only of its past abuse, even as its schools unrepentantly continue ideological indoctrination to this day. Two sins were committed in the residential schools, but our governments are only repenting of one. They are repenting of the past abuses, even as in the present they continue to use their schools to indoctrinate another generation. It’s the unrepentant and ongoing nature of this sin that makes it the more pressing to deal with. We need to recognize, too, that the problem isn’t simply that it continues, but that it’s built right into the system. The abuse was a matter of neglect, while the indoctrination was a matter of deliberate design. As League of Canadian Reformed School Societies coordinator John Wynia noted in a recent Real Talk episode: “In residential schools, parents of First Nations children had their kids taken away from them. The idea was to assimilate them into the ideology of Western society, so that they could fit, and that has had devasting impacts on the Indigenous community. And it is recognized as a terrible thing, but it will be interesting to see whether that lesson of history is applied to the sexual orientation and gender identity movement.” Will that lesson be applied? It hasn’t been to this point. The reason the lesson is being lost is because the connections between past and present aren’t being made. In a January 5 article the National Post’s Tom Blackwell highlighted a current and devasting example of how government schools are still deciding they know better than parents what’s best for their own children: “When a student in a Calgary Grade 6 class came out as transgender this year, the teacher made one thing clear to the other pupils: they mustn’t let slip their classmate’s new gender identity to her parents. The couple was not yet aware of the change. It seemed like an odd message for a group of 11-year-olds, says the mother of one of the pupils. ‘This upset me so much,’ she says. ‘Kids were being taught to lie to parents.’” Blackwell clearly doesn’t like what’s happening. But he didn’t make the connection to what happened in the residential schools. He didn’t recognize that this is just more of the same. The lesson is even being lost on the victims. Instead of opposing today’s “cultural indoctrination centres,” Indigenous groups are trying to use government schools to present their own ideology to students. In British Columbia, for example, university education students have been required to include one of nine “First Peoples Principles of Learning” in their lesson plans. Some of the principles are pretty mundane, more Dale Carnegie or Jordan Peterson-esque than anything specifically Native. “Learning involves patience and time.” Sure. Okay. But the very first principle reads: “Learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors.” Learning does not support the spirits and the ancestors. And pushing that on education students is a promotion of a Native spirituality, over and against Christianity. In November of last year, Canadian Reformed teachers in Western Canada came together for an “Indigenous Perspectives in Reformed Schools” conference and I was allowed to tag along. One of the speakers, Patti Victor, is a Pentecostal pastor, a member of the Stó:lō, and a First Nations advisor for Trinity Western University. I asked her what she thought about the government requiring more First Nations content in the curriculum, regardless of what parents might want. She conceded that the approach was less than ideal, but argued that sometimes less than ideal means have to be used to push forward what needs to be done. She didn’t recognize that this same sort of thinking – pushing a certain ideology even against parents’ wishes because it’s for the kids’ good – would have been a motivation for the residential schools too. She wasn’t making the connection either. Lost no more IT'S STILL HAPPENING: Sooke School District students on a public school system float in the 2019 Victoria Pride Parade. The government has never stopped using schools as cultural indoctrination centers. (Picture credit: Blake Elliot / Shutterstock) Our history teacher’s adage has proven itself true: Canada hasn’t learned from its history, so we’re doing it all again. Even when a government or First Nations leader expresses horror at how residential schools were used as “cultural indoctrination centres,” they don’t apply the lesson to what’s going on today. Of course, it’s no surprise that our governments aren’t making those connections. But what they won’t do, we can. When Sept. 30 comes again this year we can voice the lesson that’s been lost: that education is a God-given parental responsibility, and government will never be up to the task. To demonstrate the government’s inability, we can remember what happened in the residential schools, and make the connections no one else will, to the horrors going on in government schools today: the far from safe-sex that’s taught, and the gender confusion, depression, and anxiety that’s being fostered. We can explain that this is all a fruit of what the government’s schools are teaching about God. As R.C. Sproul put it: “Every education, every curriculum, has a viewpoint. That viewpoint either considers God in it or it does not. To teach children about life and the world in which they live without reference to God it to make a statement about God. It screams a statement. The message is either that there is no God or that God is irrelevant. Either way the message is the same.” For generations residential schools taught First Nations children that their parents were irrelevant. Today’s schools teach that God is irrelevant too. It all has to stop. Conclusion While “stop indoctrinating children!” is a good message, God’s people – and specifically our Reformed churches – can give the rest of our country so much more. God has gifted us with Christian schools, and while we aren’t going to open the doors to the rest of Canada, we can invite them to come take a look. They’ll need to: the government has been running its schools for so long, the average Canadian can’t even imagine how education could be done any other way. We can show them there is another way: parental schools do exist! We’ll need to invite our neighbors, friends, and community, to come see what a family and a community looks like when parents are taking up their God-given educational responsibilities. This isn’t about showing off our bricks and mortar, textbooks and curriculum. It’s about taking off the bushel and letting our light shine. Shy sorts that we are, we might not want to invite our neighbors’ scrutiny since we know we’re far from perfect. We’ll need to remember this really isn’t about us; what we’re showing off is that God’s ways are best, and how it’s only because we’re listening to Him that we have fruit to show. Our homes aren’t perfect, but they are calmer, our kids better adjusted, harder-working, less troubled, kinder and happier – they are a light! So we should invite the world to look, and tell them that it has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with our God. And, finally, we can invite our fellow Canadians to imagine what it would look like in their own families, communities, and in the country if parents everywhere took up their God-given responsibilities to shape and mold their own children. This is one of several articles we’ve published about Canada’s history with its Indigenous peoples, with the sum of the whole being even greater than the parts. That's why we'd encourage you to read the rest, available together in the March/April 2003 issue. Top picture is of a Kamloops Indian Residential School. Picture credit: ProPics Canada Media Ltd / iStockPhoto.com...

Indigenous peoples

A call to action: loving our Indigenous neighbors

Chief Dan George, author and actor, pictured on the set of "Kung-Fu" in 1973. Many Canadians, Christians included, are unfamiliar with the painful history of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Chief Dan George, born in North Vancouver and former leader of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, provides a summary of this history and its impact on Indigenous peoples, and he suggests a path to healing: "My culture is like a wounded stag that has crawled away into the forest to bleed and die alone. The only thing that can truly help us is genuine love. You must truly love us, be patient with us and share with us. And we must love you with a genuine love that forgives and forgets ... a love that forgives the terrible sufferings your culture brought ours when it swept over us like a wave crashing along a beach … with a love that forgets and lifts up its head and sees in your eyes an answering look of trust and understanding."1 Chief Dan George’s words, written 50 years ago, remain relevant today and it is especially important that we, as followers of Jesus Christ, consider the extent to which we know the history he references and the extent to which we are demonstrating understanding, genuine love, and compassion to our Indigenous neighbors, as fellow image bearers of our God. Pursuing the Truth God calls us to pursue knowledge, truth, and understanding. The emphasis on knowing rightly in Scripture means pursuing biblical truth, and truth about the reality of the world as God created it, but it also includes pursuing historical truth. So, what is the truth of the Indigenous experience in Canada? What are the sufferings that Chief Dan George references? A quick survey of Canadian history will suffice to provide some of the broad strokes. Shortly after Confederation, the Canadian government looked to realize the potential of the West and to fully realize a country from “sea to sea.” One of the challenges was Indigenous land title. Government officials entered into treaties with Indigenous peoples beginning in the 1870s when they realized that they could not afford to engage in “Indian wars” as were happening in the United States. At the time, the United States was spending $20 million on its Indian Wars and Canada’s entire budget was $20 million.2 A simple economic calculation swayed the government toward pursuing treaties rather than fighting. Interestingly, Indigenous peoples recognized that education was necessary to help their communities adjust to changing economic and social circumstances. As a result, they insisted that schools, teachers, and teachers’ salaries be included in the treaties negotiated in the 1870s. The early treaties called for on-reserve schools, and from Treaty Seven (1877) onward, the treaties committed the government to pay for teachers.3 There was no mention of residential schools when these treaties were signed – rather the focus was on the establishment of schools, on the reserves, for the instruction of Indigenous children. A misguided approach The Davin Report signaled the beginning of residential schools. Nicholas Floyd Davin was appointed by the federal government to investigate the boarding school system in the United States. In 1879, he submitted his report. He concluded that Indigenous peoples should not have a voice regarding the character and management of their schools. Rather, he recommended that Indigenous children be removed from their families and communities and that the federal government partner with Canadian churches to provide Indigenous children an education off-reserve.4 Christian churches – forgetting that God gives children to parents, and not to the State or Church5 – agreed to this arrangement and supported the removal of children from their families and communities to eradicate their culture, language, and beliefs. When these schools were established, their goal of dismantling Indigenous culture, language, spiritual beliefs, and practices quickly became evident. Residential schools were seen as preferable to on-reserve day schools because they separated children from their parents, who were certain to oppose such intentions. Residential schools were, therefore, not established to meet the government’s treaty obligations to provide schools (which were supposed to be on reserves), but to further its long-term aim of ending the country’s treaty obligations by assimilating its Indigenous population. The prejudice and racism that formed the foundation of the residential school system can be seen clearly through the words of those responsible for putting this system in place. Nicholas Floyd Davin stated: "… As far as the Indian is concerned, ittle can be done with him. He can be taught to do a little farming, and stock-raising, and to dress in a more civilized manner, but that is all … Indian culture is a contradiction in terms. They are uncivilized. The aim of education is to destroy the Indian." John A. Macdonald, Prime Minister during this chapter of Canadian history, similarly commented: "When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with its parents, who are savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who has learned to read and write." Additionally, he said: "It has been strongly impressed upon myself … that Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men." Duncan Campbell Scott, former Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs, revealed similar views when he opined: "Indian children in the residential schools die at a much higher rate than in their villages. But this does not justify a change in the policy of this Department, which is geared towards a final solution to our Indian problem." Throughout their history, residential schools were chronically underfunded, and the quality of education provided was exceedingly low (designed to ensure that it would only prepare students for menial work). The quality of the education provided has been described as: “inappropriate education, often only up to lower grades, that focused mainly on prayer and manual labour in agriculture, light industry such as woodworking, and domestic work such as laundry work and sewing.”6 Early calls for the schools’ end Already early in the 1900s, voices were calling for an end to the schools over death rates and poor health conditions. In 1908, federal Indian Affairs minister Frank Oliver concluded that the “attempt to elevate the Indian by separating the child from his parents and educating him as a white man has turned out to be a deplorable failure.”7 Similarly, Dr. Peter Bryce, Medical Inspector to the Department of the Interior and Indian Affairs (and, incidentally, also a Presbyterian elder) was vocal about the serious failings of these schools after extensively touring them. Known as the “whistleblower of residential schools,” Bryce wrote numerous reports and newspaper articles about the exceedingly high rates of disease and death found in these schools. Duncan Campbell Scott acknowledged these grim realities – in a review of the Department of Indian Affairs’ first forty-five years he wrote that “fifty percent of the children who passed through these schools did not live to benefit from the education they had received therein”8 – but he did nothing to change course. Instead, he forced Bryce out of office, and eliminated the position of medical inspector.9 In 1925, after being forced out of office, and after being ignored by government officials at all levels for nearly two decades, Bryce published The Story of a National Crime: An appeal to justice to the Indians of Canada. However, all his protestations, over several decades, fell on deaf ears because of a government, and a Canadian public, rife with prejudice. During the 100 year history… The number of residential schools rose and fell during its 100+ year history, but the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement formally recognized the existence of 139 such schools spread across Canada. The Roman Catholic Church operated most of the schools, up to 60 percent at any one time. The Anglican Church operated 25 percent of them, the United Church operated about 15 percent, and the Presbyterian Church ran 2 or 3 percent. Over 150,000 Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families by the RCMP between the establishment of these schools in the 1870s and the closure of the last school in the mid-1990s. While in the schools, students frequently encountered emotional, physical, sexual (schools knowingly hired convicted “child molesters”), and spiritual abuse as well as barbaric punishments (duly recorded by federal bureaucrats and officials with the churches that ran the schools) such as being shackled to one another, placed in handcuffs and leg irons, beaten with sticks and chains, and sent to solitary confinement cells for days on end.10 The Missing Children Project (formed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate student deaths at residential schools) recorded more than 4100 deaths, including more than 500 unidentified children (although the actual number is believed to be much higher). In some residential schools, 20 to 75 percent of students died. Pneumonia, influenza, beatings, injuries from being thrown, accidents, fire, drowning, infection, freezing deaths, a fall downstairs, lack of professional medical treatment, and poor overall health were among the many ways that students died.11 Students in front of the Metlakatla Indian Residential School, B.C., date unknown. (Picture credit: William James Topley. Library and Archives Canada, C-015037 / Flickr.com under a CC BY 2.0 license.) That is the truth of the Indigenous experience in Canada. Waves of suffering have swept over their communities – sadly, often at the hands of those who professed to follow Jesus Christ. The removal, by force, of Indigenous children from their homes to impose the Christian faith and eradicate their culture, language, and spiritual beliefs was a grievous evil masquerading as righteousness. The effects are still being felt today due to the resulting disintegration of families and communities. Successive generations of Indigenous children passed through these schools such that: "The impacts began to cascade through generations, as former students – damaged by emotional neglect and often by abuse in the schools – themselves became parents. Family and individual dysfunction grew, until eventually, the legacy of the schools became joblessness, poverty, family violence, drug and alcohol abuse, family breakdown, sexual abuse, prostitution, homelessness, high rates of imprisonment, and early death."12 As Jonathan Van Maren notes, one can only imagine how Dutch-Canadian communities, for example, would react to the same intrusion on parental and religious rights.  He comments, " children were forcibly removed by the state from their families for the express purpose of destroying their family bonds and eradicating their language and culture. I hail from the Dutch diaspora in Canada, and like many immigrant groups in our multicultural patchwork, our communities have remained largely culturally homogenous. Imagine if the Canadian government had decided, at some point, that Dutch-Canadian (or Sikh or Ukrainian or Jewish) culture needed to be destroyed for the good of the children in those communities, who needed to be better assimilated. Then, imagine if the government forcibly removed children as young as three years old from the parental home – state-sanctioned kidnapping. At school, they were deprived of their grandparents, parents, siblings, language, and culture – and told that their homes were bad for them. At the end of the experience, if the child survived disease, abuse, bullying, and loneliness, he or she would have been remade in the image of the state—and community bonds would have been severed and many relationships irrevocably destroyed. The children who died of disease were often buried on school grounds. That means many children were taken by the government – and their families simply never saw them again. Imagine, for just a moment, if that was your family. If you were removed from your family. If your children were removed from you. How might you feel about Canada if her government had, for generations, attempted to destroy everything precious to you? It is a question worth reflecting on."13 It is indeed worth reflecting on. And it is also worth reflecting on how you would feel about Christian churches if you’d known that they were an integral part of the establishment, and operation, of these schools. Additionally, it’s worth reflecting on whether religious and parental rights exist for everyone. If we, as Christians, insist on our religious and parental rights should we not protect those same rights for others? While some Indigenous people reported having positive experiences in these schools, the premise of these schools was seriously misguided and the evidence of the damaging effects of these schools is overwhelming. And it is important to note that this history is recent with many survivors of these schools still alive today. Functioning as ambassadors of Jesus Christ This begs the question: How should we respond as followers of Jesus Christ to these historical events and to the effects they have had on Indigenous people to the present day? As mentioned earlier, we first need to be knowledgeable about the history of Indigenous people in Canada. As followers of Jesus Christ, we cannot be content with holding opinions based on a lack of awareness. One of the ways we can pursue the truth is by educating ourselves and by listening, with humility and compassion, to the stories and experiences of Indigenous people. We should invite them into our homes, our schools, and our churches. We should build bridges of knowledge, understanding, and love with our Indigenous neighbors. In addition, we need to consider how we should function as ambassadors of Jesus Christ to a people who have experienced much injustice, prejudice, and racism. Augustine once commented that a Christian is a mind through which Christ thinks, a heart through which Christ loves, a voice through which Christ speaks, and a hand through which Christ helps. We do well to consider how we are exhibiting the mind, voice, heart, and hands of Jesus Christ to our Indigenous neighbors. Do they find us to be compassionate, full of grace, lovers of truth and justice or do they find in us a prideful and judgmental attitude and a lack of desire for justice and truth? As we read in Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” God is clear about the premium He places on the dignity and worth of every human being (whom He made in His Image) and the priority He places on justice and compassion. Finally, this chapter of history provides an opportunity to reflect on how the gospel message should be spread. In the case of residential schools, the gospel was spread through force, by contravening parental and religious rights, and was imposed upon Indigenous people. But we must remember that God’s Word should never be imposed; rather, it should be proposed. As Chuck Colson once stated, " seen as wanting to impose our views on people. Don’t let them tell you that. We don’t impose anything; we propose. We propose an invitation to the wedding feast, to come to a better way of living. A better way of life. It’s a great proposal."14 Ambassadors of Jesus Christ need to ensure that their witness draws others in to know more about Him who loves truth, justice, mercy, gentleness, compassion, and kindness. Much brokenness remains in Indigenous communities and Christians need to be part of the healing by truly exemplifying the love of Jesus Christ. This is one of several articles we’ve published about Canada’s history with its Indigenous peoples, with the sum of the whole being even greater than the parts. That's why we'd encourage you to read the rest, available together in the March/April 2003 issue. Dr. Mark W. Slomp is a Fellow with the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He is a Registered Psychologist and holds a senior leadership role in a Canadian post-secondary university. He is also the founder of “XP Counselling, Speaking & Writing” focused on the promotion of the flourishing life in Jesus Christ. He can be reached at [email protected] for inquiries about speaking, counseling (career and personal), and writing. Endnotes 1) North Shore News. (2019). “From the archives: Chief Dan George teaches understanding.” Retrieved from https://www.nsnews.com/nsn-50th/from-the-archives-chief-dan-george-teaches-understanding-3105824 2) The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2012). “They came for the children,” Winnipeg, Manitoba: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, p.7. 3) Ibid, p.9. 4) Ibid, p.10. 5) Plantinga, Cornelius. (2010). “Sin: Not the way it should be.” Retrieved from https://henrycenter.tiu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Cornelius-Plantinga_Sin.pdf 6) Hanson, E., Gamez, D., & Manuel, A. (2020). “The residential school system,” Indigenous Foundations. Retrieved from https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/the_residential_school_system/ 7) The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, p.17. 8) Scott, D. C. (1913). ”Indian affairs 1867-1912. In Canada and its Provinces” Vol.7, edited by A. Shortt and A. Doughty. Toronto: University of Edinburgh Press, p.615. 9) Titley, E. Brian. (1986). “A narrow vision: Duncan Campbell Scott and the administration of Indian Affairs in Canada,” Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, p.87. 10) Glavin, Terry. (2021). “Canadians have known about unmarked residential school graves for years. They just kept forgetting”. Retrieved from https://nationalpost.com/opinion/terry-glavin-canadians-have-known-about-unmarked-residential-school-graves-for-years-they-just-kept-forgetting 11) Loyie, L. (2014). “Residential schools with the words and images of survivors,” Indigenous Education Press, p.60. 12) Dion Stout & Kipling. (2003). “Aboriginal people, resilience, and the residential school legacy,” Ottawa: The Aboriginal Healing Foundation, p. i. 13) Van Maren, Jonathan. 2021. “Residential schools and the devastation of state-perpetrated family breakup”. Retrieved from ReformedPerspective.ca/residential-schools-and-the-devastation-of-state-perpetrated-family-breakup/ 14) Colson, Charles. (2015). “My final word: Holding tight to the issues that matter most,” Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, p.233....

Indigenous peoples

The Truth matters: analyzing the facts beneath “mass burials” at residential schools

This article was first published in the March/April 2023 issue. ***** "Searches for unmarked graves at the site of a former northern Ontario residential school have uncovered 171 ‘plausible burials’…” That’s what The Globe and Mail reported earlier this year, but it was back in 2021 that the discovery of alleged burial sites next to residential schools first made headlines. Nearly two years ago news agencies, in Canada and around the world, reported that a mass grave of 215 indigenous children had been detected, with the help of ground-penetrating radar, next to a former residential school near Kamloops, BC. Since then, hundreds more “plausible burials” have been alleged at other school sites across the country. But are these plausible burials actual graves? That’s a question worth asking because Truth is critical for pursuing justice and reconciliation. As the Heidelberg Catechism says about the ninth commandment, “I must not give false testimony against anyone…nor condemn or join in condemning anyone rashly and unheard.” Determining the facts about these alleged graves is necessary before making decisions about how to respond, including whether to take part in the resulting initiatives like the “every child matters” t-shirts, flags, and displays. Now that “Truth and Reconciliation Day” is a stat holiday in Canada, and the curriculum in some provincial education systems requires extensive coverage of Indigenous culture and residential schools, Christians can’t stand on the sideline but should be eager to “love the truth, speak and confess it honestly, and do what I can to defend and promote my neighbour’s honour and reputation” (Q&A 112 HC). Fall-out from the discovery In response to the 2021 media reports, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mandated that all flags of federal buildings fly half-mast (it took over five months before many public buildings and schools brought the flags back to the top of the pole, so that they could be lowered for Remembrance Day). Governments also committed $320 million to fund more research, and another $40 billion towards settlements with students of residential schools. The Pope issued a formal apology on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church (which oversaw the majority of residential schools) and followed that up with a visit to Canada in 2022. Another response was far more vindictive. Over 70 churches have been vandalized or burned to the ground in Canada since the “discovery” of these “mass graves.” The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called the situation “a large scale human rights violation” and Amnesty International demanded that those responsible for the “remains” that were “found” be prosecuted. Ironically, even China piled on to the calls for an investigation. Beyond the political response, the public rallied to show their concern with “every child matters” displays, often featuring 215 orange flags to remember the lives lost. The local Roman Catholic school that I walk past regularly has replaced its Canadian flag with an orange “every child matters” flag, and many of the storefronts in my community still featured the “every child matters” message, even over a year after it first became a news story. An "Every Child Matters" rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery on July 1, 2021. (Picture by GoToVan and licensed under a CC BY 2.0 license.) Digging for answers Solomon tells us that “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Prov. 18:17). Unfortunately, the Canadian mainstream media, academia, and politicians, refuse to ask basic questions to confirm the truth of these serious allegations. Why this lack of journalistic inquisitiveness?  It’s because few issues are as politically charged and culturally sensitive in Canada today as Indigenous affairs. When Senator Lynn Beyak attempted to defend some positive things accomplished at residential schools, the attacks were so swift and strong that she chose to retire rather than face imminent ejection from the Senate. But some smaller publications have dared tread where Canada’s mainstream press hasn’t. In an essay in The Dorchester Review titled, “In Kamloops, not one body has been found,” Jacques Rouillard, professor emeritus in the Department of History at the Université de Montréal, asked: “After months of recrimination and denunciation, where are the remains of the children buried at the Kamloops Indian Residential School?” In a detailed article on the topic by the New York Post, the local First Nations band confirmed that indeed, no bodies have yet been exhumed, and there are not plans to start digging or to share the report from the radar. The Post also revealed that these discoveries were made very quickly, and with little accountability. The band hired a young anthropologist named Sarah Beaulieu on May 17, 2021, who scanned the site from May 21-23, and the band announced its findings already on May 27. “Beaulieu said that remote sensors picked up ‘anomalies’ and what are called ‘reflections’ that indicate the remains of children may be buried at the site,” reported the Post. “My findings confirmed what Elders had shared,” Beaulieu said. “It’s an example of science playing an affirming role of what the Knowledge Keepers already recognized.” The “Knowledge Keepers” is a reference to the Indigenous elders, who pass on their history orally. Indeed, science can affirm oral history. Yet for it to be trustworthy, scientific inquiry includes a peer review process and investigations to substantiate a hypothesis. And the investigations made public to date aren’t helping with building trust. An in-depth report called “Graves in the Apple Orchard” has since been published anonymously by someone who knows the site and its history intimately. The report includes detailed maps and drawings of excavation work that was done at the residential school through the last century, and how it correlates with the sites of the “anomalies.” While anonymous sources are understandably suspect, this one cited his sources. The National Post’s Terry Glavin also spoke to the source and confirmed that he had some expertise in this area as “an architectural consultant who specializes in site inspections.” The source wished to remain anonymous because “his company does work with First Nations.” Some of the report’s findings include: “Since the rumours of a graveyard began, more than 30% of the orchard has been excavated. Archaeologists have been active on site since the 1980s, conducting excavations and monitoring construction work. Deep trenches have been cut straight across the orchard and a sewage lagoon was excavated from the entire southwestern quadrant. No graves have ever been discovered…. “In July of 2021, Dr. Beaulieu admitted that 15 ‘probable burials’ were actually ‘archaeological impact assessments, as well as construction.’ Evidently, well documented site work was not accounted for in her initial survey. Several of the remaining 200 ‘probable burials’ overlap with a utilities trench dug in 1998, as can be seen in drone photography captured after the GPR survey. Still other ‘probable burials’ follow the rout of old roads or correlate suggestively with the pattern of previous plantings, furrows and underground sewage disposal beds…. “Given that the apple orchard is deeply textured by centuries of human activity, how can it be said that Dr. Beaulieu’s targets are more ‘probably’ graves than probably other features of human activity? “With more than 30% of the orchard already excavated, is it probable that a staggering 200 burials were missed?” Professor Jacques Rouillard, again, in The Dorchester Review, detailed how quickly the allegations became a new narrative. “From an allegation of ‘cultural genocide’ endorsed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) we have moved to ‘physical genocide,’ a conclusion that the Commission explicitly rejects in its report. And all of this is based only on soil abnormalities that could easily be caused by root movements, as the anthropologist herself cautioned in the July 15 press conference.” At least one Indigenous scholar from BC is asking similar questions. The New York Post also spoke with Eldon Yellowhorn, professor and chair of the Indigenous Studies department at Simon Fraser University. A member of the Blackfoot nation, Yellowhorn grew up on a reserve where many of his family attended residential schools, before becoming an archeologist and anthropologist. He was hired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to search for and identify grave sites at residential schools since 2009. “I can understand why some people are skeptical about the Kamloops case,” Yellowhorn told the Post. “This is all very new. There’s a lot of misinformation floating out there. People are speaking from their emotions.” He added that “The only way to be certain is to peel back the earth and ascertain what lies beneath. We have not gotten to the point where we can do that. It’s a huge job.” Unfortunately, there seems to be little interest in substantiating just how “plausible” these graves are.  Justice and reconciliation require truth Nobody disputes that some children died while attending residential schools, and that these schools bear blame for some of these deaths. The accompanying story from the Lejac residential school in 1937 is an example of this. But that story also shows that when four children tragically died after trying to run away back home in the freezing cold, the matter was investigated swiftly and thoroughly, and the school was appropriately chastised. The story was shared across the country. An effort was made to discover the truth and to enact justice. It is possible that some of the “anomalies” detected by the ground-penetrating radar are indeed burial sites. And it is also possible that some unmarked graves hide injustices that were perpetrated against Indigenous children at these schools. The many proven examples of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic leaders (as well as those from other denominations) have legitimately eroded the trust of the public towards this church’s care for children. The 2007-2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a nine-year effort by the Government of Canada to travel across the country, listen to 6,500 witnesses, and facilitate reconciliation with former students and their communities. It also led to the creation of the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation, an archive of the data obtained during the commission. It found 49 children who died between 1915 and 1964 at the Kamloops residential school. Records have been found of 35 of these students, 24 of whom were buried at their homes and four in Kamloops. Although the data is not complete, it is a far cry from allegations of hundreds of missing children. Scripture speaks strongly in defence of the vulnerable, including the widow, orphan, and the immigrant. The young boys and girls at residential schools, separated from their parents, and under intense pressure to abandon their culture, definitely qualify as vulnerable. And Christians of all kinds now publicly recognize that it was wrong, even wicked, for the government to forcibly separate children from their parents. But the fact that evil was committed at these schools does not mean that the only appropriate response to new allegations can ever be an assumption of further guilt and evil at these institutions. In this broken world, it doesn’t take long to find evidence of abuse and other forms of evil in most institutions. It is then reasonable to compare and assess. (For example, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission findings, the death rate in residential schools between 1921 and 1950 is twice as high as the general population, though between 1950 and 1965 it was comparable to the Canadian average for youth age five to fourteen.) Truth and reconciliation are laudable objectives that align with Scripture. The truth should be welcomed, and the facts acknowledged. When necessary, this should lead to an acknowledgment that claims made were wrong, and efforts made towards restitution and repentance. When truth is verified, trust is built, and a foundation exists for genuine justice and reconciliation. To go deeper: Find an extensive analysis by Terry Glavin in his May 26, 2022 National Post article “The year of the graves: How the world’s media got it wrong on residential school graves.” This is one of several articles we’ve published about Canada’s history with its Indigenous peoples, with the sum of the whole being even greater than the parts. That's why we'd encourage you to read the rest, available together in the March/April 2003 issue....

Assorted

How to live your best life: knowing, and participating in, the greatest (true) story

I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a story-teller. ― G.K. Chesterton ***** There’s a phrase in popular culture – “I’m living my best life.” It captures the human desire to experience a fulfilling life. Advertising companies, film industry executives, recording artists, and popular culture teach us that the best life is one with white teeth, exciting vacations, the newest car, and living a life true to oneself. They are pitching a vision and story of how the best life can be obtained and are inviting us – enticing us – to run after the storylines they present. But there is a remarkable verse in the Bible -- one that speaks about “living our best life.”  It is a countercultural verse that offers a doorway into understanding how to truly flourish. John 10:10 tells us that Jesus Christ came “that we may have life and have it to the full.” Life to the full – our best life – we are told, is found in Jesus Christ. The “best life” that Jesus promises is a reality for followers of Jesus Christ through the eternal life He promises, and we can begin to experience it already in this life too. How can we begin to live, already now, the “life to the full” that Jesus promises? When we know, and step into, the only real and true story – the glorious story that fits with reality – that God Himself is writing. When we say that we want to “live our best life” we are saying that we want our lives to be a beautiful story filled with adventure, love, purpose, meaning, connection, and joy. What God tells us in John 10:10 is that the only story that will fulfill all those longings is our participation in the story He is writing. What is the story that God is writing? It can be divided into four broad “chapters,” with each chapter providing insights vital to the well-lived, flourishing life. The four broad chapters are: Creation Fall Redemption Restoration The following will explore each of these chapters, and their implications for the flourishing life. 1. Creation Last summer I caught a beautiful cutthroat trout while flyfishing. Knowing others would never believe I caught such a large fish without photographic proof (I’m known to be slightly enthusiastic about things), I spent a few moments taking pictures of the fish. When I put it back in the water to release it, it floated upside down and drifted deep into a large pool of water. I felt a tinge of sorrow that the fish was seemingly dying, and I felt more than a tinge of dread that I would have to wade armpit deep into the cold water to try retrieve and revive it. Thankfully, the fish spared me the frigid inconvenience when it caught a second wind, and with a flash of its tail, was gone. Fish thrive in water, but they die quickly when they are out of their element. This is similar for human beings. We only thrive when we live according to how we have been designed. Thankfully, God’s opening creation “chapter” answers many of the biggest questions of life, such as: Who are we? Why are we here? And for what purposes have we been designed? It is in understanding the God-given answers to these foundational questions that we flourish. The Bible teaches us that living in certain ways leads to death and living in other ways leads to life. As we read in Jeremiah, “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (2:13). Elsewhere we read: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Prov. 16:25). Some paths to the “best life” are empty vessels, but others are fountains of living waters. The path to life involves, in part, living according to our design. So what are we told in the creation story about our identity, design, and purpose? We are told that we are created in God’s image with dignity and worth, and we are designed to walk with God, to pursue holiness, and to seek His honor and glory above all. We are created male and female and to live within these identities as they have been assigned to us individually by God. We are created to live in community and to seek the welfare of others. We are designed to form and fill the earth and to continue the creative work of the Ultimate Creator. The creation “chapter” tells us that God created the world beautiful and good, and He created you and me in His image and with a glorious purpose.  We thrive when we live according to God’s design for us and pursue the truth, beauty, and goodness found in Him. 2. Fall The next chapter, on Man’s fall into sin, also answers some of the big questions of life. It explains why the world is not as it could be, or should be, and where the solutions to this reality are found. Unless your head is buried in the sand it is hard to miss the brokenness of this world. As Malcolm Muggeridge once noted, the depravity of man is the most empirically verifiable reality (and ironically, also one of the most intellectually resisted facts). And this brokenness is found both within and outside of us. To consider the extent of the brokenness within, reflect on how hard it is to forgive. God tells us that He forgives us so completely that He “removes our sins as far as the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12) and yet how often do we not hold tightly to grudges. As for the brokenness outside of us, consider that historians generally agree that there has not been a single year in human history that did not contain war (which they describe as a conflict causing more than a thousand deaths). Not one solitary year in the thousands of years of human existence has been filled with universal peace. How can a person flourish when there is so much misery in the world? Simply put, the beauty of the gospel story is that it helps us understand the brokenness and put it into the context of a larger story. The Fall “chapter” gives us context because it rightly describes the problem so that we can apply the right solution. In my work as a psychologist, I have routinely observed the need to explore, in detail, the nature of the problems and issues people present to me because it is only when the precise nature of the problem is understood that an effective remedy can be applied. And this is true of any work. My son is a commercial refrigeration mechanic and the favorite aspect of the job for him is problem-solving customers’ issues – fully exploring why their refrigeration equipment is not functioning properly so that he can ensure that the solution he applies will, in fact, address the heart of the issue. In a similar way, to have the best chance of flourishing, you must understand the nature of the problems you face in your life (in your relationships, workplace, church, or family, etc.) so that you can gain proper perspective and apply appropriate solutions. The Fall chapter illustrates how sin has destroyed the shalom that God provided in the creation chapter. Sin in our hearts, and in the hearts of others, does not surprise us (and when it is a surprise it often produces traumatic effects) but it directs us to the only comfort and solution as found in Jesus Christ. We need to humble ourselves before God (and others) and seek the solutions to our brokenness (and to the brokenness around us) in Him and in His revealed Word. Only God can redeem our suffering and pain. At the same time, we can live in the hope that the brokenness in and around us is not the enduring reality of the world, and neither is the resulting pain. Goodness, beauty, and truth are the ultimate reality. 3. Redemption Recently, I was talking with another psychologist about the topic of flourishing, and he said something striking to me – “flourishing is knowing that you are always okay.” I’ve thought a lot about his comment since then and even though I do not know whether he is a practicing Christian or not, there is a great deal of truth in this statement. There is an unshakeable peace in your soul when you know that, despite your feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, uncertainty, sin, and suffering you are ultimately always okay. Without such bedrock assurance human beings are prone to anxiety, depression, and insecurity. But the redemption chapter tells us that, in Jesus Christ, you are always okay, and you are always, completely, loved. Research in psychology has demonstrated that children can only thrive when they have a secure base of attachment (called attachment theory). If children feel safe and loved, they present as calm and curious and willing to take risks and explore the world around them. But if children feel unsafe and unloved, they present as anxious, hostile, and withdrawn. Human beings need a secure attachment to flourish. The redemption “chapter” describes the rock, the foundation, the refuge, the secure attachment of our lives. In Christ we are completely safe and deeply loved. In Stumbling Towards Eternity, Josh White writes, “My Christian life did not begin to open up until I truly believed in the depth of my being that on my worst day, Jesus is crazy about me. It’s not just Jesus but the triune God who loves and who is love.” Or as Tim Keller wrote in The Meaning of Marriage: “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” As Os Guinness has rightly noted, “the ultimate reality behind the universe is love” – a God that loves so deeply that He died for your sins, dear reader, and mine. When we let that reality sink deep into our hearts and minds, peace and joy enter our souls. And peace and joy are foundational to flourishing. The redemption “chapter” tells us that in Jesus Christ, we are deeply loved – and nothing can separate us from that love – “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation” (Romans 8:38-39). Flourishing comes from embracing this reality, loving others as we have been loved, and living a life of thankfulness and gratitude – two practices secular psychologists have overwhelmingly demonstrated to correlate with the flourishing life. 4. Restoration Victor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, and eminent psychologist, once famously wrote that “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how.'” But an even bigger truth is that those who know the end of the story can bear with any what. My wife is a big reader. But she has a reading habit that I have never understood. She reads the final pages of a book before she begins reading the first pages. She likes to know how things work out in the end before she immerses herself in the drama of the story. There is great comfort in knowing the end of a story during the ups and downs of the narrative. The same is infinitely truer of our own life stories. Not long ago, several people were killed in a Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee by a deranged shooter. One of the children was the daughter of a local pastor, Chad Scruggs. Just weeks before his daughter was murdered, he preached a sermon on John 11, and he focussed on the assurance found in that passage that “the middle of a hard story looks different when you know how the story ends.” That perspective must have provided him with incredible comfort in the wake of the personal tragedy he experienced. That is the beauty of the gospel. Despite what we may suffer in our lives because of the brokenness both within us, and outside of us, we know how the story ends and we do not “grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13). By God’s grace, we already know the end of the story that God is writing – God is “working to make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). The title of Daniel Nayeri’s beautiful (and funny) book, Everything Sad is Untrue, could be an alternative title to the restoration “chapter” as it conveys the power of Revelation 21:5 in supplying hope, courage, joy, and peace to our lives – even amid the most difficult circumstances. In his book, Daniel tells an account of his families’ experience of persecution in Iran, and the hardships they faced, due to his mother’s conversion to Christianity. Daniel marvels at the strength his mother displayed despite the hardships she faced, and he writes, “I don’t know how my mom was so unstoppable despite all that stuff happening. I dunno. Maybe it's anticipation. Hope. The anticipation that the God who listens in love will one day speak justice. The hope that some final fantasy will come to pass that will make everything sad untrue. Unpainful. That across rivers of sewage and blood will be a field of yellow flowers blooming. You can get lost there and still be unafraid. No one will chase you off of it. It's yours. A father who loves you planted it for you. A mother who loves you watered it. And maybe there are other people there, but they are all kind. Or better than that, they are right with each other. They treat each other right. If you have that, maybe you keep moving forward.” Knowing that “everything sad will one day be untrue,” that across the “rivers of sewage and blood will be a field of yellow flowers blooming,” that one day all injustices will be made right, every disability will evaporate, every hurt will be removed, and every tear will be wiped away (Rev. 21:4), provides a hope that will not fail. Without hope, people perish. The psychologist referenced earlier, Victor Frankl, observed that this was the case in the horror of the death camps of WWII as well. Those without hope died much sooner than those with hope. God did not leave us without the kind of hope that sustains and strengthens even in the darkest circumstances. God assures us that: “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Is. 40:31) As J.C. Ryle has said about hope, “I am more convinced as I grow older, that to keep our eyes fixed on the second coming of Christ is the secret of Christian peace.” The flourishing life is internalizing, amid the hurts and pain we experience in this life, what we are promised in 1 Cor. 2:9: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” – “a field of yellow flowers blooming.” God is making all things new and He will restore the shalom of paradise. Even more, He invites us to participate in His beautiful work of restoration by being reconcilers and by being agents of His justice, mercy, love, truth, and goodness in all the roles and circumstances in which He places us. In Chuck Colson’s eloquent words, “In every action we take, we are doing one of two things: we are either helping to create hell on earth or helping to bring down a foretaste of heaven. We are either contributing to the broken condition of the world or participating with God in transforming the world to reflect his righteousness.” (How Now Shall We Live?) Participating in God’s work brings life to the world around you, but it also brings life to your own heart, soul, and mind. Some final words To summarize, I want to share one last important thought about finding the flourishing life in Jesus Christ. I recently listened to a woman, Gianna Jessen, who survived an abortion attempt in 1977 tell her story. She described how doctors used a saline solution to try to end her mother’s pregnancy – and her life. She endured this saline “bath” for 18 hours in the womb. But miraculously, she survived. However, because of the method of abortion used, she was born with cerebral palsy due to lack of oxygen. She made the point that often children with disabilities or deformities are aborted due to the justification that they will not have a high quality of life (or any form of the “best life”). But then she also said something that served to fundamentally enrich my understanding of the flourishing life. She said (a rough paraphrase of her words): “Do you know what it is like to live with cerebral palsy every day and struggle with every movement? It means that you must depend upon God at every moment. And do you know what it means when you must depend upon God at every moment and for every movement? It means that you become a friend of God. And do you know what it means when you are a friend of God? It means that you have the highest quality of life.” God, in His grace, has invited us to be a part of the greatest story ever told. Knowledge of, and participation in this Great Story of truth, goodness, and beauty, is the “fountain of living water” and the “life to the full.” Accept no substitutes. Instead, know this story deeply. Let it permeate your heart and mind and participate in it with all your being. Even amid brokenness, you will be able to say that you are “living your best life.” Dr. Mark W. Slomp holds a senior leadership role in a Canadian post-secondary university. He is a Registered Psychologist and is also the founder of XP Counselling, Speaking & Writing focused on the promotion of the flourishing life, and ambassadorship, in Jesus Christ. He can be reached at [email protected] for inquiries about speaking, counselling (career and personal), and writing....

Churches’ food drive bears fruit, and births a challenge

Evangelism committees and home mission groups sometimes struggle with how can we show God’s love to our neighbors. Members of five Reformed churches in Dunnville, Ontario gave a great example of God’s love in action recently, when they organized their first annual “OneChurch Food Drive.” They collected 8,900 pounds of donated groceries, along with over $2,600 in cash and checks for their local Salvation Army food bank. Bruce DeBoer, one of the drive’s organizers, was inspired after meeting Mike Bosveld, who had helped organize food drives among churches in the greater Brantford area. Bruce and his wife Helena jumped in with both feet, calling the home mission committees of other Reformed churches locally, who in turn organized volunteers from their membership. Food banks often experience lighter donations in the summer months, but there remains a need among many of our neighbors who have a hard time getting by without some supplemental groceries. Members from Canadian Reformed Churches at Attercliffe, Dunnville East, and Dunnville West, and members from the Dunnville URC and the Dunnville CRC, knocked on almost every door in town – nearly 2,700 in total! – a week ahead of the drive. They were letting families know that they would be back to collect any donations on the scheduled Saturday. If they couldn’t speak to the residents, they left a flyer letting folks know about the drive, and what kind of items would be helpful to donate. Word quickly spread about this initiative, helped by articles in the local newspaper. On the morning of the drive, 85 volunteers, including little ones and seniors, met to divide up the city section by section, and make their way out to collect from their neighbors. Volunteers were amazed at the generosity of the community: they gathered enough food and donations to supply the needs of the food bank for over two months! The Food Bank’s Facebook page effusively thanked the volunteers: “We are speechless right now!... To our beautiful town and community, because of your generosity, the amazing volunteers and organizers of the First Annual OneChurch Food Drive, we now have 8,873 pounds of food and $2,685 raised. This I believe has beat our old record! We are so blessed and so thankful for everyone who showed up today and those who organized this amazing event!” Besides collecting food and funds, the Food Drive gave Christians an opportunity to interact with their neighbors and establish some relationships, while raising awareness about Reformed churches as a place where God’s people are called to show love and mercy to one another and their neighbors. Door knockers were also able to find out where there were people who could use help down the road, perhaps with a meal at Thanksgiving, or with a friendly knock on the door to check up on them. “This could be a very powerful way for our churches across the country to make an impact on their communities,” said DeBoer, who hopes that this can become an annual event for Dunnville. He and Helena have volunteered to assist the first group in each province and state that would like to do a food drive. “We can host their inaugural meeting (virtual or in person), and work with them to make a successful drive in their community. We can share access to a ‘do’s and don’ts’ handbook with examples of effective flyers, lists of what kinds of items to collect, and other best practices, to ensure a successful event. Our only ask in return is that anyone helped pays it forward by encouraging other communities around them to do likewise!” Bruce DeBoer can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (416) 660-3172....

Assorted

Learning to be anxious for nothing

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7 When does care and concern cross a line and become a problem? I found the answer to this question the hard way: a painful and confusing burnout about six years ago, followed by years of learning, counseling, and slow change. My journey isn’t over yet, but I now see how I could have prevented much pain if I had truly understood, and repented from, my misguided response to worries, fears, and anxieties prior to that burnout. Knowing just how prevalent anxiety has become, also among Christians, I’m sharing my story here with the hope that it will help others in their walk with the LORD. Worry, care, and concern In a two-part podcast on the topic, biblical counselor Dr. Greg Gifford explains that the Bible uses the same Greek word in three different ways to describe anxiety. One sort is warned against, but in the other two instances a form of anxiousness is encouraged. So, first, in Matthew 6, we read Jesus warning us: “…do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will anxious about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Then in 1 Corinthians 12:25, Paul explains that God composed the body with many different parts so that the members “may have the same care for one another.” The word he uses here for “care” is the same that is translated as “anxious” in Matthew 6 – in other words we are being encouraged to be “anxious for one another.” In Philippians 2:20, Paul uses this word again, but in another context. Writing from prison, Paul shares with the Philippians that he will be sending Timothy to check in on them “for I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.” It is clear from this passage and more like it, that there can also be a godly form of concern for others. This makes sense to our everyday experience as we walk alongside our loved ones through health concerns and other trials. We see in these two passages that caring is important and concern can be appropriate. So, when does a line get crossed from the caring that is encouraged to the anxiety that should be avoided? Confused and humbled They didn’t teach me this line in school, and I was slow to learn it in the school of life. Shortly after I was married, my responsibilities increased quickly. In a span of ten or twelve years, I went from looking after myself to being responsible for a family of eight. And I went from being a student, to starting and overseeing an organization with about fifteen staff, spread across the country. My interest and care for political developments in Canada turned into a responsibility to provide faithful leadership to the largest Christian political advocacy organization in the country. At the same time, my wife and I took up a host of extra-curricular roles in our church, school, and community, from serving on boards to teaching catechism. And we were also trying to turn a wild piece of land and its dilapidated house into a good family home and investment opportunity. I did these things because I cared, and I had concerns. Each facet on its own was well worth caring for, or being concerned about. We held things together quite well until a family tragedy came unexpectedly. Amidst the grieving, my wife was expecting another child, and I had concerns about the delivery in light of how previous ones went. Through all of this, I felt great pressure to press on as a leader at work, in the home, and on various other files. But as hard as I tried, as the days ticked closer to the delivery day, God humbled me by shutting down my body. My muscles tightened up to the point where I had a hard time walking the 30 steps to my office. I was nauseous every day, my body twitched, my eyes hurt, my vision declined, my face and head became numb, it hurt to stand and it hurt to sit. I got to the point where I couldn’t face another day of work. If you asked me at that time if I felt anxious, I likely would have brushed it off. Anxiety wasn’t really relevant to me, or so I thought. I figured that I had some inconvenient health issues. When my doctor had tests done and told me that I needed to take a break from stress, I was confused. And when I asked for a break from work, my board and colleagues seemed no less confused. It was humbling to go from being the leader, always looking out for others, to not being able to report for duty. And it was also humbling to not really understand what was happening, and what it would take to get back to “normal.” Although I was back at work relatively soon and did my best to carry on with all my regular duties, it took me more than five years, and plenty of stumbles, to begin to understand the problem from a physical, emotional, and spiritual perspective. The change has also been slow and will likely be a life-long journey. I’m very grateful for a loving family who walked this journey with me, giving regular encouragement, and grateful as well for a good Christian counselor. Clearly a line had been crossed from godly caring and concern to something harmful. But I didn’t understand it. Wasn’t I supposed to care and be concerned? The cul-de-sac of ungodly anxiety On his “Transformed” podcast Dr. Gifford explains that Scripture makes it plain that it is possible to care and be concerned in an ungodly way. We do that when we aren’t truly entrusting our cares and concerns to the LORD, the only One who can truly do something about them. He goes further and explains: “this isn't a just a disorder. This isn't a physiological issue of my body. Anxiety is connected to my trust and faith in the Lord. And Jesus clearly identifies anxiety as being wrong and sinful.” Here Dr. Gifford is referencing Matthew 6 where Jesus urges His people “do not worry about your life.” He also references Philippians 4 where we are told to “be anxious for nothing.” I should note here that although Dr. Gifford calls this kind of anxiety sinful, other biblical counselors respectfully disagree. Edward T. Welch devotes an entire article to the topic, entitled, “Fear is not sin,” explaining from Scripture that anxiety, like grief, isn’t itself sinful. Although Jesus uses an imperative form in Matthew 6 – He tells us “do not be anxious” – it isn’t meant to be a command. We do the same thing when we tell a child “don’t be afraid,” which is meant as an encouragement, not an order. Welch believes Jesus is offering comfort, similar to when He says “do not weep.” So the fact that we struggle with anxiety itself isn’t a sin, according to Welch. Rather, what matters is what we do with it. Although Welch makes a valid point, which can be comforting to Christians who struggle with chronic anxiety, the added nuance of definitions doesn’t take away from Dr. Gifford’s important explanation of where I, and many others, go wrong with our anxiety. Gifford contrasts two kinds of roads: a cul-de-sac and a thoroughfare (a main road that passes on through a town or city). An ungodly anxiety is like a cul-de-sac where traffic stops and stays – all my cares and concerns terminate on me. “How am I going to fix this? What am I going to do about it? Okay, I need to save more. I need to work harder. I need to get up earlier. I need to sleep less. I can do this.” Those that struggle with anxiety often also struggle with the desire to be in control. That is true for me too. But how is this a faith issue? In answer, Dr. Gifford explains the difference between a formal confession and a functional confession. “Formally we would say, ‘I know God is in control.’ Formally, I know that prayer is important in Scripture. But functionally, I’m in control. When I'm trying to discern the difference between a concern and anxiety, I have to be able to evaluate are all of these cares and concerns terminating with me, and that's why I'm worried.” Not every type of anxiety is a faith issue or something to be repented of. God created us good, and that includes the functions of our bodies that make us aware of, and respond to, stress. There is a time for adrenaline to rule (like running away from a bear)! There are also physiological disorders that aren’t a result of choices being made. Anxiety can also result from experiencing trauma in the past. And there is a general brokenness in creation as a result of sin which makes it difficult for us humans to respond to challenges the way we want to (as Paul says in Romans 7 “for what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do”). So I’m not suggesting that all those who struggle with anxiety ought to repent and have a change of heart. However, I also believe that there are many more like me, who are guilty of trying to carry cares and concerns that God never intended us to carry. Thoroughfare to God Dr. Gifford contrasts this cul-de-sac of ungodly anxiety with a thoroughfare. Instead of our cares and concerns terminating with us in the cul-de-sac, we take them to the LORD and trust Him with them. This is exemplified in 1 Peter 5:6-7: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” If we compare our concerns and cares to a big stone that we are rolling, this passage calls us to roll that stone over to the LORD, realizing that we aren’t able to carry the weight ourselves. In contrast, He is the good, wise, and all-powerful God who can do this. So the line between care, concern, and ungodly anxiety isn’t actually about caring too much or being concerned too much. Rather it is the difference between trusting ourselves to deal with the weight, or bringing it straight to the LORD, who alone is able to carry it. It isn’t enough to confess this. It has to be done daily. If we aren’t quite convinced yet, take to heart these words from Dr. Gifford: “When you have cares and concerns you bring them to the Lord, ultimately. But when you have anxiety, you are the Lord ultimately. You functionally take his place and become God. You become the Sustainer and you become the one that is providentially working all things according to your end. And it is an overwhelming task. “No wonder why some of us are run through, because we are riddled with anxiety. That's what it's like when we try to do God's job. We try to be God and we can't, and we're overwhelmed. You can actually have panic attacks where it feels like you're suffocating, because of too much anxiety in your life. It feels like you're having a heart attack. What is that saying? It's even your own body saying that you can't be God. And it's not always an exciting way for your body to tell you that. You can't be God. If you've ever experienced severe anxiety, and you started to have chest pains, it's a reminder that you're finite, and God is infinite. You're small, and God is big.” I‘m thankful that God literally stopped me in my tracks, not allowing me to live the way I was any longer. The physical symptoms hurt, and that stage was humbling, but it was what I needed to prompt lasting change. Opposite and equally bad As with many challenges in life, it is easy to swing too far in opposite directions. In response to anxiety, Dr. Gifford identifies two extremes. The first is to legitimize our anxiety, telling ourselves that our worries are valid because we really are the center of the universe, we really are God. “I have to do everything. If I don’t do it, no one else is going to do it for me. I have to grind in this season of life.” In response to this we can take to heart God’s Word in 1 Corinthians 4, where we are reminded that everything we have is a gift from the LORD. There is nothing we have that we didn’t receive. So none of us can say that it is really up to me. God is the one who is in charge, and He is the one who blesses. If we believe this, our actions need to prove that we trust Him to care and provide. The other extreme is to simply not care, or do what we can to numb the pain. When the pressure goes up, it is tempting to hide, escape, or distract ourselves. We do this with vacations, reading, TV, hobbies, shopping, playing video games, or maybe even substance abuse. Yet we know from Scripture that the Christian life isn’t about being care-free and happy. Being a faithful spouse, sibling, parent, colleague, boss, employee, elder, deacon, church member, and citizen will expose us to some troubling situations. We need to be present, to care, and to act. Going back to Dr. Gifford’s analogy of the cul-de-sac and thoroughfare, many of us would prefer to not even be next to a road at all. We would rather be living off-grid, in the peaceful countryside, looking after ourselves and a few others that we are comfortable with. Yet this ignores the great command to love our neighbor as ourself. So how do we care and be concerned without becoming a cul-de-sac? Some remedies for anxiety In the height of my burnout, the first help I received was very practical and simple. My doctor told me to take two Tylenol Arthritis pills every certain number of hours. Tylenol? It wasn’t what I expected. Yet it did wonders for relaxing my muscles. And some progress in the right direction was a huge encouragement. Our bodies are complex, and self-diagnosing through the internet will likely cause more anxiety than help. I recommend starting with a visit to a trustworthy doctor. The second stage of help came from a different kind of prescription – to the AnxietyCentre.com website. The wealth of information behind the paywall was incredibly helpful and also encouraging to me. I learned there that anxiety is something that is fully treatable. I also saw how the symptoms I had were all directly related to anxiety. This gave me hope that change was possible. But learning alone isn’t always enough to bring the change that is necessary. It was quite a long time later, after seeing recurrences of symptoms, that I knew I needed more help and signed up for counseling with a psychotherapist. It is hard to over-state the help that came from talking with someone who both understood anxiety and was willing to journey with me as I tried to overcome it. In the following years, I grew in understanding through more books and resources. But I also slowly started to see the spiritual roots to my struggles with anxiety. As long as I was going to be in this world, it was evident that I would have to deal with stress. Although I went to my LORD through this journey, I wasn’t experiencing the relief that Jesus says is possible when transferring my burdens to Him. Why? With time, I began to see that I was taking myself far too seriously, and not taking God seriously enough. Time and again I was living as a cul-de-sac instead of a thoroughfare. A four-step approach Now, over six years after being humbled by burnout, I can testify to the truth and importance of Dr. Gifford’s four-step remedy for anxiety. As helpful as medication, counseling, books, and breaks may be, I need to start with getting things right with God. 1. Repent The first step, says Dr. Gifford, is to repent. That sounds harsh, but over time I recognized the truth of this in my own situation (though as I mentioned earlier, there are some forms of anxiety that are not sin issues and that need a different response). “This is a sin issue, not an illness, not a disease, not a personal tendency that I have.” How often to do we hear this, even in the church? It wasn’t until quite recently in my journey that someone had the courage to gently rebuke me about how I was dealing with my cares and worries. “I don't repent of an illness. I don't repent of the flu. I repent of sins in my life and so should you” shares Dr. Gifford. Although this may sound harsh, it actually brings great hope and encouragement. There is a remedy to sin – Jesus Christ has made full atonement. “Step one is that I repent of anxiety, I go to the Lord and say something like, Lord, please forgive me for worrying when You are in complete control. Please forgive me for thinking that I can do Your job, and I can't, would You help me to exhibit greater trust in You?” 2. Remember the nature of God The next step, says Dr. Gifford, involves taking to heart the nature of God. In Matthew 6, Jesus doesn’t stop after telling us not to be anxious or worry. He tells us to look at the birds of the air. They don’t sow or reap or gather in barns, yet our heavenly Father feeds them. He also tells us to look at the lilies in the field, and how they grow. “If God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” The point is that when we understand that God is all knowing and all powerful, our anxiety will slowly go away. “There's a sense in which I don't try to take control of something when I know someone more competent than myself is in control. I know that they got it. And I'm actually thankful they got it. I don't have to worry about it.” illustration by Stephanie Vanderpol Dr. Gifford drives the point home: “When you understand the character of God, it crushes your anxiety, it suffocates it in the sense that you say, well, I know God's good. And I know God's in control. And I know God knows. He's omniscient. Well, then why in the world would I ever try to step in and take His place?” 3. Take our cares to God Step three is to take our cares to God so that they don’t become anxieties. In 1 Peter 5, we are told to cast all our anxieties on Him, for He cares for us. The simple truth is that when we have anxiety, it is because we are trying to do the carrying ourselves. It stops with us – like the cul-de-sac. Taking our cares to God involves pinpointing what exactly we are anxious about. What is keeping us up at night? It will be different things for different people. Perhaps a loved one, or a biblical counselor, can help us put a finger on what it is. Then we can ask what it means to entrust this thing to the LORD, and what I need to hear from Him. “Entrust it to the LORD” is something we hear all the time, but what does it look like? I regularly prayed about the things I was anxious about. But simply telling God about it isn’t the same as entrusting our cares to Him. If I hire someone to look after my yard maintenance, I can tell them what I’m hoping they will do. But then I also need to get out of their way and let them do the job. If I fire up my lawn mower as soon as the grass looks like it needs a trim, I’m not entrusting the work to the person I hired. And if I look out the window and inspect the grass every day, I’m not benefiting a whole lot from hiring someone else to do the job. I need to give the care over completely, and stop wasting my time and energy on it. 4. Be faithful to our responsibilities The final step is to be faithful to our responsibilities. This involves articulating what exactly is our responsibility, and what is the LORD’s. For example, it is my responsibility to pay my mortgage payment. That means I should not spend money on a holiday if that results in not being able to make my mortgage payment. The issue for many of us is that we don’t acknowledge that there are many things we can’t control and aren’t responsible for. “I can't control the future of my health. I'm not that powerful. I can't control the spiritual walk of my children. I am not that powerful. I can't control the winds and the finances of my employer, I am not that powerful.” In contrast I can “be a good steward of my body to the best of my ability, I can be a positive spiritual influence in my children's lives. But I have to trust the Lord to be the one to do the work. I can be a hard worker at my job and attempt to be valuable to them, but I can't control if they want to keep me or want to jettison me.” Strength through weakness Taking these four steps to heart and changing our daily walk isn’t easy, but neither is it complicated. For many of us, we have developed bad habits for dealing with our cares and concerns, and this occurred over many years. Changing it won’t happen in an instant. But, unlike many things in life, moving away from anxiety is possible, in God’s strength and by His grace. I’ll take this a step further. Not only is it possible – in God’s strength – to leave the cul-de-sac of ungodly anxiety behind, it is also a responsibility that we can help each other with. And we aren’t going to make it any easier if we make anxiety our identity. Yes, some of us are more predisposed to worry, and yes it can definitely have consequences on our health. But if we take Jesus at His word, we will also acknowledge that there are some forms of anxiety that need to be repented of. This doesn’t mean that we should harshly rebuke someone struggling with ungodly anxiety. On the contrary, this calls for love and care. When God tells us over and over again to not worry, He does so as a loving father to a little child. Jesus knows what it is like to feel the weight of the world on His shoulders. He was in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, awaiting His death. But He also modeled faithfulness – taking his cares to His Father and walking the road that He was called to. My journey isn’t over. Every day I fall short, also when it comes to how I’m managing cares and concerns. From time to time, I still experience the physical symptoms that come from stress and anxiety. But instead of them causing me concern, I take them as a clear signal that I’m not managing things well. I’m straying and need to change course, entrusting things to the LORD and to others. Yes, it is humbling to admit that I’m weak and don’t have what it takes to solve most challenges in life, be it Covid policies, the spiritual walk of loved ones, or conflict. But it is also liberating. We have a Savior who has already made things right between us and God. The price has been paid. Our future is secure in His hands. Dear brother or sister, bring your anxieties to our LORD and experience His peace. Go deeper: Dr. Greg Gifford’s two-part series on anxiety is available at his podcast called “Transformed” but can also be heard on his website here: Transformed.org/podcast/biblical-clarity-on-anxiety-part-one/ Transformed.org/podcast/biblical-clarity-on-anxiety-part-two/ Below, Rich Mullins honestly and provocatively addresses the anxiety of our heart, pointing us to the only One who can truly still our worries. <span data-mce-type="bookmark" style="display: inline-block; width: 0px; overflow: hidden; line-height: 0;" class="mce_SELRES_start"></span>...

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A biblical counselor’s advice for church leadership

In the article "Anxiety and the triumph of hope," we shared insights from three biblical counselors about anxiety. What follows is further insight from one of them, Heres Snijder, specifically directed to pastors, elders, and deacons. – MP What advice do you have for church leadership as they minister to those who struggle with anxiety? A posture of compassion: Church leaders are soul shepherds. For preachers, elders and deacons, a posture of compassion is essential because Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw the exhausted and burdened crowds (Matthew 9:36). Anxiety is a heavy and exhausting burden for many. Paul instructed Galatian Christians to train themselves to carry their own burden of responsibility and to share each other’s burden too heavy to carry on their own. Anxiety calls for an understanding, compassionate, encouraging response to the sufferer, and for ongoing training in how to best handle anxiety provoking situations. A posture of patience and longsuffering: Frequently there are several unhelpful thinking styles that have developed over time, and these need to be exposed, identified, and replaced with healthy thinking skills and thought patterns. Paul identified the reality that the evil one wants to establish footholds and strongholds in our minds (Eph. 4:27, 2 Cor. 10:4). When anxiety has become a stronghold in the mind it takes concerted efforts to conquer it. A posture of prayer: Anxiety is one of the many “cries of the soul,” and it reveals our deepest questions about God. It is addressed in many psalms. The poets who wrote these knew about anxiety, personally, and up close. It is therefore indispensable for soul-shepherds to have an intimate knowledge of the content and anxious thoughts expressed in psalms like Psalm 22,  Ps. 23, Ps. 27, Ps. 30, Ps. 34, Pr. 46, Ps. 51, Ps. 61, Ps. 103, and Ps. 121. Training in emotional intelligence and relational wisdom: The attitude of “forget about your emotions” is unhelpful in the extreme. Empathy is an essential skill for pastors, elders and deacons. Encourage those who struggle to seek out counselors: Fortunately, many pastors and elders have this mindset. As one pastor shared with me: “We are always looking for good Christian counsellors as the need is great…but the counsellors are few and the wait times are long.” ...

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Anxiety and the triumph of hope: 3 biblical counsellors explain anxiety

As God’s people wandered in the wilderness, they were sustained by bread from heaven – Manna. Not only was it nutritional, it also came with a best-before date (just one day!). God warned them not to bother saving more than they needed for the day. But some paid no attention and took matters into their own hands, saving extra. The next morning they found that their manna reeked and was filled with maggots. When I reached out to three biblical counselors for insight into anxiety, two of them referenced “the manna principle,” reminding me of the importance of relying on the LORD one day at a time. It wasn’t a principle I was aware of, but it also didn’t take long to see the connection. Our hope with this article, and this entire issue, is to help each other rely on the LORD’s daily care for us, resisting the temptation to take matters into our own hands. When we trust Him, we will experience His provision as well as peace. We can move into the future with the confidence of lasting hope. When we don’t, it won’t take long and our blessings will be spoiled by our worries and anxieties. We will begin by seeking insight from three counsellors from the Reformed community in Canada who have experience with providing counsel about anxiety. What follows is an edited account of their answers. **** We hear a lot about anxiety. How would you explain it to a broader church community, some of whom may not understand why it is getting so much attention? Heres Snijder, from BC’s Fraser Valley, has been teaching for 34 years in elementary and high schools in Alberta, Manitoba, and BC. He obtained his MA in Counselling in 2007 and is a Registered Clinical Counsellor with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors. He counsels on work-related stress and burnout among professionals, parenting and family issues, alienation, isolation, bullying and rivalry, anxiety and depression, among other things. Heres Snijder: Anxiety is any degree of nervousness, worry, or concern that we all experience. There are innumerable reasons and causes for us to fret. Some of the most prevalent ones are fear of death and disease, fear of job loss, fear of self, fear of failure, the fear of not measuring up and not at all mattering, fear of the future, fear of loss (particularly loss of health), and fear of death. The common denominator that underpins these and other fears is the fear of man. Fear, anxiety, worry, disquiet: these are universal themes in the soul of man. Rhonda Wiersma-Vandeburgt: Anxiety has both physical, cognitive, and spiritual aspects to it. Anxiety is physical in the sense that it is both felt physically (racing heart, sweaty palms, hot or tight chest, digestive issues, intrusive thoughts, etc.) and interacts on a physical level (ex. adrenal glands that produce and regulate cortisol and adrenaline and the emotional part of the brain; and the amygdala that controls and regulates emotional responses). On a cognitive level, anxiety interacts with our worldviews, past and current experiences, beliefs about God self and others, desires and fears, that help form our thought responses (for example: "I'm always a failure") and varying emotions that go with those thoughts (for example: "I'm a failure" often leads to the feelings of worthlessness). And on a spiritual level, God speaks into all of this and His Word can and ought to inform our reality. He has the answers and the certainties that anxiety is looking for. As a counselor I seek to address all three areas. Why is anxiety getting so much attention lately? HS: Anxiety is getting so much attention as a result of man’s preoccupation with himself. When there is no relationship with God who is Sovereign, All-Good, and our Provider, then man, by default must step up to the plate of providing for himself. The is both cause and effect of many anxieties. John Siebenga: The “pandemic” event drove home the insecurities of many people regarding sickness, health, the fragility of life. Why? So much depends upon the fact that society has written God out of their lives and taken it upon themselves to create order. We have once again eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and when God uses the “pandemic” to come knocking and asking, “where are you?”, we hide. We look to the government to give us security, but it is not found there. We look to “science” but “science” just lets us down. We look to the media and discover that they are in cahoots with the government and “science” so they cannot be trusted. So what do we do, without a higher being to turn to? We cringe in fear and anxiety. We hide our fears and anxieties in escape behind the bushes of delusion and lies. Maybe all this will just pass away. And if not then we will just act as if it did. We smile and say we are fine, just fine when someone asks. We discover that within ourselves there is no antidote to the angst we are feeling. We play our music louder, pour a double of scotch, and for fifteen minutes we feel better. But then it starts all over again. This calls for a return to a pre-enlightenment worldview. A worldview that saw all of creation founded in the Creator God, Who asks, “Where are you?” and then comforts His broken, created image bearers with the gospel. A gospel that lets our anxious hearts relax and allow Him to take care of this hurting world; that allows Him to address the anxieties of our heart, instead of government, science, or media. Is this an issue that deserves more attention in the Reformed community? Would you say that the experience in the church is any different than in the broader public? HS: I would not say that the experience of anxiety in the church is any different than outside of it. Not different, and no, not less frequent, nor less intense either. Individuals who are “churched” are not shielded in any special way against anxiety provoking or inducing situations, relationships or unhelpful/toxic thought patterns. Any human condition, occurrence, loss, or accident will lead us into the realm of anxiety. In the church, it means that the struggle to surrender control over the anxiety-inducing situation will have a different spiritual and relational outcome. Some respond to anxiety by habitually giving it to God. By surrendering their anxious thoughts (Ps. 139) they foster a peaceful mindset. Others turn away from God and let anger and bitterness sour the relationship with Him, with themselves, and their neighbors. I frequently experience both outcomes in my private counselling practice. Jesus was open and transparent to his audience that “in this world we will have many troubles.” His encouragement “…take heart – I have overcome the world” (John 16:33) is not heeded by all. Like the rich young ruler whose first love was material wealth, there are anxious Christians who do not surrender their anxieties. “I believe in God, but still I worry all the time… the two can’t go together, right?” There are many Christ followers who agonize about their salvation, and do not experience assurance whatsoever. They tremble anxiously before a sovereign God. The initiator of the Great Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, was overcome by tormenting anxieties. No indulgence or self-punishing act or six-hour long confessions could uproot his fear for an eternal future in hell. It resulted in full blown obsessive, compulsive, disordered behaviors. Rhonda Wiersma-Vandeburgt graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary with an MA in Counselling in 2014 and completed a year-long internship with the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (www.CCEF.org) in 2015. She works as a contract counsellor (virtually) through Insight Biblical Counselling in Ontario and has her own practice in Southern Manitoba. RV: In some ways anxiety does look different in the church community versus the broader public due to the fact that many people feel that they ought not to be anxious so there is an added layer of guilt and angst added to the struggle. Have you seen any change in recent years when it comes to the prevalence of anxiety? If so, is it because we are just more aware of it now? HS: Yes. I have taught for 34 years at the elementary, high school and university levels. Eight years ago, I transitioned into the counseling field. Both fields show evidence that the anxious frame of mind is increasingly more prevalent. I think it is the spirit of the times: it is no exaggeration to say that there is an epidemic of anxiety. RV: There seems to be a combination of both awareness and a number of different factors, such as: There are changes in our food’s nutrition density and our struggles with a healthy diet (sugar anyone? Can’t go without your daily dose of caffeine?); Influx of technology and 24/7 news leading to ques- tions about where our responsibilities start and end; Breakdown of community and aspects of not “one- anothering” each other; We live in a society (either as a whole or in the church community) that does not easily accept weaknesses and human limitations; We live a comfortable and affluent lifestyle; Trauma; Our theology of suffering is not as robust as it could be; We live in a culture that encourages emotions to rule and dictate our thoughts and actions, instead of align- ing our beliefs, thoughts, and actions according to God’s will (we don’t feel “authentic” if we are not true to how we feel in the moment as an example); We struggle with our identity and we don’t understand our union with Christ as much as we could How does God go about relaxing our anxious hearts? JS: One thing that Christians have a hard time with, and maybe it is even a harder issue for Reformed Christians to grasp, is that God is the “overflowing fountain of all good.” We have fled from Him and hid in the Garden, but He still comes looking for us. Guido de Bres, in Belgic Confession Article 17, penned so eloquently and so beautifully how God “set out to seek man when he trembling fled from Him.” Anxiety at its worst is to be known by God with all the foibles and idiosyncrasies of our fallen humanity. That is man’s greatest fear. Like Rich Mullins sings in another place, “we are weak and not as strong as we think we are.” In our weakness, we can look to Him, but that means we have to admit that we just cannot do it on our own. We need to surrender. Surrender. Such a hard word to accept, embrace and see it as a sign of grace. My sister was wont to call this dethroning God and putting ourself back on the throne. She was right. But God’s rich salvation is all over the Word that God has given us, His love, His mercy, His grace for His people, all the way from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. So, with John on the isle of Patmos, we can fall down and worship the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. For too long, much of our preaching has centered on the wrath, justice and the formidable requirements that God requires of us. So often we hear that we are bad, bad, bad and then a quiet addendum at the end of the sermon that says that it is by grace we are saved and so be thankful. The joy of salvation ought to ring from the beginning of the service to the end, and allow God’s people to surrender into the Lord’s loving arms. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” is the same truth today as it was when Isaiah wrote these words so many thousands of years ago. How do we get that truth to dwell in our anxious hearts? Augustine said it so well in his Confessions: “the heart is restless until it rests in thee O Lord.” Sink back and relax in God’s arms – revel in the joyous dance of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And even as inviting and tempting as that sounds, in our weak, feeble minds, we say, “It ain’t easy.” And you would be right. It is actually impossible, “unless we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.” We need to look to Jesus who bore all our anxious thoughts in the Garden of Gethsemane and on to the Cross. Allow Him to strap you to His yoke because it is easy and His burden is light. Learn from Him, for He is gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. That is the promise of the gospel. And if God says so, it must be true. For a Christian, this does not alleviate anxiety; it gives us a place to turn in our anxious moments. If someone reading this is really struggling with anxiety, what hope do they have of overcoming it? John Siebenga, from northern BC, is a licensed Christian counsellor with a wide variety of life experiences. This includes working as a journeyman carpenter, a school teacher and principal, and serving with his wife in a Reformed church plant in Prince George. HS: Lots of hope! First off, anxiety is not a mental illness. In fact, when handled properly, anxiety can lead you towards a thriving and flourishing life. Anxiety does not have to be a pathological condition. Rather, it is like an emotion or a state of mind that signals that a proper response is required – comparable to the blinking light on a vehicle’s dashboard; “check tire pressure”. A proper response is exactly that: check the tire pressure: no need for an oil change just yet – and need to replace the whole engine! A certain level of anxiety is often necessary and beneficial. If I am faced with, say, having to cross a busy street, or present a speech to a large audience, or write an important exam, or arrange for a difficult conversation, then to not experience any anxiety would actually be more troublesome. On the other hand, if I have developed such a fear of anxiety that I cannot tolerate it, I may be led to believe that I cannot handle life without an external crutch, like a prescription drug. Even though leading pharmaceutical companies have a vested monetary interest in having me believe that, how about pressing the pause button here to look for some other responses first, prior to resorting to medication right away? RV: The Lord is near, that is your hope. Our anxieties and fears arouse the deep compassion of God for us. A child cries out for mom or dad when they are scared. When you go to a new situation or event, it's easier to do so with someone you know. There is good reason that following "do not fear," God says "I am with you." We need a person in our struggle with anxiety and fear, and God is the Person to do it with. Often, we look at the promises of God and we struggle to see how they map onto our life experiences. This is where lament comes in: "God, you say this, but do you see what is happening in my life?" The Psalms are beautiful places to land here, and in this way too we see God's provision for us by giving us words to come to Him. The Psalms so often wonderfully capture our inner struggles and anguish. I encourage my counselees to lament in the face of struggle, but also then to cling to God's character. Who is our God? For example, 2 Kings 6 is a passage I will use in counseling: God is Warrior, He has fiery chariots and angels fighting for us. "Wow. I know you feel alone, but God assures He is with us always." I also encourage counselees to "push into their fear." Fear and anxiety have a way of narrowing our worlds down because we don't want to do scary and hard things. When we push into our fears, we take God's hand and we "test and prove" that His promises, and who He is, are true. If we do not push outside of our comfort zone, we cannot experience God's grace and mercy for us in times of temptation and sorrow. I would say that overcoming anxiety ought not be a primary goal; use anxiety as an invitation or opportunity to draw nearer to God, that is the goal of life. Are there practical things that you have found to be helpful as well (relating to physical health, media usage, diet, etc.)? HS: Yes! Physical exercise: Adrenaline is the stimulating hormone: it plays an important role in your body's fight-or-flight response. Physical exercise is one very helpful way to restore the balance with a grounding or resting hormone, cortisol. Exercising outdoors offers additional benefits: no indoor air for a change, the changing scenery as you walk or jog… Media usage: No screen time for one to two hours prior to putting your head on the pillow. The mind needs time to prepare to enter into sleep. Good night’s sleep: Embrace the fact that sleep is a gift of God. Today’s society has devalued sleep to the level of an unwelcome interruption in the working routine. To receive sleep as a kind gift of God, what a difference it will make when we prepare the mind to receive it humbly and gratefully as such! (Ps. 127:2; Ps. 4:8). Cut sugar out of your diet Connect meaningfully, face to face, regularly with friends, family, neighbors. Play board games. Make music: Sing! Join a choir! RV: Breathing deeply (umbrella breathing, choir breathing, diaphragm breathing, box breathing) is helpful because when we are afraid or anxious, our breathing typically because more rapid and shallow. When we breathe deeply, we increase oxygen into our bloodstream, which helps our brain function optimally, and shallow breathing typically is a physiological response that will increase anxiety. Sleep is wonderful. However with anxiety sleep oftentimes is restless, broken, or simply impossible. Napping and resting physically are all helpful and listening to music to help with relaxation has been helpful for some of my counselees. I recommend soothing music like Scripture Lullabies or piano music with nature sounds. Another useful app that I found personally helpful was the Dwell App, which is a Scripture listening app that has different music to listen to while someone is reading Scripture out loud. Screen time is often a contributor to anxiety. We all struggle to one degree or another with FOMO (fear of missing out), and an insatiable attitude for "one more" when it comes to shorts on YouTube, Instagram, or SnapChat. This leads to low grade anxiety. Place extensive limits on social media and news outlets. In counseling I talk about the "manna principle" (shared by a professor at CCEF): God provided the Israelites with just enough manna for one day. They were not allowed to gather up or store extra manna for the next day (except the night before the Sabbath). In this way, God will give you just enough for what you need today. Where can you see God's provision for you today? Praying with another person through Scripture (see Donald Whitney's resource Praying Scripture") is immensely helpful to not feel alone and also to know that there are words we can pray when we are feeling wordless (1 Peter 5:7). I encourage mediation on Scripture. For example, "fear not little flock, I have been pleased to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12) is a short phrase that we can sit and chew on for a while: "I am a sheep, God is my shepherd. I am little but God is big and powerful. God is pleased to give to me; He is generous! He is pleased to give me his kingdom. What does it mean to be part of his kingdom? If I am part of his kingdom, that means I am a royal child, a citizen, that gives me identity"...and so forth. What things should be avoided? RV: I speak to a help here: please do not assume that you understand what a person is going through even if you have struggled with anxiety. Ask good questions, seek to really know the peson, and point to Jesus. HS: A few things include: Exposure to “news” media: The incessant litany of catastrophe, discord, fights, protests, violence, and accidents – without a split-second opportunity to actually process these events – leads to a persistent state of mind of “overwhelm,” resulting in elevated levels of anxiety. Isolation Appreciate FOMO for what it is: Ask yourself: have I led myself into FOMO – a Fear Of Missing Out – and do I now need to know what is going on in the lives of all my FaceBook friends, etc.? As a result, have I developed a screen dependency in the process? As well: have you experienced the other side of the digital platform coin, JOMO? Have you ever participated in a fast from digital media, and discovered the Joy Of Missing Out (on unnecessary information, trivia, tales, gossip)? Is there anything else you want to share with our readers on this topic? HS: I believe that there is much to say in support of the notion that “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” Parents are more crucial in this regard that teachers, pastors, elders. When anxiety related interventions need to be initiated by teachers or church leaders, it is typically “too little, too late.” Generally, children must have two questions answered. The first one is: “Mom, dad – do you love me?” The answer, in a multitude of different ways must be a resounding “Yes, child! You are loved, you are unique, you have gifts, you are safe and you are valuable!” The second question is: ‘Can I get, and do, what I want?” And the answer has to be a transparent “NO! We love you, and because we do, we will train you to become an individual, a character with a sturdy spine and a soft heart, because – life is difficult, and you are not in the driver’s seat of your life, and contrary to today’s society’s insistent mantra, you are not the center of the universe, you will die one day, and your life is not just about you.” This sobering and limiting boundary-setting template, surprisingly, reduces a multitude of anxieties and number of questions that begin with “what if…?” RV: One topic that is under-conversed is the reality of post- partum anxiety some women can experience. Women have de- scribed feeling “crazy” and scared because of intrusive thoughts that involve thinking and even visualizing acts of harm towards themselves or their children. Women have been paralyzed by obsessively checking on their children while sleeping. Women have described a paralyzing fear of leaving the home after a child and being unable to sometimes get out of a vehicle if they have managed to drive somewhere. You’re not alone and you’re not crazy if you can resonate with the above examples. Postpartum anxiety (and depression!) is real. It involves hormones so it is a biological struggle that is interacting with heart desires, past experiences, and worldview. Both counseling, being monitored by a general practitioner, and visiting a naturopath doctor are all recommendations that are available and that I would recommend. Illustration by Stephanie Vanderpol. ...

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Does 1 Corinthians 6 mean Christians can never appeal to the courts?

When Charter rights appear to be violated, what can a Christian do? ***** Does being submissive to the ruling authorities mean that a Christian cannot seek their day in court? Would going toe-to-toe with the government in a court of law be a form of insubordination, or show a lack of respect and submission to the civil government? Or can Christians take the government to court? Does the Bible give us any guidance on this question? Some Canadian constitutional context Court action, in a constitutional democracy, is a legitimate form of government interaction. Within the modern constitutional state, there are three branches that hold each other in check: the legislature (makers of the law), the executive (those who carry out the law) and the judiciary (those who review the application of the law). This separation within the civil government is described in our constitution as “the separation of powers.” No one man is lawmaker, police officer, judge, jury, and executioner. We divide power, and for good reason: power tends to corrupt fallen man. All of the civil government in Canada is limited, by law, and is under the law, particularly under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Does the Charter govern you as a citizen? No, it doesn’t. It is the highest law in Canada, but it only limits the power of the civil government. So, judges, lawmakers, and police officers, together with the Charter, are a package deal, and together make up “the civil government.” The Charter of Rights and Freedoms was added to our constitution in 1982. It owes some – though not all – of its language to the Christian legacy of limited state power. (If you want to read more of the legacy, I shamelessly recommend chapters 2 and 4 of A Christian Citizenship Guide, 2nd Edition, which explains it in detail.) The preamble to the Charter states that: “Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the Supremacy of God and the Rule of Law.” This “Supremacy of God” clause is supposed to be a reminder to our lawmakers that they are under the ultimate Lawgiver. (Even if they don’t believe in God, they should at least be able to recognize that they aren’t God!) But note as well the reference in the Charter’s preamble to the rule of law. That echoes the Belgic Confession, article 36, which in turn echoes Deuteronomy 16 and 17 – we are to be governed not by the whims of kings and tyrants, or bureaucrats for that matter, but by laws and statutes. And everyone is under the law, including the king, the prime minister, the premier, the police, the bylaw officer, and any other government employee. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is, in some ways, a product of Christianity’s influence on law in the West. So, what are some things the Charter guarantees? In Canada, according to the Charter, everyone enjoys fundamental freedoms like freedom of religion, conscience, expression, and association, certain democratic rights and mobility rights, certain legal rights and more. These are not absolute rights; the civil government can restrict them in certain, limited circumstances. But, when the civil government imposes on Charter rights like freedom of peaceful assembly, the burden in law is on the civil government – not citizens – to demonstrate that the restrictions are justifiable in a free and democratic society. But what good does this do us in light of everything we know from Scripture about submission to the governing authorities? So what if we have legal rights – aren’t we called to just submit to the government? What does 1 Corinthians 6 teach? Our tendency as Christians is to be suspicious of using the judicial branch due to the misapplication of 1 Corinthians 6, where Paul seems to be telling Christians not to go to the secular courts. "If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court – and this in front of unbelievers!" However, this passage applies to two private individuals, particularly, two members of the church, and the passage urges settling the matter before going to an “ungodly court.” In the case we are considering here, the “ungodly court” and the other entity in the legal dispute are of the same nature – both government bodies. What we are doing is much more akin to Paul’s own appeal to Caesar in Acts 25 than to Paul’s urging to avoid court. Further, the 1 Corinthians 6 passage must be seen in the context of internal church strife: in the church the wisdom of fellow-members or church leaders should prevail over the need to go to court, assuming that these “wise men” dealing with the matter will deal with it in a just, calm, and wise manner. The brothers challenging each other on a judicial matter should be humble and spiritual enough to accept the wise counsel of fellow believers rather than sue each other. A court challenge of the government’s allegedly unjust actions or laws is not within the scope of what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 6. In Canada, then, a judge is allowed, or even duty bound, to curb the injustice of a higher civil power for the protection of the people under his oversight. In our current context, the Canadian civil government is split into three arms (the "separation of powers"), as explained earlier. Thus when a Christian challenges government action in court (or defends himself against government action in court) it should not be seen as a lawsuit in the sense that we hear about from time to time – a vengeful opportunity to get rich over against an equal opponent. Rather, we are simply approaching one of the three branches of the government and asking the magistrate to do its God-given duty to call the other branch to account, and to remind it of what exactly its obligations are under the Constitution and what its obligations are with regards to justice and righteousness. But what about Romans 13? But what about Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17? Don’t these passages demand submission to the governing authorities? Yes, the general rule of Scripture is that Christians are subject to the governing authorities. But in order to make a proper application of this rule, we have to understand how our civil authorities govern. How citizens interact with governing authorities looks different in a constitutional democracy (where the constitution is supreme even over judges and premiers) than in an ancient absolute monarchy. In a participatory democracy, it isn’t only the premier who gets to decide what the law requires. In fact, lawyers and judges, and police officers and citizens should all know what their rights and responsibilities are in law. We are all equally under law and ruled by law. This legal reality is a blessing of Christendom. The Magna Carta, which enshrined this concept over 800 years ago in English law, is rooted in Christian culture. Ambiguities, over-reach, constitutional violations, inequal application of the law, all of this needs to be winsomely exposed, and Christians ought not to shy away from this. It is good and right to point these injustices out. Furthermore, the judiciary is also part of the civil government. When a citizen appeals to a judge to clarify whether or not the actions of the government are constitutional (i.e. legal), then this shows respect for the government and her institutions and uses the law to our advantage. Paul – who wrote Romans 13 – does this multiple times, when he uses his Roman citizenship status to avoid being flogged (Acts 22:22-29), then again when he demands that the local magistrate personally escort him and Silas out of jail after their rights had been violated (Acts 16:37-40), and again when he appeals to Caesar (Acts 25:10-11).  Daniel’s example Consider also Daniel’s example. It’s a striking story: King Darius signs a law that says, for 30 days, if men are going to pray, they can only pray to Darius and no other. Daniel 6:10 says, “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” Daniel acts immediately and decisively. And what is the charge against him? “Daniel pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed.” In other words, “Daniel is violating Romans 13, O king! He’s a lawless man, O king. Throw him to the lions!” But what is the first thing Daniel says to King Darius, after miraculously surviving a night with the lions? “O king, I have committed no crime against you” (Dan. 6:22). (If there were any lawyers in the room, they would have interjected, “Oh yes you did! You broke the clear meaning of the law. You prayed to your God, and your God is not the king, and the law says explicitly and clearly that you can’t do that, and we have witnesses and …!”) But Daniel says, rightly, that by disobeying this silly law, this law which does not align with God’s law, he commits no crime against the king. In other words, obeying the law of God, even if it clearly breaks the law of man, is no crime. More than that, when citizens obey the law of God, they will be no threat to a ruler, Christian or not. John Calvin on legal action In Calvin's Institutes, in the chapter on the Civil Government, Calvin outlines several factors in favor of pursuing litigation: He writes: “Judicial proceedings are lawful to him who makes right use of them; and the right use… is… without bitterness, urge what he can in his defence, but only with the desire of justly maintaining his right; and…demand what is just and good.” Later, in the same subsection, Calvin writes, “When we hear that the assistance of the magistrate is a sacred gift from God, we ought the more carefully to beware of polluting it by our fault.” This then, speaks of a specifically Christian approach to litigation: that we “feel as kindly towards opponent… as if the matter in dispute were amicably transacted and arranged.” Later, Calvin also rejects the idea that Paul absolutely or universally prohibits litigation in 1 Cor. 6; rather, an interpretation of that text is to apply to brothers inside the church. Even so, Calvin speaks very highly of the Christian duty, as private individuals, to respect the civil government. Nevertheless, he does discuss briefly the role of other parts of government, which is very applicable to the question of whether Christians in a constitutional democracy can also challenge government action or laws in court. He writes (quoting from a modern translation): “there may be magistrates appointed as protectors of the people in order to curb the excessive greed and licentiousness of kings… I would not forbid those who occupy such an office to oppose and withstand, as is their duty, the intemperance and cruelty of kings. Indeed, if they pretended not to see when kings lawlessly torment their wretched people, such pretence in my view should be condemned as perjury, since by it they wickedly betray the people’s liberty of which, as they ought to know, God has made them defenders.” Asserting legal rights is not (necessarily) insubordination Asserting Charter rights is not insubordination. As a Canadian citizen, you bear Charter freedoms. Making your case in court, as the law entitles you to do, is a lawful exercise of your office of citizenship. So there may be situations where both the civil government and the Christian citizen must justify their actions, the former in a courthouse and the latter before God. What should make Christians distinct from their neighbors is not whether we speak up about our freedoms but how. Our tone of respect, our posture of prayer, and our spirit of submission sets us apart. And not only our tone, but also our philosophy of freedom and submission will shape a distinctly Christian approach to speaking up. Will we advocate for outright defiance, or make our case calmly and reasonably, according to law? I reject the passivism of being totally and silently subservient to the State. This is not biblical (Ex. 1:15-21; Dan. 3:8-23; Dan. 6:5-10; Mark 12:15-17; John 19:11; Acts 4:18-20; Acts 5:17-42; Acts 16:37; 2 Cor. 11:32-33). But I also reject the revolutionary spirit of obstinate civil disobedience. Three examples Let’s consider three examples. Pro-life billboards First, a couple years ago, one of the Ontario ARPA chapters raised a few thousand dollars to put an ad on London city buses that simply said “Canada has no abortion laws.” About a month or so into the contract, due to mild pushback, the city pulled the ads down, without explanation, without notice or opportunity to reply, and without compensating the local ARPA group for the remaining two months of the contract. We wrote to the city, explaining that what they had done was unconstitutional, and asked them to reinstate the ads. They refused. So, together with ARPA Oxford, we took legal action. And we won! It cost time and money, but the city apologized for what they had done and ran the ads again. A few years later, the City of Hamilton refused to run an ad from another local ARPA chapter, this one simply stating, “We stand for women’s rights. Hers, hers, and hers too” – with the final “her” referring to an ultrasound image of a baby. Again, we are taking the City of Hamilton to court, because their silencing of citizens’ participation in an ongoing political and moral debate is repugnant. Standing up for freedom through the courts shows respect for our laws, and for political or legal institutions. This is not about freedom of expression to say whatever we want to say, whenever and however we want to say it. It is the freedom to communicate a message that ought to be shared, without censorship. Dining but not the Lord’s Supper A second example: during the first summer of Covid, a Reformed church presented a re-opening safety plan to a government bureaucrat working within the local health authority. The document indicated that the church planned to recommence with the sacrament of holy supper. By this time restaurants were open again, and churches were gathering at 30% capacity. What was the reply of the local government employee? Without any sense of irony, he told the church that sacraments were “off the table.” Could the bureaucrat point to any law, order, or regulation that prohibited the sacrament? No. It was merely his opinion that allowing the church to celebrate the sacrament was too risky. That is unjust on its face, and a church would do well to challenge such a decision. A church that decided to celebrate communion anyway would not be the one acting illegally. The one acting illegally is that particular bureaucrat. When the truth is criminalized A final example: ARPA Canada has intervened in the Ontario Court of Appeal in a case involving a firebrand activist and self-described Christian named Bill Whatcott. He had distributed offensive literature during the Toronto Gay Pride Parade in June 2016, informing readers of the flyer that homosexual conduct is dangerous and that homosexual men must repent and turn to Jesus who will save them from their sins. For distributing these pamphlets, this activist was criminally charged two years later for willful promotion of hatred against an identifiable group. After a trial, Whatcott was acquitted by the trial judge in December 2021. But the Crown prosecutor is appealing the acquittal to the Court of Appeal, arguing that asserting or implying that gay men can choose not to be gay (i.e., to not engage in gay male sex), or that their choice to be gay is destructive, is to “deny their human dignity and right to equality” and is “a powerful expression of hatred.” In other words, genuine calls to repentance and conversion toward LGBT Canadians is a crime. It is right for Whatcott to defend himself in court. It would be a disservice to all Christians (really, to all Canadians) if he merely bowed to the pressure of the prosecutor, pled guilty and served time. Conclusion Like Paul, Christians ought not to shy away from appealing to the courts of law for redress. It is good and right to contend with injustice. May God preserve the rule of law in Canada for the sake of the gospel witness of the church. André Schutten is ARPA Canada’s Director of Law and Public Policy and General Legal Counsel (ARPACanada.ca)....

Assorted

A pastor on anxiety

Rev. Dirk Poppe is serving as the pastor of the Southern River Free Reformed Church, in Western Australia. Prior to this he served as pastor of churches in BC & Alberta. Dirk is married to Amanda, and the LORD has blessed them with six children. Shortly after I was married, my wife and I moved to Southern Alberta where we had the privilege of being shepherded by Rev. Poppe. His care for the hearts and well-being of the flock was very evident, and he was also one of the first to speak to me about the value of biblical counseling. Knowing the critical connection between spiritual health and anxiety, I wanted to go beyond professional counselors and also ask a pastor for insight into anxiety. Pastor Poppe was at the top of my list, and I’m grateful for his insights. What follow is an abridged edit of our interview. – MP Have you seen any changes when it comes to the prevalence of anxiety in the church community and how we are dealing with it? Probably the biggest change that has led to an increase in the incidence of anxiety among the youth in the past 25 years is the introduction of phones and social media. It seems that there are several dynamics here. Some children are bullied on line. Some children, especially girls, tend to compare themselves to others more which leads to certain insecurities and increased anxiety. But underneath of that I wonder if there is a more foundational issue. Some people who have spent time on the mission field have told me that the incidence of depression and anxiety is much lower on the mission field than in our culture. Some people in these cultures live much closer to family and friends and their lives are much more integrated together. I have to wonder that with our wealth and increasing adoption of technology we are more isolated from others now than before. While social media, email and other forms of electronic communication gives the semblance of relationship, it is a poor substitute from sitting around making memories with your friends or brothers and sisters in Christ. I also wonder if the algorithms in our social media lead us to a lot of distressing stories that lead to an increase in anxiety and depression. Have we changed in the way that we are dealing with it? Yes and no. As more of members and office bearers in our churches become aware of issues like trauma and its effects and various mental health issues, there is an increasing sensitivity to those who genuinely struggle with these matters. I am very thankful for that. I have witnessed numerous times where people in leadership positions have been able to provide good counsel in these situations. At the same time, I have also witnessed some who lack awareness about these issues take an approach that is quite damaging to those who struggle with anxiety. On the whole I think that I have seen more awareness and sensitivity to these issues now than earlier. At the same time, as our culture has moved away from the acknowledgement of God in the past years, this has undermined a recognition of sin. You will rarely read a newspaper that acknowledges that a person is evil or has committed sin. Instead, our culture has adopted a therapeutic mindset. And so the problem is often identified as the mental health issues the person is struggling with. This trend has also impacted our members. It seems that some of our members are quicker to seek counseling or medical help for depression and anxiety now than in the past. I wonder if that is always justified. Could it be for some of our people that in some situations the problem is sin and the solution is not medication, but repentance? What is the role of the church in response to those who struggle with anxiety? How does this intersect with professional help from counsellors? I think that the church can play a wonderful role to help some people who struggle with anxiety. One of the most healing things for someone who has experienced trauma, who has mental health issues or who is stressed out by life is to be surrounded by a community of people who love them. A counsellor can be enormously helpful as they take the time to assist a person to understand what is going on in their mind or to deal with past traumas or specific marriage problems. A doctor or psychiatrist can be very helpful in prescribing certain medications to get them through a tough time. But at the same time, in order to heal, it’s also very important for someone who is anxious to have some close friends and a community of people who love and support them. Those who heal from anxiety, distressing events and past traumas are often those who are surrounded by a number of people who love them deeply, care for them well and who offer them wise counsel. The Bible calls some forms of anxiety a sin that need to be repented of. I have heard it described as a mild form of atheism (not trusting God or going about things as if we are the one who has to figure it out on our own). How would you explain the difference between healthy care/concern, and the type of anxiety that Jesus warns us against? Good question. It’s beautiful to have a deep level of concern about those things that God has called us to care about. We can be deeply concerned about the future of our business, the wellbeing of our children or the direction of our church. And yet at times we can become anxious in our hearts about these things. One of the ways in which I have dealt with this over the years is to understand that I am responsible for my contribution to a situation, but I am not responsible for the outcomes. The times we get stressed out is when we put ourselves in the place of God and we try to determine outcomes. We are not God. We do not have the power to determine outcomes. The LORD does. So instead of becoming stressed when things don’t go the way that we think is best, it’s important to humble ourselves before the LORD, do what we can to help, and then in faith rely on Him to work things out. From a spiritual perspective, what would you say may be contributing to increased anxiety in the world and in the church? At core the single biggest factor that leads to increased anxiety is a rejection of God. The LORD is the source of life and love. Those who know God and who walk intimately with him learn what it looks like to be gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. As we know God, we learn what justice and righteousness looks like. We learn to love others from the heart as we have been loved. We learn to treat others rightly as we have been treated by God. If we know of God’s faithfulness, then we learn to trust Him and to be faithful to our promises. As Christ lives in our hearts, the fruit of the Spirit is manifest within us. Our lives are characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In 1 John 4:18 we are told, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” As we experience the love of God and live out of that love, we are set free from all fear and anxiety. Those who reject God do not have the Spirit. They don’t know of God’s love and grace, his kindness and help, his justice and righteousness. As they live in sin and get caught under the grip of sin, they come into profound distress which often leads to anxiety. In Romans 1:18-32 and 2 Timothy 2:1-5, Paul spells out the sin that comes into the lives of those people who reject God. It’s a brutal life that leads to much distress and anxiety. If we become apathetic and drift away from the LORD, it should be no surprise that we experience more deceit, slander, injustice, oppression, violence and evil. These things not only steal your joy. They also lead to much anxiety. So, I would say that one of the most important things is to know the LORD well, understand how rich you are in Christ and to walk closely with him. Are there any specific things that you would encourage God's children to do to help them and their children not be trapped in anxiety? Love each other deeply. If you love your husband or wife deeply, if your marriage is characterized by kindness, gentleness, compassion and honesty, that creates a context of peace, safety and stability for you and your family. If mom loves and nurtures the little ones, if dinnertime with your teenagers drags out because you are having a great time sharing and laughing together, then most of the time anxiety kind of fades into the background. If you open your heart and home to each other and have an abundance of love your brothers and sisters in the communion of the saints, then people thrive and anxiety disappears. The most important thing to grow in love and empathy is to know the LORD. It’s as you know how much God loves you and as you understand how rich you are in Christ, that you have a deep-down peace in your heart and anxiety melts away. Get out into creation and get to know your LORD as He has revealed himself in this world. Find the trails in your area and hike all of them. Go camping. Take along a canoe and spend some time on the water. Study some part of God’s creation and become an expert in it. There are few things more delightful and invigorating than regularly spending time in God’s beautiful creation and marveling at the glory and wisdom of the God who created it. Also, take steps to limit the influence of those things that tend to isolate you from others. Ask Christ to help you have self-control over your use of media and technology. Get everyone in the family to monitor their screen time and write it on a chart on the fridge. And then pray over it. I would encourage parents to limit the time they and their children spend on social media, watching TV or playing video games. These things often suck the life out of us and steal our joy. Find a sport you love. Take up running. Make it a habit to go for a walk with a friend. Make sure that you get a good night of rest. Ask Christ to help you use the time and the gifts that you have to help and bless others. God often rescues us from anxiety as we focus our attention on Christ and all he has done for us and then seek to live a life of gratitude and service before him. Illustration by Stephanie Vanderpol....

Interview with an artist

Julia Veenstra is expressing the world!

Interview with an artist **** Breakfast at Tiffany's48” X 72” - Acrylic on CanvasTiffany Falls is a waterfall in Hamilton. Water has the power to change its path! With God so do we! According to Hamilton-based artist Julia Veenstra, we all have a moment in time that comforts and reassures us when remembered. “Perhaps it's a smell that transports us back in time, stirring up emotions of all kinds,” Veenstra says. “I am attracted to those moments that create comfort, those scents that cause a rush of deep memories.” Julia was an observant child who took detailed notice of the world around her, especially on walks through different neighborhoods. “These moments shaped my understanding of wholeness and peace, both real and imagined,” she says. Julia later expanded her neighborhood explorations to worldwide travels. She has spent time in New York, Virginia Beach, Tanzania and Kenya. Having lived in various countries throughout her life – including a spell spent as a missionary in Tanzania and Kenya – Julia incorporates diverse influences into her impressionistic and representational style. Veenstra studied illustration at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario. In addition to illustration work, Julia freelanced as a fine art painter. After some time as a missionary in East Africa, where she illustrated educational materials and taught art at an international school, she came home to Hamilton. Upon her return to Hamilton, she began painting as an occupation in a rented studio space. Eventually she bought a building in the “artsy” James St. North area and ran a gallery there for 10 years! Cloud Watching36” X 36” - Acrylic on CanvasMuskoka islands are reminders of a day on the lake with friends! Always amazed at creation! Julia is currently opening a new gallery called Crown and Press – also in Hamilton. You can find Julia most often these days in her studio, a converted garage, at her home on Beach Boulevard in Hamilton. Julia says “I create because I was made to! Expressing the world I see around me is a form of worship and a thing that draws me daily to my brush and canvas.” Julia’s artistic journey has now led her to focus on capturing the vivid landscapes of her native Canada, for which she has gained national recognition. Veenstra is renowned for her lively composition and vibrant use of color. You can view more of Julia’s art and you can purchase originals, prints and a variety of art-inspired products at her website: https://juliaveenstra.com You can also connect with the artist at www.Instagram.com/jveenstraartist And if you have a suggestion for an artist you’d like to see profiled in RP please send us a note. Pictures have been graciously provided by the artist, and are used here with permission....

News

Peace, peace? Will the CRC be lulled into losing their way?

Is there a spiritual war going on behind the scenes in the Christian Reformed Church? Oh yes, says member Phil Reinders, in a June 5 column in the Christian Courier, published just before this year’s synod. “…the Church is being played. We are unaware of a larger battle going on, one not against flesh and blood, but against the powers and principalities. …there is a spirit of the age that is binding and blinding the church…” Those familiar with the CRC will recall that 2022’s synod formally adopted a “Human Sexuality Report” reaffirming homosexuality as sinful. This year’s synod has confirmed it yet again. However, after taking these two steps forward, the denomination’s Calvin University took one big step back, granting every faculty member who filed a “gravamen” – a formal statement of disagreement – with Synod’s decision, their approval for continued employment. Synod 2023 pushed to 2024 a decision that might have challenged the university’s decision. So Phil Reinders’ warning might have us respond with a hearty “Amen,” and “Preach it brother!” Can’t the CRC leadership see that freeing erring university professors to continue influencing the next generation is a good way to turn this recent victory into a long-term defeat? But sadly, Reinders isn’t cautioning against a CRC slide into sexual lawlessness. Nope, he is worried about how making big of sexual orthodoxy might cause division in the church. “Our best witness to the world won’t be a particular stance on sexual ethics, whatever your position might be. At any time, but certainly in this moment of fracture and antagonism, the church’s best witness is a practiced unity in the body of Christ…” He cites Scripture passages such as James 3:17-18 and Ephesians 4:3 which praise peace and peacemakers. He’s preaching unity. Above all. What God has said about what is good and best for everyone when it comes to sexuality, and being created male and female, and husbands’ and wives’ roles in marriage, all of that doesn’t matter. Not if it disrupts unity. For those of us on the outside looking in, it’s worth considering how an appeal for unity – which God Himself encourages us towards – can be used to oppose God. When anything, even the best of things like love, unity, and truth, are presented as the ultimate good, they become not a means to worship God, but a replacement for Him – this is unity as an idol. Just consider what this sort of unity would look like. CRC members are being asked to tolerate those who differ and we know what it would look like on the one side: practicing homosexuals being elevated to positions as elders and deacons and pastors, couples getting “married” in the church, and their relationships celebrated. Tolerance would mean homosexuals being loud and proud about their sexuality inside their local congregations. Anything else wouldn’t respect who they are. And what of those on the other side? What of those convinced that God condemns homosexuality, and that gay “marriages” are two people dangerously committing themselves to ongoing rebellion against their Maker for as long as they both shall live? Will the orthodox side be tolerated if they speak their piece during the “any objections” part of the ceremony? Will they be tolerated if they won’t stop pleading for their homosexual friends to repent and turn back to the God Who knows what is the very best for them? No. We know better. They’ll be told to be respectful. Be loving. And be quiet. Jeremiah warned against those who preached “peace, peace when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14, 8:11). Sometimes battles are unavoidable. The unity on offer here is only a trick that will be used to silence God’s truth about sexuality in the CRC… just as our culture most desperately needs to hear that truth from the church. And Phil Reinders is either preaching this impossible unity in ignorance, or, like he said, “the Church is being played.”...

Assorted

In the right place to serve: Christians are leading the way in helping one city’s homeless

By God’s providence, Christians are often in exactly the right place at the right time to do the good works that He prepared for us! For nearly 100 years, the Lighthouse Mission has worked with the down and out on the streets of Bellingham, a university city near the Canadian border, preaching the Gospel while lending a material hand to those in need. As homelessness and despair due to drug addiction have grown in the last ten years, local government officials have begun to lean more and more on the work done by the Lighthouse – work that is helping pull people off the streets, and into productive lives through the power of God’s Word. Hans Erchinger-Davis is the Executive Director of the Mission. Hans grew up near Bellingham in a Christian home with loving parents who shared the Gospel wherever they went, including a memorable one-year trip through communist eastern Europe when Hans was a boy. Erchinger-Davis studied at Regent College in Vancouver (where Professor J.I. Packer was among his teachers), but his first career was in technology, and later in film. On the cusp of a career as a documentary filmmaker, Hans was offered a job at the Lighthouse Mission in 2006, and his life, and the lives of thousands of others, was changed forever. Help given in the Name of God Executive Director Hans Erchinger-Davis has been working at the Mission since 2006. Erchinger-Davis estimates that there are between 800 and 1,000 homeless people in Whatcom county at any one time, with the majority living on the city streets of downtown Bellingham. Volunteers and employees of the Mission make regular contact with these struggling men and women, giving out coffee and clothing, and inviting them to “base camp” for a hot meal and shelter for the night. Already at “base camp,” counselors share the good news of Jesus Christ, and offer resources and referrals, letting the new arrivals know that there is a way out of the despair in which they find themselves. Those who are willing to move up from “base camp” into a formal program of recovery must commit to being off drugs and alcohol before they are admitted to recovery houses that build on the foundation of drug-free, value-filled living, to begin training towards a productive life. “The Christian message is always part of our teaching,” says Erchinger-Davis. “Ninety-nine percent of our graduates are Christians or become Christians.” “We follow Jesus onto the streets and encampments in our community. The message of Jesus cannot be separated from the services we offer. It is in our DNA to carry out the mission of healing homelessness with Christ’s power and love,” said Erchinger-Davis. “It’s because of this that the Lighthouse Mission declines any offers of government funding for programs and services that might limit the ability for us to provide our homeless friend voluntary participation in prayer, worship, Bible studies and basic Christian discipleship.” Eager to do even more Now, in 2023, the Lighthouse Mission is in the middle of an ambitious construction project: the building out of which the Mission did its main work was in rough shape, and the Mission’s board decided that the most cost-effective solution was to tear it down and re-build a more suitable facility, with room for more training, more beds, more cooking facilities, and room for small retail businesses that those in the program can operate. Whatcom County (in which Bellingham is located) has a fairly liberal governing “county council,” although there are believers among the county representatives. Officials have acknowledged publicly and privately that the Mission does invaluable work among the homeless that local government is not able to provide. As a result, both the city and county had committed to helping fund portions of the construction project that were centered on humanitarian aid (things like shelter, meals, and vocational training). Setbacks, but no compromise The Mission provides hot meals, but they don’t stop with providing for the physical. It is always delivered in the context of the Gospel. Recently however, one of the county council members made it her personal mission to deny any funding to the rebuilding project due to the Mission’s “discriminatory” hiring practices. (The Lighthouse Mission requires that all of its employees acknowledge the organization’s Christian roots, including a Biblical understanding of human sexuality and the sinfulness of homosexual relationships.) The council member won a temporary victory, as the body decided not to provide funding for any of the Mission’s rebuild (even the portions of the work that could be described as humanitarian aid). Again, by the grace of the Lord, this temporary setback was overcome in God’s providence. Just a few days after the council made its decision, a local donor contacted Hans to let him know that he and his family would be donating $400,000 to help cover the shortfall. But that was just the beginning! Kathy Kershner, a Christian who serves on county council, lobbied the other members of council, reminding them of the valuable services that the Mission provides to Whatcom County. Kershner moved to rescind the motion denying funding, and a majority of council agreed. Hope for future rests in the Lord Despite many victories and successes for the Mission, Erchinger-Davis’ personal life has been visited with tragedy. His father, a faithful Christian, struggled with bi-polar disorder. His best friend from high school became a drug addict, and despite intervention attempts and help that was available so close by, died of a drug overdose a couple of blocks from Hans’ office. Echinger-Davis’ sister was a victim of domestic violence, and recently took her own life, leaving behind two young children. While some might despair at these tragedies, Hans is able to rejoice in God’s goodness, and to accept that God has a plan that he can’t fully understand. “It’s hard! My friend died, and I was not able to help him, but partly through my own work, the Mission has been able to help thousands who have escaped lives of brokenness through God’s love.” The Lord has put His people where they are needed to fulfill His gracious plan. Hans summarizes: “We aim for healing homelessness both in the present, the future, and for eternity with the tender love of Jesus Christ in Whatcom County.” Assistant Editor Marty VanDriel is a board member of the Lighthouse Mission Ministries Foundation, which provides long-term funding for the work of the Lighthouse Mission Ministry, and was asked by the editor to profile the organization. Pictures have are frame captures, taken with permission, from Lighthouse Mission Ministries Foundation's 5-part video series "Hope for Bellingham: Response to Homelessness," the first of which you can watch below. Find the rest here. ...

News

RP's 2023 Summer Photo Contest: a different perspective on God's World

Last year we invited you to show us how you were enjoying God this summer. This time we’d like to put a twist to the same idea. We’re calling our theme “A Different Perspective on God’s World.” So please explore God’s creation, his flowers and forests, the Heavens that declare His glory, and the people He has put here, and then put a unique spin on the presentation. Maybe that means a closeup, or shot from high up above. Maybe it means a different perspective on a topic, like trying to take a photo of oxygen or sound. Might it involve an artistic use of Black and White? Perhaps… but that’s up for you to decide.  We hope this theme will inspire, but we’re not trying to use it to limit your creativity. So take your picture and then send it along with a caption of one or two sentences highlighting how this is a different angle on God’s world. So get out there and start clicking! Categories: Children and youth (under 18) Adults (18+) Rules: Maximum 3 entries per person Must be an original photo, taken this year Include a line to explain how the photo relates to the theme (max. 100 words) Provide permission to RP to publish your photo online and/or in print if selected Include the name of the photographer and photo title, and for the under 18 entries, the photographer's age. Prizes: Winner and runner-up for both categories will be printed in Reformed Perspective • Winner of each category will receive a $100 gift certificate to ChristianBooks.com; runner-up will receive a $75 gift certificate. Deadline: Send your photo (high-resolution) to [email protected] before Aug 15, 2023 ...

Economics

Christians can’t “invest” in cryptocurrency

I hope this headline got your attention! I can hear some of the objections already: What do you mean, we can’t invest in cryptocurrency; don’t you know that it’s the wave of the future? My friend bought $2,000 worth of Bitcoin a few years ago, and now it’s worth $16,000! It is going to replace the dollar within a few years. And crypto is a means for us to resist the prying eyes of the government into our finances – we can shield our savings from the bureaucrats who may seek to punish us for our Christian beliefs by freezing our funds, or taking them from us! We’ll hope to respond to these thoughts below… so read on! What is crypto? First off, what is cryptocurrency? In brief, crypto is a digital currency, not backed by any government, bank, or physical standard, that is designed as a means to save, to buy, and to sell. There are different types of cryptos, some well-regarded like Bitcoin and Ethereum, and some that have failed spectacularly and are now worth little or nothing (such as OneCoin and SpaceBit). What they all have in common is that they are seeking to replace traditional currency like the Canadian or U.S. dollar with a modern way of doing business and commerce in the marketplace. In our last issue, RP reprinted a beautiful perspective on investing written by Randy Alcorn called “Investing in Eternity – thinking 30 million years ahead.” If you haven’t read it yet, please go back and peruse it! Alcorn has very thought-provoking and wise perspectives on what we do with the financial gifts the Lord has given us. He writes that “no matter how great an earthly treasure is, it is still worthless in the eyes of eternity.” And Alcorn encourages Christians to think about how we in this lifetime support godly ministries that will have an eternal impact on the lives of lost souls. Does this mean Christians shouldn’t “invest” at all, and should instead give everything away? Perhaps it depends on one’s definition of investing! What is investing? Let’s go back to the basics and consider what this means. Investing can be defined as the commitment of resources to achieve later benefits. Often, this is understood primarily to be about finances, but that is not always the case. Consider that a mom invests time and energy (the resource) into her children with the goal of raising productive, godly adults (the later benefit). A farmer invests money, labor, and seed (the resources) into a field to grow crops he can sell for others to eat (the later benefits being for both the farmer as he sells, and the buyer as he eats). Often, there is an element of time that is necessary for an investment to have its intended effect. Kids don’t become adults overnight; a builder might take a year or more to build a beautiful home. Obviously, in this broader sense of the word, Christians should not have any trouble investing, and we do so in our daily lives in myriads of ways. In the more common sense of the word, investing relates to where we put our finances (the resource) in order to grow them for future use (the later benefit). One might become a partner in a retail store by putting up a percentage of the capital required to get the operation going. Before writing a check, you would want to look at your partners’ business plan, and examine the location and the type of goods that will be sold; you might consider the experience that your partners have in the industry.  You would probably make a list of the pros and cons of the business, and take a responsible risk to invest in the partnership, with the hope that it will generate a profit down the road. In a similar way, one might buy publicly traded shares in a company that builds cars and trucks that perhaps is expanding into another part of the market. You would have access to a track record of financial performance. You might ask if the company has consistently paid out dividends. Has it managed its money well? Is the leadership of the company committed to its customers? Has the company made risky decisions that could endanger your investment? Are the cars and trucks that the company makes high quality and well received by consumers? These types of questions and this type of study helps an investor to take responsible risks in the hope of a return in the stock market. What does Scripture say about investing? The Lord Jesus taught two similar parables that are often quoted about investing. In Matthew 25 and in Luke 19, a wealthy man leaves town for a period of time, and entrusts some of his fortune to servants to manage. When he returns, the master praises those whose trading and commerce compounded the funds they were managing, and condemns the foolish servants who simply buried their coins in the ground. Jesus is teaching about far more than how to handle money in these parables, but it is striking that the master praises unreservedly those that managed well the resources entrusted to them. The book of Proverbs is full of practical and beautiful counsel for living a godly life, and has much to say about wise and foolish behavior about investing. Solomon teaches us not to spend all our money today, forgetting about the needs that both we and our community will face tomorrow. Proverbs 21:17 and 20 say: “Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich…” “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” Notice that Solomon does not condemn “keeping” treasure or resources for a rainy day in one’s possession, but calls out as “foolish” the man who recklessly uses all his resources without a thought for the future. So, the Bible is certainly not anti-investing. Our savings are not just for ourselves But what sort of investing should it be? A Christian’s goal in saving is not just for our own needs tomorrow, but also for the community in which we live, and for future generations of our families. Proverbs 11:24 tells us: “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” Then in chapter 13, verse 22 we read: “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.” We should never withhold from giving generously to the Lord, in our tithes and offerings, and also in our willingness to help our neighbors. Solomon stated this in Proverbs 3:27-28: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go and come again, tomorrow I will give it’ – when you have it with you.” Wealth gained hastily… Another theme that recurs frequently in Proverbs is the element of patience, or delayed gratification for the wise man. “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” – Prov. 13:11 “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.” – Prov. 12:11 “Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth.” – Prov. 12:27. The theme here and in many other passages is that “getting rich quickly” is often a dangerous pursuit – the person who only focuses on rapid accumulation of wealth may be on a foolish pathway that will not be blessed. One who is focused only on enormous potential returns from an investment may skip the important steps of finding out how a return is being earned, how $100 put into this company or stock will actually earn a profit for the investor. By racing to the potential conclusion (I’m going to make ten times what I put in!) without careful consideration of how one is “working the land,” a foolish investor may have only himself to blame when a scamster absconds with his treasure. Remember Solomon’s warning in Proverbs 14:23: “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” How are these warnings connected to crypto? Now that we have considered whether a Christian may invest, we can now ask: Why not cryptocurrency? The answer is in the very term “currency” itself. Currency is a means of paying for a good or service – it does not on its own produce a good or service that can make or lose money for its owner. While Bitcoin may be a very secure, very stable platform that may become a common way for citizens to buy bread at the grocery store, and to receive our pay checks, it is not producing anything tangible from which to make a profit. I would argue that Christians could exchange some of their assets into Bitcoin, or into another cryptocurrency, as a way to transact business, or to diversify risk with the Canadian dollar as measured against the U.S. dollar. One who would like to support a currency independent of any one government’s control, might also consider putting some of their savings into a cryptocurrency. The risk, of course, would be that the value of all cryptocurrency is very unstable, and difficult to pin down, but that could be a responsible risk for a citizen. But doing so is definitively not an investment, because it is not of itself producing anything tangible. A number of years ago, there was huge push for people to “invest” in the Iraqi dinar – the currency that is still in use in Iraq. Before the 1990 U.S. invasion of Kuwait, one dinar was worth three times more than a U.S. dollar (at least in theory). Over the next ten years, the currency collapsed, with a dinar becoming worth as little as 3 U.S. cents. Unscrupulous financial advisers urged people to exchange their savings for Iraqi dinars, to take advantage of the dinar’s “inevitable comeback.” The advisers made their money by collecting inflated purchase fees along the way, while the dinar has continued to be worth very little (today being valued at around 7 U.S. cents). Like Bitcoin, the dinar is a unit of exchange, a way of transacting business. It is certainly possible that both currencies will be worth more in the future. However, it is also very possible that both will be worth far less in the future. If one exchanges currencies that are relatively stable (like the U.S. or Canadian dollar) with volatile currencies, that is not investing, but simply speculating – more like gambling than responsible stewardship. Christian financial adviser David Bahnsen’ Bahnsen Group is a multi-billion-dollar investment firm. In a recent episode of his Dividend Cafe podcast he agreed that growth of cryptocurrency as a way of conducting business and making payments is likely to continue. But he warns: “I’d be speculating (if I predicted what) the price of a Bitcoin would be. It could be a hundred thousand, it could be ten thousand, and it could be both next month, and so that’s why it’s not investable for us.” Bahnsen compares the enthusiasm around cryptocurrencies to other popular investing waves of the recent past that came and went, with the common man inevitably hurt along the way: “The recent history of euphoric busts all share the same things in common: A casual willingness to ignore common sense in pursuit of a speculative return. From Chinese reverse merger UFOs in 2011 to solar SPACs in 2021 to crypto in 2022, they all possess the same four realities: A willingness to suspend logic, analysis, or traditional wisdom. A popularity that soothed the suspension and added emotional confidence to the speculation. A period of looking like a genius while other “fools” joined the party. A spectacular burst that left capital destruction in its wake.” Conclusion While I was hoping to get your attention with the headline of this article, I think it is true. I would argue that not just Christians, but no one can invest in cryptocurrencies, because one does not invest in a currency – it is not a business intended to make a profit. The broader point that I hope has come through is that speculation in hope of spectacular gain often comes to heartache, enriching unscrupulous characters along the way. Christians can certainly carefully invest their savings in many ways, but always carefully and with the ultimate goal of serving the Lord through the gifts He entrusts to us, for the good of His kingdom here on earth, and for eternity....

People we should know

Elon Musk and visions of the future

“These human space flight missions were a beacon of hope to me and to millions over the past two years as our world has been going through one of the most difficult periods in recent human history. We see the rise of division, fear, cynicism, and the loss of common humanity, right when it is needed most. So, first, Elon, let me say thank you for giving the world hope and reason to be excited about the future.” – Lex Fridman speaking about SpaceX to Elon Musk, on his podcast released December 28, 2021 **** Where are the dreams of previous decades, of flying cars and paperless offices and TV phones? Not only have these dreams turned out to be rather bleak (Zoom as a sort of TV phone has not sparked joy in anyone), but no new visions of the future have sprung up to replace them. Young people – those supposedly optimistic young people – fill social media feeds with anxiety-soaked visions of climate catastrophe, plague and economic collapse. Our world dreams of catastrophe, not progress. And yet some young people do turn to one figure as a beacon of hope in the negativity all around them. They turn to a public figure who frequently and publicly describes a future where humanity overcomes its challenges, and continues to seek out the meaning of existence. This is the vision of the future provided by Elon Musk – a controversial figure whose “true fans” love him for his insistence that human ingenuity can create a future that will be better. Christians, of all people, have reason to be excited about the future. We live in hope, even in the midst of darkness and despair. Or so we say. And yet it is not Christianity that many turn to, to escape the bleak future. It is not Christianity that provides these young fans with a new vision of the future, and an optimism to be hopeful again. When we see the success of visionary dreams of the future, when we see Elon Musk inspiring millions, it pushes us as Christians to work out what we mean by hope. It pushes us to define what we expect from the future. And it urges us to consider whether we are “visionary,” and whether we should be. The profound hopefulness of Elon Musk “You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great—and that’s what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It’s about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars.” – Elon Musk, SpaceX website What is Elon Musk’s vision? Musk has many critics, including many who doubt he sincerely means to benefit common humanity with his companies and inventions. Despite this, fans continue to flock to him. Whether or not his vision of the future is sincere or a marketing tactic, the simple fact is that there is something in his vision that fulfills something his fans are looking for. They draw hopefulness from his vision. Why is that? First of all, Musk has the ability to drag unlikely concepts, like reusable rockets, into the realm of reality. For a young generation struggling with anxiety, just getting out of bed in the morning can feel superhuman. A person who can come up with an idea, and then make sure that idea gets done, confronts our feelings of helplessness and comforts us that maybe solving our problems is as simple as just doing it. “When something is important enough, you do it, even if the odds are not in your favor,” as Musk says in his interview with Lex Fridman. On one level, Musk is not that revolutionary. Electric cars, space flights to Mars, satellite internet – all of these are ideas that have been dreamed up before Musk came along. But because Musk has done more than dream, Musk has become a source of inspiration. But Musk doesn’t simply get things done – he frames his activities as the stuff that fires imaginations. “You need to have things that when you wake up in the morning, you're excited about the future,” Musk argues in another interview with the Babylon Bee. “Why live? If it's all about solving problems of being miserable, like, why live? So they've got to be things that...you know, get you in the heart. And I think space is one of those things.” God created a world with much more than the bare necessities. He also created a people with a capacity for enthusiasm – an enthusiasm to explore, an enthusiasm to see what is possible. We can be full of curiosity about creation, just as scientists before us reached out to God through their discoveries of the natural world. Haven’t Christians who have come before have been eager to explore and create? From Johannes Kepler to David Livingstone, the world has opened up to us through the enthusiasm of those who have come before us. The Bible itself illustrates this too. The overall arc of the Bible moves from its beginnings in the garden to its ending in the city. The story of creation is a story that includes the development and unfolding of what God made. This is why we need dreamers and visionaries, to bring out the possibilities inherent in creation. Elon Musk hits on some important things. Building real things in the real world matters, even if it isn’t easy to bring things together and make them work together. In fact, building real things can contribute to a feeling of fulfillment in us, a feeling of doing what we were meant to do. No wonder some find inspiration in this. But Musk himself is used as the example to follow for those looking for a hopeful outlook on the future. As a man who presents himself as someone who dreams and builds his dreams, he is viewed as an inspiration. This means the vision he presents should be examined in more depth. Before we fully jump on board with Elon Musk’s future, we should consider what future, exactly, he presents. The bleakness of Elon’s future Elon Musk claims to want to build the future so humans can continue to seek the meaning of life. “I don't know when I'll die, but I won't live forever. But I would like to know that we are on a path to understanding the nature of the universe and the meaning of life and what questions to ask about the answer that is the universe.” Musk wants to save humanity so humanity can continue to struggle with the meaning of existence. Well and good! Humans are meant to seek out the purpose of their existence, and not give up on their existence as meaningless. But Musk himself holds back from offering an answer to the question of meaning, only vaguely hinting that humanity might figure it out in some far-off someday. And in this way, Musk’s future does not fully alleviate the temptation to nihilism. After all, what does he really think the nature of the universe is? He is building physical technologies that will greatly impact the real world we live in. But he is deeply ambivalent about whether the world we live in is a real world after all. “The odds that we’re in base reality is one in billions,” he explained at Code Conference in 2016. It’s a fun idea that tech entrepreneurs and philosophers like to play with – the idea we might be living in a video game that is a copy of some deeper reality. Except this idea of “what’s really going on” is cold comfort to the apathetic and despairing. And Musk is, famously, all-in on artificial intelligence, as well as linking our brains to computers (see his company Neuralink). This does indicate a belief that reality may really not consist of anything more than ones and zeros after all. If we are living in a simulation, a cosmic simulation where something is jerking us around like puppets – well, some of us might be eager to know the truth of this. But this truth is not the kind of truth that sets us free from apathy. Musk does not know what the meaning of life is. He only wants to buy more time for humanity to figure it out. The answer to the meaning of existence that many people arrive at today, when looking at the failures of humanity, is simply that humanity does not deserve to exist. This is what feeds into our current culture’s apathy. And no journeys among the stars are fantastic enough to change their minds. In some sense, Elon Musk is right. What makes life worth living is working on problems, seeking the meaning of existence, and exploring every cranny of creation. Only Christians can fight with those problems before the face of a God Who has answers. Saving us from the future? Do Musk’s fans really turn to him because of his musings about reality being a simulation, or because of his goal of preserving human consciousness in order to seek out the meaning of life? It is possible they turn to him for a far simpler reason than this. For some of them, it may be less about finding positive inspiration in his message, and excitement for the future – and more of a response to fear of the future. Fear of the future is behind so much of human activity. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said in a sermon in 1933, “What else is all the razzle-dazzle and drunkenness of New Year’s Eve, other than our great fear of a new era, of the future? Fear is breathing down our necks.” Elon Musk’s vision is a relief because it offers a positive vision of the future, in contrast to the terrible ones on the news every day. It acknowledges terrible consequences that may occur, but it encourages us that humanity can overcome them. By being hopeful, it helps others to hang onto hope. And this relief from fear brings devotion along with it. After all, is it really self-evident that space travel is inspiring, and is that truly what his fans latch onto when they admire Musk? Going to Mars is presented with the enthusiasm that the age of exploration brought, when voyages to unknown lands brought home wonders. Except in our case, Mars is not exactly unknown or unexplored. The magic of going there is to just say we can go there, to say humans have set foot on a place we already know all about – more like a family vacation to Paris than a voyage of discovery to the South Seas. To make it even more prosaic, the reason to go there is “a life insurance policy.” Musk presents his technology as supplying a reason to get up in the morning and feel optimistic about the future, but he simultaneously does not shy away from arguing his work will preserve humanity in case something really bad happens to earth. He says, “We should basically think of this, being a multi-planet species, just like taking out insurance for life itself – like, life insurance for life.” (“This turned into an infomercial real quick,” says his interviewer, Lex Fridman). His focus on using technology to avoid potentially devasting problems, such as climate change, helps explain why he is so often viewed as a savior by the devoted. To explore out of a love of exploration, out of a joy of living, is quite different than to explore and build to avoid a negative outcome. To the extent Elon Musk’s vision is driven by a joy of discovery, it is admirable. To the extent it reveals humanity’s underlying fears and insecurities, it reveals a drive to control and secure our own futures. Looking to technology to solve all our problems and absolve us of our fears quickly becomes placing our faith in technology – in other words, placing our faith in humankind. Ideally, we recognize the capabilities God has given to humanity, while simultaneously recognizing their source in God. Otherwise the failures of humanity can feel overwhelming, as demonstrated by our current culture’s reaction to the optimism of the 1950s. Nihilism and apathy are much more common, despite the technological progress of the twentieth century. Christians and the hope that we have Christianity should also inspire us to live, and not just a grit-your-teeth-and-get-through-life kind of living. There is a superficial similarity with Elon Musk here. But what is Christianity’s vision of the future? One critique of Christianity is that it directs all hope to life after death. It neglects the world we live in for some fairy tale future. It maintains the status quo by promising if Christians are meek and humble they will be rewarded in the life to come. Christian visions of the future that have been presented have at times been bleak as well – that the physical world doesn’t deserve improvement, as it will be enveloped in fire anyway. Or that humanity can never progress, because we’re deeply stained by sin. Or history will just continue to get worse and worse (“wars and rumors of wars”) until Jesus comes again. But let’s turn from what some Christians have thought about the future and look towards what the Bible presents as the future. What is the clearest, most concrete vision of the future that Christianity offers? It is actually quite simple and clear: the return of Christ. “e wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13). The return of Christ is our future. Notably, this future that the Bible describes is a future that Elon Musk does not find comforting at all: “We could have a chapter past Revelation,” he says when asked what book he’d add to the Bible. “Like, is there a happy ending here? Revelation Part 2: The Happy Ending.” He does not elaborate on what he finds so depressing about the new earth and the Bible’s vision of the future, but it could be that he does not see the continuation and culmination of our work in this world into the next. Perhaps “the apocalypse” really sounds like a final end to him. Christians live with their lives pointing towards the kingdom of heaven. Yes, this means living for the world to come. But at the same time, this means recognizing the kingdom of heaven exists already in the world today, like “yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough” (Matt. 13:33). It is about doing our work in this world in the light of eternity, not as if our work right now doesn’t matter because there will be another world, but because what we do now does matter for our eternal future. Perhaps it is Herman Bavinck who explains this best, in his article, “The Kingdom of God, The Highest Good”: “We are, finally, the totality of what we have ever willed, thought, felt, and done. The profit that we yield for ourselves in this way is profit for the Kingdom of God. Even a cup of cold water given to a disciple of Jesus receives a reward. God calls us to work in such a way that, amid all that we do, we should envision the eternal work that God desires to bring about through people… even if our work space be ever so small and our occupation ever so nondescript. This is truly and essentially working for the Kingdom of God.” It is mysterious how God promises to bring everything to fulfillment, but the new world will not be “starting over.” Even in Revelation 21, the kings of the earth bring their splendor into the new Jerusalem, indicating that in some fashion the glories of this world, once redeemed, will crown the new heavens and new earth. It will not make God’s work in history now into something meaningless. We’re allowed to be visionary. We’ve been given a vision that equips us to work. And so we’re called to hope. To hope in a way that encourages us to try, to build and invent, to strive for a concrete idea of what could be better, and to fight to understand what we’re here on earth for. For Christians the future is inevitable. Our consciousness will not be snuffed out. Humanity will go on for eternity, to live and love and build, and learn about what we can do, before the face of our God....

Articles, Book Reviews

A plea to read

...or, the story of a boy, a repairman, and the Truth **** In the title I promised you a story. Actually that was mainly to draw you in. I figured stories sell more magazines. But it’s not entirely untrue. I want to start with a couple of stories. They happen to be autobiographical. The first story starts at about grade 3, around the age of 8. You may think that my qualification for making a “plea to read” is my current calling as pastor, or my (excessive) years of education before this. But that’s not really it. That’s not really why I agreed to share this article about reading. Instead, the story begins, once upon a time, when I was 8. That was the year I discovered reading, or at least my passion for reading. In the years that followed it became my number one activity. I was almost always reading, probably at an unhealthy level. You want to know why I say that? Well, my parents would often ignore my lengthy birthday or Sinter Klaas lists and buy me things I didn’t ask for and, truth be told, I didn’t necessarily want. I asked for the next book in a series; they bought me a hockey stick. I asked for the first book in a new series; they bought me a Lego set. Actually, we used to have a cartoon on our fridge. I think it was from Punch Comics. One of my siblings stumbled across it, cut it out, and posted it there. It’s a sketch of a family gathered around a television set in the living room. Two ladies on the couch are talking to each other and looking rather concerned about the boy in the foreground who’s curled up in a chair reading a book, oblivious to the rest of the family. The caption at the bottom reads, “We’re rather worried about William.” I kid you not. That was the name. Google it if you don’t believe me. It doesn’t quite work because we never had a TV in the house, but you get the picture, I think. So that’s where this story begins. My plea to read is in part a plea for you to join me in the best hobby there is. A dog-eared copy of Reformed Dogmatics But that’s not a terribly convincing appeal. That comes in the next story (I hope). We have to jump forward about twenty years to what was one of my more embarrassing moments in recent years, which for some reason I’m sharing publicly with you all. You have to try to imagine the scene with me. I was in first year at the seminary at the time. And you have to know that first year seminary is that stage where you feel like you know everything. You have an opinion on everything. And you want to fight about everything. Things change after four years. Thankfully… and by the grace of God. Well, we were back home in Richmond Hill for the weekend. We got invited to my wife Diane’s Opa and Oma Kampen’s for dinner (don’t tell them I told you this story) and we were sitting around waiting for dinner to be ready and chatting and what not. Now, before I continue, I have to give a quick character sketch. Opa Kampen is retired now, but he was an appliance repairman all of his years in Canada. I’m not sure when his education stopped, but he definitely didn’t have anything like the years of education that I had at that point. So, anyway, we’re talking together about one thing or another, and suddenly the conversation shifts. I don’t remember why anymore, but rather unexpectedly Opa asked me whether I favoured Infralapsarianism or Supralapsarianism. Remember, I was the first year seminary student and he was the appliance repairman. I don’t remember why it came up, but I definitely remember my reaction. Vividly. I started sweating. I had heard those words before, but I had almost no idea at that point what they meant, let alone which one I leaned towards. I thought, here we go, Opa’s about to expose me as a complete fraud. My education has meant nothing! I was tempted to slip out quickly to the bathroom so that I could Google it, but there was no time. I actually don’t even know what happened in the end, but that moment of panic has stuck with me. So why am I sharing this story? Well, to me it illustrates a change over the years in terms of our investment into reading and educating ourselves in Reformed doctrine. Gone are the days when your appliance repairman read through Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics, in Dutch or in English. Gone are the days when you can expect men nominated as elders or deacons to have invested significant time into studying Reformed doctrine over and above their catechism instruction as young people. Now, before you get up in arms, I’m not saying there are none of these. I’m just saying that with the younger generations this breed is not as common. And I’m indicting myself with this too. I was a deacon before coming to seminary. Well, if that’s the case with those being put up for church leadership, then how about the other people in the pew? Before I continue, I should add a disclaimer. My comments here are completely unscientific. My doctoral supervisor would never forgive me for my poor research. I haven’t crunched any numbers or done any surveys. I’m basing this on my experiences as an office-bearer, both before and after I went through seminary. If you have a more positive outlook, I’d love for you to convince me. But right now, this is my article, so you’ll have to bear with me. So why should we care? Why should I make this plea for us to read more widely and more deeply today, in the 21st century? Let me devote the next half of this article to exploring an answer to that question. Theologians should read (and we’re all theologians) Well, first of all, everyone is a theologian. (If you’re on Twitter, you might want to tweet that, although I certainly can’t take credit for coining the phrase, so don’t quote me). Everyone is a theologian. Even the atheist is a theologian. That’s because theology is, essentially, thoughts or words about God. And the atheist has thoughts about God. Now, his thought happens to be that God doesn’t exist – and he happens to be wrong – but that still makes him a theologian. So, if we’re all theologians then the important question is what kind of theologians are we going to be? You see, the problem with the atheist isn’t that he’s a theologian, it’s that his theology is coming from the wrong source. If we don’t study theology from the right sources – if we don’t allow our thoughts and words about God to be shaped by the right sources – then our theology is going to be shaped by the wrong sources. If we don’t consciously do theology – that is, if we don’t consciously train our minds in the knowledge of God – we’re going to end up basing our theology either on our own experiences and our own feelings or on whatever else we happen to be taking in. Because we are reading. Maybe some of us – and I’m talking especially about my generation and younger – are reading more than ever. I’m thinking of social media. Don’t tell me you’re not a reader if you’re on Facebook or Twitter. Maybe those who only use Instagram, which focuses on pictures, can have a legitimate claim not to be readers, but the other social media users can’t. But the problem with only reading online, and not engaging in books, is that by its very nature the online world tends towards the superficial. Let’s think specifically of theology – of the study of God. If your thoughts are shaped by your reading of little quotes that someone decided to share, taken out of context, written by who knows who, or if all you read are the musings of someone who is just “feeling philosophical” (as the Facebook status often says) then you can’t expect anything but superficial knowledge. That, I think, is the biggest danger with losing our interest in reading deeply and studying deeply the doctrines of God found in his Word. We end up with an overall superficiality in terms of our theology, what we know about God. Worse, we can rely more on our subjective experiences than the objective truth we find in God’s Word. Feelings aren’t reliable…but there is a book that can be trusted Let me explain that. What is subjective is based on our own experiences, our feelings, our emotions. We can’t really call it truth – although as postmoderns we might want to – because we aren’t reliable sources of truth. Our sinful, fallen nature means that we can’t be trusted to process things correctly, understand things properly. We can’t be trusted to theologize helpfully on our own. General revelation can only go so far (Rom. 1:19-23). We need objective truth. We need something to build our lives on that is absolutely rock solid, unshakeable. We find that foundation in the Word of God alone. Because it’s a revelation from outside of us, from outside of this fallen world. It’s special revelation from the unshakeable source of truth, God himself. That’s why we’re called to pore over Scripture, to internalize it, to let it light our path, to let it shape our thoughts, to let it cut deeply into our hearts. And we have to trust that the Spirit works transformation through the Word. We have to believe that. And then live like we believe it. But we also don’t read Scriptures alone. We read them with the church of all times and places. That’s why we guide and inform our reading with creeds and confessions. That’s also why we supplement our reading of Scripture with studying good theology, with reading solid literature. Because it all helps ground us further in the objective truth of God’s Word. When we’re deeply grounded in the truth of God’s Word, then we are better able to process our subjective feelings and emotions. The psalms in Scripture provide us with great examples of what that looks like. But let me explain what I mean by what I think is the most powerful and poignant illustration of this, where the believer directs his experience of reality by the truth that he knows from God’s revelation. It lies at the very center of the most tragic book in the Bible, Lamentations, traditionally understood to be written by Jeremiah. The prophet is lamenting over the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. His world, the world of God’s own people, has completely fallen apart. He finds himself sitting in the ashes and ruins of the holy city. Many of the people of God have died in the Babylonian invasion. Many others have been deported to far away Babylon. The whole poem is centred around the question: how could God allow this to happen to his chosen people? The prophet’s present experience is of pain, disillusionment, disappointment. Almost the entire book is a long cry of deepest despair. But then, at the very heart of the poem, in the middle of “the wormwood and the gall” (3:19), we get this incredible confession of faith, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness” (3:22-23). One Bible teacher suggests that we imagine ourselves sitting in the ashes of the World Trade Center in New York City after 9/11 and speaking these words to ourselves. That’s what I mean by looking at our experiences and filtering our emotions through our objective knowledge of God… our theology. The prophet, sitting among the ashes, knows this truth because God has spoken it, and so he applies this truth to his troubled soul and to his experiences, which appear to contradict it. Like the prophet, it’s our knowledge of the objective truths of God’s Word that gives us the wherewithal to process our experiences and feelings. Not vice versa. Then our theology lets us speak truth to our souls when our experience doesn’t seem to line up with our knowledge. That’s part of why we read. That’s part of why we pursue a deeper and deeper knowledge of God, above all through his Word, but also through reading deeply and widely with the church. How can we encourage reading? I want to explore the answer to one last question before I let you go: what should we do? I don’t have space to pay much attention to this, but let me make a start by saying what we shouldn’t do: we shouldn’t do nothing. We shouldn’t finish reading this article, muse about it for a few moments, and then just move on, mildly annoyed at the fact that this wasn’t a story like it was advertised to be, but otherwise untouched. We shouldn’t do nothing. So what should we do? Well, let me issue a plea to all of you reading this to do something. What that something is will depend on who you are and what you do. Are you a parent or grandparent? Stimulate the love for reading good books in your kids and grandkids. Do that by modeling it for them and by giving them the right resources for it. And if you can’t stimulate a love for it, then at least impress on them their responsibility to keep educating themselves in the doctrines of the Word of God. Are you an elder or deacon or pastor? First of all, create a culture of “professional development” within your church council and consistory. Secondly, stimulate that same love and that same sense of responsibility for reading in the sheep under your care. Are you a member of the body of Christ? Develop your own desire to grow in the doctrines of the Word of God, in sinking the objective truths of Scripture into your hearts and minds. And then make it your mission to share that love with your fellow members. Start with the people closest to you, your friends within the church. Buy them books – good books, mind you – and then talk about them. Start with easier (but not easy) reads and then make your way into heavier ones. Stretch yourself and stretch them too. Plan book review nights where you get together with your friends and you all share thoughts and insights from the books you happen to be reading at present. It doesn’t have to be formal or complicated. Just talk. And when you’re done your book (and it’s a good one), pass it along to someone else. Don’t let it collect dust on your shelf. In all this, though, never forget that studying theology ought to be an act of worship. We can’t let our reading become an end in itself. We can’t become obsessed with theology for the sake of theology. We do theology because we exist to glorify God and because we were created to know Him. So as you read and discuss, do it with a conscious posture of worship. Let your increase of knowledge lead to an increase of worship. Soli Deo Gloria! Endnotes For this point, see Aimee Byrd’s No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God, page 202. Dr. William den Hollander is Professor of the New Testament at the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary. This article was originally delivered as a speech at the December 8, 2017 Reformed Perspective fundraising dinner at the Aldergrove Canadian Reformed Church....

People we should know

Elon Musk’s highs and lows

Elon Musk might be best known for a brilliant bit of marketing he did back in 2018 for two of his companies: he launched his own Tesla electric roadster into space on one of his SpaceX rockets. Images of his red sportscar, blue Earth in the background, were carried by papers around the globe. More recently his SpaceX company made news for providing their Starlink satellite internet service to Ukraine when invading Russian forces destroyed much of the country’s online access. Richest Musk has also earned fame by, at times, being the richest man on the planet. Back in February, stock market gains gave him a net worth of $187 billion regaining him the title, at least briefly – he has some competition. He’d probably have had a firmer grip on the title if not for his 2022 Twitter purchase, which cost him $44 billion. Free speech defender Since that purchase Musk has been making headlines for the conservatives and/or Christians that he’s “unbanned” from the social media giant, including Jordan Peterson, Project Veritas, and the Christian satire site Babylon Bee. The Bee ran into trouble with Twitter in 2022 when they awarded US Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine their “Man of the Year Award.” Levine is transgender – a guy pretending to be a girl – and the pre-Musk Twitter would cancel your account if you didn’t play along with this sort of delusion. But within a month of Musk finalizing his purchase, the Babylon Bee, Peterson, and others, could tweet again. Unafraid of the social media mob Musk had gained admirers for being willing to tweet common sense takes that too many others are scared to say. An April 14 example: “Any parent or doctor who sterilizes a child before they are a consenting adult should go to prison for life.” Debunking overpopulation Musk’s 100+ million Twitter followers allow him to debunk lies like few others can, and he’s been using his influence to takedown the myth of overpopulation. He’s brought attention to the fact that the world’s population isn’t exploding but is, in fact, facing a coming collapse. At the government trough While Musk has shown entrepreneurial initiative a good chunk of his wealth has come via the public trough. He’s received billions in subsidies from various levels of government around the world to build factories. And he’s made billions through government programs that allow his electric car company Tesla, to make more from selling climate credits than from selling cars. The government awards Tesla these climate credits because their electric cars are said to be more friendly for the planet. Tesla can then sell these credits to other companies that aren’t meeting their climate targets. Is a moral liberal In addition to endorsing homosexuality, and euthanasia, Musk has had a less than exemplary family life, having his 9 children with 3 different women and via surrogacy. And while he is against “transitioning” children, his company Tesla has touted it has helped its adult employees “transition.” Apathetic about God Finally, Musk’s influence is troubling particularly when it comes to God. His obvious smarts make his agnosticism seem almost respectable, which is turn may give others the idea that doubt is not something to wrestle with, but is simply a place to land. Conclusion Much more could be shared; we haven’t even touched on Musk’s “Boring Company” tunnelling projects, or the 20,000 flamethrowers he’s sold, or his connection to PayPal. But even this short overview shows him to be a man of many interests, and consequently, a pretty intriguing fellow. But might his one million interests be a distraction for him from considering his Creator?...

Economics - Home Finances

Home ownership for Christians: how it happened in the past, and how it might now

As home prices have risen in most of Canada, young people may be wondering if they will ever be able to afford to own their own home In BC’s Fraser Valley, and in the golden triangle of southern Ontario, prices have fallen recently, but a rise in interest rates have kept mortgage payments at a rate that are unaffordable for many. Is a house with a white picket fence to call one’s own an impossible dream today? How should Christians approach the concept of home ownership, and are there ways that we can be of service to one another in this important part of our lives? I interviewed young couples, homeowners, renters, realtors, and others to get some insight into how Christians view real estate ownership, and to provide helpful advice for those who are wondering what the best course of action is for their family. SOME BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES We turn first to Scripture for some general principles on home and land ownership. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it!” Christians know from God’s Word that all of creation belongs to our God: He made it all, and He owns every square inch. Because we acknowledge God’s ownership of every bit of creation, Christians view our “ownership” of a home, or a business differently. We acknowledge that the Lord calls us to be good stewards of what He has entrusted to us, and that He expects us to “be fruitful, to fill the earth, and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). The Lord gave wise laws through Moses that emphasized a family’s ownership of land. One who was in financial difficulty could lend his land to another, but this was not to be a permanent change in ownership: “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the land you shall allow a redemption of the land.” (Leviticus 25:23-24) Further in Leviticus 25, Moses draws a distinction between agricultural land, and houses in “walled cities.” “If a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, he may redeem it within a year of its sale. For a full year, he shall have the right of redemption. If it is not redeemed with a full year, then the house in the walled city shall belong in perpetuity to the buyer throughout his generations.” (vs. 29-30). Homes attached to farmland were treated differently; they did return to the family who originally owned them. Since many of us now live in “walled cities” – that is, we do not depend on the fruit of the land for our income – it makes sense that these two types of properties were treated differently. More than 2,000 years later, we may look at the principles laid out in Scripture for guidance as we consider real estate and home ownership. We no longer live in God’s promised land, with guidelines for generational ownership, yet we observe that the Lord commanded His people to care for the land He entrusted to them, and that He blessed Israel as they did so faithfully, from generation to generation. THE CANADIAN DREAM Home ownership has long been part of the Canadian dream. For many in the Reformed community, our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents emigrated from the Netherlands with the hope of better economic opportunities, and a desire to buy their own farm, homestead, or family home… which may have been out of reach in the old country. Then, as now, a house was a costly purchase, and required diligent saving for a down payment, and prudent money management to make the monthly mortgage payments. Despite the challenges, most families in decades past found ways to get into home ownership, and by living below their means, and perhaps doing without some of the non-necessities, they were able to make their mortgage payments. It was not uncommon among our immigrant community for a couple to make do with one car for the family, and it was likely not a brand new vehicle but one that was purchased at least a few years old. THEN VERSUS NOW These condo apartments in the Niagara area went for $130,000 ten years ago, and are now listing for almost $400,000. And even as prices have recently dipped a little, that’s been countered by a rise in mortgage rates. (Photo: Danyse Van Dam) We are accustomed these days to inexpensive electronic devices, and to Wi-Fi access throughout or homes. A generation or two ago, a television was a costly appliance, and many families did without these: having a screen for everyone in the house was not considered a necessity! Another area that families did without was luxurious vacations. Although a trip to Mexico or Europe would be wonderful, many decided that camping at a lake, or making a road trip to cottage country would be a great way to make memories with their children. From 2003 to 2018, prices for free-standing houses increased up to 330% in parts of Canada. Especially in greater Vancouver and southern Ontario, supply and demand drove prices up to levels that seem unimaginable to those who considered home expensive already decades ago. Immigration to Canada from all over the world drove part of the demand side of this equation: in the last two years, more than 830,000 immigrants have moved into the Great White North, and many of these people have moved to areas that already had booming real estate prices. Construction costs for newly built homes have also ballooned. Higher wages for construction workers, increased costs for materials, and more and more red tape from local government all contributed to the costs that builders incurred, and passed on to new home buyers. At the same time, the earning power of workers has grown exponentially. The average salary of a Canadian wage earner increased 2.45% each year the past twenty years, with large spikes in the past two years (including over 10% in 2020). This is slightly lower than the 3.8% overall inflation rate in Canada over the same time period, but not outrageously different. WISDOM FROM GOD’S PEOPLE Given all of the above, what wisdom can we offer a young Christian couple today? We all have different gifts and abilities; we live in different parts of the country, with different real estate pricing: what Scriptural principles can we apply to our lives today to honor the Lord in all aspects of life? I talked to several couples and families in different stages of their earthly journey, seeking wisdom for God’s people today. Bert and Linda Vane are members of the Aldergrove Canadian Reformed Church in BC, and are parents of eleven children. Bert began his career as an entrepreneur in landscaping, employing many young people in landscape maintenance and new construction. As the Lord blessed them, the Vanes also invested in agricultural businesses, in real estate, and other opportunities. Bert believes that God gives all His creatures the obligation to work, and gives us stewardship of different pieces of life on earth. “God grants us the right to ‘own’ a piece of His creation, to provide shelter and food for our families. He gives us the responsibility to provide for our families, and home ownership is a part of this calling.” Bert believes without a doubt that ownership of one’s own house is a Godly desire, that ownership of property grants many blessings in the course of one’s life. These blessings include financial increase, but also add the stability granted to families when they are able to remain rooted in a location where they can be a dependable part of a church community. MORTGAGE HELPERS Since owning a home has become increasingly expensive, renting our primary residence has become another reasonable choice for Christians. Especially for young couples, needing only a one or two-bedroom home or suite in their first years of marriage, renting can be a wise decision for a period of time. This is most often not a wise choice for the long term (longer than 18 months), since ultimately costs for a rental unit are based on real estate prices, which change with time, and in the 21st century, mostly increase at or above the level of inflation. When we were newly married, way back in the day, my wife Faith and I returned from our honeymoon to a one-bedroom suite in the basement of brother and sister-in-law, Ken and Christine VanderPloeg. I never thought to ask at the time, but I’m sure that our meager monthly rental payments were appreciated in Ken and Christine’s financial journey as they used that suite as a “mortgage helper,” and raised six children in that same home. We lived in that basement suite for a bit less than two years, when we were blessed to be able to buy our own home. It was also in Surrey, BC, and also contained a basement suite that was our own mortgage helper in the following years. I can recall a few sleepless nights as Faith and I wondered whether or not it was the right thing to do, to buy our own home, especially as the purchase price seemed so impossibly high, more than ten times our annual earnings back in 1993. With good council from parents and in-laws, we went forward in faith, and bought our first home. We had enough funds for a good-sized down payment, thanks to my wife’s diligent savings, and we were able to borrow from family instead of the bank for the remainder, at a favorable interest rate. Later I learned that my parents-in-law, Henk and Jennie Schoen, had been able to offer similar assistance to all of their nine children, a result of their own stewardly financial management, and a generous spirit that was a blessing to all of us. Thanks Dad and Mom (since departed to glory)! Readers may glean a few principles from the example above. First, living in less than ideal circumstances, with a suite as a mortgage helper, or a partnership arrangement of some kind, can be a great stepping stone to home ownership. And second, when parents or family are able to help financially or otherwise, they can be a huge blessing to a young couple that otherwise might not be able to afford a house of their own. A FEW CURRENT EXAMPLES Sean and Lauren Stel have been able to buy a house by doing so with Lauren’s brother Ben Ravensbergen. Younger readers might be forgiven for scoffing at my own example of getting into the real estate market: “That’s well and good for you, old timer, but things have changed today! Prices are so high compared to your day!” That is certainly true: real estate prices are far higher today, but income levels are also much higher than past generations. Further, thriftiness as our parents and grandparents practiced, creative solutions like basement suites or partnerships, and tapping into the generous spirit of family and friends, are all still enormous opportunities today just as they were in previous generations. Sean Stel is a software engineer working for L3Harris Wescam; he and his wife Lauren have two children. The Stels have been shopping for the right real estate deal for some time in the Smithville, Ontario area. Sean and Lauren brought Lauren’s brother Ben Ravensbergen into the buying process, and are together on the cusp of buying a home together. Ben works in construction, and hopes to be able to build a suite in the home for his own use. Sean and Lauren are very thankful for the opportunity to make this work, and hope to be able to live in their new home for many years. Sean shared the good advice that he received from family and friends: “Write down whatever you agree to, so that you don’t have any forgetfulness or misunderstanding down the road!” Especially as property values fluctuate, and as life circumstances change, this is indeed good counsel for anyone who buys a home with a partner. Ben and Meagan den Boer are Australian immigrants living in the Fraser Valley of BC. Ben is a teacher at Credo Christian High School, and Meagan, a former nurse in Australia, is a stay-at-home mom. Right now, the den Boers can’t see a way to buying a home in the Fraser Valley. With a teacher’s salary, with home prices as high as they are, and with most family connections being back home in Australia, it doesn’t seem to make sense for the young couple. The den Boers are very grateful for their current living space, as they rent a two-bedroom apartment (mortgage helper) at a reasonable rent. Meagan stated that none of her friends in BC have been able to buy a home yet at this point, and many are renting basement suites or apartments from family and acquaintances. Ben and Meagan do already own a home back in Australia, and are glad they did not sell it upon their move to Canada. Ben and Meagan den Boer, along with their little guy Micaiah. Like many young couples in BC’s Fraser Valley, they haven’t found a home purchase that makes sense for them. OWNING VERSUS RENTING Tim Bratcher and Brian Bratcher are twin brothers, and immigrants to Canada from Pennsylvania. Tim and Brian were born and raised as members of the Blue Bell American Reformed Church; both brothers married Canadian spouses, and both ended up living in southern Ontario with their families. Brian and his wife Alicia bought a home in Dunnville about seven years ago. Although the purchase price was high compared to house prices in other parts of the U.S.A. or Canada where they could have moved, Brian and Alicia were able to borrow funds from relatives that made the purchase work. Seven years later, their home is worth more than double what they paid for it, and they have been able to put down roots in Dunnville. Tim and his wife Amanda have not been able to make that same leap into the market, but have been able to rent a home that has worked for their family. Tim and Amanda moved out of Guelph to Welland, where rents are more affordable. Tim has strong opinions on real estate and landlords, and believes that a part of the increase in housing prices has been small investors who buy homes to rent them out. “I’d advise against buying a $500,000 home as a rental income property, if you know that you’ll have to charge at or above the current going rate. It just bumps that average higher, and each new unit will ‘snap’ to that new rate.” HELP FOR THE NEXT GENERATION Reformed Christians in 21st century Canada have been tremendously blessed in so many ways by our God. This includes incredible financial blessings! On average, “baby boomers” (born between 1946 and 1964) are considered the wealthiest people ever in the history of the world, and members of “Generation X” (born from 1965 to 1982) are not far behind, perhaps on a trajectory to surpass their parents in wealth. How might we use what God has entrusted to us for the good of God’s Kingdom? God calls us to recognize His ownership of everything on earth: even while we think about “our” wealth, or “our” savings, we do well to remember that ultimately it is all the Lord’s. Might we be able to take part of our long-term savings or investments and have it be a blessing for our brothers and sisters, as well as for ourselves? Here are a few ways that family can help younger people get into home ownership: 1. Celebrate the wedding, help with the house! We’ve all seen wedding celebrations that become ostentatious displays, with lavish and unnecessary spending on things that mean very little in the long run. Are there ways that we as parents and grandparents and friends can encourage our children to appropriately celebrate their wedding with family and friends, while not digging a financial hole at the very start of their married life? When young couples are presented with the huge consequences of putting $15,000 towards the down payment on a house, and $10,000 towards a wedding celebration, versus $25,000 towards the wedding, we can help them make decisions that will be of huge benefit to them in the long term. (Hint: no one remembers what kind of napkins you had at your wedding, or what kind of food was served, but everyone remembers the speeches and the gezelligheid!) 2. Sharing our homes Many of us still live in the homes in which we raised our families, and no longer need all the room that we have. Yet, it might not make economic sense for us to move because of the cost of moving, or we might just enjoy the home in which we live. Could we find a way to accommodate our married children in our homes for a few years while they get established? This may be for a few months; it may be for a few years, but however it is accomplished, it can be a huge savings for a young family. 3. Lending funds at a low interest rate, or co-signing a loan With mortgage rates much higher than they were three years ago, interest has become a much larger component of buyers’ monthly payments. Could you lend your relatives or friends some of your savings at a lower rate than the bank would lend to them? Or could you lend them a portion of the down payment at low or no interest? Co-signing a loan, while potentially risky for the co-signer, is also an avenue to helping a young couple to establish credibility with a bank. (Co-signers need to be aware that they are responsible for continued payments on loans, even when things get messy!) 4. Lending funds as a shared investment Many economists believe that real estate prices in Canada will continue to rise well above the rate of inflation. For your long-term savings, could you find a way to invest in real estate with your children or grandchildren, providing part of the capital required in exchange for a percentage of the increase in value? This concept requires careful documentation so that all parties are aware of how increases or losses in value are shared, but may be a good investment for the older generation, as well as a huge helper for the younger generation. CONCLUSION From the examples above, and from our own experience, we can observe that home ownership has been an enormous blessing for generations of Canadian Christians. In the long term, owning one’s own home is foundational to financial stability and good stewardship of the resources the Lord has entrusted to us. May the Lord give wisdom to young couples considering how they may become homeowners, and may He give a spirit of generosity to older generations wishing to help their children and grandchildren in this good and Godly goal....

Apologetics 101, Pro-life - Abortion

How to defend the unborn in under a minute

I live in a town that’s so pro-life that when I go outside wearing a pro-life t-shirt the only reaction I get is, “Hey Jon, great-looking shirt there. Does it come in red?” We’re so pro-life that when pro-abortion politicians marched in this year’s Farmer’s Day Parade, there was all sorts of cheering and clapping for the float in front of them and the marching band behind them, but not a peep anywhere near them. They were enveloped in an angry bubble of silence. Our town is so pro-life that when my daughters and I volunteer at the pro-life booth, we can count on thanks, not shouts. The booth is set up at the summer fair each year, and most everyone stopping by is there to offer encouragement. They bring their kids to get free pro-life lollipops and pencils. Some buy yard signs or hats. The most popular items are our life-size fetal models showing what the unborn look like at 6 months, and 4 months, and 12 weeks; it’s always fun when a pregnant mom comes by to show her kids what size their baby brother or sister is right now. In the half dozen years we’ve been at this, I’ve only had a dozen or so folk either insult or argue with me. This, then, is more about preaching to the choir than reaching the opposition. Equipping the choir That’s why this year I decided to switch things up a bit. If it was always the choir stopping by, then what if we focused on equipping them? What if we tried to give them a quick “Pro-life 101” refresher, so they could walk away better able to speak up for the unborn? Of course, everyone at the fair is there for the rides and the food and the demolition derby, so it isn’t really the time and place for a class in apologetics. If I was going to pitch something educational, it needed to be quick. My daughters helped me out with a big poster that made an even bigger promise: “Learn how to defend the unborn in under a minute!” The sign was eye-catching and, thankfully, ambiguous enough to give me a little wiggle room on the time limit. Was I promising passersby a 59-second lesson or was I going to show them – in perhaps a slightly longer length of time – how they themselves could offer up a sub-minute defense of the unborn? The fudge factor allowed me to go a little long if I needed it. The short version A lightning-quick defense of the unborn is possible because most abortion arguments focus on one thing: what the unborn can’t do. The fetus is said to be less valuable and less deserving of protection than you or me because: they can’t breathe yet they don’t have brainwaves yet they aren’t self-aware yet they can’t survive on their own Whatever the reason given, it amounts to an abilities test – the unborn are said to be worth less, because they can do less. Therefore to defend the unborn all we have to do is show how it isn’t our abilities that give us value. We can do that by asking a couple of key questions. We’ll need our opponents to explain: Where does human beings’ worth come from? On what basis are we all equal? Unpacking the argument If our value comes from what we can do then that presents a problem for equality, since we all have very different abilities. I’m bigger than most, and maybe you’re faster than me, and that fellow over there might be smarter than both of us. So, then, in what sense are any of us equal? It’s quite the conundrum for the abortion supporter. Any ability-based answers he gives to the first question will run him into problems with the second. After all, we all understand that we don’t treat very different things as equal – a Rembrandt is housed in a museum under guard, while a child’s fingerpainting will only rate the fridge door, even though both are art. So unless men and women are actually equal in some sense, then we shouldn’t treat them as equal. That’s a thought no one wants to think, so we can be aggressive in pressing the abortion defender to explain how we’re equal. When he’s fumbling about, it’s our chance and our turn: “You can’t explain where equality comes from, but I can.” We can explain that what makes us all valuable, and equally so, is the only thing we all equally share: that we are made in the very Image of God (see Gen. 1:27). Being made in the Image of God isn’t something we grow into, or get more of, and it isn’t even something we can cast off (Gen. 9:6). We have it, not on the basis of anything we can do, might do, or should do, but on the basis of Who made us, and how He values us. This is not only an explanation for why a small weaker woman is equal to a stronger bigger man, but why the very small and very weak unborn child is equal to any and all. Stand on God’s Word While our opponent might dismiss the Bible, that doesn’t make it any less powerful (Heb. 4:12, Eph. 6:17). And we can counter their dismissal by challenging them to offer any sort of better explanation. They don’t have one! More importantly, when God says His Word won’t return empty we need to trust that it’s so (Is. 55:11). Too often, Christians will try to defend the Christian position without presenting it as the Christian position. If our opponents are attacking the unborn for what they can’t do, then we’ll try to defend the unborn with an equally godless argument, highlighting all that they can do. Instead of arguments about being made in the Image of God, we’ll show how very much the unborn seem to be crafted in the image of Man: The unborn’s heart is beating at three weeks Brainwaves can be detected at 40 days They may be able to survive outside the womb at 20 weeks They can recognize their mother’s voice at 7 months The problem with any of these points is that, on their own and apart from the Bible, they are only another abilities test. We’re saying that the unborn are valuable because of all these things they can do. But that’s the pro-choice argument! If we argue that the unborn are valuable because their heart begins beating as early as three weeks, what does that implicitly say about the unborn at two weeks, before their heartbeat has begun? Any defense of the baby based on what it can do throws shade on babies who have yet to develop those abilities. We either stand securely on God’s Word, or we will, accidentally but most certainly, end up adopting the very position that we oppose: that our worth comes from what we can do. Conclusion I got to share my two-question apologetic with a dozen or so pro-life folk. I also got to try it out with a young man who wanted to argue. It slowly came out that the reason he thought we should all just mind our own business is because he’d gotten his girlfriend pregnant and paid for her abortion. So he was very interested in justifying what he’d done. He thought the baby wasn’t human because it was so small. But this man, little more than a boy himself, was half my size, which I pointed out. Did he really think bigger meant better? No, he conceded, that wasn’t true. He didn’t repent. Or at least not then and there. But I was able to confront him with just how insufficient his justifications were. He left rejecting the Christian explanation for our value, but admitting that he had nothing else to offer. That’s what I could do standing on God’s firm foundation; I could blow apart the underpinnings of his godless arguments. Because I did this while giving the glory to God, this confused and hurting boy will know where to go, and Who to turn to for truth and forgiveness. And all it took was a couple of questions and a minute… or so....

Assorted, News

Reformed communities stepping up to provide “Safe Families”

It takes some courage to get into the public to show love for our neighbors, with a meal for an elderly person, taking part in a Life Chain, or helping at the local soup kitchen. Some may even take their children so they are exposed. But how would we feel about welcoming the public into our own homes to live with us temporarily? A different sort of fostering It was at a legal seminar in London, Ontario, about ten years ago, that I first heard of a movement called “safe families.” Jennifer Francis, a young woman at that seminar, was intent on launching the organization, modeled after Safe Families for Children in the USA. Not only has it taken off in Canada, members of the Reformed church community are helping it expand to new areas. Safe Families exists to keep children safe and families together. As they describe on their website, they “temporarily host children and provide a network of support to families in crisis while they get back on their feet.” What sets them apart is that they do this outside of the government system. Yet their effectiveness has made them a go-to place for child welfare agencies, who regularly refer families to them, encouraging these families to make use of their care so that they don’t get into a crisis mode where the government needs to intervene. “Instead of waiting for bad things to happen to children, we can step in to help,” they explain. “By design, child welfare systems are designed to react after something bad happens to a child. Such interventions can be necessary in cases of abuse and neglect, but we can help before bad things occur.” In the 20 years of their existence, the Safe Families movement has provided over 35,000 hostings, utilizing 25,000 volunteers and 4,500 churches, most of those in the US, UK, or Canada, with 93 percent of the children returning home. The concept immediately struck a chord in my heart, as it provides an opportunity for Christ’s church to open our arms to vulnerable families and children in a way that is both practical and simple. Having witnessed the enormous sacrifice, and occasional heartache, of families who served within the government system as foster families, this appeared to be an option that would be far more doable for ordinary families. God blessed that young woman’s vision and Safe Families was incorporated as a Canadian non-profit in 2012. Francis has since been faithfully leading the organization, first as the Executive Director, and now as the interim chair of the board. Safe Families started ministering to families in the Greater Toronto Area but has now spread to many cities across Canada. Reformed folk seizing the opportunity to serve When I was first introduced to the concept, I couldn’t help but consider the potential for the Reformed community in Canada to get on board, as we are blessed with so many solid families who would be able to provide temporary care to children in need, outside the foster system. Sure enough, quietly and humbly, some in the Reformed community have been getting involved with the new chapters that have been formed. Most recently, a chapter is being formed in BC’s Lower Mainland. I reached out to Jessica Wildeboer, who is chairing the steering committee to form this new chapter and is a member of the Langley Canadian Reformed Church. I asked her what sparked the idea of bringing a chapter to the Fraser Valley. She explained that she heard about the organization from her sister, who attended an information session in Edmonton, but she didn’t give it much thought until a friend sent her a link to the Real Talk podcast episode, where Lucas Holtvluwer and Tyler Vanderwoude sat down with Hildy Sloots from Safe Families last year. “I rarely listen to podcasts at all, but somehow (God's work) I found myself washing dishes while listening to it. I was hooked. I loved all that I heard” shared Wildeboer. And she didn’t stop there. “I knew this needed to happen here in the Lower Mainland. I sent an email to Safe Families and asked about a BC chapter. They replied saying that a Zoom meeting was coming up and I was welcome to join. This was in September. By November we had a steering committee established with nine Christians, from Vancouver to Chilliwack, and we started planning steps forward.” Different ways to help In February of this year, Jason Peters, the Western Canada Director of Safe Families, led three information sessions in the Fraser Valley. They were thrilled to have about 230 people come out, representing 25 different churches. Three members of the steering committee shared with the audiences why they believed Safe Families was needed and important. “As chair, I shared my own experience of seeing my church rally around my family in times of crisis” Wildeboer explained. RCMP officer Steve Vandelft, and social worker Kathleen Vanderveen, also shared how in their work experience they would often see families who needed extra support. Wildeboer explained that “We put out sign-up papers asking for people to express what areas they might be interested in helping with in the future. Different areas include being a resources friend (organize meals, pick up groceries, help with a reno), family friend (do some babysitting, offer encouragement), family coach (overseeing the volunteers surrounding the family in crisis), and host family (hosting children overnight in your home for short periods of time, sometimes weeks).” The response was incredible. “After the three info sessions, we had so many people check so many boxes with wanting to help, and we even had 18 families sign up wanting to become a host family! Amazing!” A Christian witness What also sets Safe Families apart is their faith-based approach, “motivated by the compassion and grace that they first received from Jesus Christ.” And the beautiful thing is that instead of this closing doors to working with the child welfare system, they form a bridge between families who are in need and the Christian community. “When a family in church is in crisis, meals are brought, babysitting is arranged, rides are organized, whatever is needed is provided,” shared Wildeboer. “But how do people without a church community survive when a crisis hits? Our churches seem rich with resources such as stable homes. How can we bless our community with our resources?” She also liked that the service is local and hands-on. “I think there is also something precious and vital about being more intentional within our own communities. I like my kids to help with babysitting. I like my kids to help with making a meal and dropping it off. I like my kids to write cards to neighbours and hand-deliver them. Sometimes we can be too busy in our own safe comfortable bubble with people we know, but we could improve with meeting new people and warmly welcoming all those we meet. It is good to get uncomfortable, that's what Jesus did.” To learn more about Safe Families and find the locations of their chapters, go to SafeFamiliesCanada.com. You can also listen to or watch the Real Talk interview below that first inspired Jessica Wildeboer (you can also find it at RealTalkPodcast.ca). Pictured at the top: Six of the nine steering committee members, along with the Western Canada Director for Safe Families Jason Peters. Jessica Wildeboer is second from the left. ...

News

Competing to shine

Reformed youth across Canada are taking to heart Paul’s encouragement to young Timothy “don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers….” Over the past year, 16 school clubs and over 300 individuals have taken part in a friendly competition, organized by ARPA Canada and using newly-developed custom software, to spur each other on as Christian witnesses in Canada’s public square. ARPA Profiles took off "We finished our post-it note display which we have been working on for 23 days. Every note represents 40 lives of children lost to abortion." – Ebenezer School, Smithers Daniel Kanis, the “tech-wizard” at ARPA, came up with the idea of using technology to “gamify” political action to make it competitive and fun. He first introduced his concept to his colleagues at a summer staff retreat, and then launched it publicly as “ARPA Profiles” mid 2022. “The key to success would be rapid onboarding of students and adults alike” Kanis shared in an interview with RP. “Rapid onboarding” is what it sounds like: getting a lot of people all involved – all “on board” – at the same time. “In October we had our chance. We rapidly onboarded a variety of students across the country from British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario at our youth conferences.” It didn’t take long and a healthy spirit of competition arose between these schools, that continues till today. ARPA Profiles involves signing up for a unique profile on their website, taking part in political action and then getting points for that action, depending on how difficult it is. For example, sending an EasyMail letter gets you 200 points, meeting with your MP or MLA will result in 15,000 points, and distributing flyers results in 1000 points for every 25 flyers. If you are really ambitious and can get an airplane to fly a pro-life banner, you get 1,000,000 points! Other options include things like visiting an old age home, helping a pregnancy care center with groceries, baking cookies for an event, or hosting a flag display. Those who have an ARPA profile can earn points for themselves but also for the school club or ARPA chapter that they are a member of. To make it fun, the school club with the most points gets a banner to keep, a trophy for a year, a pizza party, and celebration shirts. There are also prizes for individual championships. The deadline is May 17, 2023, and at press time, there is a fierce competition between Judy Slaa, Brooklyn Gortemaker, Anna Van Orizande, and Micah Wieske for the top place. The race for the top school isn’t quite as fierce, as the Alberta Home School group is currently doubling the second-place school, Immanuel Christian in Winnipeg. Ebenezer school in Smithers is currently third out of 16, followed by Mount Cheam Christian from Chilliwack. In it together This 10,000 flag display for the preborn was set up in northern Alberta When asked what ARPA Profiles has accomplished, Kanis shared that it has “one key ingredient that I think is essential to political action. And that’s the thought of: ‘I’m not doing this alone.’” The ARPA Profiles website fosters a sense of community, as participants post a picture of what they did. Scrolling through dozens of pictures will silence those who lament that young people aren’t very active today. Not only are many active, they are doing things that their parents or grandparents likely never did at their age. And the hope is that it will make it far more likely that they continue to shine in the public square the rest of their lives. Looking through the pictures, it is evident that Albertans are leading by example. Ed Hoogerdyk serves as ARPA’s Alberta Manager, with a special focus on helping Albertans shine their lights with political action. “ARPA Profiles is a great motivator!” he shared with me. Hoogerdyk proceeded to give some examples, beginning with their “CareNotKill” campaign. “Shortly after pictures are shared of grassroots action (flyer runs, billboards, banners), I receive inquiries from people wanting to order items so they can take action as well.” Hoogerdyk has noticed a steady increase in the number of school club members and adult chapter members. “More people are meeting. More people are praying. More people are politically engaged.” And it is translating into giving as well. “Fundraising builds community spirit and reminds people of the importance of witnessing in their own communities. It’s been inspiring to work alongside so many ‘cheerful givers’ in Alberta.” Healthy competition Hoogerdyk testified that the competitive aspect of ARPA Profiles is important. “The competition is healthy. I sense a strong spirit of unity amongst the school clubs and chapters. They’re sharing updates with each other and encouraging each other to compete.” "I held signs up for an hour, and got a lot of waves and honks." – Mya V, Immanuel Christian in Winnipeg I asked Kanis how he would respond to those who think that people should be active without needing points or prizes. “At the level and caliber that the students on the platform are doing action, they are to be doing it for the heart of the mission,” he answered. “If you were just participating in the competition for the points, and for the prize, at the end of the day those with heart will win. It is great to award and acknowledge those people who go above and beyond in being a faithful Christian witness.” Active like never before But is all of this just an exception to the general rule that Christians aren’t very engaged in politics or culture? Hoogerdyk respectfully challenged those who think this way. “Based on my experience, there continues to be an increase in the number of people engaging with politics.” He proceeded to give examples. “First, more people are praying. This is evident in prayer matters brought up in church services, messages from people letting us know they regularly pray for ARPA’s work, and ARPA’s prayer calendar. Second, more people are staying informed and taking action. They’re participating in grassroots activities, supporting our chapters and clubs, and contributing financially.” And the involvement goes deeper too. “There are numerous constituency associations with good Reformed Christian representation, including some who are presidents of these associations.” The contest closes mid-May, and readers can get plugged into ARPA’s weekly Quick Update videos, newsletter, or social media to find out which individual or school makes the podium. But it likely doesn’t end there. Kanis is hoping that they can build on the success next year. “I am tremendously thankful for the uptake that the ARPA supporters have shown in the open reception of this new system. I am thankful for their patience as this first year was sure to have some hiccups. I hope it can be a blessing to many others, and that those who may not have heard about ARPA Profiles can sign up and be encouraged with just how much action is happening across Canada!”...

Indigenous peoples

Truth & reconciliation is possible, but not as it is being popularized

Until recent decades, “victimhood” was definitely not a status that people would deliberately embrace. In fact, many who were actual victims would do their very best to avoid being labeled as such. Instead, they sought to be heard and understood not as members of some “victim class,” but as unique individuals who had suffered injustice, but who were not defined by that suffering. For example, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who gave his life in his struggle for civil rights for African-Americans, said this in a 1953 radio broadcast: “We are not responsible for the environment we are born in, neither are we responsible for our hereditary circumstances. But there is a third factor for which we are responsible, namely, the personal response which we make to these circumstances.” But as the civil rights movement evolved, and with the advent of identity politics, victimhood itself has become a means of attaining power. Many individuals and organizations have turned victimhood into something of an industry, and have sought victim status as a means of gaining influence. Real sins occurred Now, there certainly is no shortage of genuine victims in this world – people who have been oppressed, abused, mistreated, excluded from society, persecuted, and even killed simply because of who they are. This cannot and should not be denied. Grave injustices have been committed throughout history in this fallen, sin-stained world. The question that we face is this: how can these injustices (past and present) be dealt with? Real guilt isn’t apportioned by skin color, gender The answer that has predominated over the past generation is that of Critical Race Theory (CRT), which has become the dominant ideology in the “civil rights” arena. Identity politics has taken center stage in public discourse. According to identity politics, people can be divided into two basic classes: the transgressor, and the innocent. Within these two classes are a myriad of sub-classes, understood according to the sociological perspective known as “intersectionality,” an aspect of CRT that has its roots in feminist sociology. According to the doctrine of intersectionality, all individuals can be categorized according to where they stand on the “victim” scale. On the one end of the scale stands the white, heterosexual, Christian male. This individual is categorized as the transgressor, as a member and representative of the oppressor class. The white heterosexual Christian female can be considered as somewhat less of a transgressor, while on the opposite end of the spectrum stands the person who is the most “marginalized,” the non-cisgender person of color. The absurdity of this categorization scheme becomes apparent when one considers that a white man who depends on welfare to survive and lives in a run-down shack in the Appalachians of West Virginia is still viewed as a member of the "oppressor" class, while a multi-millionaire African-American whose resume includes an education in elite private schools and Columbia University is still identified as a member of the "innocent" class (as long as his political views are considered to be appropriate). Real forgiveness isn’t on offer REAL SINS OCCURRED: This “memory blanket” was displayed at the final Truth and Reconciliation Commission event in 2015 and included statements from former students’ writings. Several noted that students were given numbers rather than names. Among the messages: “My new name is 7,” “Today I got beaten for speaking Mi’kmaq. It slipped out at the lunch table, as I was asking another girl for some bread. I don’t understand what the problem with…” “Today I saw one of the older girls had a black eye. I tried to ask her about it, but she wouldn’t say,” “This is my last time writing in this book. I’m going to kill myself. Why because I hate it here, the white people are getting worse and worse every day,” “It’s this certain serenity you feel when you know something terrible will happen. My grandfather said you feel this before you die,” “I want to go home.” (Picture credit: Susan G. Enberg / Shutterstock.) Ultimately, it is impossible for the “transgressor” to either redeem himself or be redeemed, and even members of the transgressor class who sympathize with and identify themselves with those on the opposite end of the spectrum can never truly rid themselves of CRT's version of original sin. In the end, it appears that apologies and reparations and expressions of contrition can have no result until perfection is achieved in this life, and every wrong is righted according to the dominant standard. When it comes to Indigenous issues in Canada and elsewhere, it is the theory and outworking of Critical Race Theory and identity politics that is currently guiding public policy and shaping public discourse. As mentioned, there is no doubt that grave injustices have occurred since the first contact was made between European explorers and settlers and the indigenous populations of the lands where they settled. Sadly, but truly, the experience of the native inhabitants of the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand is not unique to them. The history of the world is replete with examples of colonization, empire-building, what we would now define as “war crimes,” and even genocide. In fact, yesterday's oppressors often become tomorrow's victims, and vice versa. In all of human history, is there a single ethnic group that can honestly claim to have an unstained record in this regard? This does not excuse more recent evils, but it does put them in the proper context, and allow us to consider how to answer the question that I posed above: How can these injustices best be dealt with? Those who adhere to the tenets of Critical Race Theory believe that all change must be accomplished using a top-down approach. It is the State that must right previous wrongs, and the State that must enforce “reconciliation.” The populace must be trained to think correctly about the issues at play. This training is being done at every level of the educational system through the Indigenization of curricula, in which an “Indigenous” worldview must be included in every subject. It is reinforced through special events and days of commemoration, like the Day of Truth and Reconciliation. And finally, the message is inserted into everyday life by means of repetitive “liturgical” acts, such as the repeated land acknowledgements which have become an essential element of many public events. Through these techniques, the “transgressors” are constantly reminded of their ongoing guilt and responsibility, and the “innocent” are encouraged to remain in a perpetual state of victimhood. It seems that there is nothing that either the transgressor or the innocent can do to rectify this state of affairs; this rectification must be accomplished by the State. Real repentance comes from the right heart How should we, as Christians, think about what can only be described as the massive cultural shift that is happening all around us? First of all, we must recognize Critical Race Theory and identity politics for what they are: ideologies that have highjacked certain Christian concepts (like justice, reconciliation, transgression, and innocence) and turned them into radical distortions of the truth of Scripture. According to God's Word, all of us are transgressors. There is only One who was truly innocent, our Lord Jesus Christ. True justice is connected with righteousness, and absolute justice will never be accomplished in this world, try as we might. Heaven will never be created on earth, and apart from the redeeming work of Christ, true reconciliation between God and man, and between human beings themselves, cannot happen. All attempts to implement a utopian vision of society are doomed to fail, because they begin, as CRT and identity politics begin, with false beliefs about the nature of the world and about human nature itself. Neither can true reconciliation and justice be implemented from the top down. It is very possible for the State to convince the entire population to recite what it deems to be the appropriate words and avoid expressing (at least publicly) “inappropriate views.” But the State cannot change the human heart, and neither can it legislate love, which is vital to reconciliation and the redressing of wrongs. Love must be expressed on a personal level, in the context of interpersonal relationships, and cannot be implemented through impersonal programs and activities imposed from above. We are called to love our neighbor, regardless of his or her ethnicity. As Christians, we are called to show that love, the love of Christ, through our own actions, in a very personal way. Real repentance might be costly This is a costly attitude. It will take us out of our comfort zone. It requires sacrifice. It doesn't offer any kind of “quick fix,” nor does it imagine that it will solve all of the world's problems once and for all. But it is genuine, and the outworking of the Holy Spirit's presence in our lives. Institutional programs and policies are impersonal, often completely ineffective or even counter-productive, and history shows that they do not accomplish the goals that they set out to achieve. They allow individuals to pass on responsibility to others while perhaps saying the right things and expressing virtuous opinions, but in the end they can neither bring about genuine reconciliation nor bring about lasting, positive change. This is something that can only be done through the hard work of getting to know our neighbors – whatever their ethnicity – and building living relationships with them. In this way, beginning with the first great commandment, to love the Lord with all our heart, we will put into practice the second: to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is one of several articles we’ve published about Canada’s history with its Indigenous peoples, with the sum of the whole being even greater than the parts. That's why we'd encourage you to read the rest, available together in the March/April 2003 issue. You can listen to Rev. Jim Witteveen’s podcast on his website. His latest book, “How in the world did we get here?” is available there and at ReformedChristianBooks.com....

Assorted, Indigenous peoples

Tragedy, resistance, and change: Glimpses into the Lejac Residential School near Fraser Lake, BC

The following is based on numerous original letters, reports and other primary source correspondence that is available online. It attempts to provide some insights and context into a 10-year period (1937-1947) in one of the many residential schools set up by the Canadian government to assimilate and educate Indigenous children. Frigid escape to freedom The five boys walked steadily along the tracks, heading east toward freedom. They no longer glanced over their shoulders to see if they had been spotted or were being followed. It was 5:00 PM and darkness had already descended, since it was January 1st and daylight was scarce up in north-central British Columbia. As evening turned into night, the temperature kept dropping from an already cold -20 °C toward -30 °C. The boys had been hoping to leave earlier, but since it was a holiday at their boarding school, lunch had not been served until very late – 4:30 PM – and they had less than two hours before their absence would be noticed at supper. Paul Alex, who was ten and the oldest, was having second thoughts about running away and trying to make it home to their village of Nautley about 12 kilometers distant. It was so cold, but if they turned around now they could still make it back to the school in time for supper and escape detection. Besides, although quite a few of his classmates had run away over the years, they were usually caught and brought back by school officials or the BC provincial police, and the punishment was very harsh, maybe even a beating in front of all their classmates. The railway tracks were easy to walk on since there was little snow, and trains rarely came through. They followed the south edge of the large lake, and very soon the boys came to a spot where they were right near the shore of the frozen expanse. Here they stopped, and far off in the distance, diagonally across the lake, they thought they could make out the electric lights of their village about ten kilometers away. Allen, age 9, John, age 7, and Justa and Andrew, both 8, wanted to head out onto the ice and travel home in a straight line, while Alex preferred to stay on the tracks – a longer route, but more sheltered, and one that other escapees had used successfully in the past. He knew the ice was thick, but it had about 15 centimeters of snow on it, and no protection from the wind. The other four insisted on crossing the ice. Oh, why hadn’t Bishop Coudert let them go home when they asked him earlier this morning? It was so unfair! Some of his classmates’ families had visited the school to see their children earlier in the day, since it was a New Year’s Day holiday, and it hurt so much when they drove off in their Model T’s and wagons. The boys’ hearts ached for their families and homes, especially during the Christmas week, and they would do anything to get back there, even though it was against the rules. The Indian Act, since 1920, said that it was mandatory for all Indigenous children aged seven or older to attend residential schools where there were no day schools. Since there were almost no day schools on the remote BC reserves, this meant that the children had to go to residential schools far away from home.1 Parents who did not send their children to the boarding schools could be arrested, and several from these villages who tried to defy this law were sent to prison.2 Alex knew how frustrated the parents were, too, and how almost all of them did not want their kids to go to the school. The younger four made up their minds and headed onto the ice. Alex couldn’t stop them, and dared not follow… and he didn’t have the courage to go on alone down the tracks. It was just too dangerous and too cold, so he turned around and headed miserably back to the school. If he hurried, he could make it back before dinner and wouldn’t get caught or punished. Discovery and a blundered response Alex darted back into the school undetected, thankful for the warmth and the food but worried about his friends. Sister Noella, in charge of the dining room, noticed the boys were missing and immediately reported it to the Sister Superior, who in turn informed one of the priests. He told someone else in charge, but this man thought that the bishop had given the missing students permission when they asked to be allowed to go home earlier in the day. The principal, Father McGrath, had been gone for most of the day, and there were tensions and poor communication issues among some of the school leaders. As a result, McGrath wasn’t told until later that night, around nine o’clock, and by then he thought the boys were already safely in Nautley… likely even gone home with relatives in the late afternoon. The postmaster of the school settlement had a motorcar and it was decided to have him drive to the village in the morning to bring the boys back. The next morning it was still very cold and the train with the mail came late, so the driver didn’t make it to Nautley until just past noon. The chief and some of the parents said that the boys hadn’t arrived, and suggested that maybe they had gone to Stellaquo, a village on the other end of the lake around 30 kilometers away. Some of the boys had relatives and friends there. The chauffeur drove back to the school and reported to Principal McGrath, who jumped in the car with him and drove to Stellaquo to look. Nothing. The men became very worried and drove back to Nautley. Could the villagers be hiding the boys? But it quickly became obvious that they weren’t. And while there was still a bit of light late that afternoon, search parties were sent out to find them. Stumbling homeward in the cold The previous evening, Allen, Andrew, Justa, and John were shuffling steadily across the large lake, angling toward their village near the mouth of the outflowing Nautley River. The cold was biting, and although they wore wool socks, their short rubber boots did little to protect their feet, and the cold seeped through their jeans. Their hands were getting numb and they couldn’t stop shivering, but they pressed resolutely on, keeping their faces pointed toward the slowly-brightening lights and home. As the kilometers slipped by, and as they got closer, they knew they didn’t have much strength or time left. Only a kilometer to go! But their hearts fell, for as they got closer a large black patch appeared ahead of them, blocking their way. It was open water, freezing cold but ice-free because of the current of the nearby Nautley River. The lake ice was thin and treacherous along the edges, and the water was too deep to walk through. They stood in shock, shivering uncontrollably and utterly exhausted. They knew that going around to the left and further on to the lake would mean a long detour, while going to the right would mean moving to the nearby shore but away from the village. They’d have to push through the brush to the road then follow it north over the bridge to get home. But they had no energy for this anymore, hardly any strength to call out, and even if they could the villagers were all sleeping and the river was too loud. Around midnight, they slowly turned right and staggered towards the nearby shore. The boys are found The next afternoon, after it was clear that the boys were not at either village, search parties were sent out. The boys’ tracks in the snow were discovered and followed by three men from Nautley. Around 5:00 PM, at dusk, they found the four small bodies frozen on the ice. Two were huddled together, one was lying face down beside them, and the fourth was about 25 meters away. The searchers quickly returned to the village, only a kilometer distant, and the coroner and local police officer were called from nearby Fraser Lake and Vanderhoof. They arrived quickly, were led to the bodies, and carefully examined them. After verifying that the boys had died of exhaustion and freezing, they allowed them to be taken to the village. One can only imagine the shock and grief, as well as the anger and frustration, that must have been felt in the villages, as well as in the school. Far-reaching effects Two days later, on Monday, January 4, 1937, a jury was called together and an inquest held in the nearby village of Fraser Lake, to look into the circumstances surrounding the deaths. It lasted from 10 AM to 5 PM and heard from the key witnesses and people involved. The verdict concluded that Allen, Johnny, Justa, and Andrew died on the night of January first from exhaustion and consequent freezing. They also added the following: that more definite action by the school authorities should have taken place more cooperation and better communication between the parents and school administrators needed to occur corporal punishment, if practiced, should be limited the two disciplinarians hired by the school should be able to speak and understand English (they were French priests).3 Careful investigations and recommendations By the next day the story appeared in many major Canadian newspapers, and some implied or stated that there were underlying circumstances that led to this tragedy: inadequate clothing, harsh discipline, and poor communication among school staff. The local Indian agent, R.H. Moore, sent off a detailed letter on January 6 to his superiors at the Department of Indian Affairs in Ottawa, explaining what had happened.4 About a month later, Harold W. McGill of the Department asked Major D.M. MacKay, the Indian Commissioner for BC, to investigate more fully. MacKay immediately traveled up to the school at Lejac (a challenging journey by rail and car along wintry gravel roads) and spent several days interviewing school staff, students, Indigenous families, and others who could shed light on this tragedy. His eight-page report provided a thorough account of what happened. “I am of the opinion, from the evidence and information before me, had energetic action been taken to organize a search party when the absence of the children was first noted, the children would not have perished.” The poor communication and confusion over authority amongst the leaders of the school was a major cause for this, and it led him “…to the conclusion that the Department should take steps to strengthen its administrative control of our Indian residential schools…” After many interviews, the BC Commissioner also wrote: “Father McGrath was well-liked by the school children and highly regarded by their parents. There was no evidence to show that punishment of any kind had anything whatever to do with the boys leaving the school without permission. It was simply a natural desire for freedom and to be with their parents during the holidays.” He stated that he: “visited a number of Indian homes and discussed the tragedy with nearly all the adult Indians I met, and although I found indications of unrest and resentment, this was mostly confined to the relatives and friends of the dead children. There was no demand among the Indians or the residents of the white communities visited for a judicial inquiry, nor do I think such an inquiry at this time would be in the best interests of the Indians.” Indigenous resistance leads to positive changes The Lejac Indian Residential School (picture credit: Library and Archives Canada, used under a CC BY 2.0 license). However, dissatisfaction with the residential school at Lejac continued and escalated in the next several years. The principal told the inquest on January 4, 1937 that 90 percent of the parents did not want their children to attend. It’s also clear from the 1944 principal’s report, seven years later, that many local Indigenous people were strongly opposed to sending their kids to Lejac – he estimated that two-thirds were not coming to school, and that many didn’t start until age ten and only stayed for two or three years. He recommended that the law requiring all native children to attend should be enforced more rigorously. No doubt the loss of the four boys, and the fact that so many kids ran away from the school encouraged the parents to resist even more, despite the threat of arrest. They were not opposed to education, but rather to having their children required to attend and live in an institution that was attempting to erase their culture and assimilate them into mainstream Canada. Parents lobbied instead for regular day schools to be built in their own villages, where the children could live at home and experience their own culture, similar to how most students were educated in Canada at the time.5 In September, 1945, the Member of Parliament for the region, William Irvine, met with a delegation of chiefs from the area to listen to their concerns about the Lejac residential school, and he in turn wrote to the Indian Affairs Branch in Ottawa summarizing their arguments and interceding on their behalf. The letter pointed out their issues with Lejac, namely, diseases like tuberculosis spreading easily in the crowded dorms so that healthy children would catch it, and the students spending too much time tending the fields and animals of the school to help cover the costs, which came at the expense of their education.6 In another letter, written in 1946 by the local Indian agent, the following additional reasons are provided for why 100 students did not show up when school opened (and of these, only 30 appeared when the truancy section of the Indian Act was enforced with the help of the RCMP). “The Indians list a number of grievances, such as the time spent by students in manual labour, and religious instruction, and also, their desire for Day Schools, as reasons for keeping their children at home. The antagonism and opposition displayed by the Indians toward the Lejac residential school is more marked in recent months than at any time since I took over the agency 8 years ago.”7 The parents even hired a lawyer in Prince George to help them. In January of 1947, the parents’ efforts began to pay off. Robert Howe, the Indian agent, wrote to the Indian Commissioner for BC, outlining the cost to upgrade a recreation hall in the village of Stoney Creek to enable it to become a school for the 66 pupils there (Andrew Paul, one of the children who’d died, was from Stoney Creek about 50 km east of the Lejac school). Howe noted in his letter that when the school opened: “…it would be very difficult to enforce attendance at Lejac school for those who are now enrolled at Lejac. With the exception of a few orphans and underprivileged children, the parents would emphatically insist on the children attending the day school.” He concluded his letter by stating: “In view of the opposition and antagonism displayed by the Stoney Creek Band toward the Lejac Indian Residential School in recent years, and the extreme difficulty experienced in enforcing attendance at Lejac, I would strongly urge that authority be granted to proceed with the necessary improvements to the Recreation Hall, and that a teacher be engaged to open the Day School September 1st next.”8 The closing and legacy of the Lejac Residential School Lejac remained open until 1976, and over its 54 years of operation, thousands of Indigenous children were forced to attend from all over northern and central BC. Things did change as time went on: more day schools were built, and by the 1960’s students from nearby reserves were bussed in to Lejac each day and no longer had to live there. Reading excerpts from the Lejac.blogspot.com blog, and looking at the many submitted pictures suggests that there were also many happy memories from Lejac and many staff members who respected and loved the students.9 The memories and photos, though, are mostly from the last two decades of the school’s existence, when many of the earlier issues and problems had been addressed to various degrees. However, there was still a lot of misery and trauma, especially relating to being separated from the families and other community members back home. Besides the four boys who died in 1937, 36 other students died there, almost entirely from diseases like TB, influenza, and measles – an average of about one per year despite fairly good medical care.10 One wonders how this would compare to a non-native boarding or residential school from the same era. As well, there were allegations of sexual abuse, and in 2003 a former dormitory supervisor, Edward Gerald Fitzgerald, who worked at Lejac in the 1960s and 70s, was questioned regarding numerous sexual crimes he is alleged to have committed at Lejac (and one other BC residential school); but he then moved to Ireland so he was never prosecuted (it appears that he has since died in his 90s).11 Stories of trauma came out in the recent Truth and Reconciliation hearings from former students who attended over the years, and the legacy of harm extends until today.12 In 1976 the school and most of the buildings were demolished and the land was turned over to the Nadleh (Nautley) band. The fenced cemetery is about all that remains, and some Roman Catholics still make an annual pilgrimage there to visit the grave of Rose Prince, a former student and helper at Lejac in the 1940’s and 1950’s, whom many now regard as a saint.13 This cemetery, though, is currently situated behind a huge 700-person Coastal Gaslink pipeline camp that has been set up on the property just north of Highway 16 in partnership with the Nadleh band.14 The location where the boys perished is just off the beach from Beaumont Provincial Park, located just south of the Nautley River and the village. Today, anyone who drives along Highway 16 between Fraser Lake and Fort Fraser can see the stretch of railway track and the section of Fraser Lake where the four children walked and died 86 years ago… a sad chapter of BC’s and Canada’s history. This is one of several articles we’ve published about Canada’s history with its Indigenous peoples, with the sum of the whole being even greater than the parts. That's why we'd encourage you to read the rest, available together in the March/April 2003 issue. End Notes 1 George V Sessional Paper No. 27 A. 1921 Dominion of Canada Annual Report of the Department of Indian Affairs for the Year Ended March 31, 1920. Ottawa Thomas Mulvey Printer. See especially page 14. https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?id=1920-IAAR-RAAI&op=pdf&app=indianaffairs “The recent amendments give the department control and remove from the Indian parent the responsibility for the care and education of his child, and the best interests of the Indians are promoted and fully protected. The clauses apply to every Indian child over the age of seven and under the age of fifteen. If a day school is in effective operation, as is the case on many of the reserves in the eastern provinces, there will be no interruption of such parental sway as exists. Where a day school cannot be properly operated, the child may be assigned to the nearest available industrial or boarding school.” 2 Varcoe, Colleen and Annette Browne. Equip Healthcare. Central Interior Native Health Society. Prince George, BC: Socio-historical, geographical, political, and economic context profile. P.13. https://equiphealthcare.ca/files/2019/12/EQUIP-Report-Prince-George-Sociohistorical-Context-September-18-2014.pdf 3 Multiple original source documents can be found here: Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Stuart Lake Agency – Lejac Residential School Death of Pupils 1934-1950. Pages 28-62. https://indiandayschools.org/files/RG10_881-23_PART_1.pdf Inquisition is on pp. 36-37. 4 Ibid. Jan 6, 1937 letter 5 First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) - 1944 Principal’s report. P.90. http://www.fnesc.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/IRSR10-CaseStudy3.pdf 6 FNESC – Sept. 1945 Irvine letter. pp. 91-92. http://www.fnesc.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/IRSR10-CaseStudy3.pdf 7 FNESC – Sept. 1946 letter from Indian Agent R. Howe. P.94. http://www.fnesc.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/IRSR10-CaseStudy3.pdf 8 FNESC – Jan. 24, 1947 letter from Indian Agent R. Howe. Pp. 95-96. http://www.fnesc.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/IRSR10-CaseStudy3.pdf 9 Lejac blog (many stories and pictures from former students). http://lejac.blogspot.com/search/label/Lejac 10 National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation – Lejac (Stuart Lake) https://nctr.ca/residential-schools/british-columbia/lejac-stuart-lake/ ). 11 Fitzgerald articles: https://www.poynter.org/reporting-editing/2003/police-lay-more-charges-in-b-c-residential-abuse-investigation/ 12 See TRC website esp. videos of former students: Indian Residential School History & Dialogue Centre Collection – Lejac (lots here, including testimonies of past students): https://collections.irshdc.ubc.ca/index.php/Detail/entities/49 13 The Roman Catholic Diocese of Prince George. Rose Prince – Reflecting on an Extraordinary Life. https://www.pgdiocese.bc.ca/lejac/ 14 Coastal Gas Link. A New Chapter for the Nadleh Whut’en and Carrier People. https://www.coastalgaslink.com/whats-new/news-stories/2020/a-new-chapter-for-the-nadleh-whuten-and-carrier-people/...

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MP Ed Fast wants to halt Canada’s runaway euthanasia train

In a courageous move, Conservative Member of Parliament Ed Fast has introduced a private member’s bill to permanently halt the federal government’s effort to expand euthanasia to the mentally ill. “It is deeply concerning that this government appears to be moving from a culture of life to a culture of death," he said to reporters on Parliament Hill. When euthanasia and assisted suicide were legalized by Parliament in 2016, they were limited to those whose suffering was intolerable, with an incurable illness, and where natural death was foreseeable. It didn’t take long and the safeguards were broadened or ignored. Most recently, that included government legislation that would allow euthanasia for those whose sole reason was mental illness. As Reformed Perspective reported in our last issue, in response to strong concerns, the federal government paused this plan for one year, but only to give time for medical professionals to get ready. Canada keeps sliding down that slope Fast introduced Bill C-314, the Mental Health Protection Act, to put the brakes on the expansion of euthanasia. “As many of us had predicted when assisted death was legalized in 2016, we now find ourselves on a steep slippery slope that jeopardizes the lives of society’s most vulnerable” Fast shared in an article that was published by the National Post. “As citizens who believe the government is there to protect and nurture life, we must ask: Who’s next? The poor and homeless who are already approaching our food banks to ask for MAID?” The MP is concerned that Parliament has not properly studied what could result from its reckless course. “The expert panel struck by the government to review expansion of MAID was not permitted to study the underlying merits of extending assisted death to the mentally ill. The panel even failed to deliver on its mandate to propose additional MAID safeguards. In fact, two of the panel members quit, noting that the outcome of the deliberations appeared to have been pre-determined.” Although opposition MPs often have to stand alone when introducing private member’s legislation, especially on contentious social issues, this time was different. The Conservative Party of Canada’s leader Pierre Poilievre stood next to Fast for his announcement and spoke up in his support. "Our job is to turn their hurt back into hope. To treat mental illness problems rather than ending people's lives" the CBC reported. He also committed that a government led by him would repeal euthanasia and assisted suicide for the mentally ill. Important, whether or not it passes A private member’s bill rarely becomes law, and it is highly unlikely that the Liberal government would about-face and support Fast’s bill. Yet, as we have seen from those who overturned Canada’s laws on life, family, and marriage in recent decades, efforts like this are critical for changing a trajectory long term. It shifts the Overton Window, moving an idea along a spectrum of acceptability from radical to sensible and then to policy. In the case of Bill C-314, Ed Fast’s bill gave an opportunity for his leader and his party to put a stake in the ground, promising to take action if they are given the opportunity to govern. When an MP chooses to introduce a bill on a contentious social issue, they are also setting themselves up for a backlash of opposition, both from activists on the other side of the issue as well as from their own colleagues and supporters. Many within the Conservative Party balk when MPs provide any leadership on social issues, as they see this as something that will only take away their support and make it even more difficult to ever form government. Those who courageously speak up are often marginalized and rarely promoted to take on bigger roles in the party or in Parliament. ARPA Canada, which has been meeting with government officials about this issue for years, and helping the Christian community speak up for life, rejoiced when C-314 was introduced. “For many years it has felt like we’ve been on a runaway train when it comes to legalized euthanasia. This bill signals that there is a willingness to stop this runaway train in its tracks!” Mike Schouten, ARPA’s interim Executive Director, shared in a note to supporters. “ARPA Canada praises God for this development. We serve a sovereign God with whom nothing happens by chance (Prov. 19:21) and who directs the hearts of our leaders like streams of water (Prov. 21:1). We truly believe God is hearing and positively answering the prayers of His people on behalf of the country in which we live.”...

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BC teacher fired for not backing down on causes of residential school deaths

After four decades as a teacher, Jim McMurtry was fired February 21st by the Abbotsford School District. McMurtry shared in a tweet that he was “charged with ‘extremely serious misconduct’ for teaching residential school deaths mostly from disease, fires, accidents.” According to an article in the National Post, the incident that led to his firing happened two years ago, shortly after the news broke of the 215 “unmarked graves” at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in 2021. When one of McMurtry’s students said that priests had murdered and tortured the children, McMurtry responded by explaining that most children at residential schools died from disease, especially tuberculosis. Within an hour, McMurtry was being disciplined for his comment in the classroom. But was he right? The Truth and Reconciliation Commission devoted years to studying the deaths at residential schools and its report concluded that where the cause of death was known, the most common cause was tuberculosis. Unfortunately, this didn’t align with the narrative that the Abbotsford School Board wants to advance. “Mr. McMurtry’s personal opinions regarding residential schools were seen in contradiction to the truth and reconciliation work that is currently underway in the District,” the board report said. McMurtry has a master’s degree in the history of education and a doctorate in philosophy of education, specializing in Indigenous history. That may explain why he didn’t back down. “There’s people who believe that Canada is systemically racist and that all our ancestors were monsters. And I’m the person who is saying, ‘Well, let’s debate it. Let’s look at it.’" He added “Teachers are walking on eggshells on all sorts of issues. Teachers need to stop now and say, ‘Enough is enough.’” It isn’t just the Abbotsford School District that's on the offensive. In response to growing questions about the news reports of unmarked graves, NDP MP Leah Gazan told the CBC that she plans to draft legislation to “outlaw attempts to deny that genocide and make false assertions about residential schools.” In a sense, it might seem a small thing to note that the deaths at the schools were in large part due to tuberculosis and not torture and murder. After all, the blame for the deaths of children who caught tuberculosis at schools that they were forced to attend could also be laid at the government’s feet. So McMurtry wasn’t defending the government here or the priests. What he was defending was the truth of the matter. And the truth is critical if we care about justice and reconciliation....

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Australian Christian couple wins discrimination case against foster care agency

In 2017, Byron Hordyk, a self-employed carpenter, and his wife Keira Hordyk, decided that they could open their home to provide foster care to needy children. The Hordyks, who are members of Baldivis Free Reformed Church (FRC) in Australia, applied with Wanslea Family Services, a Perth-based agency that connects families with foster children, among other services. During the application process, the Hordyks were asked how they would deal with a child who was homosexual, or began to be interested in homosexuality. The couple had made clear that they were interested in providing short-term care to young children under the age of five (since their oldest at that time was about six years old), so this line of questioning seemed a bit out of place. (Some of the questions dealt with how the Hordyks would deal with reports from school about same-sex attraction or gay activity.) Byron and Keira answered honestly that they would not be able to encourage homosexuality. As Christians, they believe that a gay lifestyle is against the Word of God, and therefore they would not be the best fit long term for a child who persisted in pursuing that way of living. The Hordyks made clear that the agency would not need to immediately remove the child from their home, and that they would still show love and support to such a boy or girl while in their care. Ultimately, Wanslea Family Services rejected the Hordyks’ application in 2019, marking their case file as “assessed not to meet competencies” (although they were earlier judged to be suitable to become foster parents). Despite the fact that there is an enormous shortage of families willing to provide foster care in Western Australia, the agency did not believe that the Hordyks were fit to give a home to needy children, simply because of their Christian view of homosexuality. Disappointed, Byron and Keira sought legal advice from John Steenhof, a lawyer and fellow FRC member. Steenhof saw the potential importance of the case for religious liberty and against religious discrimination, and took on the case pro bono. (Steenhof at the time was working in private practice, and has since gone on to join the Human Rights Law Alliance.) He recommended that the Hordyks challenge Wanslea Family Services’ rejection as discrimination under Western Australia’s Equal Opportunities Act. The Act states that it is unlawful for a person who provides services to discriminate against another person on the basis of their religious or political conviction. Giving testimony to the Tribunal along with the Hordyks was Rev. Wes Bredenhof, frequent contributor to Reformed Perspective. Bredenhof provided an extensive written background of the Free Reformed Churches, showing that the Hordyks’ belief that homosexuality is sinful has long been a shared stance of confessional churches that take the Word of God seriously, such as the FRC. This past December, over five years after the Hordyks’ initial application, the State Administrative Tribunal ruled in their favor, deciding that Wanslea Family Services had treated the Hordyks unfairly, and awarding them damages of $3,000 each. Many news agencies including ABC News in the US, and newspapers all across Australia covered the court case, often with an antagonism to God’s warning against homosexuality. Lawyer Steenhof believes the case is an important one for religious freedom and against discrimination. He wrote that: “this landmark case demonstrates how societal hostility to religion – and especially Christianity – is increasing, especially within our institutions. Christians who established, grew and then gave to Western cultures their key social institutions such as hospitals, universities, aged care facilities and foster care agencies are now facing increasing exclusion from those very institutions.” After five years in this process, the Hordyks are eager to put this chapter of their lives into the past. They have gone on to have two more children, and are not likely to re-apply to become foster parents, since they would have to start all over again, and their personal circumstances have changed. Through discrimination against Christianity, Wanslea Family Services has removed from the pool of potential foster homes a family that could have provided loving care for kids in their community. Christians may hope that the Hordyks’ perseverance in this case, and the hard work of their legal advisor Steenhof and others, may result in more fair treatment for potential foster families in the future. The Lord has not promised us an easy road here on this earth, but Christians in the western world have become accustomed to relative freedom to hold to the timeless truths of the Bible. We are seeing more and more that the world is rejecting God’s truths, and wants to outlaw speech and thought that calls sin what it is. May the Lord provide courage to us all to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, yet doing so with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Court decision “a welcome dose of balance and common sense” by John Steenhof The recent decision by the State Administrative Tribunal that Byron and Keira Hordyk were discriminated against because of their religious views is a landmark case that demonstrates how societal hostility to religion – and especially Christianity – is increasing, especially within our institutions. As supported by expert evidence in the case, the Hordyks’ beliefs on marriage were consistent with those held by almost all branches of the Christian faith up until the sexual revolution of the mid-20th century, “that marriage is a lifelong relationship between one man and one woman; all extra marital sexuality is contrary to the Bible. Homosexual lusts and behaviors are contrary to the Bible and that there are two fixed genders or sexes, namely male or female.” Wanslea Family Services has sometimes recast their logo in the LGBT rainbow. Wanslea Family Services considered the Hordyks’ views unacceptable. This is increasingly common in many Australian institutions. The Hordyks were rejected as potential foster parents not because they were unsuitable to provide a temporary home for vulnerable toddlers, but because they held unacceptable religious views. The Hordyks are not alone in falling afoul of these institutional purity tests. In 2022, Andrew Thorburn at the Essendon Australian Rules Football Club was forced to resign because he held the wrong views. In 2021, the Australian Christian Lobby had venue bookings cancelled by the Western Australian government because their Christian beliefs were inconsistent with “diversity, equality and inclusion.” This increasing animosity to religion can be attributed to a variety of factors: the increasing secularization of Australian society generally, the irresponsible and hostile reporting of religious issues in the media, the ascendancy and triumph of LGBTQ dogma in Australian culture, the hard fusion in popular discourse of Christianity with the evils of colonialism, and the fragmentation and polarization of civil dialogue in a social media age. Whatever the causes, these cultural trends should be of concern to all Australians. While heteronormative Christians are the target today, there is no reason why this cultural trajectory will not progress to declare other social and political convictions as anathema and beyond the pale. The recent Essendon public apology to Andrew Thorburn, and the Hordyk decision are a welcome dose of balance and common sense in an otherwise fevered cultural environment. The tenacity of the Hordyks in seeking vindication through a grueling 5-year process demonstrates that there is value in pushing matters to the Courts past the loud cultural voices that have captured many of Australia’s institutions and which have declared Christianity anathema and unsafe. A pluralistic and multicultural society requires the participation of a variety of people with diverse and conflicting religious beliefs, political convictions and personal opinions. The friction lines between competing views will often be difficult to adjudicate, but the Courts have shown that, regardless of the prevailing ideological fashions of the day, religious Australians must be given a fair go. John Steenhof is the Principal Lawyer at Human Rights Law Alliance (HRLA), founded in 2019 to “provide assistance, advice and advocacy to ordinary Australians under attack for living out their faith and convictions in public.” John and his wife Lana have six children between the ages of 6 and 19, and now live in Canberra, Australia’s capital, where they attend Southside Bible Church, a Reformed evangelical church....

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Red, White, and Blue? Are there greener pastures south of the border?

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” These words are engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, calling out to countless immigrants to America, who were longing for freedom from persecution, from poverty, from overcrowding, from a restricted way of life. These words, when written in 1883, were mostly aimed at citizens of the “Old World,” but lately more Canadians are hearing the call of “Lady Liberty,” and wondering if life would be better south of the 49th parallel. Are Americans really freer than Canadians? What would our lives be like if we moved to the USA? I would like to make clear that I’m not entirely unbiased. I’m proud of my Canadian heritage, and I love Canada, but my wife Faith and I moved from B.C. to the U.S.A. in 1996, first to Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, and later to Lynden, Washington, where we have lived since 2002. We love the U.S. but we also recognize that there are many things about moving that should be considered carefully before making a momentous decision that will have generational consequences. I hope that this article may give good food for thought to RP readers who are thinking about pulling up stakes, or who know others who are considering such a move. Freedom Both countries’ national anthems espouse freedom: America is “the land of the free, and the home of the brave,” while Canada is “The True North, strong and free.” As a test case, the COVID restrictions and lockdowns of 2020-2021 are a fascinating study in how much freedom was or wasn’t prized, with all the different policies that were implemented in the hopes of saving lives. In general, Canadian provinces locked down more tightly and for a longer time than most American states. Bryan Grim and his wife Leanne moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota this past summer from Surrey, B.C. with their seven children. Bryan recalled that in B.C. for long stretches, they were restricted in their movements within the province, forbidden to travel between arbitrarily designated zones. Travel restrictions were tough, but having “in-person” worship services forbidden was another matter entirely. For many months, most Canadian churches did not gather together for worship in their church buildings, but resorted to live streaming of a pastor preaching to a mostly empty church. As these restrictions stretched on, church members debated and argued over whether or not they should defy the shutdown orders, or reluctantly obey. Church councils across the country had to deal with division among office bearers and among the members, and in some cases these wounds are still healing. In the U.S., with fifty different governors, and fifty different legislatures, there were many different responses to COVID. Some more rural and conservative states (including Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Utah, and Wyoming) had very few state-wide restrictions, and no enforced “stay at home” orders. Other states like Arizona, Florida, Tennessee and Texas opened up to regular commerce, worship services, and in-person education much more quickly than more left-leaning states like California, New York, and Washington. One common pattern in both countries is that most big cities were tougher on lockdowns: whether you lived in Los Angeles or Toronto, at times you would have felt very restricted. In more rural parts of both countries, there may have been more lenience by police forces and local governments. In my adopted home town of Lynden, the local police and the county sheriff’s department did not enforce any of the state governor’s directives restricting worship services, and local mayors and elected officials encouraged churches to use common sense in deciding whether or not, and how, to hold in-person worship services. Many of the “lesser magistrates” in different parts of the USA recognized the vital (literally, life-giving) importance of worship services to the lives of a free people, upholding the First Amendment of the Constitution that states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” RP readers may be aware of areas in Canada where overly burdensome regulations from provincial or national governments were not enforced by local governments, but it’s safe to say that these cases were few and far between. Canadians are by and large brought up to respect those in authority over us, and most Canadian Christians can quote from Romans 13 by heart: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God…” Americans, of course, have the same Bible! But somehow, there is a spirit of independence among citizens of the U.S. that pushes back strongly against any authority that is deemed to have over-reached its powers as granted in national or state constitutions. Americans rebelled against what they judged to be the unlawful and unjust authority of King George III in 1776; many who were loyal to the British crown and did not believe rebellion was the proper path left the country and moved to Canada. Are Americans more free than Canadians?  That likely depends greatly on the state or province in which you hang your hat, and on the size of the city you have made your home. But the spirit of independence of citizens, and their desire to curtail government powers to those specifically granted by constitutions does seem to be more alive in most of the fifty states than in the provinces and territories. Drifting in the same direction? The Canadian Charter of Rights guarantees fundamental freedoms such as “freedom of religion, freedom of thought, freedom of belief, and freedom of expression.” Yet many Canadians are angry about the government’s power being directed against them when they exercise these freedoms, and call homosexuality a sin against God, or when they speak out against government policies they judge to be unjust. (Some truckers who spoke out against the COVID lockdowns found themselves frozen out of their bank accounts!) But how different are things in the U.S.? The recent mid-term elections in the U.S. were disappointing for many American Christians. If the exit polling is accurate, millions of voters were swayed by pro-abortion advocates to keep the Democrat party in control of the Senate. Conservatives had hoped that the leftward drift of the country would be rejected by its citizenry. Instead, the voters appeared to endorse the leadership of President Biden, who despite his Roman Catholic faith, has embraced abortion as a “reproductive right.” Self-identified independents who can sway election results for either side mostly voted for the Democratic candidates: in particular younger, female voters helped push results in favor of the more liberal of the country’s two major political parties. (The Republican party did gain control of the House of Representatives, but with a far slimmer margin than pollsters had predicted.) One election does not necessarily indicate a permanent shift, but Canadians who wish to escape liberal trends in government might pause to look carefully at directions in the United States. Church communities Nate and Victoria and their son Jaxon – show off some of their geographical connections, sitting in front of the US, Canadian, and Australia flags. A generation or two ago, many Reformed people would narrow down the locations that they’d be willing to move, to areas where they could find a church from within their own federation, or one that was already recognized as a “sister church.” There is definitely some safety and wisdom in this approach: if we move for greater economic opportunities, or political freedom, but compromise in our choice of which church to join, we may live to regret that decision. Nate and Victoria VanAndel recently moved to Maryville, Tennessee from Brantford, Ontario with their son Jaxon. The VanAndels were grateful for the ability to watch recorded worship services from churches they were considering; it helped them make their decision to join Sandy Springs Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) near Knoxville after also visiting some local congregations of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). “Sundays include a pre-service Sunday school in the morning, a bi-monthly potluck lunch, and an evening service,” said Victoria. “We have found this church to be very inviting, and we felt at home here very quickly.” (The OPC is in a fraternal relationship with both the URC and CanRC federations; the PCA is recognized within NAPARC as a faithful church body.) Canadians who have been members of long-established Reformed churches back at home may be surprised by how small many of the conservative Presbyterian or Reformed churches are in the USA, particularly in areas where there has not been a large Dutch immigrant community. For example, the OPC has an average congregational size of 110 members. Smaller churches can have many benefits, with greater opportunity for strong relationships between members, and community involvement, but some of the resources of a larger church community may not be present. Christian schooling Bryan Grim found this to be the case in particular with regard to Christian education. Grim grew up in the Fraser Valley of B.C., and appreciates the schools founded by Canadian Reformed people in the 1950s, with many United Reformed members also joining these school societies in the last twenty years. Grim stated that the local Christian school society in Sioux Falls appears to have drifted from its Reformed roots, and not many members of his new home church, Christ Reformed URC, send their children there (although Bryan and Leanne’s children are attending). More parents have chosen to homeschool their students, rather than worry about what the young people are taught when away from the home. This appears to be a more common trend in long established American Christian school societies in Reformed communities, which after a period of years, drop their requirements that teachers and leaders adhere to the Reformed confessions and maintain membership in a faithful church body. How the parents and educators who worked so hard to establish these schools would lament these developments! How about our grandparents? Those in favor of moving out of Canada might point to their grandparents or great grandparents, many of whom moved away from the Netherlands without having issues of church membership or schooling finally settled. No doubt, many of the Dutch who left Holland had not thought through every detail of family and church life, but judged that greater opportunity in Canada, and further distance from European wars and struggles made the risk a responsible one. In the rear-view mirror, they may judge that they made the right decision, that they by and large were able to establish strong, faithful churches, schools, and communities, and leave behind a country that had much less opportunity for the average citizen. This did not come easily, however, and these older generations had difficult years and struggles along the way. The Lord blessed His people as they worked faithfully wherever He placed them. Affordability In the last thirty years, real estate prices in Canadian cities have increased by leaps and bounds. In southern Ontario, in B.C.’s Fraser Valley, and in the larger prairie cities, young people may have a very hard time buying their own home. Research firm Oxford Economics recently reported that overall Canadian real estate prices rose 331% from 1990 through today. The report sounded an alarm that with rising interest rates, many Canadians would have difficulties making their mortgage payments. The study also reported that real estate had risen 289% during the same time period in the USA, which sounds like a similar rise in value, but as any realtor will say, all real estate is local, and the top three factors in a home’s value are “location, location, location!” Home prices in rural American states remain much more affordable for the average wage-earner. Bryan and Leanne Grim were able to buy a home on a four-acre property that would be far out of reach for the average buyer if that home were located in Surrey or Mississauga or Los Angeles. In addition, mortgage rates in the U.S. can be locked in for up to thirty years, giving cost certainty for buyers who can be confident that their payments will remain constant as long as they stay in the same home. With housing prices so high in the lower B.C. mainland, Bryan believed his children would likely have had to move away to become homeowners. By moving to Sioux Falls, he and Leanne  have a greater chance that as their children grow up and form their own households, these might be near Dad and Mom. So far, the Grims have found the cost of living in Sioux Falls to be significantly less than in B.C. with the exception of Christian schooling. Many Christian school societies in Canada charge at a discounted rate for large families, while these discounts might be smaller or non existent in the more typical American Christian school system. Federal tax rates are substantially lower in the U.S. than in Canada, and there are nine states (Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Washington) that have no state-level income tax at all. Michigan, with an abundance of Reformed churches, has the fourth lowest cost of living of the fifty states, and is among the most affordable for housing costs. Family and friends Adam, the oldest son of Bryan and Leanne Grim children, shown exercising his American "right to bear arms." Emigrants inevitably leave behind precious loved ones in their family circle – parents, siblings, cousins, extended church family, and friends. When four of Gary and Cindy Wieske’s six grown children began to move south, one by one, it made the decision to pursue a move themselves easier. Daughter Jodi was already settled in suburban Chicago with her husband. Son Caleb, an entrepreneur like his dad, had always wanted to move to the States, and eventually chose Tennessee as his destination, where he and his brother Dustin have started an outdoor living company, supplying patio furniture, barbecues, smokers, and similar products. As owners of Ontario Stone Supply in Dundas, Gary and Cindy Wieske were able to buy a similar company in Fort Myers, Florida, where they moved along with son Rodney and his family: Rodney is manager of the new location in Fort Myers, while son Luke and daughter Nadia are running the company back home in Ontario. Gary Wieske is thankful to be able to travel to see his kids and grandkids in Florida, Tennessee, Illinois and southern Ontario. In South Dakota, Bryan and Leanne Grim are also glad that Bryan’s sister and her family moved to the same neighborhood, giving all the children the benefit of having cousins and friends nearby. Most of those who move, however, will not have the benefit of frequent in-person contact with extended family and long-time friends. While staying connected through phone and internet is easier and more affordable now than it’s ever been, it isn’t the same as in-person visits or catching up over a cup of coffee. In particular, parents with young families may find it hard to be away from the network of babysitting grandparents, and friends ready to pitch in at a moment’s notice. Can you do it? There are a number of possible legal paths that Canadians can consider for a move to the U.S. Many American companies are looking for professionally qualified employees in diverse fields, and may be able to help with the immigration procedure. Investors’ visas are another common route: they do require a good amount of capital, a good business plan, and a lot of paperwork to qualify, but the route is a well-trodden one. It is possible to take care of the paperwork and filing to immigrate without a lawyer but it may be a much more frustrating and time-consuming endeavor.  Everyone I spoke to for this article mentioned the value of a good immigration attorney. “They give you the confidence that you can do it,” said Gary Wieske. “Although there is still a lot of planning, and a lot of paperwork and charts.” In general, immigration attorneys know their business and are able to find the most expeditious path to a visa, including advice on which visas can lead to eventual permanent residence status (also known as a “green card”). It may be wise to find a lawyer who you know has been able to help other Canadians make the move legally: in our Lynden community, we could readily recommend which lawyers have been excellent, and which may not have quite as sterling a reputation. Should you do it? When asked, “Why make the move?” Gary Wieske quoted his son Dustin: “For faith, for family, and for freedom: if that’s what we’re doing it for, then we’ll be blessed.” So far, Wieske has no regrets: his family appreciates living among so many more outspoken Christians than back home. He recalls the simple gesture of a waitress in a Tennessee restaurant who reminded Wieske’s grandkids to pray for their meal: “That’s something I’ve never seen in all my years in Ontario!” For Bryan Grim and his family, the move has so far been all very positive: he appreciates that South Dakotans value their freedom, and, in particular, their freedom of expression. Grim finds that folks in his relatively small town are tolerant of other viewpoints: “In South Dakota, you’re still allowed to have your own opinion.” While Victoria VanAndel misses family back in Ontario, she instantly felt at home in the south: “The first week here in Tennessee I remember saying to Nate that I had such nice people serve me at the grocery store, and wherever I had to run errands that day. After a week of this though it became clear that the people are just friendlier and happier here! We had neighbors welcome us with baskets of veggies, porch flowers and a kind word of ‘welcome to Tennessee, this here is God’s country!” Whether or not a move out of your community is right for you and your family is really a question that you can only answer yourself. As has been discussed, there are many factors to consider. God has called us to live faithfully before Him as prophets confessing His name, as priests presenting ourselves as living sacrifices to Him, and as kings fighting against sin and the devil, and we may and must do all these things wherever we find ourselves living on this earth. As we consider our roles as members of God’s Church, as parents, as children, as employees, and as citizens, let us use wisdom from God’s word, listen to good counsel from those we respect, and pray to the Lord for guidance in these decisions. Marty VanDriel is the Assistant Editor of Reformed Perspective....

Assorted

Is it time to leave Canada?

I had to answer this question in front of a live, though physically distanced, audience in Toronto in the fall of 2021. The presentation occurred in the midst of numerous Covid restrictions and concerning developments in Canada’s Parliament and legislatures, including a proposal to criminalize “conversion therapy.” Since then, the hypothetical has become a reality for some Reformed families, who have decided to uproot and move to the USA, and Marty VanDriel is sharing some of their stories in this issue’s feature article. While talk is cheap, action often inspires others to action. Their decisions to leave is provoking many of us to search our hearts and make our own decision about whether to stay or think seriously about relocating. If I were to follow my heart or even my mind, it wouldn’t be too hard to convince me to move, especially if the new location comes with a warmer climate and a few palm trees thrown in. Yet I also know we are called not to follow simply our hearts, but God’s Word and law (Ps. 119) and to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). God’s Word makes it clear that whether we stay or leave, what should ultimately motivate us is the furtherance of His kingdom, not our own. Don’t look for Heaven on Earth C.S. Lewis once said that “if we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” So when our hearts long for a better place than Canada, that longing isn’t a bad thing. It only means we are pilgrims, looking for a country of our own (Heb. 11:14). We just shouldn’t be fooled by the hope that the USA, or any other region of this world, is going to satisfy that longing. The problem with going to a new location is that we take ourselves with us. And that is a problem because “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jer. 17:9). A change of location doesn’t change our broken condition, as much as we may want it to. Although some places in this world may have more freedom than Canada, there isn’t a place on the planet that is free of the effects of the fall into sin. And even if one location is better than another, it might be just a matter of time before that changes, especially because it will attract people like ourselves, stained with sin even before we were born (Ps. 51). God wants the Earth filled and the Gospel spread This doesn’t mean that we have a divine mandate to stay put. On the contrary, God has given humanity two commissions or mandates, and both come with a calling to move. God’s first instruction to humanity was the cultural mandate to “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). As beautiful as Eden was, God didn’t want Adam and Eve’s children to stay there. They were instructed to inhabit the entire earth. When we fast-forward to Genesis 11, we read about people starting to move eastward and then settling down and deciding to build a city, “otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth” (Gen. 11:4). In response, God confused their language and “the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth” (11:8). He didn’t want them to get comfortable. At the end of Christ’s ministry, He gave us another commission – the Great Commission – which once again included a global focus, to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). The apostles wasted little time and brought the Gospel throughout the known world. Centuries later, that Gospel reached our forefathers. Without people obeying that call to spread their wings, the Gospel wouldn’t have reached us. Reaching the world without leaving the country Canada has recently seen a massive influx of immigration and is set to welcome 500,000 more immigrants every year. That means we don’t need to move to a different continent to reach others. God is sending them to our own neighborhoods. And even though Canada has a Christian heritage, even most of the children growing up in this country don’t know the basics of the Gospel message. In northern BC, where my family currently lives, many communities still don’t have access to faithful Gospel preaching. When we think about where to settle down, we often look at where our relatives are, where job opportunities may be, and the cost of real estate. These things matter a great deal, as we have to first be responsible for our own families. But many of us are capable of relocating. In fact, technology has made it easer than ever to work and study in other places. Speaking from my own experience, our family has been able to stay very connected to the family members that we left a thousand kilometers away. So if Canadian Christians are able to move, instead of looking at other countries, why not consider Prince George, BC, Niverville, Manitoba, or Powassan, Ontario? These communities have small Reformed church plants that are eager for more members. It may not be as attractive to head to communities where the climate is colder, where there aren’t established Reformed schools, and there’s little or no family or friends. But that is how most Reformed communities in Canada started just 50-70 years ago. We already know the language and the culture, we have skills that we can utilize immediately and there are often jobs waiting. In other words, although it may not stir our hearts in the way that a full-time mission position overseas may, moving to these communities is practical and impactful for God’s kingdom. Seek the welfare of the country where we have been placed Whether we stay or go, it is helpful to keep in mind that throughout the ages, most of God’s people had little choice about where they would live. They had to work to survive and didn’t have the luxury of uprooting. That is true of many of us today too. Even if we wanted to move to a better country or a different community, it doesn’t mean that country would allow us to come or that a move would work for our spouse or children. When God’s people were forced to uproot in the Babylonian exile, God’s instruction to them through His prophet was to “build houses and settle down” and “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile“ (Jer. 29:5,7). Regardless of where we settle, these are words we can still take to heart. God’s people are generally encouraged to “live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them” (1 Cor. 7:17). But, lest we conclude that God intends that we just accept our situation, only a verse later he tells slaves “Don’t let it trouble you – although if you can gain your freedom, do so” (vs. 21). In other words, we should bloom as kingdom citizens where we are planted, but that doesn’t mean that we need to wilt if the conditions are poor and another good option is possible. Building off of this, if we are concerned by the direction of our land, we need to “be the change we want to see.” God has given us opportunities to shine our lights in this land and even to serve in institutions and offices of government, or to support those who are. Knowing solid Christians who have answered that call and been willing to serve as MPs, MPPs, town councilors, and leaders in business or other realms, I’m convinced that we can do a better job of encouraging and assisting them in these roles, rather than just criticizing them. It is incredibly difficult to serve as a Christian in a secular land. Let’s help each other rather than tear each other down, discouraging others from serving themselves. Exceptional circumstances may force a move The points above apply in times of widespread freedom and safety. But circumstances can change quickly. Jesus experienced this early in His life. His parents were warned to leave Israel when he was still a baby, seeking refuge from political persecution by relocating to Egypt (Matt. 2). When it was safe to move back, his parents were warned in a dream about going to Judea, so they settled instead in Nazareth, the community where Jesus was raised. And it isn’t just our safety that can change quickly. The same can apply to our spiritual health. We confess that the preaching of the Gospel is one of the two keys of the kingdom of heaven (Lord’s Day 31, Heidelberg Catechism). In other words, we need to be under the preaching. The last two years have made it clear that many of Canada’s leaders simply don’t care much if Christians can’t gather for worship. In my home province, we were told that gathering virtually is a sufficient long-term replacement, even though churches respectfully explained that God’s Word, not the government, should determine what is sufficient when it comes to worship. If it were up to many of our leaders, they would have no problem with shutting down churches for good. Thankfully, God has restrained wickedness and still allows the freedom to preach the Gospel. This is something to be grateful for and to use while we have it. Don’t be paralyzed There is a lot, then, to prayerfully consider. But we shouldn’t get caught up in analysis paralysis. If an opportunity arises where we can best further God’s kingdom and bless our families in a different country or community, and if people who know us well advise us to pursue it, we can embrace the move with enthusiasm, not held back by those who don’t agree or understand. God’s kingdom isn’t limited by earthly borders. In his superb book, aptly titled Just Do Something, Kevin DeYoung advises: “we should stop looking for God to reveal the future to us and remove all risk from our lives. We should start looking to God – His character and His promises – and thereby have confidence to take risks for His name’s sake.” So whether in Canada or beyond, let’s be strong and courageous, taking risks for His kingdom, not our own. Mark Penninga is the Reformed Perspective’s Executive Director....

Parenting

4 problems with State-funded daycare

…and the erosion of the family that the Church isn’t talking about enough **** Orthodox Christians are champions of the family, and rightly so. Stretching back to the beginning of history, marriage – and, by extension, the family – was the first institution that God created (Gen. 2:18, 24-25). Chronologically, the family supersedes the State, the Church, and any other institution in society. For that reason, Christians often call the family the “basic unit” or “basic institution” of society. Inseparable from the concept of the family is the principle that parents have the primary responsibility to care for the children that God has entrusted to them. This responsibility springs from the unique, natural relationship between parents and their children. Over the first few months and years of their lives, most children are raised almost exclusively by their parents. Over time, parents may gradually delegate some of their responsibility to professional caregivers and teachers. However, their right and responsibility as primary caregivers are never forfeited; they are only delegated. Ultimately, parental responsibilities towards their children are non-transferable. This responsibility is not only natural but also biblical. Throughout the Bible, God commands parents to teach their children the law of God, their shared history, and their religious practices. The wisdom of the book of Proverbs is imparted as from parents to children: “Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” Deuteronomy 6:7 also says that the people of God, “…shall teach diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Although the Bible teaches that parents bear the primary responsibility to raise their children, it does not indicate that parents are required to do it alone. All parents need assistance in this task. In the Reformed tradition, we even make commitments at the baptism of our children to “instruct them in these things or have them instructed in them” (from the “Form for the Baptism of Infants,” in the Book of Praise). We acknowledge, basically from day one, that there may be others involved in the raising and teaching of our children. Because of this natural and biblical basis, Christians have traditionally advocated for primary parental responsibility in matters of modern education (for example, by advocating for parental choice on whether to homeschool or which school to send their children to). But as the church and individual Christians became less directly involved in delivering education, the government gradually took on more responsibility in this area. Public schools have been available options for more than 100 years now. Almost 90% of Canadian children now attend a fully funded, secular public school for the greater part of their childhood and adolescence. This has had an immense impact on our culture and ongoing transformation into a secular society. Now, governments in Canada are proposing the single greatest expansion of state authority over the family in the past century in the form of child care policy. And Christians aren’t even batting an eye. The State’s plans for childcare When governments and advocacy groups speak of child care, they generally mean non-parental, institutionalized daycare, where trained professionals care for children from a wide variety of households in a daycare facility. (Because child care should refer to the care of a child no matter who provides the care, we’re going to use the term daycare to refer to this professionalized, institutionalized form of child care.) Daycare typically focuses on children aged 0-5. Recently, daycare has been undergoing a transformation away from being about just caring for children and towards early childhood education. For example, British Columbia recently moved responsibility for child care under the Ministry of Education. This signals that, in essence, the government wants schooling to start at an even earlier age. In their 2021 budget, the Canadian federal government earmarked $30 billion over the next five years to daycare, with an annual commitment of $9.2 billion by 2026 and beyond. Their goal is to cut daycare fees in half by 2022 and to ensure universal $10 per day daycare is available to all parents by 2026. Subsidizing and regulating daycare falls within provincial responsibility, so the federal government will have to coordinate their efforts with the provinces. This is similar to how Canada’s health care system works: the provinces are responsible for health care, but the federal government provides provincial governments with billions of dollars in funding under the condition that their health care system meet certain national criteria. Now, although each province requires all children to receive a formal education, there is no such requirement that all children must attend daycare. As it stands right now, the provinces are only planning to make universal, subsidized childcare available for those who want it. Prior to the pandemic, the parents of 57.6% of children wanted non-parental child care, despite the current high cost of such child care. The government – and many daycare advocates – are keen to establish government-funded daycare spots for a variety of reasons. Their primary argument is that access to daycare helps achieve gender equity for women by relieving mothers (who are disproportionately involved in child care) of the responsibility for caring for children. This enables more women to be employed and narrows the labour force participation rate gap between men and women. Second, advocates think that subsidized daycare will make life more affordable for the average Canadian family. Third, they claim that early childhood learning programs and quality daycare lead to better outcomes for children. Four problems with State-funded daycare Why is this approach to child care something Christians should be concerned about? There are at least four problems with this model: #1: Subsidized daycare encourages more parents to spend less time with their children If parents are ultimately responsible for raising their children, particularly young children, then subsidizing daycare encourages parents to hand off responsibility for raising their children to others while they pursue economic goals or search for self-fulfillment outside of the home. A classic principle of economics is that when you subsidize something, which is functionally the same as lowering the cost of something, people demand more of it. They demand more of it because it is cheaper for them. The same principle holds true for daycare. If the government subsidizes daycare, some parents who already use daycare a couple of days a week will find it convenient to use it for the entire week. Or some might start sending their child at age 3 instead of age 4. Other parents, enticed by the lower cost of daycare, will start sending their children to daycare for the first time. Obviously, the time that children spend in daycare is time not spent with their parents. #2: Subsidized daycare encourages parents to see children as a burden rather than a blessing The primary argument in favor of subsidizing daycare sees children as a burden rather than a blessing. Supporters of subsidizing daycare view it as a way to increase women’s participation in the labor force and the economy. Without access to daycare, women are “stuck at home” or “forced to stay home” to care for their child(ren). This is against their presumed “true desire” to rejoin the workforce, either to find fulfillment in a career or a higher material standard of living. According to this mindset, children are not a blessing, but a burden on the career advancement or financial stability of parents, particularly mothers. Subsidizing daycare contributes to this mentality.  #3: Subsidized daycare fails to appreciate the choice of some parents to care for their own children The subsidization of daycare underappreciates the decisions of some parents to stay at home and care for their own children. Our broader culture already looks down upon this decision as, at best, a waste of time or talent or, at worst, perpetuating outdated or sexist stereotypes. This disregard will only grow if our provincial governments support only daycare. For Christian parents who choose to raise and/or educate their own children, they would be required to pay taxes to support publicly funded daycare while also forgoing the income of a second parent in the workforce that most other families enjoy. In a country where the cost of living – particularly housing – is rising quickly, this extra taxation without any resulting benefit makes it more and more difficult for a parent to prioritize raising their children themselves.  #4: Daycare is not in the best interest of all children In discussions around daycare, many advocates speak primarily of the benefits to parents, particularly women. But what about the children? Are daycare programs good for all children? A significant body of evidence suggests not. In their 2019 report A Positive Vision for Child Care Policy Across Canada, Cardus describes how Quebec’s universal, subsidized daycare led to poor outcomes for children. A working paper published by Baker, Gruber, and Milligan finds a correlation between attendance of an institutionalized childcare center and lower social and behavioral skills.* These findings should not be surprising when we look at the biblical pattern of parents having the ultimate responsibility for raising their children. God designed the structure of a family, and we know He designed it for His glory, our good, and the greater good of society. What can we do? For these reasons, Christians should be critics of universal subsidized daycare. Yet, this change in government policy is an opportunity for Christians for at least two reasons. First, we should continue to praise parents who fully embrace the responsibility to care for and educate their children themselves. The child care provided by stay-at-home parents has been discounted for decades. We live in a capitalist culture driven by goals of productivity and career advancement where many find their primary identity in their work. We also live in a secular culture dominated by individualism and materialism where being a stay-at-home parent is often met with disdain. We need to laud parents who make sacrifices in other areas of life to fulfill this responsibility well. We should support policies that enable parents to care for and educate their children themselves rather than encouraging parents to pass this responsibility to others at earlier and earlier ages. Secondly, daycare is an incredible opportunity for the Church. Canadians are calling for a government-supported daycare program because they often don’t have the social networks to help them in this task. Many families need daycare due to poverty, disability or sickness, or single parenthood, and we know that childhood years are fundamental in shaping children’s character. Rather than leaving only non-Christians to care for and educate young children, Christians should also pursue childcare careers and make child care a mission field. Conclusion Subsidized daycare is often presented as a pro-family policy because it reduces the expenses of many families. Although it might materially enrich some families in the short-term, however, it is more aptly characterized as a get-moms-back-to-“real”-work strategy. Our culture increasingly thinks children should be entrusted to professionals over parents. Parents, relieved of their duty, are then expected to work full-time. Extending significant funding to daycares will entrench this mentality in our society and perhaps increasingly creep into the Church. Instead, government policy ought to emphasize that the care of children is primarily the responsibility of parents, and this is a task – and calling – to be taken up with joy. We have a window of opportunity to influence the shape of childcare systems now as these systems are being formed, but it will be much harder to change these systems once they are in place. Consider the points raised above, talk about it with your family and friends, consider how you can be a salt and a light to the world around us, and start a dialogue with your representatives today. Endnote * Michael Baker, Jonathan Gruber, Kevin Milligan. (2019). The Long-Run Impacts of a Universal Child Care Program. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy. 11; 3. p. 1-26 Levi Minderhoud is the BC Manager, and Anna Nienhuis is a policy analyst and editor for ARPA Canada....

Christian education

Calvin Hutchinson: from chemical engineering to high school teacher

There are all sorts of paths to teaching and reasons to teach, and in this interview, conducted with Mark Penninga (and lightly edited), Calvin Hutchinson offers up his own. ***** My pathway into teaching is a fairly bizarre one. I went to university at McMaster in Hamilton, graduating with a chemical engineering degree. With this degree, I was able to get hired by a consulting firm, and for the next little while I worked with a number of different companies doing IT management, project management, and general business analyst work. After spending some time working in New Brunswick, I came back to Ontario and was asked to fill in at Emmanuel Christian High School (ECHS) for a teacher who had to take emergency medical leave. I finished one semester and, while I had fun helping out, I made the decision to go back to consulting as I felt that I was too close in age to the students at the time. God wasn’t letting me leave education completely though. Shortly afterward I was asked to help out with coaching the boys’ basketball teams. And then I joined the board of directors for ECHS. It was through this experience that I received the “management” view of the school, and realized there was a huge need for effective educators. A major part of the board’s early spring meetings, and a huge source of stress, was making sure that we had enough staff in place to even run the school for the following school year. This still happens every single year in many of the Reformed Christian schools. The private Christian education I had taken for granted my entire life seemed to actually be struggling to continue. The story of how I decided to become a teacher again is a fairly personal one, but to sum it up, I needed a change, I saw the different talents and paths God made available to me, and saw the need for Christian educators, I listened to some advice from those much wiser than me, and decided to give teaching another chance. It was the best decision of my life to date. It doesn’t matter how grumpy I am in the morning, how little coffee I have had, or even if my car gets a flat tire on my way into work and everything goes wrong, whenever the students come into the class, I start to smile. Each student is completely unique, and has their own personalities and quirks that are fun to get to know and interact with. This makes teaching the same subject year after year seem completely new, as each group of students will respond to a different teaching method and delivery. And when you are willing to create an environment where having fun while learning is the norm, then there is no end to the uniqueness that students are willing to bring to the class. I remember teaching a class on microbiology where I made an analogy comparing enzymes to turbochargers. I was told I was wrong, and received a 30-minute lecture from my students telling me why I was wrong, and on the difference between superchargers and turbochargers. A little off of the government curriculum maybe, but I guarantee that the students remember what an enzyme does. Interactions like that happen on a daily basis, and it is amazing to experience. I have so much fun doing my job every single day, and am so grateful that God led me down the pathway to being a teacher....

Christian education

Paul Bartels: from carpenter to high school shop teacher

There are all sorts of reasons to consider teaching and in this interview, conducted with Mark Penninga (and lightly edited), Paul Bartels offers up his own. ***** My story starts in 1998. I was working as a carpenter with my own company. I replied to an ad in a bulletin to go on a Faithworks team and ended up going to the Dominican Republic. While I was there, I met a missionary and thought “I could do this job.” He was a former police officer from the Netherlands and he had made the switch. That is what I ended up doing; for four years my family and I moved down to the Dominican Republic and we ended up building Christian schools with Worldwide Christian Schools (now EduDeo). After four years we knew it was time to come back. Whose kingdom? However, I wasn’t exactly happy about being back. I enjoyed what I did in the Dominican. And for nine or ten years afterward I was really angry with God about being here. At the end of that time, my wife asked me to listen to a sermon from Pastor Hilmer Jagersma, on the petition “your kingdom come” from the Lord’s Prayer. The gist of the sermon was “what are we praying for? Are we praying for our own kingdoms or are we praying for God’s kingdom? What is more important in our lives?”  I decided for a month I was going to pray, but I wasn’t going to pray for anything in my kingdom. It was all going to be about God’s kingdom. At that time, I was subbing for a landscaping company and we were building some pretty high-end backyard structures. I had one customer say to me “I don’t really care what it costs, I just want my neighbor to be impressed.” That morning I decided, That’s it, I’m out of this industry. I don’t want to be involved in that. I didn’t think that was good for anyone – I’m building structures that are just to show off. It just played against everything I ever really felt about Christianity. More important than the material I quit and over the next year did some interviews. Then a friend of mine, who was actually the board chairman at asked me if I would consider being the high school shop teacher since I was a carpenter. I said “Nah, I’m looking for a missional job.” He said “well, pray about it.” I went home and talked to my wife and we prayed. A week later I was at a breakfast meeting with one of our pastors and he was standing in line waiting for his food, talking to someone else, and he was saying that if he hadn’t become a pastor, he would be a high school teacher since it was so missional. It’s funny how God works in those situations. I immediately clued in, so I applied, got the job and that’s the reality of it. I think what I was searching for in life was something that had permanent value. I can’t think of anything more permanent than salvation and eternal life and being a catalyst to bring that into people’s life. When I went in for the interview they asked me why I wanted to this. I said “to be honest, I don’t really care about teaching woodworking to kids. That is not my goal. My goal is to teach them about God.” They said “perfect,” so that’s how I got hired. One of the issues that I feel is affecting the draw of teachers – more so for males than females – is “whose kingdom are you working for?” I think that if people would take real stock of what they are working for, they might find that material goods are high up on their list, whereas God’s kingdom is not. That’s really what I’m hearing, and what I experienced in my life. I was a Christian but never really took the time to take stock or just pray about God’s kingdom. I think that is one of the biggest pulls that can influence people to go into a career as a teacher, (or even a pastors) – asking, what are we doing for God’s kingdom, and, is it permanent? Great conversations Hands-on tech students will often have certain characteristics. Some like to be busy, can’t sit in a desk long, and they can’t focus on reading. So, it takes a different style to teach them. By adapting my way of teaching to their style, it gives me a level of creditability. They think “finally, someone who understands us.” That then opens up the possibilities for better discussions. I get to develop a personal relationship with these students. It has been an awesome opportunity. I have had students who have contacted me with some of their problems and we have taken time to pray about it and try to develop their prayer life as well. However, Covid did put a big stomp on that. We often talk about the providence of God and how He looks after us. I think a lot of times we forget about His providence when we go to work on Monday. We need to develop a holistic view of our lives. We’re not just people who go to church twice on Sunday and wear the appropriate clothes. We need to be asking, "What are we really doing with our lives for God’s kingdom?" That is what I’m preaching to people struggling with their careers, and not happy with what they are doing. Maybe there is no enjoyment because you are not doing what God wants you to be doing....

Christian education

A call to teach

“Inviting applications!” the ad calls out. It goes on to list four teaching positions that need to be filled, and tries to paint an inviting picture of the location and supporting community. The problem is, it is drowned out by many others exactly like it. Look in any Reformed church magazine and you will likely find the majority of the advertising space devoted to one thing: job postings for teachers. What has been an occasional challenge for some schools has broadened to become one of the most pressing challenges for almost every Reformed school in the country, with little hope on the horizon for change. Since each school is independently run, it has been a challenge to get a clear picture of what is causing the teacher shortages and whether there is potential for collaboration by the Reformed community to address and reverse this trajectory. Thankfully, work is already being done behind-the-scenes to change this. Going beyond anecdotal stories LCRSS League Coordinator John Wynia If there is one man who has a finger on the pulse of Reformed education in Canada, it is John Wynia. Wynia’s own education began with homeschooling in his elementary years, a Reformed Christian high school, and an Education degree at Redeemer University. He then served as a teacher at Reformed schools in southern Alberta and southern Ontario, before taking on the full-time position of League Coordinator for the League of Canadian Reformed School Societies (LCRSS) in 2018 where he is still serving today. There is no other position like it in the country, dedicated entirely to coordinating and blessing Reformed school societies in Ontario. I met with Wynia to learn more about the teacher shortage and what‘s already being done. Wynia shared that when he started his role as League Coordinator in 2018, his very first “League Learning Day” with schools in Ontario was devoted to this problem because it had been a huge challenge for a few years already. “Anecdotally it is a problem. You can see it in the advertisements in the various periodicals, the Clarion or Christian Renewal or whatever it may be,” Wynia shared. And it isn’t limited to a particular denomination. “Rehoboth Christian School, the Free Reformed schools, Heritage Christian School, they all reported similar challenges.” Wynia added that even in the case of the schools that are reporting they are fully staffed, it is often because they asked a mom, or a retired teacher, to come back to teach part-time. “They are making do.” The 2018 meeting highlighted the need for better data, to go beyond anecdotal information. And it sparked an initiative called “Teach With Us Ontario” (TWUO). The TWUO team started gathering information from schools about enrollment, the number of teachers, attrition rates (the number of teachers that leave each year), reasons for teachers leaving, and more. They also developed a teacher appreciation program, found a teacher champion for each school, and made a webpage – LCRSS.ca/teachwithus – that featured videos and stories about the blessing of serving as teachers. It didn’t take long before schools from western Canada expressed the same need and TWUO morphed into TWUC  – “Teach With Us Canada.” Kent Dykstra, Principal of Credo Christian High School in Langley, BC, served as the primary contact point for gathering data from Reformed schools in Western Canada. Although the data doesn’t account for all Reformed schools, it is likely representative. They found: Enrolment is increasing steadily, from 4,593 students in 2014-2015 to 5,252 this past year in the schools counted. Generally speaking, more students require more teachers. Maintaining the teacher numbers won’t be sufficient long-term if the trajectory of increasing student population continues; There was a slight decrease in the number of teaching staff from 2020 to 2021, and incomplete data prior. The total Full-Time Equivalent Teaching staff was 355.4 in 2021 and 367 in 2020. The attrition rate (percent of teachers leaving the profession in a given year), not including to other Reformed schools, increased from 9.5% to 10.3% in 2021. Wynia explained that these attrition rates are somewhat higher than other professions, and higher than for teachers in the public schools, where it is about 6-7%. Of the reasons for leaving, 4-5% of the total number of teachers leave annually for reasons other than health, retirement, maternity, or going to another Reformed school. A dearth of applications One side of the challenge is making it possible for teachers to stay in the profession long-term. A goal every bit as important is recruiting more people to join the profession, either transferring over from other professions or as their first career. The TWUC team sent out a survey in 2019 and 2021 to grade 11 and 12 students in Reformed high schools, exploring why these students would or would not consider teaching as a career. It found: 37%-42% of students considered a teaching career Far more female students (48%) than male (27%) consider teaching The most important factors cited by students to consider teaching were: “Using my God-given gifts and abilities,” “Desire to pass on a Reformed worldview” and “Desire to make a difference” As for reasons to not consider teaching, the top factors were: “Passion for another profession/career,” “Feeling called to another profession/career” and “Limited opportunities for professional advancement” Although a substantial percent of students consider teaching, these ambitions are not culminating in an abundance of qualified men and women for the job openings for teachers. The opposite is true. From the “Applications per position” chart, courtesy of TWUC, we see that the 37-42% of students with ambitions to teach doesn’t materialize into teachers. Only 4.1-6.3% are graduating from a teacher education program. (The drop off from 2020 to 2021 is likely attributed to Covid restrictions). Another helpful statistic from TWUC’s research is the number of qualified applications that schools are receiving for each position they have open. In 2021, it wasn’t even one application for each opening.  Kent Dykstra clarified that a “qualified” applicant doesn’t necessarily mean they even have a Bachelor of Education degree or equivalent. In provinces that allow people to teach without this, these applicants are also deemed to be qualified. When we factor in the reality that new graduates who are looking for a position likely send their application to multiple schools, that leaves most schools high and dry. Adam Kloostra, Principal of Rehoboth Christian School in Copetown, Ontario – which has members from Free Reformed, Netherlands Reformed, and Heritage Reformed churches – shared with me that their school community has very similar challenges. “I've just begun my fourth year as principal, and I can confirm that each time we post a job opening we're only receiving 1-2 applicants on average per posting. We've been seeing this trend for a number of years now and have instituted a "teacher attraction and retention committee." The same is true for Heritage Christian School, which is one of the largest Reformed school in the country, based in the Niagara peninsula of Ontario. Their principal, Brian Kemper, shared with me that “in past years, there were often plentiful teacher applicants. Now, some years pass by and we don't even get one applicant for a teaching position.” Woke universities The huge gap between interest in the teaching profession from Grade 11 and 12 students and the number of applications being received points to some significant challenges. What is happening? As helpful as data is, to get to the heart of this issue it often helps to talk to the people on the ground. An accompanying article “Report from the Front Lines” was graciously compiled by six current high school teachers, in an effort to give their honest reflections on the blessings and challenges of serving in this vocation. The benefit of frank and anonymous data is that it is more likely to cut to the heart of the issue. At the top of the list of “cons” is: “Need to jump through a lot of hoops to get trained. Lots of unnecessary/politicized courses and topics to cover, which can get tiring and demoralizing.” I asked one of these teachers to speak to this further. He shared that when he went through university in the 90’s, although it was no small feat to go through six years of study on his own dime, at least he received a quality education from professors who wanted to teach their disciplines well. The same can’t be said anymore. We won’t even factor in the disruptions caused by the vaccine mandates and other Covid restrictions over the past two years. For the past couple of decades, Canadian universities have become bastions of political correctness. It is one thing to jump through a six-year hoop and get a decent education. It is another to withstand six years of sensitivity training and woke indoctrination. A recent study by the MacDonald Laurier Institute, published this September, bears this out. It found that a staggering 88% of professors on Canadian university campuses identify as left-leaning, compared with only 9% who are conservative. And that tiny minority who are conservative are censoring their own thoughts, out of fear of negative consequences. Reformed Christians have very few options for a quality degree in education that is accredited. One noteworthy institution, which has been making an effort to uphold its Reformed roots, is Redeemer University in Hamilton, Ontario. Reformed Perspective’s “Real Talk” podcast recently interviewed the university’s new president Dr. David Zietsma, in which he detailed, in-depth, his desire to lead the institution faithfully and with a Reformed confessional basis.  However, for most Canadians, attending Redeemer would mean moving to southern Ontario and paying substantially more than secular schools (though Redeemer has cut tuition significantly in recent years). Covenant Canadian Reformed Teacher’s College (CCRTC) is another solid option for teacher training. It is also based in Hamilton and has been providing teacher’s training since 1976. They now provide a Diploma in Education and a Diploma of Teaching, and have graduated many students who have gone on to teach in Reformed schools throughout Canada. However, their lack of government recognition – formal accreditation – for their diplomas has meant that graduates have primarily served Ontario schools, one of the few provinces that doesn’t require teachers to have accredited degrees. In recent years, the CCRTC has been going through a rigorous process to achieve accreditation, which would go a long way to attracting students from across the country who desire a solid Reformed teacher’s education. The increasing cost of living Another “con” listed by teachers in the “Report from the Front Lines” article is: “Pay not that good for that much university training – many trades pay better, RN nurses start at around $90k, RCMP make $106,576 after three years, etc., while most teachers start at $50k and max out at $80k.” Although salary was ranked as the least important factor for Grade 11 and 12 students, it doesn’t take long until young adults realize they have massive bills to pay for tuition, living, and potentially also raising a family. These costs have escalated significantly with inflation and a housing market that has more than doubled in price. It is one thing for established teachers in rural communities to continue to get by with salaries of $50,000-$80,000. But it is another thing for those who recently finished six years of post-secondary education with student loans and face a housing market that starts in the neighborhood of $800,000 to purchase a modest family home. As much as someone may want to teach, they have to pay their bills and support their families. At the same time, wages for trades have increased substantially in recent decades. As the teachers shared “5-6 years of university – expensive, especially if you have to move out of town. Lost wages for 5-6 years, and lost years of experience, seniority, working your way up in other careers. Takes decades to catch up to peers (if ever).” Brian Kemper from Heritage Christian School concurs. “Teaching is a demanding calling and wages are not very high. Often, there are teachers who supplement their income with other work/investment opportunities. The high cost of living in the Niagara area is also a significant factor. More people are leaving for other opportunities or to move to other areas.” Reformed schools are supported by families, and in Ontario the entire budget for private schools comes from donations and tuition, as there is no government support. Increasing salaries generally means increasing tuition fees, which are being paid for by families who are also facing the pressures of rising costs and limited finances. “I think there is a desire to find ways to support teachers,” Wynia offered. “The scholarship idea is a start.” However, “the money has to come from somewhere. We are venturing into this territory for the first time. The desire would be there to provide more support. Especially in supporting their education.” “I can speak from experience of living on a teacher’s salary, paying off student loans, trying to buy a house, though prices aren’t where they are now. We have a good life. We don’t get to do all the things that others do. But that doesn’t bother us.” Wynia added that in the church, where there is a lot of affluence, we have to be careful to not lose sight of what the most important things are. Seeking His kingdom first Kent Dykstra, principal at Credo Christian High School, is curious whether increasing the pool from which schools could recruit teachers would really address the teacher shortage: “It probably would attract some teachers. But if we open up the hiring policy, would it not be consistent to open up the admissions policy? And if we open up the admissions policy you might cancel it out because you need more teachers.” At root, it is evident that teaching won’t stand out from other professions because of the ease of getting into the profession or the salary and benefits. Although all professions can be understood as “callings” when we recognize that all the earth is God’s, the calling for men and women to raise covenant children in the fear of the LORD requires the support of an entire church community and won’t happen unless it is prioritized. “We want people to understand the joy of being a teacher and the calling of it” shared Wynia. “We need to have our current teachers and parents and community pass on the beauty and joy of Reformed education and the blessing to be a part of it. We have work to do on that front.” Adam Kloostra, from Rehoboth Christian School, agrees. “They're in it because they love it and they want to be used by God to serve others - so it's far more a calling than a job. We've started to take this approach in our community and amongst our students – we want our students to consider teaching in Christian education as a calling that the Lord may be leading them towards – so we do what we can to show forth positive attitudes towards our positions here. Our behaviour in relation to our calling definitely impacts our student's perception of the calling.” Brian Kemper reminded me that when a school is up front about its identity it will be attractive to those who want to pursue a meaningful career. Heritage Christian, where he serves, is “a Reformed, parental, covenantal school that equips young people with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes for a life of service to Christ and their community. Teacher applicants know who we are, and when they apply for a position here, they get excited about the Heritage that they are joining.” As discussed further in the editorial for this issue, whether it is teaching or a different profession, the key ingredient is a heart that is seeking first God’s kingdom (Matthew 6:25-34). In the broader Christian community there is often a lack of volunteers to serve in positions of church or school leadership. This points to an underlying spiritual problem that can’t be resolved through practical strategies. There won’t be enough kingdom workers if there aren’t enough people seeking His kingdom first.  Thankfully, there seems to still be plenty of people willing to serve as volunteers in Reformed schools, which suggests that the problem likely has more to do with the challenge of entering and staying in the teaching profession rather than a lack of heart for Christian schooling. A coordinated strategy Recognizing that practical steps can go a long way, some schools are looking at ways to increase their pay scales or offering scholarships to students pursuing a teaching career. As helpful as these efforts are, it was clear to the leadership of TWUC that a larger-scale and more coordinated effort was needed. Covid delayed the progress of this new national effort till the spring of 2022, when an ambitious strategic plan was developed. The plan settled on five strategies and immediately got to work in making all five a reality: Student scholarships/bursaries: Implement a program providing scholarships/bursaries to eligible students. All school boards would have an opportunity to contribute to fund the program. The hope would be that the fund is self-perpetuating once it is set up. Ads would then be put in Christian publications, to make students aware of the opportunity. Surveys could be done to better determine how important a bursary would be for pursuing teacher training. Mature students’ education: Survey Reformed school societies for individuals who are already in a vocation but may consider becoming a teacher, through a mature student education program. This also involves working with the Covenant Teacher’s College to determine the feasibility of a program for mature students. Local awareness program: Come up with local awareness initiatives, such as developing an outline of talents that a prospective teacher should or could possess, survey Grade 11 and 12 teachers for potential teacher candidates among their students, promote teaching as a second career, establish contact with recent grads from any vocations to promote teaching, and more. Teacher in-training registry: Create and maintain a registry of teachers, including students pursuing a teaching career, to ensure good communication and awareness between schools and potential teachers. Professional development: Design and implement programs to strengthen teaching abilities, including mentorship programs and opportunities for specialization. TWUC hopes to develop these five prongs concurrently and begin implementing them next spring. If anyone is interested in helping, they are encouraged to reach out directly to John Wynia at [email protected]. Other schools have also been working on a coordinated strategy. Daniel VanBrugge, a teacher at Timothy Christian School, a large school with students from local Netherlands Reformed and Heritage Reformed congregations, shared that “in our own NRC schools the vast majority of up-and-coming teachers are ladies. Very few men have made the decision to study for teacher right out of high-school.” In response “at least two communities have hosted an "Own-the-Issue" evening that brings together teachers, school leaders, church leaders, parents, and grandparents to raise awareness that the teacher supply is a community problem that will be best solved by the community coming together (as opposed to just the school board trying to brainstorm and address the issue).” And since Netherlands Reformed congregations have direct oversight over schools, their church leadership has also taken action. “Our educational committee at the NRC Synod level has done a denominational-wide study on the numbers high school students considering, or planning to study for teacher. The issue looks like it will remain. It's an important topic.” Broadening the field In Canada, the provincial government sets expectations for who may teach in schools. Most provinces require a Bachelor of Education degree, in addition to a standard undergrad degree. Ontario is an exception, allowing schools to set their own criteria. Ontario schools are increasingly making use of this freedom. Kloostra shared that “Ideally, when an applicant does come along, they have their B.Ed. - but we have found that this is no longer a pillar we can bank on each time a position opens up. So we have several staff members who don't have their B.Ed. and despite not having it, they're doing great things – right on par with teachers who have spent the 5-6 years accomplishing a B.Ed. Other provinces allow exceptions. For example, in BC a school can hire a teacher who doesn’t have an education degree if they can prove that they advertised the position and didn’t find someone more qualified to fill it. The schools have to repeat the process annually but are generally not met with resistance by the government. This allows schools to broaden the range of who can fill positions, but the lack of stability means that not many people would consider it to be a long-term career. Another option to expand the pool of teachers is to broaden the criteria of which churches or denominations a prospective applicant can come from. For example, instead of restricting applications to a particular denomination, a school could welcome teachers who are members of a NAPARC-affiliated church, or some other criteria that maintains a confessional and orthodox Reformed basis. (NAPARC stands for “North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council” which includes the CanRC, URC, OPC, PCA, and RCUS among its member denominations.) When I asked Kent Dykstra about this possibility, he observed that parents and school members are rightly concerned about the worldview of those teaching their students. “There is some flexibility, and some boards and some communities are using that flexibility that is written in their founding documents. Others are changing their documents to reflect that reality, but there is also some sensitivity.” That said, it may not even help. “I’m curious whether opening up the hiring policy would address the problem. It probably would attract some teachers. But if we open up the hiring policy, would it not be consistent to open up the admissions policy? And if we open up the admissions policy you might cancel it out because you need more teachers.”  Financial solutions School societies are understandably very hesitant to increase salaries and benefits because the cost is felt directly by families who are paying tuition, many of whom struggle with paying their own bills. Yet what isn’t often publicly acknowledged is the massive increase in wealth that many Reformed families have experience in recent decades. In the past six years alone, the average Reformed family in Canada has received an extra $1,000-$2,000 in tax-free income every month from the federal government in the name of child care benefits (up to a maximum of $6,639 per child under 6 and $5,602 for ages 6-17 each year, adjusted for income). Others have seen their property values climb into the millions. Lifestyles so easily adjust accordingly. The percentage of a family budget that goes to tuition decreases, especially when compared with what our grandparents and parents contributed. As one very elderly and wise lady shared with my wife when reflecting on raising a family with limited means “after paying for church and school, there just wasn’t much money left for things like shoes.” To be clear, there are many Reformed schools that pay fair, and even generous, wages to their teachers and employees. The fact that other professions have seen massive pay increases does not need to translate into pressure to go beyond what is already fair. A different but related issue that has been raised already in this piece is the “hoop” that teachers have to jump through to become certified – five or six years at secular universities that are offering sub-par educations. There are very few solid Christian institutions, and the two that come to mind require a student to move to Ontario, or pay higher tuition. Some schools have come up with creative efforts, such as providing a slightly higher wage for the first year of teaching, or offering a scholarship to students who are becoming teachers. But as helpful as these are, it is hard to see them actually resulting in more people pursuing teaching. For example, a $5,000 scholarship sounds generous, but it can’t be depended on and doesn’t actually go that far when you consider the cost of six years of full-time studies (including tuition, living expenses, and not being able to work full-time). It would help alleviate the expense, but likely wouldn’t sway someone to proceed if the education requirements are a barrier. One idea that I haven’t heard discussed by schools or TWUC is to offer students who are pursuing teaching a loan (for example, up to $15,000 per year for five years), contingent on them studying at a solid Reformed institution like Covenant Teacher’s College or Redeemer University and maintaining a full course load and good grades. Then, when they take up a teaching position, a portion of the loan can be forgiven for each year of teaching (e.g. a $15,000 signing bonus, with $10,000 being forgiven each year for the next five years). The original pool can be contributed by investors who have the means and want to see more teachers. But the pool can be maintained by school societies who cover the loan repayment. That way, if a school really wants a teacher, they can pay to make it happen. If a school doesn’t struggle with finding teachers, they don’t have to offer to repay any loans. Your ideas welcome What ideas do you have? This article was written to start a discussion in homes and communities across the country. We invite you to share your ideas and insights by sending them to the editor....

Science - Environment

How should Christians view climate change?

Chatting with the Cornwall Alliance’s Dr. Calvin Beisner This is an overview of a recent episode of Lucas Holvlüwer and Tyler Vanderwoudes’ Real Talk podcast. Real Talk is a bi-weekly podcast of Reformed Perspective featuring great conversations on everything from propaganda to pornography, and if you haven’t checked it out already, you really should. And you really can, at www.RealTalkPodcast.ca. **** Is climate change real, and if so, how should Christians think about it? How should we take care of God’s creation in a way that still allows us to use its resources for the good of the crown of creation, mankind? Lucas Holtlüwer recently sat down with Dr. Calvin Beisner, founder and national spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation (CornwallAlliance.org), to talk about these and other issues. Dr. Beisner summarized the Cornwall Alliance’s work in a memorable tagline: “Our work is to defend the planet from the people who are trying to defend the planet.” More formally, it is a network of about 70 Christian theologians, natural scientists, economists, and other scholars educating for Biblical earth stewardship, economic development for the poor, and the proclamation and defense of the good news of salvation by God’s grace. The climate is always changing Beisner started with a summary of how the earth’s climate is constantly changing: daily of course, with high and low temperatures, seasonally each year, and also in decades-long cycles driven by different ocean tides and oscillations. Geologists are certain the earth was significantly warmer than today for a few thousand years prior to Christ’s birth, as well as during periods of the Roman empire, and of the Middle Ages. During multiple cooling periods over the last 2,000 years, glaciers have covered much of the world in ice before receding again over centuries. “We’re in an ice age now, although most people don’t realize it, and that’s because Greenland is covered by ice for the most part, and Antarctica is covered also…. All of these happened entirely naturally: there were no SUVs running around burning diesel, and so the human influence had essentially nothing to do with those.” Beisner points to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992 as one of the first times that the phrase was re-defined to mean changes driven primarily by human activity, especially the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Change, but not catastrophic He believes that mankind’s activities do contribute to climate change, but to a very small degree, and that modern technology has an enormous net economic and life-sustaining benefit to human beings that is worth the relatively small effect on the climate. Beisner made the case that the alarmist language and dire predictions of today’s environmentalists do not come from actual scientific climate studies, with their measured tones and scientific language. Rather, these reports are summarized by government bureaucratic appointees, and they tend to push more alarmist mentalities than the reports themselves. “Crisis, danger, catastrophe, existential threat; by environmentalist activist organizations, and by the mainstream media, and by politicians because that’s the kind of language that can get people on board for spending trillions of dollars to solve a problem, whereas, if you speak in very measured moderate scientific terms, you won’t get that kind of support.” Warring worldviews Holtvlüwer asked if Christians in general were less worried about climate change because of the worldview of those who were sounding the alarm. Beisner agreed that non-Christian views such as pantheism, materialism, and animism are prevalent in the environmentalist movement, and contribute to the dangerous error warned about in Romans 1. “When you deny the Creator, you begin to worship the creature instead of the Creator… You elevate the earth to the supreme concern… Paul tells us what happens when you do that. God gives you over to a reprobate mind, professing yourself to be wise you become a fool, and you fall into all kinds of different errors, both intellectual and moral… I think that’s a large part of why… there is a great deal of really shocking folly in much environmental thought.” Seeing babies as blessings From a Biblical perspective, we are called to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). “Rather than seeing the earth as delicate, but nurturing, we see it as robust: very tough, very resilient, self correcting. But, dangerous, unless subdued, unless mastered, and that means that instead of trying to minimize our impact on the world, we don’t maximize it, but we optimize it… to enhance the fruitfulness and the beauty and the safety of the earth for human well-being as well as for the glory of God.” Dr. Beisner pointed out that human deaths from natural catastrophes have actually dropped 95% in the last one hundred years – during the exact period that mankind’s impact on the climate is the greatest it has ever been. Why is this? Man’s prosperity and technological advances have allowed us to build safer homes and businesses, to heat and cool our dwellings, and to travel long distances in relative safety. So, rather than decry the slight impact we have had on the planet’s climate, we should encourage the development of greater wealth, of even safer structures, and of other means by which humans can live long and productive lives. The current rate of warming, stated Beisner, is much lower than often portrayed, and may actually have positive effects on our ability to farm more efficiently in larger areas of the world: “The benefits of this sort of warming are going to outweigh the risks! There may be some problems here and there, but I think it will be much less expensive to adapt to those than to try to control them.” Bigger problems “So should the church not be concerned about climate change, because there are bigger problems?” asked Holtvlüwer. Beisner believes that, “there are going to be some problems that come with human-induced climate change, and that we should be aware of those, and we should be trying to deal with them by mitigation… or by adaptation.” Beisner laid out some likely scenarios as sea levels and temperatures are likely to rise in the coming decades and centuries, but put these in the context of human adaptation as has been the case in the past. In short, there is nothing new under the sun, and part of our mandate as God’s creatures is to subdue the earth, to use its resources in a responsible manner as stewards of creation. According to Beisner, the Cornwall Alliance does not advocate government subsidies for alternative energy sources such as wind and solar. Although there is a place for this type of energy use, the tax dollars of citizens are better used in the limited role that government should play, and the free market should be allowed to work out what energy sources are the most efficient and economical over time. “Nuclear, large-scale hydro, fossil fuels (such as) coal, oil and natural gas would far outstrip wind and solar not just now but for decades, possibly generations, to come.” To dig deeper Dr. Beisner also gave his opinion on the work and writings of Danish author Bjorn Lomborg, expressing his support for most of Lomborg’s views, but disagreeing with the responsibility of government to incentivize alternative energy sources. In the rest of the podcast, Holtvlüwer and Beisner also discussed the overall idea of environmental conservation, and touched on the situation faced by farmers in the Netherlands – who are dealing with new government restrictions on the use of vital fertilizers – along with their protests. Overall, this is a very helpful podcast for Christians who wish to think Biblically and reasonably about climate change and environmentalism, and well worth the 90 minutes of listening. You may even find yourself rewinding and pausing, as you look up statistics and the Cornwall Alliance website for confirmation of the data and studies cited. Real Talk is published twice per month and can be found at ReformedPerspective.ca, RealTalkPodcast.ca, YouTube, and many podcasting platforms. Listen to the whole 68 minute episode below.  ...

Christian education

Report from the front lines: pros and cons of teaching in a Reformed high school

It is one thing to hear from school administrators, boards, and parents about what is contributing to a teacher shortage. But how do the teachers themselves feel about serving in the career right now?  What follows are the thoughts of six high school teachers with 104 years of teaching experience between them. It’s worth noting that teachers in different schools or provinces may well come up with different answers. What’s on offer here could provide direction for schools trying to figure out how best to retain current teachers. My hope is that it will also be a great encouragement to those considering the profession.  Pros of teaching as a career: Can be very satisfying helping covenant kids grow in the Lord and helping parents fulfil their baptism promises – it’s very meaningful work (Eccl. 5) Often excellent communal support – all pulling together for a good cause – many allies Good support structures in place in daily school work – administration, parent committees, learning assistance department etc. Great colleagues who share the faith and worldview make for a pleasant work environment Job stability, including when the economy is suffering and jobs are harder to get Lots of holidays – off when your kids are off, and in good seasons (like summer months) Easier on the body – manual labourers can get worn out elbows, backs, knees, etc. More noticeable by middle age (assuming teachers take care of themselves) Decent wages – similar to a lot of government jobs – fairly close to public school teachers (about 90%) Benefits can be quite good – comparable to similar careers Indoor, climate controlled, clean, comfortable work environment especially nice in winter months – great resources and access to good supplies Good hours – never have to work odd hours, weekends, awkward shifts, unless you choose to (but there is a lot of work outside of school hours that needs to be done) Can make extra money, do bigger projects, go on long trips in summer holidays Some flexibility in when you want to work (go home sooner and work at home in the evening, e.g.) Good variety – can teach different age groups, courses, etc., and room to change things up over the years Potential for lots of fun – many of the activities or topics are quite enjoyable Kids can be easier and more fun to work with than adults – enjoyable to be around, lively and enthusiastic, great sense of humour – keeps you young (but can be exasperating, too) Freedom to come or go – sign contract yearly or choose to go elsewhere if you want, rarely any long-term commitment. Cons: Need to jump through a lot of hoops to get trained – lots of unnecessary/politicized courses and topics to cover, which can get tiring and demoralizing 5-6 years of university – expensive, especially if you have to move out of town – and lost wages for those 5-6 years, and lost years of experience, seniority, working your way up in other careers, requiring decades to catch up to peers (if ever) Pay not that good for that much university training – many trades pay better, RN nurses start at around $90k, RCMP make $106,576 after three years, etc., while most teachers start at $50k and max out at $80k Exhausting to be working with 20+ students all day – overstimulating and draining making decisions non-stop and trying to attend to them all, and especially hard if you’re an introvert (as quite a few teachers seem to be) Many students are getting harder to teach – less respect, less attentiveness, less willingness to work, more distractions outside of school Multiple students with learning issues mean more adaptations and modifications to ensure they are all included – this can take a lot of time and work Often lots of longer hours – marking, report cards, etc. – especially if there are large classes or if the course or grade level is new Can be pressure to teach new grades, courses, etc., which means you often cannot get familiar with one grade level or one set of courses (esp. in smaller schools or when there is lots of staff turnover) Government curricula changes regularly, forcing rewrites of course outlines, and the various bureaucratic hoops can get tiring and cause disillusionment Can be emotionally draining when you have troubled or struggling students A very public job – everybody in the community knows you and could have opinions about you (either good or bad). ...

Christian education

KINGDOM WORKERS WANTED... for frontline role

THE APPEAL IS REAL: This ad may not be genuine, but it's still been ranked among the best ads of all time. In 1900, British explorer Ernest Shackleton was said to have posted this in London’s The Times newspaper to recruit crew for his 1901 expedition to the Antarctic. The appeal is certainly real: it recognizes that there are things more important than money and a comfortable life. (It misunderstands that the “more important” isn’t fame or honor.) Extensive training required, lower pay, high expectations, few advancement possibilities. Opportunity for eternal impact. ****   When I started my undergraduate studies at university, I was on track to become a history teacher. It didn’t take long before I fell off that track. I’m not alone. The feature article in the Nov/Dec 2022 issue includes an encouraging statistic: based on surveys of grade 11 and 12 students that were done in 2019 and 2021 in Reformed Christian schools, about 40 percent of students considered teaching as a career. Yet good intentions don’t necessarily translate into reality. Reformed schools are reporting that the number of qualified applicants that they are receiving dropped from an already-poor 1.2 applications per opening in 2020 to a dismal 0.76 in 2021. Ouch. Canadian businesses are feeling the pinch of a worker shortage this year. But this is nothing new for Reformed schools, which have struggled with a lack of teachers for years now. With many different school communities all operating independently across a huge country, it seemed to the editorial team at Reformed Perspective that the issue of teaching and teacher shortages would benefit from some investigative research and extensive coverage. A common theme Listening to the thirteen individuals who graciously shared their insights with me as I worked on the feature article, I began to see a theme arise: A carpenter shared that he decided to teach and exit his former profession after being told by a client “I don’t really care what it costs, I just want my neighbour to be impressed.” He didn’t want to build structures that are just for showing off. He wanted to do something “with permanent value.” Convicted by a sermon about seeking God’s kingdom rather than his own, his journey led him to serving as a high school shop teacher. Read his full story in the Nov/Dec issue. A successful consultant with a degree in chemical engineering shared “I saw the need for Christian educators, listened to some advice of those much wiser than me, and decided to give teaching another chance. It was the best decision of my life to date.” You can find his testimonial in the Nov/Dec issue as well. Six high school teachers shared their thoughts about the pros and cons of their profession. At the top of the list was “Can feel a lot of satisfaction helping covenant kids grow in the Lord and helping parents fulfil their baptism promises.” While interviewing John Wynia and Kent Dykstra – two of the leaders behind “Teach With Us Canada,” a relatively new effort to address the teacher shortage – I pressed them on the question of the salary discrepancy between teachers and many other professions. They politely pushed back, reminding me that their surveys showed that those who pursue teaching are motivated less by financial gain and more for advancing God's kingdom. A school administrator who devoted many years to serving in Reformed schools before working in an interdenominational school, said he was struck by, and impressed with, how the interdenominational school spoke of teaching as a ministry. This wasn’t something he heard in the Reformed teaching context. What is “kingdom work”? These perspectives challenged me to consider some terms that get thrown around but are rarely defined. Is teaching a calling? A ministry? Kingdom work? Which careers do these terms apply to? Only pastors? The mission statements of Reformed schools make it clear that a teacher’s role is deeply spiritual in nature. But isn’t it dualism to elevate spiritual missions over physical or practical ones? Our Reformed heritage is hesitant to distinguish some professions as “callings” when we know that every task and job can be a means through which we honour God and further His kingdom. I have seen first hand how Christians can faithfully serve in God’s kingdom in many different realms and careers. My dad was a plumber all his life who has blessed countless families (including my own) with his skills and services. A school can’t stay open without plumbing! The same is true of my mom, who cared for our family of ten her whole adult life, never making a penny from her hard work. Likewise, I have seen very honourable people who were motivated to expand their business for financial gain. But their motivation was not selfish. It was for God’s kingdom. Because of their kingdom hearts, I can get paid a salary to work for Reformed Perspective, and many other worthy causes are given the means to exist. Does teaching belong in a special category when it comes to importance in the Christian community? We need more, but not just any Well, next to parents, teachers often have the most influence on our lives. Pastors have commented that they notice the difference of serving in a congregation where the youth attend a Reformed school or not. Where they don’t, the students are further behind when it comes to their understanding of biblical truths. Because of this great responsibility, it is appropriate that the apostle James reminds us that “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1). Yet alongside this warning, the entire Old and New Testaments include a consistent and frequent calling to teach. But simply being a teacher (or a pastor, or a stay-at-home mom) doesn’t make someone a kingdom worker either. The role has to be filled with someone who actually uses it to further God’s kingdom and glory. We have likely all seen examples of where a pastor, teacher, or stay-at-home mom can cause great harm to God’s kingdom and glory. However honourable the intentions are with starting a Reformed Christian school, that doesn’t mean that what happens inside is going to be kingdom work. Who we serve, not just where The key, then, to whether we are doing kingdom work, is that wherever we serve, we do so “seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Each of us has to make decisions every day again to put God and His kingdom first. That applies to deciding which career to pursue, as well as how to actually fulfill the vocation we have been given. We can move forward with confidence, trusting that God will take care of us. In regard to the current teacher shortage, the feature article makes the problem and some potential solutions clear. What we now need is a willingness from some of God’s children to step up for service: For some, it could be a courageous transition from a career where they aren’t doing much to advance God’s kingdom, even if it translates into less pay or more instability. For current teachers, it may mean choosing to endure some trials (like large classrooms filled with ungrateful children) with joy (James 1:2). For those who need to choose a career soon, it can be a decision to not waste years trying out a variety of studies and careers to see which feels the most meaningful. We won’t find heaven on earth. It may also mean intentionally forgoing opportunities that offer treasure on earth “where rust and moth destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20). For many of us, it may mean cheerfully giving more for school tuition, or as donations to schools, so that they can help cover some of the debt that new teachers incur, and ensure salaries allow a teacher to provide for his or her family. It’ll take courage… and trust When it comes to our choices for careers and how we spend our finances, Reformed Christians have to be mindful of the temptation to be too careful, looking out for ourselves rather than trusting God to provide. As Kevin DeYoung says so well in his book Just Do Something: “We should stop looking for God to reveal the future to us and remove all risk from our lives. We should start looking to God – His character and His promises – and thereby have confidence to take risks for His name’s sake.” He later adds: “We walk into the future in God-glorifying confidence, not because the future is known to us but because it is known to God. And that’s all we need to know.” Speaking for myself, if some of the strategies that are being pursued by the Teach With Us Canada team (see the feature article in the Nov/Dec issue) were in place twenty years ago, I may well have stayed on track and been serving as a teacher today. Yet I’m grateful that the LORD has many places for us to serve, as long as we do so for His kingdom and glory. “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.” – Romans 2:7 Mark Penninga is the Executive Director of Reformed Perspective. This first appeared in the Nov/Dec 2022 issue....

News, Pro-life - Euthanasia

“Markus showed us how to find meaning in suffering”

On Nov. 25, 2022, Mike and Jennifer Schouten testified before the Parliamentary Committee that is considering expanding euthanasia to children **** On May 29, 2022 Markus Schouten was promoted to be with His Lord, at the age of 18 and after battling cancer for over a year. Just six months later, his parents Mike and Jennifer had the very difficult job of appearing before the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying, in Canada’s Parliament, to share their story of walking with Markus through his suffering and death, and to urge our leaders to promote care for those suffering, rather than aid them with, and encourage them towards, suicide. They were the final witnesses to appear before this group of MPs and Senators, and their presentation made quite the impression, as they received questions for the next 45 minutes. We highly recommend you take the time to watch it. We reached out to Mike and Jennifer the following week to ask them about this experience. **** How did you get invited to share Markus’ and your family’s story with this Parliamentary committee? In April 2022 we sent in a written submission to the committee. At the time we had exhausted all treatment for cure and were focused on quality of life for Markus. We sent in the submission in consultation with Markus and with his blessing to use our experience as we were able to impact the current cultural conversations about euthanasia and assisted suicide. The invitation to appear before the committee came as a reply to our emailed submission in April. We had about ten days notice, but it came as quite a surprise to us. Was it a difficult decision for you  to agree to this? There was some initial excitement about this opportunity that God had put before us, but quickly we began to relive those last days with Markus and this brought up the variety of emotions of his suffering and death. It was only with the help of God, and the prayers of the saints carrying us along that we were able to push through. What were some of your hopes or goals with doing this? Even prior to the invitation we were having more frequent discussions about suffering and how we (as Christians and as a country) have so much to learn about suffering well. The main focus we had as we prepared for the presentation was to present a Christian perspective on suffering and death, with the purpose of ensuring the committee members had to wrestle with their own pre-existing worldviews on euthanasia and assisted suicide. While we were there to speak into the conversation about expanding this to minors, we purposefully framed some of our remarks in such a way as they would apply to all aspects of the euthanasia debate. You  had to endure a lot of questions from the MPs and Senators, some of which would likely have hurt. How did you feel about the questions that you were asked? We were surprised that they asked so many questions. Quite honestly we were preparing as though we might only receive one or two questions from sympathetic committee members, with those opposed to our perspective not giving us more opportunities to repeatedly emphasize our message. That so many MPs and Senators wanted to question us just meant we could speak truth to them in different ways each time. You shared that “Markus showed us how to find meaning in suffering.” Can you share any advice with others who are in the midst of suffering in similar ways right now, or perhaps will face this in the future? Suffering is hard and it looks different for everyone. Even though God has taken our family through the furnace of suffering (Isaiah 48:10) we have much to learn. Perhaps the most helpful advice we received early on in Markus’ cancer journey was the virtue of submission. Submitting to God’s will, especially when it appears His will is to go through a very hard season, and the only thing we (humanly speaking) want to do is flee from it, is challenging. Yet, through the power of our Saviour Jesus who has gone before us in traveling the road of suffering, we can submit to God’s will. This is not only right, it is liberating; it allows the sufferer to give his/her afflictions over to God and live in the assurance that He will carry us in the arms of Jesus, come what may. The love and hope that you have for Markus and our Lord radiated through your presentation and answers. Did you sense a spiritual battle being fought? Do you have any indication as to how your presentation went over? Absolutely. The most challenging part of the time we spent in the committee meeting was the spiritual component. The antithesis was palpable and became more apparent the more questions that were asked. The Senators, in particular, clearly had their minds made up and were trying their best to have us agree that even though it wasn’t something we would support, we should support it for others. We had a few committee members thank us personally immediately after the meeting. Since then we have reached out via email to all those who had questions for us and can thankfully share that one of the more strident members expressed that it helped her “think through the tough stuff.” What would you like to see Christians doing in the face of Parliament’s study into expanding euthanasia to minors? We need to be in prayer for the testimony of witnesses to touch the hearts and minds of the committee members. While our testimony was unique in that it was the only personal story to come before the committee, there were many other witnesses who cautioned the committee in expanding euthanasia to minors. Please pray that God would work through all the evidence before the committee with the result being that they recognize the dangers in making euthanasia available to children. There is still much opportunity to impact the recommendations that the Special Joint Committee will be drafting. They plan to have their report concluded by February 17, 2023 and we would encourage Christians to communicate to both their MP as well as the committee members before then. This can be done using ARPA Canada’s EasyMail system or by visiting the committee website where you can find contact information for all the members. Is there anything else you wish to share with RP’s readers? We are so appreciative for the many people who have reached out to us with words of encouragement and prayers on our behalf. We truly felt carried by your prayers. If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31) **** Presentation to the Special Joint Committee on MAiD A transcript of Mike and Jennifer's 9-minute presentation to the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) follows. You can also watch their presentation, and the question and answer period, in the hour-long video below. JENNIFER: This is our dear son Markus. On February 26, 2021 Markus was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer. After 20 rounds of chemotherapy, 25 rounds of radiation, numerous surgeries, including the replacement of his entire upper right arm with an internal prosthetic, we made the decision with Markus and his doctors to end treatment for cure and focus on quality of life. Markus’ care was then transferred from BC Children’s Hospital to Canuck Place Children’s Hospice. The palliative and hospice care Markus received at our home was focused on addressing his suffering and valuing his dignity. The doctors and nurses knew his days would be short, and their efforts ensured that the days he had left were lived well. Markus wanted to die at home, surrounded by his family. But he also didn’t want to experience the intense pain and suffering that he knew would come as his lungs filled with tumours. On what turned out to be his last Friday, nurse Shana assessed Markus and said, “His time is short.” She advised us to take the window we still had for Markus to be transported to Canuck Place Hospice in Vancouver. With the increased intensity of his care we agreed. Our whole family was together at the hospice, and as we entered the evening it appeared that Markus would only last a few more hours. As each of his siblings said good night to Markus, he told them he loved them, and said, “See you in paradise.” Mike and I didn’t sleep at all but took turns sitting beside Markus. The nurses maintained his medication and Markus assured us that he was very comfortable and not in any pain. At one point he said to me, “This is how I hoped it would be.” As dawn arrived we realized that God had another day in store for Markus. Early that morning Markus’ friends arrived at the hospice and together they cried, laughed, and prayed. That afternoon both of Markus’ sets of grandparents also came to say goodbye. By early Sunday morning Markus was non-responsive and his breathing had become a lot more shallow. Just before 2:30 that afternoon Markus’ breathing slowed and with each of us around his bedside he took his final peaceful breaths and Markus’ soul departed from his broken body. MIKE: Markus died 6 months ago, on May 29, 2022, only 15 months after his diagnosis. If he was here today his appeal to you would be to not expand euthanasia to minors, for two reasons. Earlier this month it was reported in the news that CAMAP, the Canadian Association of MAiD Assessors and Providers, is recommending that physicians have an obligation to bring up medical assistance in dying with patients who meet eligibility requirements. As Jennifer just shared, Markus met the eligibility requirements. This means that if euthanasia is extended to minors, the day will come when families just like ours, sitting with their dying children, will feel an obligation to end the suffering of their child by having a doctor euthanize him or her. Dear committee members, we recommend against the expansion of euthanasia because by giving some minors the right to request, you put all minors and their families in a position where they are obliged to consider. If that happened to Markus the message heard would have been clear: we don’t think your life is worth living and if you want we can end it for you. The second reason we recommend you don’t extend MAiD to minors is because by doing so you eliminate unimaginably beautiful experiences. When we went to the Canuck Place Hospice, we didn’t know how long Markus would live. We hadn’t even wanted to go the hospice initially, but being there allowed us to embrace each moment we had with him, and him with us. If euthanasia becomes available to minors then that Friday night when we thought Markus was going to go… after we’d all had our time with him to say our goodbyes… It would seem like the thing to do right? “It’s time,” the nurse would say. “It’s the compassionate thing to do. You’ve all said your goodbyes… he doesn’t have to suffer anymore…he should go now,” the nurse would say. But, then we wouldn’t have had Saturday…a most beautiful day filled with precious memories. We suffered much with Markus, and we miss him terribly. But Markus showed us all how to find meaning in suffering and was thankful for each day God gave to him. It is our heartfelt recommendation to this committee, on behalf of Markus and our family, that you do not extend MAiD to minors and instead focus on providing the necessary palliative and hospice resources to ensure the best quality of living, even when someone is dying....

Science - Environment

7 biblical principles of environmental stewardship

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

Sexuality

The “couldn’t be my kid” delusion

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

Church history

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

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

News

Saturday Selections – October 29, 2022

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

News

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

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

Articles, Book Reviews, Children’s picture books, Graphic novels

Mo Willems' "Elephant & Piggie"

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

News

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

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

Science - Creation/Evolution

Masters of disguise!

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

Adult fiction, Book Reviews

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

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

Drama, Movie Reviews

A Royal Christmas

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

Humor, Satire

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

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

News

Saturday Selections – October 22, 2022

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

Assorted

Aging in hope!

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

Animated, Movie Reviews

Leo Da Vinci: Mission Mona Lisa

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

CD Review, Music

Why you, too, should listen to Jamie Soles

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

News

Saturday Selections – October 15, 2022

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

Assorted

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

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

Animated, Movie Reviews

An American Tail

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

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

The Comic Book Lesson

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

News

Saturday Selections – October 8, 2022

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

Assorted

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

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

Apologetics 101

Witnessing without knowing it all

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

Family, Movie Reviews

Going to the Mat

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

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

Fuzzy Baseball: Triple Play

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

News

Saturday Selections – October 1, 2022

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

News

ENJOYING GOD! RP's 2022 photo contest, the youth entries

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

News

ENJOYING GOD! RP's 2022 photo contest, the adult entries

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

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Strange New World

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

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

The Master Designer: The Song

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

News

Saturday Selections – September 24, 2022

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

Articles, Internet, Sexuality

Fund a film about fighting sexual temptation

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

Internet

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

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

Internet

A valley of conquerors

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

History

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

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

News

Canadians retiring in record numbers

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

Culture Clashes, News

Peppa Pig propagandizes preschoolers

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

News

Saturday Selections – September 17, 2022

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

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

The Riot and the Dance: the TV series

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

News

Pro-life Leslyn Lewis comes third in Conservative leadership race

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

Culture Clashes, News

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

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

Economics

An abundance mentality in business

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

News

Saturday Selections – September 10, 2022

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

News

Queen Elizabeth II, dead at 96

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

Pro-life - Abortion

No place for pro-life cynicism

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

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

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

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

Assorted

The coming battles over church property

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

News

Saturday Selections – September 3, 2022

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

Book Reviews, Teen fiction

The Charlatan’s Boy

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

News

Good news: CRC Synod reaffirms homosexual sex is sin

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

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – August 2022

Great Communicator on communication and diaper changes Ronald Reagan was nicknamed “The Great Communicator” for his ability to connect with his listening audience. But that wasn’t something he was just born with – he thought a lot about it, as evidenced in this joke he told. I've always thought of the importance of communication and how much a part it plays in what you and I what all of us are trying to do. One day…a sports announcer, Danny Villanueva, told me about communication. He said he'd been having dinner over at the home of a young ball player with the Dodgers. The young wife was bustling about getting the dinner ready, they were talking sports, and the baby started to cry. Over her shoulder, his busy wife said to the ball player, “Change the baby.” Well, he was a young fellow, and he was embarrassed in front of Danny. He said, “What do you mean change the baby? I'm a ballplayer; that's not my line of work.” Well, she turned around, put her hands on her hips and she communicated. She said, “Look buster, you lay the diaper out like a diamond, you put second base on home plate, you put the baby's bottom on the pitcher's mound, you hook up first and third, slide home underneath. And if it starts to rain, the game ain't called; you just start all over!” God can use even a stolen book … A former homosexual, Rachel Gilson, recently explained how God turned her around. The author of Born Again This Way: Coming Out, Coming to Faith, and What Comes Next, shared that it began with her girlfriend dumping her for a guy who was basically homeless, living in his van. Then at an acquaintance’s house, a non-practicing Catholic, she noticed a bookshelf. “…and one of my favorite hobbies is to look at people’s bookshelves and judge them, you know? So, I’m checking it out, looking up and down.  And there was a copy – there was a book on this shelf. The spine read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, and so I thought, ‘Oh, I really want to read that book,’ but I was too embarrassed to ask my friend for it. So, I just stole the book because, again, I had no moral code, right?.... So, I was sitting in the library soon after that, reading Mere Christianity, and while I was reading it one day, I was just overwhelmed with the realization that God exists….. I was just overwhelmed with the reality of God. And not like a store brand, you know, like Zeus or something, but the God who made me and who made everything and who was perfect. It was like I could sense God’s holiness even though I didn’t know that vocabulary and the only thing I felt was fear. I’m arrogant. I’m cruel. I’m sexually immoral. I lie. I cheat. I’m reading a stolen book. It’s clear all of the chips are in the guilty category, right? I had no confusion at that moment either, but really quickly with that I also understood that part of the reason Jesus had come was to place Himself as a barrier between God’s wrath and me. And that the only way to be safe was to run towards Him, not away from Him. SOURCE: John Stonestreet’s “On being saved from confusion: the testimony of Rachel Gilson” posted to Breakpoint.org on June 10, 2022. Gratitude lurking… In his autobiography, G.K. Chesterton expressed how even in the depths of despair, a man might not be so far from optimism. Though there is a chasm between the two, the bridge over is that of amazement, leading to gratitude. “No man knows how much he is an optimist, even when he calls himself a pessimist, because he has not really measured the depths of his debt to whatever created him and enabled him to call himself anything. At the back of our brains, so to speak, there a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and spiritual life to dig for this submerged sunrise of wonder; so that a man sitting in a chair might suddenly understand that he actually alive, and be happy." The Journalist In the past, he had to “pay dues” And develop “a nose for the news.” Well, he still has a nose, But, my, how it grows When the facts must conform to his views. – F.R. Duplantier (used with permission) Forgiving vs. excusing “I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me I am often in reality…asking Him not to forgive me but to excuse me. But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing. Forgiveness says ‘Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology. I will never hold it against you and everything between us two will be exactly as it was before.’ But excusing says ‘I see that you couldn’t help it or didn’t mean it; you weren’t really to blame.’ If one was not really to blame then there is nothing to forgive. In that sense, forgiveness and excusing are almost opposites....When it comes to a question of our forgiving other people, it is partly the same and partly different. It is the same because, here also, forgiving does not mean excusing. Many people seem to think it does. They think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them you are trying to make out that there was really no cheating or no bullying. But if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive. They keep on replying, “But I tell you the man broke a most solemn promise.” Exactly: that is precisely what you have to forgive. (This doesn’t mean that you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart – every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out.) The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough.” – C.S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory 10 reasons English is a silly language Homophones – words that sound alike but have different meanings – are unique to the English language, but we have an awful lot of them. In looking at the examples below, I felt like I almost saw the thread of a story moving from one sentence to the next. If an aspiring student wants to try to make a coherent story using as many of these homophones as possible, please send it on in. You can reach the editor via our contact form. 1) The bandage was wound around the wound. 2) The farm was used to produce produce. 3) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert. 4) A weak spring means I have wind my wind gauge once a week. 5) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes. 6) Excuse me but there’s no excuse for this. 7) I need to read what I read again. 8) Wait just a minute – that’s making a mountain of something minute! 9) I object to that object and I’m not content with this content. 10) As there’s no time like the present, they’re going to present their present. SOURCE: here and there on the Internet Marriage matters materially “What do you think distinguishes the high and low poverty populations? The only statistical distinction in both the Black and White populations is marriage. There is far less poverty in married-couple families, where presumably at least one of the spouses is employed.” - Economist Walter Williams (1936-2020) Someone wants you to talk Many a famous quote can’t be traced back to the person who was supposed to have said it. Here’s three of just that sort, the first two likely not said by who there are attributed to, while the third remains a maybe. So why pass them on? Well, after reading these three on the problem with silence you’re going to feel challenged to speak… even if you don’t know who exactly issued the challenge. “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” – attributed, almost certainly falsely, to Martin Luther Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. – attributed to, but probably not by, Dietrich Bonhoeffer “When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become your sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.” – credited to Abraham Kuyper (and it may be so) A law even a libertarian could love “Even many of us who believe in free enterprise have fallen into the habit of saying when something goes wrong: ‘There ought to be a law.’ Sometimes I think there ought to be a law against saying there ought to be a law. – Ronald Reagan...

Politics

Why the Right always drifts Left

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

Christian education, Theology

Why biblical poetry matters

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

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Life's Story 2: the reason for the journey

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

News

Saturday Selections – August 27, 2022

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

Parenting

Quantity, not quality: good parenting takes time

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

Animated, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

The Jim Elliot Story

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

Articles, Book Reviews

The RP 52 in 22 challenge

If you're a reader, there's a good chance you have a stack of books somewhere that you've really been meaning to get to. But, what with the busyness of life, that stack might well be growing as it is so hard to set aside the time. How then, can we get to the reading that we really want to do anyway? The answer, for a trio of competitive lads, was to get a challenge going. So a lawyer, a minister, and an editor all agreed that they would read 52 books by the end of 2022. This "52 in 22" challenge was a race of sorts, and to up the motivation, the three kept a public running total of their progress, posting short reviews of each book here on this web page (with selections appearing in each issue of the print magazine). Finally, to add a mildly punitive element to it, each agreed, at year's end, to donate $20 for every book they didn't complete to a charity of their choice. Our hope is that the challenge might spur others on to read more great books, including, perhaps, some of the suggestions listed below. You can also find the results on MeWe, Facebook, Instagram, and Gab under the hashtag #RP52in22 The final tally The lawyer – André Schutten: 50 The minister – Jim Witteveen: 52 The editor – Jon Dykstra: 52 Reviews DECEMBER 31 My pastor gave me (and the other elders of Jubilee Church) a copy of Faithful Leaders and the Things that Matter Most by Rico Tice (2021, 110 pages). This short but punchy book is worth way more than the time it takes to read. When I say punchy, I mean it. Tice does not hold back in challenging pastors and elders (and other leaders within Christian ministry) to take the call to lead very seriously. In four chapters, he urges pastors and leaders to properly define success, to fight your sin, to lead yourself, and to serve your church. The first chapter properly reorients a Christian leader to define success according to Scripture and not the metrics of the world: the number of social media followers, or books published, or conference attendees talked to, etc. What is success but to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” from the only lips that matter. Second, Tice wants Christian leaders to seriously consider the story of Achan and his sin as a dire warning to put sin to death. It matters to your soul and to your family and church or ministry too. Ongoing sin cannot be tolerated. Third, Tice wants Christian leaders to lead themselves, and this means to ensure appropriate spiritual routines are in place, accountability groups are functioning well, taking proper rest (and so depending on God), and living in the sheer wonder of the gospel. And finally, Tice wants Christian leaders to serve their church instead of the other way around, ensuring that leaders listen well, bend toward the marginalized, and truly serve like Jesus did. I highly recommend this book to be read by Christian leaders in small groups, and then discussed and prayed over together. You will be challenged! – André Schutten DECEMBER 30 Abdu Murray is a Christian convert from Islam, a lawyer and a Christian apologist (formerly with Ravi Zacharias Ministries). His book Grand Central Question: Answering the Critical Concerns of the Major Worldviews (2014, 261 pages) was a helpful look at the major religious questions that all worldviews wrestle with like: Why am I here?, What does it mean to be human? and Why is there evil in the world? Murray argues that not every worldview places equal emphasis on each question. In fact, the three major worldviews that compete with Christianity place a particular emphasis on a particular “grand central question.” Secular humanism focuses on the question of the inherent value of human beings. Pantheism (like Hinduism or new age religion) focuses on the question of escaping suffering. And Islam’s major concern is the greatness of God. Murray carefully and insightfully critiques these worldviews and exposes the main contradictions in each of them in relation to their grand central question, and then shows how Christianity and the gospel answer each of these grand questions in a way that is rationally consistent and satisfies our human need for answers that are both intellectually and emotionally satisfying. Murray’s argument is easy to follow and is punctuated with personal anecdotes that demonstrate his compassionate approach to apologetics. I particularly liked his explanation of the Trinity in response to the criticisms of Islam (Muslims accuse Christians of being pantheists due to the doctrine of the Trinity). I recommend the book, both to better understand the basic worldview of the people living around you and to provide some ideas for conversations with them. – André Schutten DECEMBER 29 Ten years back, anyone who’d said that cultural forces already in play would soon have our public schools teaching boys can get pregnant... well, he would have been dismissed as a nut. What Jim Witteveen shares about an “open conspiracy” among the power-hungry will at first sound so outrageous as to be unbelievable too. But make no mistake, this is fact, not fiction. Chapter by chapter, he highlights ideologies and organizations that would seem to have little in common: global warming catastrophists, sexual hedonists, the public school system, overpopulation proponents, evolutionists, Big Tech, and Big Government. They are united, though, in their arrogance that they know – and God does not – what is best for all the rest of us. While their utopias differ, the route forward is the same for them all: a quest for more and more power so they can implement their vision. And, as Witteveen details, these ideologies and organizations are grabbing hold of the reins of power. If that was all he shared, this would be quite the devastating read, so thankfully the conclusion is all about a way forward for God’s people that explores the many opportunities that exist to faithfully honor and obey our Lord as we contend with the forces marshaled against us. How in the world did we get here? (2022, 183 pages) will be a slap upside the head to the many sleepy Christians who haven’t yet recognized we are in a battle, and who consequently haven’t yet answered God’s call to go out and contend. Timely and much-needed, what Witteveen has given us is made all the more valuable for its brevity and accessibility – everyone should read this, and most everyone will be able to. Contact the author at Dan1132.com to pre-order. – Jon Dykstra DECEMBER 29 While it might seem like a mere children’s story, the original version of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843, 104 pages) is much meatier than you might imagine. I read this one to my kids over the Christmas holidays. My 6-year-old tuned out and my 8-year-old fell asleep during two of the five chapters (though that might have had more to do with late nights during the holidays). Nevertheless, I enjoyed the story very much and I think you will too if you are able to get around the Victorian English. Dickens tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly old man who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner and then three other ghosts on Christmas Eve. Through the visions of his past, present, and future, Scrooge learns the error of his ways and is transformed into a compassionate and generous man. There are clear Christian themes throughout the book, not least of which is the warning of what the love of money does to a person and it can make a person willfully blind to the suffering of others. Scrooge is contrasted with his clerk, Bob Cratchet, who demonstrates love and compassion for those around him, and is thankful for the little he has, thus producing a joy in his family that is clearly lacking in Scrooge’s life. I recommend reading the original version of this very well-known story so that you don’t miss out on the little Biblical allusions throughout (which are trimmed out of most modern, abridged versions). – André Schutten DECEMBER 28 Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson (1946, 218 pages) is what its title suggests, just one economic lesson explained in the first chapter – that we focus on the obvious impact of a government program, and don’t consider what otherwise might have happened with those dollars. It’s the seen vs. the unseen. That one lesson is then repeatedly applied to different situations in the 24 chapters that followed. In chapter 4 it is applied to public work projects: when the government builds a new sports stadium we can see the job created by its construction. What’s unseen is all the jobs that might have been created by businesses if they hadn’t had to pay the taxes to build that stadium. Overall, Hazlitt is making a general argument for less government and more economic freedom, but is making it on the basis of practicality: that a free market approach will make us all, overall, more prosperous (download the book for free). But in his Christian Economics in One Lesson (2015, 268 pages), Gary North makes his argument for free market economics on a different basis: obedience. He also thinks the free market is the most effective way of making us all richer, but he sees that, not as a goal, but as a side effect – the fruit – of being obedient to God’s commands do not covet, and do not to steal. He is riffing off of Hazlitt, reworking every one of his chapters, but in each occasion showing that this isn’t simply a matter of math, or some neutral accounting, but that economics is really a matter of ethics. The better way is the way that obeys God’s commands. And, not coincidentally, that is also the more prosperous approach. It is a brilliant insight, and worth the reinforcement that comes in the repeated applications that follow. If this isn’t the most important book I’ve read this year, it is certainly in contention... and it can be downloaded for free here.  – Jon Dykstra DECEMBER 26 I read Herman Bavinck’s Christian Worldview (1913 and translated 2019, 141 pages) a relatively short but quite dense book explaining a Christian philosophy of reality. As Bavinck notes in his introduction: “The problems that confront the human mind always returned to these: what is the relation between thinking and being, between being and becoming, and between becoming and acting? What am I? What is the world, and what is my place and task within this world? Autonomous thinking finds no satisfactory answer to these questions – it oscillates between materialism and spiritualism, between atomism and dynamism, between nomism and antinomianism. But Christianity preserves the harmony between them and reveals to us a wisdom that reconciles the human being with God and, through this, with itself, with the world, and with life” (p. 29). Bavinck is a master philosopher and demonstrates his abilities in contending with the greatest philosophers in the western tradition in especially the first two chapters, showing over and over again why the ideas that raise their fist against the Christian religion are ultimately incoherent and self-defeating and that only the Christian religion truly makes sense – consistently! – of reality. He writes: “Not only does the Christian worldview objectively restore the harmony between the natural and moral order, but through this it also brings about a wonderful unity subjectively between our thinking and doing, between our head and our heart. If the same divine wisdom grants things their reality, our consciousness its content, and our acting its rule, it must be the case that a mutual harmony exists between these three. The ideas in the divine consciousness, the forms, which constitute the essence of things, and the norms, which have been put to us as the rule of life, cannot then struggle against each other but must be related as closely as possible. Logic, physics, and ethics are built on the same metaphysical principia. The true, the good, and the beautiful are one with the true being. And so head, heart, and hand, thinking, feeling, and acting also come together in recognition of their full rights and, at the same time, are protected from all kinds of exaggerations and excesses” (p. 110). Bavinck contends that the Christian worldview is not merely a philosophical system but is true history. Therefore, “salvation does not merely remain as an idea that floats above us, but rather, it is what it wills itself to be, and it brings about what it aims to accomplish. Christianity is not exclusively a teaching about salvation, but it is salvation itself, brought about by God in the history of the world” (p. 115). I felt that the pastor in Bavinck really comes out in the final chapter, which bends away from philosophy and towards a more devotional perspective while writing about sin, salvation, and the end of history. Interestingly, Bavinck concludes that: “the battle today is no longer about the authority of pope or council, of church and confession; for countless others it is no longer even about the authority of Scripture or the person of Christ. The question on the agenda asks, as principally as possible, whether there is still some authority and some law to which the human being is bound.... and in this struggle, every man of Christian profession should assemble under the banner of the King of truth” (p. 129). If you’re willing to do the work, this book will help you assemble under that banner too. The book is worth the effort! – André Schutten DECEMBER 25 Over four and a half years ago, I quit social media (I have a Facebook account but don’t use it.) That was a major spiritual and emotional improvement for me. But I kept reading the news voraciously, until about two years ago, when I started limiting myself to no more than 30 minutes of news a day. That too was of great benefit to me. And so, perhaps with a bit of confirmation bias, I really enjoyed reading Reading the Times: A Literary and Theological Inquiry into the News by Jeffrey Bilbro (2021, 186 pages). Bilbro breaks down his book into three parts – Attention, Time, and Community – which address the questions: To what should we attend? How should we imagine and experience time? How should we belong to one another? Each part has three chapters: the first explains the inadequate answers our “contemporary media ecosystem” offers to these questions, the second proposes a Christian answer, and the third identifies specific practices or “liturgies” by which Christians might cultivate a healthier posture toward the news. I’ve read Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death a long while back, and found his critique of the 24-hour news cycle very good, but lacking a distinctly Christian perspective. A reader will get a meaty Christian perspective in this book, which not only spells out the problem, but provides a better way to think and a better way to act. I plan to implement some of Bilbro’s suggestions into my life moving forward. This is a fantastic book and is a necessary read for all Christians who are daily news junkies or social media consumers. I hope to provide a full-length book review to Reformed Perspective later. – André Schutten DECEMBER 22 After seeing Jon Dykstra’s review in November of Paul Murphy’s Stone-Cold Crazy, I pulled Douglas Wilson’s Devoured by Cannabis: Weed, Liberty, and Legalization (2021, 110 pages) off the shelf to give it a read. It’s a short book, and I read it in a single sitting (on a train from Toronto to Ottawa). Wilson argues in the book that recreational use of cannabis is immoral and should not be condoned by the Christian community. While he posits that it is sinful, he doesn’t leap to the conclusion that it thus should remain criminal. However, his discussion on what is and is not legal is a very interesting policy point: if the state legalizes the recreational use of drugs but prohibits employers from firing drug users for being drug users, our governments now force sober-minded employers to support drug users, and that would be immoral. Considering where Canada is at today, from a policy perspective, until employment and tenancy laws were reformed to give employers and landlords the discretion to fire or evict drug users, we shouldn’t be allowing it. I did find that Wilson was too brief and somewhat dismissive of the medical use of cannabis. While I agree that we live in an over-medicalized (and thus over-prescribed) society, I do know of a Godly man who uses medicinal marijuana with positive results. Despite this minor point, Wilson makes a convincing case for the rejection of recreational cannabis use, and any Christian who thinks marijuana use is similar to drinking alcohol should first read this book before making up their mind. Recommended. – André Schutten DECEMBER 21 Perhaps the most famous tale of the French Revolution, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859, 470 pages) is a gripping story by a master storyteller. Dickens starts by telling what seem to be disparate stories of major and minor characters from London and Paris before and during the Revolution but pulls them all together at the climax of the story. From a Christian perspective, I was particularly struck by the theme of redemption for particularly bad characters: a cruel man who abuses his wife in London ends up risking his life to save a man and his wife from death, and a drunken man who lives for himself is willing to sacrifice himself for another. Another theme is the corruption of power. Dickens shows how both the French aristocracy in their selfish and cruel frivolity and the revolutionary mob in their bloodthirsty violence and vengeance are both to be rejected as dangerous and destructive in their excess. The (English and French) characters that fare best reject both extremes, and instead love and serve others. The message of this novel is still relevant for Christians today, as the spirit of the French Revolution – and the dangers of its excesses – lives on. Will we be swept up in the fervor, or can we live faithfully, willing to love, serve, and sacrifice in a world marked by injustice? – André Schutten DECEMBER 7 The subject of spiritual warfare is not one that appears to receive a great deal of attention in Reformed circles. Of course, we do not deny the reality of spiritual warfare, but it may be that we don’t focus much attention on the topic in order to avoid the kind of unbalanced approach that we all too often encounter in other theological traditions. But our reticence to devote much time to studying the topic of spiritual warfare can lead to a very real neglect of this important aspect of the Christian life and worldview. Clinton E. Arnold's 3 Crucial Questions About Spiritual Warfare (1997, 224 pages) is a good starting point for those who do have questions about this issue. Arnold (who is the dean at the Talbot School of Theology) discusses the following three questions: “What is spiritual warfare?” “Can a Christian be demon-possessed?” and “Are we called to engage territorial spirits?” While the third question may not be as “crucial” as the first two, Clinton’s exploration of the nature of spiritual warfare and the possibility of demonic influences in believers’ lives in the first two parts of the book is very helpful. His conclusions may challenge your own presuppositions on these subjects, but Arnold does an excellent job of basing his responses to these questions on the teaching of Scripture. He avoids speculation, while at the same time highlighting the importance of spiritual warfare in the believer’s life. For Christians who live in a culture which views angels and demons as quaint holdovers from a bygone era, as figures attributed to primitive superstition and little more, it is easy for us to (perhaps inadvertently) neglect the spiritual world in practice, while holding on to its reality in our confession. For this reason, I recommend this book as an effective antidote to the rationalistic tendencies of our age. – Jim Witteveen DECEMBER 6 In 2020 and 2021, GraceLife Church in Edmonton and Grace Community Church in Los Angeles made headlines in the United States and Canada, as they led the fight against government overreach during the Covid-19 era. James Coates was one of several Canadian pastors to be jailed, and Nathan Busenitz was a member of the Grace Community Church’s pastoral team, along with John MacArthur (who wrote the foreword to this book). In God vs. Government: Taking a Biblical Stand When Christ and Compliance Collide (2022, 206 pages), Coates and Busenitz recount how they and their churches took a stand when government mandates came into conflict with God’s commandments, and lay out a series of Biblical principles that governed their churches’ response to those mandates. The final three chapters are adapted from sermons that were preached by Coates and Busenitz at the height of their churches’ struggle with the authorities. Busenitz and Coates outline five important foundational principles that governed their churches’ choice to not comply. First of all, our supreme allegiance is to Christ. When God and government collide, we must obey Christ rather than men (Acts 5:29). Secondly, all human authority is delegated by God. Those in government who exceed the limits that God has placed on their authority do so in violation of God’s law. In the third place, at some point faithfulness in Christ will result in hostility from unbelievers. Fourth, we must have a submissive attitude by default; as a rule, we must obey those in authority over us. But there will be times when compliance is not possible; when this happens, believers must not respond with violence or a desire for vengeance, but with an attitude of respect and grace. Finally, God has instituted various spheres of authority, and while there may be some overlap between these spheres, those who have been given authority in their respective spheres should take care not to overstep their bounds. Those who argued that churches should not comply with the restrictions that were imposed on corporate worship and other vital church activities over the past couple of years will undoubtedly appreciate this book, because it lines up with their own convictions. However, I particularly recommend this book to those who believed that churches should submit to these mandates. It will challenge your conclusions on grounds that are firmly based in Scripture, and I believe Coates and Busenitz’s evaluation of the Covid-19 experience and its historical importance is spot on: “Believers in North America needed a wake-up call. The COVID-19 pandemic served to sound that alarm. The question is how well the church responded to that test. In 2020, politicians were able to shut down churches with minimal pushback. The church was sifted, and the negligence and timidity of some was exposed (cf. 1 Peter 4:17). Whether or not the church will have the backbone to stand up to government overreach in the future remains to be seen.” – Jim Witteveen DECEMBER 4 I enjoyed reading Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1935, 352 pages) to my kids and they enjoyed having it read to them. This book is quite well known, most recently because it’s yet another historic novel that is on the modern censor’s chopping block as a politically incorrect narrative. The book is semi-autobiographical, telling the story of young Laura Ingalls and her ma and pa, and her two sisters, as they settle in the prairies. A large part of the novel simply describes the hard work of Pa as he builds a log cabin, installs a fireplace, digs a well and so on. I and my children marvelled at the hard and persistent work a young family was willing to do to build a home and make a life for themselves. While there are objectionable ways that the indigenous people of the plains are spoken of in the novel (one other settler makes a terrible statement that “the only good Indian is a dead Indian”), Pa is a role model (an imperfect one) of treating Indians with respect and living peaceably alongside them. Considering the time the novel was written, the message from the author is not one to be censored but one to be applauded. There are many opportunities for discussion with children on topics such as perseverance and risk, racism, the importance of trustworthy friends, and an appreciation of hard work. I highly recommend this book as a novel to read and discuss with your children. – André Schutten DECEMBER 1 I've been wanting to share a childhood favorite, John Christopher's Fireball (1981, 149 pages), with my own kids, but had to wait a bit until they would be old enough to deal with some of the nuances. As we began I was curious whether it would live up to my memories of it, and I'll say it did, mostly. Two teen cousins – Simon, a Brit, and Brad, an American – get sucked into a strange fireball, and transported to what at first seems to be the past, but turns out to be a parallel world where Rome never fell. After getting separated, Simon ends up enslaved and sent to train as a gladiator, while Brad has a better go of it, using some of his "future" knowledge to equip a small rebel army to stand up to the might of the whole Roman Empire. My kids enjoyed it, but I'd rate it as PG, in need of that parental guidance because the rebels army here is organized by a Christian bishop who wants Christianity to triumph militarily across the globe. I had to explain to my girls that unlike secular ideologies, and other religions, God doesn't care for empty shows, virtue signaling, or doing one thing while thinking another (Ps. 50:8-9, Is. 1:11-17) so the very idea of forcible Christian conversions makes no sense. Talking it through, we noticed that the Church in this book had some similarities to the Inquisition, but not to God's true Church. So we all liked the story, but I was really glad to be able to discuss it with them. It turns out there are a couple of sequels, New Found Land, and Dragon Dance, so we'll have to check them out. – Jon Dykstra NOVEMBER 28 Eric Metaxas has written best-selling biographies of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and William Wilberforce, and while his Letter to the American Church (2022, 139 pages) is not nearly as weighty as those two books in terms of size, it does pack an outsized punch, given its relative brevity. Metaxas does refer often to both Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer in this book, as outstanding examples of men who did not shrink back when confronted with opposition for the sake of their faith. Metaxas doesn’t mince his words in this book, and it is not surprising that it has provoked some strong negative reactions within the evangelical world. However, I believe he hits the nail on the head with his passionate critique of North American evangelical culture, which, he argues, must repent for its silence in the face of evil. Metaxas outlines four areas in which he believes that the Western evangelical church has fallen short in recent decades. The first error, writes Metaxas, is a misunderstanding of the word “faith” and everything that faith entails. The second error Metaxas calls “the idol of evangelism.” While evangelism is an important part of the church’s calling, Metaxas writes, there is a tendency in the modern evangelical church to believe that the church’s only real calling is evangelism; therefore, “we must never say anything that might in any way detract from our pursuing this single goal.” Metaxas sums up the third error as a false commandment: “Be Ye Not Political,” the idea that politics is off limits and beyond the boundary of our faith. The final error that Metaxas includes in his list is the error of pietism - the idea that our Christian faith is lived out “principally by avoiding sin, so that we must place our own virtue and salvation above all other matters.” This is not a perfect book, nor is it an exhaustive study of how Christians should engage with their culture and participate in the public square. That being said, I do think that Metaxas expresses serious concerns that are based in reality, and while his conclusions may offend some, I believe that they deserve to be humbly received, seriously considered, and acted upon. – Jim Witteveen NOVEMBER 25 The Case Against the Sexual Revolution (2022, 216 pages) left me with a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, it is a strongly-written, powerfully argued book that support a premise that I already know to be true. Louise Perry rightly argues that the Sexual Revolution has been an overwhelming disaster on any number of levels, and that our society continues to pay the price for the “freedom” that was “won” in the 1960s, and will continue to do so unless the tenets of this revolution are abandoned. However, Perry argues from a starting point of evolutionary psychology, which obviously runs counter to a Biblically-formed worldview. The presuppositions that undergird this book form its major weakness. However, the fact that an evolutionary psychologist can rightly argue in favour of monogamy within the marriage relationship, against “hookup culture” and sexual promiscuity, and recognizes the dangers of pornography and various sexual perversions, is fascinating to consider in the light of Biblical wisdom. According to the wisdom literature in Scripture, living wisely means aligning your life with God’s created order. The Lord created the world in wisdom, governs it in wisdom, and his moral law shows us how to live a life characterized by wisdom. To put it very briefly, God’s way works! And because God’s way works, the evidence of history proves that monogamy within marriage is, pragmatically speaking, the basis of a successful, well-ordered society. Restrictions on sexual expression protect human beings (especially women) from abuse and a great deal of pain. Classifying some materials as obscene, and forbidding their production, prevents a great deal of damage to both the user and the producer of pornography. And I could go on. So it’s not surprising that an evolutionary psychologist has also come to these kinds of conclusions. However, Louise Perry’s erroneous starting point can only take her so far; from there, she can’t get to the root of the problem, or discover where the solution that goes far deeper than mere behavioural change can be found. That being said, I would recommend this book to the discerning reader, with a warning that, given the subject matter and the worldview of the author, it does make for some rough reading at times. – Jim Witteveen NOVEMBER 23 Though it was written years before, Connor Boyack's Feardom: How politicians exploit your emotions and what you can do to stop them (2014, 160 pages) is certainly about the COVID lockdowns too. He notes that as US president John Adams once wrote, "Fear is the foundation of most governments" and in recent years we've seen that proven true time and again. Politicians have used voters' fear – of climate change, terrorism, fiscal collapse, and viruses too – as justification for the State to come to the rescue. And at what cost? Well, the measure isn't simple in dollars, but also in lost freedoms. Terrorism and climate change brought government intervention on an enormous scale, which got bigger still with COVID. The bright side? As the author notes, this is nothing new, and it might not even be as bad today as the past, when even a historical luminary such as Abraham Lincoln, would throw some of his critics in jail simply for being critics. Boyack is Mormon, and clearly libertarian, which means he's generally Judeo-Christian, and more hardcore about small-government than most RP readers. But, regardless of where readers stand, the point he is arguing – that politicians and government officials are using fear to push us – isn't a partisan position, but more a matter of verifiable history. So how, then, can we inoculate ourselves against such manipulation? He has a few suggestions, beginning with anticipating the manipulation: "develop a healthy skepticism of those in power" but not simply to doubt everything, but rather to better assess who is worthy of trust. We should actively assess our media sources, and our political leaders, for just how consistently honest they are... or aren't. This will involve reading diverse news sources. It will also means sharing what truth you discover with family and friends. The point he most strongly emphasizes is one we can certainly agree with: to follow the Golden Rule, treating others, including those on the opposite side, as we'd like to be treated, and more specifically that means accommodating them as much as we possibly can. While there were nits I could pick with Feardom, that doesn't stop me from giving it an enthusiastic recommendation for the politically discerning. – Jon Dykstra NOVEMBER 22 I thoroughly enjoyed reading Rembrandt Is In the Wind: Learning to Love Art Through the Eyes of Faith by Russ Ramsey (2022, 256 pages) and not just because my wife is an artist (though the book did spark some great conversations!) Ramsey opens the book with a chapter on the three transcendentals – truth, goodness, and beauty – and how they relate together, how they are attributes of God, and how beauty is essential for applying goodness and truth for the benefit of others (it’s a profound chapter!) He then works through nine great artists, starting with Michelangelo and working his way toward the 20th century. With each artist, he examines their life and their works, with a special focus on a single piece. And in each chapter, either through the artist’s life or work, Ramsey tells us a parable of sorts, a way to see and appreciate their art through the eyes of faith. Ramsey is a great story-teller, and the book felt more like an anthology of short stories than an art history book or theology of art text. Ramsey also includes a couple helpful appendixes for improving the way you can look at art and how you can visit an art museum like you own it. I hope he writes a sequel! I highly recommend this book, whether you are an art aficionado or an art ignoramus. – André Schutten NOVEMBER 20 Way back in the 1990s, when the Internet began to enter public consciousness, and soon thereafter into everyone's daily life, it seemed to most of us that it just sort of came into existence from nowhere. We weren't much aware of the history of the Internet, of where it came from or how it was developed. And even today, after decades of exponential growth, the roots of the Internet are still a mystery for most of its users. In Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet (2018, 371 pages), Yasha Levine's deep-dive exploration of the history of the Internet, is a revealing look into the Internet's roots in the American military industrial complex. In this meticulously-researched book, Levine details the way in which the Internet's history has been shaped by the defense industry, espionage agencies, public officials, and big businesses, with each actor working in concert with the others to achieve its own purposes. Levine recounts the origins of the Internet as a project of the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, its development in partnership with a number of American educational institutions (where the project was vigorously opposed by many who understood the purpose behind it), and the central role that American military and security agencies continue to play in the ongoing development and growth of the Internet's reach into every aspect of our daily lives. Levine refers to the Silicon Valley, the northern California location whose name has become synonymous with the Internet, as “Surveillance Valley.” Because, writes Levine, while corporations like Google continue to market themselves as companies that “embody every utopian promise of the networked society,” what they are in fact doing is continuing to build out “the old military cybernetic dream of a world where everyone is watched, predicted, and controlled.” Surveillance Valley is an important exploration of the way in which information technology has been “weaponized” in the 21st Century. If you read it (and I do recommend it highly), you will be challenged to rethink your use of the Internet, and you may even be encouraged (as I was) to “de-Google” your life. – Jim Witteveen NOVEMBER 19 When my 13-year-old got a gift certificate to the local bookstore, it was an excuse for the two of us to spend some serious time perusing the shelves. But after an hour we'd discovered there wasn't much there for her that she hadn't already read. The teen books were either silly stories about teen crushes, or weird stuff about witches, demons, and vampires. We finally settled on something with a cover that looked almost liked some 1950s nostalgia, only to later discover one of the key characters had two dads. Another trip to the same story ended up with a decent book, but on the final page the author noted he uses "they/them" pronouns. That's all a prelude to saying that while I didn't love Margaret Peterson Haddix's Found (2008, 314 pages), I do appreciate it as a basically harmless read. It's a time travel adventure/mystery, with a bunch of adopted children trying to figure out where they came from. There's the typical cautions – kids acting behind their parents' backs, along with a couple passing mentions of evolution – but none of the newer cautions needed. Peterson isn't advocating for amputative surgeries on youth or adults (as the fellow with the "they/them" pronouns implicitly is, by pretending that gender is changeable), or for alternative lifestyles. The biggest caution I'd have concerns the fact that this is just the first of Peterson's eight-book The Missing series, and at roughly 300 pages each, even if they all turn out to be mostly harmless, that's a lot of cotton candy for any kid to be ingesting. I'll also add a concern about whether this would be good or bad for adoptive kids to read, as the topic of adoption, and kids searching for who they are, is a big part of the story. Finally, as just a general caution on the author, I do know in another book (Double Identity) a female pastor is a major character. So... one thumb up? While I won't be continuing on with this series, it was good enough to have me interested in checking out Haddix's other books. – Jon Dykstra NOVEMBER 18 Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn is best-known for his magnum opus, The Gulag Archipelago, a history of the Soviet Gulag, the system of forced-labour camps for political prisoners that was implemented under Lenin in 1918. The system was (officially) dismantled in 1956, three years after the death of Joseph Stalin, although the practice of political imprisonment did not itself come to an end in the Soviet Union at that time. Solzhenitsyn wrote not only as a historian, but from personal experience; he had spent eight years in the Gulag himself for the crime of speaking ill of Joseph Stalin at the end of the Second World War. While writing The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn was also working on a short novel based on his own experience in the Gulag, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962, 143 pagers). Unlike The Gulag Archipelago, which was never officially published in Russia until 1989, One Day made it to publication in 1962 because it had become officially acceptable to criticize Stalin when Nikita Kruschev came to power. As is clear from its title, the book is an account of one day in the life of a political prisoner named Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. A summary of Shukhov's day would be very mundane indeed, and I can imagine that it would hardly compel a reader to seek out this book for a light and entertaining read. Man wakes up. Man has breakfast. Man goes to work. Man comes back from work. Man goes to bed. That, in brief, is Ivan Denisovich's day. And as Solzhenitsyn writes in the book's closing paragraph, Shukhov would live through 3,653 more days just like this one. There is nothing in this day that makes it stand out from the rest, but Solzhenitsyn's account of the monotony of camp life, along with the challenges with which the prisoners were confronted on a daily basis, makes this book a compelling read. Shukhov is resourceful and knows his way around the camp, but he is almost constantly on edge. In the dining hall he manages to find enough food to satisfy himself for the day, despite the meagre rations allotted to each prisoner. While working, he takes pride in his brick-laying skills, despite working conditions that made his job nearly impossible. He begins the day with an attempt to get into the sick-bay, but at the end of the day his illness has disappeared, he has managed to hide a little bit of seemingly insignificant contraband, and he lies in bed with the feeling that the day had been a success, despite it all. Throughout the story of this single day, Solzhenitsyn keeps the reader intrigued, waiting to see what will happen next despite the bleakness of the story. As we get to know Shukhov and his fellow prisoners, we learn about the ways in which they were able to cope with situations that most of us can't even imagine dealing with. In the end, we gain insight into the nature of life in a totalitarian state, we're introduced to the conditions in a 1950s-era Soviet prison camp, but we also are brought into the lives of the novel's characters in an understandably limited but profound way. If you've always wanted to read The Gulag Archipelago but were intimidated by its imposing length, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich may serve to encourage you to take that next step! – Jim Witteveen NOVEMBER 17 David L. Bahnsen's There's No Free Lunch: 250 Economic Truths (2021, 308 pages) is a wonderful primer on economics from a conservative Christian perspective (and the second There's No Free Lunch book I've read this year  – see my Sept. 17 review). Bahnsen is the son of famed Reformed presuppositional apologist Greg Bahnsen, and is famed in his own right as a hedge fund manager for a billion-dollar fund. Here he's collected 250 concise quotes by a host of famed conservative economists, one per page, and then expanded on each point being made. The quotes are grouped under headings like: Crony Capitalism, Minimum Wage, Division of Labor, and Socialism. To give you a taste, here's a couple shorter quotes, this one from Milton Friedman: "One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results." Here's another, this time from Thomas Sowell: "The first lesson of economics is scarcity. There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics." These are worth chewing on, and both show why No Free Lunch should be read slowly. But as meaty as these thought are, Bahnsen has made them digestible to all by packaging them into one-page, bite-size servings. Well done!  – Jon Dykstra NOVEMBER 16 Rev. Paul T. Murphy is both a Reformed pastor and, as he notes in his introduction, a reformed drug user, both of which add to the credibility of his Stone-Cold Crazy: The Dangers of Legal Marijuana (2021, 29 pages). This is more booklet than book, but it is an important one, highlighting how the four big arguments for legalization all fall short: 1) it isn't medical, in that it has never gone through the same evaluation as other medical drugs, 2) it doesn't need to be made legal to end the mass incarceration of marijuana users as there is no such mass incarceration, 3) legalizing won't eliminate the criminal black market for it since legal weed is much more expensive, and 4) states won't get a tax revenue windfall from legalization because marijuana use also comes with costs for the State. Murphy notes that Christians might be able to support decriminalization – making it a fine rather than a crime – but as he quotes John Stonestreet, "Legalization says a lot about the worldview of our culture – one in which the State wishes to aid and abet the inability of people to deny themselves any pleasure. That's called state sponsored hedonism." This would be an important read for church councils, and its small size make it one that parents could read along with their teens.  – Jon Dykstra NOVEMBER 15 Many Christians have some understanding that the Angel of the LORD, who revealed himself to Abraham, Gideon, Manoah, and others, was the Son of God, appearing visibly before his incarnation. Many theologians throughout church history have recognized this, although in recent years scholars have become increasingly skeptical when it comes to equating the Angel with the Son. In The Angel of the LORD: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological Study (2022, 447 pages), authors Matt Foreman and Doug Van Dorn seek to counter this kind of "minimalistic" interpretation of the Old Testament, and examine the Biblical texts (including many that you may not have considered before) to learn more about how the second Person of the Trinity often mediated God's presence to his people. This book leaves no stone unturned, and is a detailed, comprehensive, and wide-ranging study that digs deep into God's Word and the history of Biblical interpretation before drawing conclusions about how God's people can apply this part of God's self-revelation to their own lives. While the book is not a brief one, its logical organization and the authors' clarity of expression makes it accessible to readers who may not consider themselves to be "theologians" (although every Christian is a theologian)! The authors offer some profound insights into the text of Scripture, and this book will lead the reader to appreciate all the more the way in which God has graciously revealed himself throughout the history of redemption, to strengthen, encourage, and challenge his people. Highly recommended! – Jim Witteveen NOVEMBER 14 Earlier this year I read and reviewed Carl Truman’s heavy but magnificent Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self (see the Aug. 21 review further on down this same article). The ARPA Canada team decided to work through his shorter and more accessible version of that book titled Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution (2022, 204 pages). It was so good to read this book as a relatively quick refresher on the meat of Rise and Triumph. Truman is a master of the written word and is well known as a powerful communicator to diverse audiences; the complexity and depth of the earlier book is still present in this book, but in a way that is much easier to understand. While Rise and Triumph is essential reading for pastors, elders, teachers, and university students, Strange New World is written to be understood by upper-year high school students and would make an excellent resource for a small group bible study. In particular, Truman’s final chapter is a pastoral plea for how to respond as church to the cultural moment we find ourselves in. He urges us to allow our Christian community to help shape our identity (rejecting the purely individualistic age we are in). But for that to happen, we must commit to our church, through thick and thin, and make it our most important community. Highly recommended. – André Schutten NOVEMBER 13 Bjorn Lomborg's False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet (2021, 321 pages) is incredibly encouraging. As Lomborg notes in his introduction, "we live in an age of fear – particularly a fear of climate change." As a Christian I'm not as worried about the catastrophic sort (see my article here) but I will say that the constant barrage of panic in all our media outlets can be wearing and worrying, even when I know better. So while I wouldn't agree with Lomborg on much – he's gay, and I believe agnostic, and also far more trusting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports than I am – what I appreciate is that he knows we can't help the planet at the expense of the people on it. Using the very same IPCC reports as the fear-mongers, he shows how they don't speak of the world ending in 12 years, or anything like it. Rather than facing a catastrophic situation, we are facing a manageable one.... but one we can greatly mismanage to the harm of millions if we continue to panic. If you, too, are getting worn down by the constant drumbeat of certain doom, I'd highly recommend False Alarm, though I would also encourage even more skepticism (or, rather, discernment) than that offered by the author.  – Jon Dykstra NOVEMBER 12 I read part of Patrick Lencioni's business book, The Advantage (2012, 205 pages), to my kids on what Lencioni referred to as the fundamental attribution error (FAE). This is "the tendency of human beings to attribute the negative...behavior of their colleagues to their intentions and personalities while attributing their own negative...behaviors to environmental factors." So, for example, in our household, if one little bumps another, the bumped might well accuse the bumper of doing that "on purpose!" while the bumper might point to how narrow the hallway was, or how much mom was asking them to carry, to show how "it totally wasn't my fault." It is the victim accusing the bumper of malice aforethought, and the bumper pointing this way and that to everything except their own carelessness. So we had a fun little chat about how God wants us to "attribute to others as you would like others to attribute to you" (Matt. 7:12). And, it turns out, in addition to the parental applications, Lencioni's lessons have something to offer a workplace setting too. He offers 6 key questions that each organization (business, charity, police department, etc) needs to answer with the first and most important being: Why do we exist? This had echoes for me of both another business book, Simon Sinek's Starts With Why, and the opening question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, "What is the chief end of Man?"As Christians, we understand that properly understanding our purpose is going to be the driving force behind all else we do. The other questions are: How do we behave? What do we do? How will we succeed? What is the most important, right now? and Who must do what? While I don't know if Sinek is Christian, I wasn't surprised to discover that Lencioni is, as it comes out implicitly throughout the book, like his purpose-driven focus, but also in how he describes holding one another accountable as being a matter of love - as he admits, that's an odd term in a business book, but very true (Gal. 6:1-2, Prov. 25:5-6). I really appreciated The Advantage, with so many good thoughts in it that I'll be rereading it very soon. I'd recommend it not simply to businesses, but as being potentially useful for our Christian schools too. – Jon Dykstra NOVEMBER 11 I read The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo (2003, 270 pages) to my eight- and five-year-old over the past month or so. The story is of a castle mouse (the title character), his love for the princess, and his willing self-sacrifice to rescue her from an evil rat and a misled and abused servant girl, despite all the odds stacked against him. While we did find the plot slow at first, the story does pick up toward the end. More than that, there are good moments in the story to pause and ask children about bravery, self-sacrifice, cruelty, honor, disability, revenge and forgiveness, perseverance, and more. There is no obvious Christian perspective in the story (I have no clue if the author is a Christian) but the story is written in a way that a parent can easily apply a Christian perspective in discussion with their children and apply the lessons to real life. I enjoyed the story, though the cruelty shown to the servant girl Miggery I had to tone down for the sake of my five-year-old. There are a few abuses of God's Name, but in French, which made them easy to skip over. – André Schutten NOVEMBER 9 Matthew Rueger’s Sexual Morality in a Christless World (2016, 178 pages) is a Christian apologetic for holy sexuality. What it does differently than any other book on the subject is that it takes pains (the first third of the book) to examine what sex was like before Christ came into the world. This is particularly helpful, and the first chapter on sexual morality in ancient Rome is worth the price of the book on its own. I have interacted with so many people (Christians included!) who fail to understand just how radically the spread of the gospel changed the world for the better, also in relation to sexuality. By examining both the political and the religious climate at the time of Christ, Rueger shows that biblical sexuality is nothing but a beautiful and good design that richly benefits all of society, particularly the vulnerable. The middle third of the book is an examination of what the bible actually says about sex and sexuality. Rueger writes: “Examination of the passages addressing sex shows that there is more to God's Word about sex than just prohibitions and laws. Behind those prohibitions is a concern for the souls of individuals, as well as for their peace and well-being in this life. God cares about human suffering, and sexual immorality hurts a lot of people. The passages of the Bible give voice to a higher form of love that empties itself for the sake of the other, a love that points beyond sexual desire and reminds the world of the saving love of God's Son” (p. 95). This is a great reminder to Christians who focus on the truth of God’s Word, to the exclusion of the goodness and beauty of God’s proscriptions. We can and we must also be able to communicate the latter. The final third of the book works through common objections to holy sexuality and a natural law argument in defence of opposite-sex marriage which may be a helpful tool for Christians entering post-secondary schools. The writer is unapologetically Lutheran in his theology, and on this issue a Calvinist would wholeheartedly agree with what’s written (with perhaps a slightly different emphasis on the natural law argument for opposite-sex marriage). Heartily recommended. – André Schutten NOVEMBER 7 After writing 10 books about rabbits with swords in his Green Ember kids' fantasy series, S.D. Smith has now teamed up with his 16-year-old son, J.C. Smith, to start a new story in Jack Zulu and the Waylander's Key (2022, 292 pages). Jack Zulu is a kid with serious athletic potential, the best at everything he tries. But we learn right off he isn't full of himself, and is best buds with Benny, a decidedly average athlete, whose parents own the local pizzeria. That's where Jack has been spending a lot of his time, after his police officer father was mysteriously killed, and now that his loving mother has been stuck in the hospital slowly losing her cancer battle. If that sounds like a sad set-up, well it is, but this is a kids' story, so the Smiths lighten things up with loads of comic relief, including Jack's crush on the popular, but also level-headed Michelle. I loved the dialogue between the two friends as Jack gets tongue-tied, or caught up in a coughing fit, or just generally does something to emb