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History

The Pope who hated black cats

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

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – May 2022

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

News

Saturday Selections – May 7, 2022

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

Assorted, Parenting

Is recreational marijuana sinful?

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

Articles, Book Reviews

200+ free e-books worth checking out

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

Adult non-fiction, Assorted

Reflections on "12 ways your phone is changing you"

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

Family, Movie Reviews

Free film: The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry

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

News

Saturday Selections – April 30, 2022

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

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

Maker Comics: Draw a comic

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

Economics - Home Finances

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

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

Parenting

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

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

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Darwin: The Voyage that Shook the World

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

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Incredible Creatures That Define Design

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

Drama, Movie Reviews

The Hobbit: the film trilogy

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

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution

Evolution's Achilles' Heels

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

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution I, II, and III

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

News

Saturday Selections – April 23, 2022

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

Parenting

5 tips for family devotions with small children

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

Science - General

Canada’s beautiful beaver

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

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

The Privileged Planet

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

Current Issue, Magazine

Apr/May 2022 issue

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

News

Saturday Selections – April 16, 2022

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

Articles, Movie Reviews

200 movies King David might watch

Great minds think alike, and this month two of those great minds belonged to a missionary in Brazil and an evangelist in California. The evangelist, Ray Comfort, passed along a story, first told by Jeremy Archer, about a man who invited all sorts of folks into his house to meet his family. Often the visitors would talk crudely and angrily with each other, teaching his children words he'd rather they not know. But these visitors could also get his whole family laughing so the man decided to focus on the good they did, rather than the bad. Over time the man could see the visitors were having an impact on his family, and it wasn't a good one. He found that his own children were now using crude language and making coarse jokes. What was worse, the visitors were behaving outrageously, even taking their clothes off right there in front of his family! That's hard to believe, isn't it? Why didn't the man just kick them out? Why didn't he protect his family from their influence? Well, it turns out this man had some sense, and as the visitors started getting naked the man acted. Together, with his family, the man finally "turned off the television." That same month the missionary, Rev. Ken Wieske, expressed the same concern, titling a Facebook post "David vows to get rid of his TV." Underneath he included the text of Psalm 101 which reads (in part): I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will you come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. The pastor's point was clear: most of what's on TV is worthless and if King David were here on earth today, he might well pitch his TV right out of the palace. Of course, it isn't quite as easy as that. Today we also have computers, and smartphones, so getting rid of the TV isn't going to restrict our access to fluff and filth that's so readily available. So let's take this a step further. Yes, much of what's on TV (and on YouTube, Facebook, etc.) is worthless. But some of it isn't. Some of it is quite good. Excellent even! So if we were to make the same promise King David makes in Psalm 101 – to put away all that is worthless – what sorts of films and videos might we still watch? I've got some suggestions, and I've listed them under 10 categories, with 20 or more movie recommendations in most categories. My hope is that this list can help families find something worth watching. With over 200 suggestions I'm also hoping there will be something for everyone. There's just one documentary included here, but you can find a whole bunch more in our list of "100+ documentaries that make learning a joy." Title, year, and length are included, and, if there's a review available on ReformedPerspective.ca, or my movie review blog, ReelConservative.com, then I've indicated that by making the title all caps and clickable. I've also included an entertainment rating. This is out of 10, and in my books, a 7 is a solid mark, while 8 is something special, and 6 is still watchable but there is some notable flaw (maybe some corny writing, or a bad bit of acting, that sort of thing). The only reason I've included a few films that rate as low as 6 is because they have something about them that makes them valuable viewing – oftentimes their educational value. I'll note also, that a 7 for a children's film means that this target audience will think it a 7, and not adults. The same is true of a black and white classic. If you hate anything B&W, then you probably won't like one with a solid 7 rating (though maybe you'd be swayed by one with an 8, 9, or 10). One other note: none of these films and videos take God's name in vain. That's important. While a degree of violence and even sexual content of some sort can be appropriate on screen, the way God's name is abused on film just isn't. More than 30 of the films below have the tag "FREE ONLINE" and can be viewed for free by clicking on the link provided. ANIMATED VIDEOS (21) This mix of shorter videos (whether standalone or TV series) can be ideal when mom wants to take a nap but doesn't want the kids sitting in front of the TV forever. Anne of Green Gables, Vol. 1-3 – 2003, 150 minutes – 7/10 ADVENTURES IN ODYSSEY – 1991-2003, 27 min x 17 episodes – 7/10 Curious George – 2006-2021, 30 min x 170 episodes – 8/10 THE GRUFFALO  – 2009, 27 minutes – 8/10 Horton Hears a Who – 1970, 30 minutes – 7/10 JUNGLE BEAT – 537 minutes – 10/10 – FREE ONLINE LIFE AT THE POND – 2004-2009, 30 min x 5 episodes – 8/10 LOST AND FOUND – 2013, 24 minutes – 8/10 PEPPA PIG: THE BALLOON RIDE – 2014, 52 minutes – 7/10 VEGGIETALES – only some are recommended – Larry-boy and the Fib from Outer Space – 1997, 30 minutes – 7/10 – Madame Blueberry – 1998, 37 minutes – 8/10 – Larry-boy and the Rumor Weed – 1999, 30 minutes – 7/10 – Lord of the Beans – 2005, 52 minutes – 8/10 – Larry-boy and the Bad Apple – 2006, 30 minutes – 7/10 – Sheerluck Holmes and the Golden Ruler – 2006, 51 minutes – 7/10 – Tomato Sawyer & Huckleberry Larry's Big River Rescue – 2008, 49 minutes – 7/10 – The League of Incredible Vegetables – 2012, 49 minutes – 8/10 – McLarry & the Stinky Cheese Battle – 2013, 45 minutes – 8/10 – Veggies in Space: The Fennel Frontier – 2014, 45 minutes – 8/10 Wallace and Gromit in Three Amazing Adventures – 1989-1995, 85 minutes –  7/10 THE WAY THINGS WORK – 2001, 300+ minutes – 8/10 ANIMATED FILMS (21) It seems like cartoons used to be safe for kids, though boring for adults. Today, with the appearance of obscene animated fare like “South Park” and “Family Guy,” many cartoons are unsuitable for children, and for that matter, adults. But there has been a change for the better too – movies like “Curious George” and “Meet the Robinsons” show that some animated fare can keep the kids happy, and entertain their parents as well. BALTO – 1995, 78 minutes – 7/10 Chicken Run – 2000, 84 minutes – 8/10 CURIOUS GEORGE – 2006, 88 minutes – 8/10 CURIOUS GEORGE 3: BACK TO THE JUNGLE – 2015, 81 minutes – 7/10 CURIOUS GEORGE: ROYAL MONKEY – 2019, 86 minutes – 7/10 Finding Dory – 2016, 97 minutes – 7/10 Finding Nemo – 2003, 100 minutes – 8/10 Fox and the Hound – 1981, 83 minutes – 8/10 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – 1977, 74 minutes – 8/10 Meet the Robinsons – 2007, 95 minutes – 7/10 MINISCULE - 2014, 89 minutes – 7/10 Monsters Inc. – 2001, 93 minutes – 9/10 Monsters University – 2013, 104 minutes – 8/10 PAW PATROL: THE MOVIE – 2021, 86 minutes  8/10 THE PEANUTS MOVIE – 2015, 88 minutes – 8/10 SGT. STUBBY: AN UNLIKELY HERO - 2018, 84 minutes – 8/10 Tangled – 2010, 100 minutes – 9/10 TOY STORY 1, 2, 3, and 4 – 1995-2019, 81-103 minutes – 8/10 Up – 2009, 96 minutes – 9/10 Wall-E – 2008, 98 minutes – 9/10 WINNIE THE POOH – 2011, 63 minutes – 8/10 BASED ON A BOOK (25) It's always hard to live up to the book, but some of these get awfully close! 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA – 1954, 127 minutes – 7/10 THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD – 1938, 101 minutes – 8/10 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – 1939, 82 minutes – 7/10 Animal Farm – 1954, 72 minutes – 7/10 THE BOXCAR CHILDREN – 2013, 81 minutes – 7/10 THE BOXCAR CHILDREN: SURPRISE ISLAND - 2018, 82 minutes – 6/10 THE GIVER – 2014, 97 minutes – 8/10 THE GOSPEL BLIMP - 1967, 38 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE Ivanhoe – 1952, 107 minutes – 7/10 THE HOBBIT – 1977, 77 minutes – 7/10 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – 1979, 95 minutes – 7/10 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – 2005, 125 minutes – 8/10 Little Women – 1949, 121 minutes – 8/10 Little Women – 1994, 118 minutes – 9/10 THE LORD OF THE RINGS – 1978, 133 minutes – 7/10 THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK – 1939, 113 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH – 1970, 89 minutes – 7/10 POLLYANNA – 2003, 99 minutes – 8/10 PRIDE AND PREJUDICE – 2003, 104 minutes – 8/10 The Prince and the Pauper – 1937, 118 minutes – 8/10 Prince Caspian – 2008, 154 minutes – 8/10 Sarah Plain and Tall – 1990, 98 minutes – 8/10 The Silver Chair – 1990, 155 minutes – 6/10 SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS – 2016, 96 minutes – 7/10 SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON – 1960, 126 minutes – 8/10 BLACK AND WHITE CLASSICS (24) These have all stood the test of time and are still being watched again and again. 12 Angry Men – 1957, 96 minutes – 9/10 THE AMAZING ADVENTURE – 1936, 62 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR – 1961, 96 minutes – 8/10 Adam's Rib – 1949, 101 minutes –  8/10 CASABLANCA – 1943, 103 minutes – 10/10 Citizen Kane – 1941, 119 minutes – 7/10 High Noon – 1952, 85 minutes – 9/10 I Remember Mama – 1948, 134 minutes – 7/10 It Should Happen to You – 1954, 87 minutes – 7/10 The Man in the White Suit – 1951, 85 minutes – 7/10 THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE – 1962, 123 minutes – 8/10 MEET JOHN DOE – 1941, 122 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE Mr. Deed goes to Town – 1936, 115 minutes – 7/10 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – 1939, 129 minutes – 8/10 SEA HAWK – 1940, 127 minutes – 8/10 THE SIGN OF ZORRO – 1958, 90 minutes – 8/10 The Shop Around the Corner – 1949, 99 minutes – 9/10 The Tin Star – 1957, 92 minutes – 7/10 As a subcategory here are a half dozen silent film selections. If you've never gotten into silent films, be sure to start with the comedies – there the overwrought acting just adds to the funny. And Buster Keaton is the best! THE GENERAL – 1927, 80 minutes – 8/10 The Gold Rush – 1925, 96 minutes – 7/10 GRANDMA'S BOY – 1922, 56 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE Seven Chances – 1925, 56 minutes – 8/10 SHERLOCK JR. – 1924, 44 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE Steamboat Bill, Jr. – 1928, 70 min – 7/10 BIOGRAPHICAL (26) Most of these are Christian biographies, and being true gives them a leg up on fictional Christian fare that too often concludes with “happily ever after” endings, more fairytales than our one truth faith. It’s simply a fact that here on earth bad things often happen to good, faithful Christians. I will also note that while many of these are great, others are merely okay (ranking only a 6), but are still included here because of their educational value. THE CASE FOR CHRIST – 2017, 113 minutes – 7/10 C.S. LEWIS ONSTAGE – 2018, 76 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE C.S. LEWIS: THE MOST RELUCTANT CONVERT – 2021, 93 minutes – 9/10 END OF THE SPEAR – 2006, 108 minutes – 7/10 Final Solution – 2001, 102 minutes – 7/10 GOD'S OUTLAW: THE STORY OF WILLIAM TYNDALE – 1988, 93 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE GOSNELL: THE TRIAL OF AMERICA'S BIGGEST SERIAL KILLER – 2018, 93 minutes – 8/10 Hellen Keller – 2005, 30 minutes – 6/10 THE JACKIE ROBINSON STORY – 1950, 77 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE JOHN HUS: A JOURNEY OF NO RETURN – 2015, 55 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE MARTIN LUTHER – 1953, 105 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE The Miracle Worker – 1962, 106 minutes – 9/10 Sabina: Tortured for Christ, the Nazi years – 2022, 115 minutes – 7/10 THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS – 1957, 135 – 7/10 TORCHLIGHTERS: There are about 20 videos in the Torchlighter series, and our family has been impressed with the 10 we've watched, with the exception of St. Patrick. While legends abound, little firsthand material on Patrick's life exists, making it hard to separate fact from fiction. That difficulty should have been acknowledged. – THE CORRIE TEN BOOM STORY – 2013, 34 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE ERIC LIDDELL STORY – 2007, 31 minute – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE HARRIET TUBMAN STORY – 2018, 30 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE JIM ELLIOT STORY – 2005, 30 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE JOHN BUNYAN STORY – 20o6, 30 minutes – 8/10 –FREE ONLINE – THE JOHN NEWTON STORY – 2021, 30 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE MARTIN LUTHER STORY – 2106, 34 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE RICHARD WUMBRAND STORY – 2008, 30 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE WILLIAM TYNDALE STORY – 2005, 32 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE TORTURED FOR CHRIST - 2018, 77 minutes - 8/10 – FREE ONLINE UNBROKEN: PATH TO REDEMPTION – 2018, 98 minutes – 8/10 THE WRIGHT BROTHERS – 1996, 27 minutes – 7/10 CHILDREN (22) This is fare for younger children – not a lot of tension here. And that means, while the kids will probably like it, mom and dad might not. Because children often watch their favorite videos repeatedly, even dozens of times, it’s all the more important to make sure what they do watch is the good stuff. The Adventures of Milo and Otis – 1989, 76 minutes – 7/10 BUDDY DAVIS' AMAZING ADVENTURES: – I Dig Dinosaurs – 2011 – 26 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – Swamp Man – 2012, 45 minutes – 7/10 – Extreme Caving – 2013, 58 minutes – 7/10 – Alaska – 2015, 25 minutes – 6/10 – Ice Age – 2017, 25 minutes – 7/10 – Safari – 2021, 30 minutes – 7/10 THE CREATION ADVENTURE TEAM – 2001-2002, 40 min x 2 episodes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE DEFENSE OF NEW HAVEN – 2016, 82 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE HANS BRINKER OR THE SILVER SKATES – 1962, 90  minutes – 8/10 INCREDIBLE CREATURES THAT DEFY EVOLUTION I – 2006, 47 minutes – 7/10 Lassie Come Home – 1943, 90 minutes – 8/10 A LEGO BRICKUMENTARY – 2015, 93 minutes – 7/10 MISTY – 1961, 91 minutes – 7/10 THE NEWTONS' WORKSHOP – 1997, 226 minutes – 7/10 ODD SQUAD: THE MOVIE – 2016, 67 minutes – 7/10 PATTERNS OF EVIDENCE: YOUNG EXPLORERS – 2020, 190 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE RUNNER FROM RAVENSHEAD – 2010, 81 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE SPARKY CHRONICLES – 2003, 28 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE SPACE BUDDIES – 2009, 84 minutes – 7/10 Tintin: Destination Moon – 1992, 83 minutes – 7/10 THE WILD BROTHERS (8 episodes) – 2015-2020, 28-30 minutes each – 7/10 FAMILY FUN (26) These are films that mom and dad can also look forward to watching. But that does mean that some of them have action or drama that may be too intense for your youngest children. So be sure to research age-appropriateness. BABES IN TOYLAND – 1961, 105 minutes – 7/10 A BEAR CALLED WINNIE – 2004, 90 minutes – 7/10 BEYOND THE MASK – 2015, 103 minutes – 8/10 BORN FREE - 1966, 95 minutes – 8/10 CITY OF EMBER – 2008, 95 minutes – 7/10 CONDORMAN – 1981, 90 minutes – 7/10 The Court Jester – 1956, 101 minutes – 8/10 DUDE PERFECT: BACKSTAGE PASS – 2020, 84 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE Emil and the Detectives – 1964, 98 minutes – 7/10 THE FIGHTING PRINCE OF DONEGAL – 1966, 110 minutes – 7/10 Greyfriars Bobby – 1961, 92 minutes – 8/10 Hangman's Curse – 2003, 106 minutes – 8/10 THE HORSE IN THE GRAY FLANNEL SUIT – 1968, 113 minutes – 7/10 THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY – 1963, 89 minutes – 8/10 JACK AND THE BEANSTALK – 1952, 83 minutes – 7/10 The Last Chance Detectives – 1994, 50 min x 3 episodes – 7/10 Old Yeller – 1957, 84 minutes – 9/10 OVERCOMER – 2019, 119 minutes – 7/10 THE SECRETS OF JONATHAN SPERRY – 2008, 96 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE Shark Boy and Lava Girl 3D – 2005, 93 minutes – 7/10 STORM: LUTHER'S FORBIDDEN LETTER – 2017, 105 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE SWORD AND THE ROSE – 1953, 92 minutes – 7/10 THE THREE INVESTIGATORS IN THE SECRET OF SKELETON ISLAND – 2007, 91 minutes – 7/10 TIME CHANGER – 2002, 99 minutes – 7/10 UNITARDS – 2010, 107 minutes – 8/10 Who is Simon Miller? – 2011, 85 minutes – 7/10 FOR MOM AND DAD (21) There are films intended for an adult audience, movies and videos to enjoy with your better half...and sometimes with the older kids too. 2081 – 2009, 25 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE ALLEGED – 2011, 93 minutes – 8/10 Anastasia – 1956, 105 minutes – 7/10 AUDACITY: LOVE CAN'T STAY SILENT – 2015, 50 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE The Caine Mutiny - 1954, 124 minutes – 7/10 COURAGEOUS – 2011, 129 minutes – 7/10 EXTRAORDINARY – 2017, 86 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE FREEDOM – 2014, 94 minutes – 7/10 THE HOBBIT TRILOGY – 2012-2014 – 7/10-8/10 I CAN ONLY IMAGINE - 2018, 110 minutes - 8/10 Love's Long Journey – 2005, 88 minutes – 7/10 The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – 2001-2003 – 10/10 LIKE DANDELION DUST – 2009, 104 minutes – 8/10 Roman Holiday – 1953, 118 minutes – 8/10 Seasons of the Heart – 2003, 99 minutes – 8/10 The Second Chance – 2006, 102 – 7/10 THE SONG – 2014, 116 minutes – 9/10 TO SAVE A LIFE – 2010, 120 minutes – 8/10 The Ultimate Gift – 2006, 114 minutes – 7/10 A Vow to Cherish – 1999, 84 minutes - 7/10 WOODLAWN - 2015, 123 minutes - 8/10 WAR FILMS (18) The Second World War might have been the first major conflict in which film could play a role, presenting stories intended to encourage those on the frontlines and at home. The most inspiring World War Two films show ordinary, average people doing extraordinary, heroic things (many of whom were our parents, grandparents or great grandparents, hiding Jews or otherwise put themselves at risk simply because they knew it had to be done). Many of the best World War II films were made during the war – they have a completely different feel, because no one at the time knew what the war’s outcome would be! BATAAN – 1943, 114 minutes – 8/10 Decision Before Dawn – 1951, 119 minutes – 7/10 DESPERATE JOURNEY – 1942, 107 minutes – 7/10 Destination Tokyo – 1944, 135 minutes – 8/10 Edge of Darkness – 1943, 119 minutes – 7/10 The Fighting Seabeas - 1944, 99 minutes – 7/10 FLYING TIGERS – 1942, 104 minutes - 7/10 THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT – 1940, 120 minutes – 7/10 Hail the Conquering Hero – 1944, 101 minutes – 7/10 Objective Burma! – 1945, 142 minutes – 7/10 Run Silent, Run Deep – 1958. 93 minutes – 7/10 Sahara – 1943, 98 minutes – 7/10 Sands of Iwo Jima – 1949, 100 minutes – 7/10 THE SILVER FLEET – 1943, 88 minutes – 7/10 They Were Expendable – 1945, 135 minutes – 7/10 To Be Or Not To Be – 1942, 99 minutes – 8/10 Twelve O'clock High – 1949, 132 minutes – 8/10 Why We Fight – 1942-45, 417 minutes – 7/10 See also Sgt. Stubby (Animated Films), Belle and Sebastian (Foreign Films), and Sea Hawk (Black and White Classics). BONUS #1 - FOREIGN FILMS (6) Part of the pleasure of watching films set in foreign locales is that they provide a peek into unfamiliar cultures. Most of us will never be able to visit Mongolia or Iran but we can get an insight into the cultural life of those communities by watching their films. ANTBOY - DENMARK – 2013, 77 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE Belle and Sebastian – FRANCE – 2013, 99 minutes – 7/10 Children of Heaven – IRAN – 1997, 87 minutes – 7/10 NOT ONE LESS – CHINA – 2000, 106 minutes – 7/10 THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY – JAPAN – 2010, 95 minutes – 8/10 The Story of the Weeping Camel – MONGOLIA – 2003, 87 minutes – 7/10 This post first appeared on www.ReelConservative.com. RP has also done an issue of the magazine on movies you can find here....

Assorted

Lesson From My Mum: there is hope for western civilization

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

Culture Clashes, News

Samuel Sey on Critical Race Theory

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

Animated, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Free film: The John Newton Story

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

Book Reviews, Children’s fiction

Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective

by Donald J. Sobol 1963 / 88 pages Idaville is a small town with an impressive record - no one, absolutely no one, gets away with breaking the law. Most of the credit goes to Police Chief Brown, but he doesn't really want to take it. If the townsfolk were able to believe it, he'd let them know that the town's most puzzling crimes are solved, not at the police station, but at the Brown's dinner table, by his humble, brilliant ten-year-old son Leroy! In addition to helping out his dad, Leroy, known as Encyclopedia by his friends, also runs his very own detective agency, charging 25 cents a case, plus expenses. The Encyclopedia Brown series are great books that each include ten short mysteries for readers to solve right alongside our pint-sized detective. In this, the very first one, all the information needed to solve the mystery is included in the story, and the solution is found in the back. And though the mysteries are simple enough that boys and girls in the 9-11 range will be able to solve many of them, they are still subtle enough to present a challenge to adults (I had to peek at the back to figure out a couple of them...and this was my second time through). As you might guess from Encyclopedia's pay rate, this is an old book. It was first published back in 1963, so even though many more books have followed, the whole series has an old-fashioned feel and appeal to it. For example, Encyclopedia often has run-ins with the Tiger gang, but this is very much a 1960s sort of boys' gang - they run minor scams, try to trick kids out of their allowance, and might even start a tussle or two, but the very worst that would result is a black eye or fat lip. Cautions In a nod to the sort of feminism that says women are only equal to men if they can do anything men can do (rather than because we are all made in God's Image - Genesis 1:27), the author gives Encyclopedia a girl bodyguard. Sobol makes Sally Kimball tougher than any boy, able to beat up even Bugs Meany, the leader of the Tigers. The problem here, I explained to my girls, is that boys need to have it drilled into them that they can never hit girls, even at 10, because whether or not they're already stronger than girls, they soon will be. Thus girls have to be taught never to take shots at boys because if those boys are raised right they won't hit back, and it is just cheap to hit someone who can't fight back. While Kimball's unrealistic pugilistic prowess makes for some comedic moments at bully Bugs Meany's expense, thankfully her bodyguard role is only a focus in a few of the mysteries. The other caution is that, even as this series is sold in some Christian bookstores, God is absent. That's a minor concern if our kids are reading other books too. But if our kids get a steady diet of stories where God is treated as irrelevant to our daily lives, then that's teaching our little ones quite the lie. Conclusion I read these as a kid and loved the mini-challenge of each mystery. I was happy to see the series was still in print and that author Donald Sobol (1924-2012) had come up with a dozen more since I'd last read them. But I did notice that in one of the later ones – Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret UFOs – two of the ten mysteries required the reader to know something that wasn't included in the story (for example, "The case of the giant shark tooth" could only be solved if a reader knew that sharks constantly replace their teeth). So the earlier titles are just a bit better than the most recent - no outside knowledge needed. There are 28 official books in all: Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective (1963) Encyclopedia Brown Strikes Again (1965) AKA Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret Pitch Encyclopedia Brown Finds the Clues (1966) Encyclopedia Brown Gets His Man (1967) Encyclopedia Brown Solves Them All (1968) Encyclopedia Brown Keeps the Peace (1969) Encyclopedia Brown Saves the Day (1970) Encyclopedia Brown Tracks Them Down (1971) Encyclopedia Brown Shows the Way (1972) Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Case (1973) Encyclopedia Brown Lends a Hand (1974) AKA Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Exploding Plumbing and Other Mysteries Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Dead Eagles (1975) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Midnight Visitor (1977) Encyclopedia Brown Carries On (1980) Encyclopedia Brown Sets the Pace (1981) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Mysterious Handprints (1985) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Treasure Hunt (1988) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Disgusting Sneakers (1990) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Two Spies (1995) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of Pablo's Nose (1996) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Sleeping Dog (1998) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Slippery Salamander (2000) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Jumping Frogs (2003) Encyclopedia Brown Cracks the Case (2007) Encyclopedia Brown, Super Sleuth (2009) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret UFOs (2010) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Carnival Crime (2011) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme (2012) If that isn't enough for your child, there are a few others titles associated with the Encylopedia Brown brand. One of the extra ones is a mystery/cookbook, with all the stories related to food, and each includes a recipe in the solution – it's called Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake (1982). Then there are a couple of true crime collections that I haven't been able to track down, but at least one of which my middle daughter has read and really liked: Encyclopedia Brown's Book Of Strange But True Crimes (1992), and Encyclopedia Brown's Book of Wacky Crimes (1984). All the main characters but one are boys, so these are clearly intended as boy books. That said, all my girls have enjoyed them as much as I did. They are great for anyone, boy or girl, who likes wrestling with problems, and while they are best suited for the preteen set, they'll offer a challenge to mom or dad too, which makes them good fun to read to your kids. And teens and parents who find these too easy can graduate on up to Donald Sobol's similar but more challenging Two Minute Mysteries series....

Religion - Pentecostal

What do Pentecostals believe about the miraculous spiritual gifts?

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

News

Saturday Selections – April 9, 2022

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

Adult biographies, Book Reviews

God's Smuggler

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

Theology

The Bible on angels

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

Science - Creation/Evolution

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

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

News

Saturday Selections – April 2, 2022

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

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - April 2022

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

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

Does God listen to Rap?

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

Parenting

6 Duties of Parents

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

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Metamorphosis: the beauty and design of butterflies

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

Articles, Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

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

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

News

Saturday Selections – Mar. 26, 2022

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

Assorted

The words a father speaks        

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

Science - Environment, Theology

Catastrophic global warming? A brief biblical case for skepticism

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

Animated, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Free film: The Harriet Tubman Story

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

Book Reviews, Children’s fiction

Wambu: the Chieftain’s Son

by Piet Prins 182 pages / 1981 This is a book about cannibals, and that should pique the interest of many a boy reader. Wambu is a young boy himself, living in the deep jungles of New Guinea before the arrival of the white man. His tribe is a small one and they haven’t been able to eat any people for quite some time now so, when Wambu and his father come across a strange girl wandering through their part of the forest, their first inclination is to, well, have her for dinner. Fortunately they have second thoughts and instead adopt the girl, Sirja, into their family. And that's when things get really interesting because Sirja is a new Christian convert. And her newfound faith in the Lord is sharply contrasted with the village’s reliance on pagan gods. Though Wambu likes listening to Sirja’s stories about Moses and Abraham and Jesus, he also likes going hunting with his father and learning about all the evil spirits in the forest. Sirja tells him that the white missionaries are wonderful, but the village’s witch doctor insists that white men are evil spirits who have taken on flesh. Who is Wambu to believe? When Wambu’s village is attacked by a rival headhunting tribe he escapes and goes for help…to the white man! This is a fast-paced book, with loads of interesting information about what it’s like to live in the jungle. Kids will learn that some people find caterpillars delicious, and they eat the insides of trees. Tidbits like this are thrown in throughout the book and make the story all the more intriguing as we are taken into the depths of a very foreign world. The Chieftain’s Son’s only fault is that it doesn’t have a proper conclusion. It is the first of three books in the Wambu series and the story is incomplete without the other two books so when you buy the first you simply have to buy Wambu: In the Valley of Death, and Wambu: Journey to Manhood as well. And you’ll want to order them all at the same time, because once you start reading you won’t want to have to wait for the other books to arrive. I really wanted to get my girls hooked on this series, but despite repeated attempts, no luck so far. But for boys, maybe ten and over, these are just the sort that fathers could enjoy reading to their children – there is enough action in them even for Dad. You can find them at Inheritance Publications....

News

Saturday Selections – Mar. 19 , 2022

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

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – March 2022

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

Theology

10 Christian answers to life's deepest questions

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

Articles, Movie Reviews

10 tools to help pick a great flick

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

Adult fiction, Book Reviews

The Last Disciple

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

News

Saturday Selections – Mar. 12, 2022

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

Pro-life - Abortion, Sexuality

Abraham Lincoln, on abortion

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

Articles, Entertainment, Movie Reviews

Beyond judging a movie by its poster

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

Theology

Infant Baptism and the unity of Scripture

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

Articles, Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Jerry Pinkney: Making the classics kinder

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

News

Saturday Selections - March 5, 2022

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

Magazine, Past Issue

Jan/Feb/Mar 2022 issue

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

Pro-life - Abortion

A pro-life push back against the darkness

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

Parenting

Is Cleanliness next to Godliness?

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

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

Listen! Six Men You Should Know

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

News

Saturday Selections - February 26, 2022

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

Assorted

Fraud and Truth

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

Culture Clashes, News

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

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

Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Grandma’s Boy

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

News

Saturday Selections – Feb. 19, 2022

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

Pro-life - Adoption

The Christian case for adoption

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

Articles, Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

David Wiesner: weird and wonderful

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

Articles, Movie Reviews

Second-hand Scriptures: a case against biblical dramas

The “telephone game” goes by many different names but it’s always played the same way. A number of children sit in a circle and the “operator” starts things off by whispering some phrase or sentence to his neighbor. The neighbor then whispers the message to the next child, trying to pass it on as accurately as she can. By the time the message makes its way around the circle to the very last child it will bear little resemblance to the original: “I’ve got a pair of red pants” somehow turns into “Ivy’s got a pail of dead ants!” It’s good silly fun but the game also shows how easily information can become corrupted by being relayed Biblically-based movies face this same problem. It’s simply inevitable that the message we see on the screen won’t be the same as the one we find in the Bible – each step along the way, as it passes from Scripture to screenwriter this is an opportunity for corruptions to intrude, whether accidentally, or by deliberate choices. While writing about biblical stage productions, Rev. John van Popta, highlighted the problem they share with biblical movies: The data in the Bible is usually not enough to fill out the dialogue. .…a drama based on the Bible, will have a script which includes all kinds of extra material, actions and characters, as well as inaccuracies and misrepresentations. Consider also that a great deal of what we say is communicated by our body language. God chose not to use this medium, relying instead on the written word. So all the choices made by the director and actors in how they sit, stand, and interact – will they have Jesus stand boldly, with hands on his hips, or meekly seated, staring down at the ground? – are going to be extra-biblical additions that depart from the text. The Passion of the Christ The changes can be subtle and yet significant. Consider The Passion of the Christ, likely the biggest Christian film of all time. At the time it came out Christine Farenhorst noted how the film obscured that    “…the greatest torment that Christ experienced on the cross was not caused by the nails driven into His flesh, but in His being made ‘sin for us’ and vicariously suffering the righteous punishment of the Father in our place. Even the worst physical torments inflicted by the Sanhedrin and the Romans upon Jesus were nothing by comparison to the anguish of having the sins of all the elect imputed to Him and making full satisfaction for them. Satisfying the justice of the Romans on a cross was comparatively easy. Thousands of condemned men and women, including Spartacus and several of the Apostles did that. But only Christ could satisfy the justice of God.” The Chosen In the recent The Chosen TV series, women end up in more prominent roles than they have in the Scriptures, with the most notable being the healing of the paralyzed man of Luke 5:17-25. It was men that arranged for their friend to be lowered through the ceiling to be healed by Jesus. In this series the writers have inserted two women, Tamar and Mary Magdalene, and credited the idea to them. Why this rewrite? The spirit of our age says that women derive their value, not from being made in the Image of God, but by doing and being able to do whatever men can do. This seems in keeping with that spirit. It's also worth noting that in focusing more on the disciples and followers, The Chosen has made Jesus less central, and more of a supportive character. VeggieTales The changes can also be glaring. When the folks at Big Idea Productions decided to do a version of the Fall of Jericho using animated talking vegetables – a "VeggieTale" – the Israelites in their story grumbled that they felt too silly to march around the walls of the city. But in Joshua 6:1-21 we read that this is one of the only times Israel didn’t complain or question God. Big Idea’s Josh and the Big Wall is a video made by sincere Christians, for other Christians, that Christian children are likely to watch again and again, and yet this video departs sharply from the Scripture it claims to portray. In other VeggieTale biblical epics, the alterations are more understandable, though no less problematic. Their account of Daniel in the lions’ den had this prophet emerges unscathed, and the men who plotted against him run away. In reality, these men were thrown into the den, and, “before they reached the floor of the den the lions overpowered them and crushed their bones” (Dan 6:24). Not only were these plotters punished in this startling fashion, even their wives and children were consumed by the lions. In a cartoon intended for kids it might seem sensible to make this G-rated substitution for what would otherwise be an R-rated event. But that the real events would be unsuitable for a children’s cartoon isn’t a reason to recast reality in a “nicer” light – it’s a reason not to make a cartoon about that reality. And this isn’t the only time VeggieTales has felt free to insert a “nicer” endings to a biblical tale. In Esther, the Girl Who Became Queen, Haman plots against the Jews but instead of trying to kill them he attempts to banish them to the “Island of Perpetual Tickling.” Are nicer endings really such a problem? Well, just consider how many Christians would be shocked to read an Old Testament passage in which God demands the slaughter of women and children. In a quest to embrace the God of love many Christians prefer to forget that He also demands justice and can be wrathful as well. By inserting these “nicer” endings, VeggieTales actually hide the true character of God from children. And since children are likely to view these videos repeatedly, and read the corresponding Bible passages infrequently, that is real damage being done. Even when the Veggie version is fairly faithful – as happens in Dave and the Giant Pickle – it’s still going to be comical – here we have a cute David, played by Junior Asparagus. How often is cute and comical going to be a good match for the tone of the biblical text? Conclusion What I’ve raised here are practical objections to biblical epics – that they so often garble the message. But what if someone did a much better, more careful job? Then would it be a problem? Let me answer by offering two texts to consider. First, Revelation 22:18-19 concludes with a warning against making additions or subtractions to “the words of the prophecy of this book…” Is this referring only to Revelation, or the whole of the Bible? However you understand it, wouldn’t the principle – to have great respect for the words God has delivered – have application to the whole of the Bible? And the consequences listed – that those who make additions will have the plagues added to them, and those that take away will have their part in the Tree of Life taken away – would also seem to encourage Christians to err on the side of caution. Second, biblical dramas have a long history of being used to teach an illiterate laity. But the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 35 applies the Second Commandment (Ex. 20:4-5, Deut. 5:8-9) as forbidding the use of images to teach God’s people: … we should not be wiser than God. He wants his people to be taught not by means of dumb images but by the living preaching of his Word. The Reformation brought with it a push for literacy to allow people to learn straight from God. Instead of the “telephone game” with the message filtered through actors and scriptwriters, God’s children could receive His Word directly. Why go back? Now, biblically-based movies probably won’t do much damage to biblically literate Christians; they’ll certainly see through the glaring errors, and may well catch most of the subtle miscommunications as well. But these films aren’t really made for biblically literate Christians. Isn't the reason that these films are so popular because they make Christians feel as if we are learning as we’re watching? How many will view the movie and then go straight to Scripture and read the passage? Don't we watch the movie instead of reading the passage? Or maybe we watch it to receive what isn’t in the passage – the kind look on Jesus’ face, or the heartwarming interactions between the other characters. Then instead of the real deal, instead of direct communication with God through his Word, we end up settling for the garbled communication we get via the screen’s second-hand Scripture. Charlton Heston as Moses, from the film "The Ten Commandments" is copyright © 1956 Paramount Pictures Corporation. Used with permission....

Internet

3 reasons to praise God for social media

As a default, I tend to call attention to the problems that social media, and our relationship with it, has introduced into our lives. Social media has a grip on our hearts and minds in countless, ever-evolving ways, and it is important for us to keep up with that. So much of it is harming us in ways we don’t see. All of that being true, I think it is also important to also recognize the goodness of God and all that we do enjoy because of the social Internet. It really isn’t all bad! And we do well to be reminded of this. With all of that, here are three reasons I think we can praise God for social media:  1) We can see the work of God around the world Isn’t it amazing that social media has afforded us the opportunity to see the ways God is working around the world? In the days before the Internet, to learn of God’s work in Spain or South Korea or South Africa would have required a personal connection with someone in those parts of the world – perhaps our church sent a missionary abroad or a friend from college chose to serve the Lord in a different part of the world and we joined their mailing list. Today, we can see the amazing work of God around the world by browsing the Internet, joining email lists of missions organizations, or simply engaging with brothers and sisters in Christ on our preferred social media platforms. Sure, an ever-present opportunity to be aware of the work of God in the world can tempt us to be overly-concerned with matters that are out of our control, but what a grace of God to be able to see his hand move across the world in such miraculous ways simply by scrolling on the screens in our hands! God is always at work in every corner of the globe. He is eternally interested in revealing the fullness of his glory so that ever-increasing numbers of people can come into contact with his goodness and trust him as their God rather than themselves. The Internet, and social media in particular, have given us the ability to peek into how God is doing this all around the world in a way no one in history has had before. So cool. 2) We can connect with like-minded followers of Christ As I mentioned above, one of the ways we can learn of the ways God is working around the world is simply by connecting with brothers and sisters in Christ on social media. Of course, one of the saddest effects of the social Internet on Christians is that it enables our desire to meddle, gossip, and wield our virtual tongues in ways that do not honor the Lord. I am guilty of using social media to hurt others with my words, as are most of us, I’m sure. This is a real sin of which we ought to repent, too – hurtful online speech is no less real than in-person hurtful speech. But what an amazing grace of God it is when we use social media to connect with other believers not to debate theology or call into question their faith, but build one another up through encouragement, prayer, and fellowship! I am grateful to God for how social media has acted as a way to keep in touch with brothers and sisters across the world or from past periods of my life when we lived close to one another. And, at the same time, I am grateful for all the relationships the Lord has given me that have almost exclusively taken place through various social internet avenues. There are dozens of brothers and sisters in Christ I have interacted with on Twitter or Facebook or elsewhere that I will not meet until we dine together at the marriage supper of the Lamb. How amazing is that?! Praise God for such an opportunity. 3) We can study the beliefs and culture of all kinds of people. I don’t know about you, but I love learning. I read all kinds of books. I like reading books about U.S. presidents. I like reading books about business moguls like John D. Rockefeller (which I’m reading right now). I like reading books about social media. I like reading books about God’s work in our lives. On top of reading books about all kinds of subjects, I love accidentally falling down what are often called “Wikipedia Rabbit Holes” – maybe you’ve experienced this! You find yourself on one Wikipedia page, then another, then another, and before you know it you’ve wasted an hour! But that time is so often not wasted! Just the other day I was researching some famous criminal who came up in conversation, which then led me to a Wikipedia page about one of the highest security prisons in the world. It was so fascinating! I learned a lot. How cool is it that we can use the Internet to learn? Even more specifically, we can use social media to learn! Social media doesn’t just have to be all about political arguments and funny cat videos. Simply by spending time on social media and interacting with people who are unlike you, you can learn about how different people live, believe, and see the world. Maybe you’ll never make it to India and experience the richness of Indian culture, but if you happen to connect with an Indian person on social media, you could engage in conversation with them about what they believe, what a typical day looks like for them, and learn how their life is different from yours. Social media has afforded us the opportunity to have a much more diverse, well-rounded perspective on the world. Of course, when we engage with people who hold different worldviews or systems of belief, we don’t have to adopt their perspectives, but the more we can learn about other people and perspectives the more we can question our own and grow! If we are intentional, we can really learn a lot by scrolling on social media. It doesn’t have to be all about consumption and entertainment.  Remember to praise God I really try hard to keep up with the ways social media is evolving so that I can write helpful articles that caution us against blindly adopting every new and latest social media trend. We need to be more careful about how we use social media. But cynicism and unhealthy negativity can so easily creep in when I constantly study the harmful effects of social media. It is important to remember to praise God for the goodness He shows us in these small provisions. Any peek we can get into the workings of God in the world is amazing. Praise God for the tools he gives us to see him work and make much of his name. This is reprinted with permission from Chris Martin’s Terms of Service newsletter which looks at the social internet from a Christian perspective. You can sign up to it for free. He has just published his first book, “Terms of Service: the Real Cost of Social Media,” which is available at Amazon.ca and Amazon.com....

News

Saturday Selections – Feb. 12, 2022

Politically correct police When this first came out 7 years ago, it didn't have quite the political edge that it has today. But that only makes it all the more brilliant! Karl Marx's favorite quote A recent poll has more Americans favoring socialism than capitalism, perhaps because they believe the former is about sharing, the latter about greed. But as Jerry Newcombe notes, the truth is something else entirely: "Most Cubans live on $44 (U.S.) per month. In contrast, when Fidel Castro died in 2016, his net worth was estimated at $900 million. In America, wealth is created by providing value in voluntary exchanges, and there is no inherent limit on it. But in a Marxist setting like Castro’s Cuba, the government controls the economy, and it’s a zero-sum game. Castro’s wealth was at the expense of the Cuban people." Where's the evidence that conversion therapy is harmful? An American sociologist came up with a surprising conclusion: such therapy helps, even by secular measures. Join the Anti-Revolutionary Party! "Throw the bums out" is a popular sentiment, but not a solution of any sort. Why? Well, consider the recent exit of the conversion therapy ban-supporting, baby-murder defending Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole. He's out due to his incompetent leadership more than his policy positions. And who is likely to replace him? We might well get a more competent, but also conversion therapy ban-supporting, baby-murder defending Pierre Poilievre. That's what a revolution can net you: one evil replaced with another. That's why Christians need to always be reformational rather than revolutionary. And it's not about word choice, but the spirit behind it. We don't want to burn it all down; we want to reform and repair. We aren't simply against the pro-choice, pro-LGBT Erin O'Toole – we are for protecting from conception to natural death all those made in the very Image of God, and we are for the freedom of Christians to speak God's truth about sexuality. We aren't simply against the devil and his minions. We are for our great and glorious God! How the Babylon Bee failed Elon Musk A couple of months ago the Christian satire site Babylon Bee landed their biggest podcast guest yet, the world's richest man, Elon Musk. While this might be the best interview he's done, it didn't end well when the Bee's staff jokingly pressured him to accept Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. As Ester O'Reilly writes, "Not everything has to be turned into a joke. Indeed, some things positively shouldn’t be. Some things should stay sacred. It’s okay—more than okay, necessary—to keep them that way." Erin O'Toole is out: it's time for Leslyn Lewis, not Pierre Poilievre Jonathon Van Maren lays out the case. What if I can't answer every question about God? (5 min) Michael Krugor, author of Surviving Religion 101, with some encouragement for college students, or just any Christian being challenged to explain why they believe what they believe about God. Click on the link above to read our review of his book. ...

Assorted

Allies vs. cobelligerents: don't mix them up!

Sometimes we find the most unlikely sorts fighting alongside us. Maybe it’s atheists and Roman Catholics standing with us against abortion, or feminists joining hands with us against pornography, or Jungian psychologists leading the way for us defending freedom of speech. When that happens it is important to understand what sort of combined effort we are making. As Douglas Wilson explains in Empires of Dirt: "An ally fights the same enemy you are fighting, and for the same reasons. A co-belligerent fights them for different reasons.” The danger is in mistaking co-belligerents for allies. When we side with a group like feminists, we have to keep in mind that the relationship between co-belligerents is not that of friendship, but utility – they are with us only so long as we can further their ends. But Paul's warning against being "unequally yoked" (2 Cor 6:14) applies here, because feminists have many ends we want no part of. Take the matter of “equality.” We believe in that too, right? That's why it would be only natural if, after working together against pornography, we mistook feminists for our buddies, and wanted to help them on the matter of “women’s rights” too. The problem is, we aren’t like-minded. Feminists are not our allies. Their understanding of equality is rooted in an ungodly denial of any gender differences. While we can stand side-by-side with them against sexual harassment, and against pornography, and against sex-selective abortion, we have to be aware they’re going to spin it all as being about “women’s rights.” And we have to ensure we don’t make the mistake of “allying” with their understanding of the term. Yes, we believe in equality, but not rooted in sameness. Equality has nothing to do with the genders being interchangeable and indistinguishable. No, God made us male and female and it is an attack on His creative genius to dismiss or demean what makes men masculine and what makes women feminine. On this point we do not side with the feminists, but must stand with the French: vive la difference! Different is good (Genesis 1:31, 2:18) and, in fact, these differences are to be explored and celebrated! So Christians have an entirely different basis for equality. We recognize that we are all unique, varying in our height, weight, hair color, eye color, and skin color, and in interests, abilities and much, much more. Thus the only real basis for equality is in the one thing (and one thing only) we all share: male and female, black and white, tall and short, blonde and brunette, all of us are made in God’s image.  Christians can be co-belligerents with feminists and others, on any number of issues, but we must never make the mistake of thinking or acting like these groups are our allies....

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Noah’s Ark: Thinking outside the box

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

Culture Clashes

How the Bible made the world a better place

Though most wouldn't want to admit it, the Bible has made the world a better place even for those that don’t believe it. How can that be? Well, it was the worldview taught in the Bible that led to the development of modern science and all its benefits. It was the same worldview that led to the dramatic expansion of educational institutions, as well as the greater political freedom and economic prosperity we enjoy. Most people today enjoy higher standards of living and better medical care simply because the Bible influenced Western culture in a particular direction. Vishal Mangalwadi, a Christian intellectual from India, explains all this in his 2011 book, The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization. Mangalwadi was born and raised within a culture dominated by Hinduism, and this experience gave him special insight into the effects of Christianity on the world and particular nations. So what are some ways a biblical worldview makes the world better? Monks at work As a basic principle, the Bible promotes a strong work ethic. The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 that “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” While there are probably hard-working people in every culture, Mangalwadi explains that Christianity places a unique emphasis on work: “The God who liberated the Jews worked for six days and commanded human beings to do the same. That is the opposite of Hindu tradition, which conceives of God as a meditator or Yogeshwar (‘god of yoga’).” The biblical emphasis on work inspired Christian monks to use their time well. Saint Benedict, who is known as the father of Western monasticism, supported a strong work ethic and wrote that “Idleness is an enemy of the soul.” Christian monks in Europe were important to the early development of technology, some of which we still use today. They were, Mangalwadi writes, “the first to begin the widespread use of the watermill for grinding and for developing power machinery.” Clocks and eyeglasses Another important example is the invention of clocks. As one scholar, David Landes, has argued, “clocks were invented because monks needed them.” They had set times for prayer and for particular jobs that had to be done. After sunset, the sundial was of no use. The need for proper time management drove the quest for something reliable, and clocks were the solution. As Mangalwadi explains, the impetus for creating clocks resulted from a specifically Christian worldview: “The Bible-shaped culture made time management an aspect of establishing human dominion over the physical universe because the Bible saw time as a part of physical reality. By contrast, in Indian culture, time was perceived either as an eternal but terrible god (Kal) or as a part of the cosmic illusion (maya).” Besides clocks, Christian monks also had a role in the invention of eyeglasses. They spent lots of time reading and studying, but that became more difficult as they got older and their eyes became weaker. Eyeglasses dramatically improved the ability of older monks to read and work on manuscripts. Of course, other religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism also have monks, but it was the Christian ones at the forefront of technology. As Mangalwadi puts it, “Christian monks were different because the Bible gave them a different worldview.” Lots to learn People who believe that the Bible is the Word of God will be greatly motivated to read it. Thus, especially after the Reformation, there was a strong impetus to increase literacy in Europe. In other words, Christianity was the main driver for the expansion of literacy and education. According to Mangalwadi, the Bible directly inspired the creation of the first 123 colleges and universities in the United States. But it wasn’t just Christian countries that benefited from this educational impulse. As missionaries took the gospel to countries throughout the world, they also promoted literacy and education so that people could read the Bible and improve their lives overall. As Mangalwadi writes: “They birthed, financed, and nurtured hundreds of universities, thousands of colleges, and tens of thousands of schools. They educated millions and transformed nations. This gigantic, global mission was inspired and sustained by one book—the Bible.” Looking for scientific laws The scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was launched by men who had been strongly influenced by the Bible. The biblical worldview provided the philosophical basis for their quest. In contrast, other worldviews see life and reality in ways that often discourage scientific pursuits. There were, of course, many intelligent and capable Hindus and Buddhists. However, they did not have the philosophical motivation to pursue scientific knowledge. As Mangalwadi explains: “A culture may have capable individuals, but they don’t look for ‘laws of nature’ if they believe that nature is enchanted and ruled by millions of little deities like a rain god, a river goddess, or a rat deva.” In short, people live according to what they believe, and if they believe an erroneous worldview, they will be limited in what they set out to achieve. In contrast to the Hindus and Buddhists, the “pioneers of science believed that the material realm was real, not magical, enchanted, or governed by spirits and demons. They assumed it was understandable because God created it as rational, ordered, and regulated by natural laws.” Early in the history of India, a certain degree of medical technology developed. In fact, there were people in India who were medical geniuses. However, medical technology could only go so far in India because of certain cultural limitations. For one thing, special knowledge was considered to be something to keep secret, not something to share with others. Besides that, the Hindu and Buddhist concept of “karma” helped prevent the spread of medical care. Suffering was considered to be punishment for deeds committed in a previous life. Suffering, in this sense, was a form of justice. It was widely believed that alleviating someone’s suffering now would only increase it later, so it was better to leave them to suffer now. As Mangalwadi summarizes, “my ancestors did not lack intelligence, but our genius was expressed in a philosophy that taught us to worship nature instead of establishing dominion over it.” Honesty Mangalwadi tells an especially interesting story that illustrates the power of the Bible. Once when he was visiting the Netherlands, a Dutch friend took him to get some fresh milk. They drove to a dairy farm familiar to the friend. They walked into a building with a large tank containing milk. The friend opened a tap and filled a jug he had brought with milk. Then he put some money into a nearby bowl containing cash, and they left. Mangalwadi was shocked by this transaction, telling his friend, “if you were an Indian, you would take the milk and the money!” However, the Dutch dairy farmer knew that he could trust his neighbours to be honest about paying for the milk they took. Thus they could come and go at will, taking what they needed and leaving an appropriate payment. It was all based on trust because the people were trustworthy. Later, Mangalwadi recounted this experience to a conference in Indonesia. An Egyptian conference participant told him that an Egyptian would not only take the milk and the money, but also the cows! In many countries of the world, a dairy farmer who wanted to sell his milk directly to customers would need to hire a cashier because he wouldn’t be able to trust his customers. As a result, he would have to charge a higher price for the milk to pay for the cashier. But if the customers could not be trusted, neither could the dairy farmer himself. So the customers would want the government to hire inspectors to ensure that the farmers were not adding water to the milk. Therefore, taxes would need to be collected to pay the inspectors, increasing costs even further. The bottom line is that an economy in a culture that produces generally honest citizens can operate more efficiently and at lower cost than one in a culture of dishonesty. If producers and consumers can trust each other, the cost of doing business is much lower. Such a situation, of course, contributes to overall economic prosperity. With this in mind, Mangalwadi asks what made the ordinary people of the Netherlands so different from people in India and Egypt? “The answer is simple. The Bible taught the people of Holland that even though no human being may be watching us in that dairy farm, God, our ultimate judge, is watching to see if we obey his commands to neither covet nor steal.” Corruption A German organization called Transparency International creates an annual ranking of countries to compare their levels of corruption. The ranking is called the Global Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), with the least corrupt countries listed at the top, and the most corrupt at the bottom. Countries heavily influenced by Protestantism dominate the top ten. In the 2021 CPI, the only non-Protestant countries in the top ten are Singapore at number 4 (where there are more Buddhists than Christians), and Luxembourg at number 9 (which is predominantly Roman Catholic). As Mangalwadi explains: “The CPI confirms what I saw in Holland—that the Bible is the only force known to history that has freed entire nations from corruption while simultaneously giving them political freedom. The most secular nations—that is, the ex-communist, atheistic nations, which teach that when no man or machine is watching you, then no one is watching you—are among the most corrupt nations, not too different from Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim nations.” The CPI provides empirical evidence that the countries most influenced by the Bible in the past are the least corrupt. Friedrich Nietzsche Nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was a critic and opponent of Christianity. He saw that Christianity helped the weak and downtrodden to survive and thrive, and didn’t like it. In his view, the survival of wretched and downtrodden people weakens society. It would be better for them to perish so that only the fittest would survive, creating a society of strong, able-bodied people. As far as Nietzsche was concerned, Christianity had undermined the strength of the West. Interestingly, Nietzsche’s critique can actually be seen as a back-handed compliment to Christianity. As Mangalwadi points out, Nietzsche was essentially correct about the effect of the Bible on history: “It drove the movement for the abolition of slavery and promoted care for the weak, such as widows, orphans, the handicapped, and leprosy patients. From liberating and rehabilitating temple prostitutes to reforming prisons and bringing sanity and morality to wars, the biblical tradition has been the most powerful civilizing force.” Conclusion The Bible has done much to make the world a better place. Even people who reject it benefit from its effects. The Bible introduced a worldview that initiated technological development, the spread of education, and economic prosperity. Christian missionaries have done much to improve the lives of people in many countries of the world. And these are just some of the material benefits that resulted from the Bible. Even more importantly, it shows the only way of salvation through faith in Christ. There is nothing like the Bible....

Parenting

Fading to black: alternatives to screen-time

An upcoming issue of the magazine will feature 200 movie recommendations, and were anyone to watch even a fraction of these films, that'd be an awful lot of screen time. So, in the name of balance, let's make a plug for taking a screen sabbatical, going without our smartphone, TV, and computer for a day, a week, or even a month. We’re not talking about the time you have to spend on your laptop for work, or when you're using your phone to talk to your dear old mom. What we're talking about here is Tik Tok, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter time. Could you go without all that, for a week? It’d be difficult, but could you go screen-free? And If it’d be really difficult, might that be a sign that you should make the attempt? After all, we want to own our phone; we don’t want it to own us. Of course, going screen-free for a whole week (or a month, or a day) isn't about simply stopping the scrolling. Stopping will just leave you bored and antsy - you can't replace something with just doing nothing! No, if you're going to succeed then you’ll need to find other activities to fill the time. To that end, here’s a list of 25 alternatives to consider: grab a good book organize a ____ tournament (ping pong, horseshoes, croquet, etc.) listen to a podcast, audiobook, or the car radio go for coffee with a friend read through the Bible in month play a card or board game share a favorite book with your children find a hobby (car repair, woodworking, fishing, etc.) go for a walk and talk, chatting up all the neighbors you meet hold a _____ tasting party (wine, cheese, foreign cuisine, etc.) shoot hoops with your kids actually clean the garage phone your mom (it doesn’t count as screen time, even if you Skype her) knock off some of those home repairs have your kids help you with home repairs (even if takes twice as long) hit Costco as a family join a Bible study get an old-fashioned newspaper subscription take a night class hold a games night with neighbors serve a meal at a Rescue Mission go biking or rollerblading or bowling plant a garden hike up the nearest mountain organize a painting party (painting the fence, etc.) for a widow ...

Articles, Book Reviews

The RP 52 in 22 challenge

If you're a reader, there's a good chance you have a stack of books somewhere that you've really been meaning to get to. But, what with the busyness of life, that stack might well be growing as it is so hard to set aside the time. Wow then, can we get to the reading that we really want to do anyway? The answer, for a trio of competitive lads, was to get a challenge going. So a lawyer, a minister, and an editor all agreed that they would read 52 books by the end of 2022. This "52 in 22" challenge is a race of sorts, and to up the motivation, the three will keep a public running total of their progress, posting short reviews of each book here on this web page (with selections appearing in each issue of the print magazine). Finally, to add a mildly punitive element to it, each agreed, at year's end, to donate $20 for every book they didn't complete to a charity of their choice. Our hope is that the challenge might spur others on to read more great books, including, perhaps, some of the suggestions listed below. Follow it on MeWe, Facebook, Instagram, and Gab under the hashtag #RP52in22 The tally The lawyer – André Schutten: 16 The minister – Jim Witteveen: 13 The editor – Jon Dykstra: 19 Reviews MAY 12 Concerns with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) include the fact that the children created in these laboratory settings are routinely killed, some because they have (or seem to have) defects, and others because the parents simply no longer want them. Many are frozen, which comes with its own harms, but also leaves them in an indeterminate state, facing eventual death. But what if a couple was willing to adopt and rescue one of these babies? This involves the implantation of the fetus in the adoptive mother’s womb, giving the child a chance to be brought to term. But Christians aware of the death-dealing nature of the IVF industry might wonder if they should have anything to do with it. Justina Van Manen and Jonathon Van Maren have written Life Under Glass: the ethics of embryo adoption (2022, 80 pages) to ease these concerns, making it clear that it is completely different to get involved in a rescue than it is to make such a rescue necessary. These children already are, and while they should never have been frozen, it is most certainly an act of God-glorifying grace to adopt these tiny orphans. – Jon Dykstra MAY 11 Reverend Kornelis Sietsma pastored a Reformed church in Amsterdam before and during World War II. In 1942, he was arrested for preaching against the lust for power, and for supporting Jews with the collection, and praying for the Dutch royal family. He died a year later, aged 46, in the Dachau concentration camp. Before the war, he wrote a treatise on the idea of office. It has recently been republished in English as The Golden Key for Life and Leaders: The Idea of Office (2019, 123 pages). It is a short, readable, and understandable book that helps Christians think through office, calling, authority and responsibility. It will likely correct some misperceptions about the office-bearers in church, but also expand the readers' understanding of the idea and role of office as a calling from God that every believer has. Because we share in Christ's anointing as prophet, priest, and king (see Lord's Day 12), every believer holds the office of believer with the corresponding duties and authority to carry out that task. But there are also other special offices: in the home (office of parent), church (minister of Word, minister of mercy, minister of the rule of Christ), civil sphere (civil magistrates), and other spheres (teachers, employers, etc.). Submission is owed to every office instituted by God, unless the office-bearer acts outside of his office and authority or compels action or non-action that makes it impossible for other office-bearers to carry out their office and calling. I found this book helpful to think through the tensions within the church during the Covid era and highly recommend it for all deacons, elders, and pastors, as well as others who want to better this concept. – André Schutten MAY 10 You may never have heard of Ignaz Semmelweis, but his story is an important one for two reasons. First of all, it is largely due to Semmelweis's medical discoveries that the rates of death in childbirth (of both mothers and their newborn children) decreased substantially in 19th-century Europe. Secondly, the story of his life, work, and death is a cautionary tale in an age in which we are constantly being warned against accepting the findings of scientists who challenge the "scientific consensus." Semmelweis was a Hungarian obstetrician whose best-known work was done in Vienna, Austria in the first half of the 19th century. At that time, a disease called puerperal fever, or "childbed fever" led to the deaths of up to 10% of new mothers who gave birth in institutional settings. The medical establishment had developed many theories about the causes of such a high mortality rate, but it was Ignaz Semmelweis who finally solved this mystery. After several years of study, he concluded that puerperal fever was being spread by the doctors themselves, as they went from dissecting cadavers in the morgue to assisting in childbirth, often without any concern for their personal cleanliness. Semmelweis argued that doctors should make every effort to ensure that both they and the environment in which the deliveries took place, should be disinfected to stop the spread of a disease that had proven to be so destructive for so many years. It may seem like common sense to us today, but at the time Semmelweis's conclusions were a novelty that ran counter to long-standing and widely-accepted theories. Thus Semmelweis's contemporaries were very difficult to convince, and his theory was rejected out of hand by the majority of his colleagues. The "scientific consensus" was wrong, and Semmelweis ended his life in a mental hospital, never having experienced the widespread acceptance of his findings. In Genius Belabored: Childbed Fever and the Tragic Life of Ignaz Semmelweis (2016, 249 pages), Theodore Obenchain tells the story of the life, work, and death of Ignaz Semmelweis. His well-researched and engaging account is at the same time fascinating and frustrating, reminding us how important a knowledge of history is to our understanding and interpretation of current events. – Jim Witteveen MAY 7 I love the first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism ("What is the chief end of Man? ...to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever") but didn't know anything about the assembly that crafted it, the Larger Catechism, and the Westminster Confession of Faith. I have a Dutch Reformed heritage, whereas these were birthed by the English Reformation. That's why I was happy to discover that United Reformed pastor William Boekestein had teamed up with Heritage Reformed professor Joel R. Beeke to give us Contending for the Faith: the story of the Westminster Assembly (2022, 40 pages). It's for kids, but a great presentation for adults who want to know a little, but aren't interesting in diving all that deep. This Assembly is worth at least a dip, to get an understanding of all God wrought in the lives of kings and queens, and pastors and persecutors that resulted in these documents. The book is really well done, with wonderful pictures and clear text, but it isn't the sort that kids are going to pick up on their own. This would be best as a homeschool or institutional Christian school resource. Boekestein has also done three books, all very good, on the confessions which make up the Three Forms of Unity: The Quest for Comfort: the story of the Heidelberg Cathechism (2011, 40 pages), The Glory of Grace: the story of the Canons of Dort (2012, 40 pages), and Faithfulness under Fire: the story of Guido de Bres (2010, 40 pages), who authored the Belgic Confession. All are recommended! – Jon Dykstra MAY 2 There are a number of psalms that have been the subject of controversy in the Christian church for many years. These are the "imprecatory psalms" in which the psalmist expresses a strong desire that God's vengeance be unleashed against those who persist in doing evil. The question arises again and again: can we as Christians make words like those found in Psalm 137:9 our own in our prayers and in our worship? Can we say, "Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock," or is this sentiment unworthy of a New Covenant believer? In his book Crying For Justice: What the Psalms Teach Us About Mercy and Vengeance in an Age of Terrorism (2005, 199 pages), John N. Day argues that the imprecatory psalms must continue to be used by Christians today, and he explains why people like C.S. Lewis (who believed that the imprecatory psalms are "sub-Christian" expressions of a sinful desire for revenge) are wrong in rejecting them. Day deals with apparent contradictions between the Old and New Testament, examines several of what he calls "unsatisfactory solutions" to the problem, provides detailed analysis of three of the harshest imprecatory psalms (Psalms 58, 109, and 137), and concludes with a sample sermon on Psalm 83. Day's conclusion is that these controversial psalms, which can seem to be so problematic in our 21st Century Western cultural context, must continue to form an integral part of Christian worship. I highly recommend this book, especially for anyone who has struggled with the idea that these psalms should be prayed and sung by Christians today. – Jim Witteveen APRIL 29 Children of the Reformation that we are, we understand our will is in bondage to sin. But that presents a conundrum of sorts, because if we can't help but sin, then how can we be held responsible by God for our sin? C.S. Lewis once noted that the act of turning to God wasn't something he chose to do, but that he was instead, the most reluctant of converts. So, again, if only God can enable us to choose for Him, how can we be held responsible for acting against Him? Calvinists answer this by humbly holding onto two seemingly conflicting ideas: we are responsible for our sin, and yet God is sovereign over all. How can both be true? Well, as Dr. Bredenhof has put it, human beings are always "free to do what is according to their nature," though as an unregenerate creature, that will always involve sin. In his book Free Will (2012, 82 pages), atheist, materialist Sam Harris attempts to offer a different sort of resolution. His is a godless answer, of course, and so the dilemma for him is a godless one as well: he wonders how mere chemicals in motion that we are (according to his evolutionary worldview) could have any responsibility for our actions. We are, he argues, merely the sum of our inputs, no more responsible for our output than a computer would be. He wants us to acknowledge our lack of free will so that we'll be kinder to murderers who, meat robots that they are, shouldn't be held responsible for their "bad programming." But if they shouldn't be held responsible for their actions, then why is Harris holding us responsible for our actions towards them? Whether we torture or tickle them, no condemnation would be possible, since no one bears responsibility for any actions...ever. Harris ably demonstrates that his materialist worldview doesn't allow for responsibility, so when he argues we have a responsibility to treat criminals better, he proves a different point: that materialism falls short. – Jon Dykstra APRIL 20 Over the past several years we have been hearing more and more about Klaus Schwab and his World Economic Forum (WEF). For those of us who are very concerned about his brand of globalism and the influence that the WEF is exerting throughout the world, what we've been hearing has not been reassuring. But in order to truly understand where people like Klaus Schwab really stand, it is always preferable to go to the source itself rather than relying on second-hand information and the interpretations of third parties. In 2019, Schwab and his co-author Thierry Malleret published Covid-19: The Great Reset. The Great Narrative: For a Better Future (2022, 253 pages) builds on the foundation of that previous work, and is the fruit of a series of interviews with "fifty of the world's foremost global thinkers and opinion makers." The Great Narrative, as its title suggests, presents the WEF's understanding of the state of the world, the problems that must be addressed, and the goals which the nations of the world should be working to achieve. "Narratives," Schwab (or Malleret) writes, "shape our perceptions, which in turn form our realities and end up influencing our choices and actions. They are how we find meaning in life." In a brief review it isn't possible to delve into the many aspects of the narrative that Schwab and his compatriots are promoting. But the very definition of "narrative" that they provide already says a great deal about what they are attempting to accomplish in this work. Our perceptions are shaped by narratives, the stories we use to explain our worldview. And, Schwab says, it is our perceptions which form our realities. In other words, it's all a matter of interpretation. Reality, given this definition, cannot be something absolute, unchanging, and definable. It is something that we create, not an objective state of affairs to which we must adapt ourselves. We are shapers of reality, and it is the narrative that we hold to that shapes how we live. Despite Schwab's mistaken notion about the nature of reality, he is correct in understanding the importance of the "grand narratives" that form our worldviews, and the way in which our actions find their source in our worldviews. He understands that narrative is vitally important, and thus he attempts to create a narrative that will lead people to accept his prescriptions for the government of international society and the lives of individuals. Throughout this book, whether speaking about pandemics or climate change or geopolitical issues or the place of technology in society, Schwab often makes assertions that are not backed up by evidence, but are clearly meant to shape people's thinking according to the "accepted wisdom" of this prevailing narrative. The book demands careful reading because the serious errors that Schwab commits are sometimes subtle, but have serious repercussions, especially because they have been echoed by so many on the world stage. The WEF may not have legislative power, but its "great narrative" has become the prevailing narrative, and expressions of dissent are being marginalized and even silenced in many corners. The Great Narrative attacks the true narrative, the Word of God, the only place that the true meaning of life and true wisdom can be found. In so doing, it constructs a worldview that could only lead to disastrous results if put into practice. For this reason, while there's no way I could recommend this book as a fount of legitimate wisdom, I believe that we need to familiarize ourselves with works of this type because of the influence that they have in shaping the attitudes and actions of many influential figures on the world stage. – Jim Witteveen APRIL 19 On July 29, 1994, Paul J. Hill, at one time an OPC pastor, shot an abortionist, his wife, and their bodyguard. The abortionist and the bodyguard both died. Hill had been arguing for years that such action was biblical, and had been excommunicated for making his arguments publicly. In Lone Gunners for Jesus: Letters to Paul J. Hill (1994, 47 pages), written after the shooting, Gary North responded to Hill, explaining how his actions weren't biblical or effective because: Hill was never called to be judge and jury and God doesn't endorse vigilante justice, Hill's acts only moved the public in a pro-choice direction costing more unborn lives, and while we are called to a public witness against the slaughter of the unborn, non-violent resistance - being beaten rather than being the beater - is the better witness. This slim volume is an important book to calm Christian whose love for the unborn is in danger of being misdirected, but it is also a good read for those who, whether in ignorance or a lack of compassion, don't stand up for the unborn at all. Download the e-book for free. – Jon Dykstra APRIL 18 The brilliant economist Thomas Sowell's Wealth, Poverty, and Politics: An International Perspective (2015, 320 pages - a newer and expanded version is available too), is an excellent, well researched, readable book that makes understandable the politics surrounding issues of social justice, poverty and wealth disparity. Sowell (pronounced "soul"), grew up in Harlem, New York in a very poor, black neighborhood and thus is not writing as an elitist out of touch with the reality on the streets. Yet he pushes back against the dominant narratives about race, oppression, social justice, the welfare state, and more in this book, relying on careful research of the empirical data to show that income inequality is determined by the production of wealth, and not the distribution of wealth. Furthermore, he shows just how complex the factors are that bear on wealth production, including geography, demographics, and culture. His use of historic and global examples make the book a fascinating read and he demonstrates just how much the civil government in the modern west is actually exacerbating the problems for disadvantaged groups. I recommend the book for college/university age and up, to anyone interested in politics, social justice themes, and/or economics. – André Schutten APRIL 13 C.S. Lewis’s The Pilgrim’s Regress (1933/2020, 255 pages) is an enjoyable allegory that loosely traces Lewis’ own path to conversion (though he insists in an afterword that it is not autobiographical). It tells the story of John, who is seeking an island he saw and is intensely longing to reach. In trying to reach the island, John has many adventures and runs into people like Mr. Enlightenment (their conversation made me chuckle), Mr. Mammon, Mother Kirk, and others. Most of the allegorical elements are easy enough to pick up on, with the result that Lewis packs an incredible philosophical and theological course into a thoroughly entertaining adventure. Even so, I probably missed some allegorical references. Perhaps I’ll read the annotated version soon? Highly recommended! – André Schutten APRIL 12 I read A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God, (1948/2020, 98 pages) in a single sitting on a Saturday afternoon. What an afternoon! It is short, sweet, and an incredibly powerful call to put aside comfortable Christianity and put God first, to pursue God with every part of you, to know God as He desires to be known. It challenged me and made me squirm at times. Yet, as each chapter ends with a prayer, it called me to lay it all before the throne. While Tozer does not come from a Reformed tradition, there was nothing in this book that caused me any concerns. On the contrary, I felt the book was an excellent wake-up call to the 21st-century, North American church. This book would be great to read aloud as a small group and pray over. – André Schutten APRIL 11 Conn Iggulden is my favorite historical fiction writer. I’ve read three four-book series by him already and am starting a fourth one. The first book of the series is called The Gates of Athens, (2021, 464 pages) and tells of the battle of Marathon (where 10,000 vastly outnumbered Athenian hoplites push off the invasion of Darius’ Persian army) and of the battle of Thermopylae (the famous 300 Spartans who hold the pass against the 300,000 Persians for three days, and the less famous but equally crucial naval battle occurring at the same time). Iggulden also paints a picture of the political dance between Themistocles, Xanthippus, and other statesmen of Athens. This book was a page-turner and difficult to put down. An added benefit is that I refreshed my ancient history lessons. A fun fact not mentioned in the book: it’s very likely that the Persian king Xerxes who led the invasion of Greece and saw the 300 Spartans was the same King who later married the Jewish Queen Esther. If so, on reading this book you will get a better appreciation of just how perilous it was for Queen Esther to approach this king with her requests. – André Schutten APRIL 8 John Taylor Gatto won multiple top teaching awards during his stint as a public teacher. But in Dumbing us Down (1992, 120 pages) he makes his case for blowing the whole system up. The book's small size is what makes him worth hearing, but this was not quite what I was expecting. Gatto features prominently in Indoctrination, a fantastic documentary on public school education, by Reformed filmmaker Colin Gunn. I thought Gatto might be Christian too, and while he identifies as Catholic, this is primarily a secular and libertarian case against institutionalized schooling (the author even seems to have some knowledge of, and dislike for, Calvinism). Public schools are a problem, he argues, for doing just what they were designed to do: create a compliant and dependent citizenry. His solution? More parental direction in their children's education, blowing up the government monopoly on education, and having students do less school overall, to create more room for them to explore their own interests. I appreciated much of what he said, but found this only a good, not a great read. – Jon Dykstra APRIL 4 Though very short (some might call it a mere pamphlet) Of AntiChrist and His Ruin (1692, 2015, 68 pages) by John Bunyan (author of the enduringly popular The Pilgrim's Progress) was a challenging read that took time to understand and digest. Bunyan describes the anti-Christ as being those forces that arise throughout history against Christ and his church and are sometimes found cloaked as Christian or as good government. The language is still in the style of 1692 which was an impediment to my reading speed. More than that, Bunyan's concept of who (or what) is the antiChrist was also challenging to me; I hadn't heard his perspective before. Something that stands out in this piece is the sheer number of scriptural references Bunyan uses throughout to make his argument. A free version of the book is available here in PDF format. – André Schutten APRIL 2 Richard Mouw's Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World, 2nd edition, (2010, 187 pages) is a timely book for a church frayed after a controversial few years, and facing an increasingly hostile culture. As the title suggests, Mouw urges his Christian audience to do all we can to remain civil in all discourse, without giving up our convictions. Mouw pushes me further than I'm comfortable going, and he's probably right in doing so. That said, I do note that I strongly disagree with one anecdote in his book where he describes an abortion for a 15-year-old rape victim as "the least evil alternative" (p.52) contrary to the clear teaching in Scripture that a child should not be put to death for the sins of her father (Deut. 24:16). While Mouw's point here is to emphasize having sympathy for such a horrific and tragic situation (which I absolutely agree with), our sympathy should not be blind to what abortion actually does to its first victim. With that exception, I found the book to be a pleasant read and gave me much to think about in how I dialogue about issues I am passionate about. – André Schutten APRIL 1 Christians regularly forget that Jesus is Lord of every square inch of creation, but in her slim volume, A brief theology of periods (yes, really) (2021, 128 pages) Rachel Jones clearly gets it. She is speaking to women but shares information about periods and menstruation that will be helpful for men, and especially husbands. She touches on hormonal contraceptives and the trend to call women "people who menstruate" but the majority of the book is specifically on God's thoughts on periods, including what it says in Leviticus about a women's "uncleanliness," and how we are to take this passage today. Jones asks lots of good questions, even if she isn't able to answer all of them (Did Eve have periods in the Garden of Eden?), and is an orthodox guide on this seldom discussed area of women's life. – Jon Dykstra MARCH 29 During the presidency of Donald Trump, there was a lot of talk about the dangers of the “Deep State.” We all remember the chants of “Drain the swamp!” and promises of a grand house-cleaning that would soon take place in the U.S. government - a house-cleaning that never seemed to become a reality. Wikipedia refers to the idea that a “Deep State” exists as a “discredited conspiracy theory,” but Michael J. Glennon’s National Security and Double Government (2015, 234 pages) provides plenty of evidence for its existence, and the danger it poses to the American republic. Published in 2015 by Oxford University Press (note: before Trump, and by a reputable academic publisher), his book seeks to answer a question which is indicative of a much broader trend: Why was it that Barack Obama’s foreign policy not only did not differ from that of George W. Bush, his presidential predecessor, but actually doubled down on a number of the policies implemented under Bush’s leadership, including a sixfold increase in the number of covert drone strikes in Pakistan? Beginning with this specific question, Glennon seeks to explain why American national security policy remains constant even when one President was replaced by another, who as a candidate repeatedly, forcefully, and eloquently promised fundamental changes in that policy. His answer follows the approach of 19th Century British essayist Walter Bagehot, who described the British political system in the Victorian era as a “double government.” In the US, this double government is made up of two distinct groups, referred to by Glennon as the Madisonians (public political figures who fill positions in Congress, the Senate, and the Presidency) and the Trumanites (those who work behind the scenes in governmental organizations largely established during the presidency of Harry S Truman). It is the Trumanites who make the vast majority of the decisions when it comes to foreign policy, Glennon argues, and the Madisonians who must follow. Therefore, in the arena of foreign policy, it actually makes very little difference which political party or individual wields the apparent power; it is the hidden half of the double government which is pulling the strings. Glennon’s analysis is clear, well-written, and heavily supported by documentary evidence (the page count is inflated by over 100 pages of notes). His explanation of a phenomenon that many do not understand or cannot explain is eye-opening, as well as cause for deep concern. For anyone interested in learning why the “swamp” remains undrained until this very day, this book is required reading. – Jim Witteveen MARCH 22 I’m sure I’m not the first reviewer to describe Glenn McCarty’s The Misadventured Summer of Tumbleweed Thompson (2019, 327 pages) as Mark Twain-esque. This is a tale of two very different boys, living out frontier life in 1876, and equally matched as both friends and rivals. Tumbleweed Thompson is a shyster and the son of a shyster, blowing into Rattlesnake Junction as father and son peddle miracle medicine from the back of their wagon. Eugene Appleton, a good son of the town’s pastor, is in the audience, watching as the peddlers are shown up and run out. But when Tumbleweed reappears on his ownsome, he pulls Eugene into a whole summer’s worth of getting chased by smugglers, trailing train robbers, and trying to outdo each other for the attentions of the mayor’s daughter, Charlotte Scoggins, a misadventurous lass herself. It’s evident the author is Christian, though that might not be apparent to the 10–14-year-old audience this is intended for because, even as Eugene means well, he doesn’t always act well (and Tumbleweed often enough doesn’t even mean well). That mostly gets sorted out at the end, when both boys do the very best thing, acting in defense of a widow and a man falsely accused. Loads of fun! - Jon Dykstra MARCH 16 Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was the Richard Dawkins of his time – one of the most prominent academic atheists of the twentieth century. Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou's Logicomix: an Epic Search for Truth (2009, 350 pages) is a graphic novel that serves as a biography of the man, as well as an account of his, and others', ultimately futile quest to use mathematics to arrive at certainty. As a child Russell was raised by his grandparents. He was made to read the Bible, but his grandfather died early on, and his grandmother didn't seem to show him love. Then, when a tutor explained the logic and power of math, he came to reject the religion of his grandmother, seeing in math a way to live life without the need for any faith. In math, he thought, he could have certainty. But math itself is built on axioms - assumptions, that, while logical and even obvious, are unproven. So it became Russell's life's quest to prove these axioms - he wanted to give math a firm foundation. But as an old man he discovered that the quest for certainty that he had given his life to – that he had rejected God for – was unattainable. It was in 1931 that a young mathematician, Kurt Gödel proved, to the satisfaction of other mathematicians, that not everything can be proven. Logicomix is an entirely secular presentation, marred by at least one instance of God's name being taken in vain, and written at a level that would limit it to adults. But you don't need to understand all the math being discussed (I certainly didn't) to appreciate the moral of Russell's life's story: like many a rebel, he claimed his rejection of God was grounded in something valid, but we can see that even as Russell rejected God for requiring faith, he wasn't willing to reject math for the same "fault." – Jon Dykstra MARCH 15 Both my 10-year-old daughter and I enjoyed Jason Lethcoe’s No Place Like Holmes (2011, 210 pages), a steampunk detective story set in the London of the late 1800s. Our hero is Gilbert, an American boy of an unusually observant nature. Gilbert, we are told, will one day become “the world’s most secret detective.” But for now, he has been sent to live with his detective uncle, Rupert Snodgrass, just one story down from “the world’s most famous detective” Sherlock Holmes. Gilbert’s uncle is quite jealous of Holmes’ notoriety, as he too is a detective, though much less successful, and eschewing intuition in favor of detecting machines, which he himself invents. What sort of machines? All sorts: a robot butler, a metal detector, and a question-answerer that is hooked up to telegraphs lines from around the world – it’s basically a steam-powered computer with Internet. It’s wonderfully silly. The story is also wonderfully Christian: Gilbert’s love for his Lord is woven in throughout. So, for example, his uncle is not a church-goer, and quite obnoxious at the start, leaving Gilbert feeling lonely. But he knows he can ask his heavenly Father for courage. While this is a standalone story, it does have a cliffhanger lead-in for the sequel, The Future Door (2011, 210 pages), which I wouldn’t recommend. It’s a time travel adventure that ends on a sour note when an older Gilbert from the future kills the bad guy, and not in self-defense. Older Gilbert says that he used his time travel machine to explore every other option and all of them ended worse. But this is where the author failed to understand that even granting his character a form of omniscience doesn’t justify disobeying God’s clear command “Thou shall not kill.” If the author didn’t understand that, it’s very likely to go over the head of children readers too, which is a reason to give the sequel a miss. – Jon Dykstra MARCH 14 I read Wilson Rawls' novel Where the Red Fern Grows (1961/2016, 289 pages) to my eight-year-old son over the course of three weeks, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. It tells the story of a very poor boy who is determined to get a pair of coon-hunting hounds, how he achieves his goal, and the adventures he has with his dogs. While I did employ some careful censorship of the gorier details of coon hunting (for the sake of my son's maturity level), I nevertheless highly recommend the book, especially for dads to read to their eight to twelve-year-old boys. It is helpful for teaching the ethic of hard work and persistence, and the lesson that life isn’t always about happy endings, and yet being thankful for the wonderful things we have for the seasons God gives them to us. I found the references to God, Scripture, and prayer always respectful even if the theology is slightly off. Warning: If you're the emotional type, you might start crying through the second-last chapter. I had to pause a couple times to wipe away tears and swallow a persistent lump in my throat. That too, is a teaching moment. – André Schutten MARCH 9 I picked this novel up mostly because it shared a title with a non-fiction book André Schutten read earlier this year. It helped, also, that I’d read another by the author and loved it. Rule of Law (2017, 473 pages) is a legal thriller, and this time the action also includes a SEAL team storming an Arabic jail to free an imprisoned American journalist. When that mission takes a tragic turn, the fallout ends up in front of the Supreme Court. Author Randy Singer uses his fictional story to examine the real-world way in which the US government, and particularly the executive branch, has been acting as judge, jury, and executioner in placing foreign nationals on a “kill list,” and then taking them out, and those near them, via drone strikes. Singer doesn’t seem to be arguing against all drone strikes. But the title he has chosen certainly references the idea that we all need and benefit from accountability, so we all – including even the president – need to be under the law. Our leaders must not act like they are above it, as dictators do. This is well written, with a great balance of action, some romance, unexpected courtroom twists, and some realistic, subtly woven in, wrestlings with God. Singer is rapidly becoming a favorite author. – Jon Dykstra MARCH 3 When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World (1956, 249 pages) is the story of Dorothy Martin and her small group of followers, and how their lives were impacted when her apocalyptic prophecy failed to come true. Martin believed that she had received messages from aliens revealing that a devastating natural disaster would destroy much of the world on December 21st, 1954. Through the process of automatic writing, in which the writer serves as a conduit for messengers from “beyond,” Martin had been informed that she and her group of true believers would be rescued from the cataclysm by spaceships which would deliver them to safety on another planet. Leon Festinger, Henry W. Riecken, and Stanley Schachter, the authors of When Prophecy Fails, had been studying the historical results of failed prophecy when they read a newspaper story about Martin and her followers. Recognizing this as an opportunity to test their theories personally in a real-life situation, they inserted themselves into the group of “Seekers,” and chronicled events immediately leading up to December 21st as well as the disappointing aftermath of the failed prophecy. This is a very sad story from beginning to end, and the authors’ account often reads like a tragic novel and not as a sociological study. Martin herself believed fervently that she had been chosen to serve as a messenger of truth, and her followers were looking for hope and purpose in their lives. They were willing to grab hold of anything, no matter how ludicrous and self-contradictory, because they desperately wanted to believe. And when the forecast disaster failed to happen, the true believers didn’t abandon their trust in Martin and her message; instead, they searched for explanations that fit into their already-developed worldview, explained the failure away, and continued along the same path. In a world in which forecasts of impending doom, both scientific and religious, are commonplace, When Prophecy Fails helps us to understand why failed prophecies often lead to beliefs being held more strongly rather than abandoned completely. – Jim Witteveen One of the most accomplished judges in English history, Lord Tom Bingham, wrote this short but helpful book The Rule of Law (2010/2011, 213 pages). Lord Bingham explains that the book "is not addressed to lawyers… It is addressed to those who have heard references to the rule of law, who are inclined to think that it sounds like a good thing rather than a bad thing, who wonder if it may not be rather important, but who are not quite sure what it is all about and would like to make up their minds." The book opens with some interesting legal history, outlines eight aspects of the rule of law (the chapter on human rights is particularly good), before closing with some modern application to the war on terror. Some post-COVID readers may be happy to apply the warnings of this book to violations of the rule of law over the last two years but may also be appropriately challenged to rethink their position on certain government actions during the “war on terror.” An accessible read, I highly recommend this book for all lawyers, politicians, government workers, and any citizen who has used the term "rule of law" recently but is not 100% sure they know what the term really means. – André Schutten MARCH 2 Richard Pollak's The Creation of Dr. B: A Biography of Bruno Bettelheim (1997, 456 pages) is the story of a man with an invented past and fictional credentials, who wrote fabricated stories about the amazing successes of the Chicago school for mentally ill children that he took over in 1944. Along the way, he published several popular books on parenting and other subjects, worked as a university professor and magazine columnist, and influenced a generation of parents in his role as “public intellectual.” This book is a well-written and fascinating account of one man’s life, and makes for captivating reading on that basis alone. But on a deeper level, the story of “Dr. B.” reveals a great deal about how one person can fool even the “best and brightest” when he tells them what they want to hear. Bruno Bettelheim was not the only intellectual fraud who was active in 20th Century academia, so the example of his life and work, and the way in which he managed to become an important figure in the academic world, functions as a cautionary tale. Even among the “experts” of the world, things are not always as they seem. – Jim Witteveen FEBRUARY 22 I’ve recently been reading a few children’s versions of Pilgrim’s Progress. I’m not normally one for abridgments, but John Bunyan’s classic is also almost 350 years old, so the original wasn’t going to work with my daughters. I checked out the three most popular children’s editions and was pleasantly surprised with them all. The most loyal to the original was Dangerous Journey (1985, 127 pages). Editor Oliver Hunkin has carefully abridged, rather than rewritten Bunyan’s story, and done so in a way that makes it easily understandable for the teen audience it is aimed at. He’s edited out the obscure terms, and paired it with pictures that do a lot of explaining, but which are scarier and darker than my preteen listeners would have been up for. Hunkin also includes a much-abridged 16-page version of Bunyan’s sequel, about the pilgrim’s wife Christiana going on her own journey. For younger children, the most authentic version is Tyler Van Halteren’s Little Pilgrim’s Big Journey (2020, 223 pages). It has somewhat cartoonish pictures they’ll enjoy, and the principal character, Christian, is now a boy, rather than a man. I appreciated that Van Halteren’s rewrite still contains most of Bunyan’s theological challenges and lessons, though on a kid’s level. He’s also written a second book, Part II, that covers Christiana’s journey, though now instead of being the pilgrim’s wife, she is his little sister. The one I read to my children is Helen L. Taylor’s adaptation, Little Pilgrim’s Progress (1946, 336 pages). This text was the most readable of the three (Halteren’s version is very close) and also includes Christiania’s journey, though she is now Christian’s friend. A little of the theological heft was lost, but I think that’s okay, so long as kids understand that they should really check out the original when they’re older. There are many versions of Taylor’s adaptation, some with lavish pictures and others with only simple line drawings. – Jon Dykstra FEBRUARY 21 If the news has you feeling antsy, then you might be interested in a book that calmed and encouraged me. To celebrate 50 years of Canadian Reformed involvement in the mission work in Brazil, editor Harold Ludwig and the Aldergrove Brazil Mission Society, have given us God Gave the Growth (2021, 144 pages). Dozens of contributors, including past and present missionaries and all sorts of workers, take turns sharing how God greatly blessed their work. There are challenges – a different language and culture creates barriers that have to be overcome – but maybe the greatest challenge is one we pray we could experience in Canada too: such a hunger for the Reformed truth that there are more opportunities to preach and teach than can be met. As one missionary shares: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:37-38). I really loved that there were so many contributors, as they gave very different glimpses at what God has been up to. This, then, is a book that’ll give you a boost – our God reigns and He is busy! Purchase the sturdy oversized hardcover for $30 CAN plus shipping at MissionBoardBrazil.org. – Jon Dykstra FEBRUARY 18 Christians are right to be skeptical of an environmental movement that sees Man as a problem for the planet, rather than the steward of it. But, as Gordon Wilson explains in his A Different Shade of Green (2019, 189 pages), Christians can’t simply be contrarians – we won’t arrive at the biblical position simply by being reactionary and anti-Green. Instead, our foundation has to be God’s Word, starting with the dominion mandate in Genesis 1:28, and then God’s own evaluation of His creation as is expressed a few verses later: “and it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). We are to value His Creation and the creatures in it because He values it, and we are to take charge of its care because He has made us responsible for it. What Dr. Wilson has gifted us with here is a challenging and engaging Biblical Environmentalism 101 – he hasn't worked it all out for us, but he is pointing us in the right direction. For more of Wilson's creation care thoughts, be sure to check out his nature documentary series, The Riot and The Dance. – Jon Dykstra FEBRUARY 17 There are lots of layers in Randy Singer’s courtroom drama Directed Verdict (2002, 486 pages). When the Saudi religious police uncover a secret church, Charles, the American pastor, is tortured and killed, and his wife Sarah is beaten and deported on trumped-up drug charges. From there the action takes place both in an American court where lawyer Brad Carson helps Sarah bring suit against her torturer, and in Saudi Arabia, where the small church struggles to continue, their members fearful and shaken. The large law firm defending the torturer is willing to cheat, so what might their murderous client be willing to do? Sarah Reed’s team is growing to admire her courage but none of them share her Christian scruples, so what might they be willing to do behind her back to help her get justice? This was a quick read, and sure has me interested in what else Singer has written. – Jon Dykstra FEBRUARY 16 Written as a critique of Leo Tolstoy's pacifist ideology, Ivan Alexandrovich Ilyin's On Resistance to Evil by Force (1925, 216 pages) provides a passionate and often insightful defense of the legitimacy of physical opposition to evil. Ilyin writes from a distinctly Russian Orthodox perspective which informs his conclusions (and leads to some of its shortcomings). From this perspective, he critiques not only the pacifism of Tolstoy and the ethics of the Roman Catholic Jesuits, but also what he calls "the most naive and elementary attempts to give the sword an absolute justification" of Martin Luther. While Luther wrote that the legitimate use of "the sword" in service to secular governments is a work done on behalf of God Himself, and that it, therefore, is absolutely righteous, Ilyin argues that the use of force in countering evil is actually an unrighteous act, but an act that must be performed by righteous men. We need, he writes, both the warrior and the monk - the warrior to do the necessary work of combating evil, and the monk to do the work of absolving the warrior of that evil. This is where Ilyin's argument goes off the rails, and does not align with Scriptural teaching. However, along the way, Ilyin argues powerfully and logically against Christian pacifism and quietism as ideologies which run counter to Biblical teaching. He makes a cogent case for the necessity of standing up against evil in this world, to the point of physical resistance, on the basis of love for God, for our neighbor, and for righteousness itself. This book was written in Russian in 1925, and is neither an easy read nor a book which I would endorse without reservation. That being said, Ilyin's overarching message is very relevant for our current situation, and provides much food for thought as we consider how and why Christians should actively combat evil in this world. – Jim Witteveen FEBRUARY 15 According to its afterword, “few books have been so widely debated, quoted, excerpted, and also used for teacher education, graduate and undergraduate courses, and in some high schools” as Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970, 219 pages). There is no denying the influence that Paulo Freire’s educational philosophy has had, not just in his native Brazil, but around the world. And as I read this book, Freire’s best-known work, my only conclusion is that this influence has been resoundingly negative. Replete with citations of such luminaries as Lenin, Mao, Che Guevara, and Fidel Castro, Pedagogy of the Oppressed proudly proclaims its Marxist basis, building a system of education on a very flimsy foundation indeed. I have little good to say about this book, although I believe that Freire’s characterization of government educational systems as tools of the elite used to control and form society according to its desires is entirely accurate. His “solutions,” however, are disastrous - as the results have continued to show. While I wouldn’t recommend this book as a handbook of pedagogy, I do recommend it particularly for anyone involved in education who would like to learn more about why public and higher education has become what it is today. – Jim Witteveen FEBRUARY 9 Anne Hendershott is a rare bird - a sociologist who believes that the concept of "deviance" must be reaffirmed in order to avoid a complete societal collapse. The classification of some behaviors as "deviant" was once understood by sociologists as the means by which societies defined what is right and good, maintaining good order and harmony by stigmatizing deviant behavior. Since the 1960s, the sociological study of deviance has become a historical study only, as sociologists question why "deviance" was ever an important concept in the first place. This doesn't mean that there is no longer any such thing as behavior that is considered "deviant." But it does mean that what is now considered deviant behavior is often the exact opposite of what previous generations believed. In The Politics of Deviance (2002, 194 pages), Hendershott examines the subject of deviance by discussing the issues of pedophilia, sexual orientation, sexual promiscuity, drug abuse, mental illness, and rape. Throughout, she demonstrates how the academic and media elite have "shaped discussion and dramatically influenced public perceptions." What is needed, Hendershoot argues, is a return to the traditional categories of deviance. And this, she says, requires a moral awakening, and not merely a change of laws. Her concluding words are worth quoting: "A society that continues to redefine deviance as disease, or refuses to acknowledge and negatively sanction the deviant acts our common sense tells us are destructive, is a society that has lost the capacity to confront evil that has a capacity to dehumanize us all." While this book is now twenty years old and therefore somewhat dated, the trends that Hendershott examined in 2002 have only continued, and indeed worsened. This study remains relevant as our society continues to overturn traditional categories of deviance, and as deviance is redefined as a result of emotional appeals of advocacy groups, public intellectuals, and in the halls of academia. – Jim Witteveen Beloved philosopher Peter Kreeft’s Beyond Heaven and Hell (1982, 115 pages) is a short book patterned after a Socratic dialogue. (Kreeft has written a few of these entertaining and illuminating dialogues, a particular favorite of mine being The Unaborted Socrates). In Beyond Heaven & Hell, Kreeft imagines a conversation between President J.F. Kennedy, writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley, and professor and Christian theologian C.S. Lewis, in some space immediately after their death (all three died on the same day, November 22, 1963). C.S. Lewis takes on the modern humanist in Kennedy and the Eastern pantheist in Huxley while discussing and debating the existence of hell, the place of authority, and Scripture as trustworthy, the reality of Jesus Christ and his divinity, and more. I highly recommend the book. It can be read in a single sitting on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday evening. It might be fun to read it aloud with two others, each taking a voice of the three characters. – André Schutten FEBRUARY 8 Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932) and Brave New World Revisited (1958) (combined edition, 2005, 340 pages) are modern classics. The former is a dystopian novel, predicting future tyranny not through violence, pain, and terror but through pleasure and technological and medical planning and psychological conditioning. The latter is a nonfiction piece in which Huxley compares modern human relations in 1958 with what he prophesied in 1932. While Huxley was not a Christian (he blended certain Christian ideas with Eastern mysticism and pantheism), some of his criticisms – though certainly not all – are spot on. Huxley's prophesy of control through pleasure – evaluated in the 21st century – is more accurate than his student George Orwell's prophesy of societal control through pain and terror in Nineteen Eighty-Four (published in 1949). The ethical/political issues surrounding IVF and surrogacy, the redefinition of the family to include up to four parents, none of whom need to be biologically related to the child (see Ontario's All Families Are Equal Act, 2016), the ubiquitous nature of pornography, the dramatic shift of divorcing procreation from sex, the state-control of vast swaths of the education system, and society's desire to prefer safety and comfort over freedom and responsibility, all suggest that Huxley was the more prescient philosopher. The book is unsettling to read but I nonetheless recommend it, not only to better understand the many cultural references to it, but also to prick your imagination to better critique the state of our society today. – André Schutten FEBRUARY 7 If you have ever struggled with concentration when needing to focus on a challenging project (writing an article or sermon, reading and understanding an intellectual problem, studying for an exam, preparing arguments for court, etc.) then Cal Newport’s Deep Work (2016, 296 pages) is a must-read. This was the second time I’d read this book in less than two years. It confirms with scientific and anecdotal evidence what I’ve grown to know for myself over the last 10 years: a person needs to have lots of dedicated, focussed time in order to do deep work. Newport defines deep work as: “work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from distraction” and argues it is essential to develop two core abilities: 1. the ability to quickly master hard things/ideas; and 2. the ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed. Without systems and strategies in place, deep work becomes nearly impossible, making productivity, innovation and output stagnate. This book provides those strategies. I highly recommend Deep Work to any ministers, lawyers, academics, writers, and researchers who want to improve their focus and output with the caveat that this book is not written from a Christian perspective. Implement the strategies, without losing gospel focus in your life. (I hope to read What's Best Next later this year, which is also a book about productivity, but from a Christian perspective.) – André Schutten FEBRUARY 2 There are miracles all around us, but the rising sun, our pumping hearts, and babies’ wriggling toes do their things with such regularity as to seem ordinary. Not so the miracles in God’s Smuggler (1967, 288 pages). Here “Brother Andrew” (1928- ) relates one extraordinary answer to prayer after another, whether it be a needed cake delivered at the last moment by an off-duty postman, or the instant healing of Andrew’s crippled ankle. Then, in his work smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain, this Dutchman came to rely on the extraordinary becoming regular. Border crossings into Communist countries were always tense, but each time Brother Andrew would ask God to “make seeing eyes blind” and God would do so. The same border guards who had just taken apart the car in front of them would simply wave them through or, if they did inspect their cargo, the guards would completely miss the Bibles crammed in everywhere. It was through these regular miracles that God used Andrew and his coworkers to deliver His Word to millions in the persecuted Church. I told my children we shouldn’t understand the many miracles Andrew experienced as evidence that he was always acting wisely and praying as he should (he acknowledges God honored some of his requests despite how he prayed). We can take it as evidence of God’s great love for his persecuted Church! – Jon Dykstra FEBRUARY 1 Lawyer and theologian John Warwick Montgomery's Human Rights & Human Dignity (1986, 319 pages) is a great introduction to the Christian foundation of modern human rights. While I would differ with Montgomery on some theological points (he's Lutheran and, at times, criticizes Calvinist thought), his book sets out a devastating critique of modern justifications for universal human rights, exposing how flimsy a foundation they have, and then proposing a transcendental foundation for universal human rights, rooting them in the doctrines of creation and redemption. I recommend the book to anyone interested in a relatively accessible, university-level Christian introduction to the topic of human rights, with the caveat that the book is a bit dated. – André Schutten One of the best-known psychological experiments in history was that of Stanley Milgram, professor of psychology at Yale University. In a series of experiments, Milgram tested hundreds of unwitting subjects for their willingness to administer electric shocks to a "victim" who answered a series of quiz questions incorrectly. Participants were told that they were participating in a study of the efficacy of punishment for learning, but the real goal of the experiment was to study how obedient people would be to authority, even when told to do things that went against their conscience. Milgram discovered that obedience to authority is deeply ingrained, and that the majority of participants would obey even when they believed they were seriously hurting someone. Obedience to Authority (1974, 253 pages) is the fruit of Milgram's research. Much of it is taken up by an explanation of the various forms that the experiments took, but it is the individual case studies that are particularly interesting and insightful. One participant was a member of a Dutch Reformed Church, and had lived through the Nazi occupation of Holland; at one point in the experiment he refused to continue when he believed that the "subject" was being hurt. Another was an Old Testament professor who also refused to obey the authority figure. When asked what he thought the most effective way of strengthening resistance to inhumane authority, he responded: "If one had as one's ultimate authority God, then it trivializes human authority." Milgram writes from an evolutionist perspective, and I would have loved to have seen more of a focus on the role that people's faith and religious presuppositions play in their obedience to authority. That being said, I recommend this book to anyone interested in deepening their understanding about obedience to authority from a psychological and sociological perspective. – Jim Witteveen JANUARY 27 Though it'd be best absorbed in the month-and-a-half that the title prescribes, I read Todd Nettleton's When Faith is Forbidden: 40 Days on the frontlines with persecuted Christians (2021, 272 pages) in just two days. It was simply too wonderful to put down. Each of the 40 chapters is a story of a Christian who shared God's good news with those around them, come what may. They shared it because they knew that the relatives trying to silence them, the mob trying to intimidate them, or even the policemen coming to arrest them, all needed what God had already given to them. So this is a story of Christians far braver than we, but more importantly, it is the story of the good God who sustained them. In a few instances He did so by way of big miracles: Muslims with no access to the Bible are reached in their dreams, a man shot twice in the chest survives because the bullets did no major damage, police tossing a house find a lost sewing needle but miss the three large boxes of Bibles in the middle of the room. In others, the miracles were maybe less spectacular, but exactly what was needed: a man who used to beat Christians is so won over he is now willing to suffer those beatings rather than stay quiet about his Lord, a woman whose husband was murdered is able to forgive the murderers, a drug addict who turns to God is instantly freed from his addiction. This is an incredible book, and much needed here in the West where we are terrified of speaking God's good news because of what it might cost us in status, or promotions, or friendships. These persecuted Christians want us to understand that for God's people, persecution is to be expected (John 15:18-21) but it need not be feared because our God is greater than the world and what we might have to suffer is nothing compared to what we have gained in Him. – Jon Dykstra JANUARY 26 Is the Christian vs. evolutionist/naturalist/materialist debate about explaining why there is something, rather than nothing? No, says John Byl, in his brilliant apologetic work The Divine Challenge: On Matter, Mind, Math & Meaning (2021, 421 pages). The real question is "Who will rule: God or Man?" and in the world's attempts to usurp God, they've crafted many a worldview to try to explain things apart from Him. Dr. Byl shares the world's best godless explanations and shows, often in the proponents' own words, how their attempts are self-contradictory or simply fail to explain what they set out to explain. Naturalism says there is nothing outside of nature, and materialism that there is nothing outside matter, so how can either explain how matter came to be, or the non-material world of math and meaning? Byl also makes evident how very often these godless philosophers understand the emptiness of their best answers, and yet cling to them anyway only because they hate the alternative: bowing their knee to God. This is a book that will stretch most readers, and in some parts (Chapter 14 was a doozy!) I only got the gist of it...but what an encouraging gist it was. While the 2004 paperback edition is still available, Dr. Byl has made the 2021 revision a free ebook you can download on his blog here. – Jon Dykstra JANUARY 24 Historian-turned-lawyer-turned-fiction-writer C.J. Sansom has written an engaging historical fiction novel (my favorite genre) in Dissolution (2003, 390 pages). Set during the initial years of the English Reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries there, the story follows a hunchbacked lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, who is sent to investigate a murder in a monastery at the behest of Thomas Cromwell (the vicar general of King Henry VIII). The book is part Agatha Christie mystery, part John Grisham drama, combined with the very careful research of the best historical fiction writers. The value of the book for a Christian reader (beyond just enjoying some good fiction) is to show the messiness of the early Reformation in England. Sansom puts away any romantic ideas Reformed people might have about that era. While a corrupt church hierarchy was displaced, it was done through the brutal and corrupt tactics of a tyrant with some early English Reformers playing along. I recommend the book for mystery lovers and historical fiction fans interested in learning a bit more about the early Reformation era with the caveat that the story contains mature subject matter: murder, torture, and adultery (though thankfully not graphically described). – André Schutten My personal library is rather roughly organized according to topic, and one of the categories that I use to sort my collection is "Know Your Enemy." The books included under this heading are ones that I wouldn't recommend because I agree with their content, but rather because it's important to know first-hand what it is that we're up against. Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals (1971, 196 pages) is one such book - a highly influential work that provides an insider's view of tactics that have become ubiquitous in the world of politics, and what motivates those who use them. If you've ever wondered why the political arena is so often characterized by dishonesty and pragmatism instead of by high ideals and straightforward honesty, you need look no further than Rules for Radicals, the playbook for a generation of "community organizers," activists, and politicians. Alinsky's dedication of this book to "the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom - Lucifer" reveals his starting point, and from there, as you can well imagine, it goes nowhere good. So I recommend this book, not because I agree with it or find its arguments compelling, but rather because we need to be aware of the tactics that are being used against us. For more, check out my Dan 11:32 podcast here on Alinsky's book. – Jim Witteveen JANUARY 20 John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678, 187 pages) is a series of theological debates and discussions wrapped inside an epic journey. Our hero, the Pilgrim, is setting out from “the City of Destruction” to find a home in the Good King’s “Celestial City” and the journey serves as a metaphor for the Christian life. Bunyan has many challenges and encouragements to offer, but the main one is that “the bitter must come before the sweet.” He wants readers to understand that turning to God won’t make our life easy, and might even make it much harder. But God is worth it! So, along the way, the Pilgrim has to contend with many trials including false friends, doubt, a corrupt judge and lying witnesses, depression, all sorts of temptations, and persecution. He is also strengthened along the way by “Shining ones,” faithful friends, and good counselors who show him what the Lord has done for other pilgrims. There’s loads of wisdom packed in here, which is the reason it was the English world’s most influential novel for at least a couple of centuries. Readers should take some care in finding a good version as there are many to avoid. For example, the Amazon Classic version kept the original language but omits “all the conversations and arguments concerning subjects belonging to the field of doctrine.” Most modernizations also cut out meat or sections that offend modern sensibilities. A fantastic exception is that done by C. J. Lovik, which only lightly – but effectively! – modernizes the text, and includes very helpful explanatory endnotes, with wonderful illustrations every ten pages or so. If you want to read it in the original, there is a great free version by three Johns: written by John Bunyan, introduced by John Newton (the former slave ship captain who wrote the song “Amazing Grace”), and including a biography of the author by John Piper. For those that want more, Bunyan wrote a sequel, this time describing the journey of the Pilgrim’s wife, called “Pilgrim’s Progress Part II: Christiana” – Jon Dykstra JANUARY 18 Presbyterian pastor Dane Ortlund's Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (2020, 224 pages) is a beautifully written book on God's heart for his people. A handful of people recommended this book to me and, since I received it as a Christmas gift from the ARPA Canada board, I decided to read it as my morning devotional. If you've ever struggled with the question of whether God might love you despite your sins, read this book. If you've ever thought that God's attitude toward you is one of exasperation, read this book. It literally brought me to tears (in chapter 6, quoting John Bunyan), and encouraged me many times in the past couple weeks. I highly recommend the book for personal devotions or as an evening devotion for a couple, or as a dinner-time devotional for families with older children. It will provoke discussions of wonder, amazement and praise at how great God's love for us really is. – André Schutten JANUARY 14 Written from a Christian perspective, Carol M. Swain and Christopher J. Schorr's Black Eye for America: How Critical Race Theory is Burning Down the House (2021, 152 pages) is readable and brief – just 79 pages, plus glossary, notes, appendix, and index. That makes it an insightful introduction to Critical Race Theory (CRT) going back to its roots in Marxism, specifically the cultural Marxism of Antonio Gramsci and the Frankfurt school of critical theorists. Each chapter concludes with a list of discussion questions, making it ideal for group study and discussion. Although written specifically for the American context, the book’s suggestions for engaging with and opposing CRT’s influence are easily applicable to readers in other countries as well. – Jim Witteveen JANUARY 13 Frank Abe and Tamiko Nimura's We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American resistance to wartime incarceration (2021, 160 pages) is a graphic novel account of the tens of thousands of Japanese Americans who were imprisoned in the US in World War II based solely on their ethnicity. They lost their jobs, businesses, and even their homes. Despite the obvious discrimination against them, the vast majority went without protest, believing that quiet acceptance was a way of showing their patriotism. However, some did dare to protest, and We Hereby Refuse shares three of their stories. One inescapable lesson: the government is powerful, and with power comes the need to use it with great restraint. What happens when it doesn't act with restraint? We can get victims by the thousands, as happened here. Another? The need for brave individuals to challenge government abuses, in the hopes of reducing the number of victims. – Jon Dykstra JANUARY 8 Harvard professor Michael Sandel's Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? (2010, 310 pages) is an excellent introduction to the major philosophical theories of justice, covering Aristotle, Mill, Kant, Rawls and others. It's an easy read: Sandel uses very interesting stories and cases to highlight how the theories of justice work and what their failings are. Here’s the caveat: the book is not written from a Christian perspective. By the time you get to the end, you’ll be wishing for one more chapter, to accurately present a distinctly Christian theory of justice, which also critiques the other theories. Sandel himself gets close by his final two chapters (his point about being part of a narrative and community is compelling) but lacks the objective, transcendent standard by which to judge human action as just or unjust. Highly recommended to anyone interested in wrestling with theories of justice and how individuals, institutions, and governments should decide what the right thing to do is in any given situation. P.S. a fun exercise to do while reading the book is ask yourself which theory of justice is being employed by the government as it makes decisions around Covid-19 and what would the other philosophers say about it. – André Schutten JANUARY 7 John McWhorter's Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America (2021, 224 pages) is by an African-American who is himself not a believer. But he makes the case for thinking about the new anti-racism (based in Critical Race Theory) as a religious system, and its supporters ("the Elect") as religious adherents. Highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn more about the worldviews that form the foundation of Critical Race Theory, with the caveat that the book is not written from a Christian perspective, and does contain a bit of rough language. – Jim Witteveen...

Articles, Entertainment, Humor, Satire

The pitch meeting for "Redeeming Love"

PRODUCER: Do you have a new movie for me? SCREENWRITER: Yes, sir. This is gonna be gold, trust me. It’s an adaptation of a steamy romance novel set on the western frontier. PR: What? You do know our company is called Pure Flix, right? Not Impure Flix. SW: No, it’s a Christian novel. PR: A “steamy” Christian novel? SW: Yeah. PR: . . . SW: What is it? PR: I’m trying to find a multiverse where “steamy” and “Christian” belong together. Those terms aren’t exactly bedfellows. SW: But our main characters are, if you know what I mean. PR: What? SW: Well, the female protagonist is a prostitute. PR: Okay, this is not your best movie pitch, I gotta tell you. SW: It’s a redemptive story, though. PR: How so? SW: Well, it’s called Redeeming Love. So... PR: Oh, I see. It’s right there in the title: “Redeeming.” SW: Yeah, and it’s sold over three million copies since its publication in 1991. It’s really popular with the Christian ladies. It could make us a ton of money! PR: In that case, I guess I can take a look at the script. SW: Yeah, it’s a love story inspired by the book of Hosea. PR: You mean, from the Bible? About the prophet named Hosea who was commanded by God to marry a sexually promiscuous woman named Gomer? SW: That’s the one—only in the movie, her name is Angel, and she is forced into prostitution at a young age. PR: Oh no! SW: Yeah, life’s basically thrown everything but a feral prairie dog at her, so the audience will feel super empathetic—what with her poor, miserable, wretched life. PR: But that’s fairly incongruous with the story of Hosea, where Gomer is kinda playing the part of the antagonist. SW: Sure, but this isn’t the literal book of Hosea. I mean, it’s a fictional story. PR: I’m confused. SW: That’s because you haven’t heard the story yet. PR: Okay, fine. Tell me the story. SW: Like I said, Angel’s been mistreated her whole life, and she ends up as a prostitute. Then this man named Hosea— PR: Hey, that’s the name of the prophet! SW: Exactly, sir. Remember, this is an allegory. PR: But you just said… SW: Anyway, this guy named Hosea—he goes into town one day, sees Angel, and immediately wants to marry her. PR: Oh, love at first sight? SW: I mean, kinda. God basically tells him he’s gonna marry Angel. PR: Oh, really? SW: Yeah. So he pays double price to spend time with Angel. PR: Whoa, whoa, whoa. We can’t have that in a Christian movie. SW: No, he just wants to talk with Angel. To, you know, get to know her as a person. PR: Oh, okay. SW: So he goes to see Angel, and she’s just standing there fully naked— PR: Whoa, whoa, whoa! Why is she stark naked? We can’t have that in a Christian movie. SW: What can I say? I mean, it’s a brothel. It’s basically like a nudist colony, right? PR: I’m pretty sure prostitutes aren’t naked all the time. SW: Well, we’ll just…frame the shot so certain parts of her body are blocked from view. How’s that? PR: Fair enough. SW: So Hosea tells Angel she’s going to be his wife because God says so. PR: Really? He just out and says it? SW: Sure. I mean, haven’t high school kids been doing that to their crushes for, like, forever? PR: Oh, good point. SW: Exactly. So Hosea spends a ton of money to spend time talking with Angel. He woos her with his prophecies about their upcoming marriage, and after he badgers her for a long time— PR: He badgers her? So she’s not interested at all? SW: Not a lick. PR: I’m sorry, this doesn’t really sound like the book of Hosea. SW: No, this is a work of fiction. PR: But you said— SW: Anyway, after a lot of convincing, Angel finally agrees to be his wife and he takes her to his farm. PR: Well, shucks. That sounds like a fairly short movie to me. SW: No, it’s not over yet. The best part’s coming. PR: Oh, really? SW: Yeah, yeah, yeah. After Hosea finally gains Angel’s confidence, the two start getting…intimate. PR: Intimate? How so? SW: PR: You mean…like they finally have an open and honest discussion by a warm fire or something? SW: No, I mean…intimate. PR: You mean…like snuggling next to a warm fire? SW: No. PR: Oh, you mean like a romantic… SW: Yes! PR: …candle-lit dinner? SW: No! There is no fire and no candle! PR: So, they…eat a romantic dinner in the dark? SW: No, I’m not talking about “dinner table” intimacy, I’m talking about “bedroom” intimacy. PR: But why would they take their dinner to bed? SW: There’s no dinner! Forget dinner. There’s no food whatsoever! PR: You’re going to have them go to bed without any dinner? How is that intimate? SW: As a husband and wife, they enjoy what husbands and wives enjoy…you know, when they’re…husband and wife. Alone. With no one else around to watch (except for the audience, in this case). PR:  . . . SW:  . . . PR: Oh! Now I understand. SW: Yes… PR: They start kissing, and then we cut to them covered and snuggling afterward. That’s sweet. And props to you for giving a positive portrayal of marriage and all. SW: No, they start kissing, but that’s only the beginning. PR: The beginning of what? SW: We’ll spend, like, a couple whole minutes watching them kiss and take each other’s clothes off and fondle and copulate and— PR: What the cuss?! SW: Uh, did you just say “what the cuss”? PR: This is poo on a stick! SW: What is? PR: This whole load of hooey you’re trying to sell me! There’s no way in Sheol we’re going to actually show two characters getting intimate onscreen. SW: But they’re married. It’s totally legit. PR: Who would even agree to do that?! It’s not like Christian actors are standing in line waiting to shoot nude or sex scenes. You won’t get Kirk Cameron or Neil McDonough— SW: Okay, so we’ll…get an intimacy coordinator. That’s all the rage these days, right? PR: That doesn’t change the fact that you’re pitching a Christian film with onscreen sex. What’s gotten into that hip, edgy brain of yours? SW: Look, consider this: all the film’s sex scenes— PR: All of them? You’re planning on multiple sex scenes?! SW: No, no, no. Only, like, two. And they’ll both involve just the main characters—who, I might point out, are married. And unless someone edited the Bible lately… PR: Sorry, I’ve not read that copy lately. SW: . . . Where is Proverbs? Aren’t the books in alphabetical order? PR: No, Proverbs is in the Wisdom Literature section. SW: Where is that? Is it reverse alphabetical order? A few minutes later...  SW: Here it is! Hiding right there in the middle. Strange. Okay, Proverbs 5:19. “As a loving hind and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; be exhilarated always with her love.” I’m basically using that as a script for one of the scenes. This movie is, after all, based on the Bible. PR: Wait, you just said— SW: This isn’t illicit sex we’re talking about. It’s married sex. The best kind. The kind that any woman would want to drag her husband and children to the theater to watch together. PR: Married sex isn’t supposed to be a spectator sport! SW: Look, we’re not gonna be filming real sex. It’s just simulated. Nothing really happens. PR: Oh. So, even the kissing will be a special effect? SW: No, they’ll be kissing for real. PR: So them taking off their clothes will be a special effect? SW: No. They’ll take their clothes off. PR: So the fondling will be a special effect? SW: No, he’ll really be touching her. PR: So the thrusting will be fake? SW: Why would that need to be fake? It’ll be real thrusting. PR: So when you say, “Nothing happens,” you really mean…everything happens. SW: No, nothing does happen. I mean, they don’t actually…“do the do.” PR: But they do do everything else leading up to “the do,” which they simulate with thrusting? SW: Right. Non-sexual thrusting. PR: When is thrusting not sexual? When are fondling and thrusting not sexual? SW: When it’s acting? I mean, the actors we’ll hire probably won’t be in an actual relationship. PR: So, if two people aren’t in an actual relationship, any intimate activities they engage in are magically unsexual? SW: Not when you put it like that. But in this case, yes. None of the sex will be actually real. It’s simply actors doing everything married couples do (except the “final act,” of course) in front of a camera, with footage that will be considered by audiences to be hot and steamy. Only a prude would consider that sexual. It’s not real. PR: Is your brain even real? SW: Okay, let’s take a step back. I think we’re losing perspective. The whole point of this movie—the whole point—is to be redemptive, right? PR: I suppose. I mean, it’s in the title. SW: Right. Exactly. So, in order to redeem this movie, we need to show audiences just how hot and steamy married sex can be. PR: We need to do that? SW: Yes! If Hollywood wants to take us down the road of porn-inspired content, we’ll turn the tables with our Christian sex scenes—but with the actors’ critical body parts strategically blocked. PR: Wait. So the actors won’t be naked? SW: That’s not what I mean. The actors will be in various stages of undress, but we won’t see it. That’s all that matters, right? Who cares if the actors have to actually get naked on set and touch each other in…“Proverbs 5:19” places? We won’t see any full nudity ourselves. By placing his hands on her, the actor will be protecting the sexual well-being of the audience. PR: But not his sexual wellbeing—or hers, for that matter. SW: That’s just the thing. Instead of getting professing Christians to play the roles of Angel and Hosea, we’ll get people who won’t put up a fuss. It’ll be perfect. I’m sure we can find actors who lack a scriptural sexual ethic. That’s the ideal recipe for shooting godly sex scenes that will whack people over the head with the good news of steamy love. PR: You mean “redeeming” love? SW: Right. What did I say? PR: What about the other sex scene? SW: What about it? PR: Can they keep their clothes on for that one? SW: Ah, a compromise. I can dig it. Sure, we’ll choreograph it so the actors can remain basically fully clothed. It’ll be so pure, it’ll rock the audience’s socks off! PR: Keep those socks on – we have enough clothes coming off in this project already. SW: Will do, sir. You’re the boss. PR: And I don’t want the male protagonist’s first name to be Hosea. This story just isn’t a very accurate allegory. SW: Okay, we can call him…Mike. Or Michael. PR: Fine. SW: Yeah, Michael Hosea. PR: I guess that will work. SW: Good! Oh, and I just had another great thought. PR: What? SW: You know that fully clothed sex scene? PR: . . .Yeah? SW: We can use a screenshot of that scene for the official movie poster. PR: What?! This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared at Cap Stewart's blog Unpop Culture, and is reprinted here with permission. Cap is also the author of the online curriculum Personal Purity Isn’t Enough: The Long-Forgotten Secret to Making Scriptural Entertainment Choices, and has contributed to numerous print and online publications, including Zondervan Academic, The Christian Post, and The Gospel Coalition....

Book excerpts, Book Reviews

How to refute skepticism

Romans 1:18-32 explains that God’s creation proclaims His existence, as well as our guilt, such that everyone is left “without excuse.”  Yet rebellious man wants some sort of excuse. So one that he offers is that our sense can be fooled, and our thinking too, so – these extreme skeptics propose – can we really know anything at all? And if we can’t know anything, how can we be held accountable? But, as John Byl explains in this excerpt from his book “The Divine Challenge,” such skepticism is self-defeating. *****  Skepticism about human ability to acquire knowledge is as old as philosophy. The Greek philosopher Pyrrho (circa 360-270 BC), who had been in the army of Alexander the Great, taught skepticism regarding the senses, logic, and morals. He affirmed that there were no rational grounds for preferring one belief above another. Hence one should renounce all claims to knowledge. A somewhat more recent advocate of skepticism was the philosopher David Hume (1711-1776). Hume believed that all our knowledge derives from sense impressions. Consequently, he denied the validity of all abstract ideas, including notions of causation, the external world, and even the self. Skepticism is appealing to the intellectually lazy for, if all knowledge is reduced to the status of mere opinion, the ignorant is as wise as the learned scholar.  1. Test the assumptions How would one refute skepticism? Any worldview consists of various presuppositions, accepted on faith, and their logical consequences. One might start, therefore, by analyzing, one by one, each of the skeptic’s premises as to its plausibility. Take, for example, Hume's assumption that our minds consist entirely of a succession of perceptions, without any trace of intellectuality. This presupposition alone already leaves no room for any thinking about our perceptions or how they are linked. Once one adopts a more comprehensive view of mind, Hume’s skeptical conclusions no longer follow. Often, however, the initial errors are small and not easily discerned. It is only later, after a long train of thought, that they produce significant consequences. As Aristotle noted in De Caelo (On the Heavens), The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousand-fold…that which was small at the start turns out a giant at the end. (1) 2. Try out the system This suggests a second, more indirect approach. Instead of examining presuppositions individually, we can examine them together, as a unit. One way we can test the plausibility of a set of presuppositions is to examine the reasonableness of the conclusions that they entail. In any logically valid argument, the conclusion follows from the premises. One must then either accept the conclusion or reject the premises. To make a rational choice, one must ask: what is more plausible, that the premises are true or that the conclusion is false? Often, of course, our comparison of plausibility is itself rather subjective, colored by our worldview. Sometimes, however, the conclusions are so strongly contrary to common sense that the choice should be clear. In that case, we have a reductio ad absurdum of the premises. Consider, for example, George E. Moore's refutation of Hume's skepticism: It seems to me that, in fact, there really is no stronger and better argument than the following. I do know that this pencil exists; but I could not know this, if Hume's principles were true; therefore, Hume's principles, one or both of them, are false. I think this argument really is as strong and good a one as any that could be used: and I think it really is conclusive. In other words, I think that the fact that, if Hume's principles were true, I could not know of the existence of this pencil, is a reductio ad absurdum of those principles. (2) Moore argues that, since it is more certain that his pencil exists than that Hume's premises are true, Hume's set of premises must therefore be rejected as false. Moore's argument is like that of Aristotle, in Physica, who met the skepticism of his day with the reply: That nature exists it would be absurd to try to prove, for it is obvious that there are many things of this kind and to prove what is obvious by what is not is the mark of a man who is unable to distinguish what is self-evident from what is not. (3) In brief, if the falsity of the conclusion is more plausible than the truthfulness of the premises, then it is rational to reject the premises. This is particularly the case if the conclusions deny that which is directly evident to our senses. After all, worldviews are supposed to explain our observations. If any theoretical explanation is at odds with our personal experiences, then it is clearly the explanation, rather than our experience, that will have to be revised. The advantage of this method of refutation is that one need not pinpoint exactly where the initial error occurred. 3. Impossible to live out Hume's skepticism fails also the test of livability. Consider, for example, Hume's own writings on skepticism. Surely Hume, by writing and publishing arguments for skepticism, expected others to read and comprehend them. This, in turn, assumes the existence of an external world consisting of at least paper with symbols on it, as well as other minds to whom the symbols on the paper are directed. It assumes further that, in reading Hume's book, the senses of other people will reliably transmit to the mind what is written down. Hence Hume's written defense of skepticism is self-refuting. Hume's book itself refutes the theory of mind it contains. Indeed, Hume confessed his own inability to consistently maintain his skepticism: The great subverter of Pyrrhonism or the excessive principles of skepticism is action, and employment, and the occupations of the common life. These principles may flourish and triumph in the schools; where it is, indeed, difficult if not impossible to refute them. But as soon as they leave the shade, and by the presence of the real objects, which actuate our passions and sentiments, are put in opposition to the more powerful principles of our nature, they vanish like smoke, and leave the most determined skeptic in the same condition as other mortals.… Nature is always too strong for principle. And though a Pyrrhonian may throw himself or others into a momentary amazement and confusion by his profound reasonings; the first and most trivial event in life will put to flight all his doubts and scruples.… When he awakes from his dream, he will be the first to join in the laugh against himself, and to confess that all his objections are mere amusement...(4) Hume's failure to integrate skepticism into his daily life is itself the practical refutation of skepticism. Deeds, not words, are the most telling indicator of a philosopher's deepest convictions. Hume conceded that "custom...is the great guide of human life."(5) Only Hume's habits of mind enabled him to accept such things as, for example, the principle of causality whereby he could successfully navigate life. However, he was unable to give these a rigorous philosophical grounding in terms of his empirical presuppositions. Hume's skeptical worldview failed to adequately account for the reliability of such common-sense knowledge. The dilemma of relativism is that it asserts a non-relative claim, which inevitably leads to its self-refutation. As Thomas Nagel notes: The claim "everything is subjective" must be nonsense, for it would itself have to be either subjective or objective. But it cannot be objective, since in that case it would be false. And it cannot be subjective, because then it cannot rule out any objective claim, including the claim that it is objectively false. (6) Similarly, the skeptical claim "there is no objective truth" is itself a truth claim, contradicting itself. If relativists were consistent with their professed beliefs, then they would have to remain silent. Skepticism renders philosophical discourse null and void. Hume concluded his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding with the following advice on how to choose books: Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity and number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion. (7) Unfortunately for Hume, this severe standard dooms his own works to ashes. In sum, a worldview may be assessed directly, by examining the plausibility of its presuppositions, or indirectly, by considering the consequences of its set of presuppositions. It is irrational to accept a worldview whose consequences are less plausible than the denial of one or more of that worldview's presuppositions. Extreme forms of skepticism or relativism cannot be rationally defended. Any viable worldview must allow for (and justify), at least to some extent, objective logic and language, as well as other factors that are presumed in normal intellectual discourse. The relativist may claim that he is not concerned with rationality or consistency. He may prefer to live inconsistently rather than opt for another worldview. However, this amounts to giving up on explaining reality and resigning oneself to superficiality. Endnotes 1) Aristotle. 1952. The Works of Aristotle Vol.I. . Robert M. Hutchins (ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopaedia Britannica, p. 362. 2) Moore, George E. 1953. Some Main Problems in Philosophy. New York: Collier, pp. 119-120. 3) Aristotle. 1952. The Works of Aristotle Vol.I. . Robert M. Hutchins (ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopaedia Britannica, p. 268. 4) Hume, David 1777. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. La Salle: Open Court (1958 reprint), pp. 177-179. 5) Ibid., p. 47. 6) Nagel, Thomas. 1997. The Last Word. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 15. 7) Hume, op. cit., p. 184. This is an excerpt from Dr. John Byl’s apologetic classic “The Divine Challenge: on Matter, Mind, Math & Meaning” which he’s just updated, and made freely available via his website bylogos.blogspot.com. It is reprinted here with the author’s permission....

News

Saturday Selections – Feb. 5, 2022

Is there a reality outside people's feeling? In this episode of the Woke Zone, we watch as a trans activist "lovingly forces everyone to agree." Old Testament case for small government J.P. Moreland gives us something to chew by looking at the first chapters of Amos. John Hopkins University meta-analysis says lockdowns had minimal impact on mortality A National Post article on a new John Hopkins study that calls into question the effectiveness of the lockdowns can be found at the link above while the study itself can be found here. A key quote from the study: "...lockdowns have had little to no effect on COVID-19 mortality. More specifically...lockdowns in Europe and the United States only reduced COVID-19 mortality by 0.2% on average. were also ineffective, only reducing COVID-19 mortality by 2.9% on average....While this meta-analysis concludes that lockdowns have had little to no public health effects, they have imposed enormous economic and social costs where they have been adopted. In consequence, lockdown policies are ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy instrument." A few cautions considering this study: While it is from John Hopkins University, this is their economics, rather than medical department. And while it covers 24 studies, it is just one analysis. Also, as it notes, others have differed (though the authors offer some explanation as to why they think their conclusions are the better ones) It argues for the ineffectiveness of government "non-pharmaceutical interventions" – government-imposed lockdowns, mask mandates, stay-at-home orders – and not, for example, the ineffectiveness of voluntary mask usage or social distancing. Reading through this meta-analysis, it becomes apparent that it is far more imprecise than numbers like 0.2% and 2.9% would first make you think – there are lots of educated guesses being made, and conclusions drawn based on minimal data. Of course, that's true not only of this, but studies in general, based as they are not simply on the facts, but on greatly varying ways of interpreting and understanding the facts. As creationists understand, science regularly speaks with a certainty that isn't warranted. Is there an authoritative source we can turn to, to find greater clarity on this issue? Well, there is a Christian consideration for why we might take this study as more credible than some others: the conclusion is in keeping with a vision of less encompassing government. That might seem like supporting a study simply because it says what we want it to say – that big government actions taking away our freedoms haven't been effective. It is like that but with one big difference: it isn't simply that we like the conclusion, but that it seems in keeping with God's Word. How so? The Bible steers us away from big government (see J.P. Moreland's article "Old Testament case for small government" just above, and 1 Sam 8:10-22) and consequently that gives us reason to be skeptical of big government actions. What we see in tyrannies of the past (USSR, Cuba, China, etc.) is that limited Man, no matter his leadership skills, doesn't have the omniscience needed to make the right decisions for everyone. These governments denied God, but when they tried to replace Him, they could never manage it. Unfortunately, this too is not a conclusive argument. There have been times (think World War II, or maybe Israel's conquering of Canaan) where most would agree "big government" actions were needed. But general principles remain principles still even when there are exceptions. It is when exceptions become the rule – when people start speaking of this as  "the new normal" – that we then have increasing reason to doubt whether the intrusions were truly warranted in the first place. How do Mormons view their complex history of polygamy? Mormons used to practice polygamy and now don't - this is a short secular take on how it happened Government spent a quarter million for each job saved To counter the lockdowns the US government imposed, they spent $42,000 per federal taxpayer to stimulate the economy and help preserve jobs. However, it cost "$170,000-$257,000 for each job it helped preserve a lot more than most of those jobs even pay." This is an American example of governmental incompetence, but the warning against big government spending programs is applicable everywhere. On the new Christian film Redeeming Love "Redeeming Love may be the first prominent faith-based film whose two main characters have on-screen sex" and Cap Stewart asks us to "consider the actors." US Report on UFOs (30 min) Last year the American government released a report on documented encounters with unexplained aerial phenomena. In this half-hour podcast, two creationists dig into the report, explaining that they likely are true – "the allegations are serious and the witnesses are credible" – and offering a biblical explanation. ...

Drama, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

God’s Outlaw: The Story of William Tyndale

Drama 1988 / 93 minutes RATING: 6/10 This is a well-produced, well-acted period piece about "the father of the English Bible" and leader in the English Reformation. William Tyndale used his great language abilities to translate the Bible into English so that the common man could read God's very words. But he was eventually burned at the stake for his efforts. While this is a great educational film, if you don't go into it already knowing something about the time, it will be more than a little difficult to keep track of who everyone is. The cast of characters is large! However, while this does require some deliberate concentration, the solid performances make it a good one for study groups, teachers and anyone interested in Church History. If you pay attention, you effort will be rewarded! However, it isn't a film you will watch simply for the entertainment value, so it isn't really "family movie night" material. North American views can watch it for free below. ...

Book Reviews, Popular but problematic

Is God a Hypothesis? A critical review of Stephen Meyer's "Return of the God Hypothesis"

Stephen C. Meyer’s Return of the God Hypothesis continues to receive accolades. Most recently, World magazine chose it as one of their 2021 books of the year. On Amazon, as I write, it’s currently the #1 best-seller under “Creationism” and #4 under “Science & Religion.” This is an important and influential book coming out of the Intelligent Design movement. However, from a biblical perspective, it has several glaring problems. The subtitle reads, “Three Scientific Discoveries that Reveal the Mind Behind the Universe.” Those three “discoveries” are: the Big Bang the fine-tuning of the universe the existence of highly-detailed DNA information. Meyer works with these three to argue for the eminent plausibility of the “God hypothesis.” 1. The Big Bang While I’m not qualified to evaluate the scientific evidence for the Big Bang, I do know that Big Bang cosmology is not consistent with the biblical account of origins. In a video on this subject, Christian astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle explains how Big Bang cosmology and the Bible conflict at several key points. They conflict on the method of creation; the Big Bang says that the universe came into existence naturalistically, whereas the Bible says that it was created supernaturally by God. There’s also a conflict on the time scale; Big Bang cosmology says that it happened billions of years ago, whereas the Bible says that creation happened several thousand years ago. The order of events is different, with the Bible saying that the earth is made before the stars. Finally, Dr. Lisle points out how they each tell a widely different story of the future. Big Bang cosmology posits a universe that will eventually end in heat death. The Bible says that God will judge all people and then there will be a new heavens and new earth where God will dwell with the redeemed. The Big Bang irreconcilably contradicts the Bible. A Bible-believing Christian can’t use something that contradicts God’s Word in order to argue for the likelihood of the existence of God. That brings us down to two scientific discoveries. 2. Fine-tuning I won’t say much about the second one, the fine-tuning of the universe. Given what the Bible says about God as our wise and good Creator, one would expect what Paul Davies is quoted as saying: “The really amazing thing is not that life on earth is balanced on a knife-edge, but that the entire universe is balanced on a knife-edge, and would be total chaos if any of the natural ‘constants’ were off even slightly.” While Meyer’s argument is that this fine-tuning points to the probability of a Creator (more on the problematic nature of that in a moment), the fine-tuning of the universe is indeed an observation consistent with the revelation of who God is in the Scriptures. 3. DNA information When arguing for the “God hypothesis” with DNA information, Meyer makes his case using what’s called “deep time.” Contrary to what the Bible indicates, Meyer believes the earth has a history involving hundreds of millions of years. In fact, chapter 10 is entitled, “The Cambrian and Other Information Explosions.” The Cambrian explosion allegedly took place 530 million years ago. As the story goes, this involves an explosion of new life forms in the fossil record. Meyer argues that this also represents an explosion of biological information. It poses a difficulty for materialistic theories of biological evolution, but could possibly “also provide positive evidence for intelligent design” (p.209). However, for a Bible-believing Christian, the problem is that God said he created the heavens and the earth at the beginning (Gen. 1:1) – and Jesus said that God created Adam and Eve at the beginning (Matt. 19:4). If you subsequently take the genealogies of Scripture seriously, even granting some gaps, you’re left with a world with an age on the order of thousands of years, not millions. Some value Now before I get to the most serious issues with The Return of the God Hypothesis, let me say that Bible-believing Christians can get some value out of it. Some of the value comes when Meyer is critiquing materialist scientists. For example, Stephen Hawking is quoted as saying, "Because there is a law of gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.” But Meyer points out that: “causes and scientific laws are not the same things…The laws of physics represent only our descriptions of nature. Descriptions in themselves do not cause things to happen.” There’s yet more value in Meyer’s critique of prominent theistic evolutionists like Deborah Haarsma of BioLogos. I also appreciate his setting the historical record straight on Isaac Newton and his alleged “God-of-the-gaps blunder.” As Meyer describes it, “Supposedly, Newton invoked specific acts of God (or angels) to occasionally fix the orbits of the planets and to compensate for Newton’s inability to describe the regular motion of those planets accurately.” However, when Meyer went back to the original source, Newton’s Principia, he discovered that Newton didn’t posit this kind of divine action at all. The story is completely false. Finally, Meyer illustrates how materialist scientists and philosophers live contrary to the beliefs they profess to hold. For example, David Hume questioned the uniformity of nature.  This is the idea that, in the future, the world will act as it has in the past.  While Hume questioned it, he still acted as though he believed in it, just as every skeptic does when he walks through a door rather than a window. As Meyer notes, “All of us act as though we believe the world in its most fundamental regularities, will behave in the future the way that it has behaved in the past.” Alvin Plantinga furthers this point, in noting that, if evolutionary naturalism is true, “we have significant reason to doubt the reliability of our minds.” Charles Darwin had already identified this problem in an 1881 letter: But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value at all or at all trustworthy.  Would anyone trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind? Yet no one really does doubt in this way. To do so would ultimately be self-defeating, since we would also have to doubt our beliefs about evolutionary naturalism. This is a good example of answering a fool according to his folly (Prov. 26:5). Too tentative My two biggest beefs with Return of the God Hypothesis have to do with the method of argumentation and the conclusion which results. There are these three scientific discoveries mentioned earlier. Meyer incorporates these discoveries into what’s called an abductive argument for the existence of God. Such an argument works by way of inference to the best explanation. It takes this form: Logic: If A were true, then C would be as a matter of course. Data: The surprising fact C is observed. Conclusion: Hence, there is reason to suspect that A is true. Filling it out, it looks something like this: Logic: If a personal God existed, then DNA information would be as a matter of course. Data: The surprising fact of DNA information is observed. Conclusion: Hence, there is reason to suspect that a personal God exists. One of the crucial things to note here is that the “logic of abduction…does not produce certainty, but instead plausibility or possibility.” This tentativeness is reflected throughout Meyer’s book. His argument is ultimately that “the God hypothesis” is possibly the best explanation of the three scientific “discoveries” discussed. So: a personal God quite likely exists. From a biblical perspective, this is unacceptable. The Bible doesn’t reveal the existence of God to us as a likelihood, but a certainty. His existence is real and on some level everyone knows it (Rom. 1:18-20). Furthermore, the idea that God is a hypothesis to be tested or evaluated by sinful creatures is repugnant to biblical revelation. The creature ought never to stand in judgment over the Creator or reduce him to a hypothesis. Human beings have no right to judge God’s existence or anything else about who He is or what He does. The whole premise of Meyer’s book flatters people into thinking they do have such a right. That’s not a minor procedural peccadillo, but a massive misstep, even an affront to the Creator. Too general Meyer’s conclusion has another problem embedded in it. He argues for the plausibility of the existence of a personal God. In chapters 13 and 14, his reasoning excludes pantheism and deism as possibilities. That leaves him with a God who is personal and involved with his creation, not only at the beginning, but on an ongoing basis. But the problem is that this is still not the God of the Bible. Meyer’s God who very likely exists could be the Allah of the Muslims, the God of the Jews, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the Mormons. What we’re left with is plain vanilla theism. Meyer has argued for a god, but not the Triune God of the Bible, and certainly not for the biblical worldview package. Meyer professes to be a Christian, but his book could just as well have been written by a Jew or Muslim. Conclusion Ultimately all the problems in Return of the God Hypothesis trace back to one fundamental difficulty in Meyer’s method: he doesn’t start with the Word of God. Instead, he starts with the notion of neutral intellectual ground. He doesn’t seem to apprehend that the problem with unbelief isn’t intellectual, but moral. There is no neutrality. Those who reject the God of the Bible are rejecting him because of the wicked rebellion in their hearts. It’s this foundational issue that really needs to be addressed. Meyer doesn’t do that. In his book, there’s no sin from which unbelievers need to repent. There’s just errant thinking that needs more information and sounder logic. In his book, there’s no Saviour to whom unbelievers need to turn, no gospel to deliver from vanity and futility. There’s just science and logic putting our minds at ease about origins. I bought Return of the God Hypothesis in a Christian bookstore, but I really don’t know why it was there. Even if Christians may find some things of value, it’s not a Christian book. For a far better biblical alternative, I highly recommend Jason Lisle’s The Ultimate Proof of Creation: Resolving the Origins Debate. Dr. Wes Bredenhof blogs at Bredenhof.ca.  ...

Economics, Human Rights, Satire

On achieving equality...

I was recently confronted with the disturbing statistic that evidences the ultimate case of gender inequality: the life expectancy of males is 6.1 years lower than that of females. This phenomenon must be properly discussed. What is a more valuable commodity than life? Nothing, I would say. And yet females habitually possess over 8 percent more of it than men. It is clear that when it comes to life, there is no level playing field in our society between males and females. I, therefore, call upon the government to take measures to empower men to overcome this glaring inequality. What we need is legislation, programs, and lots of funding. First of all the government should enact human rights legislation which will unequivocally state that males have the right to the same life expectancy as females. This legislation will empower the government to make proactive adjustments in Health, Social, and Education programs. I would like to share with you the following suggestions for such adjustments. An immediate transfer of medical research dollars from female diseases to male diseases. The inclusion of a mandatory life expectancy rights component to be taught in all our schools starting at the kindergarten level. The appointment of kommissars (also call commissioners) for each federal and provincial ministry who are to scrutinize all proposed legislation for life expectancy bias. Mandatory sensitivity training for all our judges to ensure that crimes against women are not more discouraged than crimes against men. Mandatory affirmative low-stress jobs action for all businesses employing more than 10 people to ensure that men will be employed in at least 50 percent of such jobs. The creation of Men's Issues Department at both the federal and provincial levels. Thus far my suggestions. If we do not want to lose the image of Canada as a caring and nurturing society we had better implement these suggestions regardless of costs. Of course, some naive people may suggest that it would help if men changed their lifestyle by smoking, drinking, fighting, and fornicating less, and by being more spiritual and less macho. However, though in the past this might have been a solution, we now know that we can only lead fulfilling lives if we are true to ourselves. Since institutions of education and our public media zealously indoctrinate the populace with this new gospel, it would be futile to appeal to "the man kind" itself to heal the wound of life expectancy; the government is our only hope. This post first appeared way back in the May 1999 issue, but doesn't it seems like it was written for today? As Christians we believe God calls us not to be partial to rich or poor, black or white, young or old – He calls us to equality. But what kind of equality does God call us to? Is it an equality – as is called for in this article – of outcomes? Or is the equality meant to be in how we treat people? The world says the former, but God is calling us to the latter (Leviticus 19:15, James 2:1-9, Acts 10:34)....

Book excerpts, Book Reviews

"I used to beat him"

What follows is an excerpt from Todd Nettleton’s "When Faith is Forbidden: 40 Days on the frontlines with persecuted Christians" and took place near Allawa, Ethiopia, in October of 2005. ***** The nickname “Haji” is a term of respect in the Muslim world, bestowed on those who have completed their haji pilgrimage to Mecca, one of Islam’s five pillars. It’s not commonly combined with the title pastor! We met “Pastor Haji” at his grass-roofed house in the southern part of Ethiopia, an area where a rising tide of radical Islam was threatening the church and Christian believers. Outside the house, there was a burn mark on the wall. One week prior, radical Muslims tried to set fire to Haji’s house. Thankfully, he put out the fire. As we sit, drinking orange sodas Haji graciously offered us, we can look up to see sunlight streaming through holes in the tightly packed grass roof. The holes are the result of neighborhood Muslims throwing stones onto the house, trying to pressure Haji and his family to leave the area or return to Islam. Thankfully, none of his family was injured by falling stones. Haji understands the hatred of radical Muslims. He used to be one of them! He was so devout, he was sent to Saudi Arabia for special training. As we stood outside the hut, Haji had his arm around the evangelist that brought us to meet him. Nodding his head toward the evangelist, he said five words I will never forget. “I used to beat him.” What? “I used to beat him.” Haji went on to tell us that he was the leader of a radical Islamic group of young men, and part of their holy duty to their Prophet was attacking and harassing Christians. One of those they attacked was this very evangelist, the man now smiling with Haji’s arm draped loosely across his shoulders. In spite of beatings, the evangelist refused hatred for his attackers. Instead, he showed them love and offered them blessings and good news. Haji had no explanation for such a response. How could a man you were beating show love to you? How could he not grow angry and fight back? Eventually, Haji’s heart was won by the gospel message and the love of the Christian man he was attacking. He left the vitriol and violence of Islam for peace beyond his understanding. Islamic friends were not happy with his decision. Haji would spend a year in jail. He would face some of the same tactics he’d used against Christians. Now he was facing rocks through his roof and attempts to burn down his house. But he would not give up his faith in Jesus. Once again, I’m struck by the joy the men and women of our persecuted Christian family possess. Haji is a happy man. His smile is huge. His laugh comes easily and often. This is not a man who lives in constant fear, though the threats against him are real and constant. This is a man having fun, living an adventure, and serving a great King. Haji is having kingdom impact. Who better to talk to Muslims about Jesus than a former Muslim, one who completed the hajj, one so devout he was sent to Saudi Arabia for special training? Who better to spell out the differences between a god who will weigh out your good deeds and bad deeds to see whether you’ve earned the right to enter paradise, and a God who knows our good deeds can never outweigh our sinfulness, and so sent His own Son to pay the price for our bad deeds and purchase our entrance to heaven with His own blood? Haji’s story is not unique. One of the church’s first great missionaries was a man so zealous for his religion he asked for the assignment of hunting down men and women who didn’t follow their teachings. Then that man ran into the very One he was persecuting, and was forever changed. One of our VOM contacts in Colombia has a saying: “A racehorse can run just as fast in either direction.” One who is zealous for sin will often become zealous for Christ. One who beat Christians might eventually accept beatings with joy in service to his King. It’s easy for us to look at someone with holier-than-thou religious eyes and write them off spiritually. He is so hard-hearted nothing could reach him. She is so trapped in sin she can never get out. But the testimony of Pastor Haji—and the apostle Paul—is that none of us is beyond the reach of God’s grace and mercy. And those saved from much are often the racehorses that run fastest for Christ and furthest to reach others for Him. “I used to beat him,” said the pastor. Said the persecuted Christian. Said the kingdom worker. With a smile. This was taken from "When Faith is Forbidden: 40 Days on the Frontlines with Persecuted Christians" by Todd Nettleton & The Voice of the Martyrs (©2021), published by Moody Publishers (www.MoodyPublishers.com) and used by permission. Each chapter is a story of a Christian who shared God’s good news with those around them, come what may. They shared that good news despite the dangers because they knew that the relatives trying to silence them, the mob trying to intimidate them, or even the policemen coming to arrest them, all needed what God had already given to them. This is a story of Christians far braver than we, but more importantly, it is the story of the good God who sustained them. In a few instances, He did so by way of big miracles: Muslims with no access to the Bible are reached in their dreams, police tossing a house find a lost sewing needle but miss the three large boxes of Bibles in the middle of the room. In others, the miracles were maybe less spectacular, but exactly what was needed: a woman whose husband was murdered is able to forgive the murderers, a drug addict who turns to God is instantly freed from his addiction. These persecuted Christians want us to understand that for God’s people, persecution is to be expected (John 15:18-21) but it need not be feared because our God is greater than the world and what we might have to suffer is nothing compared to what we have gained in Him. A longer excerpt of the book can be found here and you can watch the book trailer below. ...

News

Saturday Selections – Jan. 29, 2022

M&Ms introduce first Trans character who identifies as a Skittle The folks at Babylon Bee with satire to share. The only thing missing from this massive takedown of the transgender lie, is an explanation of the truth, that God made us male and female (Gen. 1:27) which is easy enough for us to add when we share this. What makes a company Christian? "Rather than asking 'Should my company be Christian?' it is more helpful to first ask, 'How can I run my business in the most biblical manner? How can I make others ask, What’s different about this business?’” The high cost of disparaging natural immunity to Covid "Vaccines were wasted on those who didn’t need them, and people who posed no risk lost jobs.... It got so bad that hospital summoned staff who were Covid-positive to return to work even if they were sick..." Why do scientists brag about things they can't know? Do aliens exist? How did our solar system's planets form? Why are there so many kinds of snakes? Scientists have scant evidence to address those questions, but that doesn't stop them from answering. Bill C-4 specifically targeted Christians There really is someone out to get us, and that's no conspiracy theory – as the apostle Peter writes, the "devil is as a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). So it shouldn't surprise us that the new Canadian law against conversion therapy doesn't ban all conversions – heterosexuals can be counseled to be homosexuals – and as this article explains, doesn't even ban all attempts to turn homosexuals to heterosexual. It specifically seeks to block God's truth on sexuality. Christians must understand what sort of battle raging – a spiritual one! – so that we understand the counter to the enemy's position isn't simply to fix the definition of conversion therapy in this law but to address this as the attempt to obscure God's truth that it is. The counter then is to speak that truth as loudly and lovingly as possible. Douglas Wilson on Jordan Peterson on Joe Rogan on the Bible (8 min) Jordan Peterson's recent comments about the Bible are strangely insightful. He doesn't comment as a Christian, and yet still calls the Bible "truer than true." ...

Animated, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

The John Bunyan Story

Animated 2006 / 29 minutes RATING: 8/10 What is likely the most influential novel of all time was written by a man of little education, though with a lot of free time on his hands. John Bunyan may have written his most famous work, The Pilgrim's Progress, during his 12-year stay in prison for preaching in an illegal church. For those that aren't familiar with it, the book is a metaphor for the Christian life, with a pilgrim traveling from the "City of Destruction" to the "Celestatial City" and along the way having to contend with all sorts of trials and temptations personified (like a giant named Despair, or a judge named Hate-Good). Bunyan, by his own account, was not a nice young man, so he understood temptation. And once he became a Christian, he paid a price for it, so he knew trials. And this animated account gives a great, engaging overview of it all. However, the film does indulge in creative license, taking as literal the opening lines of The Pilgrim's Progress, where Bunyan wrote "...as I slept, I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold, I saw a man clothed with rags..." They portray the book as being inspired by Bunyan's dreams during his time in jail, and while that might even be true, it's disputed when exactly Bunyan first started writing his bestseller, so the facts are harder to come by than it might seem here. Cautions So one caution might be that younger viewers should be told not to make much of the little details, which may or may not be true. The other caution concerns age-appropriateness. This is animated, so parents might think it is for little children. But a battle scene when the young Bunyan is a soldier shows a man next to him getting killed by a musket ball. The scene is made all the more dramatic when the distraught Bunyan cries out in grief, reaches for his now dead friend, and discovers that his own hands are now covered in blood. This wouldn't bother a ten-year-old, but some younger children will be disturbed. There's also a dream sequence with a dragon attacking Bunyan. Again, not overly scary by teen standards, but it could be a bit much for preschoolers. Contents I've rated this an 8, but that's only for an audience that's read Pilgrim's Progress – those that don't already know the book, won't be too interested in learning about the man behind it. But if you do know it, this will be an engaging half-hour's viewing. Our family, from eight all the way up, quite enjoyed it. Watch it below for free (with some commercial interruptions). ...

Articles, Book Reviews

20+ Christian fiction suggestions for your 10-15-year-old boys

I was recently asked for some reading suggestions for boys aged 10-15. This is when boys can sometimes stop reading, so I didn't want to pitch them run-of-the-mill material. Nope, I wanted to hit them with the best of the best, so what follows are my top suggestions. Each includes a short description, and, in most cases, clicking on the bold title will take you to a longer review. We'll start with a classic: Lord of the Rings might be a bit much to expect for this age group, but The Hobbit is a shorter, easier entry to Tolkien's Middle Earth, and after that taste, who knows but that they might continue. My favorite fiction author Sigmund Brouwer happens to be a theistic evolutionist and Arminian, which occasionally comes up in some of his fiction. But not in these two fantastic titles: Innocent Heroes: Stories of Animals in the First World War are all true tales, but lightly fictionalized in that they now all take place in just one Canadian battalion. Everyone in our family love, love, loved it! Wings of Dawn is older and might be hard to find but is worth tracking down. It's a medieval setting with what seems like magic all around, but the magic is actually just new (to the time) discoveries like gunpowder and kites. Very clever! Douglas Bond is another favorite, and decidedly Reformed. While I wasn't as captivated by his early books, he keeps getting better. All four of these are really great reads: War in the Wasteland is a fictional account of C.S. Lewis's time in World War I's trenches back when he was still an atheist. The Revolt is about John Wycliffe (a Reformer who died more than 100 years before Martin Luther nailed up his 95 theses) and his times. It's books like this that make learning Church history a joy. The Thunder is a fictionalized biography of John Knox. Bond helps this Reformation giant come alive Hostage Lands is really two stories in one, with the first about a boy who doesn't want to learn Latin, but discovers a tablet in Latin telling a story going back to when Rome still ruled the British Isles. Some favorite series include: Andrew Peterson’s The Wingfeather Saga is a 4-book series that has recently been expanded with a short story collection by the author's friends (and the books are now being turned into an animated TV series). Jonathan Roger’s Wilderking Trilogy is another family favorite, inspired by, but not trying to be, the story of King David. S.D. Smith’s The Green Ember has 9 books in the series so far – 4 big and 5 smaller – and I got my kids interested by starting with one of the smaller ones, The Last Archer. That's out of order, so I had to share a little bit of the backstory to clue them in. All it amounted to was telling them that the rabbits were preparing for war, and there had been a traitor in a prominent rabbit family, the Longtreaders, so the rest of the rabbits were suspicious of the whole family, even though the rest were not traitors. That was enough to get my kids started with this smaller, action-packed volume, which they all loved (and which we've read 3 times now). Stephen Lawhead’s In the Hall of the Dragon King is a trilogy. Also good is his Song of Albion trilogy, though it is a more magical series. The inclusion of magic in fantasy fiction can be fun, because it allows for normal rules (like gravity) to be broken. But it is limits that keep a story grounded and connected to the real world, so if a fantasy author doesn't write with some restraint – if it is just magic, magic, and more magic – things can quickly get nonsensical and just plain weird. In Lawhead's Song of Albion there's more magic than In the Hall of the Dragon King, but still tight constraints on it. Those constraints fell by the wayside in Lawhead's later books, which became increasingly odd. So this is not a recommendation for everything he wrote. Piet Prins' Wambu is a 3-book series about a cannibal boy who turns to God, and then returns to his family (who might eat him!) to share God's good news. This is an older series that might be hard to get. What follows next is just a potpourri of individual titles: Dangerous Journey is a retelling of John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress with modernized text suitable for teens, but pictures only suitable for boys (there are some grim ones!). Gary Schmidt's Pilgrim's Progress is a retelling that might also be good for this age, or for the ambitious, there is the lightly modernized (but to great effect!) edition edited by C.J. Lovik. Anne DeVries' Journey Through the Night tells the story of the Dutch Resistance during World War II. This is a great book, but it's older, which means it might take a little prodding from Mom or Dad, maybe reading the first chapters together, to help your son get interested. Ethan Nicolle's Brave Ollie Possum is not nighttime reading, tackling, as it does, the things that go bump in the night. But many a teen boy will love it. Jonathan Renshaw’s enormous Dawn of Wonder is astonishing, but it is also only the first book in an as yet unfinished series, so here's hoping the sequels don't ruin it. Douglas Wilson’s Flags out Front might seem a bit old for this group, set, as it is, on a Christian college campus. But for 14 and 15-year-olds, beginning to anticipate life after high school, this will show them how, to glorify God in battle, Christians don't need to seek out fights, but just have to be willing to fight the ones that God sets before us. Finally, I'll include some graphic novels suggestions that aren't all fiction, and some would say, are not novels. But this age group will appreciate them: Luther: the Graphic Novel is the Reformer's story told with Marvel-level artwork Luther: Echoes of the Hammer was put out by the Lutherans, and if it is a little less entertaining than the previous suggestions, it is the more educational. The same group also created a graphic novel on his wife called Katie Luther. Freiheit! The White Rose Graphic Novel is the true story of a  group of German students who stood up to Hitler and paid the price for it. The Hobbit: the Graphic Novel is a work of art, and if the original novel is a bit much for a boy, this graphic novel version might be a good alternative. I'll conclude with a great series – the Narnia seven – that most everyone has already read so I can point to a lesser-known imitator worth mentioning. Canadian author John White has written a good, if not quite up to Lewis-level, 5-book series called The Archives of Anthropos. It is good, and some kids eager for more Narnian tales will devour this reasonable facsimile, but it isn't the sure-fire bet that some of the other offerings here are....

Parenting, Soup and Buns

10 games you can play with your toddler without having to roll off the sofa

A young relative has two toddlers, and our conversation reminded me of some useful strategies from those wonderful and exhausting days. While I don’t miss the days when several of my children were sick simultaneously, or those hours when they all whined or argued, I do miss those young years: their voices giving daily news bulletins that showed me who they were and who they were becoming, and all of the singing, learning, and playing together. Some negative people see only the duties of parenting. That’s like a Fortune 500 company president focusing only on flooding toilets in the washroom, or employee theft. But as the saying goes, “nothing is work unless you’d rather be doing something else.” You can enjoy being in the thick of it now, even if the work is challenging and tiring! The first strategy is that days always went best when I guided, loosely at least, the order of the activities for the day. Mom or Dad assessed the needs and the desires of the children, and then decided when it was playtime, rest time, or lunchtime. A second strategy was born from fatigue and creativity. I found that with enthusiasm I could engage the little ones in activities that could be done while I was physically resting and they were getting exercise. Here's my top 10 list: Fetch. Seriously! While lying on the sofa, you can throw a ball for a toddler to retrieve. They love it, and you get to be prone. Rollies. Similar to fetch, except that you take whichever toys will roll (stacking rings, for instance) and you roll them as far as you can, and the kids chase them and bring them back. I used to do this in the church nursery and it kept them occupied for a good twenty minutes. Coloring. Children like to have you color with them. Get a coffee table that’s the height of the sofa, and pull it over next to the sofa. While you lie there, color together, commenting on what you are doing. It’s a great time to listen. You can even color with your odd hand if you need to turn over onto your other side– the kids don’t care or even notice. Reading, and lessons. Let them bring over their favorite books. I taught all of my kids to read (starting at age 4) using Why Johnny Can’t Read by Rudolf Flesch; all it takes is the book, attention, and some paper and pencils. It doesn’t matter what position your body is in while you read or teach them! Blocks or Duplos. Build towers and teach them to build houses on the coffee table. Practice boundaries by letting them use opposite ends of the table to build. They love your attention to their designs and details. Safety scissors, magazines, catalogs, and tape = books. Staple together 3 or 4 pieces of construction paper and then, on the coffee table, let them cut pictures and tape them in to make a book. Have them dictate what to say, and write it down exactly. All together at the end you can pick up the debris. “Don’t let the balloon hit the floor!” Best played when there are at least 2-3 kids to run and jump after it. You can use one hand and one foot as you lie there. Sing. Sing songs that they know. Teach them silly songs from your youth. Listen and sing along to kids’ CD’s (our favorite was Rosenshontz!) Encourage them to dance and jump to the music, or have a stuffed animal parade. They get exercise, and you’re laying on the sofa, waving your arms. Write letters to grandparents, or church members. Be the secretary and ask them what to say (with a little prompting.) Let them make up a story, and read back each paragraph as they finish it. If you use a pencil and paper on a clipboard or book, you can write while laying on your back. After your rest you can walk to the mailbox together. Watch a video together. I’m not for plugging kids in very often, but it is another activity you can do while lying down on the sofa. Plan it, saying, “after lunch cleanup we’ll watch a video together;” then get comfy and enjoying their responses, teaching them tidbits: “God made those butterflies, didn’t He?” Toddlers desire your loving attention. You can give them a full dose of it and rest yourself by trying these ideas in your home. This first appeared in the October 2011 issue under the title “Parent rests while toddlers play: film at 11”...

Adult non-fiction, Apologetics 101, Book Reviews

The Ultimate Proof of Creation: Resolving the Orgins Debate

by Jason Lisle 2009 / 254 pages Herman Bavinck (1854-1921) is an important figure from our Reformed heritage. A careful theologian with a love for the Word of God, Bavinck is just beginning to be truly appreciated in North America through the translation of his four-volume Reformed Dogmatics. Even though he isn’t mentioned in it, The Ultimate Proof of Creation owes a debt of gratitude to this giant. From Bavinck to Van Til to Bahnsen to Lisle How so? Well, back in the 1920s, a young student at Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids became enamoured with Bavinck. Reading him in the original Dutch, this student caught on quickly to Bavinck’s perspective.  In later years, this student would go on to apply Bavinck’s insights to the field of apologetics. Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987) never claimed to be original and never claimed to be doing anything other than standing on the shoulders of the giants who went before him. While at Westminster Theological Seminary, Van Til would teach several generations of Presbyterian and Reformed men how Reformed theology demands a Reformed apologetic and he would offer that apologetic mostly on the basis of what Bavinck had developed. One of Van Til’s disciples was Greg Bahnsen (1948-1995), a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Bahnsen was a well-known populariser of the Reformed apologetics developed by Van Til.  He not only taught the theory, he also effectively put it into practice in numerous debates with atheists, the most notable of whom was Gordon Stein in 1985. Bahnsen is directly credited at the beginning of this book by Dr. Jason Lisle as the one whose writings and lectures provided its inspiration. However, as noted, the credit ultimately goes back to Herman Bavinck. A presuppositional approach In this book, Lisle (at the time a research scientist at Answers in Genesis and since then the founder of the Biblical Science Institute) applies Reformed presuppositional apologetics to the question of origins.  Too often, Christians try to “fight fire with fire” when it comes to the debate between creation and evolution. In other words, they use the same methods and approaches that the unbeliever or theistic evolutionist adopts.  This has been a notable problem in creationist literature. Lisle calls this (using the terminology of Bahnsen), the “pretended neutrality fallacy.” The debate is not over the evidence; rather it is a debate over worldviews. When it comes to method, we need to begin and end with what the Bible teaches. Lisle calls this a “Bible-first” approach, but we could also call it the presuppositional or Reformed approach. It takes the biblical doctrine of sola Scriptura seriously, as well as the related matters of the Bible’s verbal plenary inspiration and inerrancy. In other words, this is an effort to consistently apply what the church confesses in articles 5-7 of the Belgic Confession. Lisle concretely demonstrates how the biblical worldview (which includes creation as described in Genesis 1 & 2) should be defended. This involves exposing the weakness and irrationality of opposing worldviews (including those of theistic evolutionists) and then demonstrating how the biblical worldview is the only one which can make sense of the world in which we live. Evidence has a place in this apologetic as a tool to drive the discussion forward towards a recognition that worldview differences are key. However, evidence will not in and of itself resolve the issue. Dealing with logical fallacies One of the noteworthy features of this book is its attention to logical fallacies. Knowledge of these is important for exposing the weakness of worldviews that do not take what the Bible says in Genesis 1 and 2 at face value. Chapter 7 deals with informal logical fallacies. One of these is a fallacy of presumption known as “begging the question.” Lisle states, “Every old-earth argument I have ever seen commits the fallacy of begging the question.” He gives the example of radiometric dating: they say young-earth creationists are wrong because radiometric dating shows that rocks are billions of years old. This begs the question of whether radiometric dating is reliable – the opponent assumes that it is and that the young-earth creationist is wrong. Chapter 8 goes on to deal with formal logical fallacies. This is more complicated, but Lisle does a good job of making it as understandable as possible. Once again, he reveals the subtle fallacies that evolutionists (secular and theistic) commit in their reasoning. The book concludes with three appendices. In the first one, Lisle defends a natural, straightforward reading of the Bible. Here he especially has his eye on those who claim to believe the Bible but yet argue that the world is millions or billions of years old and that humans have primate ancestors. In the other two appendices, Lisle gives numerous practical examples of how to put the apologetics described in this book into practice. Conclusion I am stoked about this book. It’s been published at just the right time. As I write, there is an ongoing debate in the Canadian Reformed Churches about creation and evolution. This book argues that a consistent Reformed apologetic requires a belief in what the Bible literally says in Genesis 1 and 2. This is the consistent application of Reformed, biblical principles handed down to us from Bavinck and others. I highly recommend this book to one and all, and especially to my fellow pastors and elders in our churches, to our seminarians, to teachers in our schools and to post-secondary students. This is the best book on the creation/evolution issue that I’ve read. Dr. Wes Bredenhof blogs at Bredenhof.ca. This post first appeared in the January 2010 issue. ...

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Once upon a banana

by Jennifer Armstrong illustrated by David Small 48 pages / 2013 I'd almost forgotten just how wonderful wordless books can be. But then I found this at the library, brought it home, read it once to my three girls, and then, moments later, my youngest, all of three, was off on her own "reading" the book to herself. The fact is, long before kids can read, many really, really want to. Parents might find them, picture book on their lap, either trying to remember how the story goes, or trying to make up something that will fit the pictures. And all the while, just wishing they could read it for themselves. Wordless books are a way to build on this enthusiasm. I did need to go through Once Upon A Banana the first time with them, pointing out things like how banana peels are supposed to be slippery, and how the book was giving us hints as to what was coming, by showing us some characters in full color, and the less important characters only in shades of blue. But they didn't need much to figure it out. The story is one big chase scene, with monkey owner chasing monkey, and then grocer chasing monkey owner, and then some dogs join the chase, and a skateboarding judge, and a mom and her baby in its stroller. Oh, and there's a big garbage truck in the mix too. It's crazy and frantic with lots to look at on every page. After I gave a short "lesson" on how to read this wordless book, my two pre-readers could do it all on their own. That means that, while wordless books aren't going to replace me any time soon, they do reduce the demand just a tad on Dad the book reader. And that freed me up to read something a bit more challenging, and at least a little bit closer to my own level, to my older girls. The only downside to wordless books is that they take hardly any time to read. That means this isn't the best value for a parent - it'd be better to get it out of the library. But this is a good one for a school library. You can get it at Amazon.ca here and Amazon.com here. And for more wordless wonders, see the reviews below on ReallyGoodReads.com: The Hero of Little Street and The Boy and the Airplane South Ice Journey ...

Pro-life - Abortion

Not without a fight: the history of the pro-life movement in Canada

Pro-life activists perform an important role in society. They help to remind people about what is perhaps the most pressing political issue in our country, namely, the legally-sanctioned killing of unborn children. This killing is often justified as being the consequence of a "woman's right to chose." In Canada, exterminating the unborn is considered to be a "human right" supported by all levels of government and all of the major political parties. But this phrase, "a woman's right to choose," is simply a euphemism for the killing of unborn babies. It's a clever choice of words to hide the reality of abortion. Of course, abortion is a worldwide phenomenon, not a specifically Canadian one. All of the Western countries allow abortion, although Canada is unique among them in having no legal restrictions on abortion whatsoever. But it is helpful to see the abortion controversy in its international context. The Canadian pro-life movement has not been successful in stopping abortion in Canada, but the same is true of pro-life movements in the USA, Australia, and elsewhere. It's not that Canada's pro-lifers have failed to find the right tactic - some silver bullet that would put an end to the killing. Rather, the Canadian situation reflects a worldwide embrace of abortion by cultures that want to separate sexual activity from its consequences. A history of the abortion fight in Canada demonstrates that the Canadian pro-life movement has been very adept, thoughtful, strategic and thorough in their various attempts to stop abortion. But despite the movement’s best efforts, it was not able to stem the tide. It began in 1969 In Canada, the push to legalize abortion came on strong during the 1960s. Towards the end of that decade, Parliament was looking into the matter, and in 1969 the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau passed a bill easing the Criminal Code restrictions on abortion. Although the new law did not completely decriminalize abortion, it made abortion more easily available. Hospitals could each have a therapeutic abortion committee (TAC), and the committee could approve an abortion after three doctors confirmed that a pregnancy would likely endanger the life or health of a particular woman. Women seeking abortions were normally approved for the procedure. The pro-life movement in Canada emerged in response to the 1969 law. By the mid-1970s there were dozens of pro-life groups across Canada. The main national organization was the Alliance for Life headed by Dr. Heather Morris. In 1973 the pro-life groups gathered a petition of 352,000 signatures requesting a stricter abortion law. This petition was presented to Prime Minister Trudeau. Then in 1975, the Petition of One Million campaign managed to get over a million signatures on a petition opposing abortion. Yet, despite this tremendous effort, it was not successful in leading to any legislative change. Two key figures In 1978 a new pro-life group called Campaign Life was formed. It represented the more conservative and militant segment of the pro-life movement and continues today as the leading pro-life organization in the country. In the national debate about adopting a Charter of Rights in 1981, Campaign Life's legal counsel, Gwen Landolt, accurately predicted the negative consequences that would result from the Charter. Another major pro-life figure was Joe Borowski, a former Manitoba cabinet minister in that province's NDP government of the early 1970s. In 1978 Borowski launched a court challenge to Canada's abortion law, arguing that it violated the Canadian Bill of Rights which guaranteed the right to life. There was considerable legal wrangling over whether Borowski even had the right to launch such a challenge, and it wasn't until 1983 that his case was finally heard. By this time the Charter of Rights had been adopted, so his challenge was modified to argue that the abortion law violated the Charter's guarantee of the right to life. Borowski lost later in 1983, but he continued to press his case and the Supreme Court of Canada agreed to hear it in 1988. Morgentaler starts fighting In the meantime, another significant case was winding its way through Canada's courts. From the early 1970s on, Henry Morgentaler, the leading abortionist in Canada, was in and out of the courts for violating the terms of Canada's abortion law. Morgentaler opposed the abortion law because he thought it was too restrictive. The law only allowed abortions to be performed in hospitals, whereas Morgentaler wanted to be able to perform them in abortion clinics. He was ultimately successful in operating a clinic in Quebec where public sentiment strongly supported abortion rights. When Morgentaler opened a clinic in Toronto in 1983 (the first abortion clinic in English Canada), he was charged with performing illegal abortions. He fought this charge all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada which heard his case in October 1986. Pro-lifers were very active during this period. In some locations across Canada, pro-lifers were able to get elected to local hospital boards and shut down that hospital’s TAC. Thus the hospital would no longer be able to perform abortions. This was an especially effective tactic in the Maritime provinces. There were also numerous protests and demonstrations in front of Morgentaler's Toronto abortuary. Occasionally some pro-life activists would attempt to block the steps leading to the "clinic" and would be arrested. An organization called Choose Life Canada was formed by Baptist minister Ken Campbell, and it managed to set up its office right next to the Morgentaler facility. This office was called The Way Inn and it was in a perfect location to dissuade women from proceeding with their abortions. January 28, 1988 Then, on January 28, 1988, the infamous Morgentaler decision was handed down by the Supreme Court, striking down Canada's abortion law and consequently eliminating all legal restrictions on abortion in the country. However, this decision did not create a "right" to abortion in Canada. Instead, the law had been struck down for violating the procedural fairness required by the Charter. Thus the way was left open for Parliament to enact a new law restricting abortion. Pro-life organizations could likely have intervened in the Morgentaler case but had chosen not to. They were active in supporting Borowski's case and did not think they had the resources to also be involved in Morgentaler's. At the time, Gwen Landolt argued that this was a mistake. As usual, she was right. The mistake became clear to all when the Supreme Court heard Borowski's case in October 1988, months after the Morgentaler decision. Borowski was challenging the very abortion law which had previously been thrown out in the Morgentaler decision. So, since the law had already been thrown out, in March 1989 the Supreme Court ruled that the case was moot. The pro-lifers lost again. In the wake of the Morgentaler decision, pro-life groups organized a massive letter-writing campaign urging members of Parliament (MPs) to pass a restrictive abortion law. But there were deep divisions even within the governing Progressive Conservative caucus of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, so despite some attempts, nothing was accomplished. The infamy of 1988 – when free trade trumped life A federal election was called for the fall of 1988, and pro-life groups were very active in trying to elect pro-life MPs. However, the central issue in this election campaign was the proposed Free Trade Agreement with the USA, so the abortion issue did not really receive a lot of attention. Nevertheless, some new pro-life MPs were elected. Many pro-lifers were becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of any legal restrictions on abortion in Canada and therefore became involved in an American-based organization called Operation Rescue led by a theologically charismatic minister, Randall Terry. The "rescuers," often in large numbers, would use their bodies to block the entrances to abortuaries so that women could not enter them. It was hoped that this would prevent abortions from being performed. The police, of course, would move in and arrest the rescuers. Most of this rescue activity took place in the first half of 1989. When is moot not moot? By the summer of 1989 the courts were back in the center of the abortion fight. In July an Ontario court and a Quebec court each issued an injunction preventing a woman from having an abortion, both at the instigation of former boyfriends. The Ontario injunction against Barbara Dodd, however, was quickly overturned by the Ontario Supreme Court so she went to the Morgentaler clinic for an abortion. But in the other case, the Quebec Superior Court upheld the injunction against Chantal Daigle, and two weeks later the Quebec Court of Appeal also upheld the injunction. This latter decision went so far as to declare that unborn children had a right to life! Can you imagine?! Anyway, Canada was now in the midst of a full-fledged national crisis. The achievements of the pro-abortion camp were severely threatened by the Quebec Court of Appeal decision. An emergency session of the Supreme Court of Canada was called, and organizations from both sides of the abortion debate were granted intervener status, including Campaign Life and REAL Women of Canada. During the court proceedings, Daigle's lawyer announced that she had gone to the US and had an abortion there, making the case moot. Despite being moot, the Supreme Court proceeded to strike down the injunction against Daigle. This makes for a very interesting contrast. When Joe Borowski's case became moot, the Supreme Court refused to deal with it for that reason. But when Chantal Daigle's case became moot, the Supreme Court decided the issue anyway. It appears that the Supreme Court is willing to proceed with a moot case, but only as long as doing so will further the pro-abortion cause. This is "justice" in Canada. A law both sides hated In November 1989 the Mulroney government introduced Bill C-43, a new proposed abortion law. It made abortion a criminal offence, except where the pregnant woman desired to have one for reasons of physical, mental, or psychological health. Although the pro-abortion camp opposed the bill because it technically criminalized abortion, many conservative Christians saw the loopholes in it as basically enshrining abortion on demand. People such as Ken Campbell, Ted Byfield of Alberta Report, and Gwen Landolt of REAL Women opposed the bill on these grounds. Some other pro-life organizations, such as the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, supported the bill for pragmatic reasons, arguing that it was better to have a faulty law with some restrictions on abortion than no law whatsoever. Despite strong opposition from both the pro and anti-abortion camps, the bill passed the House of Commons in May 1990. However, it still had to pass the Senate, so opponents had another chance to block it. The Senate vote in January 1991 was a tie, and ties count as a loss by Senate rules. Thus the abortion bill failed and Canada remained without any legal restrictions on abortion. This is still the situation today. We have work to do The pro-life movement has remained active since that time, but no Canadian government has even attempted to bring in an abortion law since the failure of Bill C-43. The pro-life movement in Canada has lost all of its major battles. In this respect, it looks like a failure. But viewing it that way would be a mistake. As mentioned earlier, the abortion fight is a worldwide phenomenon and even the USA, with strong conservative Christian and pro-life movements, basically has a situation of abortion on demand. If the American movement, with its prominent and powerful Christian activist groups, and sympathetic politicians (including President Bush and most Republican congressmen), can't hold back the pro-abortion tide, can we really expect the Canadian pro-life movement to do any better? The fact is that Canada's pro-lifers have fought valiantly, using the best means at their disposal. Getting over one million signatures on a pro-life petition in the mid-1970s is quite an achievement. (Remember, they had to do this the old-fashioned way – they did not have the Internet.) But the petition was ignored. Working for the election of pro-life MPs is a reasonable strategy. But every government caucus has contained some pro-life MPs, and yet look at the situation we are in today. The pro-life movement has tried to use the courts to protect the unborn, with Joe Borowski being the best example of this. But with a judiciary dominated by abortion supporters, this didn't work either. And as a last resort, courageous pro-lifers joined Operation Rescue to use their own bodies to block entrances to abortuaries. And what did they get? Fines and jail time. So it hasn't been for a lack of trying. The pro-life cause will ultimately prevail and abortion will be outlawed in Canada once again. But it will be a long road, and it will be easy to become discouraged in the meantime. The struggle against abortion needs to be seen in its worldwide context so that the setbacks on this issue in Canada are seen as part of a pattern of setbacks for the pro-life movement around the world. It may be an embarrassment that Canada has no legal restrictions on abortion, but many other Western nations also have high abortion rates so they aren't much different from Canada, really. Their pro-life movements have also "failed" in this respect. It's not like the pro-life movement is simply missing a winning strategy, and once that strategy is discovered the pro-life side will finally prevail in Canada. The situation is much worse than that. The culture of the Western nations, at least among the controlling elites, is a basically pro-abortion culture, and there will need to be a change at the cultural level before the law is changed. Canada and the other Western countries need to be re-Christianized. Failing that, it's likely that abortion will continue unabated. Michael Wagner is the author of “Leaving God Behind: The Charter of Rights and Canada’s Official Rejection of Christianity,” available at Merchantship.ca. This article first appeared in the January 2008 issue....

News

Saturday Selections – Jan. 22, 2022

On being a Christian introvert (6 min) Tim Challies, a self-professed introvert, tackles this topic. You can also check out Sharon Bratcher's "Should an introvert be expected to act like an extrovert?" How public education poisons children This article needs to be passed along. Jonathon Van Maren writes: "Know what your children are viewing on the Internet. Do not give them smartphones. Be aware of what they are being taught and what curriculum they are being exposed to. And if at all possible, do not put them in the public education system. The consequences, for many families, have been tragic." More evidence for a young earth "The earth is surrounded by a magnetic field that protects living things from solar radiation. Without it, life could not exist. That’s why scientists were surprised to discover that the field is quickly wearing down. At the current rate, the field and thus the earth could be no older than 20,000 years old." The Sabbath shows that work isn't the point of life "Today we are taught by a culture that views work as an end in itself. It is what supplies our identity and gives meaning to our lives by maximizing success and money through our labor. Our work is never done, and the constant drive to prove ourselves destroys our ability to find rest." What is the Great Reset? (15-minute read) Michael Rectenwald writes on how Covid was used by some as an opportunity to implement changes – it was a crisis that they didn't let go to waste. A longer read, but it gives a background worth knowing. Alarming decrease in male fertility The birthrate has dropped because our culture has prioritized career over family, but part of the decline isn't voluntary – male fertility rates are dropping. Matt Walsh breaks down his Dr. Phil debate This past week Matt Walsh had a debate of sorts with two transgender activists about pronouns. Lots to love here in how Walsh argues. He shows how to expose the lie, by asking the liars to explain themselves. It came down to a simple question: "Can tell me what a woman is?" What Walsh doesn't do but should have, is point them to the truth: that God made us male and female (Genesis 1:27).  ...

Assorted

When it comes to witnessing, are we just too impatient?

How long would you patiently wait for your morning coffee? Five minutes? Would you even last that long? What if you first had to manually grind the beans, boil the water over a fire, and, if you wanted cream with it, milk the cow? It wasn’t so many years ago that these time-consuming tasks had to be performed prior to enjoying a morning coffee. And back then, when they had to put work into it, do you think people were as particular about the taste and quality of their coffee? Not so much. However, today, with our near-instant coffee gratification, it seems the more we get, the more we expect, and even demand. Impatience with God? Of course, a little impatience when it comes to coffee isn’t too concerning. But do we have this same impatience with God also? Daily, when we receive a multitude of mercies from God, isn’t it our nature to turn around and demand more, better, and faster? We wouldn’t use those words in our prayers, but in our hearts we do want God to use His power to give us what we think is best… and give it right away. Are we patient and persistent when praying and working for the furtherance of God’s Kingdom? Or are we often in a great rush in our witnessing to the lost? If we don’t see a response of faith in the first few weeks, or months, or years, we become impatient, we despair, and we wonder if it is all a waste of time. If it isn’t working, just move on, right? Wrong. We don’t know – and don’t get to set – the speed at which God ought to work in the lives of people who are lost. God’s speed often appears to us to be a strangely slow speed, but that is His business, not ours. Our job is to be faithful to the task He has given us. And our patience with people is proof of our love for them – and proof of our faith in God’s power to change them. Patience is so important that J.I. Packer dared to write: “If you are not willing thus to be patient, you need not expect that God will favor you by enabling you to win souls.” Persistent witness When we look to the Bible, we see the apostles repeatedly preaching the gospel even when there was opposition. And they continued to do so after repeatedly being arrested, imprisoned, and told to cease (Acts 4-5). It was persevering during hardship. That is a concept that many Christians in the West have little experience of. Why do we experience setbacks while we are working in obedience to God’s commands? It seems like an unnecessary trial. In our weaker moments we could be tempted to think that if God wants us to build His church, He should (at least) remove the obstacles so it wouldn’t take so long. The apostles stop when – and only when – they are forcefully driven out (Acts 13:50-51) or opposed, verbally berated, and mocked (Acts 18:6). In so doing, they followed Jesus’ command: “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces” (Matt.7:6) and: “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town” (Matt.10:14). God isn’t “looking for results” the same way that we often do. Rather, God is the one who brings results about, and He decides how and when those results will come about. We are merely tools in God’s hand, used by Him to bring about His purposes in His timing. And God often uses processes that try our patience, test our perseverance, and cause us to trust His power, purposes and timing. Once again, J.I. Packer’s words come to mind: “God saves in His own time, and we ought not to suppose that He is in such a hurry as we are… the work of evangelizing demands more patience and sheer 'stickability', more reserves of persevering love and care, than most of us twenty-first century Christians have at (our) command.” So let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season – according to God’s timetable and not our own – we will reap, if we do not lose heart. Pastor Brian Zegers has been called to minister the Gospel to Muslims in the Greater Toronto Area, and Peter Vogel serves full-time as Ministry Assistant at Word of Life Ministry. Find them at WordOfLifeMinistry.ca and their YouTube channel “True Salaam” where they seek to explain the Gospel to Muslim viewers....

Christian education

On public schools: evangelism is not discipleship

A few years ago, at a Ligonier Conference, Pastor Voddie Baucham was asked what he would say to parents who were weighing the option of homeschooling or Christian schooling over against using the public schools. The hope was, in using the public system, that their children’s Christian faith would be a “witness and influence” in this unbelieving culture. Baucham’s response was profound. "I think they're making a categorical error….All of a sudden we went from a discussion about education, which is discipleship, to a discussion about evangelism in spite of negative discipleship. And so, we've got two completely separate categories there…. So what we’ve got do is, we’ve got to talk about those things properly.” He went on to explain: “When somebody asks me that question that way, they're telling me that they don't want to answer the most important question. And they've created a false argument between two separate categories that are being held up in competition against one another when they are absolutely not. Because, if they ask me, ‘Should I give my child a Christ-honoring education’ or ‘Should I have my child be an influence on people who are unbelievers” - Yes! Why do we assume that the only way a child can have an impact and influence on unbelievers is if they give up on a Christ-honoring, Christ-centered education? So, I think there's a categorical error in the question.” The impact starts so young As a public school substitute teacher in the Detroit, Michigan area, I have worked in more than 30 schools. While I have been impressed with the teachers’ and staff’s dedication, I find constant reminders that the children are in no way learning about God or Jesus Christ. He has been replaced by Nature in Science class, ignored in Mathematics, barely noticed in History and Literature, and severely criticized in Psychology and Sociology. Recently I was teaching a lovable group of Kindergarteners about the symbols of the USA: the flag, the eagle, and the Statue of Liberty. I defined freedom for them, mentioning that in our country everyone can pray to God the way that we want to, get the type of job we prefer, and travel where we want to without the government telling us that we cannot. A sweet, smiling, dark-haired girl raised her little hand, eager to add info to my list. She said, “And in the United States, when you grow up, if you’re a boy, you can marry a girl or a boy, and if you’re a girl, you can marry a boy or a girl! In some places you can’t do that, but in the United States we can marry who we want to.” She was quite excited. I was stunned. Factually, she was correct, so there was nothing I could say in that setting. I changed the subject and moved on. But I shouldn’t have been shocked. The public schools, colleges, and universities follow the current cultural norm wherever it leads, and that, without question, includes teaching kids that 2 Moms or 2 Dads is entirely normal, even desirable. By the time this 5-year-old is 18, she won’t have any room left in her “open” mind to think anything else. Conclusion At the same Ligonier Conference, R.C. Sproul added his own thoughts to Voddie Baucham’s, speaking to the economic cost of Christian school tuition: “The biggest illusion is that sending your kids to the government school is free. It's the most costly thing you could ever do.” While we are still free to do so, we need to renew our dedication to Christ-centered, Christ-honoring education, whether inside a brick and mortar building or as a consortium of homeschoolers who aid one another. How might we all sacrifice more to ensure that all of our children will learn His truth? “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them 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.” – Deut. 6:6-7 https://youtu.be/5pMJJRqLA90?t=42m28s...

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books, Graphic novels

Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse

by Torben Kuhlmann 96 pages / 2014 How did man first learn to fly? It seems we had a little help. This is the story of a little mouse who made the very first transatlantic flight, back when Charles Lindbergh was but a lad. As our story begins we learn what first motivated this mouse to seek the skies. In the late 1800s, another invention was becoming quite popular – the mousetrap! – which had this furry inventor seeking somewhere safer to live. Where could he go? Why not America, a place that welcomed immigrants of all sorts (whether man or mouse)? That was a good destination, but when he tried boarding a boat, he barely escaped the harbor cats. They were guarding the docks, and there was no getting past them. It was there, however, as the little mouse was hiding in the shadows, that he was "struck" by inspiration: "Suddenly wings flapped against his face! Ghostly creatures flew through the dark. They looked like mice, with tiny eyes and huge ears. But they flew with powerful black wings. The little mouse carefully studied the strange flying relatives, then scurried home..." Why not try flying to America using wings like bats! In the many pages that follow we see the mouse draft plans, secure supplies, evade owls, fail, try again, fail once more, and then finally make his way into the skies. What makes the book so special is the enormous, gorgeous, detailed pictures. I want to make the case that this should be shelved in the graphic novel section of the library, even though it isn't what most would think of as a graphic novel. There are no word bubbles, but there are whole sections where the story is told entirely by sequential pictures. It might be accurately called a picture book, but that makes it seem like it's for little children (what older kids read picture books?). This is not a children's story. That's in small part because it has a grim bit here and there – one mouse is depicted in a newspaper picture as clearly dead, caught in a mousetrap, which would be an unexpected jolt to readers in the lowest grades. It might also be too tense with the owls determined not simply to frustrate his flight, but to eat our little inventor. The bigger reason this is older fare is simply the length and depth of the story. The mouse draws schematics that deserve to be closely examined – there are echoes here of Leonardo da Vinci. And he is playing a cat and mouse game on a few levels, not simply with cats, but owls, and people too. So, yes, this visual feast belongs best in the graphic novel section where boys in Grades 4 and up will discover it and love it! Caution The only caution, other than age appropriateness due to the aforementioned grim bits, would concern not this book, but a sequel in the author's "Mouse Adventures" series. In the next book, Armstrong (2016), another mouse takes things even further, developing the first ever rocket to the moon so he can prove that it is not made of green cheese. It's another inventive story, and the only nit I have to pick comes afterward, in an appendix of sorts. There we're told that Galileo Galilei "contradicted the Church's view at the time and his work was banned while he found himself accused of heresy." This is true, but without context, it contributes to the popular idea of Science as the ultimate authority, especially over and above what the Church teaches from the Bible. What this overlooks is that the Church's problem here was its reliance on faulty science in the first place – Aristotilean science – rather than the Bible. Most kids aren't likely to even ingest this section of the book. But this particular lie is a pernicious one, used as a universal solvent to undermine clear biblical teachings on origins, sexuality and gender. While it's only a small mention of a potent lie, it is also delivered to a young audience, which is why I'd give this one a skip for a school library. I'd also skip on Einstein (2020), not because of specific problems, but because there were parts of this picture book/graphic novel that as an adult, I didn't even understand. I think this one was too ambitious, considering the target audience. Conclusion That said, this story is the very pinnacle of creative genius. It will teach children at least a little about what it took to first developed powered flight, providing as fun and wonderfully illustrated an introduction to the topic as you'll find. For more, take a look at the book's trailer below. And if your child enjoys this one, they'll likely also love the third book, Edison: the Mystery of the Missing Mouse Treasure (2018) in which a mouse invents underwater travel to recover the illuminating invention his ancestor created. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Unitards

Family / Comedy 2010 / 107 minutes Rating: 8/10 The producers bill this as "High School Musical meets Napoleon Dynamite" but I'll have to take their word for it, not having seen either. I do know it is laugh-out-loud, tears-in-your-eyes funny in parts. When the vice principal charges Lewis Grady with building up school spirit, he decides to start a guys-only dance...thing (he isn't quite sure what it is, but he knows it isn't a dance team because that's what girls do). His two quirky friends are happy to help, even if they've got some misgivings about dancing in front of the whole student body. The three buddies bribe, beg, and bargain their way through the recruitment process, ending up with a group of a dozen or more. But it's one thing to get a group together, and another to get that group dancing together, especially when the guys have more than their share of left feet. But with a little help from mom and some friends on the school's award-winning girls' dance team, they start figuring things out. Right before their first public performance, Lewis rallies the troops with an inspirational speech that is comic gold. He reminds them of the dream most every student has had, of showing up to school in nothing but your underwear. "This is that day," he tells them: "The majority of the kids out there feel like they're showing up to school half-naked every day. Today is for the nobodies, for the average, I-don't-even-matter kids." Lewis wants his group to be an inspiration to the ordinary guys and girls out there in the audience, showing them you don't have to be awesome at something to do it, you just have to be willing to ignore the peer pressure and embrace the joy. The villain of the piece is the teacher who runs the girls' dance team. She thinks the boys are making a mockery of dance, and she wants them shut down, and she's used to getting her way. While that adds some drama to the story, this is mostly just goofy dance numbers, and quirky friends, showing how fun can be had when you ignore the mockers and set out to be encouragers. Cautions The biggest caution would just be the film's name. Unitards are a one-piece garment that dancers (especially ballet) often wear, but there is also an implicit, never made explicit, reference here to "tard," short for retard, with the joke being that any boys in a dance group are sure to have that word directed their way. It's in bad taste, but that it isn't made explicit makes it easier to overlook. While the dancing is modest by worldly standards, there is a lot of it, and it isn't the formal sort you might see in a "Pride and Prejudice" film. This is more the jump and bounce and shake and wiggle type of dancing toddlers through teens do. That includes some butt-wiggling moves that are a brief part of one or two of the dance productions. It's slightly sexually suggestive, but incidentally, rather than provocatively so. And when paired with the students' generally modest dress, it is quite tame. Conclusion Director Scott Featherstone combined elements of his own school experience with what his son Sam (who plays Lewis Grady) and friends were experiencing to come up with the script. Then he held auditions at his son's school to get all the actors. That's why the acting is solid enough, even though these are not professional actors. What they are is high school students playing high school students so it's not a stretch. And because the director and scriptwriter was a parent who knew the actors, some of these kids are almost certainly playing versions of themselves. What makes this worth watching is just how sweet it is. High school can be a tough time for many, and what we have here is a prescription for how your kids can make it better for others, and maybe themselves. Lewis Grady's friends poke fun, but they don't tear down. The guys do look goofy dancing, but they're also being brave, and some of the school's girls are smart enough to appreciate and encourage that bravery. This is high school as we wish it could have been, and would still like it to be for our kids: full of challenges, yes, but not full of naysayers, mockers, and killjoys. ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – January 2022

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

Science - General

Half duck, half beaver: the astonishing platypus

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

News

Saturday Selections – Jan. 15, 2022

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

Assorted

All's well with the Earth

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

Animated, Drama, Movie Reviews

The Toy Story franchise is for adults

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

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

Corrie ten Boom: the courageous woman and the secret room

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

Resources, Science - Creation/Evolution

Dinosaurs and dead bodies

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

Family, Movie Reviews

The Creation Adventure Team

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

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American resistance to wartime incarceration

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

News

Saturday Selections – Dec. 25, 2021

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

News, Politics

Conversion therapy and silence in Canada

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

Adult fiction, Book Reviews

Once upon a wardrobe

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

News

Top 10 RP articles of 2021

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

Theology

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

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

News

Saturday Selections – Dec. 18, 2021

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

News, Politics

Bill C-4: the Conservatives did this to Canada

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

Drama, Movie Reviews

C.S. Lewis: the most reluctant convert

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

Assorted

Suffer Annie Spence

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

Politics

Chief Concern With Conversion Therapy Law

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

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Finding Winnie

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

Magazine, Past Issue

Nov/Dec 2021 issue

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

News

Saturday Selection - Dec. 11, 2021

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

Assorted

God wants young men to be brave, not crazy

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

Culture Clashes

A beginner’s guide to fighting the Culture War

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

Family, Movie Reviews

The Incredible Journey

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

Animated, Movie Reviews

Life at the Pond

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

Drama, Family, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Time Changer

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

News

Saturday Selections - December 4, 2021

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

Human Rights

What is Freedom of Conscience?

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

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – December 2021

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

Christian education - Sports, Marriage

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

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

Book Reviews, Children’s fiction, Teen fiction

The Bark of the Bog Owl

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

News

Saturday Selections – November 27, 2021

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

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Hidden Heroes

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

History

Why History matters

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

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Microcosmos

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

Internet

Proverbs: 3,000 years ahead of its time

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

Economics

The art of the apology

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

Articles, Movie Reviews

100+ documentaries that make learning a joy

Whether you loved school or hated it, most of us were blessed with at least one teacher that showed us learning could be exciting. That's what a good documentary is like, getting us eager to learn by introducing us to new places, creatures, or ideas that we've never encountered before, then boiling down complex and important issues into bite-sized chunks we can actually understand and discuss. It's libraries worth of information, presented by leading experts with decades worth of study, packaged up in just an hour or two. God has placed us in an enormous world that's part of an even bigger universe, and if we're going to explore as much of it as we can, we are going to need guides. That's what's on offer in the films that follow. Some of the guides are fellow Christians who make the connection between creation and Creator clear, and some of the guides are not Christian, but that connection will still be clear to God's people, even if the guide himself doesn't quite get it. There are more than 100 recommendations, divided into a dozen categories. 87 of them have reviews linked to via their titles, while 40+ can be viewed for "free online." (If you're more into dramas, be sure to check out "200+ Movies King David Might Watch.") ANIMALS (8) Whether secular or Christian, these documentaries highlight the genius of the Great Designer by diving deep into the wonder of His creatures. FLIGHT OF THE BUTTERFLIES – 2012, 44 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE FLIGHT: THE GENIUS OF BIRDS – 2013, 63 minutes – 9/10 LIVING WATERS – 2015, 69 minutes – 8/10 MARCH OF THE PENGUINS – 2005, 80 minutes – 7/10 METAMORPHOSIS: THE BEAUTY AND DESIGN OF BUTTERFLIES – 2011, 64 minutes – 8/10 MICROCOSMOS – 1996, 80 minutes – 9/10 THE RIOT AND THE DANCE: EARTH – 2018, 83 minutes – 8/10 THE RIOT AND THE DANCE: WATER – 2020, 84 minutes – 8/10 APOLOGETICS (3) All the titles below are demonstrations of presuppositional apologetics, though only not all would use that terminology. COLLISION: CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS vs. DOUGLAS WILSON – 2009, 93 minutes – 9/10 – FREE ONLINE THE FOOL – 2019, 65 minutes - 8/10 – FREE ONLINE HOW TO ANSWER THE FOOL – 2013, 85 minutes – 8/10 –FREE ONLINE ASSORTED CHRISTIAN (23) The very best documentaries pack books' worth of knowledge into a short hour or two. And these are just that sort. AS WE FORGIVE – 2010, 54 minutes – 8/10 Amazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism – 2004, 257 minutes – 8/10 AMERICAN GOSPEL: CHRIST ALONE – 2018, 139 minutes – 8/10 American Gospel: Christ Crucified – 2019, 176 minutes – 8/10 BEYOND THE GATES OF SPLENDOR – 2005, 96 minutes – 7/10 THE BIBLE VS. THE BOOK OF MORMON – 2005, 66 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE BY WHAT STANDARD? GOD'S WORLD...GOD'S RULES – 2019, 110 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE CALVINIST - 2017, 89 minutes - 8/10 EXPEDITION BIBLE: JERICHO UNEARTHED – 2010, 34 minutes – 8/10 FACING DARKNESS – 2017, 99 minutes – 8/10 THE GOD WHO SPEAKS – 2018, 92 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE THE GREEN PRINCE - 2014, 101 minutes – 8/10 How Should We Then Live? – 2005, 360 minutes – 7/10 IRREPLACEABLE - WHAT IS FAMILY? – 2015, 104 minutes – 8/10 LOGIC ON FIRE – 2015, 102 minutes – 7/10 THE LONG GOODBYE: THE KARA TIPPETTS STORY – 2019, 88 minutes – 10/10 THE MARKS OF A CULT – 2005, 115 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE THE NARNIA CODE – 2009, 59 minutes – 8/10 NOTES FROM THE TILT-A-WHIRL – 2011, 51 minutes – 10/10 ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN – 2020, 112 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE RETURN TO GRACE: LUTHER'S LIFE AND LEGACY – 2017, 106 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE SPIRIT & TRUTH: A FILM ABOUT WORSHIPPING GOD – 2019, 87 minutes – 8/10 The Truth Project – 2006, 800 minutes – 9/10 WAIT TILL IT'S FREE – 2014, 82 minutes – 9/10 ASSORTED SECULAR (6) Not knowing God means the world doesn't have a full grasp on truth. But they can often spot problems, even if they don't know the solutions. Or they can discover beauty, without giving credit to Who they should. That means we can still benefit from the best of the work, adding to it what they have left out.  Cool It: Are We Saving the World or Just Burning Money? – 2010, 88 minutes – 8/10 CITIZENFOUR – 2014, 113 minutes – 7/10 DEMOGRAPHIC WINTER – 2008, 56 minutes – 7/10 LONG SHOT: THE KEVIN LAUE STORY – 2012, 91 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE The Question of God – 2004, 225 minutes – 8/10 UNCLE TOM – 2020, 106 minutes – 8/10 BABIES, BORN AND UNBORN (9) We have contributions from incrementalists and abolitionists below, as well as one secular offering.  180: FROM PRO-CHOICE TO PRO-LIFE IN SECONDS – 2011, 33 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE BABIES ARE MURDERED HERE – 2014, 54 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE BABIES ARE STILL MURDERED HERE - 2019, 102 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE – 2015, 49 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE HARDER TRUTH – 2003, 9 minutes – 10/10 – FREE ONLINE In the Womb – 2005, 89 minutes – 8/10 RESCUED: THE HEART OF ADOPTION – 2012, 62 minutes – 7/10 THE MISSING PROJECT - 2019, 75 minutes – 8/10 - FREE ONLINE UNPLANNED – 2011, 62 minutes – 7/10 CREATION, EVOLUTION, AND DESIGN (22) Evidence of all sorts, to the genius of our Creator... ALIEN INTRUSION – 2018, 109 minutes – 8/10 DARWIN: THE VOYAGE THAT SHOOK THE WORLD – 2009, 55 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE DISMANTLED: A DECONSTRUCTION OF EVOLUTION – 2020, 93 minutes – 8/10 DNA BATTLES: WERE ADAM AND EVE HISTORICAL? – 2018, 59 minutes – 7/10 DRAGONS OR DINOSAURS? – 2010 / 84 minutes – 7/10 EVOLUTION'S ACHILLES' HEELS – 2014, 96 minutes – 10/10 EXPELLED: NO INTELLIGENCE ALLOWED – 2008, 95 minutes – 8/10 GENESIS IMPACT - 2020, 67 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE GENESIS: PARADISE LOST – 2018, 109 minutes – 8/10 GOD OF WONDERS – 2008, 85 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE Icons of Evolution – 2002, 52 minutes - 7/10 INCREDIBLE CREATURES THAT DEFINE DESIGN – 2011, 62 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE IS GENESIS HISTORY? – 2017, 100 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE The Master Designer: The Song – 2014, 76 minutes – 7/10 MOUNT ST. HELENS: MODERN EVIDENCE FOR A WORLDWIDE FLOOD – 2012, 36 minutes – 7/10 NOAH'S ARK: THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX – 2008, 35 minutes – 8/10 Patterns of Evidence – 2014, 115 minutes – 8/10 THE PRIVILEGED PLANET – 2005, 60 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE REVOLUTIONARY – 2016, 60 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE SCIENCE UPRISING – 43 minutes, 2019 – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE UNLOCKING THE MYSTERY OF LIFE – 67 minutes, 2003 – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE What you aren't being told about Astronomy Vol 1 – 2009, 110 minutes – 7/10 ECONOMICS (3) An important, but sometimes dry subject is made scintillating.  LOVE GOV – 2015, 28 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE Poverty Inc. – 2014, 94 minutes – 8/10 THE PURSUIT – 2019, 77 minutes - 7/10 EDUCATION (2) Public education is a problem, as this secular and Christian documentary agree. INDOCTRINATION – 2011, 102 minutes – 8/10 WAITING FOR SUPERMAN – 2010, 111 minutes – 8/10 FOR KIDS (12) Documentaries aren't generally targeted to children, but these are, and will be a hit with the younger crowd. BUDDY DAVIS' AMAZING ADVENTURES: – I Dig Dinosaurs – 2011 – 26 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – Swamp Man – 2012, 45 minutes – 7/10 – Extreme Caving – 2013, 58 minutes – 7/10 – Alaska – 2015, 25 minutes – 6/10 – Ice Age – 2017, 25 minutes – 7/10 DUDE PERFECT: BACKSTAGE PASS – 2020, 84 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE PATTERNS OF EVIDENCE: YOUNG EXPLORERS – 2020, 190 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE INCREDIBLE CREATURES THAT DEFY EVOLUTION I-III – 200-2006, 47-79 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE A LEGO BRICKUMENTARY – 2015, 93 minutes – 7/10 THE WILD BROTHERS (8 episodes) – 2015-2020, 28-30 minutes each – 7/10 INTERNET SAFETY (4) With screens everywhere, how do we keep our children safe? Here's some help.  CAPTIVATED – 2011, 107 min – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE CONNECT: REAL HELP FOR PARENTS... – 2018, 70 minutes – 8/10 OUR KIDS ONLINE...HOW TO KEEP THEM SAFE – 2020, 88 minutes - 8/10 RAISED ON PORN – 2021, 37 min – 8/10 - FREE ONLINE SEXUALITY (4) Tackling homosexuality, transgenderism, and more, THE FREE SPEECH APOCALYPSE – 2015, 89 minutes – 8/10 HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW? – 2016, 88 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE IN HIS IMAGE: GOD'S PLAN FOR SEXUALITY – 2020, 104 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE TRANS MISSION: WHAT'S THE RUSH TO REASSIGN GENDER? – 2021, 52 minutes – 7/10 -FREE ONLINE WORLD WAR II (10) To help us remember... GOODBYE HOLLAND: THE DESTRUCTION OF DUTCH JEWRY – 2004, 90 minutes – 8/10 HIDDEN HEROES – 1999, 50 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE THE RECKONING – 2006, 96 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE Why we fight – 1943-45 – 7/10 – Prelude to War / The Nazis Strike – 95 minutes – FREE ONLINE – Divide and Conquer / The Battle of Britain – 106 minutes – FREE ONLINE – The Battle of Russia – 83 minutes – FREE ONLINE – The Battle of China / War comes to America – 131 minutes – FREE ONLINE...

Book Reviews, Teen fiction

Echo Island: the silence holds a secret

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