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News

Alberta and BC champion very different responses to drug use

Earlier this year, BC became the first province to decriminalize small amounts of illegal drugs. The policy was the latest “harm reduction” effort from the province’s NDP government. The province boasted that “British Columbia is taking a critical step toward reducing the shame and fear associated with substance use.” This move was approved by Health Canada, which granted a three-year exemption from federal drug laws. Only a few months later, the effects are being felt in towns and cities throughout the province. “BC’s drug decriminalization experiment is off to a disastrous start” shouted the headline from the national affairs columnist in the Globe and Mail. Gary Mason proceeded to describe the situation on the ground, including a report from Mike Stolte, from Nelson, BC. “I’m a pretty liberal person who has been involved in compassionate programs for hospices and other entities,” Mr. Stolte told the Globe and Mail. “So, I feel for anyone battling addictions. I was initially a fan of decriminalization but I think the longer we continue with this experiment, the more and more downtowns are going to cease to exist. Nobody will want to go near them.” Stolte now keeps a baseball bat and bear spray by his front door after experiencing four thefts in the last two months. One province over, Alberta has refused to decriminalize drugs. Instead, they have been expanding the treatment spaces and now have capacity to serve 29,000 people every year. They also got rid of the fee for treatment. Instead of making drugs more accessible, they are making treatment more accessible. On the heels of their provincial election, the province’s UCP government took it a step further by announcing it would introduce the Compassionate Intervention Act, which would give the province the authority to require chronic drug addicts, who are believed to be at great risk to themselves or others, to get treatment. This too would be the first of its kind in Canada. “There is virtually no addict that makes a change in their life without some measure of intervention,” shared Marshall Smith, the chief of staff to Alberta’s Premier. He knows this from experience, having gone from being a staffer in the BC legislature to living on the streets in Vancouver for four years, as a result of a cocaine and meth addition. According to the National Post, he credits his recovery to the local police, who gave him the option of jail or a spot in a treatment center. Although there are not yet statistics to compare the two approaches, BC overdose deaths have doubled since 2016, though there was a slight decrease of 1.5 percent last year. The drop was much larger in Alberta, at 12 percent last year. BC’s approach rests on a belief that people should be free to pursue their desires, even if they are risky and dangerous. This is a similar strategy to that which was employed over the past half-century with the normalization of sex outside of heterosexual marriage, by focusing on “safe sex.” In contrast, Alberta’s approach recognizes that some activities need to be discouraged, even to the point of forcing people to change their lives. Although there is no explicit recognition of sin, nor an express desire to live in a way that respects our design as image bearers of God, Alberta’s approach is an encouraging step in the right direction. It will be important to compare the results of the two strategies in the coming year....

Internet

A valley of conquerors

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

News

News that inspires action!

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

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....

Parenting, Politics

Exposing the poor research fueling the anti-spanking campaign

“Spanking is linked to aggression, antisocial behavior, mental health problems, cognitive difficulties, low self-esteem, and a whole host of other negative outcomes.” So declared a 2016 news article from Good Housekeeping, one of dozens of articles reporting on the latest overview of research on physical discipline. That 2016 overview not only condemned spanking, but went out of its way to make the case that its results also applied to the type of physical discipline that is both legal and commonly practiced. In other words, it argued that all forms of spanking are bad all the time.1 So where does such research leave all those who thought that physical discipline can be beneficial and appropriate when done in a controlled and loving way? The answer matters a lot, especially since the anti-spanking movement has received a lot of momentum in Canada. During the 2015 federal election, Canada’s Liberal party promised that, if elected, it would get rid of Section 43 of our Criminal Code – this is the section that allows parents to use appropriate physical discipline. Thankfully that did not follow through on that promise. But if that section is ever removed, the result will be that all parents who use physical discipline will be treated by the law as criminals and abusers. So it is important, then, that we take a closer look at the research. And when we do so, we’ll discover our confidence in the appropriateness and legality of physical discipline doesn’t need to be shaken. It is vital that we educate not only ourselves, but share this truth with our neighbors, and especially our legislators, before it’s too late. New spin – same flawed research The lead author of the 2016 study was Dr. Elizabeth Gershoff, a University of Texas researcher who has dedicated much of her career to opposing physical discipline. Her overview was an updated version of a previous meta-analysis she did (a meta-analysis uses statistics to combine the results of many studies on the same topic, with the goal of getting more precise average results). The news stories explained that her overview was based on studies of over 150,000 children, spanning over 50 years, which sounds really impressive but really just amounts to running new statistical analyses on the same kind of research that several experts have been summarizing for the past decades. None of the other experts supported an absolute anti-spanking conclusion from their summaries of the same kind of research.2-7 One of the reasons why Dr. Gershoff and her research partner Dr. Andrew Gorgan-Kaylor (hereafter G&G) updated their meta-analysis was to address a concern expressed about her previous research, namely that it failed to distinguish appropriate physical discipline from types of physical aggression that the law already criminalizes as abuse. It lumped measured, calm spankings in with the beatings given by enraged, out-of-control parents. So how useful could these findings be when it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of just the calm and collected spankings? The answer is, not very. Indeed, that is one of the arguments that ARPA Canada made in our policy report on corporal discipline that we sent to all MPs and Senators in 2014, and have defended on CBC radio and in the Vancouver Sun since. Those advocating that spanking be a criminal activity have never been able to respond to the contrary. We explained over and again that research that did take the time to isolate appropriate physical discipline did not find negative outcomes – in fact, physical discipline was shown to be as good as or better than all other forms of discipline. Three fallacies Another expert on the topic is Dr. Robert E. Larzelere, from Oklahoma State University (hereafter RL). He examined G&G’s latest overview and quickly found it to be wanting. RL pointed out that only four of the 75 studies in the meta analysis examined whether appropriate spanking does more harm than good when nonphysical methods were ineffective. Those four studies proved that spanking was better than two of the three alternatives investigated, and was equally as effective as the third alternative (forced isolation).8-11 So how then did G&G come to the conclusion that spanking was always bad? Her conclusion came from the other 71 studies and included three fallacies. RL exposed the following three fallacies:  Fallacy #1 – Correlation G&G’s conclusions rely entirely on the studies’ correlations – for example, children who were spanked more often tend to be more aggressive. But even a high school student understands that correlation does not prove causation. In fact, it could well be that aggressive children were spanked more often because they were aggressive. As RL points out, this type of research would even make radiation treatment look harmful since patients receiving radiation treatment have more cancer than those who don’t.12 Fallacy #2 – Extrapolation G&G conclude that spanking should simply not be done. It is a similar conclusion that the Truth and Reconciliation Report came to in 2015, in their effort to address the fallout from the now-infamous  Residential Schools. That report led to the Liberal government promising to repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code. But do the studies actually bear this out? RL explains that only one of the studies in the entire meta-analysis compared a group that was never spanked to one that was, and that study actually proved that spanking had a beneficial effect.13 The authors wrongly extrapolated their conclusion based on the faulty correlational evidence. Even worse, two studies that did take the time to compare individuals who were never spanked with those who were, conveniently were left out of the meta-analysis.14,15 The fact that overly frequent spanking correlates with worse child outcomes does not necessarily mean that no spanking will lead to the best outcomes. It could instead mean that the best parents use spanking only when needed – but not more often than that. Fallacy # 3 – Lumping Although G&G went out of their way to emphasize that this study proves that spanking is bad even when done carefully and in keeping with the law, the reality is that only 4 of the 75 studies relied specifically on “hitting a child on their buttocks…using an open hand.” The truth has not changed, no matter how it is hidden or confused – the research that properly examines the effect of appropriate spanking shows it to be as good as, or better than, all other disciplinary tactics. RL expressed his regrets about the poor research exemplified in G&G’s overview, not just because it undermines appropriate physical discipline but also because it undermines efforts to discover other disciplinary tactics that may also be effective. Their reliance on correlational evidence is biased against every form of discipline, including time-outs, making the most effective disciplinary responses appear to be harmful. Does that mean that all discipline is harmful? The authors don’t go that far in this overview, but they have already claimed that “we don’t know anything that works” based on another study in which they investigated 10 other disciplinary methods using the same biased correlations.16 We all need to expose the dangerous research The sad reality is that truth and objectivity don’t matter much when a publication comes to the conclusion that others want to see to bolster their worldview or political objectives. The mainstream media loves to publish stories like these, and the fact that they come from peer-reviewed journals means they accept the conclusions as fact. To add to this, there are very, very few people who are willing to publicly defend something as politically incorrect as spanking. Who wants to be lumped in with child abusers? This risk of being misquoted is too great. I’m aware of only two or three people/organizations in this country that are willing to even touch this issue. The Overton Window concept explains that there is a range of ideas that the public will accept. That range shifts over time. An idea can move from something that is considered radical, to controversial, to acceptable, to popular, to public policy. Alternatively, it can go the other way too. Something like euthanasia was controversial five years ago but has quickly shifted to public policy today. Likewise, spanking can go from being lawful today to being criminalized ten years from now. If we believe parents are the appropriate authorities to determine which form of loving discipline is most appropriate for their children (so long as it is not abusive), it is crucial that we seize the opportunity to speak up in defense of Section 43 while it is still considered acceptable. Not only is the research on our side, the Supreme Court of Canada already examined this issue in 2004 and upheld Section 43. They went so far as to conclude that the decision not to criminalize such conduct is not grounded in devaluation of the child, but in a concern that to do so risks ruining lives and breaking up families — a burden that in large part would be borne by children and outweigh any benefit derived from applying the criminal process. Conclusion This is an example of an issue where education is vital – we need to educate our legislators about the facts of the matter before they step in line with a government bill that would criminalize spanking. Once a law is passed, most parents would understandably not want to risk having their children removed from their homes and will likely abandon physical discipline. If you want to uphold parental authority in child-rearing, please consider doing the following: Pray for courage, grace, and winsomeness; Read ARPA’s policy report on the matter at ARPACanada.ca (click on the publications menu) Email your MP to ask for a meeting to discuss this matter – follow up with a phone call if they don’t respond. Take a friend/family member along with you; Use the meeting to present them with the solid research and be sure to communicate your motivation so they don’t wrongly conclude we are seeking to hurt children in any way; Spread the word – share this article and encourage others to do the same. End Notes Gershoff ET, Grogan-Kaylor A. Spanking and child outcomes: Old controversies and new meta-analyses. Journal of Family Psychology. 2016. Larzelere RE. A review of the outcomes of parental use of nonabusive or customary physical punishment. Pediatrics. 1996;98:824-828. Larzelere RE. Child outcomes of nonabusive and customary physical punishment by parents: An updated literature review. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review.2000;3:199-221. Horn IB, Joseph JG, Cheng TL. Nonabusive physical punishment and child behavior among African-American children: A systematic review. Journal of the National Medical Association. Sep 2004;96(9):1162-1168. Larzelere RE, Kuhn BR. Comparing child outcomes of physical punishment and alternative disciplinary tactics: A meta-analysis. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review. 2005;8:1-37. Paolucci EO, Violato C. A meta-analysis of the published research on the affective, cognitive, and behavioral effects of corporal punishment. Journal of Psychology. 2004;138:197-221. Ferguson CJ. Spanking, corporal punishment and negative long-term outcomes: A meta-analytic review of longitudinal studies. Clinical Psychology Review. 2013;33:196-208. Roberts MW, Powers SW. Adjusting chair timeout enforcement procedures for oppositional children. Behavior Therapy. 1990;21:257-271. Bean AW, Roberts MW. The effect of time-out release contingencies on changes in child noncompliance. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. 1981;9:95-105. Day DE, Roberts MW. An analysis of the physical punishment component of a parent training program. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. 1983;11:141-152. Roberts MW. Enforcing chair timeouts with room timeouts. Behavior Modification. 1988;12:353-370. Larzelere RE, Baumrind D. Are spanking injunctions scientifically supported? Law and Contemporary Problems. 2010;73(2):57-88. Tennant FS, Jr., Detels R, Clark V. Some childhood antecedents of drug and alcohol abuse. American Journal of Epidemiology. 1975;102:377-385. Gunnoe ML. Associations between parenting style, physical discipline, and adjustment in adolescents' reports. Psychological Reports: Disability & Trauma. 2013;112(3):933-975. Ellison CG, Musick MA, Holden GW. Does conservative Protestantism moderate the association between corporal punishment and child outcomes? Journal of Marriage and Family. 2011;73(5):946-961. Gershoff ET, Grogan-Kaylor A, Lansford JE, et al. Parent discipline practices in an international sample: Associations with child behaviors and moderation by perceived normativeness. Child Development. 2010;81(2):487-502. A version of this article first appeared in the July/August 2016 issue under the title “New spin – same flawed research.” Mark Penninga is the Executive Director of ARPA Canada....

Pro-life - Abortion

Real progress: Canada is warming up to an abortion law

In October of 2011, Reformed Perspective published an article I wrote called “Saving some is not a compromise – the case for advancing abortion legislation one step at a time.” In the article, I made the case that passing an abortion law is realistic in Canada, and can be promoted by Christians without compromising our faith. Looking back, that article has likely had more impact than anything else I have written. While the initial response did include some strong criticism, most pro-lifers were both intrigued and encouraged to know that new strategies were being advanced, as we have gone for decades without any laws restricting this mass injustice. The ARPA Canada team welcomed the encouragement, but we also carefully listened to the critique, and over time it was evident that the majority of the criticism, though passionate, wasn’t interacting with the actual arguments the article had advanced. And since it was first published, the key points of the original article have been validated time and again. Because over 100,000 children were dying every year in Canada alone, we knew we had to continue pursuing prudent political initiatives, without compromising our faith. So we moved forward. That same year I was blessed with the full-time help of a bright, principled, and hard-working lawyer André Schutten, who now serves as ARPA’s Director of Law and Policy. And the following year we were blessed with the full-time help of a modern-day Wilberforce, Mike Schouten, who has been capably directing the We Need a Law campaign since, and now serves as ARPA’s Director of Advocacy. By God’s grace, we are now surrounded by a capable team of staff and a much larger team of big-hearted Canadians who are striving for protection for pre-born children from coast to coast. At times it is valuable to pause and reflect on where things have gone, as we all have much to learn. Now that over seven years have passed since that article was published I look back with thankfulness on the progress that has been accomplished. This isn’t a result of my work, or ARPA’s work. Sometimes it was in spite of us. It is a result of God’s work. And we can be encouraged that He uses each of us to accomplish this. RP Chairman Bruce Deboer and wife Helena at the Ottawa 100,000 flags display in 2014. “Progressives” today are often associated with championing abortion, sexual freedom, and “climate justice” among many other things. But a truly objective analysis, done with a biblical worldview, will show these causes to be regressive rather than progressive. True progress should involve moving us forward. In regard to abortion, it means taking steps to protect pre-born human rights. Since that article was published in 2011, I can look back with thankfulness to God for the true progress that is being made: A principled, legally-sound, and politically realistic strategy has been carefully developed: This strategy includes draft legislation (an actual abortion bill) and has been vetted past numerous experts. We are so grateful and blessed to now have multiple staff, including a lawyer, devoting their ongoing time to advancing this strategy. The strategy has garnered the support of a growing base of Members of Parliament: The law will only change if MPs champion the change. We are so encouraged to see dozens of MPs on board with this strategy and building support among their colleagues. And they are very grateful that the political arm of the pro-life movement is now willing to work alongside them in this regard. They understand that it is going to be a long game and are increasingly committed to working together to see this made a reality. These MPs are even getting pro-life apologetics training so they can publicly defend the need for abortion legislation. Canadians are increasingly aware that we have no abortion laws: Although most of our efforts are focussed on working with those who can change the law, we have also been educating the public. This includes our huge billboard campaign“Canada has no abortion law” which reached Canadian cities from coast to coast last summer. It also includes our now-famous pink and blue flag displays, which started with 100,000 flags on Parliament Hill and has been replicated dozens of times in towns and cities across the country (and even being replicated in other countries!). Our talking points have become increasingly accepted by the mainstream media: Ten years ago it was common to hear the media sharing inaccurate information, such as the claim that the Supreme Court has determined that women have a right to abortion. We have been respectfully challenging this for years, including through ongoing press releases. We are so encouraged to see the misinformation substantially declining and to even hear our talking points being shared by the mainstream media. We are now even seeing pro-choice advocates calling for an abortion law. In general, it has become far more accepted for our mainstream leaders to question the status quo on abortion: ARPA Canada has long pointed to the Overton Window theory to explain how ideas can transition from unthinkable, to radical, to acceptable, to sensible, and eventually to policy. And we are so encouraged to see that the idea of an abortion law has gone from radical ten years ago (and under a Harper government) to acceptable today (even under a Trudeau government). For example, Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford publicly challenged the fact that teens don’t need permission from their parents before they can have an abortion, and this didn’t hamper his efforts to become Premier. Progress is being made. I believe it is realistic that Canada can pass an effective abortion law in the next five to fifteen years. That big margin is because there are many factors that we simply can’t control. If that strikes you as painfully slow, I will agree – the life and death nature of this battle means we want the unborn protected now. But also bear in mind that to this point there has been no protective legislation for 30 years. This law will save many lives and also serve as a testimony to Canadians that pre-born lives deserve protection. If the Lord wills it, it will be a stepping stone from which more restrictions can be passed and more lives saved, as we see occurring in the United States, which passes dozens of pro-life laws each year. And this can be accomplished without compromise. We support complete protection for every human being. Advancing laws that protect a growing number of humans are important steps in the right direction. These steps can be taken without undermining the value of those who are not yet protected in law. Compromise involves a concession. We don’t have to concede anything. Although moving forward since the original article was published has been challenging and stressful, I’m grateful to God for answering our prayers and giving the strength to move forward, one day at a time. And I heartily thank all those who have been praying for a blessing on ARPA’s and We Need a Law’s efforts. The Lord willing, we will be able to look back ten years later with more reasons for gratitude at the progress God has made possible. Mark Penninga is the executive director of ARPA Canada....

Pro-life - Abortion

DIRECTION MATTERS: the difference between legal, decriminalized, and regulated abortion, & why we support gestational limits

It has been 30 years now since the Supreme Court struck down Canada’s last abortion law in their R. v. Morgentaler decision (1988). Soon after, the Mulroney government made an attempt to craft a new law. But Bill C-43 was a piece of legislation that would have protected only some pre-born children. Those involved in Canada’s pro-life movement during the early 1990s were divided on whether or not an imperfect law was something they could support. Today this issue is still being debated. On the one side there are those who argue we should not support legislative measures that protect some but not all pre-born children. On the other side we are arguing for advancing abortion legislation one step at a time. We wholeheartedly believe that Bible-believing Christians can, in good conscience, support partial restrictions on abortion, including gestational limits. IN DEFENSE OF DEBATE Trying to save the pre-born is a fight to which many Christians have devoted a significant part of their lives. It is an issue we are passionate about and heavily invested in. It is, consequently, very hard for us to discuss strategy in a dispassionate manner. But when we turn to the Bible we see there is good reason to try. Proverbs 18:17 tells us, “The first to present his case seems right, until a second comes and questions him.” Finding out who is right is often aided by hearing both sides. Proverbs 27:17 makes a similar point: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” We need to imitate the Bereans (Acts 17) who were willing to hear, but then went to the Scriptures to test what was being said to them. In what follows, we are going to make our case for the morality of advancing abortion legislation one step at a time. We know some will disagree, but we hope that we can interact, as fellow Christians, in a God-honoring manner, having patience with one another and showing love to each other, as we search for the truth on this matter. WHAT WAS UNCLEAR WITH BILL C-43 IS CLEAR TODAY It’s been 30 years since Canada’s abortion law was struck down and 27 years since its intended replacement, Bill C-43, was defeated in the Senate. Many pro-life organizations celebrated the bill’s defeat. It was a piece of legislation that, according to then justice minister Kim Campbell, abortionists would have “no need to fear.” She wrote: “The legislation is designed to protect a doctor from being convicted under the new law (and) protect nurses and other medical staff acting under the doctor’s direction.” While the bill did offer more restrictions on abortion than we presently have, when compared to the law the Supreme Court had struck down only three years before, it had far fewer protections for the pre-born. There was also some reason to hope that if this bill was defeated it could be replaced with a better one. Few would have expected that for the next three decades no such bill would be forthcoming. But here is the key point: the situation then was far murkier than it is today. Then it was unclear whether a better bill might be passed, and it was unclear whether this bill limited evil or expanded it. Compared to the completely lawless situation they then had, the bill offered some limitations. But compared to the previous abortion law from just three years before, this bill greatly expanded the evil that could be done. There is nothing murky about the situation we now find ourselves in. Today we have had 30 years of unfettered abortion, and 27 years of governmental cowardice – no prime minister has ever again tried to pass an abortion law. So if a bill is proposed today that offers any limitations on abortion, it would be clear what direction this is taking us: towards limiting evil, and away from its expansion. THE COUNTER-ARGUMENT But some pro-life groups are convinced that any law that saves only some is unjust, and can’t be supported. Their argument goes something like this: Since Canada has no abortion law, promoting a law that restricts only some abortions (for example, making abortions after 12 weeks illegal) would mean that we are legalizing and condoning all of the abortions that are not banned (e.g., those happening before 12 weeks). In a January 20, 2014 editorial, The Interim, a Canadian pro-life newspaper, put it this way: We...find politically motivated compromise that creates arbitrary demarcations to protect some human lives but not others to be abhorrent, adding the insult of age discrimination to the injury of death by abortion. Protecting pre-born life requires political action, not political compromise. So the question we have to answer is: if we promoted a law that would restrict abortion to 12 weeks’ gestation, would we be legalizing and/or condoning the abortions that are permitted? ON LEGAL AND ILLEGAL To answer that question properly, we have to understand what is actually meant by the terms legalizing, decriminalizing, and regulating. From there we will explain why we all should support regulating abortion. But by no means should we support abortion being legal, let alone condoned. Confused? It actually isn’t too complicated. Please take a few minutes to walk with us through a few points.  1. What is not illegal is legal In our legal system, unless something is illegal it is presumed to be legal. For example, walking your dog without a leash is presumed to be legal unless and until a bylaw is passed requiring a leash. We could not say, before the bylaw was passed, that walking your dog without a leash was not legal; it wasn’t illegal, and so it was legal. We also need to make a distinction between something being legal and something being legalized. The common use of the word “legal” can simply be interpreted as “allowed” or “permissible.” Similarly, the term “legalized” can mean the process of removing a prohibition against something that is currently not legal (i.e., the process of making something permissible). With abortion in Canada there are no laws that regulate the practice (although some doctors’ manuals might advise some limitations). So, there are no laws regulating which procedures can be used, how late in the pregnancy the procedure can be done, or what information should be shared with the patient. And there are no waiting periods, age restrictions, parental notifications, etc. Generally speaking, we can say that abortion in Canada is completely legal from conception until the child is fully outside its mother. Abortion has yet to be regulated since the 1988 decision of the Supreme Court made it fully legal. 2. New restrictions do not make abortion legal – it is already legal Even if there is no abortion law, abortion remains legal. Adding restrictions doesn’t make it legal, nor does it make abortion more legal. Some of what was legal is now made illegal (e.g., abortion after 12 or 18 weeks’ gestation), thereby saving some lives and limiting evil. That is exactly what the Bible calls the State to do – to limit evil. Some might object, “Wouldn’t a law prohibiting abortions after a certain number of weeks arbitrarily divide humans into ‘protected’ and ‘unprotected’ classes?” The continuum of human life begins at fertilization and ends at natural death. Currently under Canadian law only “born” humans have protection, so our law today already divides humans into “protected” and “unprotected” classes. If the law was changed to reflect increased protection by extending it to “pre-born” humans from 20 weeks to birth, then fewer babies would fall under the unprotected class, thus limiting the injustice of abortion. We certainly do and would support any initiative that would move more humans into the “protected” class. 3. In a country where there are no restrictions or laws pertaining to abortion, regulating abortion is a step toward making abortion illegal  We have already established that abortion is allowed in Canada for any reason. In this case, regulating it does not mean we are granting something that was illegal the legitimacy of legal status. Rather it means limiting and regulating by law something that once had absolutely no restrictions. Note as well that regulating abortion is worthy of support only if we are moving in a direction that limits abortion. In a 1968 Canada, our argument in favor of a gestational limit law would fail: a gestational limit of 12 weeks would have expanded evil, greatly increasing the number of children left unprotected. However, in a 2018 Canada, proposing such a gestational limit is fully in accord with the Bible because such a limit would restrict evil, greatly increasing the number of children protected. It is understandable that pro-life organizations do not like to promote a law that doesn’t protect all pre-born children. We would all much prefer to see a complete ban. But the alternative is to maintain the legal reality of abortion-on-demand. A ban is simply not possible in a democratic state in which the people’s hearts are against God and against life. The Bible teaches us that the role of politics is to restrict The reality is that the law won’t be able to eradicate evil. FURTHERMORE... Two further points need to be made. First, there is a very real sense in which all pro-lifers have already endorsed a step-by-step approach to eliminating abortion, even though these steps will protect only some children. All pro-lifers support efforts to defund abortion. By doing so, they support a process that would protect some children, but not others. Under defunding, abortion remains legal as long as the mother or the father pays for the abortion. Someone could argue, “I won’t support that defunding law because it only saves poor babies while all the babies of rich mothers who can afford the abortion will still be terminated.” That may be so, but defunding abortion is a step in the right direction. Such a law does not say that abortion is right; it does say (implicitly) that you can do it as long as you pay for it yourself. So consistency demands that those opposed to gestational limits should also object to abortion defunding. Or that those who support defunding also support gestational limits. Second, one of the objections to this step-by-step approach is that it supposedly condones the death of those we cannot yet save. But saving some does not mean we condone the death of those we can’t save. As Jonathon Van Maren pointed out in a 2012 article, many Jewish children were saved during the Second World War (including by some of our parents and grandparents) because they were small enough to hide in the homes of brave families who took them in. Not only could they hide, more could hide in a small space than adults or seniors. Nobody would ever say – or even think the thought – that, because these families saved children and not adults, they were condoning the deaths of the adults that they couldn’t save. Clearly then, when we can save only some, saving them does not condone the death of any others we could not save! OUR CHALLENGE In this article we’ve explained that gestational limits would not legalize abortion because it already is legal. We’ve also argued that saving some does not condone the death of those we cannot yet save. And we’ve tried to show that all pro-lifers already support legislative efforts that will protect only some children (in this case, the children of poor mothers). We want to conclude with a challenge. If you think we are wrong, please address these points one by one and explain why. Be specific. Please show how abortion in Canada is, in any sense, not already completely legal right now. Show how a gestational limit that will protect only some differs morally from a defunding effort that will protect only some. And explain why those who saved Jewish children weren’t condoning the death of their parents (who they couldn’t save), but today when we try to save some pre-born children (via a gestational limit) we are supposedly condoning the death of the children we aren’t able to save. CONCLUSION In Canada we have opportunity right now to save some of the many pre-born children being killed by abortion. We value them all. However, in today’s political, social and legal climate, we can’t save them all – we can’t eliminate this evil. But we can take steps to limit it. We can take steps to protect more and more children. We can save some now, while continuing to push for further protection for all children in the womb. Gestational limits would be a step in the wrong direction in any country in which abortion was currently banned. But in a country such as Canada, where all abortions are legal, this is a step in the right direction. This would restrict evil. So direction matters – it makes all the difference. Of course, political and legal action in the pro-life cause can’t happen in isolation, so this is certainly not the only pro-life work that needs to be done. Far from it! The political/legal action discussed above must happen in concert with continued education, abortion awareness, cultural engagement, prayer, crisis-pregnancy counseling, adoption efforts, etc. Together, and by God’s grace, we can work towards the end of state-sanctioned abortion in Canada! This is an updated version of an article that first appeared in the March 2014 issue of Reformed Perspective. Mike Schouten is the director of WeNeedALaw.ca, Mark Penninga and André Schutten are both with ARPACanada.ca, and Jon Dykstra is the editor of ReformedPerspective.ca....

Assorted

Help wanted: Prophets

Our leaders, and neighbors, need to hear God’s Word from us **** God’s Word cuts. We acknowledge that is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). It may even be that it's because we know it can have such strong and contrasting reactions that we don’t often hear God’s Word directly referenced or quoted, even by Christians, in our work places, the mainstream media, our legislatures and courts, or other places in the public square. Ready reasons come to mind for our silence. “I’m just a grandma / just a laborer / just a teen / just a _______ .” Or, “I’m not gifted with words.” When it comes to speaking God’s Word to the world, we might like to leave this job to our pastors, missionaries, or maybe people who get paid to bring a Christian perspective to our secular leaders. Another common hurdle is our concern of throwing the pearl of the Gospel before the secular swine, resulting in a mess we would rather avoid. Nothing new under the sun So God's Word is generally excluded from the public square, and not by governmental dictate, but by Christians' own reluctance to speak it. What might happen if we decided again to speak God’s Word out loud, in public discussion and debate? Well, we can’t control how our neighbors will respond to God’s Word, but we can have a hand in determining whether they are even exposed to it. Two remarkable Old Testament stories illustrate this well, and serve as good lessons for today. They feature two kings of Judah who lived shortly before the kingdom was conquered and the people exiled to Babylon. A king with ears to hear The first king, Josiah, assumed the throne at age 8. According to 2 Kings 23:25, “Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.” When we think of righteous kings, David and Solomon often come to mind. But neither compared with Josiah. When Josiah was 18, he made orders to make repairs to the temple. Then something strange happened. Apparently when renovating the temple, Hilkiah the high priest found the Book of the Law. He proceeded to give it to the king’s secretary, who passed it on to the king with these rather uninspiring words “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” I call this strange because it suggests that the Book of the Law was lost and forgotten – even by the high priest and in the temple! What does it say of the spiritual health of the covenant nation of Judah when the Book of the Law is forgotten? There may have be a form of spirituality in the land, but clearly there was little faithfulness. When Josiah heard the words of the law, it struck him to the heart. He immediately tore his cloths and asked the priest, and others, to inquire of the LORD, recognizing that he and the people had not been faithful. After hearing God’s response of judgment and grace, Josiah demonstrated true leadership. He gathered all the people together and “he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the LORD” (2 Kings 23:2). He then covenanted before the LORD, “and all the people joined in the covenant” (23:3). These were not just words and good intentions. In the following weeks, Josiah proceeded to reform the entire nation. He destroyed the idols, broke down the houses of the cult prostitutes, eradicated child sacrifices, and went from place to place removing the high places and shrines. After this he commanded the people to celebrate the Passover, “for no such Passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel or the of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah (23:22). Based on what we know of Josiah, it seems he stayed faithful in his leadership till he died in battle. A king who loved darkness rather than the Light As was so often the case with the kings of Israel and Judah, a faithful father did not at all mean a faithful son. Josiah had a son named Jehoiakim, who became king after his younger brother Jehoahaz’s very short three-month reign ended in captivity. Jehoiakim had no use for God’s Law or his father’s reforms. Rabbinical literature describes him as a very evil man, guilty of much incest, murder, and adultery. But for those familiar with the Bible, most of us will better know Jehoiakim as the king who burned God’s Word, as recounted by the prophet Jeremiah. God instructed Jeremiah to write down all the words that He had told him. He added “It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin” (Jeremiah 36:3). Through his scribe Baruch, Jeremiah wrote all the words down on a scroll. Since he was banned from going to the temple, Jeremiah had Baruch go there instead, and he read God’s Word to the people. Word made its way to the government officials, and Baruch was ordered to take his scroll and read it to them. God’s Word filled them with fear and they decided “we must report all these words to the king” (36:16). Eventually king Jehoiakim had the scroll read to him. When he would hear three or four columns “the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them in the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire” (36:23). Unlike his father Josiah’s response to the finding of the law, Jehoiakim was not fearful or repentant. Rather he ordered that Baruch and Jeremiah be captured. God’s word still cuts Repentance and reform, or fire and persecution. Two kings, two generations, and two very different responses to God’s Word. Both kings responded with conviction. But the conviction went in two very different directions. Western society today likes to be nice. We are known for wanting to avoid controversy. Christians aren’t immune to these societal trends. We generally don’t like to rock the boat of culture. And citing Scripture tends to do just that. It is one thing to quote the Bible at a Bible study or in the privacy of our home. It is another to bring it to our civil leaders, our business associates, or community friends. The temptation we all face is to avoid using Scripture in public discourse. Out of a desire to reach a secular and pluralist audience, we stick to language that doesn’t turn people off. There are indeed times when it is appropriate to communicate biblical truth in a way that our neighbors will listen. If we don’t know who our readers or listeners are, there can be wisdom in not triggering them before our point is made. For example, a hardened atheist or jaded ex-Christian may read our letter to the editor, see a reference to Scripture, and immediately stop reading. If it is possible to communicate the same truth without directly quoting Scripture, there may be wisdom in doing so. There are also times when we simply are not the gate-keepers of communication. If we know that those gate-keepers will not allow their publication to become a forum to communicate Scripture, there again may be wisdom in putting that Scripture into our own words. For example, when staff from the organization I work for contribute articles to large secular newspapers for publishing, we have learned that Scripture may not be welcomed. If we want to still get published, we have to show some creativity. But that said, we may be surprised by a new generation that is far more open to considering a faith-based perspective than their baby-boomer parents. Whether it is through direct quotations, or by means of rephrasing it to be appropriate for the context, the bottom line is that the communication of Scripture is not only still acceptable, it is absolutely necessary. We know that hearts are changed by the Holy Spirit through the Word. And it is our job to communicate that Scripture. Lord’s Day 12 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks what it means that we are called Christians. We confess that it means we carry the three-fold office of Christ: Prophet, Priest, and King. That means that every Christian is called to “confess His Name.” Prophets carry the words of God to those who need to hear it. This country is full of people who need to hear God’s truth. This isn’t a job we can pass off. It is an integral part of the job description of every Christian. We don’t know whether the person we speak to will respond like Josiah or Jehoiakim. But changing hearts is not our job. It is God’s. God calls us to be His agents. We really are modern-day prophets. None of us can do this well in our own strength. Let us constantly pray to “set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth, keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3)! We can also ask God to open our eyes to see opportunities to testify to Him, and embolden us to seize those opportunities while we still have them. As with many difficult things, the best way to learn is by simply trying, and not giving up. Let’s encourage each other to shine the light of God’s Word across our nation. Mark Penninga is the executive director of ARPA Canada.  ------- SIDEBAR: Citing Scripture doesn’t give us immunity: Two cautions Although we need God’s Word shared, it is also important to remember that the way we share it should reflect the grace and truth that Christ exemplified. There are two common and related mistakes to avoid. First, simply because we quote Scripture does not mean that we are in the right. The Pharisees knew Scripture well, and quoted it endlessly. But they lost perspective and didn’t recognize God Incarnate, right in front of them. If we are wrong, or simply misguided, adding a Bible text doesn’t change that. In fact, it can reflect very poorly on Christ Himself. Second, even if we are communicating truth, if it doesn’t come alongside grace it isn’t faithfully representing Christ. Christ never communicated truth without grace, just as He never communicated grace without truth. We humans naturally don’t do that. Some of us tend to want to always get to the truth of the matter. And people get hurt in the process. Others emphasize grace, and compromise truth in the process. There are no shortage of examples of Christians who throw out Bible texts in their letters and meetings, while showing little love and grace to those who they are addressing. We need to realize that the person we are speaking with likely does not share our belief about the authority of God’s Word, nor do they understand its context. And this will be compounded if we never actually meet (e.g. if our communication is written). Put ourselves in the shoes of our readers. What happens when we hear a Muslim referencing the Koran and urging the West to submit to Mohammed? Not only do we disagree, we end up not listening to anything else they say. We write them off. So it is so important that our communication makes it clear that we too have to measure up, and we too struggle and fail when trying to do so. God’s Word is for us as much as it is for the people we are addressing. Truth without grace and love is a clanging gong. This world doesn’t need more noise....

Parenting

Spanking does have a place in Canada

In an article late last year, “Spanking has no place in Canada, period” – Globe and Mail reporter André Picard argued that physical discipline is at best ineffective and at worst harmful. He concludes it is “well past time” that the government scrap Section 43 of the Criminal Code, making spanking illegal. The truth is that physical discipline, when administered in keeping with Canadian law, not only has better outcomes than other disciplinary techniques, but is preferred by children as less cruel than other techniques, such as privilege loss or isolation. We can learn from countries that have gone ahead with banning spanking, and have regretted it. How can Picard and many well-intentioned child advocates get this issue so wrong? Part of the problem is that they go only skin deep into the research. Picard notes: “there has been a significant body of research showing that the real harm from spanking and other forms of corporal punishment is not the immediate physical harm, but the lasting psychological harm.” That is about as deep as almost any mainstream media analysis goes. But if we dig deeper, we discover that the truth is far more nuanced and, in some respects, completely contradicts the mainstream spin replicated in Picard’s article. Digging into the data Picard cites a 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics study that correlates harsh physical punishment with higher rates of mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse. He correctly acknowledges that this is correlation, not proof that spanking causes these things. This is an important distinction that is lost on almost all the research that attracts mainstream attention. And the distinction matters. It could well be that aggressive children were spanked more often because they were aggressive. The heavy reliance on correlational evidence makes even the most effective disciplinary tactics appear harmful. Dr. Elizabeth Gershoff, a well-known researcher on the topic, concluded: ...if we found that people who have undergone radiation treatment have a higher likelihood of having cancer, we should not conclude that the treatment is the problem or that it doesn’t work. Will anti-spanking advocates follow their logic and also argue that all discipline tactics should be banned? We need to dig deeper into the research. Picard, along with other anti-spanking activists, constantly appeal to research that lumps together harsh physical punishments, such as slapping and pushing, with the kind of mild physical discipline that our Supreme Court studied and approved. In 2007, researchers conducted a scientific review of studies that compared physical discipline with alternative methods. Twenty-six studies from the past fifty years were examined. They also examined the “optimal” type of physical discipline – conditional spanking. As reflected in the parameters laid out by our Supreme Court, conditional spanking is non-abusive, and done sparingly and under control. The conclusion of the study: “Conditional spanking was more strongly associated with reductions in noncompliance or antisocial behavior than 10 of 13 alternate disciplinary tactics.” In other words, when physical discipline is administered in keeping with Canadian law, it came out as good as, or better than, all other forms of discipline studied. Not only can physical discipline be more beneficial than other commonly used methods, a 2006 study came to another surprising finding: non-physical punishment was most frequently regarded as the worst punishment ever received, with 50% of naming at least one non-physical punishment method such as privilege loss. As well-intentioned as Picard and others may be, before they proceed further with their anti-spanking crusade, they should talk to the children. Children who have experienced appropriate physical discipline will often prefer it because it resolves the matter in a timely way and makes it less likely to occur again. Contrast that with what so many parents revert to otherwise (yelling, forced isolation, long-term privilege loss and extended grumpiness) and we begin to understand why physical discipline is the preferred choice for many honest children. Lessons learned from Sweden Picard argues that 51 countries have outlawed spanking, and it is time for Canada to follow suit. But he fails to look at what has happened in those countries. Take Sweden. In 1979, Sweden was the first country to ban spanking. The statistics coming from Sweden since then are downright shocking. Following the ban there was a 519% increase in criminal assaults by children under the age of 15 (born after the ban) against children age 7-14. Even more troubling, 46-60% of the cases investigated under the law resulted in children being removed from homes. That totaled 22,000 children in 1981, compared with 163 in Norway and 552 in Finland. Picard cites the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as another reason to ban spanking. If the residential school legacy has taught us anything, it is that we better be certain we are doing the right thing when forcefully removing thousands of children from their parents’ homes. As a side note, New Zealand followed Sweden’s example and adopted anti-spanking legislation in 2007. Just two years later, a whopping 87% of voters in a public referendum asked that the law be rescinded. It is time to drop the rhetoric and take the time to study the issue before criminalizing a form of discipline used by half of Canadian parents. Mark Penninga is the executive director of ARPA Canada. He has a MA in political science from the University of Lethbridge and has authored a policy report and numerous articles on corporal discipline. ...