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Graphic novels, News

This isn’t your parents' Katy Keene…or Archie Andrews

This February, Katy Keene will be the latest Archie comics character to get a modern updating. While the original Katy was a one-dimensional highly successful fashion model, in the new version she's an aspiring, but as of yet, entirely unsuccessful, fashion designer living in New York. What parents need to know is that this isn't the only updating that's been done. Katy Keene is being spun off of Riverdale, which re-imagined Archie and his gang as murderous, drug-running occultists. In what wasn't even the show's weirdest twist, they put Archie Andrews in a sexual relationship with his teacher Miss Grundy. While details about the new Katy Keene show are still scarce, from the trailer we do know one of her roommates will be a gay broadway dancer who, because he isn't tough enough for the male roles, auditions for a female role. And, as Deadline's Nellie Andreeva reports it, he's also "looking to take his drag career to the next level." (A new comic book Katy is also set to debut, but in that version she’ll live in Riverdale). This is just one of the notable changes Archie's gang has undergone in recent years. It began in the comics back in 2010 with the introduction of Archie's new gay friend Kevin Keller, who was then paired off via a same-sex “marriage” to an Iraq War veteran. Other changes have included: Jughead Jones declaring himself asexual Veronica Lodge starring in a spin-off comic as Vampironica, a blood-sucking killer another spin-off series, Afterlife with Archie, featuring a zombie Jughead trying to kill and devour his friends and family (with some success) yet another spin-off series, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, featuring more occultism and a character by the name of Madam Satan What's tricky about all these changes is that in the comic digests this "new Archie" is often paired with "old Archie" stories. So sometimes the outside of the comic looks just like it always has, but inside a handful of the stories will have this "modern" twist. Parents who grew up reading the old Archie comics might be shocked at this new direction, but before we ask “Why were the former days better than these?” (Eccl 7:10) let’s remember rightly the Archie of old. I came across a few of my old Archie digests and, looking at them with adult eyes, I was struck by something: Archie was never a paragon of virtue. At best “America’s favorite teenager” could be described as an indecisive boy who led girls on (poor Betty!). But would it be a stretch to describe a guy who secretly dates two girls at the same time (sometimes on the same night!) as a player? A frequent storyline involved Betty and Veronica vying for Archie’s leering attention by wearing as little as the Comic Code Authority would allow. This was every timid teenage boy’s dream – two bikini-clad gorgeous girls after a goofball guy. As the comic’s creator, John Goldwater explained, he reversed “the common wisdom. Instead of ‘boy chasing girl,’ I would have girl chasing boy.” While sexual tension and romance were a constant theme, nuptials weren't mentioned – not for more than 60 years. In Archie’s world dating was simply a social activity, completely unrelated to finding a spouse. Archie and his pals had a lot of laughs and adventures too. But the subtext to the series was always dating, dating, and more dating and it always got that wrong, wrong, wrong. Now the new TV shows and comics are getting it wronger still.

Theology

What does it mean to be Reformed?

The religions of the world are many, each offering their own understanding of the deity or deities (as the case might be).  The persons behind this website are unashamedly Christian, and so believe in triune God as revealed in the Bible.  This sets us apart from adherents to Islam or Hinduism or Shintoism, etc. The Christian faith is in turn represented in today’s world by many schools of Christian thought.  Each of these schools of thought embrace and defend their own understanding of who God is, and so of how He is to be served.  The persons behind this website are unashamedly Reformed – which in turn sets us off from Christians of Anabaptist or Roman Catholic or Pentecostal or Arminian persuasion.  What, then, does it mean to be Reformed? History The term ‘reform’ captures the Biblical concept of ‘turning’, and is used to describe a return to the ways God revealed in His revelation.  One speaks, for example, of the ‘reformation’ King Hezekiah initiated in Israel, when he sought to turn the people away from service to idols to revere again the God who claimed them for Himself in His covenant of grace established with them at Mt Sinai (see 2 Chronicles 29-32). In the course of Church History the term ‘reform’ is used specifically in relation to the ‘reformation’ in the 16th century.  In this ‘reformation’ countless thousands in Europe, under the leadership of reformers as Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli and others, distanced themselves from the teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church and returned to the simple instruction of Holy Scripture.  Those who followed the reformer John Calvin came to known as ‘Reformed’, in distinction from those who followed Luther (Lutherans) or Menno Simons (Mennonites), etc.  Churches of continental origin in the mould of Calvin’s thinking tend to have the term ‘Reformed’ in their name, while Calvinist churches of British origin tend to have the term ‘Presbyterian’ in their name.  Both are theologically ‘Reformed’ in their thinking. Distinctive What, then, is distinctive of ‘Reformed’ thinking?  Typical of Reformed thinking is specifically the way one sees who God is, His God-ness, if you will.  This one central principle of Reformed thinking has several flow-on implications that I list below. 1.  God Reformed thinkers, and so faithful Reformed Churches, take God for real.  He is not the product of human thought or hopes, but very real and living.  Unlike our world, He has been from eternity, one God in three Persons, having no need outside Himself – and so not needing mankind either.  That Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one true God is to Reformed believers an incomprehensible riddle, but in no way a problem ‒ for the creature man can never be ‘big enough’ to understand the Godhead of the Creator.  The Reformed thinker is content with that, for a God he could understand is not worthy of worship, let alone trust. This almighty God fashioned the world through His word of command in the space of six days, and He has upheld the world He made ever since.  The force of the term ‘upheld’ is that if almighty God were to withdraw His supporting hand this world would immediately collapse again into the nothingness it was before He made it.  All creatures, then, are fully dependent on Him for existence itself.  Further, the God who upholds this world does more than keep the world existing; He also governs it so that history happens according to His pre-arranged plan.  Earthquakes and hair loss come not by change or through scientific necessity, but instead by His Fatherly hand (whereby pressure on tectonic plates and one’s genetic makeup are simply the means God uses to bring about the earthquake or the baldness).  And if one seeks to understand why He allows earthquakes to happen (and some people to lose their hair), the Reformed thinker does not insist that God give account to man – for God and His wisdom is so exceedingly far above what any man can comprehend.  (And if it were not so this God would not be worthy of worship and trust…). 2.  Man The second central tenet of the Reformed faith is the smallness of man.  Unlike God, man is but a creature, and therefore limited by time and space in what he can understand.  Even before his fall into sin, the creature man –simply because he’s a creature‒ could never begin to wrap his mind around God; the distance between the creature and the Creator is simply too great.  The fall into sin, of course, rendered man’s ability to understand the Creator more impossible still – and at the same time made mankind so arrogant as to think that he could understand God or call Him to account or even deny His existence. 3.  Covenant The third central belief of the Reformed faith is that this God of overwhelming and eternal greatness did not ignore the creature He made but established a bond of love with mankind.  This eternal and holy God, in whose presence angels cover their faces, fashioned mankind for the purpose of being bound to Him and so this God of glory adopted the creature man to be His child!  Here’s a marvel one cannot begin to fathom; why would eternal God, sufficient in Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, form a covenant with a creature-of-dust?!  The question becomes the more pressing –and incomprehensible‒ after mankind broke that bond of love with his fall into sin: why would eternal, holy God (sufficient in Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit!) re-establish this covenant with sinful man?!  How wonderful and awesome this God is! 4.  God’s Mercy The bond of love between God and man was and is fully God’s doing.  Neither before the fall into sin nor after the fall into sin was there anything in man that drew God to love him.  Indeed, how could it even be that eternal God should find something in the creature man that would earn His love?!  Whatever man has or is has come from God to begin with.  It is God Himself who in mercy initiated a covenant bond with man in Paradise, and equally God Himself who in greater mercy reached out to man again after he spurned God’s covenant love in Paradise.  To re-establish this bond of love, the Lord God had to ransom sinners from Satan’s grasp as well as ensure that the penalty for sin be paid; the creature man, after all, did not have the wherewithal to free himself from Satan’s grasp and did not have the wherewithal either to pay for sin.  In the face of man’s bankruptcy and weakness the Lord did not leave man in his misery (though He would have been justified in doing so), but determined instead to become man Himself in the person of the Son so that Jesus Christ –true God and true man‒ could atone for sin, deliver sinners from Satan’s might, and reconcile sinners to God.  Redemption, then, is in no way the work of man; salvation is instead the gracious work of sovereign God to those who don’t deserve it.  And this mercy, of course, points up the more how wonderful this glorious God is! With redemption, then, so fully God’s work and God’s grace, with no person having the slightest claim to such redemption (both by virtue of his being a creature of God’s making as well as by virtue of his having spurned God’s covenant love in Paradise), no person has any right to criticize God for determining who will benefit from His mercy in Jesus Christ.  Both the number of those who are saved as well as the specific identities of those who are saved are fully and totally up to sovereign God.  This is predestination, the teaching that God determines who are saved.  This teaching is, in fact, a subset of the reality of God’s providence – the teaching that nothing in God’s creation happens by chance but all comes about by His Fatherly hand.  That includes the movement of earth’s tectonic plates and the loss of my hair, and includes then too whether I hear the gospel of redemption or not, as well as whether I believe the doctrine of redemption or not. 5.  Our Responsibility The final characteristic essential to what ‘Reformed’ means is the notion of human responsibility.  Though man is but a creature-of-dust (and now sinful as a result of the fall also), God fashioned him with the ability to make responsible decisions.  Since God endowed man in the beginning with this ability, man is responsible to act in agreement with this ability – and God holds him accountable to act according to this standard.  It is true that, with the fall into sin, man lost the ability to act responsibly-before-God, for all his actions (and words and thoughts) have become defiled by sin.  But since this inability is not because of a weakness in how God made man, but is instead because of man’s deliberate disobedience in defying the Creator’s demands, God continues to hold all people responsible for all their actions – and eternally punishes those who act irresponsibly before Him. Though sovereign God controls all things (including what I eat for breakfast and who will be saved), I am responsible for all my conduct (including that I eat well and that I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ).  My inquisitive human mind hungers to rationalize how God can be 100% sovereign and I be 100% responsible at the same time, but this is a riddle no human can solve – simply because we are finite and God is sovereign.  The Reformed thinker accepts this reality, takes his responsibility seriously, and praises his God for the good decisions the Lord enables the believer to make. In Sum What, then, does it mean to be Reformed?  In sum, to be Reformed is to have great thoughts of God, small thoughts of man, and deep, deep gratitude for God’s boundless mercy to sinners in Jesus Christ – a mercy directly specifically to me that I am allowed to be His child for Jesus’ sake!  Lord’s Day 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism catches the resulting comfort so well:

… I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil.

He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.

Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

To be Reformed: what a privilege!

Rev. Clarence Bouwman is a pastor in the Smithville Canadian Reformed Church.

Soup and Buns

Should Introverts be expected to act like Extroverts?

“You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush.” This quotation from a tongue-in-cheek article by Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic Monthly summed up his premise that Extroverts do not understand or fully appreciate Introverts. Although I knew that I was an Extrovert, I found the actual definitions a bit surprising. Tiring… or energizing? Introverts are people who “find other people tiring,” who need to re-charge after a certain amount of socializing. They mull things over inside their brains and then talk about them. Being alone with their thoughts is as “restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating.” One suggested motto for them is, “I’m okay, you’re okay – in small doses.” Rauch’s own formula is that he needs “two hours alone for every hour of socializing.” A Google search estimates that about 25% of people are truly Introverts, but in the “gifted” community they are a majority. Extroverts are “energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone.” They figure things out by discussing them with other people, and think by talking. They tend to dominate social settings with their “endless appetite for talk and attention.” Understanding is a one-way street Society in general views Extrovert behavior as more desirable, and this can sometimes be taken to a fault when Introvert behavior is criticized or not appreciated for its strengths. For instance, an Extrovert might be described as outgoing, happy, bighearted, vibrant, warm, and as a confident leader who is “a real people person.” Introverts are often described as loners, reserved, guarded, and taciturn (inclined to silence; reserved in speech; reluctant to join in conversation). It is as though an individual’s worth is determined only by their observable interactions in a group. Rauch suggests that Introverts more often understand Extroverts because the latter put all of their thoughts and feelings out on the table. His concern as an Introvert, is that:

Extroverts have no idea of the torment they put us through…. Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion. They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome. They cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone; indeed, they often take umbrage at the suggestion.”

I wonder if any other Extroverts find themselves cringing and remembering times when they too felt offended because someone didn’t want their company. Other differences Extroverts tend to think that a lull in conversation is a bad thing, and they can feed off of small talk or deep conversation and enjoy large groups. Introverts need more time to think through what they will say and tend to dislike small talk while enjoying more meaningful discussion, especially in a more private setting. Extroverts feel a need to “draw out” the Introverts and get them to participate, because to them participation is essential. Since they cannot imagine that a person might enjoy sitting quietly off to the side, they take on the role of encourager. Unfortunately, it often comes across to the Introvert as controller instead. Smiley face :) Expectations exist regarding facial expressions too. Smiles are expected as part of good manners, so we give them whether we feel like it or not. Often if a person’s face goes to its default serious expression, people jump to the conclusion that he is upset or depressed, whereas he might just be pondering a weighty subject or listening to conversations around him. Rauch suggests that Introverts may be less smiley, but not necessarily less joyful. The differences are something to be considered in regards to church and family activities. As one Introvert explained to me, “At Ladies’ Bible Study, I often start formulating an answer to a question, but by the time I figure out what I want to say they have all gone on to a new subject or maybe even several subjects, so I rarely get to say anything.” Perhaps this is why some people feel more at home studying the Bible and praying with only a few friends. I wonder if our quick-sound-bite culture has lured us away from valuing long pauses with time to reflect? I’ve read that in some Japanese company meetings, they present the information and then sit in silence for a long time while everyone just thinks. What an Introverted thing to do! My friend went on to say, “The same thing happens when our entire family is together.” Some family members would prefer more two-on-two social activities and fewer or less lengthy whole group situations. It is possible to consider both the Extrovert’s and the Introvert’s preferences. Conclusion God tells us to love one another, and the more we understand one another, the more we will know how to keep this commandment. We may have lived our entire life thus far “not knowing what we didn’t know.” But now, we know.

This article first appeared in the May 2012 issue. Sharon L. Bratcher’s “Soup and Buns” book includes 45 of her RP articles. For information contact sharoncopy@gmail.com.

Theology

“Whose am I?”

Are you your job? Does your gender define who you are? Your ethnicity? Your feelings? Or is your identify found in a truth far more substantial and stable…and controversial?

 *****

Crazy, out-dated, offensive– these are a few of the words we could expect to hear if, in the midst of our culture’s identity debates, we offered up this answer: “I am not my own…” This is the first line of the very first answer in the Heidelberg Catechism and it’ll seem all the more absurd when we share the question that prompts it: “What is your only comfort in life and in death?”It’s common enough for people to struggle with their purpose in life, and to want to know what happens after death, so the world can appreciate a question like this one. But the answer? That’ll strike most as incredibly out of line with 21stCentury thinking! I couldn’t agree more. A stumbling block… The first question and answer in the Heidelberg Catechism is more relevant and more revolutionary today than when it was first penned. Here is Lord’s Day 1 in full:

What is your only comfort in life and in death?

That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.

The confession that “I belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ” may be a stumbling block for many. My body is not my own? My life is not my own to do with as I please? What do you mean, “Christ has fully paid for all my sins…?” He bought you and He set you free? How does that work? Doesn’t His purchase of you, make you His? If you are His, are you really free? Isn’t it hyperbole to suggest that “without the will of your heavenly Father not a hair can fall from your head?” Why would God care about such minute details? If God controls all these things, are you experiencing true freedom? These are real objections that people utter when they consider what it means to become a Christian. They find the instruction of Christ in Luke 9: 23- 24 too much:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

While Christians understand that their identity is in Christ, others cannot fathom giving up their autonomy, denying themselves, or submitting their entire being to Him. They would rather create their own sense of identity, and they might even consider adding a slice of religion to their life…but only a slice. Christians confess Christ as Lord of their whole life but the world says, “I am my own god. They put self at the center, and rank everything else by how relevant it is to the all-important me. Whether it is my job, my sexual orientation, my race, my religion or lack thereof, my children, my spouse, etc., these are just aspects that contribute to my self-made identity. When we are Christ’s it changes everything When we die to sin and self, and have Christ as Lord of our life, it’s then that we find our true identity. As a result, it is not my job, my spouse, my children, or my race that give me my meaning. It is belonging to Christ, living by the power of the Holy Spirit, and being a child of the Father, that sets me free! The implications of this are profound! This changes how I view my wife, a fellow believer and saint belonging to Christ. She is not simply a spouse; she is a sister-in-Christ, with whom I have a very special relationship. She is a gift of God and I must treat her as Christ treats the church. I must do all that I can to husband her and to cause her to flourish. This has implications for me as a dad. I do not just have children; I have covenant children. My wife and I must work in harmony with God’s Word and Spirit, together, to train and instruct our children in the way that they should go. When they grow older, this training will not leave them (Prov. 22:6). I need to disciple my children and care for them as a representative of the Father’s perfect love for us. It impacts my work. I am not simply a teacher – I am a teacher of God’struth, and I need to work hard to ensure that this is what students receive. I am a teacher of God’s covenant children and need to assist parents in training the youth of the church in godliness, training them to fulfill the calling they have as children of God. This also has implications for how I treat my physical self. My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, the living God! My body, heart, soul, and mind belong to him! I need to be intentional in what I let my body and my mind ingest. I have to treat my body as God so desires and that means being faithful to my wife, even prior to marriage. I have to be careful with my heart, fighting against covetousness and discontent. That means waking up every day with an attitude of gratitude – this day provides me another opportunity to serve Him; may all my efforts be directed rightly! Conclusion The list could go on and on, couldn’t it? There is not a single corner of my life that is not under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The way I spend money, time, and other resources, the kinds of friends I keep, the movies I watch, the attention I give to my Winnipeg Jets – all of this is under the Lordship of Jesus Christ! This is truly a marvel: I am not my own, I belong to Jesus Christ; He paid for me and He set me free! He set me free to serve Him, to find my identity in Him. My life, my entire life is hidden in Christ! I am free indeed! If this freedom eludes you, reach out to those you know who have this joy. It is not frivolous, meaningless, or constant. This joy ebbs and flows with the challenges of every day life. But it is deeply rooted and gives true meaning and purpose to life. This joy and freedom lets us live in joy under our King, Jesus Christ. I am not my own, I belong to my faithful Saviour, Jesus Christ. To Him alone belongs all glory!

Assorted

Tidbits – December 2018

Feminism’s two errors

“[Feminism is] the heresy that women and men are not fundamentally different and that women ought to be as much like men as possible, especially as selfish and aggressive as possible. The two most ridiculous errors about men and women are unisexism and male chauvinism. The unisex feminist says that women and men are not different in value, therefore they are not different in nature. The male chauvinist says that men and women are different in nature, therefore they are different in value.”

Peter Kreeft, as interviewed by Marvin Olasky in “Dangerous Waves

Context is key

There are many an inspirational bible text that turns out to mean quite something else when read in context. Two of the more famous are:

1) I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me

Philippians 4:13 is used to inspire Christians to take on impossible tasks. In context we can see Paul is speaking not to all he can accomplish in Christ, but all he can He is speaking here of how in good times and bad (which includes beatings, shipwrecks, and prison) God has taught him to be content. It might be better understood as “I can endure all things in Christ who strengthens me.”

2) “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11 is used as a frequent college graduation verse or marriage verse to alert the graduate or couple as to the material good God has in mind for them in the near future. But the context of this verse is God telling Israel that it will take 70 years before He returns them from exile.

A meme making its way around the Internet offers up the very best verse to illustrate the importance of context. Luke 4:7 reads: “There if you worship before me, it shall all be yours.” Seemingly just the thing for an inspirational bookmark or piece of wall art, it is, as the meme notes, “less inspirational if you know who said it.”

Spurgeon on who’s leading whom by the nose

“I believe that one reason why the Church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the Church.”

Charles Spurgeon

Fake news won’t cover it, but God is pouring out his blessings

The media makes its money telling us about all the horrible things going on in the world. But while examples of Man’s total depravity abound, we should not lose sight of how God’s restraining hand is at work, and his blessings abound. As Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan report in their chapter of FEE’s Essential Guide to Navigating the News what the public perceives, and what actually is, can be very different. For example, over half of Americans think gun violence is getting worse in their country. But Davies and Harrigan note:

“According to the FBI, the rate of firearm deaths today is half — and the rate of non-fatal firearm crimes is one-quarter — of what they were just 20 years ago. Even with mass shootings, gun violence today is a shadow of what it was a generation ago.”

And if you’re under the impression that violence is increasing around the globe, consider this:

“During World War II, 300 out of every 100,000 people on Earth died annually in war. During the Korean War, the number dropped to 20. Today, it is 1.”

The good news continues:

“Humans are not only eradicating violence, they are also eradicating poverty. The number of people living in extreme poverty has dropped from 70 percent of all humans in 1900, to 55 percent in 1950, to 35 percent a generation ago, to less than 10 percent today.”

Worldwide child labor rates have been halved since the 1950s, and education rates, longevity, and income, have all “risen almost 20 percent over the past generation” by United Nation measures. The world isn’t perfect – not by any means – but we shouldn’t let the media blind us to the blessings God continues to shower on this world.

Don’t be change-resistant

In 2008 Barack Obama promised “Hope and Change.” The slogan resonated – voters’ hope was that the change he brought would be an improvement. And while it was undeniable he brought change, in 2012 he got ten million fewer votes. This bloc of voters concluded change and improvement are hardly synonymous.

When we look around us at an ever more liberal Western Church and increasingly pagan culture, we might be tempted to believe that change is synonymous with decline. But just as we shouldn’t support change for change’s sake, we mustn’t resist change for resistance’s sake. “We’ve never done it that way,” is a reason to proceed with caution, but it is not (as some treat it) a discussion ender. “Thus says the Lord” is a final word with no appeal (if indeed the Lord has said thus) but we must never give “That’s the way we’ve always done it” the same sacred status.

Whole lot of change going on

“We obviously live in a changing world. Consider a few of the following realities: the world’s largest taxi company, Uber, does not own one vehicle. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Alibaba, the world’s largest retailer, owns no product. Some fairly significant changes in the world order, the way we do business.”

Tim Van Soelen, “The Seven Last Words of a Dying Church [School]?

English is…interesting

  • Words that should rhyme: cough and tough, boot and foot
  • Words that shouldn’t rhyme: Pony and bologna; money and funny
  • Words that don’t rhyme with anything at all: bulb, angel, silver, purple, husband, and woman

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