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Tidbits – February 2020

Lightbulb moment

I was in my 4th-year neurophysiology course, learning about the brain, when the professor used a curious word: “think.” As in, this is how science “thinks” things might work in our brain. What struck me was how tentative the professor had just become, and I wasn’t the only student surprised to hear this modest word. A classmate popped up his hand and asked something to the effect of, “What do you mean ‘think’? Don’t we know how the brain works?”

This got a definitive response from the prof. No, he explained, we don’t have a clue how the brain works: all our theories are just guesses and don’t begin to account for how much information is stored in our brains and how we access it. We even know our theories must be wrong – because they don’t offer a sufficient explanation – but until something better is found, this is the best we have.

His admission was quite the eye-opener for the class, who, to this point, had assumed we were learning something far more substantial than theories that were known to be deficient.

The fact is, the human brain is a wonder, and even the smartest brains among us don’t have a clue as to what is all going on. And to propose it was random chance that brought such a wonder into being, well, that just shows some folks aren’t using the wonder they’ve been given.

TV Trivia

Fred Rogers, of the children’s show Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, was a seminary classmate of R.C. Sproul.

Reformed humor

What do Martin Luther and birds have in common? A diet of worms!

Arguing for infant baptism

In Jay Adams’ book Greg Dawson and the Psychology Class, the author poses an intriguing argument for infant baptism. One of the characters in the book, Brian, is trying to convince his girlfriend that infant baptism is biblical, and shares with her this scenario:

“It’s the day before Pentecost. Andrew, a pious Jewish father, has just had his child circumcised. He is happy because he now knows that little Simeon is a part of the covenant community – the visible church. The next day, he hears Peter preach and believes the Gospel. Now, according to Baptist thought, his child is no longer in the visible church. In for one day and out the next.”

While there is no explicit example of a child being baptized in the New Testament (nor is there any example of children being excluded or forbidden from being baptized) there seems a clear parallel to circumcision, made even more clear by this scenario.

Words are not optional

“Preach the Gospel. If necessary rebuke anyone who says ‘If necessary, use words.'” – RC Sproul Jr.

When he’s good he’s very good!

Tim Keller gets stuff wrong (he’s a theistic evolutionist) but when he also gets stuff right, he’s gets them really right, like this, from his November 7, 2014 Facebook status update: “When I am loving to my wife when I don’t feel loving to my wife I am more loving to my wife than when I am loving to my wife when I feel loving to my wife.”

Actress understands the holiness of God’s name

Actress Melissa Joan Hart hasn’t always had everything figured out, but she has gotten one thing right: she refuses to take God’s name in vain, no matter what the script might require. Hart gained fame in the 1990s playing a good witch, then starred in a horror film, and posed in lingerie for a men’s magazine, but these days pops up on social media for her work with World Vision. While promoting her film God’s Not Dead 2, she told TheBlaze.com’s Billy Hallowell:

You will not see me in a TV show ever saying, “Oh my God,” because I don’t take
that word lightly…And that’s a very small example of how I’ve been able to influence my work a little bit. For me, it’s a big step today, because it’s written in every single script.


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In a Nutshell

Tidbits - January 2020

Why fossil fuels are a blessing According to Kathleen Hartnett White, in her study Fossil Fuels: The Moral Case “man-made emissions of carbon dioxide have risen three-fold since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.” But if some think that a decided downside, let’s not lose sight of the way we’ve been blessed by God’s provision of fossil fuels. As White explains: "When innovative minds developed a steam engine which could convert the stored heat energy in coal into mechanical energy, the economic limits under which all human societies had formerly existed were blown apart. A life of back-breaking drudgery was no longer the inescapable condition of the overwhelming majority of mankind. "Life expectancy had changed little throughout all human history until the Industrial Revolution; it thereafter tripled. Income per capita has since increased 11-fold…. Fossil-fuel powered mechanization revolutionized economic productivity, increased incomes, population, and life expectancy across all classes." Parental code: upping our game As is true for many readers of this magazine, my parents spoke Dutch whenever they wanted to talk about things they didn’t want us kids to understand. That always got us listening all the more intently, and over the years we did learn a “klien beetje” of Dutch, but never enough to figure out exactly what they were saying. But now, with kids of our own, and no second-language skills to turn to, I’m trying to figure out how I can talk to my wife without our kids clueing in. For the last four or five years, ever since our oldest learned to talk, we made use of our ability to spell. But now she’s off to kindergarten and has managed to break that code. So we’ve turned to shorthand spelling – instead of spelling out the whole word, we’ll just spell out the first few letters. So if I want to suggest a trip to the library, I’ll ask my wife what she thinks “about going to the L-I-B.” As “lib” doesn’t sound all that much like “library” it kept our speller off the scent for a while. But after repeated usage she broke that code too, and now when I ask my wife if we should have “I-C-E for dessert” our oldest is already salivating. Clearly, we had to up our game. Now instead of using actual letters, I’m using sound-alikes, in shorthand. So the last time I suggested heading to the library I asked my wife whether we should head to the “E-L-L-E, E-Y-E,  B-E-E.” That should serve us for at least the next little bit. After that? How about sound-alikes, in shorthand, backwards! Or we could just go to the other room. Alzheimer's and the hope of a Reformed  faith Some years ago the then editor of Christianity Today, David Neff, while reviewing a book on Alzheimer’s, pointed out how little hope some theology offers the family and friends of Alzheimer’s patients. He didn’t use the word Arminian, but the description he gave of this troubling theology fit: it “requires Christians to act for their salvation/liberation.” The problem with a theology that asks us to hold on to Christ is that it, “is no comfort to those whose dementia leaves them without the capacity to act.” After his father-in-law was stricken, Neff took comfort in a more Reformed understanding that instead emphasized, “that it is God who acts on our own behalf.” “Do we have to go to Church today?” In the September 2015 issue of New Horizons. Pastor Shane Lems shared how as a young lad he would complain to his parents, “Do we have to go to church today?” He didn’t understand the dangers of neglecting the church service – he wanted to stay home with his Lego. But, as he says, while “it’s one thing for a child to reason this way, it’s a very different thing for an adult to do it.” And he goes on to list some of the dangers to skipping church. It is against God’s will It hinders Christian fellowship It diminishes God’s praise It confuses/sets a bad example for other Christians It invites Satan’s temptations It is harmful to the Christian’s faith Lems included 5 more and noted that while his list was a negative one, it could also be reframed in the positive. For example, we could also not that going to church is God’s will, and doing so “strengthens your fellowship with the saints.” There are certainly dangers to neglecting church, but clear benefits to going. It's inescapable: Husbands are leaders “The Bible says the “husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church” (Eph. 5:23). Paul most emphatically does not say that husbands ought to be heads of their wives. He says they are…. Because the husband is the head of the wife he finds himself in a position of inescapable leadership. He cannot successfully refuse to lead. If he attempts to abdicate in some way, he may, through his rebellion, lead poorly. But no matter what he does, or where he goes, he does so as the head of his wife.” – Douglas Wilson in Reforming Marriage Count your blessings If the doom and gloom that fills our newspapers and social media feeds has you despairing, it's time to start counting the many, many blessings God showers on us. Here's a half dozen to get things started: It used to be expensive to phone long distance. Now we can Skype grandma for free. Most of us have a computer more powerful than anything NASA used to run the Apollo missions...and it's small enough to fit in a pocket. Life expectancy has jumped ten years since 1950. Everyone used to smoke, even if they never touched a cigarette - the haze was everywhere! Now we don't...mostly. The percentage of people in the world who are living in extreme poverty has been halved since 1990. Students in school today have no idea what a nuclear missile attack drill entails. A reading tips for dads Whenever I begin an Amelia Bedelia book I can hear a growing chorus screaming, "Noooooo! Don't say her name agaaaaaaaaain!" Those are my brain cells...dying. Still, my kids like these books and men are called to lead sacrificially, so I've had to figure out a work around. At first I had my daughters interject with Bedelia's name each time it appeared ...which meant they were reading half the book! But now I've come up with an even better solution that allows me to go entirely Bedelia-free: when her name comes up, I just swap in "Jane Smith." Aaaaah, sweet relief! Give it a try dads; your brain cells will thank you!...


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