The Great Debate

This article was originally written for the Christian Renewal. It appeared in the April 16th issue of the magazine.

On February 4th, 2014, Bill Nye and Ken Ham met to debate whether or not the Biblical Creation account is still a viable model of origins. The debate was well advertised, and at the time of writing the YouTube clip has garnered over 1.5 million views.1
Many atheists were quick to decry Nye's choice to debate Ham, fearing that he would lend credence to the Creationist view. Once the debate was over, many of these same individuals then affirmed his triumph. Christian response was mixed, from declaring the night an evangelical success to consternation over Ham's weak performance. That both men are celebrities rather than experienced debaters was obvious. Neither man was well prepared and both of them lacked focus. This resulted in the debate derailing several times. Ham's off-topic of choice was morality and for Nye it was odd things like top minnow reproduction.
In the post-debate question period, Ken Ham was asked the following question: “Hypothetically, if evidence existed that caused you to have to admit that the earth was older than 10,000 years and creation did not occur over six days, would you still believe in God, and the historical Jesus of Nazareth and that Jesus was the Son of God?” (2:18:01)1 His response was to dodge the question and say there was no hypothetical. One cannot prove the age of the universe. He did not answer the central point of the question: would he still believe in God and the person of Jesus Christ?
Should a change in our finite understanding of the world alter our belief about God or the person of Jesus Christ? We confess that faith is gift given to us by God. It is not something we create in ourselves. Atheists intuitively know this and that's why the question was posed to Ham. The question was essentially looking for the basis of his faith: does it lie in his understanding of the world or does it lie in God? Ham's lack of an answer presents a problem for every Christian: how should we prioritize our beliefs?
At the Ligonier 2012 National Conference on The Christian Mind, notable men such as R.C. Sproul, Albert Mohler, and others, gathered to discuss such topics as the role of science, education, and God's natural revelation. The panel was asked whether or not the age of the earth should be considered a first order issue. In his answer, R.C. Sproul wisely said that he did not know the age of the earth. He agreed that there were hints and inclinations in Scripture, but he also admitted that there was no specific date given for Creation. All revelation given by God is infallible and this includes both special and natural revelation. He went on to say that “historically, the Church's understanding of special revelation, or the Bible, has been corrected by students of natural revelation.”2
It is simply not the case that the Church has held to a single interpretation of Genesis 1 thoughout its history. While Basil understood Genesis 1 to take place in a literal twenty-four hour, six day time period, Origen held the view that Genesis was intended as allegory. Augustine simultaneously held to both a young Earth view and an allegorical Creation story, a view which now almost totally unheard of despite the fact it was the dominant view of the Church until Calvin's time. Charles Hodge held to the Day-Age view of creation. Bavinck rejected the idea that the creation event could even be the object of scientific investigation, since the event itself is outside the scope of human knowledge. Plantinga, of course, is well-known for being a theistic evolutionist.3,4
As Christians, we cannot impose our understanding of the world on God. Our inadequacy is all too apparent. One is reminded of God's question to Job in chapter 38 “Were you there?” If the age of the earth and the methods God employed in Creation are not first order issues, indeed, they may not even be any of our business, then we must be quick to admit where our understanding fails us. We must admit with Job that we were not there. We must also approach those Christians who hold other views of Creation with a measure of humility. Most of all, if the question is ever put to us “Would a change in your understanding of the world alter your belief in God?” then we must humbly but firmly answer “No.”
It is God who hold us firm, and not ourselves.
1. Bill Nye vs Ken Ham Debate on Youtube
2. The Christian Mind: 2012 National Conference
3.Bavinck and Kuyper on Creation and Miracle by Chris Gousmett quoting from Bavinck's "Philosophy of Revelation"
4. Report of the Creation Study Committee at the PCA Historical Center


Bitter Cups that Bring the Glory of God

I have been reflecting on the tragic death of Tim Bosma. A young man, only 32 with a wife and small child, was taken from his home and brutally murdered. The media coverage has been constant. I have never met him but, I married into Dutch and, as it turns out I know a lot of people who knew him and some who were related to him. For days, my Facebook feed was flooded with nothing but stories, pictures, prayers and thoughts of Tim. The Facebook page dedicated to the search was very active. It still is. People send in their prayers and well wished to the family. Others want to donate.

Yesterday's memorial was a testimony to the power of God and the blessing of Christian fellowship. The message of the gospel and the need for our deliverance from sin was heard by many. God's Name was publicly glorified, and it was beautiful to behold.

However, the cup which glorified God was a bitter one for Sharlene Bosma. No doubt, if she had been given the option, she might have chosen to pass. The death of one's spouse is a bitter cup indeed. It is difficult to say whether it is a harder cup to drink from early in the marriage when the honeymoon is not yet over, or later in the marriage when a spouse has become more familiar than one's own right hand. All of us who are married know that we will one day have to drink from that cup and we fear it. Or at least, I do.

There are other cups too, which might come our way. Some are forced to drink from the cup of infertility. The bitterness of that one, unfortunately, takes a long time to pass. It is especially difficult if one is in a community where there are many babies. The aftertaste returns with each family get together. I will not taste this cup but I know those who have. There is no advice I can give to make the experience sweeter. I can only stand silently by, offering a shoulder or an ear.

Others drink the cup of a degenerate spouse or wandering child. Those to whom this cup is given often have to drink it alone, yet still somehow in full view of their brothers and sisters. Help is rare and so this cup frequently has a partner: the judgment of the ignorant. What many need is someone to shield them from that second cup, someone to take the brutal blows of well-intentioned friends so they can drink in peace.

I am sure I could think of other trials, big and small, to illustrate the point. As Christians, we readily agree that all of these bitter cups are intended to shape our character, to purge us of sin, to bring us closer to God. We rejoice when we see God glorified. We look at the pain of another and are able to objectively see when good is being done. However, it is crucial to keep in mind that we are only objective because, at that moment, it is not our pain. When we have to drink our own bitter cup, it is much harder to say "Thy will be done, Lord." We'd all rather let the cup pass. We all flinch.

And it is hard not to.

To be willing to be purged is a hard thing. It takes many years of sanctification and even at the end of one's life I have no doubt that many of us will wish we could have passed on this cup or that one. It won't be until we stand before God that we see what purpose those trials truly served.


Motion 312 and Rona Ambrose

It has recently been suggested by some groups that Conservative MP Rona Ambrose ought to resign from her position as the Minister of State for Status of Women Canada. Ostensibly, the reason for this suggestion is that her vote in support of Motion 312 is necessarily "anti-woman." This post is not really about abortion, but about the sentiment expressed above. Should Minister Ambrose really resign? Was her vote necessarily "anti-woman?" Did her position as he Minister of State for Status of Women require that she vote against Motion 312? I'd like to look at Motion 312:
That a special committee of the House be appointed and directed to review the declaration in Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada which states that a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth and to answer the questions hereinafter set forth; that the membership of the special committee consist of twelve members which shall include seven members from the government party, four members from the Official Opposition and one member from the Liberal Party, provided that the Chair shall be from the government party; that the members to serve on the said committee be appointed by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the membership report of the special committee be presented to the House no later than 20 sitting days after the adoption of this motion; that substitutions to the membership of the special committee be allowed, if required, in the manner provided by Standing Order 114(2); that the special committee have all the powers of a Standing Committee as provided in the Standing Orders; and that the special committee present its final report to the House of Commons within 10 months after the adoption of this motion with answers to the following questions, (i) what medical evidence exists to demonstrate that a child is or is not a human being before the moment of complete birth?, (ii) is the preponderance of medical evidence consistent with the declaration in Subsection 223(1) that a child is only a human being at the moment of complete birth?, (iii)what are the legal impact and consequences of Subsection 223(1) on the fundamental human rights of a child before the moment of complete birth?, (iv)what are the options available to Parliament in the exercise of its legislative authority in accordance with the Constitution and decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada to affirm, amend, or replace Subsection 223(1)?

Notice what Motion 312 sets forth. It requests that a special committee be appointed to examine the question of whether or not an unborn child is, in fact, a human being. It requests that medical evidence be examined, that any legal ramifications be examined and discussed and that Parliament consider what its options are with respect to Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada. Notice what Motion 312 does not say. It does not call into question the rights of women. It does not even bring up the question of abortion, though certainly that question would come up if the motion had passed. And yet, we are expected to accept the argument that a support of the motion is necessarily "anti-woman" and therefore something to be ashamed of.

I am curious, when did the discussion of difficult topics become "anti-women?" The discussion surrounding abortion is quite complex, dealing with the intersecting rights of both women and their infants, and there are many positions which ought to be considered. Framing the discussion as merely a "anti-choice/pro-life versus pro-abortion/pro-choice" is simply flawed. The issues of sexuality and abuse (especially violence during pregnancy) also run in tandem with the issue of abortion. If, as a nation, we want to take women's issues seriously, then I do not see how we can possibly fail to discuss something as deeply relevant to women as abortion.
To be sure, the discussion will be difficult. However, I am of the opinion that there is no need to fear a difficult conversation. Indeed, I would argue that strong-minded women desire such conversations. They are not afraid of medical facts or of having their opinions examined. An argument, if it is true, will withstand any battering a lie might give it. As Churchill said "The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is."

I would suggest that the demand that Minister Ambrose resign is problematic for feminists. On a more personal level, I find the suggestion insulting. Canadians, be they male or female, vote for those individuals we think will best represent us. We do that by considering both the individual's personal views and also the party's position. If someone is voted into a particular office, then Canadians expect them to act on the principles that they were voted in on. We do not tell our politicians, regardless of the party they run for, that they must for some unthinkable reason, leave their principles at the door. (And, in case you are wondering, this is also why I do not approve of the party whip. I understand why it exists, but I believe it to be wrong.) One cannot embrace democracy and stifle it at the same time. How can women on the one hand desire greater representation in Parliament, while at the same time insisting that the views these elected women espouse should conform to their own opinions? Do you require men to hold your opinions? Do you insist that they resign when they do not? Is this not hypocritical? Women do not all hold the same views on any subject and more women in Parliament will necessarily mean a greater diversity of opinion. This is something to be embraced, not feared.


Declaring the glory of God

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. "
Psalm 19:1-4

On Friday, June 15th, Nik Wallenda made world history by crossing the Niagara Falls on a tight rope wire. I had the good fortune to watch the event on tv. A crowd of over 100,000 people were gathered on the Canadian side of the Falls and, according to Niagara this Week, an estimated 18 million people tuned in to watch it on television. According to the same paper the "coverage of his watch featured snippets of the back and forth between father and son, including Wallenda thanking Jesus several times."
Consider that, for a moment.
One night, 18 million people watched a man do what he was created to do, praising God every step of the way.
A more perfect testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit, I cannot think of.
It was, in so many respects, a total body experience of the power and presence of God.
As a child I had the opportunity to see Tino Wallenda and his family at a church outreach. Yes, it really was a sort of highwire evangelism. My understanding is that Tino is now involved in a prison ministry. Without a doubt, this is a different approach to evangelism, but God doesn't call everyone to be a preacher.
He does, however, call all of us to give glory to Him and spread the Gospel through whatever means we have available to us. He also calls us to live with a heart if thanksgiving... all the time.
And so, because of one family's commitment to obey Him, 18 million people saw a man thanking God publicly for an experience like no other. To experience something like walking over the Falls is a great gift. But, to experience it knowing Who made the Falls, Who is giving you this experience, and Who deserves your praise and thanks is even greater.
I am thankful that God places people like the Wallenda's in this world. Much like Eric Liddle, Nik Wallenda feels God's pleasure when he does what he has been created to do, and he responds out of that sense.
If 18 million people had a window into my life for half an hour, would they see the same thankfulness? Would they see me glorifying God? Sometimes, I am not so sure. There are many days where I can barely squeeze out a drop of contentment from my soul, much less thankfulness. Thankfulness becomes not so much the immediate, heartfelt reaction I would like it to be, but a mental discipline. It is difficult to give thanks while cleaning out a not-quite-three-year old's underwear. It certainly doesn't rank with crossing Niagara Falls.
But, this is my life. I am at home with four children, not necessarily doing what I would like but instead doing what I am called. This too brings glory to God.


It's a beautiful day!

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.... And God saw that it was good. " Genesis 1

"He alone stretches out the heavens
and treads on the waves of the sea.
He is the Maker of the Bear[a] and Orion,
the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.
He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted. " Job 9

Today is a beautiful day. Spring is arguably my favorite season. It is so refreshing, especially after being inside for most of the winter... even when a winter is relatively mild. Everything about it makes me feel refreshed and blessed. Gratitude comes easily on days like today.


Returning from a long hiatus

As you can see, I am once again making a concerted effort to revive my blog. Once upon a time, it was a great outlet for all of my thoughts. Bear with me as I take some time to update the look. It would seem I am limited to background images of only 300K.

Why now?
Well, this is why.
I came across this a few days ago, as a result of the Desiring God feed on Facebook. I was incredibly moved by this couple's story. I was humbled by the realization of my own selfishness, by my own tendency to wallow in negativity despite the fact my life really is not all that difficult. I have so many opportunities to give glory to God, and I sadly admit that I have too often let them pass me by.


It's a girl!

Timea Elizabeth vanHooydonk was born on Tuesday, March 2, 2011.
My smallest, she weighed 7lbs 15oz, and was 20" long.
God has greatly blessed our family.
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