Thursday, September 25, 2014

Canada and Christianity: Where Are We?

By Justin Wishart

Christianity played a major role in the formation of Canada. From Jacques Cartier planting a cross in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1534, to our national anthem containing a prayer to God, Christianity has had a central place. Even the things we take pride in—our compassion, freedom, and social values—find their root in Christianity. As Robert Choquette explains:

The Bible is shot through with statements highlighting the centrality of the love of God and neighbour in the Christian economy of salvation. Faith and love go hand-in-hand, are inseparable in Christian teaching. If a Christian does not love his or her neighbour, he or she is not a true Christian. . . .

Although Protestants and Catholics would argue over the precise theological relationship between faith and works, neither would deny the central importance of the love of neighbour in Christian life.[i]

There are many examples to show how these ideals have shaped us. We used to call ourselves the "Dominion of Canada" because of a biblical reference: "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth" (Psalm 72:8).[ii] Our coat of arms also contains the Latin phrase A Mari Usque Ad Mare, which is translated "From Sea to Sea," taken from the same verse. In the same Psalm, we read:

The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness. He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor. . . . For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight. (Psa. 72: 3-4, 12-14)

This focus on loving others was the motivation for Thomas Douglas, a Baptist minister, to fight for universal health care. While the wisdom and moral results of socialistic policies in Canada should be debated, this social gospel has traditionally been rooted in the desire for God's Kingdom to be realized in our nation. The things we tend to value most about ourselves often find their origins in Christianity and the Bible.

You would think that Canadians would be interested in reading the Bible since it has given us so much of our self-identity. Unfortunately, this is not the case. A report titled Confidence, Conversation and Community: Bible Engagement in Canada, 2013 concludes, "The majority of Canadians, including those who identify themselves as Christians, read the Bible either seldom or never."[iii] Not only do Canadians rarely read the Bible, we rarely reflect on the meaning of the Bible or talk to others about it. According to this report, "[o]nly about one in ten Canadians . . . reflect on the meaning of the Bible,"[iv] and, "Only 6% of Canadians . . . talk to others about the Bible outside of religious services at least once a week."[v] While in 1993 a low 35% of Canadians strongly agreed that the Bible is the word of God, the report found that our "confidence that the Bible is the Word of God has significantly declined"[vi] to only 18% in 2013. It seems strange that we rarely read, ponder, and talk about the very thing which gives us much of our self-identity.

While the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that "Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God,"[vii] it seems as if our foundations are becoming increasingly secularized. As we move away from basing our nation on God, it seems natural that we will base it on man. As an example, God as a timeless, transcendent foundation for human rights grounds our rights in an immutable source. This, likewise, makes our basic rights immutable. Man, on the other hand, is fleeting and temporal. It follows that grounding our basic rights in man subjects them to the shifting sands of public opinion. What seems to be a sure principle today may end up being rejected tomorrow. The legalization of gay marriage provides a good example of this possibility. It is unclear what awaits us in the future as we "progress" down the secularist path. It is unlikely to look anything like the vision of the Fathers of Confederation, and even less likely to resemble Scripture. Our very foundation, which recognizes the supremacy of God, will likely be removed by the force of powerful lobby groups.

How is the Christian church to respond to this bleak future? The fundamental Christian disciplines of Scripture reading, prayer, and serving others must be encouraged and practised. However, we must also start thinking of theology in terms of worldview. Christianity must move from being a property we possess and toss away, to being the essence of what we are. Once we start thinking of Christianity as how we view every aspect of the world around us, Christ will predictably influence all our thoughts and actions. This will, in turn, naturally influence the culture around us.

For too long, Canadians have relegated Christianity to the realm of personal beliefs. We are expected to enter into our public life with a secularist mindset, and for the most part we have done so. This has created a split mind in the Canadian Christian. We have a mind for our personal beliefs, filled with thoughts on God; we also have another mind for the public world, devoid of any reference to God. How often does the secularist demand that we not invoke God in public discussions? It seems we are buying into this idea. Only 13% of Canadians think that "the Bible is relevant to modern life."[viii] Yet, if God is Lord, he is Lord of both our private and public lives. When we understand that Christianity is a complete worldview, we see that the dichotomy between the private and public world is an illusion.

How can we act surprised when God is being systematically removed as the foundation of our society, when we ourselves oblige the secularists' demands? It is to be expected. As a result, Christianity becomes marginalized in the collective Canadian consciousness. The idea that Christianity is relevant in our day-to-day lives becomes less accepted, as the data shows. It seems natural to conclude, then, that we should tackle this marginalization head on. We must regain the vision of our spiritual forefathers. Christianity was never an idea that should be relegated to our personal lives; instead, we should shine our light on the world around us. This transition would need to start in the church. We should teach the laity how Christianity applies to science, politics, ethics, philosophy, and other such areas normally relegated to the secularist domain. When regular Christians understand Christianity as a worldview, this will radically change how we interact with the culture. As a consequence, we will simply do as Christians have always done, and change our culture around us.


[i]. Robert Choquette, Canada's Religions (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2004), 331-32.

[ii]. All Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version.

[iii]. Rick Hiemstra. Confidence, Conversation and Community: Bible Engagement in Canada, 2013, Canadian Bible Forum, accessed September 20, 2014, http://www.bibleengagementstudy.ca/.

[iv]. Ibid.

[v]. Ibid.

[vi]. Ibid.

[vii]. Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part 1 of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11.

[viii]. Hiemstra, Confidence, Conversation and Community.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Biological Sciences Lost at Sea: Expertise Straying Outside Its Own Domain

by Dr. Ron Galloway

If a doctor tells me I'm a sick man, I'm not likely to argue with him. He is the expert, not me. But if a doctor tells me that it's okay to cheat on my wife, because man is only an animal anyway, then I would debate with that doctor, for he has strayed outside of his own expertise. The same applies to a biologist who clams that human beings are mere animals. You cannot look at man purely from the standpoint of biology, make an ultimate claim that man is an animal, and suppose you are drawing scientific conclusions.[i] The biological sciences get themselves into difficulty when they make universal claims about man or the universe that far exceed their own areas of expertise.

A Pretend Scenario to Show the Confusion

To illustrate, I have chosen two main claims that springboard from biological claims into full-blown metaphysics. The first is the alleged scientific claim that man is purely an animal, and the second that the fossil record shows that man is spiritually and physically evolving and the whole of reality is becoming more complex.

Evolution of KnowledgeLet us set up a pretend scenario. Imagine that all the existing evidence and presuppositions in the biological sciences imply that both claims are true. When a biologist makes these two claims, he or she is making ultimate statements about the nature of both humanity and the universe itself. Therefore, they sound less like scientific claims, and more like religious or philosophical claims. Neither biology nor any other of the physical sciences have the tools to verify all of reality.

History and Our Scenario

History simply does not verify the claim that humanity is advancing day by day, decade by decade, or even century by century. For example, the Sumerian civilization was one of many civilizations that were far more complex than many of the civilizations that followed.[ii] This does little for the notion that all reality is evolving and becoming more and more complex. In addition, from the standpoint of historic human conduct, there would appear to be little trace of ethical evolution. If anything, man has become a more competent murderer than before. He seems no more or less capable of evil, but now he has better technologies to assist him in that evil. This appears true whether in the area of weaponry, political deception, or economic and psychological manipulation. When viewed historically, there would also seem to be little progress in the fight against human greed, unless of course one considers the extreme greed of much of the free world to be a desirable evolutionary development. Historically viewed, natural humanity's evolution out of selfishness seems, thus far, undetectable.

As for the claim that man is an animal, there is much to show that man is better or worse than the beasts, but nothing to confirm that he is simply an animal. The fact that human beings show characteristics in common with animals in no way confirms that they are animals, any more than the similarities between a cat and cougar confirm that a cat is a cougar.

Art and Literature and Our Scenario

Not only history, but literature and art militate against our scenario. There seems to be little evidence of increasing complexity or superiority of either as we approach the twenty-first century. One fears that the secular worldview's rejection of the transcendent might have actually triggered a digression of great art and literature, since traditionally and historically both embrace the transcendent.

Thus far, no recent flood of artists coming to the fore have succeeded in surpassing the work of Rembrandt, Shakespeare, Euripides, Dante, or Milton. If we move into the field of music, we might ask whether the music world believes that the works of Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach are really in danger of being surpassed in complexity by current artists. In fact, much of the present genius in music acknowledges its heavy and continuing debt to these masters. As with history, the world of art comes into direct collision with our scenario. So far as I know, no animal has ever composed an opera or rivaled Mozart. In the arts, the difference between man and animals is perhaps the most pronounced of all.

Religion, the History of Religion, and Our Scenario

Nothing in the history of religions or religious study in general inspires confidence in the belief that contemporary man is a product of evolutionary spiritual development. In New Age religion, the very idea of spiritual evolution springboards off not only its take on Darwinian evolution, but also its take on Eastern religion. For example, the very pillars of New Age religion and its talk of a higher consciousness, and the "at-one-ment" of all things, are heavily dependent upon the ancient Hindu Upanishads. Why would such an evolving new religion, heralding the "Age of Aquarius," be founded on what should be a primitive, simplistic ancient belief, according to the logic and implications of spiritual evolution?[iii] Why indeed, but the key doctrine of New Age religion—that all is one, all is God—takes its cue from the Upanishads.[iv] Even Carl Jung had to resurrect ancient Gnostic myths, Eastern religion, and the occult to emerge with his theory of the unconscious.[v] Indeed, it would appear that modern religions, not to mention biological sciences, are totally dependent on ancient laws to sustain them. This hardly serves as a plug for increasing complexity or an evolving higher consciousness.

As for the second claim that man is simply an animal, the universal and conspicuous absence of religion and worship in the animal kingdom make the claim absurd. Add to this the ancient religious belief that speaks of contact with a world of spirit personalities, who are able to enter into our bodies and minds and control them. This does very little for the idea that man is purely a biological animal. Our scenario cannot even begin to deal with the reality of the spirit world and man's ancient or modern relationship to that world.

Conclusion

In light of the collision between the findings of biology and other areas of expertise such as history, the arts, and religion, it is clear that even if our scenario was true, the biological sciences are still making claims far beyond their expertise. I have only touched on the problems posed whenever one discipline seeks to impose its view of man and the universe on every other discipline. This is but one of the many worldviews that compete with the Christian worldview.

As Christians we are committed to the defense of a very different view of man and the universe than this scenario, or many others, and to the proposition that fallen humanity has no hope for transformation except through Christ. Far from progressing, the "fashion of this world is passing away" (1 Corinthians 7:31). Then comes the transfiguration not only of humanity, but of the universe itself. Until then, we "demolish strongholds" (2 Cor. 10:4-5) by defending the truth of the Christian worldview in gentleness and love.


[i] See, for example, B. F. Skinner's Beyond Freedom and Dignity (New York: Knopf, 1971). Skinner maintains that human beings are merely a species of animal. Like all animals, there is no inward self, only a stimulus-response organism.

[ii] Samuel Noah Kramer, The Sumerians, Their History, Culture And Character (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1963). See pp. 3-7 especially.

[iii] Here I am simply positing what consistent logic would demand. Actual Hindu belief is by no means simplistic or primitive.

[iv] Sarvepalli Rhadhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore, eds., A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967), 48.

[v] Carl Jung, Memory Dreams and Reflections, tr. Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 323. Here, in his final book, Jung admits his extreme debt to Eastern thought and a spirit guide called Philemon to whom he attributes most of his psychological insights.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Saving the Pre-Born in a Secular World

By Devorah Gilman

He wasn't the kind of person most people would expect to be open to the pro-life message. He was secular, gay and voted liberal. It seemed that in most aspects, he and I had very different worldviews. However, when I began to talk to this young man in Toronto a short while ago, it became clear we had something in common.

I met him while doing a project we call "Choice" Chain, where we go on Canadian streets and talk to people about abortion. We show pictures of pre-born humans in the womb as well as pictures of what abortion does to them. Our pictures clearly show a harsh truth that our volunteers handle in a sensitive and compassionate way. We never yell or are rude, but focus on dialoguing with people, making sure we ask thoughtful questions in a kind manner, and that's where my conversation happened with this young man.

I asked him key questions: "Do you believe in human rights?" "Yes," he told me. "That's great, I do too," I said. Then I asked him, "If two human beings reproduce, what species will their offspring be?" "Human, obviously," he replied. "We both believe in human rights," I said, "and we know the basic science that species reproduce after their own kind. Knowing this, doesn't it logically follow that this"—I pointed to a picture of an aborted child—"is a human rights violation?" He thought for a moment and then his eyes lit up. "It is a human rights violation!" he said. A while later, he left our conversation promising to do all he could to prevent human rights from being violated through abortion. "Thank you," he said. "What you're doing is powerful."

Though we started the conversation as two people with seemingly great differences we ended in agreement on one important issue. We had both come into the discussion agreeing on our stance on human rights. We both left the discussion with the correct understanding that all humans, including the pre-born, deserved these rights, and as human beings ourselves we would do what we could to protect them. As this gentleman continued on his way, I knew that the world had just become a little safer for pre-born human beings.

Some Christians have expressed skepticism that non-believers can see that abortion is wrong, therefore making it impossible to end abortion. Yet I regularly see men and women who have no faith in God, like this Toronto man, change their opinions on abortion. They don't need to become Christians first before they see that abortion is wrong.

Why is that? Well, people turn to abortion for a variety of reasons. Often, it is the difficult circumstances that they are in and can't see their way out of. Yet, the same people wouldn't choose to kill a born child because they were in the same difficult circumstances. This means we need to show them that killing a pre-born child is just as wrong as killing a born child. The problem is not that they have the wrong morality—they know killing a human being is wrong. The problem is that they have the wrong biology—they don't know that killing a pre-born child is killing a human being.

Shortly after I spoke with the young man, I encountered a young woman, not too far from my previous conversation. This young woman was walking down the street when I offered her a brochure and asked her, "What do you think about abortion?" She opened the brochure and her eyes fell upon a picture of a pre-born child that had been aborted during the first trimester. "It kills a baby," she said. "It's horrible." She went on to share about how terrible and unjust abortion was. Near the end of the conversation, as I wondered whether or not our interaction that day had affected her seemingly firm pro-life conviction, I asked her, "Did seeing this picture change the way you thought of abortion?" "Yes," she said. "I was pro-choice." And then she explained how she had been pro-abortion up to the moment she had seen the picture I showed her. This young lady needed to see what the young man from my first story came to realize as well: pre-born human beings are just that, human beings. As I asked this young woman if she was now 100% against abortion she hesitated, "Well, you may need abortion for rape or if the family is in poverty . . ." Her voice trailed off and then came back strongly against what she had just been saying. "No. You just can't kill a baby." And then in answer to the original question: "Yeah, what can I do to stop abortion?" This woman went from accepting abortion to being 100% against it in minutes. What changed for this young woman is the same thing that changed for the young man in the previous conversation. They came to see that the pre-born are, like you and me, human beings.

What needs to change?

For years many in the pro-life movement have proclaimed truths such as "abortion stops a beating heart," and "life is sacred." Though these statements are true, all they provide is a conclusion and not the compelling evidence that leads to the conclusion in the first place. Furthermore, many argue for the pro-life stance assuming people understand objective truth without trying to prove it to an increasingly relativistic world. We can change hearts and minds in regard to abortion, but we need to be able to reach people where they are at, build common ground, share the truth, and provide evidence in a loving and winsome way.

The reason people aren't embracing the pro-life view isn't because they aren't Christians. It seems people aren't embracing the pro-life view because we aren't communicating that view clearly to them.

We need to communicate the truth of who the pre-born are and what abortion does to them. We need to provide evidence and engage people, scientifically and philosophically. I've shared two anecdotes with you, but they are not isolated incidents. In fact, they are part of an ever-increasing societal transformation that is taking place.

If we seem unable to end abortion, if we're not sure how to communicate the truth, then we need to change our approach, not pack our bags. Let us remember to provide evidence in a compelling manner, reaching people where they're presently at. As we engage the culture in a loving, truthful way, we can rescue many of our pre-born neighbours.

The truth is powerful, and God is glorified when truth is spread and effort is made to save lives. I would argue that, for all pre-born children, whether their lives are in the hands of believers or those who don't believe, we must do what we can to save them, and it is, indeed, possible to save them.

You can learn how to make a compelling pro-life case by visiting CCBR's Pro-Life Classroom. CCBR can also teach you how to communicate with a friend considering an abortion.

Pro-Life speaker Devorah Gilman has spoken to many audiences: educating, inspiring, and equipping them to effectively engage the culture on the abortion issue. She has helped organize and lead teams of people to do life-saving pro-life outreach across Canada and the United States. She is the Community Liaison for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, an educational pro-life organization that is transforming the culture and currently employs over 20 young people as staff. For more information, please see Devorah's profile. To support Devorah's life-saving work, you can donate at CCBR's donation page, and write her name in the comment section of the donation process.