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b2ap3_thumbnail_Graphic-Picture1.jpgAmong pro-lifers the topic of graphic pictures can cause some heated debates. Should we make use of pictures of aborted children to expose the public to what happens in an abortion? It’s an important question, but a key to answering it comes in realizing this is about practicalities, rather than principles.

Does the Bible forbid, or require them?

If it were about principles then we should be able to make a clear biblically-based case either for or against the use of these gory, brutal, bloody pictures. But it doesn’t seem a case can be made either for forbidding or for requiring their use.

If God forbids the use of gore in visual presentations, then what of Jesus, who was beaten and bloodied and raised up on a cross in front of the crowds? God didn’t hide the horror that was being done to his Son. And think also of the countless public sacrifices done for hundreds of years before, all pointing to this moment. No, God doesn’t forbid bloody messages.

But does God require them? Again we can say no – the Jews were, for a time, required to make sacrifices, but we aren’t. There is no command now to pass on Truth with gore.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Everyone-Theologian.jpgHow many evangelicals dispute that the Bible is God's Word? You'll be surprised.

Ligonier Ministries has conducted a survey of self-professed evangelicals in America to find out what they believe. The results are not encouraging - many in this group hold to contradictory beliefs. One example: "43% of people who agreed that God is the author of Scripture also agreed that modern science discredits the claims of the Bible."

You can find a link to the survey results here but why would anyone even want to look at such sobering results? Because knowing the real "state of theology" in North America equips us to the task of evangelism God calls us to. We can feel discouraged, yes, but we mustn't act defeated - we serve a Saviour who has already won! This survey is just a heads up as to understanding that so many need to hear the gospel even among those who claim to be conservative Christians!

At the end of the survey Ligonier Ministries is giving away an e-book version of RC Sproul's Everyone's a Theologian because they want to help the Church understand what we really believe. This is a fantastic introduction into the "what" and "why" of key Christian doctrines like the inspiration of Scripture, the Trinity, and the nature of Christ.

What makes the book remarkable is that it is written for the layman and both utterly understandable and completely engaging. There are 60 chapters, but the average length is just 5 or 6 pages, making it an easy one to read a few pages at a time. Sure, it's 300 pages, but this is the most concise book of its type available. This is a book everyone should read because it gives such a good grounding in all the foundational basics. And Sproul is a reliable, orthodox and Reformed theologian, so the vast majority of what he writes here is common to all Reformed Christians. I will note, though, that there is the occasional point that is more controversial – for example, he has a chapter on "common grace," a term many Reformed Christians don't understand that way he lays it out here.

So make sure to pick up the book – it is a must read! But do read with discernment.

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

Some Christians won’t invest in the stock market because they believe that investing in stocks is really no different than buying a lottery ticket. Both, they argue, are examples of gambling, which God forbids. But are they really so alike? Consider these two ways in which gambling differs completely from stock market investments. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_stocks-vs-gambling.jpg1. Your gain is someone else’s pain

In gambling there is no way for all the players to win. The gambler’s goal is to get other people’s money while doing nothing for them – it is a zero sum game, with every gain happening only at the expense of someone else’s loss. The gambler wishes to get something for nothing.

With stocks, it is very different. While the stock market has its ups and downs, over time the trajectory is ever upward, as the economy expands, and as we continue to learn how, through automation, to become ever more productive. That means it is possible for all investors – or at least all of the patient, cautious sort – to win. An investor’s gains need not come by making others lose; instead they can come from helping a good company grow. So an investor’s return can come from supporting companies that are creating good products, or offering wanted services, or in some other way, being productive in a way that paying customers appreciate. And then the return he gets will be in exchange for the help he provided: it will be something for something.

Of course, someone could buy stock in all sorts of evil companies too, so we’re not trying to say here that buying stocks is always good. Our point is more limited: whereas a gambler can only gain by other’s pain, it’s possible for an investor to gain by helping others.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Ranked-Ballot.jpgIn the last election the Liberals campaigned on bringing in electoral reform, and are now looking to make good on that promise.

But what exactly are they trying to fix? What’s wrong with our current electoral system? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of their alternatives they are looking through? 

The case against FPTP

The common complaint with our current First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system is that it doesn’t seem to reflect voters’ wishes. Under it a candidate doesn’t need a majority of the vote to get elected; he only needs one vote more than the second place finisher. So, for example, in the 2015 Federal election that meant one candidate – the NDP’s Brigette Sansoucy – was able to win a seat in the House of Commons even though she received only 28.7 per cent of the vote. In her riding almost three quarters of voters picked someone else, and yet she is still their elected representative. 

The FPTP system also allowed the Liberals to win a decided majority of the seats (54.4 per cent) even though they had a decided minority of the votes (just 39.5 per cent). 

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As Canada's Liberal government considers how they are going to change Canada's electoral system, there is going to be an increased push to have voting go from paper to digital, with voting done on, and tabulated by, computers.

Part of this push comes from those who just think it a natural progression. After all, isn't everything going digital? Others think it will increase voter turnout, especially if we open things up by allowing voting over the Internet (then you could vote from your own home). 

But another reason for this push to digital comes from the complicated ways that other countries do elections. In Australia, with their ranked ballot, it took more than a week for the country to find out who had won and who had lost. If voting had been done electronically this could have been resolved almost right after voting concluded.

But there is a problem with electronic voting that makes Canada's present paper and pen voting method vastly superior. If we want people to be involved and invested in the democratic process, then the one thing we need them to know is that the results reported at the end are, without a shadow of a doubt, legitimate. That’s true of the Canada’s present federal system…and in a way that should be the envy of every other country. Our paper ballots leave a paper trail that can be checked and double check and triple checked too. In fact, in most ridings there are people with at least 3 different perspectives counting each vote:

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Posted by on in Elections and voting

b2ap3_thumbnail_Or-else.jpgCanada's Liberal government wants to remake our electoral system, and among the changes they're considering is one that would make voting mandatory.

Why would anyone consider compulsory voting? Advocates argue that higher voter turnouts give a government a higher degree of political legitimacy - if more people vote, then, in effect, more people are "buying into" and agreeing to be governed by this process.

But does compulsory voting work? In Australia, where voting is required, the 2013 election saw roughly 80% of the voting age population cast a ballot. Now, officials will brag about a 93% figure, but that number doesn't factor in that, despite the law, 10% of Australians aren’t registered to vote, and when we consider all the people of voting age, then we get the much lower 80% total. (See the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, IDEA, www.idea.int/vt/ for more.) However, to put that number in context, in the last couple of Canadian federal elections we’ve averaged about 65% of the electorate casting a ballot. It would seem then that compulsory voting could increase those totals at least a little.

Where would this increase come from? It's here where compulsory voting's fundamental flaw is exposed. The increase would come from the apathetic: those too lazy to get educated about their choices, or those who know and hate their choices, but who are too sluggish to step up and offer voters an alternative. Why would we want to force these folks to eenie, meenie, miney, mo their way through the slate of candidates? Are we really making democracy better when your thoughtful choice can be countered by a guy who made his selection based on his favorite number: “I’m going with lucky number 4!”? 

Making voting mandatory can inflate the vote total, but that’s really only a sham: it's just for show. Requiring someone to vote doesn’t mean they are any more involved. Do we think compulsory voting will motivate the I-won’t–vote-unless-you make-me sort to also spend time studying the issues and researching the various candidate’s positions?

The very last thing we need to do is force people who don’t care, who haven’t done their research, and who otherwise wouldn’t vote, to now go down and mark their utterly random “x” on the ballot.

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  • A reason not to gamble

    In the November 2000 issue of Golf Digest Fred Couples recounts when he first learned that there is no such thing as a sure bet. The lesson was learned when the late tennis player Bobby Riggs, challenged him to a golf money match. There was one condition though – Riggs wanted one “throw” per hole. Even with one throw it seemed highly unlikely Riggs could beat the professional golfer, so Couples took the bet.  

    “On the first hole I hit my approach shot to 15 feet. Meanwhile it took Riggs four shots to reach the green,” said Couples. “But just as I got set to putt Riggs walked over, picked up my ball and threw it out-of-bounds.”

    Riggs started laughing and wouldn’t accept Couples money.

    “You’ve heard the lesson before, but here it is again,” Couples said, “If something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.”