Category Archives: Ethical issues

I Recommend

This past week, I shared the following links on social media and I think they’re worth sharing here too:

Distancing Darwin from Racism Is a Fool’s Errand

“It is very true what you say about the higher races of men, when high enough, replacing & clearing off the lower races. In 500 years how the Anglo-Saxon race will have spread & exterminated whole nations; & in consequence how much the human race, viewed as a unit, will have risen in rank.” ~ Charles Darwin

Sin is Like a Snowball

Scott Bredenhof reflects on how sin can gain dangerous momentum in our lives — and what God has done about it.

Dusting When the Light is Dim

I love these kinds of illustrations. This is a good one is about sanctification — I’ve saved it for future reference.

We Have Met the Enemy

Tal Bachman: “But the most alarming revelation was the astronomical rate of suicide among post-surgery transgenders, particularly after a decade. The post-surgery suicide rate wasn’t 25% higher than normal, which would have been disturbing enough. Nor was it 50% higher. Nor was it 100% higher. It wasn’t even 250% higher, which would have been, or should have been, a screaming alarm for the medical community and public alike. Nor was it 400% higher, or 600% higher. It was nearly two thousand percent higher.”

We the Screamers

Another powerful piece from Jonathon Van Maren.

Can a politician be personally, but not politically, pro-life?

Some conservative politicians try to take a middle-of-the-road approach to abortion: personally against, but politically indifferent or even for. Jon Dykstra analyzes this from a biblical perspective.

Australian Christian Lobby in the News

The Australian Christian Lobby has no equal elsewhere in the world. This is an organization doing phenomenal work to bring biblical thinking into the public square. ACL is headed up by Martyn Iles. He’s been doing a tour across Australia with his “The Truth of It” program. When ACL attempted to hire public venues in Western Australia, they were refused. The explanation is in the video clip below. Just yesterday (Friday July 16), ACL announced that the WA state government had backed down.


I Recommend

This past week, I shared the following links on social media and I think they’re worth sharing here too:

Families Pushed Toward Abortion

It’s a myth that every abortion is freely chosen by the woman. Many women are pressured into having abortions, including by doctors. My wife experienced this with our youngest, and many others have too. They make it sound like it’s your duty to have an abortion if there’s the slightest indication of an abnormality.

God Loves LGBTQ People More Than We Do

Samuel Sey: “God isn’t ashamed of the gospel. He isn’t embarrassed by his word. He isn’t anxious about telling people good things that might offend them. God isn’t afraid to tell the truth about sexual sin. God isn’t tempted to lie about pornography, fornication, adultery—and especially, homosexuality and transgenderism.”

My Life as a Christian Under a Communist Regime

This is really insightful, especially this: “It may surprise you, but from my perspective the main suffering for Chinese Christians is not physical persecution or lack of religious liberty but bad theology, though the reason behind bad theology is the lack of freedom.”

Washington Post column: Kids should watch portrayal of sex acts at ‘pride’ parades

Jonathon Van Maren: “In short, we’ve gone from: How dare you accuse us of wanting to influence kids? to Of course kids should see sex acts at Pride Parades!”

From Devastation to Deliverance

“Once constantly drunk and suicidal, William shares the story of how his sister, Danica, was influential in his coming to Christ. Despite a heart-breaking loss in their family, William and Danica share about the joys of being children of the only true God and testify to the importance of the local church in this evangelism story.”


I Recommend

This past week, I shared the following links on social media and I think they’re worth sharing here too:

How to Start to Read the Bible

David Qaoud: “In this post, I will give advice for those of you who want to start reading the Bible but are not sure where to start or what to do. I write with beginners and new believers in mind, but I hope seasoned Bible readers will find benefit as well.”

Million Dollar Note

When I was at Synod, one of my colleagues introduced me to this clever evangelistic resource. I left a bunch of them around the Melbourne airport the other day — and when I came home, I ordered 200 more. There are similar tracts for the US and Canada.

Comfort Facing Death

I officiated at a parishioner’s funeral on Friday. One of the songs we sang was Psalm 139. Then I noticed this beautiful little meditation on the same Psalm. Death is the one thing we all have to face — as Christians we need not fear it or be anxious about it. Its sting has been removed by Christ. It’s a beginning, not an end!

Friedrich Schleiermacher, the PCA, and Side B Christianity

Chris Gordon reflects on what’s ailing the Presbyterian Church in America.

A Prisoner Set Free

“Jesus did not come for the healthy but the sick, and that includes the prisoners regardless of their crime. In this evangelism story, hear how a man, Colin, was freed from two types of imprisonment — a temporal and eternal. The latter was brought about by his friend, Julian, who was faithful to share the gospel with him relentlessly — even though Colin mocked and scorned him.”


We Distinguish: Broader/Narrower

It was March of 2001 and I was a newly ordained missionary serving in Fort Babine, British Columbia.  My sending church, the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church, was about 100 km to the south.  For the first couple of years that I served as their missionary, the church was itself vacant.  So, especially in the early days, before we had worship services on the mission field, I preached in Smithers about once a month.  So I found myself preparing my first sermon on the summary of God’s Word in Lord’s Day 3 of the Heidelberg Catechism. 

Lord’s Day 3 says that “God created man good and in his image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness….”  In my sermon, I asked the question whether unregenerate human beings today still bear the image of God.  In other words, are even unbelievers today made in the image of God?  My answer was “No.”  I said, “Of himself, man no longer reflects God’s image.  He rather reflects the image of his new lord and master.”  I wasn’t totally wrong, but I wasn’t totally right either.

In the following years, as I continued my study of Reformed theology, I came to recognize that the answer I gave in that sermon was far too simplistic.  It didn’t tell the whole story.  It didn’t do justice to all the biblical data.  It neglected an important Reformed theological distinction that comes from the biblical data.

Genesis 1 tells us that God created humanity in his image.  Our Catechism defines this in the words of Ephesians 4:24, “in true righteousness and holiness.”  That could give the impression that “true righteousness and holiness” exhaust what it means to be created in God’s image.  However, one must remember that the Heidelberg Catechism was written for children.  It wasn’t written as a textbook for systematic theology.  Like primers do, our Catechism sometimes leaves us short of the full picture. 

To get a fuller picture, we need to account for the other places in Scripture which mention humanity’s creation in the image of God.  There are several that could be mentioned, but the one that most caught my attention was James 3:9, “With it [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” The term “likeness of God” is roughly synonymous with “image of God.”  James is appealing back to Genesis 1:26, 27 to argue that if you curse human beings you are cursing God.  This is not because human beings once bore God’s image, but because they still do right now.  All human beings are image-bearers. 

This parallels Genesis 9:6, another striking passage:  “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”   There the exact language of Genesis 1 is used to argue that if you kill a human being, you are attacking God.  That’s what makes killing a human being so heinous.  That’s what gives every human life its enormous value and dignity.  It’s because all human beings are image-bearers.

So is the image of God in fallen humanity gone or still present?  To resolve this question, Reformed theologians concluded that Scripture must be speaking of the image of God in two distinct senses.  These two senses were eventually labelled “broader” and “narrower” (though other terms have been used).  Herman Bavinck explains:

…Reformed theologians continued to speak of the image of God in a broader and a narrower sense.  In Holy Scripture they read that man, on the one hand, is still called the image of God after the fall and should be respected as such (Gen. 5:1; 9:6; Acts 17:28; 1 Cor. 11:7; James 3:9); and that, on the other hand, he had nevertheless lost the primary content of the image of God (i.e. knowledge, righteousness, and holiness) and only regains these qualities in Christ (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10).  (Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, p.550)

So in the broad sense there are, to use the words of Zacharias Ursinus, “remains and sparks” left of the image of God.  According to Ursinus (Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, pp.31-32) these consist of:

  1. “The incorporeal, rational, and immortal substance of the soul, together with its powers…”
  2. “…many notions and conceptions of God, of nature, and of the distinction which exists between things proper and improper…”
  3. “…traces and remains of moral virtues, and some ability of regulating the external deportment of life.”
  4. “The enjoyment of many temporal blessings.”
  5. “A certain dominion over other creatures.”

Now, as stated by Calvin and others, even these “remains and sparks” have been drastically affected by the fall into sin.  Yet, while corrupted, it can still be said that “God’s image has not been totally annihilated and destroyed” (Institutes 1.15.4).  However, after the fall, the narrow sense of the image of God (or the moral/ethical sense) has been completely lost.  It only begins to be recovered in a vital relationship with Jesus Christ.

Now why does all this matter?  First, because this is foundational for a Christian understanding of human worth and dignity.  All human beings have worth and value because there is a sense in which they bear God’s image.  All human beings deserve to be treated with dignity because they’re image-bearers in the broad sense.  From the unborn to the elderly, one and all carry the likeness of their Creator – not in all respects, but those which they do are of enormous value. 

Second, this distinction gives us some direction when it comes to considering the universal love of God.  Like many Reformed folks, I struggled for some years with understanding the love of God for humanity in general.  Can we say that God loves humanity as a whole?  Wolfgang Musculus, a Reformed theologian from the 1500s, said “Yes.”  He said that on account of humanity continuing to bear the image of God in the broader sense.  God loves humanity in general because there he still sees his image.  Similarly, John Calvin wrote this remarkable passage:

All of us, therefore, have in ourselves something deserving of God’s hatred.  With regard to our corrupt nature and the wicked life that follows it, all of us surely displease God, are guilty in his sight, and are born to the damnation of hell.  But because the Lord wills not to lose what is his in us, out of his own kindness he still finds something to love.  (Institutes 2.16.3) 

God finds something to love in us by virtue of what remains of his image in us.  God’s love is thus on account of God’s creation.  It all goes back to him.

Come 2006 I was serving my first congregation as a pastor.  I had the opportunity to revise my 2001 sermon on Lord’s Day 3.  I corrected my earlier theological blunders.  As I look at it now, it’s still a flawed sermon in some ways, but at least I was now on the right track concerning the Reformed doctrine of the image of God.  Through this experience God taught me that a preacher has to always keep studying theology.  We can never stop learning – none of us.  Even though we’re created in the image of God (broader), even though we’re being restored to the image of God (narrower) in Christ, we’re still finite creatures whose knowledge and understanding is incomplete.


Carl Trueman on today’s sexual madness

My review of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self is now online at Reformed Perspective.