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Review: Christian Citizenship Guide by Michael Wagner

Although many homeschooling teens and families have contributed enormously to the political process, no one can deny that the average person does not feel competent to do so. In fact, there is still debate about whether or not Christians should even be involved in politics. And among those who agree that it is a good idea, there is confusion both about how to think about politics in a Christian way and about how to be involved practically.

Our province requires a civics course in high school and our older children have met that requirement in various ways, including significant practical involvement. This time around, one of the resources we used was Michael Wagner’s Christian Citizenship Guide: Christianity and Canadian Political Life. Its goal is “…to help us better understand Canadian political life and the valuable role that we each can have in applying our faith to politics,” noting that the institutional separation of church and state does not mean that our religion should not affect our politics. On the contrary, the author points out that all political involvement is influenced by people’s most deeply held beliefs, whether they are religious or secular.

In four meaty chapters, Christian Citizenship Guide discusses

  1. Canada’s Christian past
  2. Our government’s structure and the effect of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  3. Human rights in history and today
  4. Practical hints for getting involved

Christian Citizenship Guide discusses and pulls together history, modern scholarship, and current events to explain how and why our political climate has changed in the last few decades. It defends the idea that Christians should be involved in politics and highlights current issues such as abortion and the erosion of freedom of speech. These are important matters for all of us. Other topics, such as euthanasia and freedom of the press, can be addressed from a similar mindset.

I found the discussion about the different kinds of human rights to be helpful. The third chapter also relates them to government and society involvement, which is an important aspect to consider. Of course, there is much more to say about the theory, history, and practice of human rights issues.

The final chapter reminds us how all of us must be involved—through prayer. It also discusses why further involvement is good, not bad, and gives wise and practical suggestions about how this can be done. Topics include how to do political work together with others, how to approach elected officials, and how to deal with the media. Aimed primarily at Reformed Christians but applicable to all Christians, it also mentions the Association for Reformed Political Action and the resources that organization has developed to help citizens be involved.

Obviously there are many different ways of thinking about Christian political action and this book represents only one general approach. However, because it is based on history and scholarship as well as a biblical foundation, its point of view can be helpful in rounding out other approaches.

Each chapter ends with a list of books for further reading as well as questions that can be used to gauge understanding of the material and to promote discussion. Even though some of these books are obviously advanced and beyond most high school students, the questions should be answerable by most teens, making this a helpful homeschool resource.

For our homeschool, I asked our teen to read the book, answer the questions, and discuss. We found it a valuable accompaniment to a secular high school civics text. We did not use it as an entire civics credit, but if a student wishes, Christian Citizenship Guide could form the basis for hands-on work in politics that would easily meet civics course requirements.

Although this book is geared specifically to Canadians, parts of it would be helpful to people in all countries. The sections that would most benefit non-Canadians include the first part of the chapter on human rights and the entire final chapter.

Christian Citizenship Guide is available as a free PDF from the publisher. I have not been able to find a source for a paperback like the one we have, but if that changes I will let you know.

If you enjoyed this review, you might want to connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read or friend me on Facebook where I occasionally show up. 

Disclosure: We used a paperback copy of the book that we have had for years; we are not compensated for presenting our honest opinions. (Currently it is available as a free downloadable PDF as specified above.)  

This post may be linked to Booknificent Thursdays, 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook as well as to Inspire Me Monday, Homemaking Linkup, Friendship Friday.

Is Modern Science Making Atheism Improbable?

It used to be that atheists would point to science and say that they couldn’t believe in God because of science. Now, however, it is becoming less and less possible for any well-informed person to honestly embrace atheism.

The universe is just too complex and too perfectly designed for such an idea. What’s more, every year new discoveries make the idea of the universe coming about by chance or designing itself less and less likely. The more we learn about the intricacies and interconnectedness of biological systems, the farthest reaches of space, or biochemical interactions, the more we all need to accept that there’s got to be a “Designer” of some sort.

Last fall I attended Dig and Delve 2019, a conference which discussed the following questions:

Are multiplying scientific discoveries making it more and more unlikely that the neo-darwinian evolutionary theory is true? Are scientific discoveries making it more and more likely that there must be a “Designer” to account for reality? Does the acceptance of a Designer threaten or ground science? Has belief in a Designer in the past stifled science? Given the scientific and rational issues, which system of thought best describes the Designer? Can you be rational, scientific, and know the Designer? 

The Dig and Delve team brought together a biologist, a physicist, a medical doctor, and a philosopher to discuss these issues and to answer the audience’s ‘toughest questions’ in a panel discussion. Two other speakers rounded out this conference.

Dig and Delve Speakers

The biologist is well-known Intelligent Design champion, Professor Michael Behe, author of Darwin’s Black Box, The Edge of Evolution, and Darwin Devolves, and he discusses design and his latest research.

The physicist, Dr. Brian Miller of The Discovery Institute, speaks about design both in space and on earth. His talks are dynamic and a good first pick if you do not want to watch the talks in order.

Professor Robert Larmer, a philosopher, clarifies ideas behind common objections to Intelligent Design and shows when they are not valid.

Dr. John Patrick, professor, medical doctor, and president of Augustine College, speaks about the relationship between science and religion.

Dr. Jonathan Patrick, professor, explains why science needs faith.

The Reverend George Sinclair of Church of the Messiah, and Dig and Delve organizer, introduces the topic and conference in a memorable way.

Dig and Delve Talks

I hope you will find the time to watch some of these talks so that you, too, will see why atheism is becoming less and less scientifically probable. (Note that the descriptions in italics were taken from the Dig and Delve website; those in regular font are from my own notes.)

George Sinclair – Evolutionary Theory is a Big Deal

Can you believe that Christianity is true and evolutionary theory is true? Is it reasonable to say that evolutionary theory merely describes how God created all things? Does evolutionary theory require larger claims that touch on both the universe itself and human experience? This talk will help frame the questions and issues and help people understand the flow of our 2019 conference.

Some say, “Evolution proves that atheism is true,” but what if science shows the universe was actually designed, not evolved?

John Patrick – Causes & Consequences

European science in the Middle Ages was comprised of the study of nature, mathematics and natural philosophy and the church was the patron of science. The story of how this relationship changed and what the consequences are for us today is fascinating.

We need to learn how to approach the different areas of learning. Our God is a God of order, so it is possible to do experiments.

Michael Behe – Fearfully, Wonderfully, Deliberately: The Argument for Intelligent Design from Biochemistry

Throughout recorded history, virtually all people — intelligent or not, devout or not — have thought that life was purposely designed. That changed in the mid-19th century when Darwin proposed his theory of evolution. With the development in the early 21st century of sophisticated new tools to probe the molecular basis of life, however, it’s changing back.

We need to look at how life works at the cellular and molecular level to evaluate Darwin’s ideas. The more science progresses, the more evidence there is for design.


Q&A Panel Discussion #1

Topics Include:

  • Why is truth so important?
  • Is Intelligent Design theory theology or science?
  • You can tell something was designed without knowing its history.
  • We need to speak up more about our own stories.

Jonathan Patrick—Why Science without Faith leads to Post-Modernism

In our post-modern times many see the sciences as a means to power instead of the search for truth that it was in the past. Unbelievably, “science” is, in some cases, becoming what those in power believe, regardless of the facts.

Brian Miller – The Evidence for Intelligent Design in Physics, Cosmology, and Planetary Science


Advances in physics and planetary science over the past century have consistently yielded evidence that the universe and our planet are the results of intelligent design. Dr. Miller will explain how recent discoveries from research on the Big Bang and on how the laws of physics were carefully chosen to allow for life in the universe point to a Creator. In addition, he will describe evidence for design in our planet, moon, sun, and galaxy.

“A little science can bring people away from God but a lot of science inevitably brings them back.” When one sees the incredible ‘coincidences’ in the physical world, there are two possible responses: “Wow, there is a Creator!” or “Let’s try to explain it away by supposing there are many universes.”

Robert Larmer – Is There Anything Wrong with ‘God of the Gaps” Reasoning?

Any appeal to divine intervention to bridge what seems to be otherwise unbridgeable gaps in naturalistic explanations, for example the origin of life, are routinely dismissed on the grounds that they commit the fallacy of the “God of the gaps’. Dr. Larmer will examine this presumed fallacy and argue that this routine dismissal is unjustified.

If God ever does intervene in nature, there will be gaps; in the miracle of the fish and the loaves, the fish’s existence will have a gap in its explanation. Don’t model the universe as a machine that God set going and then ignores; think of it as a musical instrument that God interacts with. Our increased knowledge of the cell since Darwin’s time has made it a whole lot harder to explain the cell in terms of natural causes.

Q&A Panel Discussion #2

Topics include:

  • Is the universe fine-tuned for us, or are we fine-tuned for it?
  • The amount of time that is available for evolution.
  • Life is nanotechnology, and as science advances it is becoming increasingly difficult to rationalize away the evidence for design.
  • What about imperfect or poor design?
  • And over a dozen more topics.

Michael Behe – Less is More: How Darwinian Evolution Helps Species Adapt by Breaking Genes

The Darwinian mechanism of natural selection sifting random mutations helps species adapt to their environments. With the development of new laboratory tools to sequence DNA, however, we now know it does so mostly by degrading pre-existing genetic information.

Using new DNA sequencing techniques, it is now possible to study mutations in bacteria over tens of thousands of generations. These show that Darwin’s mechanism is dominated by the squandering of important genetic information for short term gain. What’s more, it seems that evolutionary biologists have no detailed, mechanism-based answer to this problem.

Brian MillerThermodynamics, the Origin of Life, and Intelligent Design

Origin of life research over the past few decades has consistently demonstrated that the driving tendencies in nature work against the coalescence of simple chemicals into a functional cell. In addition, advancements in thermodynamic research indicates that the origin of life is theoretically impossible without intelligent direction. Moreover, analyses of a minimally complex cell continuously identify characteristics which only correspond to objects of intelligent design. Dr. Miller will explain this ever-growing body of evidence and identify the stages where design is required.

Large biomolecules (like protein and DNA) tend to fall apart; every natural process does the opposite of what we need to produce life.

Robert Larmer – The Many Inadequate Justifications of Methodological Naturalism

Contrary to proponents’ claims, methodological naturalism is not metaphysically neutral. Consequently, its acceptance as a practice requires justification. Unfortunately for its advocates, attempts to justify it are failures. It cannot be defended as a definition, or a self-imposed limitation of science, nor, more modestly, as an inductively justified commitment to natural causes. As a practice, it functions not to further scientific investigation, but rather to impose an explanatory straitjacket.

What one thinks to be the nature of reality cannot be neatly separated from methods one uses to study it. Accepting methodological naturalism guarantees that if supernatural causes exist, they can never be recognized. The Intelligent Design movement is about recognizing design, not about figuring out who the designer is.

Q&A Panel Discussion #3

Topics include:

  • Historically, it is difficult to demarcate science from non-science.
  • Is there evidence against natural design?
  • How can one engage with the culture about Intelligent Design?
  • Some books.

 Final Thoughts

Note that the question being discussed at Dig and Delve 2019 was whether or not science supports the existence of a God. This is where the big battle in our culture is: is there something more than just physical reality? In other words, does God exist?

However, behind the main battle line are other important debates that can be divided into two types.

  1. The first centers on who this Designer God is, and Dig and Delve 2019 mentioned a few times that it makes sense to see him as the God of the Bible (rather than Allah of the Koran or a more diffuse deity as those of Eastern thought).
  2. The second centers on how this Designer did his work: how much time did he take and what processes did he use? Dig and Delve speakers carefully avoided getting involved in these issues—this was a conference to discuss how science shows that a Designer exits. Its goal was not to debate how he does his work.

I hope you will listen to these talks whether or not you currently acknowledge a Designer. And if, by grace, you come to the point where you feel a compulsion to acknowledge that God exits, then know this—only Christ can make you right with him, as Pastor George Sinclair pointed out.

Imagine, it is possible for us to have a good relationship with the Designer of the universe!  This is good news that we can share with others, but first we may need to show them that a Designer exists.  These talks will help equip you to point people to God’s great proof for himself, the world he made.

This conference was aimed at college students, but high school students and anyone else would benefit as well.  I highly recommend the conference videos to all.

Disclosure: I am not compensated for telling you about this conference.

From the Greatest Expert on Love

A picture from the past; today it is only the tablecloth and some special food.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

With that in mind, what are the most important life-rules of all?

Jesus said,

  •  The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 
  • The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  (Mark 12:29-31)

May God bless you, dear reader, as you patiently work out what all that means in your life, moment by moment, with joy and thanksgiving.

Related articles:

On loving God and those around us

On marriage and relationships

On Valentine’s Day

Special Exhibitions in Ottawa, 2020

Over the years we have seen some amazing things at special exhibitions, from the Dead Sea Scrolls and one of the earliest copies of the Magna Charta to the inventions of Leonardo da Vinci and paintings by Van Gogh.

However, we almost missed several of these special exhibitions because it’s hard to keep track of what’s coming up.  To solve that problem, I’ve made a list of the year’s special exhibitions in Ottawa and am sharing it with you.

These are special exhibitions at some of Ottawa’s largest museums and galleries. This list does not include the permanent exhibitions, some of which are amazing, nor does it include all the smaller museums and galleries. However, it should help you schedule outings and field trips.  (If there is a must-see exhibition at a smaller museum or gallery, please let me know in the comments.)

Just to remind you, many Ottawa museums are free from 5PM to closing on Thursdays and most of them have free passes available from the Ottawa Public Library. However, there are extra entrance fees for some special exhibitions and some require advance registration. Also, some museums are closed certain days of the week. Always check the website to avoid disappointments.

Canadian Museum of History

  • Jewish Journeys: Stories of Immigration, May 9, 2019-Feb 23, 2020
  • Unceded: Voices of the Land, May 3, 2019-Sep 7, 2020
  • A Nation’s Calling Card, Mar 29, 2019-Mar 29-2020
  • Beyond Bluenose: The William James Roué collection, Jul 1, 2017-Jun 30, 2020
  • Doc McStuffins: The Exhibit, Jan 25, 2020-May 18, 2020

Canadian War Museum

  • Canadian Forces Artist Program, Feb 14, 2020-May 18, 2020
  • Invasion: Canadians and the Battle of Normandy, Jun 6, 2019-Mar 31, 2020
  • *Royal Canadian Legion Poster and Literary Contest, Jul 1, 2019-Jun 15, 2020

National Gallery of Canada

  • Hanran: 20th Century Japanese Photography, Oct 11, 2019-Mar 22, 2020
  • Beautiful Monsters in Early European Prints and Drawings (1450-1700), Nov 29, 2019-March 29, 2020
  • PhotoLab 6: New Generation Photography Award Exhibition, Oct 11, 2019 -Mar 22, 202
  • Àbadakone/Continuous Fire/Feu continuel, Nov 8, 2019-Apr 5, 2020  extended until summer 2020
  • William Blake,1757-1827: Illustrated Books, Jan 14, 2020-Apr 26, 2020
  • William Kentridge: More Sweetly Play the Dance, Dec 14, 2019-Nov 8, 2020
  • Canada and Impressionism: New Horizons, coming in Fall 2020
  • Becoming Rembrandt, coming in Spring 2021

Canadian Museum of Nature

  • Me and My Microbes: The Zoo Inside You, until Mar 29, 2020
  • Butterflies in Flight, until Mar 22, 2020 (photos of last year’s exhibition)
  • Qilalukkat! Oct 25, 2019-Sep 13, 2021

The three museums in the Ingenium Group (Canada Science and Technology Museum, Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, Canada Aviation and Space Museum) are, unfortunately, not advertising upcoming temporary exhibitions. However, they do have many daily events, especially in the summer. They often have special weekends and when they do have special exhibitions, they can be brilliant (like the one last year about Leonardo Da Vinci) so it is worth checking their calendar of events frequently.

Note: I am not necessarily recommending any of these exhibitions, just listing them.

*This exhibition is free and could be a great inspiration to any student interested in entering the contests, which are highly recommended as a supplement to history, art or literature, and also as outside validation of homeschool marks.

I have written about some previous exhibitions:

Picture Books in the Homeschool

Picture books form the foundation of most homeschools. They are fun, build memories, teach a wide variety of concepts, and can fill a child’s mind with so much that is true, good, and beautiful.

Recently my homeschooling friends at the Curriculum Choice put together a list of their favorite picture book blog posts. Here are some of the highlights of that resource, with my contribution at the end.

Heather gave several science ideas based on picture books such as Snowflake Bentley and Gregor Mendel: The Friar Who Grew Peas. She also wrote about Beatrix Potter, the wonderful Five in a Row curriculum, and how to organize a home library.

Tricia’s family also enjoyed Five in a Row as well as Tapestry of Grace, both book-based curricula. Her family combines picture books with wonderful pastel art lessons.

Alison and her little girls love seasonal picture books. She writes about board books, book picnics, and 40 must-read picture books.

Eva, whose children are older, looks back on picture book days and explains how picture books led to art studies. They also were part of nature studies and unit studies in her family.

And here’s my contribution:

Although our family’s actual picture book stage is long past, we have read some good ones lately. More and more quality picture books are being written for older children, teens, and adults. Some of the best nonfiction books these days are lavishly illustrated with photographs and they are easy to find in nonfiction sections of good children’s libraries.

In terms of artistic merit, both literary and visual, The Girl Who Drew Butterflies is outstanding, one of my favorite books.

Simonetta Carr’s beautiful Christian Biographies for Young Readers church history books are both informative and inspiring for all ages, not just young readers. I highly recommend them for general history as well as for church history for all ages, including high school, as a superb series of introductions to important Christians and their times. The illustrations make all the difference.

If you wish to read The Anglo Saxon Chronicle for high school, try to find an illustrated version. As I recall, Anne Savage’s version is excellent; we ended up buying the illustrated, annotated version edited by Carruthers which is not as good, but still helpful. Writing about this motivated me to buy the Anne Savage version for Miss 19—she doesn’t know yet, and I can’t wait to see her face! I can’t wait to reread it myself as well.

And if you really wish to understand Beowulf, find the illustrated version by Seamus Heany and John D. Niles. The translation is remarkable and the archeological pictures of places and treasure bring the story to life as nothing else can.

We have always loved Garth William’s drawings in Laura Ingalls Wilders’ Little House on the Prairie series. We read those over and over, once even losing one on a transatlantic flight.

Also I can’t resist mentioning the many novels we read aloud as a family that are not really picture books at all, but that have filled our minds with all sorts of pictures.

If you enjoyed this review, you might want to connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read or friend me on Facebook where I occasionally show up.

Disclosure: I am not compensated for mentioning these books or for mentioning the Curriculum Choice article.

This post may be linked to Booknificent Thursdays, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook as well as to Inspire Me Monday, Homemaking Linkup, Friendship Friday.

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