The EICC in Toronto

toronto march

by Tina Olesen

I recently visited Westminster Chapel and the Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity (EICC) in Toronto. I’m so grateful for their warm welcome and for the opportunity to see what God is doing on the other side of the country.

The mission of the EICC, as stated on their website, is “… to train and equip Christians in the areas of Christian apologetics, missiology, and the cultural mandate. Our goal is to assist Christians in bringing all things, in every area of life and thought, into captivity to Christ.”

The EICC founder and pastor of Westminster Chapel, Rev. Dr. Joseph Boot, speaks to the importance of Christian education. His article, The Myth of Neutrality (Part 1 and Part 2), makes the case that “a neutral education is philosophically, theologically, and functionally impossible; the very attempt to generate such an approach is unfaithful to the Lord Jesus Christ.”

His latest book, The Mission of God: A Manifesto of Hope, contains a chapter on “The Christian Mandate to Educate.”

The EICC has recently renovated their website making many resources accessible online. You can also sign up to receive their Jubilee journal right in your home mailbox, free of charge.

On the EICC blog, current educational issues are addressed from a Christian perspective, such as a response to the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education’s action plan, “Building Bridges: Queer Families in Early Childhood Education.”

In a culture that is increasingly paganized, the EICC presents a comprehensive case for the claims of Christ and for the incomparability of the Christian worldview. “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD…”


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Critical Thinking

thinkerby Tina Olesen

Many of our students are wading perilously through the glut of misinformation and propaganda proliferated by the media and internet, without the tools to think critically about what they are taking in. We have the responsibility to train our future leaders to evaluate the credibility, reliability, and quality of information.

Before the internet, mainstream media remained competitive by providing high quality information. Accuracy was valued, and procedures were in place to verify information. To a degree, accountability was built in to the process.

In the internet age, we now enjoy free flowing information and up to the minute news, which is mainly uncensored. Anyone can publish anything at any time, without having to convince anyone to publish it. There is no “gatekeeper.”

This means virtually no earthly accountability – which can be a recipe for anarchy. Scammers, con-artists, crooks, propagandists and predators have made the most of this environment, and many children are unprotected from these outlaws.

On average, children are exposed to 7.5 hours of media a day, seven days a week — that’s more time than they spend in a classroom.  Children watch an estimated 40,000 TV commercials per year (over 100 a day).

The US Department of Education reported that 81% of children aged 2 – 7 watch TV unsupervised. In a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 48% of kids surveyed had no rules about what they are allowed to do on the computer. 71% of these kids had a TV in their bedroom. 66% of them had a mobile phone (about 25% of 9 and 10 year old Canadians have a cell phone). That’s a lot of potentially unsupervised access to media.

Advertising to children is now big business, with American companies spending approximately $17 billion on this in 2009, at least doubling what they spent in 1992. The US Federal Trade Commission reported that 80% of R-rated films and 70% of adult rated video games were targeted to children under 17.

Marketers attempt to shape values, change attitudes, and direct behaviour. While in the past, stories were used for the moral training of our children, in today’s culture, stories are used by marketers to sell their products.

Marketers use media and mind manipulation to sell a moral value system that supports the behaviour that they wish to encourage, creating a “need” for their products. Traditional biblical moral values and character qualities that were once readily recognized as admirable are now out of style.

The change over the last few decades has been dramatic. When I was a girl, a Nancy Drew mystery was considered junk food reading. She solved crimes and helped people. Today’s girls read stories about vampires, who suck the life out of people.

The vampire romance series for young people, Twilight, written by Stephenie Meyer, has spawned several films and much merchandise. The estimated total franchise sales of this series is $5,736,100,000 – no small potatoes.

Mind manipulation’s aim is moral sell out. Marketers want you to lust after their products. If the manipulators can move you away from making moral choices, they’ve done their job. The aim is to have you choose not to delay gratification, put another person’s interests ahead of your own, or discipline yourself to do something that you don’t want to do. Lust was defined by Oswald Chambers as an attitude of “I must have it at once!

Moral choice making, on the other hand, results in moral character development. Children who do not make moral choices and act on them do not morally mature. This arrested development affects every aspect of their lives, including intellectual progress; but especially their relationships with others.

We can help our children develop a taste for good literature and worthwhile media by cultivating in them a love for that which is beautiful and true. We have to feed their imaginations on the good and honourable, so they will recognise the counterfeit. We need to help them to rejoice with the truth, both in our words and in our actions toward them.

Moral premises function as a foundation for all rational thought. The wise man builds his house upon the Rock of Christ. Without this foundation, thinking and conclusions will not be whole or coherent. As Ray Stedman said, “In the secular realms of knowledge there are great missing elements, great blanks, that the people of the world try to fill up in a dozen different ways, but only the church possesses the truth, the bread that can feed the hungers of life.”

We can expose the aim and tactics of marketers to our children. They can be trained to recognize faulty logic, invalid deductions, bias, lies, propaganda, and over-generalizations that do not line up with the biblical moral truth they have been taught. We can show them examples of mind manipulation and advertising strategies and give them the opportunity to practice uncovering the errors in thinking. With training and repeated practice, I have witnessed twelve year olds do this with skill.

It is important to embed critical thinking in everyday learning. When watching a program or reading an article together, stop and question it out loud. Ask them to uncover the writer’s bias, or any errors in thinking. Require them to evaluate any sources that they select as reference materials for their papers, and give them guidelines and checklists for evaluating the reliability of those sources.

We can equip our children to recognise what is morally good, and teach them to defend themselves against mind manipulation; both are needful.

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On Encouragement

pilgrim's progress

by Tina Olesen

To follow up on my last post, what’s the alternative to building children’s self-esteem? Won’t they get discouraged if we never praise them or pat them on the back? The danger of flattery leading to pride means we want to avoid all insincere, over-the-top compliments and applause. However, avoiding any kind of honest encouragement would not be right. So, what’s the right kind of encouragement for children?

When I think of encouragement, I often think of the scene from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, where the Interpreter shows Christian a vision of a fire burning against a wall. Someone was always throwing water on it to quench it, but the fire burned higher and hotter anyway. When Christian asks what it means, the Interpreter tells him that the fire is the work of grace that is wrought in the heart, and it is the devil trying to extinguish it. The reason the fire burns hotter and higher is that on the other side of the wall, there is Christ with a vessel of the oil of grace in His hand, secretly casting it continually into the fire. Is it not encouraging to think that Jesus fuels the flames in the heart?

The scripture reference Bunyan gives for this passage is this: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me,” (2 Cor. 12:9). We want to encourage children in the all-sufficiency of Christ and His strength, not in their own natural abilities. To be of use to the Lord, the natural must be submitted to the spiritual. Under the control of Christ, any talents He has given us can be laid at His feet and used for His glory, and not our own.

Encouragement can be helpful if a child is succumbing to fear in the face of a new challenge or when something seems too difficult or overwhelming. They may need to be gently admonished to make an attempt, to persevere, or even to ask for help. Expressing your pleasure when they finally grasp something is fine, as long as it isn’t excessive or phony. Children should be encouraged to give thanks to God for accomplishments and victories, and not to credit themselves.

We would not want to encourage each other in an evil manner. Encouraging children toward self-reliance, rather than toward reliance on God, would qualify as evil encouragement. Think of the dismal picture of the tower of Babel. “You can do anything you put your mind to!” Our courage is rightly placed in Christ, and not in our own abilities.

To encourage someone literally means to build up their courage in the Lord. Encouragement can help them to face challenges, trials, and obstacles. It may mean the difference between a child succumbing to fear or overcoming by faith. We are exhorted in scripture to encourage one another or “stir up” one another to faith, love and good works. This is encouragement to trust in and obey the Lord, not to put their faith in themselves.

A wonderful example of encouraging one another is the story of Mary and Elisabeth’s meeting in Luke 1. Can you imagine what a blessed encouragement to faith in God that meeting was for both women? Each woman was challenged to remain true to God while many around them would disbelieve or even scoff at what God was doing in and through their lives. Yet they believed, and knew the truth, and boldly proclaimed it to one another. That is also what we are to do for each other.

Encouragement includes admonishment. It can mean entreating or urging someone to trust and obey God when they are facing temptation. Spurring one another on can feel like a sharp spur in the side sometimes. It may even hurt, although you know you really needed that kick in the pants from a friend who loves you. “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin,” (Hebrews 3:12-13).

Jesus’ words of encouragement to His church abound throughout the New Testament, and are too numerous to repeat here, but these are among the encouraging things He has said:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”

“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

“Do not fear what you are about to suffer… Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

“I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.”

“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”

“Surely I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Let’s encourage our young soldiers for Christ to be ready to be faithful unto death by teaching them to love and esteem Jesus above themselves. The real way to encourage this is by living out our own relationship of trusting, loving, and obeying Christ, before their watching eyes.

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