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‘Descended into Hell’

I very much appreciated Debra Rienstra’s article on the harrowing of Hell (“Saturday of the Harrowed Hearts,” April 2020). She rightly points out that it is a doctrine steeped in ancient and rich tradition. She also hit on an important discrepancy between the (Apostles’) Creed’s testimony to an historical, salvific Christ-event and the Heidelberg Catechism’s “psychologizing” of the phrase “he descended into hell.”

Unfortunately, that phrase from the Creed is misleading. The teaching of the (church) fathers was not that Jesus spent the time between his crucifixion and resurrection in hell, the place/state of eternal damnation and punishment. He descended to Hades (“Sheol” in the Old Testament), which was the realm of the dead. The moment he did, he broke down its gates, shattered its chains, and trampled death by death.

Bruce Anderson // Muskegon, Mich. 

Political Idolatry

Reminders about idolatry are always useful (“Visions and Illusions in Political Life,” March 2020), but I wonder if we are also at risk of idolizing Abraham’s Kuyper’s ideas. I am thankful that God used others to recognize the full agency and gifts of women rather than limiting them to Kuyper’s family sphere. Critics who name the racism and colonialism embedded in his analysis are also God’s servants. More importantly, our tendency to venerate past heroes freezes our thinking in 19th-century categories instead of being God’s agents of justice and reconciliation in our own times. If Kuyper were alive today, I am sure he would suggest more than a personalistic, least-bad choice as a public witness strategy in a historical context that calls for the kind of leadership he showed in his times.

Kathy Vandergrift // Ottawa, Ont.

Traditions

In response to the article “Outdated Tradition or Biblical Truth” (April 2020), I think my reason for giving away my three daughters (at their weddings) was for a different reason than just because it’s a tradition. When I “gave” each to her new husband I was “entrusting” each one into his care. I was passing along the responsibility I had had of raising and caring for her into his care. It was a symbol of entrusting. It meant a lot for me to be able to walk her down the aisle and “give” her to my new son-in-law. ... As for April (Otto)’s future wedding ceremony, regardless of what she believes for herself, she should be considerate of her father’s feelings.

Mark Stevens // Twin Lake, Mich.

As a husband and a father who has been blessed with four daughters, now married, your article made my heart ache a little. I too have often questioned the proper place of traditional practices, and heaven knows the Christian Church is full of them. I have also learned that some traditions have great value, being born of wisdom and testing over the ages. … I hope she finds someone to make the rest of her life full and rich and can celebrate her marriage in a way that is meaningful and true to her. Perhaps she can even start some new traditions. And for what it’s worth, I have come to believe that discarding old traditions is sometimes in order but, like throwing out old relics, should be done only with the utmost care and caution, as some of them may be worth more than you think.

Bob Van Aertselaer // online comment

A Holy Pathway

Thank you, Frank DeVries, for your helpful article, “A Holy Pathway” (April 2020). For those of us who cannot recall a time when we accepted Jesus as our Savior, the article offers an intriguing answer to the question: How is it that we came to love the Lord? Perhaps we owe more to our parents’ singing than we surmise. As for me, I can still hear their voices singing the old Dutch psalms in our church in Holland many years ago. Were they unwittingly creating holy pathways? Who is to say? As the old hymn tells us: God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.

John Van Dyk // Marion, IL

A Shirt Story

I completely agree with the premise of this story (“A Shirt Story,” April 2020). … Here’s where the shoe drops. This article paints a picture of cotton production that holds kernels of truth but doesn’t back it with any real data or what production looks like. In other words, it’s pretty prose designed to have you, the reader, feel guilty and change your behavior. … The U.S. is the second-largest producer of cotton in the world. Want to really know about sustainability in U.S. cotton production? Please visit cottoncultivated.cottoninc.com. I found very few solutions in the article other than to look for organic or fair trade. How about buying from an American company that sources its cotton exclusively from America, where sustainability measures are part of most farms’ business plans? … As the author of the article suggests, please be mindful of your purchases and giveaways either as churches, youth groups, or even as businesses.

Jodi DeHate // online comment

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