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A Christian Insurrection

A quick note to let you know how much I appreciated your article “Reflections on a Christan Insurrection” (online: bit.ly/38DFzmL). It was insightful, prophetic, and forceful in a good way. It is my hope that it will stimulate important conversations throughout the denomination on an issue that we have been reluctant to confront. Thank you for your courage. Blessings as you continue to speak out!

Gary VanArragon // Guelph, Ont. 

God and Natural Disasters

With much delight, I read the informative article “Why Do We Blame God for Natural Disasters?” by Mary Hulst, Calvin University pastor (February 2021). Could the COVID-19 pandemic be called a natural disaster? Is it considered an ‘act of God’? It’s defined by Webster’s as “an extraordinary interruption by a natural cause (such as a flood or earthquake) of the usual course of events that experience, prescience, or care cannot reasonably foresee or prevent.” I postulate that the pandemic is indeed a natural disaster, as well as a national and universal disaster! The health, social, environmental, economic, and political dimensions of this disaster are embedded within one another, and they need to be considered together. Praying that God will guide us as we navigate the pandemic in this era.

George Groen // Thousand Oaks, Calif.

I am disappointed in Mary Hulst’s simplistic answer to the very difficult question of whom to blame for natural disasters. While Rev. Hulst is certainly correct in pointing out that current human actions sometimes lead to or exacerbate so-called natural disasters, it is a stretch to suppose that all natural disasters have human origins. How is the shifting of the earth’s tectonic plates that led to ... the 2004 Asian tsunami that caused the deaths of at least 230,000 people due to the equivalent of humans pouring gas on their lawn? Calvinist doctrines of God’s sovereignty and predestination provide major problems for theodicy, i.e., the problem of the origin of evil if God is wholly good. Job’s friends were judged as completely wrong in attributing Job’s misfortunes to his own sinfulness. Similarly, the questions surrounding the origins of evil and suffering as represented by natural disasters are certainly more complex and difficult to answer than Rev. Hulst’s column suggests.

Robert W. Bruinsma // Edmonton, Alta.

I agree with the author partially. We should not blame God automatically for natural disasters. Yes, often we cause our own disasters, but there is another possibility, namely, that Satan has been given permission by God to cause them for whatever reason. The story of Job makes that pretty clear, I believe. So the cause of natural disasters is not either/or, God or us. It’s more along the lines of “Is God punishing us, did we ourselves bring this about, or has Satan been allowed to bring this about, spoiling more of God’s good creation?”

Evert Vroon // Edmonton, Alta.

Evangelicalism and the CRC

What a beautiful, eloquent, theologically spot-on, inspiring, encouraging, and empowering definition of evangelicalism you gave in that recent edition of The Banner (“Are We Evangelicals?” March 2021)! I’m a pastor in the CRC, and here’s the thing that puzzles me: I don’t think most of our churches get or embody this definition. I feel—at least in my experience—a radical disconnect between what I see at the think-tank and leadership levels compared to the staunchly embedded us-vs.-them, dualistic thinking and living I keep finding at the local church level. I don’t have any answers, but I encourage you to keep saying things like this; hopefully it’ll trickle down with some repetition.

Josh Schatzle // Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

The article and the related editorial (“What Is Evangelical?” March 2021) raise an interesting issue. During my year at Calvin Seminary back in 1992, professors often explained theological issues by placing the “liberal” understanding on the left, the “evangelical” understanding on the right, and then the Reformed understanding right in the center. That confused me because the evangelical seminary I had attended previously, Regent College, had also taught me that more centrist understanding. When I questioned one professor on the matter, his response was, “Oh, but that's British evangelicalism.” Yet many American institutions would teach the same thing, and the evangelical periodical Christianity Today often holds much the same more centrist position. I have generally referred to myself as an evangelical, often adding the Reformed distinction for nuance. But I sympathize with the questions raised by Shiao Chong in his editorial, and “cultural evangelicalism” has become very problematic. ... These days, when asked if I’m an evangelical, I’m more likely to respond, “What do you mean by ‘evangelical’?”

Rev. Gary Roosma // Vancouver, B.C.

A Religious World

Justin Bailey’s smart article “Is Our World Less Religious Than Ever?” (March 2021) brought me to a favorite passage of Scripture in Acts 17. … Pluralism was on display in Athens, just as it is very evident in our world today. The apostle Paul responds with a message of a personal God who commands personal repentance, all based on the (death) and resurrection of Jesus. … May our Christian response to present day pluralism and secularism spur us to “look carefully” at what people are buying into and respond gracefully with the gospel message of forgiveness and hope in the name of Jesus. The culture we find ourselves in now needs that message more than ever.

Mike DeVries // Byron Center, Mich.

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