Big Questions

FAQs

Church

Q I think ministers are told to agree with what the denomination tells you or else you’ll lose your job. Is that correct?

A Our denomination requires all officebearers to sign the Form of Subscription (Psalter Hymnal, 1987, p. 950) in which they indicate their belief that the “points of doctrine set forth in the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort fully agree with the Word of God.” When officebearers sign, they also promise “that if in the future we come to have any difficulty with these doctrines or reach views differing from them, we will not propose, defend, preach, or teach such views, either publicly or privately until we have first disclosed them to the consistory, classis, or synod for examination.” They also agree that the consequence of refusal to submit to the judgment of these governing bodies “is suspension from office.” They will indeed lose their job.

Such subscription is not required in terms of synodical decisions. Synod allows delegates to record their negative votes, indicating that they do not agree with a particular decision. Though synod expects officebearers to abide by its decisions, it has been slow to take disciplinary action against those who oppose certain decisions, either orally or in writing. For example, in the past ministers have publicly disagreed with the denomination’s position on the lodge, and currently some ministers speak and write against the CRC’s decision on women in office.

Ministers are more likely to “lose their jobs” when their congregation, not their denomination, disagrees with what they are preaching and teaching or when their ministry performance does not meet expectations.

—George Vander Weit George Vander Weit is a retired pastor in the Christian Reformed Church.

Christian Morality

Q Doesn’t God demand that we do the best we can at all times? If we are relaxing at the end of a long day at work, aren’t we violating this principle? If it’s in our power to do moral good, shouldn’t we?

A God recognizes that rest and relaxation are a legitimate part of our creaturely existence, even apart from the rest that takes place on the Lord’s Day. We need not feel guilt or despair when we are enjoying rest and relaxation, unless we do so to excess.

Your last question raises a broader issue. Some theologians believe that whenever we have an opportunity to perform an act that is morally praiseworthy, God places upon us a moral obligation to do so. Some people who perform saintly and heroic actions reflect this position when they say that they are simply doing their duty or obligation. But one problem with this view is that sometimes carrying out these duties is impossible.

For example, if I have one ten-dollar bill and two homeless people are asking me for money, I can only give the bill to one of them. Have I then violated a duty to perform a praiseworthy act by not giving it to the other? This seems too harsh, and it reflects an ethic that is overly strict. A better way of approaching this issue is to say that through the grace of God we are capable of going beyond the call of duty on certain occasions, and in doing so we can bring praise to God.

—Greg Mellema Dr. Gregory Mellema is a professor of philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.

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