Frequently asked questions

Big Questions
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Formerly “Q&A,” this column is devoted to answering a broad range of questions relating to Christian faith and life. Please send your questions to FAQs at The Banner, 2850 Kalamazoo Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49560, or to editorial@thebanner.org with “FAQs” in the subject line. We’ll keep them confidential and assign them to our panel.

Culture

Q. I’m a single guy who drives an SUV. Should I feel guilty?

A. Short answer—Yes! Trade it in for a more efficient, less wasteful vehicle.

That said, let me qualify my answer. If your life and occupation require a large four-wheel-drive vehicle, it may make sense to have an SUV. Let’s say you’re a large-animal veterinarian in Arizona who needs to haul equipment off road to care for a herd of sheep. Well, then you need an SUV. Do you need a Humvee, though?

Now let’s say you’re a psychologist living in Chicago who occasionally travels to the resort town of Lake Geneva, Wis. Do you need an SUV? I doubt it. Wisconsin has mastered the fine art of snow removal and keeps its roads in good shape. Even the ubiquitous Chicago potholes rarely require a four-wheel drive for escape.

When God gave human beings dominion over the world, God didn’t license us to deplete the world to fulfill our own desires. Instead, God gave us the charge of caring for the world. In choosing what to drive, we not only show how seriously we take that charge, but we actually make a difference in the level of the world’s resources. It seems to me that loving God entails loving God’s world.     

So I’d encourage you to live modestly, saving instead of wasting money on gas and vehicle purchase price. Use it to further God’s kingdom on earth.

—Helen SterkDr. Helen Sterk is chair of communication arts and sciences at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Church

Q. We had a first-year seminary student preach in our church. Is that permissible?

A. The supervision of those who preach in our churches happens in a number of ways. The Calvin Theological Seminary Board of Trustees extends to its students a licensure to preach anywhere in the denomination, normally after their first year of study. A classis may grant a licensure to preach in all its churches (Church Order Article 43), and churches in other classes may honor that licensure. A consistory may appoint anyone to conduct a worship service (Church Order Article 53). Technically the consistory must approve the sermon, but consistories generally rely on the testimonies of others instead of doing that. Thus neighboring pastors, independent missionaries, and members of parachurch organizations such as Youth for Christ, Gideons, or Jews for Jesus are able to lead our congregations in worship.

—George Vander WeitGeorge Vander Weit is The Banner’s former Q&A editor. He is pastor of Fuller Avenue Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Creation Care

Q. I’ve donated time or money to victims of last year’s tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. Can Christians do anything more? Should we?

A. The outpouring of compassion from Christians and non-Christians alike after such devastating events is definitely a positive and necessary response. But Christians often feel there is nothing more that can be done; we cannot prevent an earthquake or a hurricane from happening.

As much as we cannot control when or where natural disasters occur, we know where they are likely to occur and we understand the basic physical processes that cause them. The geology of Florida makes earthquakes unlikely, just as Alaska’s climate makes hurricanes unlikely.

Jesus said that the one who does not trust in him is like the fool “who built his house on sand” (Matt. 7:26). His listeners understood those words because they were familiar with the dangers of flooding and avoided areas that were vulnerable.

As we have grown more self-dependent as a culture, we no longer honor God properly for the goodness, power, and majesty of his creation. Instead, we honor our own technological prowess by exercising our dominance anywhere we wish.

Christians can do much good by looking more intently at the creation around us. Promoting awareness of and preparedness for natural hazards are laudable goals for mission organizations around the world.

Disaster recovery is absolutely necessary, but it is terribly costly in time, money, and lost souls. Furthermore, the aftermath of the tsunami and Katrina revealed glaring needs that are ignored on a daily basis. An alternative emphasis could be placed on developing long-term community relationships based on a God-honoring stewardship ethic that meets people’s daily needs. With God’s blessings, not only would we see horrific scenes less frequently, but we’d also see more opportunities for God’s kingdom to grow.

—Matthew StutzDr. Matthew Stutz is assistant professor of environmental studies and earth science at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa. 


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