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Truly Welcome?

Ouch, ouch, and ouch. Rev. Bob De Moor’s May editorial, “Truly Welcome?” struck a deep, painful cord in my soul. I am not of Dutch heritage, nor did I marry into it, but I chose this denomination through careful study of the Scriptures and church history. I have been a member of my church since the early ’90s. I’ve felt welcome, accepted, and loved in only four homes—in a congregation of nearly 200 families. Over the past couple of years I have dropped some of my church involvements because I feel more and more alienated and left out. Even after all these years.

—Name withheld

Caution, Please

I commend The Banner for featuring Third Wave Pentecostalism prior to synod (“Riding the Third Wave,” May 2007), but Rev. Peter Hoytema’s description of the movement is misleading. The growing emphases on prayer (from Episcopalians to Baptists), prayer for healing, small groups, and identifying spiritual gifts are not uniquely Third Wave. Adopting the Majority Report on the movement will lead the Christian Reformed Church in a new direction, and synod must be cautious. The CRC has traditionally affirmed two sources of revelation: the Book of Nature and the Book of Scripture. The Third Wave movement and Pentecostals typically esteem personal revelation (as in “Words of Knowledge”) far above the Book of Nature. Will Synod 2007 add a third source of revelation—that of visions and voices?

—Ruth A. Tucker, Ph.D.Co-author Minority ReportComstock Park, Mich.

I am concerned about the biased article by Rev. Hoytema favoring the Majority Report before synod even discusses both reports. The Minority Report’s concerns and cautions are a necessary addition to the cautions of the Majority Report. An open and fair discussion on this topic is necessary.

—Henk SmidstraSurrey, British Columbia

Prophetic Call Needed

Regarding “Another Road to Peace” (May 2007), Synod 2007 has the unique crossroads opportunity and duty to formulate a liberating, positive message and issue an urgent, prophetic-pastoral statement for serious consideration by the president and Congress of the United States, the prime minister and Parliament of Canada, the secretary general of the United Nations, the media, and the public. Synod’s visionary communication should address the worsening human-rights crises and the unconscionable wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the Holocaust-like tragedies in Africa, particularly the human disasters in Darfur, Sudan; Sierra Leone; and Zimbabwe.

Thankfully the CRC’s 2006 synodical study report on “War and Peace” helps to provide all interested with vital information and relevant recommendations.

—Gerald Vandezande, C.M.Scarborough, Ontario

Global Warming

Thank you to Calvin De Witt and The Banner for the excellent article “Climate Care: Our Profound Moral Imperative” (April 2007). As a professional engineer and meteorologist for almost 50 years, it has been my experience that the Christian community has been much too quiet about this alarming problem. Many even tend to denigrate those who want to protect our natural environment—using terms such as “tree huggers” and “nature freaks.”

I’ve been privileged to visit Antarctica, the Arctic, and the Amazon and have seen and had ample opportunity to discuss the damaging effects to these areas with scientists and environmentalists. Well-meaning but scientifically ignorant individuals have told me that all things are in God’s hands and God will take care of all, so don’t be concerned. I believe in God’s care, but God also has instructed us to be responsible for his creation.

—Roger L. Triemstra

Highland, Ind.

For a long while now, my husband and I have been disappointed by the lack of discussion in our CRC circles about environmental issues. We hear about them constantly in our media (especially in the CBC), yet in our own churches the subject is seldom broached. It was, therefore, a very welcome surprise to get our April issue of The Banner. Thank you for putting this subject on our collective radar screen. It is our sense that it has been too easy to naysay the scientific findings and put our heads in the sand as we continue to use the earth for our good pleasure. If we want to live lives that model our call to be good stewards, then it’s time to do something. Let’s acknowledge the gift we’ve been given in this earth and start taking care of it.  

—Carmen Los

Edmonton, Alberta

It appears as if The Banner is attempting to join those competing for the annual Chicken Little Award. This award is a dubious achievement given by the National Anxiety Center to those they consider to be engaged in deliberate scare campaigns regarding environmental matters.

I missed balance in your reporting, with no recognition of studies that show the cycle of recurring periods of warming and cooling of the earth throughout the past centuries. I also missed the fact that God gave humans the ability to utilize the resources that cause manmade greenhouse gases. I believe that same God—not man playing god—controls the weather.  

—Douglas DeVries

Anchorage, Alaska

While agreeing with the call for an ecologically friendly lifestyle, I thought the presentation was one-sided and alarmist. One can hardly disagree that humans have some influence on the climate, but we need to maintain some perspective. There is a growing cadre of scientists who argue that humans have very little influence on the climate.  Carbon dioxide accounts for only about 20 percent of the greenhouse effect, and humans account for 10 percent or less of its yearly production. The temperature is warmer now than it was 120 years ago because we have been coming out of a “little ice age” since 1850. This warming can be attributed to changes in the sun’s solar output.

 — Bryan Vanden Bosch
Sparta, Mich.


Global Warming Continued

I am a meteorologist/climatologist who, for the past 25 years, has worked as Environment Canada's senior advisor on climate-change science. Although recently retired from full-time employment, I continue to have an emeritus role with Environment Canada and am still involved in related projects. During my role as science advisor, I spent much of my time assessing the current state of climate-change science and communicating this to fellow scientists, policy makers, industry, media, and the general public. I have often dealt with skeptics’ arguments, and have written a Frequently Asked Questions report to respond to these (www.msc.ec.gc.ca/education/scienceofclimatechange/understanding/FAQ/index_e.html).

The bottom line is that almost all of the contrarian arguments have little merit, and the claim that there are hundreds of scientists who disagree with the concern about

climate change is very misleading. In Canada there are perhaps a half-dozen such scientists who have any relevant expertise on the subject and still express doubt. I have met with most of them personally, and they are all nice people. But they have one thing in common. They are hopelessly out of date with the full and rather complex picture of the

scientific information available (which is accumulating at the rate of more than 2,000 new peer-reviewed papers each year) and have themselves published little, if anything, on the relevant science in the past 10 years.


—Henry Hengeveld
Toronto

There may be global warming and, if so, human activity may play a part, but it is a disservice to your readers to present only one perspective on this issue. Please allow me two brief observations:

1. NASA has announced that the southern polar ice cap on Mars is melting rapidly, ostensibly because of increasing carbon dioxide in Mars’s atmosphere. Since Martians do not drive SUVs, herd flatulent cattle, or even have Al Gore mansions that use 20 times the gas and electricity of the average U.S. household, might it not be reasonable to assume that natural phenomena are responsible for the global warming on Mars (and, if so, also on Earth)?

2. Many reputable scientists believe solar activity triggers periods of warming (and cooling) on Earth (specifically, high levels of solar flares generate storms of solar-magnetic flux that partially shield the Earth from cosmic radiation, leading to decreased cloud formation and thus global warming, while low levels of solar flares lead to increased cloud formation and thus global cooling). The IPCC computer models, upon which the global warming alarmists’ whole thesis hangs, omit this factor entirely. 

—Peter B. SchipmaLemont, Ill.

Banner readers should treat the messages in both De Witt’s article and the accompanying editorial (“How Easter Can Reduce Our Fuel Bills”) with a healthy skepticism. The issue of global warming is not nearly as settled as you imply, and there is disagreement among a much wider spectrum of qualified scientists than you admit as to the nature, extent, and source of temperature changes of the Earth and its atmosphere. Moreover, the near-panic tone is unfortunate, inappropriate, and misleading. You seem motivated by current public discussions of future climate changes, which are derived from computer-model projections. Such climate modeling, which I fully support, is, however, woefully deficient in predictive power, especially out to 100 years in the future.

—John A. ClarkAnn Arbor, Mich.

Though I find no reason to disagree with the evidence that climate change is happening, I find the tone of your summary of this topic lacking in proper perspective.

Nonetheless, I offer a few suggestions to add to the list of practical steps we can take toward a more Creation-friendly occupancy of this Earth:

  1. Buy locally grown food, or grow your own if you can. Consider how much fuel it takes to get pears from Argentina or beef from Australia to your kitchen table.
  2. Avoid buying manufactured things at mega-retail stores such as Wal-Mart. These giants foster careless consumerism and fuel the environmentally reckless manufacturing engines of foreign countries.
  3. Encourage children to know and understand Genesis 1—to be in awe of a beautiful sunset and to be cheered by the sound of a bird in springtime. But also teach them that they cannot depend on government policies, economic structures, or letters to the editor to defend and protect these sources of beauty. Encourage them to take their love of Creation and their convictions to be its steward into the fields of science and engineering. In this way, Spirit-guided wisdom can be used to develop Creation in today’s technological world in a way that honors God.

—Donald J. VoogtHilbert, Wis.

There are two passages in the Bible that address global warming. One is Psalm 104: 6, 9, which states that a boundary has been set for the seas that they may not cross. The other is Proverbs 8:29: “[God] assigned to the sea its limit.”

God is not going to give humankind that ability to melt all the glaciers and ice caps at the poles so that the sea levels rise and the seas cross those boundaries set by God, or else that would make God a liar.

The book of Revelation makes it clear that God is the one who will destroy this world and make a new one, not humankind.

—Ronald RutgersLynden, Wash.

Your editorial “How Easter Can Reduce Our Fuel Bills” (April 2007) is cheap and disrespectful. Easter is a powerful spiritual event the like of which will never be seen again. To use it as a political weapon against people who drive big cars is so wrong. Please be more careful in planning of subject matter.

—Bill ZeilstraGrand Rapids, Mich.

I was disappointed to see The Banner fall prey to the junk science of the global warming crowd. This movement is tied with the Flat Earth Society for the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on humankind, although I'm certain that the latter must be a tongue in cheek pastime for some folks with a quirky sense of humor and too much time on their hands.

Tragically, this radical left wing hysteria is now spreading to the Christian community, which should properly be concerned with finding the truth, and not be duped by and along with the reactionary mainstream media.

At the very least, the other side of the coin should have been presented.

—Ken KauffmanWest Lafayette, Ind.

You should have done more research before climbing on the latest bandwagon issue. Scientists and climatologists have long studied climate change, recognizing that it has been occurring since the beginning of time, with the Earth cycling through warmer and cooler periods. Thousands of them do not support the U.N.-held theory and have made declarations stating so. Kyoto is less about science and more a misuse of science and about politics and anti technology, anti capitalist philosophies.

The truth will come out in time, but in the meantime the medicine will be administered and the cure will be worse than the so-called ailment. The hundreds of billions of dollars that will be required to do this is money that will not be spent to solve the real problems the world faces.

—Brenda and John JorritsmaBeamsville, Ontario

Michigan and much of the northern part of North America were once covered by a glacier more than a mile thick, which created the beauty we now enjoy. It will happen again at the hands of God, and there is nothing we can do to stop it. The eruption of Mount Saint Helens put more greenhouse gasses and other pollutants into the air than the United States has in our whole history as a nation. And we know that greenhouse gasses have been as high as 11 percent (+/ ) of our atmosphere, are currently at 4 percent (+/ ), and change as the earth’s environment changes, which we have no control over, only God.

God tells us to be good stewards over everything. We should use the resources God has provided us with great wisdom. We are doing a good job of it, though there is room for improvement of course. But what Dr. DeWitt and The Banner are expounding is more of a political movement and not good science.

  —Scot A. Gorney
Traverse City, Mich.

By endorsing a cataclysmic view of global warming, our church publication and our pulpits are needlessly inviting criticism on an issue that is quite unrelated to our expertise and ultimately denies the sovereignty of our Lord.

—Ed GabrielseSt. Charles, Ill.

I write to argue the need for balanced discussion of such a controversial scientific/political/economic issue as climate change, where reliable forecasting has simply not yet been demonstrated. Because the science is still not adequately developed (despite claims of scientific “consensus”) and the supposed moral imperative is at best ill-defined, it behooves Christians to bide their time in humility before following some crusade that could possibly be an embarrassment to our children.

—Phillip MangeSilver Spring, Md.

I noted with interest that DeWitt's analysis of scientific papers ended in December 2004. More than two years have passed since, and I think he would be honest enough to admit that there are now many scientists who question the whole notion of human influence, and point to solar activity as the more probable cause of any increase in the Earth’s temperature. Recent photos of Mars show that its polar ice caps are also melting. Have we caused that too?

Of course, let's work on ending the pollution that we mess up this world with—that's our responsibility to the Creator. But paying "carbon taxes" to foreign nations will in no way make the commute to work everyday any cleaner on the home front. Our pockets will just be lighter.

—Martin WesterveltWilliamsburg, Ontario 

If the temperature of the Earth is changing, let’s not consider how we can impact the cause; rather, let’s work together on the effect and continue to support those who are hungry, sick, and in need of God's grace—responsibly using the resources God has blessed us with. But, please, let’s refrain from dumping guilt trips on our children and

grandchildren. Instead, let’s continue to help them focus on how God has blessed them and how we all need to extend God's grace to others in a way that really changes the world.

—Larry HoekstraHull, Iowa

Ten Commandments

The reading of the Ten Commandments at worship (“God’s Will and Worship,” April 2007) is a tradition that should be abandoned or at least clarified for the following reasons:

  1. The Ten Commandments are the beginning of the entire Old Covenant Law, which exists in various parts of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. They are an introduction to the Old Covenant and clearly not the entire substance of God's will for Israel. If you leave out the rest of the law, it’s like reading the introduction to a book and failing to read the rest.
  2. In the New Testament whenever the apostles seek to explain Christian character, they never quote the Ten Commandments in total. This doesn't mean they don't refer to them individually (except for the Sabbath law, which is never quoted and is a whole other problem for sabbatarians). For example after the “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5, you would think Paul would then quote the Ten Commandments to offset them. After all, he wants to highlight what the Spirit does in a person's life. But he doesn't. Instead he lists nine fruits of the Spirit—clearly a more comprehensive explanation of Christian character.  Therefore if the purpose of reading the Ten Commandments in communal worship is to teach Christian character, it does not follow apostolic tradition. 
  3. If the purpose of reading the Ten Commandments is something other than to teach Christian character, then what is it? Well the function would be the purpose of the law as stated by Paul, which is to teach that we are all lawbreakers and in need of the gospel. That is certainly legitimate. But then it should be represented as such and not as summation of the moral will of God, which it isn't.

—Rev. Doug QuenzerWebster, Wis.

We discussed this article in our small group, and we all agreed that it’s important to hear the Ten Commandments every Sunday. We need to be reminded of our sinfulness and of God's will for our lives. Yes, there are other parts of Scripture we can use, but in addition to the Ten Commandments.

I remember when I was a child I found church boring altogether. But I am committed now because my parents made me go anyway. Are there other parts in our worship services we should abandon because as children we find them boring? We do better to explain to them why we worship the way we do. In addition, let's make sure they attend catechism classes, in which they learn more about God's will for our lives and about God's grace.

—Mike LukkeinSaskatoon, Saskatchewan

Genocide or Healing?

It was refreshing to read once again that Jesus came to heal (“Genocide or Healing?” March, 2007). The authors correctly point out that because of God's command to wipe out the Canaanites (Deut. 7:1 6), Israelites in Jesus' day thought they had a right to hate Canaanites. But Jesus healed the daughter of a despised Canaanite woman (Matt. 15:21 28).

An unbeliever might point to the Deuteronomy passage to prove that God is cruel and capricious. Yet sometimes God explained why he gave such commands. In Leviticus 20, God instructed Moses concerning punishment for various kinds of sins—for example, adultery, and incest, and other sexual sins. Then the Lord said, “Because [the nations of Canaan] did all these things, I abhorred them. You will possess their land” (Lev. 20:23 24).

—Russell MaatmanSioux Center, Iowa

Divine Providence

The CRC has been blessed with a number of first-rate philosophers, George Mavrodes among them. An unfortunate side effect, however, is a tendency to discuss certain theological issues in an exclusively philosophical, rather than biblical, manner. Thus, in “Divine Providence” (March 2007), Mavrodes offers no biblical support for setting thoroughly non Reformed views of divine providence alongside the teachings of the Heidelberg Catechism and theologian G.C. Berkouwer as though they were viable alternatives and/or interpretations. 

To make a biblical case for the Heidelberg Catechism's teaching that “all things” come to us from God's hand would take another article at least, but a few examples will suffice: Joseph tells his brothers that what they had intended for evil, God meant for good (Gen. 50:20). Job asks, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” (Job 2:10). The Lord says in Isaiah 45:7, “I bring prosperity and create disaster” (cf. Amos 3:6b, “When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?”). Peter tells the crowds on Pentecost that the one they handed over to be crucified was in fact handed over by God's set purpose and foreknowledge (Acts 2:23; cf. 3:18, 4:28). The well-known (albeit much misused) promise that God works all things for good is in the context of God’s predestinating purpose (Rom. 8:28 30).

Does God's active involvement in the evil that befalls us make him the author of sin? No, because as Berkouwer points out, Scripture does not permit this option. The Bible holds humans fully responsible for sin while also affirming that God not only allows it to happen but positively decrees it. Philosophically, we call this compatibilism, but more important it is biblical.

—J. Cameron FraserLethbridge, Alberta

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