Prayers and Promises
I have six children and have often prayed 1 Corinthians 13 and Galatians 5 over them and also over my marriage. Thank you so much for including “31 Ways to Pray for Your Children” by Bob Hostetler in the August 2009 issue. This article has been an answer to prayer. It is practical, inspiring, and, best of all, biblical. I can’t wait to start!
—Carla M. Hoiting
There was a fine article in the September Banner about parents worrying about their children and grandchildren who stay away from church (“Living Room Compassion”).
A number of years ago I attended a prayer conference and happened to go to a workshop by William C. Brownson, former speaker on the “Words of Hope” radio program. He shared two good promises of God for us to claim as our own: Deuteronomy 30:6 (“The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live”) and Isaiah 44:3 (“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants”). I hope and pray they’ll help others as much as they have helped me!
—Rev. Vern LuchiesKalamazoo, Mich.
The Gift of Songs
I could so identify with Sonya VanderVeen Feddema’s article “Songs in the Night, Songs in the Day” (September 2009). It is amazing that hymns—or fragments of them—learned in our youth can spring to our memory to edify and comfort us when we need it. I like to think that many Christians experience that special blessing.
We need our hymns to help us pass on our heritage of faith to the next generations. It baffles me that our beautiful hymns are being replaced by new songs that say very little, are often repetitious, and, when no music is projected with them, are often poorly sung.
When they may need [these hymns] desperately, the next generations may no longer be able to hear them in their minds.
—Didy PrinzenOrono, Ontario
It was discouraging for me to read “Cultural Sensitivity” by Rev. Beth Guikema-Bode (IMHO, August 2009). At a time when so many churchgoing, Bible-believing people still question their ability to lead someone to Christ because they feel they don't know the Bible well enough, it would seem we should spend more time studying the Bible as it is written, without adding to it.
For hundreds of years our ancestors came to Christ based on the words of Scripture just as it was. They had a childlike faith that when the Bible said Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all men” (1 Tim. 2:6), that meant male and female. They did not over-think it. They simply believed. They were aware of the human condition and their need for grace.
Let's spend our efforts and resources on correcting our ignorance of Scripture, which hinders many from sharing the good news of the gospel, and not on the purchase of Scripture that is deemed politically correct.
—Betsy CrossWyoming, Mich.
We should not conform to the world and society around us but be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:12). Spiritual transformation can only happen with God’s truth, and if we change the wording in the Bible to suit our society’s needs, then these words do not speak God’s truth but worldly truth.
—Wilma MolThunder Bay, Ontario
As a child I knew that when the Bible said “men” or “mankind,” it referred to all of humanity: men, women, and children. This author says we should use inclusive language because “it accurately reflects the intent of the biblical writers.” Really? Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3 that all of Scripture was inspired by God. In other words, the authors wrote the Bible as God wanted them to, and that did not include writing in inclusive language.
—Ronald RutgersLynden, Wash.
My plea is for God’s people to use a translation that is “gender accurate” (versus “gender inclusive”) where such language is appropriate and can be used without changing the meaning of the original text—but not sacrifice faithfulness to the meaning of the original for the sake of politically correct language. In my humble opinion, the English Standard Version fits that bill; the TNIV does not.
—David StockmentHomestead, Fla.
Rev. Guikema-Bode recommends that councils purchase “new” Bibles that use inclusive, gender-neutral language. This implies there is something wrong with the “old” Bibles. Are we to assume that God made a mistake and didn’t plan far enough in advance when inspiring the biblical writers many centuries ago? Did God not foresee the women’s movement and that one day some women would come to resent falling under the banner of “mankind”? Or was this perhaps already addressed in the very first book of the Bible, in Genesis 3:16?
As a church we have to stop letting the world impact the Word and focus on letting the Word impact the world. It is not our job to ensure that everybody feels good.
By our own power we can’t convert or save anyone. If we think that changing words in the Bible, songs, liturgies, etc., will somehow attract more people to God, we have no concept of the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible and its teachings are timeless and open to all. It is the most inclusive book ever written. The truths of the Bible are a freight train, not a bouquet of flowers. Let’s keep laying tracks and let the Holy Spirit do its job.
—Brian JagtWaterdown, Ontario
Thanks for publishing this article. It’s a message we need to hear.
—George Vander WeitRochester, Mich.
I agree wholeheartedly with Rev. Jim Kok that we must practice being the "light of the world" in our everyday living, just as in the examples he uses in his article “Merciful Living” (August 2009). It is certainly true that Jesus taught mercy and compassion, Paul preached it, and we must practice it today. But to suggest that loving-kindness on the part of Christians played a role in Christianity’s eventual dominance seems a bit of a stretch.
While we learn from the Bible that the early church in Acts practiced sharing and caring for one another, and in later times Christian charity and mercy may have saved many from the epidemics that swept Europe; it also seems that since the emperor Constantine made Christianity the official state religion, many more converts were obtained through coercion than kindness. Starting perhaps with the Council of Nicaea, where the church's official doctrines were first codified, the church seemed to go from practicing pacifism to internal division and persecution of those who questioned its doctrines, such as the Arminians.
From there the history of the church seems a bit checkered. Thus it was that Christianized Western Europe gave us the Crusades, Torquemada and the Inquisition, iconoclasm, and the persecution and murder of dissidents by both Protestants and Catholics.
It was also Christian Western Europe that gave us colonialism and the slave trade, not to mention the suppression of knowledge when it seemed to challenge the church's authority, such as in the case of Galileo.
Was the 20th century better? Perhaps, but we now also have the legacy of church-run native residential schools (in Canada), apartheid in South Africa, and sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. Not much Christian charity in any of that.
We cannot whitewash the church’s history of abuse and intolerance and must instead acknowledge it and come to terms with it, so that we can avoid repeating it.
—Andy de BeerSaskatoon, Saskatchewan
Thank you for your excellent article “How We Fail to Create Safe Churches” (IMHO, May 2009).
I find it distressing that in most cases the offenders do not face the consequences of their actions. You ask “What’s wrong here?” In addition to the reasons given, I would suggest that “our system of church government, [in which] the local council has the final authority for the local church” is problematic. It creates a loophole through which the local council can choose to ignore the expertise of those who are knowledgeable—in the case of sexual and physical abuse, the Safe Church Team. Too often we ask these panels of experts to go through the difficult exercise of fact finding, only to (mostly) ignore their findings. It is much the same as my doctor telling me I need medical treatment for an illness. While I may have authority over what happens with my body, it might be wiser for me to accede that authority to the experts.
Second, we tend to question women’s credibility both within the criminal justice system and within our churches. Abuse is a crime for which there is rarely a witness. And so, yes, it does often come down to “he said/she said.” What’s wrong here is the assumption that a victim must prove abuse, rather than the alleged perpetrator proving consent.
Third, we still believe many of the rape myths, such as “She asked for it.” This myth perpetuates the belief that women are responsible for their own victimization AND that women are responsible for the actions of their abusers. While synod has asked each classis to form a Safe Church Team to educate its members, I would strongly suggest that this education be mandatory.
I strongly agree: we have effective policies and the expertise to deal with allegations of abuse. Not only our leaders, but we ALL must wake up to our responsibilities.
—Beatrix PrinsenWellandport, Ontario
Safe Church Ministry and Safe Church Teams, both of which were recently renamed by Synod 2009, have a big challenge in living up to their names of being “safe.” My experience and reports from others through my advocacy work have shown both to have failed significantly in being so. Breaching confidentiality, failure to follow due process, and incompetence in what they are trained and mandated to do, to name only a few. Until trust is earned and re-established for the abuse-response system, I cannot and will not advise victims to use either when coming forward with their allegations.
—Judy De WitMinneapolis, Minn.
I read “The New Calvinism” article with interest (August 2009). I grew up in a denomination different from the Christian Reformed Church and have attended two or three others along the way. For the past five years or so my family and I have been attending and enjoying a Christian Reformed church. Although I have some theological differences, I truly admire the depth of the theology the Reformed tradition has offered to the larger Christian community.
In his article on “New Calvinism,” Rev. Alvin Hoksbergen laments that while Time magazine recognized Calvinism as an idea with influence, it neglected to give any mention of the CRC or the Reformed Church in America.
I can see why he might puzzle over this; however, let me offer a possible reason. Along with the comprehensive theology the Reformed church tradition offers, there is also what appears to be an “exclusivity” to it. Admittedly, that’s common to all denominational groups. But within the CRC it is reinforced on a social and educational level through the Christian school system, along with (in Canada at least) a strong ethnic element. This keeps the denomination exclusive and generally “closed” to the greater public sphere.
It is ironic that one of the tenets the CRC holds so dearly (Christian education) carries with it a double-edged sword: while it can serve to strengthen [the church’s] numbers, it also alienates—yes, alienates—others.
I write this sincerely and not without admiration. I would like to remain anonymous as I do not want this to appear to be personal criticism in any way to the members of the church where I attend.
I am quite sure the answer to the FAQ about evening church services (August 2009) brings sadness to those of us who have always gone to morning and evening services. I believe George Vander Weit’s opinion is wrong because the Bible tells us we are to have morning and evening services. This pattern is found in the daily morning and evening sacrifices that were offered at the Tabernacle and Temple. These sacrifices were interpreted by biblical writers as the “sacrifice[s] of praise” (Ps. 50:14, Heb. 13:15; cf. Mal. 3:4-4, 1 Pet. 2:4-10). And the pattern of morning and evening sacrifices was especially true on the Sabbath (cf. Psalm 92). This pattern for prayer is evident all throughout the Psalms, the history of Israel’s synagogues, the book of Acts (3:1, 10:9), and the history of the church in what later were called “matins” and “vespers”—“morning” and “evening” prayers.
—Richard KramerMcBain, Mich.
In this 500th anniversary year of John Calvin's birth, it is good to be reminded also of others in "the great cloud of witnesses" (Heb. 12:1), such as Augustine of Hippo (“Augustine’s Great Comeback,” August 2009).
Besides the "new Augustinians" cited in the article, Martin Luther and John Calvin can also be listed as Augustinians. Indeed, it is sometimes helpful to identify the Christian Reformed Church as an Augustinian denomination.
The subtitle of the article refers to "this fifth-century African bishop," but Augustine was born in 354. He was converted and ordained before the turn of the century. It is true, though, that he lived and continued writing well into the fifth century, completing The City of God in 426.
—James LaGrandGrand Rapids, Mich.
Regarding Mike Buwalda’s response to the advice on finance in the July 2009 FAQs, I feel he missed big-time by not including long-term saving as part of the 10-10-80 plan. We taught our children to divide their money—first give a tithe to God, then spend some and save some (in the bank). According to his 10-10-80 plan, will there be any money for the Barnabas Foundation?
—Joan SturrusGrand Rapids, Mich.
Thank you for publishing “That Dreaded E-Word” about caring for the environment (July 2009). I agree with nearly everything the authors conveyed. However, I disagree with them on the importance of buying organic products whenever possible. It’s impossible to sustain the population of the planet with organic food. Sure, you can sustain the environment, but not the population of the world. Organic farming is the least efficient way of farming. I grew up on a farm and come from a family whose livelihood still depends on farming. It’s an impossibility to feed the whole world with organic farming. We need to understand that in light of the rest of the message of this article.