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Was the Reformation Necessary?

Thank you for the enlightening discussion “Was the Reformation Necessary?” (October 2009). Certainly there seems to be little dispute that reform was badly needed.  Still, it is a sad fact of church history that we have spent too much effort on articulating our differences and too little on promoting our unity.

Just before leaving the Last Supper to meet his betrayer, our Lord prayed. It is the one time I know of when he prayed directly for you and me and his church. Though he well might have, he did not pray for the rapid spread of the gospel, for church growth, for protection from persecution, or even for the development of a robust theology. What he prayed for was unity, that we might be one just as he and the Father are one. It is our unity far more than our eloquent testimony that is to stand as proof to the world that Jesus is the real deal.

—Dave SmithBelding, Mich.

Bravo! Fantastic article. Growing up with Catholic friends made me appreciate their approach to the faith. I have always been attracted to the ancient roots of our faith, and this article does a very nice job of displaying much that I love about it. I am especially encouraged that the Christian Reformed Church is involved in this dialogue.

Now, since Calvinism is a branch off the Roman Catholic Church, which itself branched off from the original trunk of the tree known today as Eastern Orthodoxy, wouldn’t it be nice if we could dialogue with the Orthodox too?

—Fred HaywardGrand Rapids, Mich.

Mary being intercessor to reach the Throne of Grace in prayer was not addressed. This is not in the Bible, and unless Catholics change their stance, this would be the greatest hindrance to Reformed Christians and Catholics coming to agreement.

—Anne TamelingHudsonville, Mich.

View from Afghanistan

What a tremendous relief it was for me to read “A Note from Afghanistan” by Mark Hamstra (September 2009). The excellently written article challenges the modern-day Zeitgeist opinions offered by many Christians as they parade in the comfort of blood-bought freedoms under phony umbrellas of questionable pacifism and New Age social justice.

—Bill KoomanRed Deer, Alberta

Hamstra’s argument for the use of military force makes a couple of good points, but his analysis is simplistic and fails to convince, starting with his take on the Korean War. Perhaps the Japanese are similarly grateful for Hiroshima and Nagasaki since the post-war Marshall Plan ultimately brought them democracy and economic prosperity? Regarding his reference to Jesus’ encounter with the Roman centurion, Jesus didn’t have to push a nonviolent agenda with every soldier he met. He lived that agenda with every breath he took. Rather than advocate armed revolt by the Jews or demand mercy from the Romans, Jesus confronted the authorities with words of truth and gave himself up to their violence so that he could ultimately subvert it and emerge triumphant.

—Rebecca SooksomMasstown, Nova Scotia

Hamstra notes that Jesus did not say anything to the Roman commander about nonviolence. Should Jesus have said something to Jairus about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees? Since that was also a perfect opportunity to speak, why didn’t he? Using Hamstra’s approach, that indicates something significant. I suspect that few would then agree with the argument of silence.

—Bert den BoggendeBrooks, Alberta

Hamstra’s is about the only church-related article I have read in the past 30 years that shows real insight into military affairs. Every day in Afghanistan he faces violent people who want to kill him to please their god. Yet he still finds time to defend himself from those who believe God hates his efforts to protect the people of Afghanistan and the world from violent thugs.

Someone needs to be “prophetic” to the anti-war movements. In the past century they have had a terrible record of excusing the crimes of and flattering some of the worst dictators in human history while exaggerating the flaws of the dictators’ democratic opponents.

—Raymond Paul OpekaGrand Rapids, Mich.

Parents in Pain

Karen Norris’s article “Living Room Compassion,” regarding adult children who have left the church, lacked one crucial component: a compassion for those children themselves.

We are acutely aware of the pain we bring to our families and loved ones and would have chosen to avoid it. I know my parents believe I am going to hell, and this grieves me. But I cannot claim this faith as my own. This was not a failure on the part of the church or my parents; it is my own deeply felt conviction. My decision to leave was not made lightly. It is desperately difficult to walk away from the church, a community I have belonged to since birth.

I hope that meetings such as those described in the article provide solace to the parents of nonbelieving children, yet there is no structure in place to comfort those same children, who face rejection, isolation, and a deep misunderstanding from the church community.

I ask for understanding for believers and nonbelievers alike.

—Name Withheld

A few months ago I was talking to a member of my congregation. I complimented him on how well his daughter played with the worship team the previous week.  He was upset because he didn’t feel his daughter was dressed appropriately. I told him that if my son showed up at church wearing a swimsuit, I would not complain.

My adult son has left the church behind. I pray he has not left God behind. Many of us need a program like the one described in this article.

—Bruce FowlerHayward, Calif.

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Comments

Yes, the "role" of Mary can be a dividing factor between Catholics and some Protestants in the quest to "all be one". But the idea that Catholics must change their views on Mary goes both ways; Reformed Christians could do the same.

John Calvin himself spoke to the greatness of Mary - and though he further spoke of Christ's seeming disregard for Mary in some ways as a means to suggest she is of diminished role, that misses the point for Catholic teaching. Mary is a the "Gate of Heaven" as Christ's mother and "Mother of God" as she bore Christ the God-Man. She does intercede, just as anyone who has died may intercede for us in speaking to the Lord. There is no denying Catholics see Mary as a favored mother and guide to Christ thorough the total devotion she showed in the Bible (however few time she spoke in Scripture), and as she was selected by God the Father for her unique role in Christ's coming. But Mary is not to be worshipped or seen as some replacement for the Lord's saving grace.

Just remember the next time you ask someone to pray for you that you're doing the same thing Catholics do when they speak with Mary in their prayers, or saints, or the people right in front of them, pleading for prayers and thoughts.

The road to ecumenism cannot be one where Catholics continually "change" their positions to conform with the teachings of churches that parted ways with it centuries ago. There must be a give and take. The Church ended every major disgrace that led to the original Reformation schisms, and still the new denominations stayed away. At what point do Protestant denominations face decisions about what traditions long rejected, will be re-embraced?

Yes, the "role" of Mary can be a dividing factor between Catholics and some Protestants in the quest to "all be one". But the idea that Catholics must change their views on Mary goes both ways; Reformed Christians could do the same.

John Calvin himself spoke to the greatness of Mary - and though he further spoke of Christ's seeming disregard for Mary in some ways as a means to suggest she is of diminished role, that misses the point for Catholic teaching. Mary is a the "Gate of Heaven" as Christ's mother and "Mother of God" as she bore Christ the God-Man. She does intercede, just as anyone who has died may intercede for us in speaking to the Lord. There is no denying Catholics see Mary as a favored mother and guide to Christ thorough the total devotion she showed in the Bible (however few time she spoke in Scripture), and as she was selected by God the Father for her unique role in Christ's coming. But Mary is not to be worshipped or seen as some replacement for the Lord's saving grace.

Just remember the next time you ask someone to pray for you that you're doing the same thing Catholics do when they speak with Mary in their prayers, or saints, or the people right in front of them, pleading for prayers and thoughts.

The road to ecumenism cannot be one where Catholics continually "change" their positions to conform with the teachings of churches that parted ways with it centuries ago. There must be a give and take. The Church ended every major disgrace that led to the original Reformation schisms, and still the new denominations stayed away. At what point do Protestant denominations face decisions about what traditions long rejected, will be re-embraced?

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