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I found the visual graphic of the fist on page 7 of the January 2010 Banner both startling and unsettling. With its attendant article (“Burglary in Progress” by Reginald Smith), it’s an excellent reminder not to “judge a book by its cover.”

Well done.

—Lynda SmithSalt Lake City, Utah

Reading the Bible

Hats off to Aminah Al-Attas Bradford and Mary Hulst for their thoughtful article “Reading the Bible Well” (January 2010)! As one who has worked with the Bible, taught from it, and edited commentaries on it for more than 50 years, I heartily concur that it’s important to read the Bible to be transformed into the image of Christ. Reading the Bible well also enables us to work more effectively toward the transformation of the world. . . .

I know of no better books for “Bridging the Historical Gap” and “Picking a Genre” than Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart’s How to Read the Bible Book by Book and How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. (However, as Fee has said to me, “People have a temptation to read books about the Bible rather than the Bible itself”). . . .

Someone has said that “if we have the Word without the Spirit, we dry up; if we have the Spirit without the Word, we blow up; but if we have both the Word and the Spirit, we grow up.” Therefore, we must pray for the Spirit to give us insight before we read the Bible.  

“Take and read!”

—Milton EssenburgHolland, Mich.

Christmas Nightmare

Our small group had a great discussion about the short story “The Nightmare of Christmas” by James Schaap (December 2010). There were some questions. Was the story about the parents or the children? Was it about generational differences, the CRC immigrant culture, or parent-child relationships and expectations? In some ways we could all relate to the story. (But we would never trick our kids like that!)

Upon further reflection, the story is about all of the above. It is a story about family and life. To use a metaphor, it is about parents trying to complete a puzzle. These parents spent all their married life putting together this puzzle. How to raise the kids in the right way, how to teach them the faith, how to educate them, and how to pass on that hard work is very important.

Being human, parents want to see the final product, to see the puzzle finished. But, lo and behold, in old age they find out that a whole new puzzle is being designed. And they are not the ones designing it. Worse yet, they are merely one of the puzzle pieces!

The gift the parents in the story give themselves is their last-ditch human effort to complete their own puzzle. Their next life task will be to surrender, to know and trust that it is God who will complete it.

And so it is with us.

—Vicky Van AndelEdmonton, Alberta

Catechism Neglect

In the November 2009 issue of The Banner, George Vander Weit responds to the question whether it is against Christian Reformed Church policy to have no catechism teaching in either the Sunday morning or evening service. He says that since the requirement is widely ignored, we should change our Church Order. I would ask, Couldn’t that be said about any violation of the Church Order?

Let me make the following observations:

Dr. Cornelius Plantinga, president of Calvin Seminary, notes that the catechism “presents 129 questions and answers of remarkably warm and practical Christian piety, including wonderful treatments of the Ten Commandments, of prayer, and of my only comfort in life and in death.”

Throughout my years of catechism preaching, I have found each successive trip through the catechism more exciting and rewarding.

Neglect of catechism preaching (or the other doctrinal standards), further impoverishes our churches in a time of increasing doctrinal and biblical ignorance.

In my teenage years in Woodstock, Ontario, the pastor at that time, Jacob Hoogland, said that catechism preaching keeps ministers from riding their favorite hobby horses and forces them to deal with the whole gamut of biblical revelation.

—Pastor Ralph KoopsCambridge, Ontario

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