Question and Answer

Big Questions

Q. An article in the March 2005 Banner (p. 25) states, “[The Bible] also acknowledges that we have free will.” I thought we have been predestined, so we really don’t have free will at all. For example, Philippians 2:13 says, “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
—Michigan

A. A young lady said to me, “It doesn’t make any difference how I live because I’m just being pushed through footsteps God predestined for me.” This common perception of predestination, which ends up making God the author of sin and making people mindless robots, is fatalism, not predestination.

In the text you cite, Paul encourages Christians to be strenuously involved in their spiritual growth and development by responding affirmatively to the work of God in them, knowing that, in their sin, it is possible to resist that work and grieve God’s Spirit. Our belief in a sovereign God who freely gives the gift of salvation must always be held in tension with our responsibility to crucify sin and live holy lives.

Q. What is the Reformed answer to “Does the true God have a name?”
—New Jersey

A. Rev. John Stek, emeritus professor of Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary, says, “There is no distinctively Reformed answer to this question. Muslims claim that the name of the true God is Allah. Jehovah’s Witnesses claim it’s Jehovah. Scripture speaks of the true God in many ways. Commonly, God is referred to simply as God. In Hebrew there are three words for this, all related to the Arabic for Allah: El, Elohim, and Eloah. More descriptively, God is called the Almighty or the Most High or the Holy One. Other names, such as Lord (Adonai), Father, Creator, Redeemer, Judge, and King, are more reflective of relationships.

“In the Old Testament, the most distinctive proper name by which the true God wished to be distinguished from the false gods of Israel’s neighbors is Yahweh. Around the third century before Christ, Jews began substituting Lord for Yahweh whenever they read their Hebrew Scriptures. When they translated these Scriptures into Greek, they followed the same pattern. Jesus and his apostles carried on this tradition, and this became the accepted Christian way of reading and quoting the Old Testament. Today Yahweh is translated Lord, in distinction from Lord, in most English translations.

In the course of time, Jewish copiers of the Hebrew Old Testament texts began to write the vowels of Adonai (Lord) with the consonants of Yahweh to alert readers to say “Lord” rather than “Yahweh.” Later, especially in the 16th century, this odd combination of vowels and consonants in the Hebrew manuscripts gave rise to the corrupt pronunciation of the name by non-Jews as “Y/Jehovah,” the name now championed by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Q. The words virtus junxit mors non separabit are engraved in my grandfather’s 1927 wedding ring. He was a 33rd degree Mason, and several websites link these words to Freemasonry. My son dearly wants this ring, along with another Masonic piece, a pearl-studded crescent moon, both saved as family heirlooms. Christian friends tell me these may actually possess evil and may become portals for Satan. They advise me to destroy them just as idols in Scripture were destroyed. I’m not interested in any secret society, and I don’t wish to destroy these beautiful items. Should I?
—Texas

A. Thank God for fellow Christians who are concerned about your faith! Their advice is understandable in light of the many religious trappings of Masonry, including the taking of the Lord’s name in vain in its oaths. For these and other reasons Masonry is opposed by many, and some denominations, including ours, contend that Masonry is a religion. Nonetheless, your friends’ advice is extreme. Few would advise you to do the same if these were your grandfather’s American Legion hat and his Fraternal Order of Police pin, items from two other organizations that have religious trappings and funeral services that, theologically speaking, proclaim salvation by works.

Keep these items as family heirlooms. By the way, virtus junxit mors non separabit means, “Virtue has joined together; death will not separate.” Those are good words for anyone’s wedding ring.

About the Author

George Vander Weit is a retired pastor in the Christian Reformed Church.
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