Q. You said it’s not necessary for a creationist to believe in a young earth (August Banner, p. 20), but then wouldn’t the earth have to have been a perfect paradise for billions of years? A place where no living creature succumbed to death and disease until Adam and Eve were created and succumbed to temptation, thereby bringing death? —Ontario
A. Article 2 of the Belgic Confession calls Christians to trust both the general and the special revelation of God. We should believe Christian scientists who tell us God’s general revelation indicates that plants and animals died even before humans sinned.
The Bible tells us that too, at least in terms of plant life. Genesis 1:29-30 says that God gave Adam, Eve, and the animals “every green plant for food.” Obviously, plants died to sustain animal and human life.
Q. How many years can a professing member abstain from the Lord’s Supper and remain a member of the Christian Reformed Church? Do the elders have any duty toward members with addictions? When the church does nothing because of the attitude that we’re all sinners, doesn’t it become an enabler? —Ontario
A. Usually when members no longer attend worship, they no longer partake of the Lord’s Supper. Consistories are called to attempt to restore such people to active membership. After a number of years, some consistories “clean the roll” by “lapsing” the membership of folks who no longer attend.
The congregation I serve prays through its membership directory, three entries each weekday. That way all inactive members get prayed for by name about four times a year. They also receive a minimum of one letter each year from the consistory, though they remain in “inactive” status for a long time.
Members who struggle with particular addictions need pastoral care—the assurance of God’s gracious readiness to forgive and the assistance of fellow believers in holy living. You don’t mention the addictions you have in mind. Some people are addicted to alcohol and do not partake of the Lord’s Supper because the church serves alcohol at that celebration. In deference to these Christians, to children at the table, and to guests from Christian churches that require abstinence from alcohol, churches should serve grape juice when this sacrament is observed.
Q. In the September Banner (p. 29) you wrote that Masonry takes the Lord’s name in vain in its oaths and implied its funeral services proclaim salvation by works. Masonry’s secretive nature makes it difficult to defend its good name, but I assure you that these statements are not accurate. Why do you say them? —North Carolina
A. A Mason concludes his vow of secrecy with these words: “Binding myself under no less a penalty than that of having my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by its roots and buried in the rough sands of the sea at low water mark, where the tide ebbs and flows twice in twenty-four hours, should I ever knowingly or willingly violate this my solemn oath and obligation as an Entered Apprentice Mason. So help me God, and keep me steadfast in the due performance of the same.”
Such hideous oaths in the name of God take the Lord’s name in vain.
Because Masonry, like a host of other organizations, is open to people of all religions, it makes no reference to Christ, only a reference to God. In the pamphlet “Freemasonry: A Way of Life” the Grand Lodge says, “[Masonry] teaches monotheism. . . . It seeks to make good men better through its firm belief in the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of Man and the Immortality of the Soul.” Thus, a brother goes “to the great lodge above” because he has been faithful to his lodge, has been a patriotic citizen, has made contributions to charity, has had a sense of justice, and more. Theologically speaking, that is salvation by works, not salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Christians who believe the latter should have a funeral service that proclaims it.
Some denominations do indeed make inaccurate statements about the Lodge and erroneously contend that a person’s membership in the Lodge automatically excludes him from membership in the church of Christ. However, as these two examples illustrate, there are features of the Lodge that are undeniably objectionable to Christians.
If you want to do more digging on this subject, see the Christian Reformed Church’s three reports on Lodge membership: Agenda for Synod 1974, pp. 504-567; Agenda for Synod 1975, pp. 547-569; and Agenda for Synod 1977, pp. 575-596.
Got a question about Christian faith and life? Send it to Pastor Vander Weit, c/o The Banner, 2850 Kalamazoo Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49560. Or you can e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Q&A” in the subject line. Please include your state or province.