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Young Adults

Thank you for the well-written and insightful article by Chelsey Munneke, “A Call from the CRC’s Young Adults” (June 2011). Her article focuses on young adults, but her concluding paragraph articulates the yearnings of any group in church who feels they have been left out due to age, disability, ethnicity, or another reason. I hope and pray that churches, classes, synod, and denominational ministries grapple with Chelsey’s questions vigorously: “Will you make room for us at the table? . . . Will you help us bridge the gap?”

—Rev. Mark Stephenson
Director of Disability Concerns
for the Christian Reformed Church
Grand Rapids, Mich.

I read this article with a great deal of sadness. You can imagine my surprise when I found out the writer had graduated from Dordt College. First Christian Reformed Church in Hull, Iowa—a scant 8 miles or so from Dordt—has a vibrant group called SPARK, which is fairly well-known in the area and fits what the writer is looking for and pining after. There was one young person from Dordt who attended First CRC regularly and who also frequently attended SPARK. I know of other groups nearby that are available as well.

—Rev. Paul Hansen
First CRC
Hull, Iowa

Scapegoating

I was struck by the question on scapegoating in your FAQs, June 2011. The answer was a good essay on scapegoating, but what struck me was that the question seemed to be a red herring for the real issue. The scenario described in the question portrays a typical pattern of emotional and religious abuse. The “healthy discussion” recommended by the answerer is indeed the proper way to handle such a situation, but it is impossible for a wife to have this healthy discussion with an abusive husband.

—Rebecca
(Last name and location withheld)

The Belhar

I support the Belhar Confession, what it states, what it affirms, and what it stands for (“Why the Belhar Should Not Be a Confession,” June 2011). It’s good practice for all of us to take a look at our lives and what we are doing to promote diversity and unity in our spheres of influence. With that said, I agree with Dr. John Cooper’s article. I am particularly persuaded by the confessional argument. It is clear to me that the Belhar does not meet the confessional standard, as it does not clearly summarize our faith or clarify a theological/doctrinal issue. We can and should affirm the Belhar’s message, discussing it and using it as a testimony without making it a confession.

—Ryan LaRue
Grand Rapids, Mich.

I agree with Rev. Jerry Dykstra: now is the time for civilized dialogue on the Belhar Confession (“We Need to Talk,” May 2011). My frustration is that the resources I’ve read and the conversations our denomination is promoting do not seem to be balanced. (I do think The Banner and Christian Courier are doing a good job. Thanks!)

After working through From the Heart of God, I got the sense that if I didn’t want to adopt the Belhar as a confession, I was somehow not in line with the heart of God. I also found the Belhar seminar I attended last summer to be more of a Belhar promotional than a time of serious inquiry.

I want to develop an informed, well-rounded position. I shouldn’t have to read dissenting opinions in the blogosphere in order to attain that goal.

—Rev. David Salverda
Victoria CRC
British Columbia

Church Structure

Your editorial “Denominational Governance: Time to Get Back to Reformed Basics” (June 2011) indicates a crisis in the Christian Reformed Church in North America. A time of crisis is a time of great opportunities.

To enhance the CRC’s ministries, we need to go back 2,000 years to 1 Corinthians 12-13. In the body there can be no disintegrated (severed) body parts. Each part of the body is nourished by the body—and nourishes the body. In addition the body has a powerful, loving immune system: a responsible concern for each other’s well-being.

This is a new day for CRC integrated ministries. There are highly qualified CRC members who have already implemented the Corinthians way of ministry. This group of diverse agencies prays together, plans together, implements together, and evaluates each other’s ministries together—at rapidly growing sites/levels of their organizations. They have discovered the joy and benefits of using the biblical approach above. This is an amazing gift from the Lord that must not be ignored.

—John De Haan
Sierra Vista, Ariz.

I really appreciated this editorial. We have been waiting years for someone to rise up and sound the alarm. I found myself saying “amen” and “right on” a number of times. But the phrase that gets it best is toward the end: “Somehow all this just doesn’t feel like church anymore.” And that’s exactly it.

—Larry Vanderaa
Muslim Ministries Consultant
Christian Reformed World Missions
West Africa

I hope the church heeds Tony Diekema’s advice to shift from a “culture of independence to a culture of common cause.” While restructuring is a component of that shift, it is not as critical as a change in the organizational culture—the DNA—of our agencies and governing bodies.

That change in organizational culture needs to be one of collaboration and teamwork in interdependent, collegial agency relationships with strong links to local churches. That will be hard work, particularly when agencies have evolved from a silo approach to ministry. But as you said, “How we do church together matters a whole lot.”

—Ray Elgersma
Carleton Place, Ontario

In my opinion the CRC has way too much bureaucracy at the top . . . too many people trying to run the business at hand. Let’s get rid of all committees, trustees, and boards and start all over again with a single Board of Trustees.

—Jess Vanderveen
Abbotsford, British Columbia

Kudos to you for a courageous article that was long overdue.

—Martin D. Geylense

Thanks for your insightful editorial about denominational governance. It was a firsthand look at topic I had little knowledge of before reading your article. It makes it appear that the denomination’s governance is dysfunctional. I hope the team appointed by our Board of Trustees to review structure will recognize problems and do something positive to get CRC governance back on track.

Because of your article, I am determined to pay more attention to the actions of the BOT.

—Don Faass

Evolving?

The Holy Bible begins with this statement: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” There are some among us who say, “That isn’t how it happened at all!”

God was the only One there! This is how he said the world began. He created it—by simply calling it all into existence by his powerful word: “Let there be . . .” “And it was so!” There are some among us who say, “That’s not so!”

For nearly 450 years, the Reformed Confessions have affirmed that the eternal God make everything “out of nothing” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 9), “giving unto every creature its being, shape and form” (Belgic Confession, Art. 12). “God created man out of the dust of the earth” (B.C. Art. 14). After he created all things, he “did not give them up to fortune or chance” (B.C. Art. 13). “We reject all that is taught repugnant to this” (B.C. Art. 14). There are some who say, “What used to be repugnant is now respectable!”

When we read (and re-read) the Bible and our Reformed Confessions, we are encouraged over and over again to believe that God’s work of creation was both miraculous and instantaneous. There is not a whisper of anything else.  Not to hint that God might have used thousands—or even millions of years—to cause his creation to naturally evolve!

So we were shocked when we read in the Grand Rapids Press (Sept. 26, 2009) that a Christian Reformed science professor was quoted as saying, “Evolution is the paradigm out of which we teach biology [at Calvin College].” Not creation—but evolution is the “paradigm” for teaching biology at our Christian college!

We thought, “That can’t be true! How can the words of Genesis 1 (and other passages of Holy Scripture) be dismissed? How can our Reformed Confessions be ignored? How can evolution be “exchanged for the truth of God” (Rom. 1:25)? How can scientific theories take the place of the historic doctrine of creation at a Christian college?”

Our correspondence with a couple of Calvin College biology professors only confirmed our fears: that evolution is indeed the “paradigm” for teaching biology at Calvin. In between the lines of their scholarly responses, it was clear that they believe God created by means of evolution, not miraculously or instantaneously.

Our next concern was this: Does the Calvin College Board of Trustees know this? They must know what is being taught in their biology classrooms, but do they approve it? Are they “OK” with evolution being the “paradigm” of biology instruction on their campus? After some back-and-forth correspondence in which our simple question was misunderstood or ignored, we finally received this brief response from President Gaylen Byker himself, “The answer to your question of whether the Board of Trustees is OK with the teaching of theories of evolution and an evolutionary paradigm is yes (letter May 23, 2011).

Our shock continues and is intensified. Theories of evolution are taught as the “paradigm of biology” instead of the historic doctrine of creation. How can this be true?

No doubt, some readers of these words will not be surprised—and have no difficulty—with our discovery. We want to let it be known that we believe such teaching is outside the bounds of both Scripture and our Reformed Confessions.

Our shock has become a deep concern. We want to share our concern with those in “Banner land” who may find all this just as unbelievable as we did.

How can we add to our Reformed standards (by considering the approval of the Belhar Confession) when we are having such trouble upholding the doctrines we have subscribed to for generations?

—The Council of Lamont CRC
Coopersville, Mich.

U.S. Budget Cuts and the Poor

A just society is one that protects the God-given rights of all individuals. It is not an act of (social) justice to use government force to violate the property rights of certain individuals in order to benefit others (“U.S. Budget Cuts Could Harm Poor,” May 2011). Mr. Gary Mulder, the CRC’s Office of Social Justice, and the church in general should not lament the decreasing role of government aid for the poor but, rather, should view it as an opportunity for Christians and the church to better fulfill their biblically mandated role.

—Sherwin S. Heyboer
Ripon, Calif.

No doubt Christ calls us to care for the poor, but what is the correct (and more effective) response to this call? Taking up the cross and freely giving of our resources, thereby proclaiming the gospel and opening the hearts and minds of the people we serve, or putting a checkmark next to the name of a politician who promises to seize money from some and redistribute it to others through a federal bureaucracy?

—Chris Kuiper
Aurora, Ill.

There are at least 25 verses in Scripture that explicitly address responsibility for taking care of the poor, and each speaks to me as an individual. Taking care of the poor and needy is one of the definitions of Christianity and is my responsibility—not the government’s.

—Ed and Sherry Fakkema
Coupeville, Wash.

I am amazed by those who think Christians and the church, replacing the government as aid source, can provide adequate assistance, not just a Band-Aid for the day, to the many North Americans living in poverty. We need to realize that many of those Christians are the very ones living in poverty, part of poor congregations in poor economic regions. Will the wealthy and middle-class prosperous Christians and congregations be willing to go beyond the tithe and give double or triple what they have been giving to deacons’ projects?

I am amazed at those who will cut, severely deny, or outright end social-assistance programs, yet not even consider the $1 trillion (and counting) spent on war as a source of our nation’s financial ills.

—J. Carpenter

To quote this article’s last paragraph, “It sometimes seems easy for Christians to become passionate about certain social issues, such as abortion. . . .” That “social issue” cannot be compared to justice and poverty. Those two issues are certainly important, but abortion is murder. Certainly we are called to help those in poverty, but we seem to ignore this awful practice.

—Claudia A. Bain
Burnaby, British Columbia

Our Muslim Neighbors

In his May editorial, “True Dialogue,” Banner Editor Bob De Moor challenges us to respond graciously to “Jihad: What Does the Qur’an Really Say?” and “Mash’Allah: Whatever the Will of God” (also in May). I can’t help asking why The Banner didn’t follow his admonition to ask “Have we engaged enough resources to survey the vast range of differences from one Muslim (and Muslim society) to another?”

Instead, The Banner cherry-picked one Muslim scholar, skilled in the art of apologetics, to present one point of view—which makes all Muslims look as gentle as lambs.

—Larry Van Otterloo
Prinsburg, Minn.

We need to know that the peaceful verses in the Qur’an quoted by Zacharia Al Khatib (“Jihad”) were “received” by Mohammed in the early part of his life, when he and his followers lived in Mecca and were in the minority and seeking acceptance from their neighbors. Years later, when Mohammed and his followers had moved to Medina and achieved a position of power, he “received” verses that spurred them to use force and violence in dealing with infidels. The early and later verses contradict each other. Islamic scholars resolve the conflict by saying the later verses abrogate the early ones. Consequently, the Qur’an does teach Jihad to mean a physical struggle.

—Richard A. Smits
Lansing, Ill.

To quote the May editorial, “Fruitful dialogue doesn’t mean we need to agree on everything. But let’s forgo the bombast and snotty attitude we learn from the media. . . . Our words . . . must be filled always with grace, especially when we dialogue with and about such folks as Muslims, homosexual people, six-day creationists, and women clergy.”

As a six-day creationist, let me say that lumping unbiblical, deviant views with biblical creation is highly demeaning; the exact opposite of “true dialogue.” Snotty, indeed.

—Mel Mulder
Banning, Calif.

The brief report “Habib’s Story” (May) about Habib and his wife finding salvation and new life in Christ through the Arabic radio programs of Back to God Ministries International is refreshing and encouraging—a stimulus to pray for Habib and millions like him. May the Holy Spirit give the increase.

—Mike Frederiksen
Gallup, N.M.

If we accept the moderate Muslim’s claim that Islam is a religion of peace (“Jihad”), then how are we to make sense of “Habib’s Story,” in which Habib states, “The community would have forced me to recant my faith in Christ or face death”?

—Janette Schaafsma

When it comes to critiquing the teachings of other faiths, we need to ask some seminal questions about what they espouse. One of those questions, which the Bible tells us to ask, is “What does this faith teach about the person and work of Jesus Christ (Luke 9:20)?

—Julian Ross Hudson
Ponoka, Alberta         

The probable result of articles such as “Jihad: What Does the Qur’an Really Say?” (May 2011) is that many well-meaning Christians will fail to recognize that hundreds of millions of people in the world face judgment and hell because born-again individuals are misinformed about their beliefs and neutralized as a result.

—William Lenderman III
El Paso, Texas

Please do not confine the discussion of Jihad only to the mild personal exertions of individual Muslim believers. Our allegiance to truth requires that we also acknowledge the harsh and growing severity of radical Jihad as practiced by Islamic extremists around the world today.

—Dan Flikweert
Kitchener, Ontario

When it comes to critiquing the teachings of other faiths, we need to ask some seminal questions about what they espouse. One of those questions, which the Bible tells us to ask, is “What does this faith teach about the person and work of Jesus Christ (Luke 9:20)?

—Julian Ross Hudson
Ponoka, Alberta

Merely a few comments—no critique—on Brent van Staalduinen’s Reformed Matters “Mash’Allah: Whatever the Will of God” (May 2011). He calmly observes that we Reformed have absorbed the secular attitude of separation of life and religion! That is a severe indictment. It means that we have lost a central tenet of our worldview. It means we have drifted away from our basics. I wonder how many readers just glanced over this assertion and how many were shocked by it.

In my birth village in the Netherlands, conversations were laced with the local equivalent of the Arabic “Insha’Allah” (“If God wills). That was “D.V.” or “Deo Volente.” That terminology got dropped after we immigrated to North America. When in Nigeria I once told a Muslim about my plans for the next day, he waited . . . and then asked, “Allah fa?” or “Where does God fit in all of this?” I was deeply humbled by his reminder of a deep truth that my partially secularized self had marginalized in my language. Indeed, as van Staalduinen asserts, Islam can correct or remind us of what we allegedly lost: the wholistic component of our heritage. And it can correct or remind us of a whole lot more.

—John/Jan H. Boer
Vancouver, British Columbia

Thanks for the articles on Islam. As we find ourselves having more and more contact with Islam, greater awareness will be crucial.

Three important things related to violence in Islam were not mentioned. First, the oft-cited text “There is no compulsion in faith/religion” (Q2:256) is superseded by later Qur’anic texts that place those who do not accept Islam under severe penalties. Second, apostasy from Islam is punishable by death. The following text is from a Life of the Prophet, or Hadith, Volume 9, Book 3, Number 17 . . .

“Allah’s Apostle said, ‘The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse, and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.’”

Third, blaspheming the prophet or the Qur’an is a capital crime as well. Witness the death sentence passed on Salman Rushdie for Satanic Verses or the violence inspired by the Danish cartoon depicting Mohammed.

In general, the Islamic peoples (Umma) are struggling to find a way to relate to and become a part of Western societies. Let us watch and pray for the Arab nations now undergoing turmoil. In particular, let us advocate for freedom of religion in any new or revised constitution.

—Kent Van Til
Holland, Mich.

We desperately need to stand for the truth because people all around us are literally dying for lack of it. We cannot love anyone without sharing the “living water” that wells up from within us. It is our calling.

—Andrew M. Steensma
Palmyra, N.Y.

The interview in “Jihad: What Does the Qur’an Really Say?” offered a nice intro to some basic explanations of Islam. Zacharia al Katib gave some simplistic descriptions.

What was troubling was the avoidance of questions about Sharia law and violence toward women in Islamic countries that practice or condone it.

—Craig Allen

Singleness

At the risk of making Liz Lemon turn green with envy and causing all the singles in the CRC to want to move to Montreal, I want to say that here singles are not treated by other members of the congregation as though their singleness is a problem, unless it is a problem to the individuals themselves (“Liz Lemon in the Pew,” April 2011). We have no singles group, and no one is telling me to “get myself out there,” not even my mother. She acknowledges that I have a hard time with my singleness because of loneliness, but I don’t avoid the married members of my congregation socially because of that—which is a good thing because we’re the only Christian Reformed congregation in the whole of Quebec. All our social and spiritual life tends to merge into something with blurred boundaries, and I’d end up avoiding a lot of congregational events if I were the avoiding type. I participate in activities, concentrate on my budding artistic career, and still hope that eventually a man will join me and become part of my life.

—Michѐle Gyselinck
First CRC
Montreal

Global Warming

I will leave it up to the scientists to respond to scientific arguments presented by Paul Rhoda (“Get Off the Global Warming Bandwagon,” IMHO, April 2011). I should probably leave it up to the economists to respond to the statement about “staggering fortunes,” though I don’t see how that is any different than the fortunes amassed by those in the oil industry who have opposed alternative-energy sources for decades to protect their fortunes. I will say I don’t think choosing sides in this debate makes any sense.

Suppose the “green dragon” is indeed entirely mythological. Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, finding alternative energy sources that are clean and safe, reducing our use of all the earth’s resources, eliminating waste, developing and supporting sustainable industry and lifestyles are all a part of authentic biblical stewardship. Our denomination and Christians everywhere should be promoting such practices.

—Roy van Eerden
Abbotsford, British Columbia

In his editorial on climate change, Paul Rhoda focuses on the influence of money. Far more money could be found in denying the existence of climate change than in supporting it. Big business would handsomely reward anyone able to disprove human-induced climate change. All the same, an overwhelming majority of climate scientists insist on the existence of human-induced climate change. Mr. Rhoda’s article propagates the conspiracy theory that the scientific community has no genuine regard for seeking the truth. I think this sets a bad example for Christian youths who are interested in entering the sciences.

—Micah Schuurman
Grand Rapids, Mich.

I am nothing less than outraged that our church is printing this nonsense!

—Maggie Miller
Caledonia, Mich.

How did Mr. Rhoda manage to get published? In his opening paragraph he states, “Some of us will not board peacefully or quietly participate in the politicization of Christ’s church,” yet politicizing Christ’s church seems to be precisely the intention of his article. It does not belong in The Banner. If an author wants to be taken seriously, his or her writing must remain objective and respectful. This was neither.

—Benjamin C. Hickox
Rochester, Minn.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is widely used as evidence for anthropogenic global warming (AGW). It is reported as a “consensus” of 2,500 scientists when, in fact, most of the panelists have no scientific qualifications and only 52 contributed to the report’s “Summary for Policymakers.”

The American Meteorological Society (AMS) also issued a “consensus statement” on AGW with only 12 members of the governing board voting. Rank and file members never had a vote, and the fact is that well over 50 percent of AMS members are not in agreement with the consensus statement.

On Dec. 9, 2009, 141 scientists (most of them credentialed in meteorological science) sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon which states that the science behind AGW is anything but settled.

For the reader, who by now may be confused, here are the names of a few well-credentialed scientists who do not agree with human-induced global warming:

1. S. Fred Singer, professor emeritus of environmental sciences, University of Virginia.

2. Roy Spencer, climatologist and principle research scientist, University of Alabama, Huntsville.

3. Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology, department of earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The credentials and scientific writings of these scientists can be verified by any reader with access to the Internet.

—Kenneth E. Lobbes Sr.
Grand Rapids, Mich.

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Comments

Thank you, anonymous ("What if It Happens in Your Church?"), for your story and for your encouragment. As a pastor who "listened" at a time when the church was beginning to take such stories seriously, I know we have a long way to go.

I have paid dearly for doing the right thing, helping people such as herself follow agreed-upon processes in such situations. For me, the journey was unexpected and literally heartbreaking. It is no wonder many of my brothers and sisters would rather think of something else.

Unless we do, however, we will keep making the very same mistakes.

I would like to thank Daniel Boerman for his article "On the Edge of Faith. His timing and Gods timing was perfect for me. I am a volunteer Chaplain at our local hospital and an Elder at Fellowship Church (CRC) here in Greeley Colorado. I am in the middle of working through understanding the New Covenant and how it ties into the Holy Spirit. I have complied 40 pages and expect this to be more lengthy as I plod through the questions I have and my necessary condition of doubt.
Thank you and blessings to Daniel and everyone on this wonderful journey of doubt and exploration.
Brian Fowler

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