Trick or Treat?
I am writing to express my disappointment with the article concerning Halloween by Robert Evan VandePolder (“Trick or Treat? Our Halloween Dilemma,” October 2011). The Bible says "the wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored," and it is written, "I will set no vile thing before my eyes." Christians have a mandate to be a light on a hill. We glorify God by celebrating life, not by participating in a holiday that celebrates death.
—Paula Kamerman Manhattan, Mont.
Calvin Profs in the News
It is stunning to read the story of John R. Schneider’s exit from the college (“Calvin College Religion Profs in the News; One Alleges College Is Being Dishonest,” October 2011). Scary, in fact, that the college cut a deal in the hopes the matter re the historicity of Adam and Eve would quietly go away. It won’t unless the college administration exhibits the necessary courage and takes the leap of faith required to promote honest scholarship. . . . Let the hounds of research roam freely in search of truth wherever it may be found. It is the Reformed way of doing business.
—Bill Lenters Rockford, Ill.
In considering colleges, I suspected I wouldn’t have an easy time trying to be both a Christian and a scientist, and I feared that attending a Christian institution could make my task even harder. Even if I would be free of the skepticism that secular scientists often have toward people of faith, it would be practically impossible to grow as a scholar if I wound up under the watchful, censoring eye of the sorts of Christians who remain suspicious of science.
I was relieved to find in Calvin a place where it seemed that would not be a problem, a place that would warmly accept and encourage my growth in both areas. It was a place that recognized Scripture and Creation as twin pillars of revelation and promoted the natural harmony between the two. . . .
Unfortunately, it now seems that academic freedom is being slowly limited in areas where modernity and tradition collide. If I loved Calvin less, I would not care. But Calvin stands for something important to me, and it is painful to see it turn away from the values that make it special. . . .
I implore you to reaffirm your commitment to engaging God’s world as it is, rather than as we wish it to be.
—Jonathan Walz Class of 2010 Boulder, Colo.
Evangelism for No One
I found the article “Evangelism for Everyone” (September 2011) disappointing for a number of reasons. First, there is really no biblical basis given for the evangelistic approach advocated. Second, it is impossible to get to know someone “with no strings attached” (try that in a marriage or friendship!). Rather, we need right motivations in our relationships.
Third, to listen or love unconditionally is not in our power to do. Only God is capable of that. Fourth, it is not wrong for us to long that others come to faith in Jesus Christ (thus there is a connection between the Great Commandment and the Great Commission).
Finally, although it sounds great, we must do much more than simply listen to people and ask them questions. We are called to confess Jesus Christ, who is the Son and the Word of God. That will take words!
—Rev. Jo (Johannes) Schouten Burnaby, British Columbia
A Valuable Degree
In your September 2011 issue, a questioner was informed of the practical, business-related aspects of college courses (FAQs, p. 41). All well and good. However, a liberal arts college would introduce this person to new areas (the arts) and new ways of living and thinking (the contemplative tradition) that may well challenge the questioner to options other than "minding his own business."
—Tom Posthumus London, Ontario
The September 2011 article titled “A Defining Issue for the 21st Century” expressed a “humble opinion” that I view as both disturbing and divisive. . . . Our love for family and young adults should not “trump” the Christian Reformed Church’s 1973 biblical position on homosexuality. The Church of Jesus Christ must “master” culture, or culture will “master” it.
—John Workman Tinley Park, Ill.
It is our prayer that the defining issue for the church in the 21st century is not necessarily our response to the LGBT issue but rather the gospel of Jesus Christ, which transforms all of us sinners into his wholehearted followers.
—Council Bunde (Minn.) CRC
I read “What If IT Happens in Your Church?” (August 2011) with interest, having experienced something during puberty that was inappropriate but never dealt with. My experience was within my family, but I think if I had been aware of an individual or two with whom I could have safely talked about it, that could have helped.
I agree with the writer’s suggestions: (1) Victims must break their silence. (2) Safe people need extensive training in abuse issues. (3) Every church needs a team to reach out to survivors of abuse—to put an end to the abuse immediately and to help victims heal. Healing and restoration can also happen for the abuser, who needs help very clearly too.
—Name Withheld Eastern Canada
Not for Me?
I’m wary of trying to start or change churches so that they meet the tastes or desires of the younger generation. Of course, we have to be contextual and relevant—that’s a given. But the church, if it is to be faithful to Jesus’ call to form disciples, must challenge people with what they need, not give them what they want. Jesus was not in the church-growth movement. When he spoke to the large crowds following him, he told them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14). As a young person, I know that I need a church that is a lot less fickle than my changing tastes and desires. Let us evaluate our success in terms of faithfulness, not growth.
—David Salverda Victoria, British Columbia
VanEyk briefly addresses the phenomenon of young people leaving the CRC, ostensibly for other congregations. He sums up their reasons, rather dismissively, as "It just wasn't for me," which gives the impression that young people are lazy, bored, or unengaged, and therefore have no interest in spending time in church.
That is far from the truth, and anyone wondering why young people are leaving the CRC in droves need only look at the very next page of Letters to the Editor. While I do not know The Banner's editorial policy, this choice selection included an entire council of six-day creationists angry that scientifically accepted biology was being taught at an institution of higher education, several letters displaying rampant anti-Muslim prejudice, and of course the "alternate views" of a person who believes that discrimination against women and homosexual members is not only acceptable, but dictated by God.
My generation does not accept this level of willful ignorance, bigotry, and hatred, and we will not participate in an institution that implicitly condones it.
—Laura Cok Toronto
While I share VanEyk's concern about young people leaving the CRC because they find it "boring, unimaginative, and irrelevant," I have to ask whether we might need to consider how much the ever-changing standard of cultural "relevancy" is worth chasing after.
Our culture constantly sends a message that whatever is "old" is somehow inherently less worthy than something or someone "new." For example, in the ’70s being a music fan of the Eagles or Fleetwood Mac had some cultural cache, whereas being a fan of those groups today classifies you as some sort of cultural fossil.
So while I am sure that churches such as Ada Bible, Mars Hill, or Resurrection Life are considered relevant today, how much so will they be 10 or 20 years from now when the next generation rejects them simply because their parents took them there and that by default makes them "boring and irrelevant"? I would ask that we as God's family, both young and not-so-young, be sure we base our pursuit of worship and fellowship on biblical principles and not just on some vague (and somewhat generationally superior) perception of being modern and relevant.
—Chris Olson Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
Supporting Public Education
As a public educator and public high school graduate, I was encouraged to read Thomas Hoeksema’s Reformed Matters article “Supporting Public Education” (August 2011). Even though it seems as if the CRC has gotten better at the acceptance of public school families, we have a long way to go. We might say that we accept each family’s decision on where to send their kids to school, but it’s not very noticeable in our church life. When we advertise for events and fund-raisers, it is always for the local Christian schools. We plan our schedules around when the Christian schools have breaks. As a volunteer youth leader, I am a culprit of this as well, planning event nights when those students don’t have to get up for school the next morning. Shame on me for not reaching out to the minority because it’s so much easier to reach out to the majority.
If the CRC wants to grow and impact more people, we need to get behind the public schools in our neighborhoods and support them as well as we support the Christian schools. That would be an incredible way to show the love of Christ in our communities—and to emphasize that that love is a lot higher and longer and deeper and wider than we often show.
Why does Dr. Hoeksema write an article about supporting public education after he retires from Calvin College? With his views, why wasn’t he teaching future educators at a secular university how to be Reformed in the community? Christian education is vitally important to equip students with skills for critical Christian thinking and living out their calling in life.
Also, not all parents who send their children to Christian schools lead more prosperous lives. There are still parents who sacrifice and do without. Unfortunately, private education is becoming more elitist because the Christian community is not supporting the schools and parents as they have in the past, and the burden of cost is resting on the parents’ shoulders. I’m upset to read such an article from a prof who taught at a college our church supports.
—Gail Wiersema Strathroy, Ontario
I’m sure Abraham Kuyper believed that Christian parents should support, and give leadership in, public education. But that was not Kuyper’s primary intent. Kuyper believed that all areas of life (“every square inch”) should be subject to the lordship of Jesus Christ and that Christian parents have the right in a democratic, pluralistic free society to decide how their children ought to be trained and educated. He believed that a government’s primary duty is to provide justice for its citizenry so that, in the area of education, there should be an equitable distribution of educational tax dollars so that every parent has a right to an educational choice for his or her children. . . .
As far as Christians influencing public education, ask Christians in California how much influence they have over textbook content in their state. I don’t think even Kuyper foresaw an agenda-driven public education stripped of biblical moral values and guidelines.
—Harry Vriend Grand Rapids, Mich.
Yes, our cultural mandate includes public schools. But proper training is required before you begin any job, and a Christian school is the best place to start. When I leave my child from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the care of another adult, I want that adult to share my faith and core values and to instill the love of God in my child. Will that happen in a public school? I think not.
In a time when most Christian schools are struggling, this article was disappointing to say the least.
—Kate Noteboom Alton, Iowa