Frequently Asked Questions

Big Questions

Justice

Q I hear a lot about social justice in church circles, but that language is not used in the Bible. Does it mean the same as the words used for justice in the Bible?

A The Bible is clear that God loves justice, hates injustice, and calls us to do justice. But it does not include a dictionary definition. The term is interpreted in different ways by different people in different contexts.

For some,justice calls up images of laws, courts, police, and jails. The Bible clearly speaks of more than laws and correctional justice. Others might say that justice is about fairness, but then disagree about what is fair. When I feel wronged, I am fairly sure what is fair. When others make claims against me, I am less sure.

In the Bible, justice is rooted in the teaching that every person is created, valued, and loved by God. Every person deserves to live with dignity, respect, and room to live out God’s calling. We do justice when we treat people that way and create a society that treats people that way. That notion is captured in the term social justice. Details of what it means in any situation require further deliberation.

Some Reformed voices prefer the concept of public justice to describe what the Bible intends. The Christian Reformed Church has also endorsed the concept of restorative justice, which focuses on making broken relationships right again.

Many avoid the word justice altogether, preferring to simply talk about love. But love without justice is not biblical love. So we can’t avoid the call to do justice.

What is clear is that we need deeper discussion about what our biblical calling to do justice really means for us in the 21st century.

—Kathy Vandergrift

Outreach

Q Does all the recent talk of the world ending offer good opportunities for evangelism?

A My sense is that Christians would do well to steer clear of end-times hysteria. It’s much better to focus on the biblical hope that our God is the God of history, and that such things are in his hands.

Our call is to be faithful stewards, using the gifts and resources God has given us to further the kingdom and give God glory. To the extent that we do that, and care for this world as if it is our only world (trusting that God is going to renew it rather than destroy it), we can find much common ground that allows us to work alongside those of other or no beliefs, while still being faithful to our God on the day Christ comes again. In all likelihood, our faithfulness will prompt natural opportunities to share the hope that we have.

—Bryan Berghoef

Faith Formation

Q I’ve often gone with high school friends to a megachurch, and I’ve seen adult baptisms there (my friend was dunked a month ago). It seems so special. I’m beginning to regret that I was baptized as a baby, and I want to be baptized again. Should I? My dad doesn’t think I should, but my mom doesn’t seem to care either way.

A You’re not alone in your confusion and in your desire to experience something special. It doesn’t seem fair that because you were baptized as a baby, you have no conscious memory of the event.

 

I’m beginning to regret that I was baptized as a baby and want to be baptized again.

But desiring special spiritual experiences is not a reason to reject infant baptism. Here are two thoughts to ponder:

  • We practice infant baptism because our covenant God makes the first move, and we respond to him. Infant baptism is our way of thanking God for making the first move in the life of his precious child. When the child is able to understand God’s great grace, we invite her to respond by making profession of faith.
  • Even so, we can enrich the experience. Having an annual “remember your baptism” service would help us to re-experience what happened when we were too young to remember. We could also use water to affirm our baptism when we make profession of faith. In the April 2011 Banner (check thebanner.org) I described my own struggles with infant baptism and imagined what a “remember your baptism” worship service might be like. We can strengthen our experience of baptism without also changing our theology and practice.

I wish I could take you to a coffee shop and discuss this for an hour. Is there a pastor or other spiritual leader you could meet with instead?

—Syd Hielema

About the Authors

Syd Hielema serves as the director of the CRC's Connections II project. He worships at the Meadowlands Fellowship CRC in Ancaster, Ont. 

Kathy Vandergrift teaches public ethics to university students and advocates for the rights of children.

See comments (3)

Comments

Amen to Kathy Vandegrift's statement: "What is clear is that we need deeper discussion about what our biblical calling to do justice really means for us in the 21st century."

What disturbs me is that we (the CRCNA as a insitutional church) have had NO DISCUSSION, whether deep or shallow, about the definition of "justice," let alone "social justice" (a phrase, by the way, NOT found in scripture but rather rooted in a protestant theological/political tradition that is distinctly NOT reformed -- the Roman Catholic version of "social justice" being called "liberation theology.")

Instead of discussing what these biblical concepts are, and what role the institutional church should play regarding these concepts, the CRCNA has just deced to "start doing it," whatever it may mean. We are acting before thinking.

Of significance, neither Kathy's answer, nor CRC denominational agency talk these days, makes mention of "mercy," as does Micah 6:8. Indeed, that verse's first phrase is trumpeted without end while the second and third are almost completely ignored.

Until the CRCNA has a serious and competent discussion about what biblical "justice" and "mercy" are, and what role the institutional church should play as to both within the broader society, it would do well to put the brakes on its current adoption of an unreformed (arguable even unbiblical) tradition of "social justice." It should stop acting before thinking.

In the USA "social justice" examples are FEMA, social security, public education, and welfare. Most of us have questioned the wisdom of entrusting these programs to politicians, especially on a national level. These programs serve as juicy targets for squandering taxpayer dollars and grabbing power. The founders of our country knew better than to open the door to such foolishness. But now this door seems impossible to close, as the winds of corruption threaten the very foundation of this land of the free.

We are to "be as shrew as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Mt 10:16 NIV) But snakes posing as innocent doves have poisoned us, threatening our nation's lifeblood. What will you do for freedom today?

In the USA "social justice" examples are FEMA, social security, public education, and welfare. Most of us have questioned the wisdom of entrusting these programs to politicians, especially on a national level. These programs serve as juicy targets for squandering taxpayer dollars and grabbing power. The founders of our country knew better than to open the door to such foolishness. But now this door seems impossible to close, as the winds of corruption threaten the very foundation of this land of the free.

We are to "be as shrew as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Mt 10:16 NIV) But snakes posing as innocent doves have poisoned us, threatening our nation's lifeblood. What will you do for freedom today?

X