Frequently Asked Questions

Big Questions
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This scenario does not fully reflect the call Jesus places on us.

Ethics
Q I just discovered that my family member is addicted to Internet porn. What should I do? How can I help him?

A Porn addiction, like any other addiction, requires help for the addict and not simply stronger willpower. First, your family member needs to recognize and want to free himself from this addiction. Encourage him in this regard; if he is a Christian, draw on his faith for motivation.

Second, he needs your loving support. He probably feels ashamed about his addiction, so do not judge or scold him. That might push him further into isolation. Encourage him to seek help. This would involve him confessing his addiction to others. Strongly support him in this. I believe that secrecy gives more power to sins and addictions. Enlarge the circle of accountability for your family member by involving others to form a support group.

Third, seek professional help or recovery programs. For starters, check out either Sex Addicts Anonymous or XXX Church for local and online programs and resources.

Your family member needs to find the root cause of his addiction. This might require therapy or spiritual counseling. It definitely means hard work. He needs to identify the emptiness in his heart or life that is making porn so alluring. Without such professional help, the symptoms may be addressed in the short term without fixing the real problem.

—Shaio Chong is a chaplain at York University in Toronto, Ontario.

 

Relationships
Q At what age may Christians retire? Should we keep working as long as we can, or is there an age when we can begin to enjoy spending our time as we like?

A Your question reveals this assumption: our life is divided. As Christians we serve God especially in our work, but then, before we get too old, too sick, or too feeble, we need to be allowed to relax and think about ourselves.

With that assumption: yes, by all means, after a life of service to God, spending time doing what is enjoyable to you is reasonable. “Retirement age” currently stands at about 55 to 70ish, so see what your finances will allow as you continue to love your neighbor and tithe faithfully to your church.

However, this scenario does not fully reflect the call Jesus places on us. When changed circumstances occur, the Holy Spirit invites us to listen prayerfully with Scripture to discover how to answer a new (or long-buried) call.

Above all, Jesus is called “the way,” which denotes a walking with, a relationship. Experiencing changed circumstances is an invitation to get to know him better. He says, “I stand at the door and knock.” The image is of our opening the door of our hearts to him so that he can spend time with us, as one does with a friend over a meal.

The Holy Spirit helps us “see” Jesus more truly. He invites us to partner with him and gives us the gifts we need to answer a (new) call. And our Father in heaven has promised to take care of all our personal needs when we seek his kingdom, even in retirement.

—Judy Cook is a family therapist and a member of Meadowlands Fellowship CRC in Ancaster, Ontario.

 

Church
Q The Apostles’ Creed says that Jesus descended into hell. What does that mean? Did Jesus actually go to hell?

A This “descensus clause” is a later addition to “. . . died and was buried,” first appearing in the early fifth century. Its meaning is much disputed because, apart from the somewhat obscure reference in 1 Peter 3:19, 20 to a proclamation for “imprisoned spirits” (those who perished in Noah’s flood and abided in Sheol), there is no clear New Testament basis.

Many early Roman Catholic theologians saw this as a part of Christ’s glorification, confessing a victorious Savior who displays his redeeming resurrection power over death and the “underworld” while on his way to his Father’s throne. Thomas Aquinas agreed, but saw it also as part of Christ’s humiliation. Christ not only redeemed the “imprisoned” but also bore the full penalty for our sin. Lutherans echoed Aquinas in this. Calvinists, on the other hand, came to understand the clause as referring primarily to Christ's humiliation rather than his glorification.

According to Lord’s Day 16 of the Heidelberg Catechism, this clause assures us “that Christ my Lord, by suffering unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul, especially on the cross but also earlier, has delivered me from the anguish and torment of hell.”

Hell is the total God-forsakenness on the cross (Matt. 27:46; Ps. 22:1). Theologian Herman Bavinck added to this the three days in the grave. Even our Redeemer, he said, true God and true man, was, until God raised him, a prisoner in the realm of the dead. Only then was he the Conqueror, God highly exalting him (Phil. 2:9).

—Henry De Moor is professor of church polity emeritus, Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Mich. He’s the author of Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary (Faith Alive, 2011).

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Comments

I want to agree with Judy on her comments about retirement, but as one who is looking forward to retirement soon, I want to add a bit.  Hopefully, the work done before retirement is as enjoyable as the time spent after retirement, so "doing what is enjoyable" should not be the main distinction.  Rather, it is a transition from working to make a living to working and playing without first of all doing it for a wage.  For that reason many decide to try out semi-retirement.  Also it is important to remember that you can retire from a certain job, but you can't retire from being a Christian.  Your christian love and concern might keep you quite busy after your "retirement".  

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