Church and Politics
Your November 2017 editorial "Church and Politics" gives one interpretation of Abraham Kuyper's distinction of church as institute and organism. That interpretation prevents the institutional church from speaking out on matters in the public/political sphere—something you regret.
Another time-honored way of reading Kuyper actually encourages the institutional church to speak where it can speak as one ("confessionally"). It's based on Kuyper's correlate concept of sphere universality. The spheres of life are sovereign but fully interrelated and integrated.
So the church should contribute to public life by speaking clearly, but only within its area of expertise/authority. It must speak clear biblical truth, testifying to what King Jesus requires.
Where Scripture speaks clearly we should allow its light to illuminate the public sphere.
The CRC has done so often: on capital punishment, apartheid, nuclear weapons, militarism, and creation care, to name just a few. As I recall, most Kuyperians were more than okay with that.
Bob De Moor
Thanks for the thought-provoking editorial “Church and Politics” (Nov. 2017). When we as a church address our government, we must do it respectfully (see Rom. 13). Yet we must also keep government accountable (see Dan. 4:27; Luke 3:19). Therefore I am surprised at the silence of our denomination on the issues that our member organization Evangelical Fellowship of Canada fights for, such as abortion and euthanasia.
I believe that as Christians we need to stand up; there is a principle for Christians at stake.
More important than speaking with one voice is for the institutional church to speak with Christ’s voice (“Church and Politics”). You are right in saying that Jesus is not a member of “the Christian right” nor the “Christian left.” Both sides can be wrong, and when they do not represent Christ’s voice, they are wrong.
I do not believe the CRC, with its deep divisions on vital issues, has the ability to speak as an institution to contentious social and political issues. Therefore it is probably best for the institutional church to stick to preaching and teaching the Word to the organic church and allow the organic church to speak to the issues—hopefully with the voice of Christ.
Bowling Green, Fla.
We Need to Talk
The article on teen suicide was needed. Thank you to the families who shared their painful stories for our awareness (“We Need to Talk,” Nov. 2017). Jesus is the only answer, the only hope for difficulties and despair in life.
Shelly Stoepker (by email)
Thanks for featuring the article on teen suicide (“We Need to Talk”). Thank you to parents who are willing to live their pain all over again in transparency that might bring wholeness and comfort in even one situation.
Jenny S. deGroot
The article “We Need to Talk” (Nov. 2017) touched on many sensitive issues. However, it did not mention that the suicide rate among homosexual persons ages 10-24 is about three times higher than among the general population. What are we as a denomination or as individuals doing to prevent this? From my experience, very little. At best we avoid the topic of homosexuality and avoid seeking out homosexual persons to provide them with love and support. Are we guilty of using the proof-text approach to address this topic covered in six instances in the Bible instead of examining these texts in the light of historical setting and scientific understanding? Jesus mentions having compassion 21 times in the Bible. Where should our emphasis be?
William de Waal
North Saanich, B.C.
Many thanks for breaking the teen suicide silence (“We Need to Talk”). Blessings, and thanks for being a blessing to many.
John de Vries
This is a very sweet story (“Love Letter,” Nov. 2017). The Bible says God spoke to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart." We therefore believe that first God knew Rachel, then her birth mother knew her, and finally her adoptive mother knew her.
As the adoptive dad of two remarkable women, one of whom is married to an adoptee and the other to a son of an adoptee, who have given my wife and me five spectacular grandchildren, I was moved by this story and say to Rachel, "God bless you on your journey of love."
Ken Van Dellen, online comment
Beer and Hymns
Loved the article “Would You Like a Hymn with That Beer?” (Nov. 2017). What a novel idea to have a hymn sing in a bar. This is an excellent way for Christians to spread the gospel through song. I applaud these individuals for their effort and setting a good example. God bless them!
Music Heritage and Worship Question
A "rose" to Hal Hiemstra for reminding us to keep our music heritage strong and meaningful (“Unintended Consequences,” Nov. 2017).
A reminder to Greg Scheer (FAQ, Nov. 2017) that when people "simply listen in rapt amazement," that may be a very profound act of worship.
Keep up the good work!
I have a very different opinion (“Unintended Consequences”). Nine time the Bible commands or describes God’s people singing a new song. Variety is a gift. Even if our song diet has changed in the past generation or two, most churches I know sing a group of roughly 50 songs maybe 75 percent of the time. The CCLI Top 100 (which includes settings of some familiar hymns) doesn’t turn over very quickly. I’m confident that in 50-60 years my generation will still know the chorus to “Blessed Be Your Name, “How Great Is Our God,” and “10,000 Reasons.”
Memorizing psalm verses and the singing of psalms and hymns have been of enormous value and meaning throughout my life (“Unintended Consequences”). Both of these expressions of worship have been and continue to be of utmost faith support. Through them the Holy Spirit speaks and/or comforts us, at times teaching, at times comforting, or both, but never failing.
Older generations acknowledge with sadness the drastic change replacing these with praise songs. Pastor Hiemstra referred to the future impact of the so-called praise songs: "There won't be any.” Not surprising. With the repeating and at times close to generic lyrics, with unskilled singing teams and often tumultuous instrumental volume, this is truly an unintended yet foreseeable consequence.
Is this contributing to the declining church attendance as well?
Anders R. Bergsma
Follow the Body
Ultimately families are the ones who make decisions as to their preferences (“Follow the Body, Nov. 2017). Increasingly, families are choosing to have a private burial service followed by a memorial service. This allows for the memorial service to be much more of a worship service where those in attendance can celebrate the fact that “death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54).
The question remains: How can funeral customs and burial practices be planned to better reflect a Christian’s witness to the world? While death is an occasion for mourning, it is also and especially an opportunity to rejoice in the hope of the resurrection.
The article “Follow the Body” (Nov. 2017) says that “A suitable burial place was offered by Nicodemus. . . .” But Matthew 27:59-60 tells us that the tomb was offered by Joseph, and John 19:38-42 tells us that the spices came from Nicodemus.
Editor’s note: This correction has been made on the online version of the story.
Thanks, Steven Timmermans!
I just wanted to say that I have been blessed by the contributions of Steven Timmermans to The Banner (“The View from Here” columns in Our Shared Ministry). Timmermans poses such imaginative questions and leaves us to probe further how our faith in Jesus is actually worked out in everyday living, in our relationships, in our giving, in our choices, in our conversations. . . .
I have found the way he poses these questions and then addresses them to be very real in a world (even in our Christian communities) where we often are not real and open with one another.
Red Deer, Alta.
Reformation Gains and Losses
Karin Maag’s “The Reformation: What Did We Gain? What Did We Lose?” (Oct. 2017) does a good job discussing theology, worship, church leadership, and interchurch relations. But we can learn a lot about ourselves and our collective political, economic, and social life by looking at the Reformation more holistically. The Reformation is important not only to Western Christianity but to all of Western and global civilization. Luther standing up for the right to his own conscience changed the relationship between the individual and the state, religious, and economic collectives s/he belongs to. Even those who belong to non-Christian religions and atheists benefit from being able to listen to their own consciences.
Grand Rapids, Mich.
It is rather clear that Jesus wants us to be one rather than have multiple different confessions (“The Reformation: What Did We Gain? What Did We Lose?”). Working toward being one is therefore more important than proving one is better than another.
August Guillaume, online comment
Yes, we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation (“The Reformation: What Did We Gain? What Did We Lose?”). But really, it is an intensely sad history. It must have deeply hurt our heavenly Father. If only the leaders of the Roman church had had the wisdom of Gamaliel!
Reading the New Testament
I found your article “Reading the New Testament with Jewish Eyes” (Oct. 2017) very interesting! Years ago I was involved for a few years with Wycliffe Bible Translators and their sister organization, SIL. I heard and read many stories about translators all over the world who struggle with how to correctly convey biblical truth into different languages and cultures. And these are languages that are foreign to them. You brought it home to me that, even with English as my main language, there are still translation issues with my own Bible reading. Thank you for this well-written piece.
Salmon Arm, B.C.