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As the US election date draws nearer—a date being closely watched on both sides of our border—my prayer is that the Christian voice will increasingly become shaped by tenderness and tears. 

October 7, 2016 3 1 comments
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Who has the time to practice solitude? Well, we all do. If you’re willing to schedule a lunch with someone or schedule a meeting, you can schedule a meeting with God and just be present with him. 

October 6, 2016 1 2 comments
Resource, Conference or Event

InterGenerate is the first multi-denominational conference about bringing generations together! It will be held at Nashville’s Lipscomb University from June 25-27, 2017. Sound exciting? We think so! 

October 5, 2016 1 0 comments
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My almost two-year-old granddaughter Joanna wants to jump to the balcony at church. We, her grandparents, have more experience in this world and know the power of gravity. Yet, like Joanna, we too have a hope others may not have. 

October 3, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

What does forgiveness really look like? Deb and Steven Koster, co-editors of Family Fire, address that question in a FREE new ebook, The Power of Forgiveness: A Guide to Healing.

September 28, 2016 0 0 comments
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Is signing up for a service project because my friends did still a good action? Is giving to a good cause still good if it’s out of guilt? Is it even possible to be a "good Christian?"

September 27, 2016 1 2 comments
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Sam Huizenga describes what it means to be collaborative in her work coaching and training leaders of small groups. What about you? Do you have a story about working collaboratively with another church or ministry? 

September 21, 2016 0 0 comments
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Last year thirteen churches took a risk, they joined a cohort of churches willing to work with the Building Blocks of Faith Model. This model answers the question: What do people need for their faith to grow?

September 21, 2016 0 0 comments
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I recently wrote this text to bless our children's ministry leaders and volunteers after their fall informational meeting. Feel free to use and adapt for your own fall ministries.

September 19, 2016 0 0 comments
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The Building Blocks of Faith answer a simple question: “What do people need in order to grow in their faith?” The Building Blocks are based on four themes of faith development for all ages.

September 13, 2016 1 0 comments
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The Welcoming Children to the Lord’s Supper toolkit contains excellent resources to support parents/caregivers and children’s leaders as they engage kids in conversations about the Lord’s Supper.

September 7, 2016 0 0 comments
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In my Facebook feed, I've seen many mothers express the sadness of having a child start college and leave home. But these transition times remind me of all the people in church who have influenced our kids. 

August 31, 2016 0 0 comments
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So, why all of this emphasis on collaborative learning? And, why should those of us who have been let down by “group” work try it now? Here are 6 compelling reasons for churches to consider peer learning groups.

August 25, 2016 2 0 comments
Resource, Litany

Back to School Litanies includes 3 great resources: an encouraging Back-to-School Liturgy for children, a positive Back-to-School Liturgy for Youth, and an understanding Back-to-School Liturgy for Educators.

August 22, 2016 1 0 comments
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Do you long to see teens and young adults more solidly connected to your church? Are you a preacher or do you belong to a church that has a preacher? If so, I invite you to take the “Preaching Tag-team Challenge.”

August 17, 2016 3 1 comments
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For most people the idea of being interviewed by the church council is somewhere on the spectrum between anxiety-producing and utterly terrifying. Here are a few ways to make the interview a more joyful, life-giving process. 

August 17, 2016 3 0 comments
Resource, Devotional

Do you love the Olympics? If so, here is a great devotional for your family to use as you cheer on athletes, root for underdogs, and learn how Jesus paints a different picture than what we see at the Olympics.

August 16, 2016 0 0 comments
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Because in that moment when I felt like a total and complete failure, she gave me a new a brand new outlook. She wanted to hangout with me even if it meant changing her own pace to go my speed. 

August 15, 2016 5 1 comments
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As the end of the summer approaches, kids start thinking about the changes ahead. This week I came across two wonderful ideas for ways that God’s family can encourage school aged kids this fall. 

August 10, 2016 2 1 comments
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To use an overworked metaphor, our lives are a journey. A journey where we are constantly becoming. We are becoming either more who we were meant to be or less. 

August 10, 2016 1 0 comments
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When people around us begin to struggle with faith, what's our response? Are we standing on the pier shouting, “Read your Bible" or are we willing to dive in for the difficult, slow work of helping someone sort through their faith?

August 9, 2016 1 2 comments
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I wonder, can we imagine Jesus doing the things we will do today? Might we be able to say because I painted this room, because I cleaned this kitchen, “Today I feel a little bit more like Jesus.”

August 3, 2016 0 2 comments
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Katy and her husband shared this blessing that they speak to their children nightly. Speaking this to children not only blesses them but it reminds them (and us!) of why we tell these stories.

August 1, 2016 2 1 comments
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Congregations always have a culture. You won’t find it written down in mission statements or council minutes but walk into any congregation on a Sunday morning, and you will gradually gain a sense of who is welcome. 

July 28, 2016 3 0 comments
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When I picture that mic stand, I'm reminded of Jesus’ intentional endeavor to enfold the least, the last, the lost, and the little. It may seem like that spot was only significant to our friend, but to be honest, it meant a lot to me too.

July 25, 2016 1 2 comments

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Why are there new "readings" of scripture emerging? Is this uncertainty a transitional experience in at one point thinking things were clear and now seeing them as less clear? Where is God in this? Why would we one day imagine that God speaks through Scripture to us, his church and this world and the next day imagine that perhaps Scripture is the record of past revelation but not necessarily binding on us in the ways we used to think? 

All of these to me are what we in our tradition have called "confessional" issues. "Confessions" are the documents beneath the church that create an environment for community, where we say "we together see things in this way." 

After the triumph over slavery the "progressives" saw temperance as a key political battle that would relieve poverty, lower rates of spousal abuse, help make men better fathers, etc. This became a cause in churches to a degree that church after church read into scripture that alcohol was evil and ought to be prohibited. In the US a constitutional amendment was passed. In the CRC some went along with this and others didn't. Why? Why not? 

Synod 2016 revealed that the CRC is deeply divided. There were at least two camps looking on. There were winners and losers politically and at the end of Synod some groups have asked themselves "do we really fit here?" 

Some read the Bible as showing a progression where legalistic norms that deny freedom of many kinds are broken and the church needs to get in step with these development. Others read the Bible as God's increasingly counter-cultural revelation to a broken, fallen world and the church is a space where people find refuge from the world, the devil, and their broken desires that make life unlivable. 

I believe that Christianity is progressivist, in that history has an outcome and a conclusion and that Jesus is Lord of history. I believe that Christianity is liberationist in that in Christ we receive a new identity and that we are no longer subject to the tyranny of the devil nor fully at the mercy of our broken desires or fallen human nature. Christian progress and liberation also have a unique counter-cultural shape that defines what we judge to be progress and specifies what and how we must be liberated from. 

I think we in the CRC need to have open and honest conversations about these things. I call these conversations Confessional conversations.

There will be some uncertainty for many of us and it is good for people to be honest about their uncertainties, as it is also good for them to be honest about their certainties. 

 

This is becoming an interesting conversation.  I appreciate the insights some are laying out on the table in regard to hermeneutics (or principles of interpreting Scripture).  Andrew suggests that we (the church) are abandoning a more conservative view for a more open and permissive view of interpreting the Bible, and thus are even considering enveloping homosexuals into the full life of the church, as full members.  It is true, there are two ways to read Scripture, even on the homosexual issue.  One, reading Romans 1 literally, would completely exclude the homosexuals from the church and see them as heathens, except, possibly, as objects of evangelism.  Or a second reading is that Paul was speaking of a particular and heinous form of homosexual abuse and not of respectable gays or same sex married people that Paul, either knew nothing about or wasn’t addressing.

But the reality is that the church has always used both the more restrictive and the more open hermeneutic as it has seen fit, but generally moving from the more traditional (restrictive) to the more open.  I’m speaking of our denomination, and not looking over the fence at other Christian denominations or groups.  

One issue where this is obvious is in regard to Sunday observance.  In the past (50 years ago or so) Sunday was seen as a Christian Sabbath where CRC Christians were very restricted in what they could do on Sunday (no sports, no work, no restaurants, no newspapers, no bicycle riding for children, no meal preparation, etc.)  Today, in CRCs, Sunday is celebrated as the Lord’s Day (not a sabbath) and nearly anything goes.  Nothing is nicer than going out to a restaurant for a nice dinner after church, or breakfast before church.

Or what about divorce.  I remember when divorce was sanctioned in the CRC only under the condition of marital unfaithfulness, not even spousal abuse was a legitimate grounds.  And those divorced were not allow to teach or hold office in the church.  That has gone out the door for a more open interpretation of the Bible.

Or what about separation from the world and worldly amusements?  I couldn’t dance, go to the show, play cards (other than UNO), etc. etc.

Or what about women in church office, or the so called “headship” principle?  I haven’t heard that word in twenty years.  We ‘ve pretty much removed the word “obey” from our CRC wedding forms.  And there was no doubt that God forbade women from holding places of authority over men inside the church, as well as in society.  Now we have a different understanding of the Bible.  Women can be elders, deacons and ministers, all based on a more open hermeneutic.

Or what about Christian education?  I remember when it was a requirement for church office bearers and Calvin faculty to enroll their children in the Christian school system.  It was a  covenant principle which was at the heart of our Reformed theology.  Now Christian education is a nice CRC elective.

Or what about our narrower view toward the Holy Spirit’s role in the Christian’s life that was held in the past?  Now increasingly we are adopting a Pentecostal and experiential perspective by which the Christian’s experience of salvation becomes more important than God’s role. Dancing in the aisles of church is evidence of a Spirit filled life.  Now spiritual warfare is a matter of demons influencing people from some pseudo reality.  The third wave movement is increasingly making inroads into the church because a more open hermeneutic allows and even encourages it.

Or what about interracial marriage?  That was a definite no no for Christians.  But, now, a more open interpretation of the Bible says, yes, by all means.

And we could go on to other issues but this will suffice.  The point, is that Western Christianity, including (or especially) the CRC has always used both a closed minded traditional approach to interpreting the Bible, as well as a more open and less restrictive approach to hermeneutics.  Just as the church has opened its doors to women in leadership (even at Synod) and to have authority over men and women, so also within the next twenty years the church will open its doors to homosexuals and will fully recognize their marriages as God ordained and will be seen as valuable assets to our churches, no different from any other member.  And this will happen because we will see and understand that the Bible (our authority) tells us not to show prejudice against anyone, especially within the church.  It’s a shame that this can’t happen sooner than later before we lose our reputation as a welcoming voice in our society.

When friends over coffee would ask my view on SSRs I would tell them that my position is one of tenuousness. However, I think that I like the term holy uncertainty more. How can we really hear that small still voice of God speaking to us on these matters; how can we really listen to each other if we have solid rigid stances which make real dialogue impossible. When Neal Plantinga was here recently giving a presentation (not on this issue) as an aside someone asked him his view on the gay issue. He said that his position was one of the traditional CRC view but "I'm listening". How good I thought. dick farenhorst

Andrew, I appreciate and agree completely with your comments posted here. There is a right and there is a wrong when it comes to obedience to God's preceptive will. 

However, as I read Syd's article (and I'm probably reading it with my own filter) I am understanding the holy uncertainty to be in regards to living out various aspects of God's preceptive will. If I take the traditional view, which I agree is the Biblical view, of marriage, I am just as bound by God's will to provide a place of welcome for someone who is outside of the community. Jesus, living in me, moves me to have supper with people who don't share my values, to the extent that observers think that I am condoning certain behavior (Luke 15:1) 

I find myself uncertain about holding on to the traditional interpretation of God's will, and being effective as salt and light in the world. In my experience, we have been so certain about our stand in regards to same sex attraction that we have almost completely cut ourselves off from people who are hurting, both those who experience same sex attraction, as well as their families. 

I write this, not in disagreement, but to continue the dialog in order to become more adept at being salt and light in God's world.

Deja vu to the era of Abraham Kuyper, who moved from one hermeneutical approach early in life to a different one later.  Of course (I would suggest), the shift in this case is reversed from the shift made by Kuyper.

I suspect this perception of hermeneutical change is of far more concern to many CRCers than the SSM issue.  It is to me.

Generally, Syd, I agree with your premise that Christians do well to cultivate a posture of "holy uncertainty."  I say generally because there are so many situations in life that Scripture doesn't speak to clearly or directly. As a pastor discerns a call, as a student discerns an educational path, as a manager discerns a career path, each do well to humbly and prayerfully enter into a season of "holy uncertainty" allowing the Spirit to lead in ways that may feel uncomfortable or unexpected. Other examples: Can a sincere follower of Christ work in a casino if they feel a genuine call to be Christ's witness there? Might an exceptionally gifted athletic teenager give up the regular Lord's Day gathering because of sports commitments and still be a faithful disciple of Christ who finds Christian community and faith nurture in other ways? How does our denomination deal with its own past in starting and supporting Native American schools and to what degree were they influenced by a subtle form of "ethnic cleansing" that flowed out of the dark side of the Doctrine of Discovery?  I think all of these questions require the kind of "holy uncertainty" you describe because Scripture itself makes no clear pronouncements.

What you are arguing is that Scripture may be unclear on its teaching of marriage and homosexual behaviour. What has become increasingly clear to me is this: if Scripture is unclear in these areas it is because the rules for interpreting the Scriptures that people are using are no longer held in common. The hermeneutic that is used to affirm SSM is decidedly different than the one used to uphold a traditional view on marriage (this post is not the place to elaborate on that in detail). If the posture of "holy uncertainty" requires us to hold both hermeneutics in a hoped for Spirit-seasoned tension, it is almost certain to move us along a predetermined trajectory. Why? Because if the agreed upon rules for interpretation are no longer agreed to, then the authority of Scripture--namely how the Bible is to be read and interpreted--is no longer something we hold in common. And the only logical outcome after a season of holy uncertainty has run its course will be to default to the more "open" or less restrictive reading of the Bible. I believe that most denominations that have entered seasons of holy uncertainty, because they believe Scripture may be unclear or can be read in different ways, have followed, or, are following, that trajectory to a more open and/or affirming view  (PCUSA, RCA, PCC, to name a few).

Those who hold to the hermeneutic that maintains the traditional view (dare I say, Biblical view.... already many shy away from using the term "Biblical view" because the posture of "holy uncertainty" leads us to believe both positions as Biblical), are deeply concerned that the "new" hermeneutic opens up a way of reading Scripture that calls into question any number of established Biblical teachings.

One thing I"ve learned in 59 years on the planet is that when someone tells me they aren't advocating for this or that position it's time to pay close attention. It's almost always not true. They most certainly are advocating. The analogy in this article is ever so sly. We're supposed to believe that, as far as Presbyterians in the deep south circa 1850s are concerned, the bible is uncertain about the notion of freedom, but that the abolitionists knew better so they keep championing freedom for slaves on the basis of biblical uncertainty regarding such freedom. This is a nonsense argument. The bible is not uncertain about freedom. The bible is not uncertain about the nature of our brokenness either. This is article employs literary slight of hand and claims it isn't advocating for anything in particular. Really? 

I too found the sanctification of this particular strain of uncertainty to be unhelpful.  Beginning with the fact that faith itself is defined explicitly in terms of its certainty, I have observed a much stronger theme in the Bible in support of certainty in what God has declared than in support of uncertainty.  Most often Scripture commends uncertainty in the things God has chosen not to reveal.   I also hasten to add that certainty cannot be equated with pride (lest we all be guilty of pride for the very act of publicly declaring our sure faith), and uncertainty cannot be equated with humility.

Almost as strong as the idol of theological uncertainty.

This is an intriguing article, and it certainly introduces to the discussion (whatever exactly the question is, which really isn't defined) a new thinking twist, but I wonder this: about what can we, should we, do we not already have in all things, "holy uncertainty," or perhaps just uncertainty (I'm not sure how one might distinguish between "holy" and "unholy," or even "regular," uncertainty).

Do we have, should we have, "holy uncertainty" about the virgin birth and the bodily resurrection?  No doubt, all lack faith, just as Jesus' own disciples did.  That condition is certainly "uncertainty," and it is quite genuine -- is it "holy uncertainty," "unholy uncertainty," or "regular uncertainty?"

In other words, is the suggestion that we should have "holy uncertainty" about homosexuality (again, whatever the question precisely is) at all helpful?  Are we all not somewhat like Rene Descartes, after all, who had some doubt about any and all propositions in his search for truth until he stumbled on the notion of "I think, therefore I am."   But of course his skeptical contemporaries, the Pyhronians, declared essentially that they "doubted that the doubted" in rebuke of Descartes.  Christians have historically lived in opposition to Descartes "rationalism" -- should we now reconsider this?

In other words, having doubt is rather ubiquitous in all facets of human affairs.  Does rephrasing it as "holy uncertainty" really help in the discussion of whatever exactly this question is?  I'm not so sure -- or, to put it another way, I'm having "holy uncertainty" about this "holy uncertainty."

Thanks, Syd, for articulating what many in the CRC are feeling but may be afraid to wonder about aloud. This humble approach is fitting for the complex challenges we face. 

Roger,
    Generally I liked your comment, but I have one clarification to make. 
The minority report's pastoral advice walks a line on the issue of members in same-sex marriages. According to the report, "there may be situations where two individuals married in a civil same-sex marriage could be fully consistent with CRC teaching" (Agenda 2016, 439). I think that they are imagining a situation where a couple in a same-sex marriage come to faith in Christ and want to join the church. Yet, for those who are already Christian the position is different. "A Christian person - or a current member of a [CRC] church - entering into [a same-sex marriage] would...be in conflict with the church's teaching on marriage" (Agenda 2016, p.439). Moving past 'uncertainty' requires clarity. So, I hope this helps. 

Thanks, Syd, for your article on uncertainty.  I especially like your analogy of right/wrong compass and the better/worse compass, and how we use one or the other when applying direction either to ourselves or to others.  How true that is.  

I’m not sure what to make of your “waiting in uncertainty” posture.  I’m not even sure that the two sojourners had to wait very long in uncertainty, not even a full day.  But what does waiting in uncertainty mean?  It certainly doesn’t mean waiting around, doing nothing.  It doesn’t mean not wrestling with the issue at hand, even as these two disciples wrestled with the idea that their Savior had been crucified and buried.  Certainly they shared their ideas, thoughts, and misgivings, as well as their hopes.  

As to the homosexual issue facing our denomination, it would seem that some of the uncertainty has been removed, at least for the present and near future.  Ministers and office bearers may not participate in a same sex marriages in any way, and by way of being models for their congregations it would be best if members didn’t participate in such weddings either.  We don’t believe in double standards, do we?  Nor will married same sex couples be allowed to be members of our churches.  That much we can be certain of.  For many that doesn’t seem to be a reason to rejoice.  At present it seems more like waiting with doubt and fear for the church we love (maybe even as the sojourners felt on the way to Emmaus).  And I can’t imagine it means to let sleeping dogs lie.  Thanks Syd for food for thought.

Mr. Boessenkool: Thank you for your thoughts on Rev. Syd Hielema's article. What a weighty responsibility ministers of the Word have - "to declare the Word of the Lord to a community" - overwhelming indeed! I am thankful that Rev. Hielema trembles on his knees at his calling.

Regarding the example, I do not come away with the same feeling as you that "the end point is acceptance of homosexual marriage." Rev. Hielema intriguingly states that "This mother believes that her daughter has both done the wrong thing and the better thing." While not in my place to defend his position/comments, I am intrigued with his idea that the"'better/worse' compass supersedes the 'right/wrong' one."

While you advocate Rev. Hielema writes with a "forked pen," I would thank him for his thoughtfulness in presenting a position that is based on biblical teachings and serious study. He certainly is advancing food for serious thought and discussion.

I also echo Rev. Hielema's prayer we "mature as a people who weep with those who weep," and add the prayer for us to have ears that listen and hearts that serve.

Grace and peace.

Living with uncertainty is such an important discipline, one that as a mental health counselor and educator I have felt duty bound to help people with because there is so much in life we cannot ever know with certainty. I had not thought of holy uncertainty in those words, but I embrace them, as I have been the recipient of so much harm at the hands of people who can only live with certainty. Thank you for this. I think I will need to begin to share the concept.

Where is the end point? Uncertainty is generally unhealthy. The story given to justify "holy uncertainty" is strange because the end point is acceptance of homosexual marriage. And then to have no comment on the mother's conclusion is taking a stand on the issue.

Seems to me you are writing with a forked pen.

Thanks for your thoughtful words, Syd.  You/ve given a name to what I have been thinking and feeling about this topic - holy uncertainty.  I was actually hoping that the tragedy that occurred in Orlando just before the discussions/decisions were to be made at Synod would have led us to the same conclusion.

I personally know 2 people who grew up in the CRC and are homosexual, and I weep when I talk to them or think about the longings that they have for both their personal and spiritual life. They want all the same things that the rest of us do - love, family, being able to use the gifts God has given them in their church, etc.  However, the CRC does not "allow" this, so they have gone elsewhere, for better of for worse.  This grieves me to no end.  I will also stand with you and weep, and pray for the Spirit's enlightenment to show us how we can be the hands and feet of Christ to persons with alternate sexual orientations.  I'm glad we as a denomination have begun to discuss this more openly, but I believe we are still a long way from making final decisions on this.  May we continue to be open to the Spirit's leading.

Amen. Thanks for your comments

The old saying that we should worry about things we can do something about and leave the rest to God? Most theological questions, like higher math, are beyond understanding to most of us and are best left to God and/or math majors. 

Great post, Syd. Thanks for challenging us to think in new ways and make peace with unknowns, confident that God is faithful. 

Thank you Syd. You beautifully express what has been on my heart. I will join you in this time of holy uncertainty on my knees in prayer. Thank you for giving us a posture for this time.

Thanks Syd. Really appreciate this. A friend often says that the pull of the "idol of theological certainty" is strong for us.

 This week I had the same reaction from a church educator when I described how many people looked at a lesson after it was written before it was published -- She had no idea!  Thanks for the article.  

 

Hi Rick, 

Thanks for feedback! The video download has been fixed and the other materials should be easily viewable. 

Thanks again!
Staci 

 

posted in: Missions Tourism

This is incredibly helpful, Roger. Really good background and food for thought. Appreciate it very much. 

Hi Staci.  You ask a good question. And of course, the answer varies from person to person.  Many people are not overly vested in the theology of their particular denomination.  So changing from a Reformed denomination to a Baptist can easily feel rather refreshing, especially seeing that Baptists groups tend to be more experiencial in their faith expression.  Faith within Baptists groups tend to be more exciting (some would say more uplifting).  Sometimes Reformed folk long for a more experiential faith that they see in Baptists or Pentecostals.  So coming from a Reformed persuasion, a person might like the idea that baptism testifies to my experience of faith, rather than the Reformed idea of baptism testifying to God’s leading and choosing in salvation. The Reformed expression of faith and salvation tends to be more “head” focused (recognizing what God has done and then being grateful), whereas the Baptist tend to be more “heart” focused (enjoying the experience of salvation).  Seeing as babies cannot (not possible) to have that faith experience, the Baptists refuse baptism for children and opt for dedication.  The Reformed folk, acknowledge a covenantal perspective (Old Testament carried through to the New) in which God envelopes our children within the family of believers and therefore give the covenant sign (Baptism in the New, Circumcision in the Old) to believers and their children (even though the children are not believers at that point).  As part of the Christian family, the  (Reformed) church takes seriously its obligation to train up their children in the Christian faith and pray for their salvation.

Depending on the direction of migration, whether from a Baptist to a Reformed church, or from a Reformed to a Baptist church, and also depending on how important the finer points of theology are to such a person, the move can either be quite smooth and easy or, on the other hand, can be quite difficult.

For an interesting source that explains the differences in the way Reformed and Baptist churches look at salvation, you might want to consult “The Canons of Dort,” in the back of the CRC hymnal.  It presents the Reformed (Calvinistic) view, but also criticizes the Arminian (Baptist) view.  Most Christians, it would seem, prefer the Baptist view over the Reformed.  But the bottom line is, which is more Biblical?  That might be where the Reformed have the edge.  

I hope this is helpful, and of course this is my take on the topic.  Wishing you well.  Sorry for the length.

Thanks for letting us know, Rick. We'll get these back up and running and keep you posted! 

posted in: Missions Tourism

Awesome Resource!!  But the Video download does not work and all the other information is shown in a very narrow window that cannot be enlarged.  I look forward to reviewing all the material.  Thanks to those who authored this resource.  

God Bless!!

posted in: Missions Tourism

This is a helpful distinction, Roger. Wondering about people who grew up in the Reformed tradition that may have left and gone to another church. Is there still a desire for baptisms? Or how about people who came into the CRC/Reformed tradition but grew up in a different denomination. Are they doing baptisms if they have older children or for themselves as adults? Or is it just profession of faith at that point?

Thing is Staci, infant baptism doesn’t really fit into the overall Baptist theology.  Baptist theology and Reformed theology are very different at many points.  A Baptist theologian works hard to build or put together an altogether consistent Biblical theology in which the whole package is consistent throughout.  So to drop infant baptism (the Reformed practice) into that Baptist perspective will make the picture inconsistent.  The same will be true if someone tries to drop infant dedication (the Baptist practice) into the Reformed theological perspective.  Just as infant baptism isn’t consistent with a Baptist theological view, nor is infant dedication consistent with the Reformed theological view.  That is why neither Baptists nor Reformed are quick to mix their theologies.  One inconsistency leads to another and then to another and so on.

Christianity has long taught that it is the sacrament, itself, that produces the desired effect, not the adult who preforms the act.  

Infant baptism is a requirement of the Christian Religion, and a uniting factor. The rest of the world uses baptism as the line of demarcation between "them" and "us."

 For me this is not an issue at all, and I'm not aware that it is for our congregation either because the topic has never come up in congregational meetings that I can remember.  I've never heard anyone complain that they could not dedicate their babies.  What I have heard, however, is our former pastor saying that people who had been baptised in the Roman Catholic Church as infants asking if they could be baptised again because their first baptism meant nothing to them, and they were not sure of the faith of the priest who baptised them as babies, and he had to turn them away because he did not have the permission to do it.  That we hear about here in Québec.  But dedication...?  Not really.

The links are fixed now! Thanks, Anthony.  

posted in: Missions Tourism

Thank you for the article and for sharing this great resource.  However, I think the links are broken.  But I was able to find the website online still.  Maybe the links just need to be tweaked.

posted in: Missions Tourism

Thanks for sharing these additional questions, John. I think you did a great job of framing the case for baptism, especially with how it may be liberating for the faithfulness to depend on more than just "me" or the family. 

I'd love to hear if other reformed folks have done dedications or would be open to them as well. Got a story?

Syd, thanks for this post of your 3 minutes of Grace.  This is a great idea and I will prayerfully consider how to implement something of this sort in the Britt CRC where I serve.  I appreciate you sharing this with the network. -Pastor Joel A. De Boer

Thanks Staci:

  Great questions. In a nutshell, I would say that the presuppostions behind dedication or infant baptism are as follows:

a. The first big question. Are we dedicated enough to pull through in our commitment to God with this child, or is God dedicated enough to help us pull through?

b. The second big question: Are we as parent(s) giving someone who already belongs to God back to him via dedication or are we making a declaration that this child by virtue of being part of a covenant family in a covenant community already belongs to him and this is simply our faithful response.

c. The third big question: Are we as the parent(s) dedicated enough to pull through for this child, or is the entire covenant community dedicated enough to pull through?

      In my opinion, dedication is largely--though not entirely--a human-centered response to a gift from God and infant baptism is largely--though not entirely---an affirmation of what God has done, is doing, and will continue to do. A read through the Canons of Dort will also demonstrate the divide between a largely human driven type of theology and a God-centered type of theology.

     As to the liberating part, yes. It does not all depend on the faithfulness of me and my family to raise this child, but rather depends on the faithfulness of a promise-keeping God. The first can easily lead to striving and anxiety, and the second to a steady restfulness. Of course, some Reformed people can get rather presumptuous here, and that is always the ever-present danger, as some live like hellians and think that their baptism will cause God to turn a blind eye.

Thanks for asking the important question.

JS

 

 

Thanks, Roger! Completely agree that we shouldn't be offended by the way others celebrate these holidays (I LOVED a good Easter Egg hunt growing up). But I also hope to be on the lookout for ways I can share what Christmas and Easter mean for me as a Jesus follower. 

It’s interesting to observe how people celebrate Easter, as well as Christmas.  I don’t think it is necessary to be offended by people who make Easter into a holiday of their own making.  For many, Easter is no more than a nice opportunity for family get-togethers and an opportunity to do something special for the children and grandchildren. Chocolate Easter bunnies are still standard Easter fare for many Americans and Canadians.  Even the U.S. president has a wonderful Easter egg hunt on the White House lawn.

For many North Americans, Easter is not a religious day of remembrance. The Christian message carries no meaning for them.  So why would they be inclined to celebrate it as such, any more than we would be inclined to celebrate Muslim or Jewish holidays according to their tradition.  North American culture is increasingly becoming multi cultural and multi religious.  The fact that North American businesses and work places give their employees off on these dates does not necessitate how these holidays should be spent.  So for increasing numbers of people, these holy days are becoming holidays, a time to enjoy family and friends.

I’ve heard it said that the date for Christmas was originally a pagan holiday that Christians chose to celebrate the birth of Jesus on.  So today we see, increasingly, our culture celebrating their own celebration on the date we celebrate the birth of Jesus on.  Perhaps it’s best if we just all get along together without taking offense. 

My husband's favorite as well!

posted in: A Cure for Busy

Thanks, for this Joshua. I'm going to share it with my family during devotions. I think it will lead to a wonderful discussion!

I've recently been enjoyed the song by Jonny Diaz entitled "Just Breathe". (You can find the video by clicking here). At first I wanted to turn it off because the beat was soooo busy and I just didn't want to hear that in my busy world. But, then, as I listened further, I was blessed by the words that tell us to "just breathe .. come and rest at My feet ... and be .. just be". All we really need is to "just breathe".

 

This resonates with Syd's reflections. The "peace of God" overcomes. Lay down what is good and find what is best.

posted in: A Cure for Busy

Yes, a beautiful testimony.
I long for this for all of us.

What a beautiful testimony! Thanks for sharing it. 

It's a wonderful vision for Safe Church Ministry as well, that congregations would be the safest places on earth. Amen, may it be so. I share your "deepest longings" that thousands of believers would express similar sentiments about their congregations.

Unfortunately, it's far too common that congregations are not safe places. I've heard story after story from those who felt compelled to leave their congregation because it was not safe. A woman once expressed  to me how much she loved sitting on her porch and looking down the hill where she could see her church building. But now, she said through her tears, seeing the church building only makes her feel "sick to her stomach" because of the abuse she experienced there at the hands of a church leader. 

I will join you in praying and working to make all of our congregations safe and nurturing places for everyone; communities reflecting the truth that we are one body in Christ. We need one another, and we flourish together, as each one does his or her part. Safe Church loves to say that it takes all of us, working together, to make a congregation truly safe.

I could not agree more.  Our children, the "youth of our denomination," can be and will be more affected and guided, whether for good or bad or some of each, by their family, a critically important extension of which, especially in the CRC perhaps, is their local congregation.

Most CRC kids don't really know (feel) what it means to be part of the CRC denomination, but they do know (feel) what it means to be part of (or not part of if that is the case) their local congregation.

Thanks Syd.

 

Those are great suggestions, Diane. Thanks for adding another direction to the list. My favorite faith nurturing books to read with young children are the God Loves Me books. (Look for an upcoming post about the ways those books are impacting three children--and their families!) For parents/caregivers looking ways to connect children's literature with faith stories I highly recommend the Storypath site which lists more than 100 book titles for infants through teens along with ideas for how to use the stories as part of a faith nurturing conversation. 

I love that you mention Chronicles of Narnia. I grew up with my Dad reading me those books and the story style in which they are written (full of adventure, conflict, etc.) was incredibly helpful in my faith development. 

Thanks for the thoughtful comment and call to be bold, Esther. 

  Is it possible that we as Christians are too passive about letting our religious holiday be "perverted" into something it's not? We look the other way as Christmas becomes about Santa Claus and we shrug when the Easter Bunny gets all the attention. We join in with the commercialism. I have asked a  non Christian friend "Why are you celebrating a Christian holiday? Would you celebrate a  Islamic holiday?  If you did, do you think a Muslim would be OK with that, especially if you weren't on board with the meaning of it?"  I then went on to explain why I celebrate the holiday and its importance to me. It's a conversation we should have more often, maybe even in line as we buy the Easter candy. 

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