A Message to Canadians From Religious Leaders in Response to Covid19

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Canadians are experiencing the devastating impact of COVID-19 in what has become a rapidly evolving crisis. Understandably, this crisis has brought about feelings of anxiety, apprehension, and fear. Critical elements of our daily lives are being thrown into uncertainty: health, employment, financial security, recreational activities, as well as our ability to gather as worshiping communities.

In view of these difficulties, several Canadian religious leaders, including Darren Roorda from the Christian Reformed Church in North America, drafted a message of hope, gratitude and solidarity to all people who call Canada home.

Attached please find the statement (in English and French) as it was published by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. It was also released by the Canadian Council of Churches. 

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This message from Canada's religious leaders can be considered generic fluff. Given the broad spectrum of denominations, sects and organizations, we can expect little else. I would hope that a more Christ-centred message is coming from an organization such as The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada of which the CRCNA is a part.

To quote the letter: "We draw hope from a variety of sources: from our religious beliefs, the love of our families, the relationships with friends and the work we do. Each of these, and others as well, provides rays of hope to our daily lives."

I would hope that as Reformed Christians, we draw our hope, our rest, our peace, from Christ. Psalm 46 comes to mind, best known as Martin Luther's 'A Mighty Fortress'.  God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way ...  Our hope comes from God's own words: "Be still, and know that I am God."

We draw our hope from just one source" Christ. That is the message that every Canadian and every global citizen needs to hear, and that is the message that the Church needs to convey to a broken, hurting, fearful world

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Thanks for the comments, Keith. As a matter of fact, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) was an equal partner and encourager to this "fluff." You see, in a cultural setting like Canada where "religion" in and of itself is often minimized, forgotten, or deliberately ignored, the concept of fighting for space to validate religion in any form is important. Augustine says that humans [all humans] have restless hearts until they find rest in God (Confessions, Book 1). I believe it. That some people chose to find a pseudo-religous answer in other faiths motivates me to speak to the truth in Christ, but at the same time to fight for a legitimate opportunity for the freedom of religion in our country, Canada. To do otherwise, would be to shoot our own religious construct - Protestantism - in the foot. That is why Bruce Clemenger (President of the EFC) thanked all of us in a video meeting yesterday as Evangelical leaders for signing the document. You can find a mirror copy of their release of the same statement here https://www.evangelicalfellowship.ca/Communications/Official-statements/....

How is it that we do not at all share a conception of "God" or "Creator" with Muslims, Sikhs, and Buddhists, but we jointly sign a document with such believers as if we are speaking of the same thing.  How is that not bearing false witness?  Is that not also a blaspheming of our Creator and God to lend credibility to these foreign and false conceptions of God?

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Eric, I would encourage you to read the reply I wrote to Keith, above. As well, I would note in the chain of Christian thinking throughout history that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin and 21st century reformed thinkers such as RC Sproul and others affirm that "all truth is God's truth." 

In Calvin's commentary on Titus 1:12, for example, Calvin states: “All truth is from God; and consequently, if wicked men have said anything that is true and just, we ought not to reject it; for it has come from God.” He expands on this idea in his Institutes of the Christian Religion:

Therefore, in reading profane authors, the admirable light of truth displayed in them should remind us, that the human mind, however much fallen and perverted from its original integrity, is still adorned and invested with admirable gifts from its Creator. If we reflect that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we will be careful, as we would avoid offering insult to him, not to reject or condemn truth wherever it appears (II.2.15)

But where that leaves us as Protestant leaders when a statement like this comes out is a posture of being careful that we do not affirm that which is clearly not true. I suspect that is why some may read this kind of a statement as "fluff" like Keith Knight uses. But, really that is the church being careful and not over-speaking.

In terms of process, that means that we as Evangelical leaders were given at least a week to preview and suggest edits to this statement so as to ensure we remained faithful to our fundamental Christian beliefs yet affirm that which is commonly true.

I hope this helps.

 

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Thanks for your response, Darren. While I do see some merit in having all religious leaders come together for a generic, light celebration of humanity in this joint statement, it is my hope that either the CRC independently or as part of a larger evangelical voice through the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada present the gospel to Canadians.

I cringe at the notion that the church needs to "be careful and not over-speaking". On the contrary; the Church needs to be strong and bold. The nation needs Christ, and those who are Christ-believers need to hear God's voice in Psalm 46: "Be still and know that I am God.

My hope is that the CRC and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada come out with their own statement, signed by all EFC members, that presents the gospel to the nation. Hope is found in Christ, not in religious institutions, family or friends ... as indicated in that ecumenical statement.

 

Hello Darren.  Thanks for interacting.  As to your response to Keith, I'm not sure what the statement that you signed has to do with the "fight for a legitimate opportunity for the freedom of religion in our country".  Perhaps I'm not understanding well what you were trying to communicate.  I share Keith's lack of admiration over the milquetoast nature of the statement and his concern over the misleading nature of Christian hope being at all tied to fickle human institutions and relationships.

I'm not sure how I have at all attempted to deny any of God's truth, so your citiations of affirmation that "all truth is God's truth" seem to me to miss the mark.  A hypothetical for you, somewhat crass: Do I rightly join pornographers in joint statements about the beauty of women because all truth is God's truth and women are indeed beautiful?  My concern lies in that the joint statement actually does not tell the truth.  Several lies are embedded in a joint statement like this.  First and foremost is the lie that Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jews, and Christians share a conception of God and Creator.  We absolutely do not, and I fail to find any biblical support for propping up a lie and promoting the illegitimate conceptions of God that false religions promote.  Did God indeed reveal himself as a jealous God?  Were God's OT people right to make common cause in prayer with the surrounding nations and their gods?  What commonality was their between God and Baal or Molech?  Would the Isrealites rightly have joined in calls to prayer to Baal or Molech? ("We earnestly pray..." "...let us pray...")  The document calls for everyone to trust "in the loving and ever merciful God".  Do Christians believe the God of Islam to be a loving and ever merciful God?  So meaningless is the document that even Buddhists signed it while not even believing in a Creator God.  No, I don't believe the document affirms truth at all, but rather affirms false religion and paints a false equivalence between the God of the Bible and false gods.

Never have I seen so many church leaders on the same page.  And a virus brought us here!

 

Rev. Dr. Roorda,

You signed the document, "The Rev. Dr. Darrin Roorda". Is there a fake Rev. Dr. Roorda out there?

"We urge all people in Canada to listen and follow attentively the directions of our public health officials and government leaders. We, as religious leaders, pledge to lead by example." The challenge to you is. 'Do you sanction the Canadian government's policy with the murder of babies?' That falls under your HGS paradigm and I would assume you would not sign on to that notion. So we should not always follow the directions of public health officials and this may be a case here as well. In politics there are tradeoffs and in this instance could be more harmful to society than the solutions our officials offer. I see this document as nothing other than a wish list of programs you could never get through with honest debate and legislation in ordinary times: the Socialist agenda. This is exactly what the Democrats in the US are trying to do under the guise of the Wuhan coronavirus legislation: reparations, illegal immigration funding, more welfare programs, Planned Parenthood funding, etc.  Really, I believe this document comes off as somewhat preachy and nothing more than a Socialist manifesto.

As to your appeal to Augustine and kin, regardless of your interpretation of some sort of common grace, our Patristic and Reformed fathers were very clear in achieving salvation and to where to find our hope: it's Jesus Christ. I don't see that testimony here.

Thank you for this, Darrin. I'm sorry you have to put up with the hostility of people whose views are not as generous as yours.

Don, Do you support Canadian health officials sanctioning abortion?

Brian, your question to me, in the context of this discussion strikes me as bizarre. I see from your earlier comments that you have some pretty strong opinions about the nature of government and especially the evils of socialism. I'm Canadian. People on both sides of the political spectrum here usually tend to look towards the centre, not the radical fringe, which to me is where your opinions belong. We have government controlled universal medical care, which people on both sides of the political spectrum cherish. I assume for you this is the epitome of the evils of socialism. Paul Verhoef's eloquent explanation below rings completely true to me.  I can't imagine anyone in this country, even conservative Christians, disagreeing with this document in spirit. I hope it clarifies things for you. 

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Brian, you don't know this, but it was I who asked for scripture to be, at minimum, referenced in this work because I so desire its inclusion. But it was not meant to be for the sake of a shared religious purpose. You know, the people Christ calls me to love even when they are a long way off from the truth - sort of like Paul "becoming all things to all people so as to win a few." You know the passage, I am sure.

As for my testimony - that is not the point of this communique. Nonetheless, know that my testimony to Christ as the only source of salvation and hope for anyone's life is crystal clear but again, is not the point of this paper.

I will take my time answering further considerations when they are laid out clearly, articulately and with thoughtfulness about a culture you understand.

Thanks for your communicaiton.

Darren, thanks for this good work. There has been some strong critique of this work in other Facebook places -- here's what I've written there in reply, for what it's worth. 
 

Sisters and Brothers in Jesus, I myself am glad that such a document as this is shared in Canada.  It calls for human solidarity, it invites words and acts of gratitude, and it calls us to live out of our living hope. As such, I am glad it is signed on to by the CRC-Canada. I think it resonates with my hope as a CRC person in Canada to 'stand together' in the midst of this current crisis. And by 'standing together', I do not mean believing the same thing; I mean working together for the common good and finding courage to do so in the acts of loving kindness we experience from and share with our neighbours.

I sense that one of the things that creates the concerns noted here is that this document is signed by people from other religious communities, and that this multiple-religious signing means that we have to hold to the 'lowest common denominator' of meaning.  I myself do not think that, just because a communal document is signed by various people, that signing it must mean that I understand ‘how it means’ in the exact same way as everyone else who signs it.  I do not need to think that what ‘God’ and ‘Creator’ means to me must mean the same thing as ‘God’ and ‘Creator’ (or even ‘hope’, ‘gratitude,’ etc) means to the other signer(s).  

With that in mind, I read the document (and would sign it) as a Christian.  And it seems to me that this document, if read as a Christian, is able to be read as fitting orthodox Christian theology (maybe it'd be good to hear quotes from it that I missed - that are clearly not fitting with being a Christian).  If it was written ONLY by Christians, for Christians, then I imagine it would have an even more Christian-specific posture/language/orientation (surely it would mention Jesus as the source of our hope, etc).  

But it is not written as a specifically Christian document – and that’s where I hear that many on this page are finding it complicated/problematic. I would note that, while it does not add the Christian-specific posture (Jesus is not mentioned), it also does not say things like “We all believe in the same God; we all believe the same things about the Creator and the creation.”  

My own work as a Christian chaplain in a multi-faith setting, working alongside of chaplains from 10 other global religions, means that I navigate the challenges presented in this document often.  How can we together write something together, that we hold commonly true?  We struggled with this when the University asked us to add in a document that we ‘celebrate all diversity.’  Some, including me, struggled with that phrase.  All diversity?  Do we celebrate that people believe different things about God (or don't believe in God at all?), celebrate that religious diversity?  Do we honestly celebrate all diversity?  I don’t.  So we asked to shift the document to say ‘we respect diversity.’  But even that could be pulled apart and argued with.  These are complicated matters, and I think this document demonstrates a good way forward – even if not perfect.

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My initial reaction to the document was not one of condemnation. I completely understand that a document signed by a wide range of religious institutions and organizations needs to be generic enough so that all can sign it.

I did express the hope that the CRC and other similarly evangelical minds would create a Reformed document that expresses our hope in Jesus Christ .... especially as we approach Easter.

God is at work through COVID 19. This is not only an appropriate time to convey that message to the nation, it is incumbant upon us to show the nation that our hope comes "in Christ alone. "

Or have we become ashamed of the gospel to the point that we will settle for politically correct niceties.