Let God be God –we have enough workers
Re “God is a worker” (Features, June). Ray Bystrom’s article suggests a desire to humanize God. To be sure, Christian godliness as per the fruit of the Spirit should manifest itself in the workplace, but that doesn’t equate to God being a worker.
Equating humans and God as workers helps level the playing field. However, it seems like a rather backhanded way of being followers of God because it tends to negate the fact that humans are created in the image of God. The idea should be for man to ascend towards God, rather than attempt to descend God to the level of man.
Too frequently, we portray the Godhead as the servant of humanity, presenting that fact as indicative of God’s loving kindness and grace. In the process, we de-emphasize God’s far greater gift – namely, the invitation to meet him in spirit and in truth so that he might permeate our souls.
It seems better that we save God to divinely bless our work rather than demote him to working status.
Reverse the direction of change
Re “Time for change” (Outfront, June). I found Ken Reddig’s article deeply disturbing. The article borders on pride by saying that the MB church is still growing while others are shrinking. It implies that numbers are becoming the important thing in our denomination.
What concerns me even more is the emphasis on change and the rationale for it. He writes, “our denomination has easily been one of the Mennonite churches most willing to change and accept change.” While we can be truly grateful that we now have more than 22 different language groups and that we love each other, it’s not necessarily a result of some of the other changes mentioned – such as our less literal view of Scripture and flexible theology.
Reddig begins his article by comparing our willingness to change with the changes that were made in the reform movement of the 19th century church in Russia. That’s a deceiving comparison because the church then was willing to change from a church that had become extremely worldly to a church that emphasized “conversion.” It called for change that would demonstrate a movement towards a Bible-centred lifestyle.
We’re doing the opposite today. We’ve allowed “the world” to creep into the church to the extent that we’re starting to act so much like the world that there is little or no difference between the church and the world.
We need desperately to get back to the Scriptures and heed Paul’s admonition in Romans 12:2. It’s imperative that we reverse the direction of change and once again become a church that has its life and theology biblically correct.
Re “Don’t squint – use the proper lenses” (Intersection, June). James Toews presents four hermeneutical principles for biblical interpretation. The third and fourth are questionable.
His third principle is “the lens of community” and he says, “Submission to the community is a hermeneutical prerequisite.” While respect for the community’s authority is important, we must remember that this community, unlike the Bible, is fallible. MBs appeared in response to the spiritual decadence of the Mennonite community. Submission to the community must be balanced with the duty of the individual to call the community to account when it’s unfaithful to God’s Word.
Toews’ fourth principle, “theology on the run,” is an excuse for neglecting the Bible’s truth claims. The author says, “Pure and faultless religion is not about theories – it’s about lives transformed.” The dichotomy between theory and practice is unbiblical. Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). In Paul’s letters, his teaching of right living often followed a foundation of right belief.
In an age when postmodernism teaches us to be skeptical of all truth claims, let us have the courage to be the people of God’s truth.
New Westminster, B.C.
Diversity of political thought necessary
Re “Open letter from MCC” (Letters, June). I appreciated the fact that MCC directed this letter about Afghanistan to us. MCC’s unique perspective can help us be better informed as taxpayers, voters, or office holders – as well as in discussions with neighbours, relatives, friends, and co-workers. By contrast, there would be a risk in MCC speaking to the public “with one voice” on a topic with no clear answers. The latter could create an impression that the church – or this part of it – is monolithic and only open to people who share certain viewpoints on government policies.
The church’s scriptural mandate is best served when churches and church organizations permit diversity of political thought, and we all stay focused on fulfilling our part of that mandate. Jesus’ life provided many examples of how to sidestep that which distracts from the church’s unique mission. We should try to follow suit.
Christians and unions have a lot in common
Re “Can there be a Christian labour union?” (Features, June). Labour unions and Christians have far more in common with each other than many are willing to acknowledge. One of the biggest issues for unions is “fairness” in the workplace and the Bible clearly speaks about treating people fairly, both in and out of the workplace.
Even Christian employers can be guilty of leaving the values of fairness on the shelf where their Bible sits, instead of bringing them into the workplace. When this happens, a union is a viable option to force Christian employers into applying biblical standards.
Ironically then, even a secular institution like a union can actually bring the workplace closer to Christian values. If employers would treat employees fairly in the first place, unions might be redundant. However, since people are who they are, a union has a role to play, whether it’s called secular or Christian.
Maybe unions can be criticized for their confrontational style, but employers who abuse their employees are no better, even if their actions are non-confrontational and done quietly or secretly.
St. Catharines, Ont.
Mennonite should remain an ethnic term
Re “Severing our oneness in Christ” (Letters, May). Michael Morson laments the fact that 51 percent of poll respondents believe “Mennonite” should remain an ethnic term. He adds that he “was encouraged by Bruce Guenther’s challenge” at the BFL study conference in Abbotsford last November.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t agree with Guenther’s assertion that all who join a Mennonite church should be called ethnic Mennonites and those now known as ethnic Mennonites should be called DGR (Dutch-German-Russian) people.
Joining a church group doesn’t change one’s ethnicity. The Chinese remain Chinese. Indo-Canadians remain Indo-Canadians. Our congregations now include many ethnicities. Such diversity is biblical.
But one ethnic name, Mennonite, is also the denomination’s name! In 1986, in A People Apart, I addressed this problem. I suggested some new denominational names, noting that if we failed to act, we might eventually have a Mennonite Brethren conference with few churches using that name. That’s happening. Simultaneously, we might lose any distinctive theology.
I’m a Mennonite ethnically. I have no other ethnic identity. I’m also a Mennonite by faith. I know many ethnic Mennonites who are not Mennonites by faith. In the USSR I met one who was an official in the Communist Party. We happily shared our ethnic commonalities while differing sharply concerning Christianity. The Jewish situation is similar. Some ethnic Jews are believing Jews, some only ethnic.
An ethnic Mennonite remains a Mennonite even in a different church. Over time, and especially with intermarriage, absorption can, of course, occur – both ways – but that doesn’t change the basic reality.
For a full explanation of Mennonite ethnicity, with its subgroups, readers can consult the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. The Harvard experts and other ethnologists I’ve read don’t agree with Professor Guenther’s assertions. They identify his “DGR” Mennonites as a major ethnic subgroup.
John H. Redekop