Grieving the loss of seminary
Re “MBBS-Fresno transfers U.S. seminary program to Fresno Pacific University” (Seminary news, March). I’m hurting over the essential loss of ownership of our seminary. The once shining example of a global MB community – now a victim of economics and increasing individualism among MBs – has been turned over to one specific part of a conference we divested from some 10 years ago.
A rich identity has been ingrained into me [through MB Bible camps, schools, programs, and the seminary]. This identity is eroding and I don’t like it. I like being MB. I like playing the Mennonite game. I like tracing my spiritual roots back to Molotschna, and my cultural roots back to Prussia. I like that we’re theologically and culturally unique, even from other Mennonite groups.
It’s not good enough for me to send my children to mainstream evangelical institutions. There are important things I disagree with in the larger evangelical context, and I want to pass on the specific flavour of Christianity that MBs have. In the next 20 years, will this even be possible? Will all our institutions divest or sell out to the evangelical equivalent of Walmart? Who will protect and preserve our evangelical and Anabaptist identity? How will we train pastors who come from a general nondenominational Bible school, and who bring their own biases with them? Will we become so independent that we “stop meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing”? Will we become so self-centred that we all turn into “community churches” because we’ve simply grown apart?
We need to support our current institutions. We need to promote community over the individual. We need to let our leaders know how upset we are when things like this happen. We need to gather together more often than just at our national conference. We need to take more ownership, and back off from getting “specialists” to do everything for us. We need to be the church – the MB church – and we need to do it before the next Bible camp or school closes.
CCMBC course correction needed
Re “Governance structure hurting us” (Letters, March). Although our current conference structure contains some positive features, it seems to fall short on several counts. First, it’s based on a business model, with a hierarchical structure: a CEO, managers, staff, and customers. Our conference, of course, is not a business, nor is the church. Accordingly, we shouldn’t expect Mennonite Brethren to be led by corporate CEOs, elected or hired.
Second, we’ve lost most of our collegial leadership. I remember many times, during my almost 40 years of involvement on national MB boards, how we challenged one another, learned from one another, collectively studied God’s Word, and prayed corporately. With the various perspectives, demographics, and regional orientations represented, we sought to practice brotherhood.
Third, one detects a great fear that the executive board might become involved in actual [hands-on] ministry. From personal experience, I can say that if, in times past, governing boards had only developed policies and not helped put them into operation in practical ways, there would have been no Mennonite Educational Institute, no Columbia Bible College, and no Stillwood Camp and Conference Centre. For me, the biblical teaching on servant leadership, symbolized by our Lord’s use of the basin and towel, involves more than developing policies, hiring a CEO, and receiving reports.
Fourth, the job description of our conference CEO is surely greater than any one person can deliver. Maybe our conference needs not only a replacement CEO but also some course correction!
John H. Redekop
Disappointing film reviews
Re “Great stories on screen for 2009” (Crosscurrents, March). I was somewhat disappointed by the March movie reviews. Instead of being enlightened as to whether the movies were worthy of my time, I ended up more confused. Aren’t we, by encouraging others to watch these [objectionable] movies, just trying to find something good in what we don’t need to subject our hearts and minds to?
I’ve enjoyed many secular movies that weren’t offensive and contained great lessons. But I was disappointed in some of the films reviewed. If we’re not careful when we look for good in something wrong/bad, we open ourselves to harmful change in ourselves rather than allow God to use us to change the world.
Responses to Darwin
Editor’s Note: Due to the unusually high volume of letters received in response to Waldo Berg’s article, “A plea for understanding: Is there a Christian view of Darwin?” (Crosscurrents, March), we are unable to publish all comments. For further discussion on this topic, see our online forum at www.mbforum.ca/topic/3034.html.
Waldo Berg states that the most courageous and honest response [to Darwin’s theories] is to try to integrate the Bible with science. While I agree there are no contradictions between the Bible and nature, this doesn’t mean we automatically accept everything science labels as fact and then adapt the Bible to agree with it. Those scientific ideas that agree with the Bible are possibly true. Those that outright contradict it are definitely not.
Our focus should be on faithfulness to biblical truth, not harmonizing the Bible with worldly beliefs. Our source of truth should always be the Bible first, everything else second. If not, we’ll constantly be changing our view of the Bible to coincide with whatever ideas science currently accepts as truth. We’ll have denigrated the Bible to a subordinate second place, at best. That isn’t courageous at all. That is selling out the absolute truth of God for the fickleness of human reasoning.
I greatly appreciated Waldo Berg’s article. Having pastored or interim pastored for almost 35 years, I’ve found myself in both the creationist and theistic evolution camps. On several occasions, I’ve seen well-educated people come to the church only to turn away when confronted by a very literalist teaching on Genesis instead of the good news about Jesus Christ. How much time, effort, and money have been spent trying to justify debatable interpretations of Genesis when the real issue is the spiritual need for Christ.
Berg rightly identified a false dichotomy between Darwin’s theory of evolution and Christianity. I recently read a book by Denis O. Lamoureaux called I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution. His major premise is that God has always spoken to his people in the scientific language of the day. Because of this, there are many references in the sacred text to a “three-tiered universe” made up of heaven above, the earth in the middle, and hell below. There are also references to the sun revolving around the earth, to a solid dome of firmament above the earth, and to the earth resting on pillars. All of these have been understood as metaphorical, and not an exact or scientific description of our world.
The purpose of the Genesis account was not to give a scientific explanation for the beginning of life, rather it was to state that God is Creator of all that exists. God is Creator, but his methodology hasn’t been revealed to us and maybe that’s because it isn’t important for us to know.
I also wish to heartily affirm Mr. Berg when he suggests that our task should be to integrate the truth we discover disclosed in the natural world with that given to us in the Bible. It challenges us to read with discernment and sensitivity to what God might be trying to say to us.
I agree with some of what Waldo Berg described as Darwin’s “going where the evidence led him.” From Darwin’s insightful observations we see adaptation within species and alterations among kinds of animals, from where we have the terms natural selection, survival of the fittest, and micro-evolution. This kind of evolution is science, which can be tested through repeated processes of observation.
However, where Darwin falters is in his assumption that this process can account for changes between species, and that these changes must occur over billions and billions of years. And it is this kind of “macro-evolution” (which is not scientific, since the origin of species cannot be reproduced and observed) where we need to draw a distinction between types of evolution. The term “evolution” cannot be applied to both types of change, yet most people endeavour to do so.
A theological argument against this second form of evolution is that in order for macro-evolution to occur, there must have been billions of years of death to accomplish it. However, the Bible makes it clear that death entered the world because of Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12). So either the Bible is right, or Darwin is right.
Therefore, depending upon one’s definition and view of evolution, there is definite incompatibility between evolution and the Genesis account. What began more than 200 years ago is sadly still happening today in society – a low view of Scripture.
Spruce Grove, Alta.
Science is not the enemy of Christian faith. What many Christians object to is the “evolution” of science into an ideology called naturalism. In the worldview of naturalism, evolution is an excuse to eliminate God from the picture entirely. You don’t have to read much of Dawkins or Hitchens to understand they have no room for God and are committed to atheism.
Our responsibility as thinking Christians is not to put our finger to the wind to see which way it is blowing, but to examine the evidence for ourselves and come to conclusions that are truly compatible with our worldview. As for the evidence, naturalism has run into several brick walls in attempting to explain how we got here.
I agree that Christians should not see ourselves as enemies of science. But we can’t be committed to the naturalism that much of science now embraces and still believe there’s a God who created the heavens and the earth. The two worldviews are clearly contradictory.
Maple Ridge, B.C.
God’s foolishness is greater than the world’s wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:25)! I love science but there is a difference between good science and bad science. For example, the theory of evolution contradicts the proven second law of thermodynamics which states that “everything is in a constant state of decay” and that there is a tendency toward disorder.
Belief in the Scriptures supercedes our need to understand and explain what God clearly says is beyond our greatest wisdom. Once we start to bend Scripture to help us understand our world from a scientific point of view, where will it stop? The story of the flood will be next. How can the sun stand still? Then the resurrection of Jesus and any prophetic message of the second coming [will be in question]. Science fits into God but God doesn’t have to fit into science.
I was involved in teaching, mostly in public schools, for about 38 years. During the time I was teaching high school biology, I always strongly recommended faith in creation rather than evolution or the Oparin theory for the appearance of life on earth. I found the “circular” proof for the age of rocks and fossils to be rather confusing and unsatisfactory.
Then I was given the challenge of teaching earth science. I soon discovered that whatever the method used for the dating of rocks, the results were very unreliable.
Now – at 82 – I’m still reading and learning, but am more firmly convinced than ever that God created the world and all that is in it in six days of 24 hours each. And God continues to do things beyond the understanding of common humanity.
Waldo Berg states that “while we believe God of creation could have said, ‘Poof,’ and there you have the world, most scientists say the evidence is clear that he didn’t do it that way.” I suspect most of those scientists would also say that a lot of things in the Bible “didn’t happen that way.” Imagine handing a wooden stick to a group of scientists and asking them to determine what it was. After a number of tests, they would conclude that it was indeed a wooden stick. Imagine their surprise when that stick suddenly turned into a snake!
It’s been 150 years since Darwin’s theory was published. I don’t think it’s wise to use this last century and a half of scientific evidence to explain our infinite God.
Port Rowan, Ont.
We run a youth drop-in centre, and are regularly bombarded by [questions about evolution] from the teens. One of the biggest things standing in their way of coming to Christ is belief in evolution. They see the logic behind it and where it ends up. Either God did what he said he did in the Bible, or he is a liar.
Don’t compromise the Word of God simply because someone in a white lab coat says it’s not true. Not all scientists believe in evolution, but many are silenced, lose their jobs, and are persecuted even for just considering creation and intelligent design. There are many resources and places you can find information about creation science, such as Creation Ministries International, Answers in Genesis, and the Institute for Creation Research.