Proper review of Redekop required
Re “Proper book review required” (Letters, February). I haven’t read Paul Doerksen’s book yet, but I did read John Redekop’s review (Crosscurrents, October), and Joe Wiebe’s extensive letter commenting on Redekop’s views (February). John once went with a group of Mennonites to see Warren Allmand, a cabinet member in Ottawa. They had experience working with First Nations people and thought they might have something useful to contribute to the government. Allmand gave them a substantial chunk of his time. He said it was rare to have callers not asking for themselves but offering something for others.
Now, what were John and his friends doing at that point if not taking their faith into the realm of public policy, loving in a practical way their First Nations neighbours and their cabinet member neighbours? May we all do likewise.
North Vancouver, B.C.
Re “Proper review of book required” (Letters, February). I am amazed and pained that a position John Redekop took would result in an acerbic, frontal attack. I respectfully suggest that Mr. Wiebe slowly and carefully read 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4:30–32, then take a long reflective walk. I am certain this would result in an apology. I will look for it in a subsequent issue of the Herald.
Critic misses mark
Wiebe says I omit anything about Doerksen’s book. I invite readers to consider these few excerpts from my review, and then evaluate Wiebe’s statement for themselves:
“Winnipeg theologian Paul Doerksen has written a very well-informed analysis of the political theology of John Howard Yoder and Oliver O’Donovan.”
“This timely comparison of Yoder, the radical Anabaptist ethicist and theologian, and Oliver O’Donovan, the eminent British Anglican scholar, is important for Anabaptists.”
“Despite its shortcomings,…this book should be read by all students of church-state relations, found in all church, college, and seminary libraries, and studied by pastors and Christian politicians.”
Wiebe writes that “What we call ‘political’ and ‘theological’ are not separate realms.” Here our views differ markedly. I disagree with those few Anabaptist writers who want to equate political and religious and thus go back to the medieval and early Catholic fusion of church and state. If I understand Wiebe (and for that matter parts of Yoder’s and O’Donovan’s writings) correctly, that is what they advocate. Jesus, we note, made a sharp distinction: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest” (John 18:36).
Christian ethics must be applied consistently in both realms, but operationally the fallen political realm does not function according to the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount. It seems that Wiebe thinks it should and can, and therefore his harshest criticism of my review and of me grows out of my rejection of that assertion. I believe that the church of Jesus Christ is the redeemed realm and that the political realm, while established by God as his “servant” and “agent” (Romans 13) and for his purposes, is part of the fallen world.
Wiebe writes: “Simply put, Redekop uses Doerksen’s book to smuggle his own brand of political liberalism into the MB church.” This statement is false on several counts. Nothing is smuggled; I state my positive as well as my critical views clearly and fully. My political views are clearly spelled out in my book Politics Under God. I assume that Wiebe has read it. Also, I am not a supporter of most of liberalism.
Wiebe adds that “Redekop claims that the triumph of Christ is irrelevant to national governments.” I did not make any such statement and I have often stated the opposite. Even if the political realm necessarily functions according to a sub-Christian ethic, God’s requirements of governments are highly relevant to national governments. I have for decades believed that “while secular governments are outside the perfection of Christ, they are not outside the perfection of God’s love. Governments function outside the realm of redemption but not outside the realm of God’s concern and compassion” (Politics Under God, 33). Further, “Christian citizens constantly urge non-Christians, including rulers, to accept as much as possible of the Christian ethic in the practicing of their craft” (83). I devote an entire chapter to this issue: “What Does God Require of Governments?” (Chapter 4).
Significantly it is Yoder who has asserted “Jesus did not provide a social ethic relevant to the continuing life of social communities” – including governments (The Politics of Jesus, 162). It is also Yoder who asserts the “political irrelevance” of “the consistent Christian pacifist” (The Christian Witness to the State, 7).
Let me briefly mention only two more items. Wiebe claims that I make “Christ’s lordship irrelevant to politics and society.” I have asserted and believe precisely the opposite. Wiebe adds that “Politics, according to Redekop and political liberalism ‘is merely the competition of will.’” That statement is a distortion of liberalism and is certainly untrue about my views.
John H. Redekop
Canadian culture is a place of privilege, not purgatory
Re “Welcome to sociological purgatory” (Intersection, February). I applaud Phil Wagler’s encouragement to pray and respond in faith as per Peter’s prayer in Acts 4:29–30, but not for the same reasons he proposes.
I have at least two concerns. The first relates to a soft-embedded racism in reference to how projected immigration rates affect the church. It appears the article is written to Euro-Canadian MBs about non-Euro-Canadians of various faith persuasions, who Phil suggests may be the most passionate about their spiritual beliefs, as if this were a negative descriptor of our new internationals. Reference to Sikhs during Diwali and Muslims during Ramadan, together with earlier comments about the growth of non-Christian communities in Canada, present these people groups in a negative manner – even to the extent their presence constitutes for us an environment described as “sociological purgatory.” Such language is disturbing in that it projects fear of those who do not share faith in Jesus Christ.
Secondly, the article renders the Christian community as a victim of sociological forces, whipped to and fro, praying white-knuckled prayers of deliverance from “purgatory”; a most unfortunate and untrue construal of social realities for Christians in Canada.
Our provincial and federal governments increasingly recognize that religious convictions are a matter of public truth that is capable of shaping public policy – all in the interests of a post-secular cooperative multi-culturalism. As a Christian community, we are being cordially invited to speak our mind. What more can we ask? That we can engage others of various ethno-cultural origins and religious persuasions in the process is a privilege.
So yes, let’s pray that we may speak with great boldness; that God would stretch out his hand. However, let’s not play the victim card; we are not desperate and fearful. Such a posture does injustice to Christians of other lands whose troubles are most real. Rather, let’s with thanksgiving recognize God’s immense goodness: we are privileged beyond reason to enjoy life in a cosmopolitan society that respects and upholds our most cherished beliefs.
Appreciated: ongoing creation focus
We use the MB Herald as a basis for discussion in Sunday school, and since I teach I likely also get the most from your magazine as I think and pray through the material in preparation for class. Special thanks for the article “God saw that it was good” (January) as it ties the original work of creation to God’s ongoing work in our lives – a creation we often do not appreciate enough.
Wanted: real scientific awareness
Re About this issue (January). The many who call evolution a theory display a total lack of knowledge of what a scientific theory really is. A scientific theory involves three things:
- The use of a model (It may be analogous, mathematical, abstract, etc.).
- Making untestable assumptions.
- Inter-relating known scientific laws.
None of the articles dealt with the science/religion issue at all. They all had to do with evolutionism and not science. Obviously there is no conflict whatsoever between the Bible and legitimate science. You see, evolutionism:
- Has nothing to do with science.
- Is against all we know about science (e.g., contrary to all known laws and principles in science).
- Is for the most part, vehemently anti-scientific.
It is probably wiser to try to resolve these issues by at least a modicum of knowledge of what real science is all about.
Crime and communion cause grief
Re “Living through multiple griefs” (Viewpoint, February). Within 3 weeks, I lost both the woman who gave birth to me and the young woman to whom I had given birth. Mom died from complications of cancer. Cassie was killed instantly when the driver of the car she was in lost control of the car.
The aftermath of Cassie’s death was horrible. Police laid charges and our family was accused of “not being Christian” for involving the legal system. But we had no say.
It was very painful to hear the young woman plead “not guilty” in court many times. The final day in court was on the same date as my precious Cassie’s interment anniversary, several years later. The most hurtful experience was that an MB church baptized this young woman prior to the final court appearance and sentencing. How can a person take communion when they are not right with fellow Christian believers? Why was I accused of being the “bad one”?
This young woman did apologize and tried to make amends, and I have forgiven her. But the pain extends to my life right now, every day, almost seven years later.
Cassie was a believer. She was baptized and did her best to lead a Christian life. I am grateful that my parents are in heaven with Cassie. I can hardly wait until I see her again, but right now, my life is filled with the joy of my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson.
God has been good to me, very good, and gracious.
Betty M. Duerrstein-Penner
St. Catharines, Ont.
Why wait to embrace life?
Re “Embracing a pro-death gospel?” (Editorial, February). A related aspect needs attention. Jesus came to bring life in abundance. The good news ought to lead to mastering sin in daily life. The exhortation is to be transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus.
At my age the body deteriorates normally. What example am I if my inner man is anxious, honour-seeking, grumbling, and dissatisfied in life’s situations? However, my spirit is renewed day by day. The good spiritual deeds, praising and joyfully singing to God, flow naturally from the inner man that is seated in heavenly places.
No doubt, as humans we must accept death, but why wait for the last hour to repent?