The impact of Pietism
In my recent article, “Pilgrim in Process” (Features, January), I expressed regret that it took me so long to begin reading some of the great classic authors like Augustine, à Kempis, Calvin, and Wesley. Somehow, in the article, Philip Jacob Spener became an English gentleman called Spenser. Spener, a 17th-century Lutheran pastor, was a leader in the emergence of German Pietism. This was a renewal movement that stressed the need for conversion, holiness of life, and a return to biblical preaching by godly pastors. This movement brought about spiritual renewal in the German and Mennonite colonies of Southern Russia, and contributed greatly to the formation of the MB church in 1860.
Pietism provided the historical roots for the Wesleyan revival, the Great Awakening in America, the holiness movement, and the 20th century charismatic movement. Spener’s Pia Desideria is a classic which has stood the test of time.
Herald relevant to 20-somethings
Re “A quick read of our readers” (Features, January). There were some very harsh words used by respondents to the recent reader survey. I disagree with the comment that the Herald is “irrelevant to anyone under 40”; I’m 24 and almost always read the entire magazine. While I disagree with some of the authors’ viewpoints about 40 percent of the time, I still find the magazine interesting and thought-provoking.
Some of my personal disagreement stems from the fact I don’t feel the MB church is a perfect fit for my theological views. No earthly church is going to perfectly fit all my views, or anyone else’s. That’s OK. That’s why hearty – but not angry – discussion is good for a Christian magazine.
Holy living vs. holy buildings
Re “No pagan worship in the sanctuary” (Letters, January). Recent letters address the role of church buildings in a multi-faith society. There is an obvious concern that we don’t accept or blend other religions with our own – and rightly so.
But is closing the doors to our buildings the right answer to this concern? Is the Old Testament understanding of the temple our guide for use of church meeting spaces? While Jesus’ life and teaching renew the OT emphasis on the people of God and their role in the world, he continually pushed against an over-reliance on the religious structures represented by the temple. The temple, with all its pious religiosity, failed to represent the people of God to the world. The curtain was torn in two after all (Mark 15:38). The people of God were left without a building. Thus Paul talks about our bodies as “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
A church building doesn’t create or sustain faithfulness. We need holy living, not holy buildings. And let’s be clear: sharing space is not the same as sharing a god (e.g. joint worship/prayer). We can still maintain our beliefs and practices while sharing a building – look at any church that rents public space.
In fact, perhaps sharing space is exactly what we need to share God in the proper sense – to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, the “good news” that “the kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15). Whether it’s through creative art, welcoming atmosphere, or general hospitality, we have the opportunity – through our buildings – to show God’s love to all people.
Port Coquitlam, B.C.
God will make a new earth
Re “Just passin’ through?” (Features, December).Thank you for a stimulating, well-written article about what the return of Christ means. I agree with the thought that we should be engaging our world rather that thinking of escaping from it. But this earth will become more godless and more corrupt before Christ comes again.
The earth is not groaning for people to make it better, but for God to make it new. Isaiah 65:17 says, “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” 2 Peter 3:5–10 tells us God made the world by the word of his command; he destroyed the ancient world with a flood and will destroy this world at his second coming with fire. Hebrews 1:10–12 speaks of God folding up the heavens and the earth like an old cloak and discarding them.
We’re to take care of this earth (Genesis 1:28) and of our earthly body because it’s God’s temple (1 Corinthians 3:16). But our hope is not in this world, it’s in the new heaven and the new earth and in a new body.
I don’t believe God will spare the church from growing persecution and hardship as the day of his coming draws near. When Jesus returns, it will be a day of judgment for everything that fell when sin entered this world. And when sin and death are gone, that will bring liberation.
Don’t downplay destruction
Re “Six freak-out-free ways to read Revelation” (Features, December). It’s good to take the full character of God (or what we understand of him) into account when reading Revelation; that includes – among many other characteristics – his great love, forgiveness, grace, righteousness, and justice. I think author Angeline Schellenberg avoided the last two.
Does Revelation wish destruction on unbelievers? No. But it does remind us that God is totally righteous and will have justice: this will include the division of saved from the unsaved, and the awful destruction of the unsaved. Destruction isn’t a warm and fuzzy word, so it’s dangerous to downplay it in Revelation.
I agree that much of Revelation’s goal is a call to repentance. But remember that a healthy fear of God (i.e., reverent respect for his ways) is a correct response to his whole self being revealed to the world. I want to caution us not to forget the terror and finality for unbelievers when he comes, and I hope Revelation encourages believers to remember and obey Christ’s Great Commission.
Read as authors intended
Re “Taking a less literal approach” (Letters, November). There is no need to take sides in the literal/metaphorical interpretation debate regarding Scripture: it’s a false dichotomy. Both woodenly literal and purely metaphorical approaches to reading Scripture are equally in error – they both have the reader as the arbiter of what the passage is “really” saying.
“Literal” doesn’t mean “surface-level,” but reading the Bible as the authors intended it to be read, complete with elements of historical context, genre, literary devices, and, at times, metaphor. This means reading with the humility to recognize that the Word of God may be speaking a truth to you that’s uncomfortable or challenging.
Article answered my prayer
Re “The accidental church planter” (Homepage, October). I was thrilled to read how the Lord has blessed the church planting efforts of Willard and Sheryl Hasmatali. Ever since I read about this church plant, I’ve kept Evangelism Canada’s pamphlet by my devotional materials and have prayed for this couple and their sending church in Moose Jaw. A few days before the October copy of the Herald arrived, I prayed the Lord would somehow help me find out how this work was getting along, and the answer was the article. It’s so touching to know how God has been working; just thinking about the fact that there already is a church building, plus new believers and a baptism is awesome!
Our job, not the government’s
Regarding Carl Friesen’s review of An Evangelical Social Gospel? Finding God’s Story in the Midst of Extremes (Crosscurrents, January), I agree that the gospel has social ramifications because Jesus transforms lives. However, it does not follow that “we are called as [Christ’s] people to participate in the redemption of creation by building just education systems, political structures, business institutions, and so on.”
We are called to “participate in the redemption of creation” – but not necessarily by the means the book’s author, Tim Suttle, identifies. An increasing number of believers are endorsing Christianized socialism – or, “Leftianity.” This pseudo-Christian ideology rests on the false premise that God expects government to look after citizens – always through forced redistribution of wealth – when Romans 13 and related passages teach that from secular government the Lord requires simply law and order.
Historically, socialism has consistently proved to retard a nation’s productivity, and increase the selfishness of citizens – who come to believe it’s government’s job to look after them. In such a milieu, “love thy neighbour” collapses into pointing someone in need to a government agency.
We need more mentors
Re “A leader with mission-tinted glasses” (Interview, September). Willy Reimer asks, “How is MBBS going to help us train up leaders to reach Canada for Christ?” 2 Timothy 2:2 says, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” – in other words, through mentoring.
MB Biblical Seminary has encouraged churches to identify such individuals (as Paul refers to) in their own congregations who have potential pastoral and leadership skills, and to encourage and support these persons to develop those gifts.
I pray that MB church planters will be spawned from healthy churches that also appreciate the contributions made by “first-rate” MB leaders of the past (see “Cloudy with a chance of witnesses,” Editorial, May), and more recently by the likes of Stuart Murray (author of The Naked Anabaptist).
I suspect Bruce Guenther, MBBS Canada interim president, would be in agreement and approve of this outworking of Paul’s instruction to Timothy.
George H. Epp