Letters September 2013

What itching ears want to hear 

Re “Film on hot topic questions actions arising from belief” (Crosscurrents, July). I am writing concerning Kevin Miller’s film Hellbound? I’m deeply concerned that it’s been showing in one of our MB churches.

My wife and I saw the movie. From a production perspective, I would give it a high rating. However, from a theological perspective, it was traumatically unsettling. Hellbound? tears away the validity and authority of Scripture. The underlying argument seems to be “If God is a God of love, he really couldn’t have prepared a hell to punish sinners.” However, the Bible has as much to say about God’s wrath, justice, and judgment as it does about his love.

The movie also promotes the universalism of salvation. But if everyone gets to heaven, we could dispense with evangelism and missions!

Reviewer Adrienne Lloyd says that “Hellbound? offers a fantastic starting point from which to explore this topic.” I believe it’s more important to start teaching the fundamentals of the subject in our churches. Or are we afraid to?

I’m deeply concerned that, according to 2 Timothy 4:3, we are in a time when we cannot endure sound doctrine and are heaping up for ourselves teachers who will satisfy our itching ears. If the Scriptures are too threatening, we find ways to make them more palatable. Hellbound? does that.

Art Isaac
Abbotsford, B.C.

Outside our confession of faith?

Re “Film on hot topic questions actions arising from belief” (Crosscurrents, July).

It’s disappointing that Adrienne Lloyd’s glowing review of the movie Hellbound? was published in the Herald. Hellbound? is a film that – by its story arc and editing – clearly argues for Christian universalism in the guise of an even-handed documentary. The film’s editing takes cheap shots at those who hold a traditional view of hell, and this is worthy of a nuanced critique.

However, the greater issue for Mennonite Brethren is that this film preaches universalism as being within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy. The argument made in Hellbound? stands in opposition to the MB Confession of Faith, which is clear regarding hell: “All those who have rejected Christ will be condemned to hell, forever separated from the presence of God” (Article 18). The commentary on the Confession of Faith elaborates on the topic, and is evidence the MB position has been patiently and carefully thought through. The MB Herald shouldn’t be promoting doctrines outside our agreed-upon Confession.

Greg Harris
Abbotsford, B.C.

Editor’s Note: The opinions presented by Crosscurrents media reviewers are their own and not necessarily those of the Canadian Mennonite Brethren church as a whole. Please see page 36 for Greg Harris’ review of Hellbound? in this month’s Herald.

Jesus is more than a relic

Re “Catholics need to hear gospel” (Letters, July). I agree with Réginald Fauteux’s letter to the editor [which stated, “Roman Catholics are in dire need of hearing the gospel, and knowing the Christ of Scripture.”] Having travelled and worked extensively throughout the world, I have come to the conclusion my focus must be on my relationship with Jesus Christ (John 14:6). When he’s not recognized, he becomes just a relic or symbol, and we have nothing but empty religion.

Jacob Penner

Catholics and evangelism

Re “Catholics need to hear gospel” (Letters, July). Réginald Fauteux’s letter asserts that Catholics need to hear the gospel. I concur. What evangelicals may not know is the evangelistic impulse within Catholicism.

Pope Francis has said, “If we don’t proclaim Jesus Christ, something is wrong.” His comments are consistent with the New Evangelization initiated by John Paul II. Within the Catholic Catechism, evangelical-sounding statements are common. “From this loving knowledge of Christ springs the desire to proclaim him, to ‘evangelize’ and to lead others to the ‘yes’ of faith in Jesus Christ.” And of late, we have the publication of Evangelical Catholicism by the Catholic writer George Weigel.

Catholics need to hear the gospel, as is true of all of humanity. Initiatives will vary. Given their evangelistic impulse, one approach is to work collaboratively with Catholics. Yes, differences exist, but evangelicals, in the context of genuine relationship, have something to offer the Catholic community: a passion for evangelism.

Any serious vision to influence our nation for Christ must factor in the Catholic community. A minimum would be an understanding of Catholic thinking and practices, critical to informed faith conversations. Another is to build bridges to the Catholic community.

Harry Strauss

Exercising righteous anger

Re “‘Let the little children come to me’” (Essay, July). Thank you, Pierre, for bringing up the subject of abortion and the unspeakable horrors that occur in abortuaries. We, the church, do not seem to care much about the 100,000 murders of pre-infants every year in Canada. We don’t demand that our government enact legislation (Canada currently has no legislation on abortion) to at least curb abortion, if not end it. We can’t even be bothered to give one hour one Sunday a year to hold a sign, pray, and be a silent witness against abortion at the Life Chain event held every fall.

We need more prodding by people like Pierre who are in positions of influence in the MB community to move this issue from the back burner. Say what you will about Catholics; the pro-life movement would be virtually nonexistent without them! Abortion is not a denominational issue. All believers should be righteously angry about this incredible evil in our midst.

Wouldn’t Jesus speak out against children being sacrificed to gods of expediency and selfishness? Sometimes pregnancies are tough. Sometimes life is tough. Sometimes speaking the truth is tough. Keep doing it, Pierre.

Don Szostak
Abbotsford, B.C.

No need to be extraordinary

Re “In defence of ordinary” (Editorial, July). I was heartened by Laura Kalmar’s editorial. The pull of culture to be extraordinary is not one we should embrace. As she points out, it’s a pull toward narcissism, to make it all about me.

Shame researcher Brene Brown, in looking at narcissism, writes: “I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose.” As Christ followers, we don’t need to be extraordinary to be loved and belong.

We are loved and we belong, not because of anything we do, but because of God’s lavish gift of grace. So thanks, Laura, for the important reminder to give God our ordinary lives.

Mark Friesen

Dictators in the church

Re “Generation vs. generation: Is it really about the music?” (Crosscurrents, June). How can one person or group force things on the majority without considering the needs and
preferences of everyone? That’s the reason worship is a “war”: because of unwise and inconsiderate action by an individual or group.

If we are truly Christians and peacemakers instead of dictators, we can reach a compromise that will appease both sides of the issue.

Lilli Kehler, in the same issue of the Herald, showed great wisdom in defining the problem. Every church would do well to consider what she says, and plan their music and worship accordingly.

Mel Peters

Bending God’s natural laws?

Re “Were Adam and Eve real?” (Letters, May). I am puzzled by how many within our faith community base their faith on the literal interpretation of the Bible. Doing so makes not only us, but God, look less intelligent and out of touch with the scientific reality he created.

For example, which of the two creation stories in Genesis do we take literally? And how do we approach the story of God stopping the sun so Israel could destroy an army to the last man? With the knowledge of the universe we have today, can we imagine the catastrophe resulting from such an action?

We need to read the Bible carefully, not blindly. It is full of good lessons, but taken literally can keep us on a slippery slope that leads to unnecessary clashes between blind faith and spiritual and intellectual integrity.

God created this world based on dependable natural and moral laws. We dare not bend them to suit an exclusive faith that mitigates the love he encourages us to show one another.

Rudy and Elsie Siemens
St. Catharines, Ont.

Theistic evolution is a compromise

Re “Were Adam and Eve real?” (Letters, May). The increasing practice of “selective truths” from Scripture by evangelicals is reflected in the words of Gary Wiebe recommending that we ought not to “explain our origins based on Genesis.” When honest scientific research starts with the premise of Genesis 1–11, it’s vastly more balanced and believable than the total lack of evidence provided by atheistic evolution theories. And to compromise with atheists by hypothesizing about theistic evolution is an insult to the gospel message that begins with Genesis.

Dick Leppky
Chase, B.C.

2 Comments on “Letters September 2013

  1. Concerning the letter from Rudy and Elsie Siemens (second last one above):

    The idea that God can only act through “natural” laws is thoroughly anti-biblical. If we must limit ourselves to staying in touch with the current version of “scientific reality,” then we will have to jettison not only Genesis but also much of the New Testament, and in particular the resurrection of Christ. (It is our consistent empirical experience, after all, that dead men do not rise.)

    There is just one creation account in Genesis (1:1-2:3). What follows that (2:4-25) is not a separate creation account but an expansion of the events that took place on Day Six, locally focused on the garden of Eden. Genesis 2 is clearly not a full “creation story” since it does not touch on the origin of the heavens, the earth, light, day, night, the dry land, the seas, the sun, the moon, the stars, or water life.

    When the Reformers spoke of a “literal” reading of the Bible, they meant a careful historico-grammatical exegesis considering the context and recognizing any figures of speech. They recommended a straightforward, plain reading of Scripture in contrast to an allegorical approach favoured by some earlier scholars. To deviate from such an approach in deference to inconstant secular “science” would dishonour our Lord and Master who taught us such a high view of the authority and historicity of God’s Word. Mark 8:38 is instructive for us in this regard.

  2. I find it interesting that in the same issue as the letter entitled “Bending God’s natural laws?” (Marvin Dyck), there is an article called “The God who can bend nature”! He can, and He does, do this very thing throughout Scriptures. The most amazing of His miracles and the most pivotal to our faith is that of raising Jesus from the dead! So to claim that God wouldn’t bend His own natural laws, when He so obviously does, is very peculiar to me. Is God not capable of stopping the sun, as Rudy and Elsie Siemens state? Then how is He capable of saving any of us?

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