Readers write

September 26, 2012 | Viewpoints | Number 19

Church is called to minister to pagans

The editorial of the Sept. 3 issue, “Rejoice with the Congolese,” identifies a major shift in western missionaries’ practices and beliefs regarding mission work. We carry shame and guilt for our past actions. As a Christian church we now seek to show greater respect for the person, nation, and spirituality of those to whom we are sent. The word “pagan” is defined as one “who is not a Christian, Jew or Mohammedan.” The church is called to minister to pagans.

I find the editorial message clear in the call that we be more sensitive and respectful of other people’s spiritual base. This I affirm. However, the author gives us a message I feel we might seriously ponder. I squirm when I read, we have “… labelled the people of Africa ‘pagans’ who were to be rescued from their witchcraft and magic rather than recognize this as their authentic spirituality.” I ask for a fuller understanding of the sentence.

We served in the Brazilian Amazon region for eight years among “pagans.” The culture was saturated with witchcraft and shamanism. One might clearly state that our mission was to “rescue” the enslaved people from demonic powers, from evil Satanic powers.

The Yanomami culture, had no word for “love” or “thank you.” We loved these people. We lived among them, raised four children among them and I often trekked the jungle with them. I believe we did recognize their “authentic spirituality.” They lived (and many still do) in fear of spirits, of which they had no control except through the shaman. The shaman had four tasks: give direction to the hunter in finding game, heal the sick, dispel negative spirits from fellow tribesmen, and, curse any person or shaman in another tribe whom they disliked. Revenge was a strong cultural value. Shamanism was one significant means of revenge.

Jesus was not tolerant in any way to demonic forces. The church cannot make compromises with witchcraft and magic.

John Peters, Waterloo, Ont.

Scripture reveals God’s truth through Jesus Christ

Re: “Shedding Sola Scriptura” by Troy Watson, Sept. 3, page 12.

The Apostle John declared that the law was given through Moses; grace and truth was realized through Jesus Christ, (John 1:17). Paul tells us that the law was a school teacher to bring us to Christ, (Gal. 3:24). John tells us at the end of his gospel that these things were written that we might “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing you may have life in His name,” (John 20:31). I believe that everything in the recorded scriptures—Old and New Testaments—was written for the sole purpose of revealing God’s truth and grace through Jesus Christ. 

Laws for human behaviour (the do’s and don’ts) can be found in many writings such as the Torah, the Koran, and in Buddhist and Hindu writings, but the perfect balance of truth and grace is only found in the life of Jesus Christ. 

The only place we will find a fulfilled and final record of Jesus Christ is in the recorded Christian scriptures. I agree with Mr. Watson that it is possible to worship the creation rather than the creator, or as he wrote, mistake the finger for the moon, but to use that as an argument to, shed sola scriptura, is weak and misleading.  

The Latin term, sola scriptura, was invoked at a time when the leaders of the church practiced two basic things that the reformers rejected:

1. The silence of the scriptures: Permissive or prohibitive?

One of the controversies that has raged for centuries is whether or not the “silence” of the Scriptures must be respected or ignored. Some allege that whatever is not expressly forbidden is allowed in religious practice; others contend that anything not authorized is not permitted. If I understand correctly, the Anabaptists held to the position that anything not authorized is not permitted.

2. The traditions of the Fathers were equal to the Scriptures. This teaching opened the door for many areas of confusion and exploitation including venerable holy images, indulgences, prayers to and for the dead, sacred vessels and vestments, etc. etc.

Luther, and other reformers, said these traditions should not be included as part of the authoritative word of inspired Scriptures. Some reformation leaders maintained teachings of the traditions of the Fathers to justify fighting wars, infant baptism and the sacraments. The Anabaptists felt the other reformers had elevated sola scriptura, which diminished the centrality of Christ. Herein lies the struggle of the ages. 

Do we want to shed sola scriptura so we can equally embrace the other writings of other faiths? As precious as these writings may be to the people who declare them as sacred, they are incomplete and lack the grace, the power and the truth to reconcile us to God.

David Shantz, Montreal, Que.

Dress codes help provide respect and order

Re: “Must respect be earned, or simply expected,” Aug. 20, page 8,”

I am somewhat perplexed by the comment, “A woman has every right to dress as she pleases, and males have a responsibility not to have lustful thoughts.” I have been driving a car for many years and have learned that I cannot drive just the way I please and not have other drivers get upset with my driving. There is a desperate need for order and respect on the road.

As far as dress code is concerned, many organizations have a definite code they abide by. God has made woman especially beautiful and man with a desire that can get out of hand if not controlled. I therefore feel there is a special need for mutual respect and order for male and female to live and walk with genuine integrity in the way they have been created. We, that is, male or female, cannot do this alone; we need mutual support in order to fulfill the purpose of our being.

Henry Neufeld, Delta, B.C.

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