‘What a blessing’ the Bible is
Re: “Bible reading meant less Canadian Mennonite reading” letter, March 30, page 13.
The Bible cannot be read like any other book. The truths of the Bible are scattered from beginning to end, and revealed only through the Holy Spirit little by little. The book is hard to understand, but the “blessing” does come.
Before we attempt to understand deeper spiritual truths, we must first have a concept of what is right and wrong. If there is one idea that the Book of Proverbs emphasizes, it is this: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (9: 10).
If we were to read the Bible like any other book, it would take a long time before we get to Jude, which tells us in verse 20: “But you beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.” Now I see why the Lord came to Steve Hoeppner, who wrote “Stand up for God’s truth,” Feb. 2, page 15, in a dream with the message, “Read the Book of Jude.”
Jesus said in John 5:39: “You search/read the Scriptures, for you believe they give you eternal life. And the Scriptures point to me! Yet you won’t come to me so that I can give you this life eternal.” Then in John 17:3 Jesus said: “And this is the way to have eternal life—by knowing you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth!”
The value of praying in the Holy Spirit is that it draws one to Jesus. What a blessing!
Wes Epp, Calgary
Peace in Christ does not depend on believers reaching an agreement
Re: “It’s time to vote,” March 30, page 14.
Russel Snyder-Penner assumes that a vote on same-sex relationships would move us forward. Perhaps it would, but not unless we recognize first that there is no expectation in the Bible that all believers will reach an agreement on matters of faith and practice. Nor does our peace in Christ depend on doing so.
See Romans 12 and Ephesians 2 for examples of the difference between peace and agreement. Unless we recognize this difference, voting will continue to build walls that separate us. “Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Romans 14:19).
Furthermore, what or who has created the need for Mennonite Church Canada to take a position on this issue? Who, if anyone, will benefit from the outcome regardless of what the vote says? Will congregations fall in line with whatever decision is reached? Or will they continue to live comfortably, or otherwise, with their own understanding within or outside MC Canada?
What would be missing if the national church backed off and individual congregations were left to address this matter if and when it becomes an issue for them, or when its members want to be more informed on the reality of same-sex attraction? For those of us who are in this situation, it becomes an invitation to walk with individuals and their families, rather than speaking to a matter that is completely outside our experience and frame of reference.
Clarence Epp, Winnipeg
Jesus’ Spirit not limited to a literal reading of the Bible
Re: “ ‘A biblical and better way’ is neither” and “Bible written without an understanding of genetics” letters, March 2, pages 10 and 14, respectively.
We finally have two readers— David Neufeld and Frank Hiemstra—who provide us with useful insights into why the present debate on the homosexuality issue is so intense.
Our Bible readers and scholars generally do not take science seriously enough, while at the same time they continue to rewrite old doctrines and confessions of faith to fit ancient worldviews for modern times. The Old World cosmologies could not include the facts of modern science because there was no awareness of the science of genetics in biology, let alone the physics and chemistry in geology or astronomy.
Science and religion are two different perspectives on truth, almost like two different languages. Sometimes they overlap, and what is claimed by one can be translated into the other. But sometimes they see different aspects of the truth and measure reality according to different standards and commitments. Each has something of value to offer to the quest for truth; both have blind spots; and a richer quest for truth comes when science and religion engage in civil, mutually attentive conversation.
This is why old doctrinal statements are often inadequate statements for today’s life situations. Like Neufeld, I believe that followers of Jesus today still may discern together what is God’s truth. The Spirit of Jesus is alive and dynamic, and is not limited to an understanding of the ancient theological doctrines, and certainly not to a literal reading of the Bible.
Peter Peters, Winnipeg
Hague doesn’t need another church like Hague Mennonite has become
Re: “We weren’t on the same page,” April 13, page 19.
After reading about Hague Mennonite Church’s decision to leave Mennonite Church Saskatchewan, I was saddened but not surprised.
I was also disappointed that the congregation chose to claim its adherence to the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective as part of its defence, suggesting that the area church had strayed away while ignoring the fact that Hague Mennonite no longer supported the Confession’s peace statements. Even so, the Confession is not a creed, but merely a snapshot of who we were back in the mid-1990s.
Our core Mennonite/Anabaptist values and perspectives do include an emphasis on the gospels, community and peace. Community depends on grace and toleration, and pacifism and social justice are essential for peace.
While pastoring Hague Mennonite’s neighbouring church, I witnessed Hague’s intentional shift away from being in community with other Mennonite churches, its rejection of the peace position and its embrace of judgmental evangelistic theology.
Hague Mennonite rightly identified in its apology that it was not on the same page as the rest of MC Saskatchewan, and that reality makes me sad because Hague and the surrounding community don’t need another church with that flavour of theology; there are already plenty in the area. They do need more churches that value community and peace in a 2015 perspective. Fear and war are growing in prominence. Churches that lift up grace, build trust and community, and live out peace are desperately needed, and that is why Hague Mennonite’s departure makes me sad.
Gordon Allaby, Waterloo, Ont.
Jesus taught openness and inclusion, biologist maintains
I’m a happy member of Foothills Mennonite Church in Calgary. I think we have an excellent fellowship of believers in our congregation who represent wide-ranging views on various subjects and who almost always manage to maintain a healthy respect for each other even when we don’t always agree.
One thing I don’t understand is, why does the issue of sex and gender keep coming up? What I do in the privacy of my home is no one’s business unless someone is getting hurt. Anyway, we have no right to judge.
If I was asked to explain further, I would make two points why this is not an issue for me:
1. As a trained biologist, I understand that diversity in nature—plants and animals—is extremely important to the survival of a species. Life is a bell curve, and there are always a few individuals at each extreme, just in case the environment changes enough to negatively affect the majority, in which case some of the exceptions might survive better than the mainstream. God, in his wisdom, made the rules that way.
2. I’m a Christian. Therefore I follow, as best I can, the example and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, who is called the Christ. It seems a main theme that he emphasized over and over again was, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” That sounds to me like openness and inclusion.
Richard Penner, Calgary
It’s best we struggle together, rather than alone
Re: “Disbelief of God’s Word is another reason why people leave the church” letter, April 13, page 12.
I would like people to remain in the church and to appreciate the Bible. The Bible is a book that preserves for us human encounters with God and conversations with one another about who God is from quite early in our human history. A valuable book, preserved even though humans tend to destroy the communications of those they disagree with.
Does believing that evolution happened really make atheists of us? I have met and listened to Denis Alexander, an evangelical Christian from Britain who is also a scientist. For him, the evidence is there: Evolution happened and is happening, and God exists, too, and is with us in it. Alexander regrets that so many Christians feel they need to be in opposition to evolution and to science in general, thus leaving the field to unbelievers. Therefore, he wrote Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?
It is true that believing in evolution will raise questions about the Bible. It did for me and there was struggle. The alternative, not looking at the evidence, also creates struggles. Why not struggle with our culture?
Jesus said he would be with us to the end of the age, and he is our example. He chose Isaiah’s view that all who choose to align themselves with God are welcomed by God. This is the contrary view of some laws, which exclude handicapped people, and some passages, like Ezra, that exclude foreigners.
I would invite people to remain in the church so we can struggle together. Let’s not do it alone. There is danger in that, too.
Annemarie Rogalsky, Waterloo, Ont.