Op-Ed

  • A Thought on the Qualification of Participation in the Lord’s Supper March 3, 2013 by Reita Yazawa. Ph.D. Student  At one workshop I attended during Worship Symposium in January, one participant shared her question with us. Her church has started basic English worship for those who speak English as their second language. When the Lord’s Supper is celebrated in their worship, a pastor adds words to the effect that the Lord’s Supper is open to those who have been baptized, and those who are not baptized are still invited to come forward to receive blessings. However, when these worshippers are occasionally invited to join the main worship with church members, the pastor reads the words as usually done during regular communion worship: “All who are truly sorry for their sins, who sincerely believe in the Lord Jesus as their Savior, and who desire to live in obedience to him, are now invited to come with gladness to the table of the Lord.” Interestingly, for some worshippers from the basic English service, this words of invitation sounds more attractive because it sounds more loose in qualifying the participation in the Lord’s Supper in the sense that it does not mention baptism as prerequisite for participation in the Lord’s Supper. As a result, and because they are beginners in English learning, some of them who are not baptized come forward and actually partake in the Lord’s Supper.  I do not think that a non-baptized people mistakenly partaking in the Lord’s Supper immediately becomes a huge problem. But this story reminds me that we can no longer assume that the majority of the congregation is baptized even in the North American context. This has always been true in my Japanese context where the Christian population is less than 1 percent and worship always assume that non-baptized seekers are attending. Accordingly, words of invitation includes some statement that the Lord’s ...
  • With Truth and Grace: A Christmas Appreciation of Calvinism
 March 3, 2013 by Dylan Pahman, ’12 M.T.S. Introduction: Joy to the (Calvinist) World  Outside of Reformed circles, Calvinism is often a dirty word. In popular theology it can connote a borderline fatalism and a privileged, exclusivist mentality. (Terms like “the frozen chosen” come to mind.) Furthermore, when one examines the history of Calvinism, outside of sympathetic accounts, horror stories of the trial of Servetus in Geneva, witch hunts in New England, and even South African Apartheid are often highlighted. While all of these, to a greater or lesser extent, are a part of the history of Calvinism, focusing on the worst aspects of a tradition to the near exclusion of its merits draws an uncharitable caricature. Every tradition, after all, has skeletons in the closet (sometimes in the living room), and as this is Christmas and not Halloween, I thought I would offer a gift rarely given to my Calvinist friends: the gift of appreciation. In particular it is the social and political outworking of several central Calvinist doctrines that I would like to briefly appreciate and explore. The Savior Reigns  Calvinism, among all Christian traditions, has perhaps placed the most emphasis on the doctrine of divine sovereignty, and Calvin appears to have one of the strongest views of his contemporaries. For example, he writes, Now, since the arrangement of all things is in the hand of God, since to him belongs the disposal of life and death, he arranges all things by his sovereign counsel, in such a way that individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb to certain death, and are to glorify him by their destruction. (Institutes, 3.23.6) For Calvin the statement, whether one agrees with him on this point or not, comes from an admirable conviction: that the King of Kings is fittingly sovereign over all things. This conviction had many practical ...
  • The Seminarian: Swordsmith, Wordsmith, Aerosmith? December 11, 2012 by Greg Vander Horn, M.Div. “You’re gonna do what? You’ll make a great pastor!” I heard that a lot when I started here at Calvin Seminary, but at the beginning of my time here in school, my old self was still outshining my new self and my calling. When I really think about it, though, there is a lot of the way I used to be that I can use to relate to the people that God will send my way as a pastor. Along with the new tools provided to me at seminary, I feel the things I have learned in my life will give me the theological tool box I need. Let me explain. In Ephesians 6:13-19, Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God. Including the final and most important tool, the sword of the Spirit, the holy word of God. All seminarians needs to know the Bible. Not only does the pastor-to-be need to be armed and ready at all times, for strength and guidance in one’s personal walk with God. But it goes without saying that the Bible on the desk of any pastor will be the first tool used in any conversation regarding direction in life, no matter who you’re talking to. Being a good swordsmith means keeping your sword play sharp. Ephesians 4:29 shows us very eloquently to not let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may be beneficial to people who we talk to. The verse itself uses wholesome proper words to build us up. When God place people in our lives, we are to greet them as Christ himself would greet them with graciousness and tact. In my own life I have been challenged many ...
  • Light in the Night at Calvin College: A Christian Educator’s Perspective November 16, 2012 by Ferry Yang, M.Div. On Saturday night, October 27th, 2012, an event called “Light in the Night” was presented at the Calvin College Knollcrest East Apartments.  It was the 18th annual celebration.  In the flyer there was a quote from Psalm 119:105 that says: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”  From 6pm to 8pm children in the area were invited to celebrate together.  The college apartments, eight of them, were decorated according to particular themes: Candy Land, The Jungle, Finding Nemo, Up, Circus, Olympics, Toy Story, and Avengers.  The decorations were nicely done.  There was a contest to choose which apartment had the best decoration.  So parents brought their children to enjoy this celebration.  Some people said that it was a good event as an alternative to the Halloween tradition commonly celebrated on the 31st of October. In the flyer there was an explanation about Light in the Night: “Although Hallowen is considered by some to be a night of evil, as Christians we are called to reclaim this night—and all things—for Christ.  Thus is the essence of Light in the Night: Sharing the joy and love that Christ has given us.”  Yes, it is true that as Christians we are called to reclaim all things for Christ.  The idea is great.  In the flyer was also a quote from John 8:12 when Jesus says: “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”  And so the Light in the Night celebration was meant to bring the light of Jesus into the world and lit up the dark night and the dark celebration commonly celebrated in the form of the Hallowen. As great as the idea was, in my estimation, the way ...
  • Letters to the Editor: November 14, 2012 November 16, 2012 Dear Editor, Matthew Koh’s editorial on silence is an important one. As a fourth year student at CTS, I have participated in my fair share of serious conversations with strenuously argued theses. That being said, Koh’s experience has caused me to ask questions about my own experience. The reality is that most of the difficult and opinionated conversations in which I have engaged during seminary have been outside the context of the Student Center and with people who are more than mere acquaintances. I am typically not one to shy away from offering an opinion, so to the degree to which my reflections are accurate they will be primarily empathic. To add to Matthew’s list, a serious concern on a broader level of community culture is the perception that a person will be rejected out of hand for the perceived content of their opinions. In the context of the come and go of the Student Center, there may not be time to adequately ask questions and work around an issue. A far easier and more efficient method is labeling. If someone believes A, he’s an A-ist, and we know that’s ridiculous. A philosopher named Schelling had something to say about this: “It cannot be denied that it is a splendid invention to be able to designate entire points of view at once with such general epithets. If one has once discovered the right label for a system, everything else follows of its own accord and one is spared the trouble of investigating its essential characteristics in greater detail. Even an ignorant person can render judgment upon the most carefully thought out ideas as soon as they are presented to him with the help of such labels.” That’s why I have found the leisure of library conversations or off-campus hangouts to be more conducive to a give-and-take ...
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