Op-Ed

  • The Daily Struggle of Formation by Jason Ruis November 5, 2015 At the end of this past summer, I found myself at a picnic bench having an interesting conversation with one of the student leaders from my youth ministry. We talked about the retreats she attended this past summer. Unfortunately, she wasn’t satisfied with any of them. They didn’t solve the problems she wanted solved. Actually, she felt like the retreat I led particularly made things worse. Rather than removing her struggles, this retreat increased them.  She went on to describe how she had been struggling with a number of issues that revolved around the core of her faith. She was burdened and exhausted from the wrestling match. She wanted to be done. She had hoped the retreats would remove the struggle. They didn’t, and she was disappointed. But the conversation took an unexpected turn. Out of the blue, she asked me, “How does someone learn humility?” I responded by saying, “You may not like this answer, but you learn humility through the various struggles you’ve had this past summer.” I was right; she didn’t like my answer. Yet, that didn’t make my answer any less true. In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about a time in his life when he had a number of struggles. He says, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death” (1:8-9). This sounds very similar to the conversation I had with this teenage girl–burdened, exhausted. Why did this happen to Paul? For this very reason: “…to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Cor 1:9). All of the affliction he encountered–all of the wrestling he endured–happened ...
  • The Kerux’s Role in Diversity: Thoughts from a Prior Editor February 6, 2015 I have often said that one could get through an entire three or four year curriculum here at CTS, without ever really engaging someone of another race beyond a passing “Hello.” I found that disturbing.  So, when I was appointed as one of the three Kerux co-editors for the 2013-2014 school year, I was happy that the three of us enthusiastically agreed on opening channels of diversity.  We hoped to intentionally give voice to those who are not part of the dominant culture at CTS. A lot of the articles and cover stories were student, faculty/staff, or CTS community inspired.  For example, we used our “In the Spotlight” section to feature students who were Korean, Japanese, Hispanic, American, and Canadian.  We included several articles from the CRCNA Director of Disability Concerns, Mark Stephenson.  Not only do we have students here with disabilities, but also some of us will one day be in congregational leadership positions that will include people with disabilities.  This also served as a helpful reminder to us that diversity is not always just about race. Additionally, we included articles about global missions, church planting, African American female seminarians, and Hispanic pastors’ training, because, again, everyone in our congregations might not look like us.  What better opportunities for us to prepare for ways to positively engage diversity, than at a seminary?  The feedback we got back from the students, most of them minority students, some of them faculty or staff, was very positive and appreciative. Professor Howard Vanderwell frequently says that during his time in the pastorate, he learned that, sometimes, what they planned for the worship service was not always about him and what he liked, but rather was about the needs of his congregation.  Therefore, I would challenge both the current Kerux editorial team and the CTS student body ...
  • 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 ...
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