REFLECTIONS The Best Things In Life Are Free The Cost of living seems to go up every day Whether at the gas pumps or the grocery store W e wonder how we’ll make ends meet And next day the prices are higher than before. But we’ve all been blessed beyond measure W e know there’ll always be plenty to eat A roof over our heads; a warm bed to sleep W e don’t have to live on the street. There’ll always be those who complain ‘What, are we having beans again tonight?’ In many places on this earth of ours Beans might be a family’s meal that night. What does it cost to watch the sunrise? Or enjoy the colourful rainbow after the rain Or to listen to the enthusiastic song of the birds As the sun breaks through the clouds again. God has given us so much beauty in nature Birds busily building their nests in the spring To the golden fields of grain at harvest time When geese are getting ready to try out their wings. How could we forget the smell of a turkey roasting Or enjoying the laughter of our children at play? And having the love of family and friends That’s something we should cherish every day! In this country, we have freedom of speech Freedom to worship how or whenever we devise W e can all go to sleep tonight in safety Knowing that tomorrow the sun will rise again. Our God is always near not far away He’s ready to hear us one and all His phone line is never busy He’s just waiting for us to call. W e all have our joys and our sorrows W e wonder why this or that is happening to me But when we remember all our blessings W e can see the best things in life are free. By: Elaine V. Chometsky
Is Cohabitation The “New” Marriage? I recently spoke with a pastor friend of mine about the topic of marriage. We discussed some of the challenges of preparing and performing marriages in the 21st century.
Marriage... Old Rules/New Rules A MESSAGE FROM THE EDITOR
few years ago, our Sunday service happened to fall on St. Patrick’s Day. While my first thought was to serve green coffee during our fellowship time after the service, I decided to do a little research on the life of St. Patrick and speak about his missionary work.
I soon discovered that: “When he was about sixteen he was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. He entered the church. He later returned to Ireland as a missionary in the north and west of the island....By the eighth century he had become the patron saint of Ireland” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Patrick). L’union libre est-elle le nouveau mariage ?
Je discutais récemment du mariage avec un ami pasteur. Nous nous sommes entretenus de quelquesunes des difficultés liées à la préparation et à la célébration du mariage au 21e siècle.
“Out With The Old, In With The New”
Out with the old and in with the new” is a saying often shouted as the New Year is welcomed. I am thankful this does not apply in most areas of our lives.
“Dear Ladies: What I Meant To Say...”
Have you ever thought that the intensely hard-driving Paul of Tarsus was a writer who needed to clarify his more controversial statements?
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FRONT COVER: Marriage presents some challenges to Christians in the 21st Century. Cover Photo: © Designpics and Jewel Clendening Back Cover: © Designpics Additional photos and illustrations: © Designpics unless otherwise noted.
Northern Light magazine is the official magazine of the Worldwide Church of God, Canada. It exists to share the stories of our members and congregations on their Christian journey. Northern Light does this by featuring articles that encourage, nurture and inform. Le magazine Northern Light est le magazine officiel de l’Église universelle de Dieu, au Canada. Il sert à raconter les histoires de nos membres et de nos assemblées tout le long de leur voyage chrétien, au moyen d’articles qui encouragent, nourrissent et informent.
Another source that I read also explained that while Patrick was quite successful in introducing Christianity to the pagan Irish tribes, he was not as successful in encouraging them to adopt formal marriage, as a practice. Apparently, the practice at the time was simply for a man to pledge his commitment to a woman and they would then live together. That short review of Patrick’s life showed me again that the institution of Christian marriage certainly has an interesting history. Today, Christians find themselves dealing with similar issues as we live in a society that doesn’t place as much value on a marriage ceremony, or as some would say, “A piece of paper.” Add to this the fact that over half of marriages (even with those professing to be Christians) end in divorce, and it doesn’t take a “rocket scientist” to see that being and remaining married in 21st Century Canada presents a challenge. This issue I’ve asked our writers to try to tackle the subject of Christian marriage from a number of different perspectives. Most of the articles help define what Christian marriage is all about. However, this issue also discusses the subject of divorce and what happens when the marriage relationship goes awry. I think it is this word, “relationship,” that is the key in trying to understand and describe marriage. In fact, the apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 5 that the marriage relationship is likened to the relationship that Jesus has with the Church (see Neil Earle’s article, “Dear Ladies: What I Meant To Say...” ). In the same way that God seeks a relationship with each and everyone of us, hopefully it is our desire that we discover the gift of a lasting and loving relationship with those who are part of our own families.NL
Bill Hall 1
P E R S O N A L By Todd Martin Pastor, Harvest Christian Fellowship, Abbotsford BC
recently spoke with a pastor friend of mine about the topic of marriage. We discussed some of the challenges of preparing and performing marriages in the 21st century. We chatted about marriage preparation courses and counseling sessions designed to assist new couples in building stronger marriages. Eventually we came to the topic of dealing with the flood of couples coming to us for marriage services who have been living together. My friend said, “I don’t even know why people get married anymore.” I thought that was a good question and one that needed to be answered. Is cohabitation the same as marriage? The idea of cohabitation, or a couple living together before marriage, has become so accepted that it is now the
Is Cohabitation The “New” Marriage? most common form of first unions among young adults. But is cohabitation the same as marriage? The province of Quebec has the highest cohabitation rate in the world at around 30%, while Canada as a whole stands at about 16%. Without Quebec, cohabitating couples in Canada would make up 12% of couples who are living together. Is cohabitation the new marriage? I would like to discuss this important topic as it impacts us as a society, but more importantly how the church should be viewing and responding to this trend. We have all attended weddings where the minister leads the wedding ceremony and the bride and groom look into each other’s eyes as they pledge to commit themselves to each other. We have seen the rings, the flowers, and
heard the songs. In the midst of these wonderful parts of the service there are two significant events that usually take place in a Canadian Christian wedding. There is the signing of the marriage license and a prayer of God’s joining of the couple. These two events may not seem the most exciting part of the marriage ceremony but they do distinguish marriage from the idea of cohabitation. They represent the civil and religious efforts to formalize the couple’s union. In the Netherlands, for example, it is still the law that a civil marriage ceremony performed by a Justice of the Peace must be conducted before a religious version can take place. In Canada, most religious representatives (i.e. ministers) are agents of the state and perform both duties at the same time. It is important to note that even in Canada we have an
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acknowledgement by the couple being married that they are entering both a legal contract (signing the license) and a covenant agreement with each other in the presence of God and witnesses.
those who enter marriage will care for their spouses through thick and thin, in sickness and in health. With the historical social stigma of sex outside of marriage and poor birth control methods, the
With of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the founding of the church, God revealed a higher plane to the universal and age-old social custom of marriage as a type of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5) and a vehicle for God to sanctify unbelievers (1 Corinthians 7). With of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the founding of the church, God revealed a higher plane to the universal and age-old social custom of marriage as a type of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5) and a vehicle for God to sanctify unbelievers (1 Corinthians 7). As the church developed, its role in marriages moved beyond the Jewish/Roman roots of presiding over the ceremony, to becoming the only authoritative officiants of Christian weddings. By the second century, after the founding of the church, we see the recommendation for the church to be involved in marriages by the epistle of St. Ignatius to St. Polycarp: “It becometh men and women, when they wed, to marry with the consent of the bishop, that the marriage may be after the Lord and not after concupiscence.” Notice that with the Ignatius/Polycarp correspondence, the church was illegal yet involved in marriage solemnizing. The church does not take its lead from society but from God. The fact that the government legalizes marriages is second to the fact that God joins them and makes them holy. In fact the government’s involvement in marriage is primarily to make sure that individuals don’t become the care of the state when others have agreed to provide for them. Legal marriage contracts ensure that J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y / M A R C H
government wanted to limit the need for social welfare by legislating who was responsible for whom. Much of the Christian era has been filled with informal marriage ceremonies established by community recognition and support. Although the concept of marriage is universal across cultures and was a necessity for survival, the Christian community recognized marriage as a covenant with God, made for life, and consequently divorce was almost non-existent. After the Great War and the Second World War, public attitude to dating and non-marital sexuality became much more relaxed and less condemning. The sexual revolution of the 1960s gave birth to increasing divorce rates, cohabitation as a marriage alternative, and declining marriage rates. Unlike the social outcry regarding skyrocketing divorce rates, cohabitation as a normal form of couple formation has come into vogue with barely a peep. Two generations later, the effects of these demographic shifts continue to be felt. Although its popularity began as an “anti-establishment” form of relationship formation, cohabitation has, in less than twenty years, become a form of dating for the many who participate in it.
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Young adults are spending longer periods of time in singlehood while pursuing advanced education and establishing themselves financially. Combined with a more socially accepting attitude to sexual relations outside of marriage, effective birth control, and being the jaded products of the divorce culture, there is little rush for young people to enter marriage. Yet, in spite of this trend, the youth of Canada still have a desire to get married and the majority eventually will. So how does cohabitation fit in? Let’s look at what we know about those who cohabit in Canada. Let me summarize some of what we know about the impact of cohabitation’s effect on relationships and the people in them. Then I will address the Christian response to the issue. First the facts: 1. Living together before marriage increases the risk of breaking up after marriage. 2. Primarily younger adults cohabit although the percentage in each age group is rising. 3. Living together outside of marriage increases the risk of domestic violence for women, and the risk of physical and sexual abuse for children. 4. Unmarried couples have lower levels of happiness and well-being than married couples. 5. Serial or multiple short-term cohabitations are very detrimental to future relationship stability. 6. Commitment levels by one or both of the partners are known to be less than in the context of marriage. 7. Women experience a disproportional percentage of the negative aspects of cohabitation.
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“Despite its widespread acceptance by the young, the remarkable growth of cohabitation in recent years does not appear to be in children’s or the society’s best interest. The evidence suggests that it has weakened marriage and the intact, two-parent family…” (David Popenoe and Barbara Whitehead). I realize that marriage does not immunize a couple from any of these problems, but it does reduce the likelihood of them and I think that is an important message to send to our youth. Researchers David Popenoe and Barbara Whitehead of the National Marriage Project of the United States, summarize their research on cohabitation by saying, “Despite its widespread acceptance by the young, the remark
able growth of cohabitation in recent years does not appear to be in children’s or the society’s best interest. The evidence suggests that it has weakened marriage and the intact, two-parent family…” Anne-Marie Ambert of the Vanier Institute of the Family in Canada states, “Cohabitation is a more insecure and potentially hurtful situation than marriage is, even considering the current divorce rate.”
The social experts are by no means in total agreement about the negative consequences of cohabitation and especially as it becomes more and more socially accepted. But regardless of the secular communities’ view on cohabitation as the new marriage, how are we as Christians to view this approach to relationships? Is cohabitation the same as marriage? A clue is found in the concept of betrothal. As I previously mentioned, Christian marriage practices were heavily influenced by Jewish and Roman tradition. The idea of betrothal is a concept many Christians are familiar with because of its connection to the relationship of Mary and Joseph. At the time of Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus, she was betrothed but not married to Joseph.
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Remember that Jesus was accused of being an illegitimate child, born out of wedlock. “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18). The idea of being betrothed would be similar to our modern idea of engagement. It was a formal agreement that a couple entered in which they promised to marry. They were committed to one another but were not married. Church history over the past 2000 years shows that during the middle of the first millennium the concept of betrothal was very socially relevant. Pope Benedict I (573577), in writing to the Patriarch of Gran, states that it is the sexual act in the context of marriage that makes two people one and that betrothal was not binding if one party chose to leave. The illustration of Joseph and Mary and church history are important points, because they indicate that although betrothal was a formal agreement to marry, the act of sexual intimacy was not accepted within it. With this thought I believe we touch on the real issue of cohabitation that Christians have to address—sex outside of marriage. Common reasons cited for cohabitation involve the financial benefits of sharing expenses, opportunities to experience what it would be like to be married to a person, and access to regular sexual intimacy. It is the latter that Christians need to deal with. A large percentage of Canadians—and a large portion of Christians—are accepting of a consenting couple in a committed relationship being sexually active. Less than 16% of Canadians think sex before marriage is wrong. A study of “born again” Christians that made a distinction between traditional and non-traditional evangelicals found that 26% of traditional evangelicals J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y / M A R C H
(those who were more active in their churches and had a higher view of Scripture) saw nothing wrong with premarital sex compared to 46% of non-traditionals. I don’t see how Scripture makes provision for sexual expression outside a heterosexual marriage union, period.
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new marriage, it is not the same as marriage and that is a message we need to get out.NL
A large percentage of Canadians—and a large portion of Christians—are accepting of a consenting couple in a committed relationship being sexually active. Less than 16% of Canadians think sex before marriage is wrong. I have performed many marriages. The line of the ceremony that sticks out to me the most is, “Marriage is a divine institution ordained by God.” Although marriage has taken many forms over the history of humanity, even in its secular form, it has always been distinguished from casual as well as premarital relationships. I believe the church should always be pro-marriage. That means educating our young people about the sacredness of marriage. We need to help them not settle for imitations and shortcuts that not only fall short of the original, but may damage experiencing the fullness of a future marriage.
For further information I direct you to two very good websites and one article. They are not Christian, but provide the reader with some of the latest information on cohabitation. The National Marriage Project http://marriage.rutgers.edu/ Vanier Institute of the Family http://www.vifamily.ca/library/cft/cohabit ation.html Article: “Would You Live Common-Law?” By Anne Milan h t t p : / / w w w. s ta t c a n . g c . c a / s t u d i e s etudes/11-008/feature-caracteristique/5018784-eng.pdf
I believe we need to recognize that we live in a broken world with fallen people. We confront divorce issues in the church even though God weeps at it, so we need not shy away from dealing with cohabitating couples who seek to glorify God with their lives. Marriage is God’s design and a committed couple must be moving toward that design and recognize the fruitlessness of their arrangement. There is no middle ground. The process of helping a couple fulfill the direction they are moving in requires grace and support, not judgment and condemnation. Cohabitation is not the 2 0 0 9
ÉDITORIAL de Todd Martin Pasteur Église Harvest Christian Fellowship
e discutais récemment du mariage avec un ami pasteur. Nous nous sommes entretenus de quelques-unes des difficultés liées à la préparation et à la célébration du mariage au
21e siècle. Nous avons causé de cours de préparation au mariage et de séances de relations d’aide destinés à aider les nouveaux couples à bâtir un mariage solide. En fin de compte, nous avons abordé le sujet des nombreux couples qui viennent à nous pour être mariés et qui vivent déjà ensemble. Mon ami m’a dit : « Je ne sais même plus pourquoi les gens se marient ». Je pense que c’est un sujet qui mérite d’être discuté. L’union libre est-elle la même chose que le mariage ? L’union libre, ou la cohabitation d’un couple avant le mariage, est devenue
L’union libre est-elle le nouveau mariage ? tellement acceptée qu’elle est maintenant la forme la plus courante de première relation parmi les jeunes adultes. Mais l’union libre est-elle la même chose que le mariage ? Le Québec détient le taux d’unions libres le plus élevé dans le monde, soit environ 30 %, tandis que le Canada affiche un taux d’environ 16 %. Sans les chiffres du Québec, le taux de couples qui vivent en union libre au Canada serait de 12 %. L’union libre est-elle le nouveau mariage ? J’aimerais aborder ce sujet important, parce qu’il a un effet sur nous en tant que société, mais plus important encore, j’aimerais discuter de la manière dont l’Église devrait considérer cette tendance et y réagir. Nous avons tous assisté à des mariages où le célébrant officie la cérémonie pen-
dant que les futurs époux se regardent dans les yeux en se promettant de s’aimer l’un l’autre. Nous avons vu les alliances, les fleurs et entendu les chants. Intercalés dans ces parties merveilleuses de la cérémonie, il y a deux événements importants qui ont généralement lieu lors d’un mariage chrétien au Canada : la signature des registres et une prière à Dieu pour unir le couple. Ces deux événements ne semblent peut-être pas la partie la plus emballante de la cérémonie, mais ils marquent la distinction entre le mariage et l’union libre. Ils représentent les efforts civils et religieux pour formaliser l’union d’un couple. Aux Pays-Bas, par exemple, la loi exige qu’une cérémonie civile du mariage soit célébrée par un représentant de la justice avant qu’ait lieu une version religieu-
se. Au Canada, la plupart des représentants religieux (c’est-à-dire les prêtres et les pasteurs) sont des agents de l’État et exécutent les deux devoirs en même temps. Il est important de remarquer que, même au Canada, nous reconnaissons que le couple qui se marie s’engage légalement (par la signature des registres) et se lie l’un à l’autre dans la présence de Dieu et de témoins.
du gouvernement dans le mariage vise principalement à s’assurer que des personnes ne dépendent pas de l’État quand d’autres ont accepté de s’en charger. Des contrats de mariage légaux assurent que ceux qui se marient prendront soin de leur conjoint contre vents et marées, dans la maladie et la santé. Avec le stigmate social historique des relations sexuelles hors mariage et les
Avec l’effusion du Saint-Esprit et la fondation de l’Église, Dieu a élevé la coutume sociale et universelle ancienne du mariage a un niveau supérieur : il est devenu un type de Christ et de l’Église (Éphésiens 5) et un moyen pour Dieu de sanctifier les non-croyants (1 Corinthiens 7). Avec l’effusion du Saint-Esprit et la fondation de l’Église, Dieu a élevé la coutume sociale et universelle ancienne du mariage a un niveau supérieur : il est devenu un type de Christ et de l’Église (Éphésiens 5) et un moyen pour Dieu de sanctifier les non-croyants (1 Corinthiens 7). À mesure que l’Église s’est développée, son rôle dans les mariages a dépassé les racines juives et romaines de présider la cérémonie pour devenir la seule autorité en matière de mariages chrétiens. Dès le 2e siècle, nous savons d’après sa lettre à saint Polycarpe que saint Ignace recommande à l’Église de s’impliquer dans les mariages : « Il convient aussi aux hommes et aux femmes qui se marient, de contracter leur union avec l’avis de l’évêque, afin que leur mariage se fasse selon le Seigneur et non selon la passion ». Remarquez que, d’après la correspondance entre Ignace et Polycarpe, l’Église célébrait des mariages, même si cela était « illégal ». L’Église ne prend pas son autorité de la société mais de Dieu. Le fait que le gouvernement légalise les mariages est secondaire au fait que Dieu les unit et les sanctifie. En réalité, la participation J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y / M A R C H
méthodes de contrôle des naissances peu efficaces, le gouvernement voulait limiter le besoin d’assistance sociale en légiférant la responsabilité de chacun des conjoints. La majeure partie de la période chrétienne a été remplie de cérémonies de mariage informelles établies par la reconnaissance et le soutien de la communauté. Même si le concept du mariage est universel à travers les cultures et était nécessaire pour la survie, la communauté chrétienne a reconnu le mariage comme une alliance avec Dieu, faite pour la vie, et en conséquence, le divorce était presque inexistant.
plus tard, les effets de ces virements démographiques continuent de se faire sentir. Bien que la popularité de l’union libre ait commencé comme une forme « antiestablishment » de la composition d’un couple, elle est devenue, en moins de vingt ans, une forme de fréquentation pour les nombreuses personnes qui y adhèrent. Les jeunes adultes sont plus longtemps célibataires, alors qu’ils poursuivent des études supérieures et s’établissent financièrement. Face à une attitude sociale plus libérale concernant les relations sexuelles hors mariage et à des méthodes de contraception plus efficaces, et étant le produit blasé de la culture du divorce, les jeunes sont peu pressés de se marier. Cependant, malgré cette tendance, les jeunes canadiens ont toujours le désir de se marier, et la majorité se mariera un jour. Comment l’union libre s’intègre-t-elle dans tout ça ? Examinons ce que nous savons sur ceux qui vivent en union libre au Canada. Permettez-moi de résumer certaines des données connues quant aux effets de l’union libre sur la relation et sur ceux qui vivent ce genre de relation. Puis, j’aborderai la réponse chrétienne à cette question. D’abord les faits :
Après la Première et la Deuxième Guerre mondiale, l’attitude publique envers les fréquentations et la sexualité hors mariage est devenue beaucoup plus relaxe et moins condamnatrice. La révolution sexuelle des années 1960 a donné lieu à une augmentation du taux de divorces, à l’union libre comme autre option au mariage et à la baisse du taux des mariages. Contrairement au tollé social que la montée en flèche du taux de divorces a provoqué, l’union libre comme forme normale de composition d’un couple est devenue courante, sans grande contestation. Deux générations 2 0 0 9
1. Vivre ensemble avant le mariage augmente le risque de séparation après le mariage. 2. Essentiellement, ce sont les jeunes adultes qui vivent en union libre même si le pourcentage dans chaque groupe augmente. 3. Vivre ensemble sans être marié augmente le risque de violence domestique chez les femmes et le risque de violences physiques et sexuelles chez les enfants.
« Malgré le fait que l’union libre soit largement acceptée parmi les jeunes, son accroissement remarquable dans les dernières années ne semble pas être à l’avantage des enfants et de la société. La preuve suggère qu’elle a affaibli le mariage et la famille traditionnelle avec deux parents […]. » [David Popenoe et Barbara Whitehead] 4. Les couples non mariés ont un niveau de bonheur et de bien-être moins élevé que les couples mariés.
7. Les femmes vivent un pourcentage disproportionnel des aspects négatifs de l’union libre.
5. Les unions libres en série ou multiples à court terme sont très nuisibles pour la stabilité d’une relation future.
Je suis conscient que le mariage n’immunise pas un couple contre aucun de ces problèmes, mais il en réduit la possibilité, et je pense que c’est un message important à envoyer à notre jeunesse.
6. La mesure d’engagement par l’un ou les deux partenaires est reconnue pour être moindre dans une union libre que dans le contexte du mariage.
Les chercheurs David Popenoe et Barbara Whitehead du National Marriage Project des États-Unis, résument leur recherche sur l’union libre en disant : « Malgré le fait que l’union libre soit largement acceptée parmi les jeunes, son accroissement remarquable dans les dernières années ne semble pas être à l’avantage des enfants et de la société. La preuve suggère qu’elle a affaibli le mariage et la famille traditionnelle avec deux parents […]. » AnneMarie Ambert de l’Institut Vanier de la famille au Canada déclare : « L’union libre est une situation plus incertaine et possiblement plus dommageable que le mariage, même en tenant compte du taux de divorce actuel. » Les experts sociaux ne sont pas tous en accord sur les conséquences négatives de l’union libre et surtout depuis qu’elle NORTHERN LIGHT
est devenue de plus en plus socialement acceptée. Mais indépendamment du point de vue des communautés séculières qui considèrent l’union libre comme le nouveau mariage, comment devons-nous, en tant que chrétiens, considérer cette approche à la relation de couple ? L’union libre est-elle la même chose que le mariage ? Le concept des « fiançailles » nous donne une piste pour répondre à cette question. Comme je l’ai déjà mentionné, les pratiques du mariage chrétien étaient fortement influencées par la tradition juive et romaine. Le concept des fiançailles en est un avec lequel beaucoup de chrétiens sont familiers en raison de son lien avec la relation entre Marie et Joseph. Au moment où Marie est tombée enceinte de Jésus, elle était fiancée et non mariée à Joseph. Rappelez-vous que Jésus a été accusé d’être un enfant illégitime. « Voici dans quelles circonstances Jésus-Christ vint au monde : Marie, sa mère, était liée par fiançailles à Joseph ; or elle se trouva enceinte par l’action du Saint-Esprit, avant qu’ils n’aient vécu ensemble » (Matthieu 1.18). Le concept des fiançailles ressemblait au concept moderne que nous en avons aujourd’hui. C’était un engagement officiel où un couple promettait de se marier. Les fiancés s’engageaient l’un envers l’autre, mais ils n’étaient pas mariés. Depuis 2000 ans, l’histoire de l’Église montre qu’au milieu du premier millénaire, le concept des fiançailles était très pertinent socialement. Le pape Benoît I (573-577), en écrivant au patriarche de Gran, affirme que c’est l’acte sexuel dans le contexte du mariage qui fait que deux personnes deviennent une seule chair et que les fiançailles ne les lient pas si un des partis choisit de partir. L’exemple de Joseph et Marie et l’histoire de l’Église sont des points importants parce qu’ils indiquent que, même si les fiançailles étaient un engagement officiel à se marier, l’acte sexuel intime n’était pas accepté dans cette relation. J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y / M A R C H
Après cette réflexion, je crois que nous touchons la véritable question de l’union libre que les chrétiens doivent aborder : les relations sexuelles hors mariage.
ment sont loin du concept original, mais qui peuvent également les empêcher de vivre la pleine satisfaction d’un mariage futur.
Des raisons communes citées en faveur de l’union libre comprennent les avantages financiers de partager les dépenses, l’occasion de connaître ce à quoi pourrait ressembler être marié à quelqu’un, et la possibilité d’avoir une intimité sexuelle régulière. C’est ce dernier point auquel les chrétiens doivent faire face : l’idée qu’un couple vive une relation sérieuse en étant actif sexuellement est acceptée par un large pourcentage de la population canadienne (moins de 16 % des Canadiens ne sont pas en faveur des relations sexuelles avant le mariage), ainsi que par beaucoup de chrétiens.
Nous devons également reconnaître que nous vivons dans un monde brisé avec des gens déchus. Puisque nous faisons déjà face à des questions de divorce dans l’Église, même si Dieu en est attristé, nous ne devons pas répugner à faire face aux couples qui vivent en union libre et qui cherchent à mener une vie qui glorifie Dieu. Le mariage est le plan de Dieu, et les couples engagés doivent avancer vers ce plan et reconnaître la stérilité de leur union libre. Il n’y a pas de terrain neutre.
Une étude menée auprès de chrétiens « nés de nouveau » qui a fait une distinction entre les évangéliques traditionnels et les non traditionnels, révèle que 26 % des évangéliques traditionnels (ceux qui étaient plus actifs dans leur Église et qui estiment davantage l’autorité de l’Écriture) ne voient rien de mal avec des relations sexuelles avant le mariage, comparé à 46 % pour les non traditionnels. Je ne vois nullement comment l’Écriture accepte l’expression sexuelle en dehors d’un mariage hétérosexuel. J’ai célébré de nombreux mariages et, au cours de la cérémonie, la phrase qui me frappe le plus est celle-ci : Le mariage est une institution prescrite par Dieu. Même si le mariage a pris bien des formes au cours de l’histoire de l’humanité, même dans sa forme séculière, il a toujours été différencié des relations passagères, aussi bien que préconjugales.
Le processus pour aider un couple qui vit ensemble sans être marié exige grâce et soutien, et non jugement et condamnation. L’union libre n’est pas le nouveau mariage et elle n’est pas la même chose que le mariage. C’est un message que nous devons communiquer.NL
Pour plus d’information, vous pouvez visiter deux très bons sites Internet et un article. Ils ne sont pas chrétiens, mais ils fournissent au lecteur quelques renseignements récents sur l’union libre. The National Marriage Project (anglais) http://marriage.rutgers.edu/ Institut Vanier de la famille http://www.vifamily.ca/library/cft/union libre.html (bilingue) Article : Accepteriez-vous de vivre en union libre ? de Anne Milan http://www.statcan.gc.ca/kits-trousses/pdf/social/edu04_0156a-fra.pdf (français)
J’estime que l’Église devrait toujours être en faveur du mariage, et cela implique instruire nos jeunes adultes sur la sainteté du mariage. Nous devons les aider à ne pas se contenter des imitations et des raccourcis qui non seule2 0 0 9
D I R E C T O R ’ S
D E S K
By Gary Moore National Director
here is a phrase that is rich with meaning found in the writings of the Apostle Peter. With regard to the relationship between a husband and wife, he says to husbands that they should treat their wives with consideration and respect as they are “heirs with you of the gracious gift of life” (1 Peter 3:7). Hopefully, we can take the time to think through what God has inspired Peter to tell us.
Sharing The Gift Of Life they make sure that in spite of the pressures and pulls of this life, they treat one another with love and respect? How do they stay united and focused on that which they both see as important?
However, as in any relationship, it can be all too easy to take one another for granted. The very real pressures of making a decent living in our competitive and pressured economy, and of caring for the physical and emotional needs of children, can take their toll. It is only the intentional investment of time and effort (and even a bit of money from time to time) that can help counterbalance these pressures and keep the relationship between husband and wife strong. Such an investment is essential to nurturing that vital bond of marriage, and will pay huge dividends to husbands and wives, their children, and all those around them.
As we know, at the very beginning, God designed humanity into two sexes—male and female. Both are made in his image, and both have the same spiritual value and potential. However, there are distinctions between the sexes that are the handiwork of God. For many people, finding a partner of the opposite sex with whom to share a very special and intimate life-long bond is the best way to experience life and handle its many challenges and joys. This union is marriage, and is a human relationship but one of divine origin. In Genesis, this bonding into marriage is described this way: “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). The phrase “one flesh” is descriptive of genuine unity between a husband and wife. It indicates that two individuals have formed a strong bond between them, where they have learned to mutually submit to one another, and look out for the best interests of one another. Further, it defines a strong unity of values and purpose—where both are pulling together for common purposes and goals. Ultimately, these common purposes and goals lead to, as Peter states, being “heirs…of the gracious gift of life” —heirs together of the gift of life that God has given to each one of us. How do men and women—husbands and wives—nurture that unity? How do
When couples are first dating, and are in the first stages of romance, they delight in spending time together. Hours fly by, and the conversation flows easily. It is a wonderful stage of life, and serves to help build a foundation for building a solid, life-long marriage.
One of the most critical keys to building and sustaining a strong marriage is also a key to any human relationship. It is the investment of time into the relationship. This means that one must not get so busy making a living, or looking after children, or doing things with friends and pursuing other interests that one’s mate is neglected. Put more simply men, it means taking the time to do things with your wives. Do you—men and women— date your mate? Do you take personal time with one another? Do you nurture your relationship together? Next to our relationship with our Triune God, our relationship with our spouse should be of highest priority. The capacity to provide a safe, loving and happy home for our children is directly related to the strength of our marital bond. It has been said that marriage and the family are the stable building blocks of any society. The health of nations and peoples are directly related to the health of our homes.
As this issue is dedicated to the importance and value of marriage, let’s determine to invest the time to nurture that precious bond we have with our mate. Don’t let the dating stop just because you are married! Never take your spouse for granted, and never stop investing yourself in that relationship. Remember, as the Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians, that Christian marriage is meant to be a reflection of the awesomely deep commitment Jesus Christ has for the church. Let Jesus’ love flow through you to your mate, and may our marriages be a reflection of the far greater love that God has for us all.NL
CHRONIQUE de Gary Moore
Partager le don de la vie
ans les épîtres de l’apôtre Pierre se trouve une phrase riche de sens. En ce qui concerne la relation entre mari et femme, il écrit aux maris de traiter leur femme avec honneur « comme devant aussi hériter avec vous de la grâce de la vie » (1 Pierre 3.7, version Louis Segond). Avec bon espoir, nous pouvons prendre le temps d’examiner ce que Dieu a inspiré à Pierre d’écrire. Comme nous le savons, au tout début, Dieu a créé l’humanité en deux sexes : l’homme et la femme. Les deux ont été créés à l’image de Dieu, et les deux ont la même valeur et les mêmes promesses spirituelles. Cependant, il existe des différences entre les sexes qui sont l’œuvre de Dieu. Pour beaucoup de gens, trouver un partenaire du sexe opposé avec qui partager un lien très spécial et intime de toute une vie est la meilleure manière de vivre une vie heureuse et de faire face à ses nombreuses difficultés. Ce lien est le mariage : une relation humaine, mais d’origine divine. Dans la Genèse, le mariage est ainsi décrit : « C’est pourquoi l’homme quittera son père et sa mère, et s’attachera à sa femme, et ils deviendront une seule chair » (Ge 2.24, Louis Segond). L’expression « une seule chair » décrit une unité authentique entre un mari et sa femme. Elle indique que deux personnes ont établi une union étroite entre eux, où ils apprennent à se soumettre l’un à l’autre et à rechercher le bien de l’autre. De plus, elle définit une ferme unité de valeurs où les deux travaillent ensemble vers des objectifs et des buts communs. Finalement, ces objectifs et buts communs mènent les femmes, comme Pierre l’écrit, à devoir « hériter avec nous [les maris] de la grâce de la vie » que Dieu a donnée à chacun de ses enfants. Comment les époux – homme et femme – nourrissent-ils leur union ? Comment J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y / M A R C H
s’assurent-ils, malgré les pressions et les épreuves de la vie, de se traiter mutuellement avec amour et respect ? Comment restent-ils unis et centrés sur ce qu’ils considèrent tous les deux important ? Une des clés les plus cruciales pour consolider un mariage est aussi une clé pour toute relation humaine : c’est l’investissement de temps dans la relation. Cela veut dire qu’une personne ne doit pas être tellement occupée à gagner sa vie, ou à prendre soin des enfants, ou à sortir avec des amis ou à poursuivre d’autres intérêts, qu’elle néglige son conjoint. Autrement dit, vous, les hommes, devez prendre le temps de faire des choses avec votre femme. Maris et femmes, sortez-vous avec votre conjoint ? Prenez-vous du temps pour être ensemble ? Nourrissezvous votre relation ? À part notre relation avec notre Dieu trinitaire, notre relation avec notre conjoint devrait être notre priorité. Notre capacité à fournir un foyer sûr, aimant et heureux à nos enfants dépend directement de la solidité de notre union conjugale. On dit que le mariage et la famille sont le fondement de toutes sociétés. La santé des nations et des gens est directement liée à la santé de nos foyers. Au début des fréquentations, quand les couples en sont aux premières étapes du romantisme, ils prennent plaisir à passer du temps ensemble. Les heures filent et la conversation vient facilement. Cette merveilleuse étape de la vie contribue à établir un fondement pour bâtir un mariage solide et durable. Cependant, comme dans n’importe quelle relation, il peut être bien trop facile de tenir l’autre pour acquis. Les pressions réelles de gagner convenablement sa vie dans un système économique compétitif et stressant et de prendre soin des besoins physiques et émotionnels des enfants peuvent saper nos énergies. Seulement un investissement intentionnel de temps et d’efforts (et 2 0 0 9
même un peu d’argent de temps à autre) peut aider à contrebalancer ces pressions et à solidifier la relation entre un mari et sa femme. Un tel investissement est essentiel pour nourrir ce lien vital du mariage et produira d’énormes dividendes aux époux, à leurs enfants et à tout leur entourage. Comme ce numéro de Northern Light est consacré à l’importance et à la valeur du mariage, prenons la décision d’investir du temps pour nourrir ce lien précieux que nous avons avec notre conjoint. Ne mettons pas de côté le romantisme simplement parce que nous sommes mariés ! Ne tenons jamais notre conjoint pour acquis, et ne cessons jamais de nous investir dans cette relation. Rappelons-nous, comme l’apôtre Paul l’a écrit aux Éphésiens, que le mariage chrétien doit être un reflet de l’engagement très profond de JésusChrist envers l’Église. Laissons l’amour de Jésus se manifester dans notre relation avec notre conjoint, et que notre mariage soit un reflet du très grand amour que Dieu a pour nous tous.NL
W O M E N ’ S
M I N I S T R Y
By Dorothy Nordstrom Canadian Women’s Ministry Coordinator ut with the old and in with the new” is a saying often shouted as the New Year is welcomed. I am thankful this does not apply in most areas of our lives. I have been working in a Seniors Retirement Home for the last 18 months and I think we would all agree that we certainly don’t want to get rid of everything old. We like to start a new year with a clean slate, to change, with plans to rid ourselves of old harmful habits and establish new, healthier ones. This isn’t easy, but thankfully in God’s plan it is possible each time we repent and accept forgiveness from our Saviour.
We live in a society where so much is disposable—dishes, diapers and clothes to name a few things. Even many of our appliances, cars and homes break down much quicker than in the old days. Almost nothing is made to last. Unfortunately that can include our marriages.
“Out With The Old, In With The New” Marriage is created by God and is something God intended to last for the lifetime of the couple. “Until death do us part” is a phrase often repeated in many wedding ceremonies but it is also often difficult to accomplish. For some the thought going into a marriage is, “Well if it doesn’t work out I can always get a divorce.” We all know these sad truths but I would like to concentrate on the wonderful things I have seen in both old and new marriages. In Caleb Manor, the seniors residence I work in, we have 7 people over 90 years of age. Our oldest resident is 96 and she is still doing amazingly well. (The average age here is about 87 so I feel positively young!) I have been able to observe both old and new marriages while working. One of our couples will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary in July of this year—it is certainly an amazing example of commitment! We have a number of couples with marriages well into the 60s.
It is a joy to see them holding hands and helping each other as they come to meals in the dinning room. All of them say it hasn’t always been easy, but the power of love and commitment carried them through. On a daily basis I see young couples—grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the residents—coming in to visit. They also give me inspiration and delight as I observe them interacting with each other and their children. Marriages are changing in our new generation. It isn’t easy for new couples either as they face very different challenges than their grandparents and great-grandparents. With love, commitment, and a heart willing to make adjustments, and maybe even change some long-held opinions, they too can succeed. I have observed many who are well on the road and “kudos” to them. One such example is the grandchild of one of our residents. He and his wife both have
W O M E N ’ S
careers outside the home, but have made arrangements to each work fewer days and longer hours so that one of them is always caring for their daughter. One day Michael came to have lunch with his grandmother, bringing little Sadie with him. She is 11 months old and they come to visit great-grandmother often. Michael is very competent with Sadie; he prepares her food, feeds and changes her as quickly and easily as her mother. When great-grandmother proudly introduced them both to me she said, “This is my grandson Michael and he is babysitting my great granddaughter Sadie.” Michael replied gently with a smile on his face, “No grandma, I’m parenting Sadie, not babysitting.” This is a beautiful way to explain it. Many young men today are taking a more active role in the parenting of babies; they are “hands-on daddies.” I find great joy in watching them with their little ones. Some daddies are now sharing maternity leave with their wives. J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y / M A R C H
Our son took the last three months of maternity leave with our precious granddaughter Molly. Our son-in-law also took time off work and looked after our granddaughter Joy so that our daughter could get the extra hours she needed to have a full year’s maternity leave with both her children. This can be a beautiful time of bonding and can also be very helpful for couples in our changing economic times. I am proud of our younger generation. Times have changed and couples are coming to terms with it in wonderful ways. Change is a constant part of our human condition. Weathering the storms of change in our lives is something every marriage will face, whether an old or a new one. Even good change can be stressful; such as a new job or a move and of course a new baby. Ageing can bring about difficult change also, such as loss of hearing, eye sight, mobility, and hardest of all, failing health. 2 0 0 9
M I N I S T R Y
C O N T I N U E D
The good news is both old and young marriages can survive with God’s help. Unfortunately, some do fail, that is the nature of our humanity. Take heart; with love, forgiveness and a heart committed to each other, we will all stand together rejoicing at the great wedding feast, the marriage of the Lamb and his bride. “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” “Then the angel said to me, Write: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (Revelation 19:7, 9 NIV). Praise be to our God when our human condition is finished and we are in the one marriage which will last forever.NL
Y O U T H
C O R N E R
By Kelly Anderson Youth Member, Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, Toronto, ON
The Prophet Who Ran Away
ick me up and throw me in the sea, and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
Sailors’ rough hands jostled him forward. The sky was dark from the storm, and Jonah could only see glimpses of waves as he was marched towards the ship’s rail. They were going to toss him over. He was going to drown.
Seaweed wrapped around his head and neck, its slimy hands pulling him deeper. He clawed at the retreating surface, but it was farther than a dream, and he was growing colder. He was choking and coughing, shivering and throbbing.
The captain stared at the young man standing a few paces away. As he did, a swell pitched the ship sideways, sending both men scrambling for their footing on the slick boards. When the captain had righted himself he was shaking his head, rainwater sluicing down his shoulders, “No. Sailors! Break out those oars! We’ll row back to shore!”
Panic bubbled up from his stomach, swamping his resolution. Who cared if the sailors died in the storm? Jonah was going to drown. He clawed away from the edge, but it was too late. Already
Jonah was drowning. “Lord…” Something swam above him, its dark shadow eclipsing the sun. “God, please…” The shadow doubled back, its jaws working slowly. The giant mouth gaped. Jonah’s eyes grew wide, and a rush of noise pummelled his ears. Then, silence and darkness.
The young man frowned, “It’s no use…”
He awoke, surprised to be waking at all, especially to the sharp tang of fish. He tried to stand, and felt the itch of stomach acid against his skin. An intake of krill, some still swimming, drifted past his elbows.
“I’ve heard your story, Jonah,” the captain shouted over the roar of the wind. “You ran away from your Hebrew Lord. Well, whoever’s up there,” he jerked his thumb towards the heavens, “hasn’t got the best of us yet. We’ll make it back to port.”
“I’m in a fish.” He had to say it aloud to make it real. Jonah stared up at the fish’s stomach, as if he could see past it, past all the waters above him and into the heavens. “You have saved me Lord.”
Jonah didn’t meet the captain’s gaze. For all his bluster, Jonah could hear the tremor of fear in his voice. Another wave raked the bow. Somewhere wood splintered. Water fell more freely from the sky, until Jonah felt he was drowning as he gripped the foremast. Fear and guilt tore at the young man’s heart, but every time his thoughts turned to Nineveh, the city he should be preaching to, not running away from, his fear doubled. Hands grabbed his tunic. For a moment Jonah gripped the mast tighter. Then he saw the captain. He was speaking, but not to Jonah, and through the storm the young man caught snatches of his words, “O Lord... not let us die for taking... man’s life… for you… Lord, have done as you pleased.”
© Kelly Anderson
they were pushing him. He was falling. Then the water closed over Jonah’s head. A small chain of bubbles streamed from his mouth at the shock of the icy water. He struggled weakly, the cold numbing his senses. Incredibly, the surface had grown calm, glittering like a sapphire caught in sunlight. A moment’s peace descended, and Jonah let his muscles go limp. Then his lungs began to burn—a throbbing pain that could not be ignored.
Much time passed before Jonah felt a shift in the great stomach. A miniature tidal wave knocked him backwards, and bubbles popped around his knees. The shallow water swirled as the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. The sand was warm against his face. It was a few moments before Jonah convinced his limbs to move, but when he stood, shading his eyes against the sun, he saw soldiers marching. The gold Lion on their standard spoke of their origin— Nineveh. He would join them. Slowly, Jonah began to walk. Every step bringing him closer to the city he hated, and the Lord, as with all people, loved.NL NORTHERN LIGHT
T H E M E By Jonathan Buck
A Wedding Ceremony For Today
ve performed many weddings using the following ceremony, which I wrote originally for my daughter and her husband several years ago. Before each wedding, I’ve asked the couple getting married to read through the ceremony and if they see anything they think could be improved or adjusted, to let me know. As a result, the ceremony now contains the unique touch of many couples. I think it’s a lovely ceremony because it moves with the culture but never strays from the bedrock reasons for marriage. Here it is: “Marriage is amazing. It’s the most ancient and revered tradition known to humanity, a wonderful institution that has survived and flourished through the centuries, providing enormous happiness and fulfillment for billions of us humans. And even in its rather battered state today, marriage still attracts millions of couples, eagerly seeking the treasures it contains. “So, what is it about marriage that makes it so appealing? Simply put, it is the freedom that comes from knowing you are loved—and will always be loved, despite all your obvious imperfections— for nothing more than being you. We crave that love as children from our parents, we search for it as teenagers from our friends, but in marriage we find it at its best in this one incredible person who willingly and publicly declares that he, or she, will love you and cherish you for the rest of your lives together. “And what more could we want in this human existence of ours? At the very roots of our being, this is what we were created for—to give and receive love— believing love can tackle and overcome every obstacle, every mistake and every disagreement. And the overwhelming evidence that this is true—that such a love really exists—can be seen in all those marriages that survive and even J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y / M A R C H
flourish in the circumstances.
“Such an incredibly successful design surely tells of a brilliant designer, with something wonderful and inspiring in mind. But what is it? Well, the Bible tells us that marriage was God’s idea, and He designed it for one very basic and simple purpose—to help us humans experience the kind of love He made possible, and the amazing sense of freedom His love creates.
Pastor, Barrie, Huntsville, North Bay, Peterborough, and Sudbury congregations www.bucktobasics.ca forgives, trusts and perseveres through thick and thin. That’s the love God offers—and it’s there for the asking at a moment’s notice for both of you—to enable you to grow closer, not further apart, as time goes by. “Hopefully, then, it dawns on you at some point in your happily married lives—as this one dear person keeps your need to be loved constantly fulfilled—that this is life at its best, and the way life is meant to be. So, on behalf
“And what more could we want in this human existence of ours? At the very roots of our being, this is what we were created for—to give and receive love—believing love can tackle and overcome every obstacle, every mistake and every disagreement....” “That’s why love is so important. It opens the door to a freedom you may not have believed possible, like the freedom to be utterly real, totally transparent and even vulnerable with each other—without any fear or embarassment whatsoever. It is for this kind of freedom that marriage was created—where there are no demands, no expectations, no guilttrips—just the overwhelming sense of relief and peace of mind that you are loved, no matter what. “That’s what marriage offers, and to help you experience it to the full, God will give you all the support you need. If you ever want to know if God is real and that He really cares for you, just ask Him for the love that’ll keep your marriage together and watch what happens! “And what kind of love does God have on offer? It’s the kind of practical, enduring love that will keep your relationship intact and your friendship growing, because it’s love that’s patient and kind; it doesn’t bear grudges or remember wrongs; it isn’t sarcastic, arrogant or accusing; it doesn’t get jealous or short-tempered—it’s love that 2 0 0 9
of God can I pass on His thanks and congratulations to you both for being so willing to experience what He wants for you? And all it takes from now on is this: that you will be faithful to each other, come what may—just as God is forever faithful to you.” An exchange of vows then follows, followed by a prayer by me and then the familiar exchange of rings, kiss, signing forms, publicly announcing the couple as officially married and off they go for congratulations all round. Many people have asked me afterwards where I got the ceremony from. I tell them it came from thinking about my daughter and the people she would have at her wedding. They were like her, young and turned off religion, but open to the magic of marriage. It was that magic I wanted to capture, for their sakes, because marriage still can be amazing.NL
T H E M E
C O N T I N U E D
By Neil Earle
“Dear Ladies: What
Pastor, Glendora, California congregation
ave you ever thought that the intensely hard-driving Paul of Tarsus was a writer who needed to clarify his more controversial statements?
mistakes in this direction. Many of us know this. But…how might Paul answer his critics?
Most Bible readers know at least a few of them. In our day 1 Corinthians 14:34 and especially 1 Timothy 2:12 perhaps lead the list: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” It goes further. “For Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman” (1 Timothy 2:12, 14).
He might begin by setting a wide-angle context. “Dear Ladies, please remember that most of the letters I wrote were crisis-oriented. I was trying to set things right in some of my new churches— things that were getting out of hand.”
“Ouch!” react many in the women’s movement…and beyond. Perhaps the classic text that brands Paul a misogynist (a man who dislikes women) in the eyes of posterity is Ephesians 5:22-24. You’ll remember that one. It has a lot to do with our theme issue this time, marriage: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church…so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” A Second Look You have to wonder how Paul would explain some of these statements on an early morning talk show, or “The View,” or “Oprah.” You have to wonder if the man who pleaded that Christians be “all things to all men” might not demand equal time for some special pleading himself. This article attempts to do that. It asks: How might Paul seek to answer his critics across the centuries, many of whom, incidentally come from within the Christian church. Even worse, the statements in the marriage passages have allowed many men—who really are misogynists—to hold women back, to emotionally and spiritually stifle their wives and much worse, unfortunately. This is not an issue of “academic theology” after all. As an overly strict conservative church in the past, we in the Worldwide Church of God made our
This is important to keep in mind. Any letter writer who uses such phrases as “let him be accursed,” “O foolish Galatians,” “shall I come to you with a rod,” “note that man,” etc., is obviously working under pressure. Under pressure we all say things that need to be rounded out later, or set beside other, less visceral statements. The Apostle Paul was a man whose life often stood in jeopardy every hour, who faced “perils of waters, perils of robbers, perils in the city, perils in the wilderness, perils in the sea” (2 Corinthians 11:26). Few of Paul’s critics would want Paul’s schedule. His letters were not dictated in the airconditioned comfort of a huge office with staff members bustling around as he sipped on a café latte writing “Be brave, brethren, be strong.” Not at all. Repeatedly and repeatedly, Paul risked his life for the Gospel, and he well knew that pen and ink was not as good as face to face (I Corinthians 4:19). In reading written documents, context is everything. It is vital to remember that Paul’s instructions about women preachers
Any letter writer who uses such phrases as “let him be accursed,” “O foolish Galatians,” “shall I come to you with a rod,” “note that man,” etc., is obviously working under pressure. Under pressure we all say things that need to be rounded out later, or set beside other, less visceral statements. NORTHERN LIGHT
T H E M E
C O N T I N U E D
t I Meant To Say...” were given in letters filled with warnings about “deceiving spirits, doctrines of demons,” saints shipwrecking their spiritual life, and other pesky rogues preaching nonsensical fables (I Timothy 4:1). Literary scholars know this: the writer gets the benefit of the doubt, not the critic. Quite often Paul was living in a spiritual war zone (Ephesians 6:12). In fact, he wasn’t even what we today would call a “systematic theologian.” He often went at things “on the fly,” to use a hockey analogy. Actions Speak Louder One other factor is to see how Paul conducted his life. Here the old proverb “actions speak louder than words” really applies. Paul was a man who had a gift for friendship. That included lots and lots of women. Outstanding women leaders included: 1. Noble and affluent business women such as Lydia (Acts 16:14). 2. The gifted, well-traveled teacher Priscilla, who shared a business with her husband (Acts 18:2-3). 3. Then there was Chloe, a Christian woman who braved the criticism and “flack” of the Corinthian brethren by telling Paul what was really going on (1 Corinthians 1:11). 4. Phoebe, the trusted deaconess from Cenchrea, was probably the lady who carried the all-important Romans letter to the capital of the empire. Paul told the Roman Christians to “assist her in whatever business she has need of you” (Romans 16:1-2). 5. Paul had no problems staying in the house of Phillip the evangelist who had “four virgin daughters who prophesied” (Acts 21:8-9). Paul had earlier written that women were quite free to pray and prophesy, the last a word that runs the gamut of meanings from prayer to singing to preaching (1 Corinthians 11:5). J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y / M A R C H
6. Most impressive of all is Paul’s list of male and female helpers in Romans 16:3-16. Of 26 people mentioned, at least nine are women. And who leads the list? Priscilla. A woman Paul had high regard for. William Barclay is right: There are clearly-drawn saints we know only through the pen of Paul the inveterate letter-writer.
This is an interesting position. But to mention Ephesus perhaps pinpoints another reason why Paul felt the need to restrain women from prominent teaching roles in that congregation. Ephesus was a city renowned in the ancient world for the worship of the goddess Diana, served by over 1000 officially licensed temple prostitutes (Acts 19:24-27).
7. Let’s not forget Lois and Eunice, the grandmother and mother of his best man, Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5).
Many historians feel that the presence of women in prominent roles in the Ephesian church could have been tragi-
One other factor is to see how Paul conducted his life. Here the old proverb “actions speak louder than words” really applies. Paul was a man who had a gift for friendship. That included lots and lots of women. Culture Matters How’s that to set against “Paul the misogynist?” But what of his seemingly blanket condemnation of women preachers in 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14? The discussion here has turned into a small growth industry. Some argue that other statements in 1 Timothy, e.g., are not meant to be absolute commands for the church for all times. For example, very few churches today follow Paul’s rules in 1 Timothy 5:9. Here he counseled Timothy to forbid help to any widow under the age of sixty. Few churches consider this binding today. It is clear from the context that church assistance was being abused in the Ephesus church (1 Timothy 1:3). Similarly, even conservative theologians of an older generation such as C.K. Barrett and Donald Guthrie both argue the point that women “newly emancipated through faith in Christ, had begun to dominate men and were in danger of bringing the church into disrepute” (New Bible Commentary, page 1298). 2 0 0 9
cally misunderstood by potential converts among both Jews and Gentiles. “Why, they’re just like the pagans they condemn,” some might have concluded and Paul was typically sensitive to outside opinion (1 Corinthians 14:23). Other scholars direct Paul’s readers to passages closer at hand that could be easily misunderstood, for example, he seems to be condemning elegant dress and jewelry in 1 Timothy 2:9. In other texts he is clearly not so puritanical (1 Corinthians 11:15). For example, in 1 Corinthians 3:12 Paul uses precious stones to symbolize godliness. ‘Men, Keep Silent!’ In 1 Corinthians 14:28-30 Paul indicates there are even certain circumstances in which even men were to keep silent, e.g. a teacher speaking in a foreign language without an interpreter present. Matters of circumstance and local custom often entered into Paul’s rulings for his congregations. And in 1 Corinthians 14:35 there is the built-in assumption that all women in the church have husbands. The issues are complex. There may be truth in all these explanations. For a
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much deeper overview of these passages consult our web site at http://www.wcg.org/lit. Some of Paul’s apparent strictures against women can be seen as a matter of regulating worship activities for congregations trying to function in a variety of cultural settings—such as Christian women needing to set a more modest example in “anything goes” Ephesus and Corinth. But what of Ephesians 5:24 and Christian marriage covenants? Some now omit these words from certain wedding ceremonies, especially the command for women to submit to men in everything.
ready-made qualifier built into it. The husband as the woman’s head is viewed through the lens of Christ’s leadership of the church. Now here is a high standard indeed with which to gauge husbandly leadership. In Paul’s prescription for husbands which immediately follows, he even “ups the ante” further. Husbands are to love their wives just as Christ loves the church. This means that male leadership in marriage is to be based on Christ-like sacrificial love. This is the diametric opposite of lustful proprietorship, criminal neglect and physical or emotional abuse. As Paul writes so eloquently: Jesus gave his “all” for the church.
This is how men are to love their wives.
Paul’s statement about women’s role in marriage in Ephesians 5:22-24 has a
Seen from this perspective, Paul’s counsel to the New Testament church is
aimed—if that is the right word—much more at the husband than it is the wife! Note that his instructions to the Christian husband occupy almost nine verses in Ephesians 5:22-33 as against three and a half verses for the wife. How ironic! Paul’s use of such words as “nourish” and “cherish” to describe ideal, God-centered, sacrificial husbandly love towards the wife is perhaps the greatest New Testament tribute to Paul’s high regard for Christian women. He knew and surrounded himself with so many capable women, indispensible co-workers in laying the groundwork for the New Testament church. “Dear Ladies,” Paul could be saying, “this is what I really meant to say. Read Ephesians 5 again, more carefully please.” It’s not hard to imagine Priscilla, Lydia, Lois, Eunice and a host of Paul’s women friends smiling in agreement.NL NORTHERN LIGHT
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What About Divorce And Remarriage?
o understand the biblical teaching on divorce and remarriage, we should begin with an overview of marriage. God instituted marriage, we are told in Genesis 2:18, when he made a wife for Adam. He instructed that a man ought to leave the guardianship of his parents and cleave to his wife and become one flesh with her (Genesis 2:24). Of course, the wife should do the same. The married man and woman were then to start a new family. God’s will is for marriage to last for life— with each partner loving, honoring, caring for and cleaving to the other— just as Christ loves and cares for his church (Ephesians 5:22-33). The Bible teaches the sacredness of marital vows. “I hate divorce,” the prophet says, speaking God’s words (Malachi 2:16). Of course, God hates all sin, including hate, violence and pride. In that sense, divorce is no different from any other sin, because it is sin that leads to divorce. In an ideal world where human beings followed God’s ways perfectly, made perfect choices in choosing their marriage partner, understood what marriage was and faithfully kept their vows, there would be no need for divorce. But we live in an imperfect world beset by human weakness, unfaithfulness, irresponsibility, people marrying the wrong person and for the wrong reasons—and all such things. People sin, and they make mistakes when picking a mate. Millions of people have been divorced.
the only option. This informs us that we should not focus on the divorce itself as if this were the only sin. Rather, we should see divorce more as the final consequence of a string of sinful and mistaken behaviors that destroyed a relationship. However, when a person repents and is converted, all his or her past sins and mistakes are forgiven (Acts 2:38; Psalm 103:1-3, 10-12). Any past sins that led to the divorce and the divorce itself would be included. The person would then be free to marry again. There is no sin in the new marriage and the sin of a past divorce is not a continuing one.
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By Paul Kroll
who belong to Christ should obey him, not only in refraining from divorce but also in using all their resources to build a truly loving relationship (Ephesians 5:22-31; 1 Peter 3:1-7). Our earthly marriages ought to picture the great love relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32). However, the reality of life is that converted people also sin and create situations that lead to divorce. Or sometimes converted people made mistakes in picking a husband or wife. At other times, mates claim they want to remain married but abuse the marriage and their spouses. By their actions they demonstrate a lack of love and faithful-
In an ideal world where human beings followed God’s ways perfectly, made perfect choices in choosing their marriage partner, understood what marriage was and faithfully kept their vows, there would be no need for divorce. What of those who are Christian believers? Paul wrote about divorce and remarriage among Christians. He did so in the form of wise opinion based on biblical understanding regarding situations that are difficult and confused (1 Corinthians 7:12). This is important to remember.
ness. The point is that divorce, while far from God’s intention or desire for humans— especially among Christian believers—does sometimes happen because of the destruction of the marriage by a mate who acts like an unbeliever.
Divorce is a fact of life in human society. (Even God divorced his bride Israel, because she persistently strayed into sin—Jeremiah 3:8.) What does a person do if he or she has been divorced? Must that person stay single and not marry? The answer is no.
Paul stated that those who have been divorced (“loosed”) from an unbelieving mate do not sin if they marry (verses 27-28). Paul does not advocate divorce in 1 Corinthians 7—or anywhere else for that matter! However, Paul does write that in his view a believer who remarries after being “loosed” from an unbelieving mate does not sin (verses 27-28). Paul shows that two ways of being “loosed” are by the departure of an unbelieving mate or by the death of one of the partners (verse 39).
As is true after any tragedy and dislocation of life, we must pick up the pieces and go on. For some divorced people that will mean becoming married again. Is it a sin if they remarry? The answer must be, no. True, it’s not what God intended from the beginning. (He didn’t intend for people to murder, steal or covet either. But they do.) True, divorce creates confusion—and so can remarriage. It can lead to children that are “hers, his and ours.” But human life is that way because of our spiritually fallen and sinful condition.
Divorce is like any other sinful action. In fact, the sin is really in those conditions that created a situation in which reconciliation seemed impossible and divorce
Paul admonished the church that a converted person should not leave or divorce a mate who is pleased to continue the marriage (verses 10-13). Those
Having said all this in general about divorce and remarriage, how do we understand Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:32? There, Jesus said: “Anyone who
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divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulterous, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” Obviously, we cannot apply Jesus’ words in a literal manner because then the apostle Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7 would contradict Jesus. We also wouldn’t want to take literally many of Jesus’ words in the other sayings in this section. We wouldn’t, for example, gouge out our right eye if we lust when we see a woman (verse 29). We should also be cautioned that not everything Jesus commanded people are timeless laws. For example, during his earthly ministry Jesus told the disciples to preach only to “the lost sheep of Israel,” and not the Gentiles or Samaritans (Matthew 10:6; 15:24). But after his resurrection he told them to go to Samaria and the rest of the world (Acts 1:8). During his ministry Jesus told people to offer the sacrifices specified in the Mosaic Law (Matthew 8:4). But it’s clear that after his death and resurrection—and the coming in of the new covenant—such religious regulations are not commanded. The book of Hebrews, for example, makes this clear. This leads to a conclusion that we can see Jesus’ teaching first in the context of his time and the people to whom he was talking. We should also understand that during his life Jesus lived as a Jew within his culture and spoke to those who were under the old covenant law. We should note that Jesus was addressing a male-dominated society so he spoke his words from a man’s point of view about divorce. We don’t know how rampant divorce was in the Jewish society of Jesus’ time, but it must have been a problem of large proportions among some groups. That’s why he had to address the divorce issue in Matthew 19:3-12 as well. Here Jesus, speaking to the Pharisees, said that divorce was permis-
sible under the old covenant “because your hearts were hard” (19:8). Jesus made the point that this violated God’s real purpose. “It was not this way from the beginning,” Jesus insisted (verse 8).
one legitimate reason you can divorce your wife—that is, for marital infidelity. Otherwise, you are nothing but an adulterer and you are causing your wife to be an adulteress.”
Jesus’ strong words must be seen against the backdrop of the way many Jews treated women and marriage. But it was legal and allowed. Jesus’ strong words must be seen against the backdrop of the way many Jews treated women and marriage. William Barclay says the following in his Daily Study Bible Series commentary on Matthew, page 151: Ideally the Jew abhorred divorce. . . .The tragedy was that the practice fell so far short of the ideal. One thing vitiated the whole marriage relationship. The woman in the eyes of the law was a thing. She was at the absolute disposal of her father or of her husband. She had virtually no legal rights at all. To all intents and purposes a woman could not divorce her husband for any reason, and a man could divorce his wife for any cause at all. “A woman,” said the Rabbinic law, “may be divorced with or without her will; but a man only with his will”. . . The process of divorce was extremely simple. The bill of divorcement simply ran: “Let this be from me thy writ of divorce and letter of dismissal and deed of liberation, that thou mayest marry whatsoever man thou wilt.” All that had to be done was to hand that document to the woman in the presence of two witnesses and she stood divorced. Let us try to paraphrase the point Jesus may have been making in Matthew 5:32 in regard to such practices. He may have been saying: “You think all you have to do is give a wife you want to get rid of a certificate, and that makes your actions legal even though they are totally unjust. You simply tell her she’s no longer your wife and throw her out of your house. But I tell you there’s only
Jesus was speaking to Jewish men of the time who used the pretext of a “certificate” to get rid of any wife they no longer wanted. That was horribly unjust, and that is what he was concerned with—the unjustness of it all. The same applies to Matthew 19:8-9—where the Pharisees asked Jesus if the Jewish practice of divorcing their wives for whatever reason they concocted was acceptable to him (verse 3). This is where a lengthy study of marriage and divorce among Jewish people in the time of Jesus by David InstoneBrewer may throw some light on the issue under consideration. He is senior research fellow in rabbinics and the New Testament at Tyndale House, in Cambridge, MA. We touched on Matthew 5:32 and 19:89 above, where Jesus said that the only lawful cause for divorce was marital unfaithfulness. However, in Luke 16:18 Jesus provided no allowance for divorce. Also, in 1 Corinthians 7:12-15, the apostle Paul allowed divorce for a believer whose unbelieving spouse left the marriage, something Jesus did not mention. Clearly, either we have to accept a blatant contradiction in Scripture or consider that we are not completely understanding something about when divorce may be allowable, scripturally speaking, from a literal reading of what Jesus said about this matter. According to Instone-Brewer, we need to read Matthew 19:3 to see what question Jesus was answering in verses 8-9 about divorce and remarriage. Here is their question: “Some Pharisees came to him [Jesus], and to test him they NORTHERN LIGHT
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asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause’” (New Revised Standard Version, italics ours). According to Instone-Brewer, the Hillelite rabbis had invented a new form of divorce clause a few decades before Jesus, that went by the formal statement “for any cause.” The Hillelite rabbis had invented this divorce clause from a single word in Deuteronomy 24:1. They argued that a man could divorce his wife for any cause he came up with, no matter how trivial. Not all rabbis agreed with this position, but the “any cause” divorce had become the popular excuse to get a legal divorce. This is what the Pharisees were asking of Jesus: Was he in agreement with the “any clause” legal divorce certificate, that is, that a man could divorce his wife for any reason he came up with. Jesus rejected this approach to divorce by correcting the Hillelite’s misinterpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1. He was saying that this verse did not say a man could divorce his wife based on this concocted “any cause” stipulation. Rather, according to Jesus, the verse said a man could divorce his wife only for immorality, which was understood to be adultery. The only question Jesus is considering is what does Deuteronomy 24:1 allowed; he was not commenting on what other causes might be legitimate ones for a divorce. Just because Jesus rejected the “any cause” divorce certificate, does not mean he rejected other grounds for divorce, which were based on the Old Testament. Instone-Brewer points to Exodus 21:10-11, which indicates that a husband has a duty to provide for his wife, and that neglect would break the marriage and allow for a divorce. This meant it was a legal, and thus, legitimate reason for a divorce, which in turn, allowed for remarriage. Here it is clear that even a slave wife had three rights within marriage—food, clothing and “marital rights,” which last stipulation was to be understood as love and emoJ A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y / M A R C H
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So we come full circle to our main point. The actions that lead to divorce violate God’s purpose for human beings to love and to be loved. So does every other sin, including hate, coveting, killing, lying, stealing, greed—and so on. The fact of the matter is that human beings are less than perfect beings, and tragically can be unloving and unfaithful in their conduct so that they break their marriage vows on a consistent basis, sometimes without remedy being possible. tional support. If a wife, and hence a spouse of either gender, was not provided with these rights in a marriage, the aggrieved mate had the right to seek a divorce, and thus would have been eligible to remarry. Marriage is therefore understood as underpinned by a real contract. If the contract is broken, the marriage can rightfully be made null and void, as can any contract. Says Instone-Brewer, “These three rights became the basis of Jewish marriage vows… In later Jewish and Christian marriages, the language became more formal, such as ‘love, honor, and keep.’ These vows, together with a vow of sexual faithfulness, have always been the basis for marriage. Thus, the vows we make when we marry correspond directly to the biblical grounds for divorce.” Abuse in marriage was considered an extreme form of neglect, as was abandonment. This is the legal cause for divorce that the apostle Paul deals with in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11. Instone-Brewer explains that if we consider all these factors together, we have “a clear and consistent set of rules for divorce and remarriage. Divorce is allowed for a limited number of grounds that are found in the Old Testament and affirmed in the New Testament.” These are: 1) adultery (Deut. 24:1; Matt. 19:3-9), 2) emotional and physical neglect (Ex. 21:1011; 1 Cor. 7:10-11), 3) abandonment and 2 0 0 9
abuse (1 Cor 7). Any spouse suffering from any of these broken vows had grounds for a divorce, after which that person was free to remarry. So we come full circle to our main point. The actions that lead to divorce violate God’s purpose for human beings to love and to be loved. So does every other sin, including hate, coveting, killing, lying, stealing, greed—and so on. The fact of the matter is that human beings are less than perfect beings, and tragically can be unloving and unfaithful in their conduct so that they break their marriage vows on a consistent basis, sometimes without remedy being possible. Divorce, then, becomes a possibility and a legal right in the real world. Therefore, the church position on marriage, divorce and remarriage is the following: The Worldwide Church of God upholds the sanctity of marriage but also recognizes that humans have hardened their hearts. The church discourages divorce, but in most cases permits divorced persons to remarry.NL  David Instone-Brewer, “What God Has Joined,” Christianity Today, October 2007, p. 29. For a full exposition of his thesis, please see his book Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context (William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, June 2002).  Ibid., p.29.
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By Camay Achtemichuk Member, Yorkton SK congregation
t’s too bad so many people confuse a marriage certificate with a property deed, or a vehicle title. Or even worse, a driver’s license (i.e., if you know what to do with the steering wheel, if you’re able to find the brake once in awhile, and if you understand the difference between “go”, “caution” and “stop” you’re a great driver). We confuse privilege with entitlement: the house; the vehicle; the driver’s license, belong to me, to do with as I wish. Not so. It is a privilege to own a house or a vehicle. If it were an entitlement, everybody would have one. The laws of the land frown on setting fire to your own house. Pushing your vehicle into a deep river will be investigated. Beware of DUI’s—you could lose that license. And it is really bad form to produce one’s marriage certificate as “proof of purchase”. It just isn’t done—or, is it?! (Again, “to do with as I wish.”) Some marriages began with Christ in them, but as the “I’s” and the “u’s” became larger and larger, “His” place became smaller and smaller. Soon Jesus was shoved aside, unwanted; then, being the gentleman he is, he left. In other marriages, he wanted so much to guide the couple to true happiness by being included, but was rudely kicked out. Then, in still others, he stood near the edge, but was never invited in. Too many marriages have three “areas”: the “Peaceable Kingdom;” the “DMZ” (Demilitarized Zone); and then there’s the “War Zone.” “It’s just between the two of them. It’s a domestic quarrel.” Even the police don’t like to get in the middle of that one. But domestic “quarrels” have caused many deaths. They have caused trauma to the body; to the mind; to the emotions. And just as important, they have shattered and scattered the lives of millions of innocent children, who never asked to be born. Marriage is a privilege—a chosen privilege. It is not an “entitlement”,
“The Other Side...” thus no one can “do” enough for you, that you “owe” yourself, to that person. Physical violence in a home is a horror story, there’s no doubt, and scars can show for the rest of one’s life. But the other kinds of abuse aren’t considered because they are not visible: emotional; psychological; verbal; and even spiritual. There are just as many scars on the emotions; on the minds—on the spirits, of the walking wounded. Isolation and emotional blackmail just become other “normal” forms of control. And we end up, thinking—with someone else’s mind. But the worst part is, although this type of lifestyle is not “inherited” it becomes the norm for children—the only way to live, since that’s all they’ve ever known—and it can be perpetuated for generations. I’ve come to believe that “unto the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 20:5) is a “human-thing”— not a “God-thing.” By that I mean God doesn’t cause it. It is not a “punishment” he hands out arbitrarily for our mistakes. We do it to ourselves and to our precious children with our vicious cycles of abuse. If Mom and Dad, who stand in place of God in their very young lives, live this way it must be okay. We’re supposed to hurt, and ache, and be lonely, even before we can mouth those words. So the beat goes on. One thing we need to do is be gentle with people. Hear what they’re not saying. Sometimes that is most important. Just because we don’t see any injuries, that doesn’t mean there are none, because only God can see them, on the soul.
I said to a friend about this subject, “I don’t think I can address this theme, because (except for my childhood, and 2½ years with Paul) about all I could tell you about marriage was what not to do.” She said, “That’s important too.” Some of this is “me”; some of it I’ve observed; some of it I read up on or studied in my Social Work classes. I’m hoping among you readers, there is something here some of you can relate to, and I can let you know you aren’t alone—as you may have felt you were. And Jesus was always there, but believe me, I couldn’t always find him. One “lifeline” is 1 Corinthians 10:13. A “yes I can” verse. It told me Christ would “never leave me nor forsake me.” Do you know what? He never did.NL NORTHERN LIGHT
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A Better Way
e can curse the darkness or we can light a candle.”
That expression is indeed the message of Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” When we look around us we see much darkness. We see it in all aspects of life. It is easy to be overwhelmed with darkness and instead focus on this darkness rather than lighting our candles. It is easy to “cover,” as it were, our light by being absorbed in all that is dark around us. The shining light spoken of in Matthew 5:16 is associated with our good works. We light our candles and let our light
shine by practicing those good works of one striving to live a Godly life. Our good works are in fact a loving response for what God has done for us through his Son, Jesus Christ. Are we taking the “high road,” the road less traveled, in our interactions with those around us? Or do we instinctively, without thinking, often lash out at anyone who would challenge us, or our point of view? Do others observe us as being kind, compassionate and courteous? Are we filled with empathy and consideration for others? Do we genuinely respect others? Do other people know us as being kind and filled with empathy? How would those around you describe you to someone else regarding these characteristics? Do they constantly hear us complaining and cursing the darkness and those in it? Our job is not to fix everything that is evil in this world, but to show and demonstrate a better way—the way of God.
By Larry Chanasyk Member, London ON congregation
It starts with our desire to live this “new” way, the way that Christ demonstrated and modeled for us. It starts with us individually saying that this way is the right way and must be lived—even though we do it imperfectly. That way gets noticed automatically. It is in sharp contrast to everything around us. It is the light, the candle, that all will notice. Philippians 2:14, 15 gives that instruction in a different way: “Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world.” The emphasis here is don’t “murmur and argue,” but instead be all about living the example of God. The previous scriptures in Philippians 2 remind us that it is God living in us that motivates and gives us the desire and strength to live that way. We need to ensure we are allowing his power to flow through us and it is not being thwarted in any way. Let’s focus on illuminating the darkness around us and being noticed as shining stars in the midst of darkness. In this way we will bring honor and glory to our Creator.NL
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The Law And The Spirit
By Michael Morrison
A Study Of Galatians 3
ow could anyone believe it? How could the people taught by Paul himself go so quickly astray into false doctrines? Paul, who had seen many things in his ministry, was flabbergasted. He was aghast that the people were being persuaded by such a foolish idea. He wrote a strongly worded letter to stop this nonsense! Let’s see what he wrote in Galatians 3, starting in verse 1: “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.” Here’s the starting point, Paul says: Jesus Christ has been crucified. That is the foundation on which we build. His crucifixion changes everything, as Paul will explain. “I would like to learn just one thing from you,” Paul writes. “Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?” (v. 2). Obviously, they received the Spirit through faith, by accepting what they heard. This is another foundational point. Paul was astounded that the Galatians did not see the consequences of their experience with the Spirit. “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (v. 3). The Galatian Christians were apparently being taught that they needed to add the Law to their faith. False teachers were saying that they needed to progress further in the faith by observing the Torah. They were teaching circumcision and the entire Law of Moses (Gal. 5:2-3; Acts 15:5). Paul says this is a ridiculous idea—if a person is given the Holy Spirit on the basis of faith, without deserving this gift, then Christianity is based on faith, and there is no place for works as far as salvation is concerned. (Paul will later comment on how Christians should behave in response to Christ’s work, but here he makes it clear that salvation is on the
foundation of faith in what Christ has done.) Our goal cannot be attained by human effort, and that is why Jesus died on the cross. Whatever work had to be done, he did on the cross. That is our foundation. Paul asks, “Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” (3:5). The people had seen miracles in their midst. And it was on the basis of faith, not of works of the Law.
Paul concludes, “Those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (v. 9). God’s blessing is by faith. The Law vs. faith The Law brings penalties, not blessing. “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: `Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law’ “ (v. 10). The Law
The Torah says that non-Jews will be blessed through Abraham—and that blessing is by faith, not by the Law. Abraham did not need to be given the Law of Moses, and his spiritual followers do not need it, either. Abraham Paul then supports his argument from the Torah itself. “Consider Abraham,” he said, quoting from Genesis 15:6: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Paul concludes, “Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham“ (3:6-7). Paul’s point is that even in the Old Testament, a right relationship with God came through faith. Abraham was accounted righteous on the basis of faith, not because of his obedience. If we have faith, then we are accepted just as Abraham was. Can non-Jewish people really have a relationship with God on that kind of basis? Yes, says Paul, and he again quotes the Torah: “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: `All nations will be blessed through you’ “ (v. 8). The Torah says that non-Jews will be blessed through Abraham—and that blessing is by faith, not by the Law. Abraham did not need to be given the Law of Moses, and his spiritual followers do not need it, either.
is not a way to earn favor with God. It functions in the reverse way, since we all fall short of its demands. If we think we have to observe the Torah, if we want to be under the Law, we will be under its condemnation. “No one is justified before God by the law, because, `The righteous will live by faith.’ The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, `The man who does these things will live by them’ “ (vv. 11-12). Paul is contrasting faith and law. Righteous people should live by faith (Hab. 2:4), but the Law is based on performance (Lev. 18:5). The Law emphasizes human effort, but salvation is given by grace through faith in what Jesus has done. Law-keeping cannot earn us God’s favor. If we look to it, it can bring only a curse, since we all fall short. But even in the curse, there is good news—in the crucifixion of Christ: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: `Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree’ “ (v. 13, quoting Deut. 21:23). The Law demanded a penalty for lawbreaking, and Jesus Christ paid the worst penalty of the Law. NORTHERN LIGHT
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Paul is using several lines of reasoning to show that Christians are not under the authority of the Law of Moses; we are not obligated to obey it. Not only is the law ineffective, bringing a curse rather than a blessing, Jesus has also paid its worst penalty. His crucifixion gives Paul the basis for saying that Christians are not under the Law. “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (v. 14). The blessing is by faith as opposed to the Law. God’s promise not changed by his Law Paul then argues from another angle, using the example of a contract. “Let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case” (v. 15). Paul is talking about God’s promise to Abraham, which includes being accounted righteous by faith. Paul writes, “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say `and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but `and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ” (v. 16). Here Paul notes that the word seed is singular. Although the singular word can be used for many seeds, Paul is saying that this scripture finds its fulfillment most perfectly in one Seed, Jesus Christ. It is through him that gentiles can become part of Abraham’s descendants (v. 29). “The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise” (v. 17). What law is Paul talking about? The law given 430 years after Abraham—the Law of Moses. The laws that came J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y / M A R C H
through Moses cannot change the fact that God accepts people as righteous on the basis of faith, not by human efforts. Paul then reasons, “For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise” (v. 18). Either it is one way or the other—either by laws and works, or by faith and gift. Paul does not try to combine the two. Rather, he is saying they cannot be combined. Purpose of the Law Why did God give the law? Paul answers: “It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come” (v. 19). Were laws added because the people were already breaking them? Or were they added so that people could see more clearly that they were sinners? Either way, the Law of Moses was added for only a certain length of time—until Christ came. After that, the Law of Moses became obsolete. “Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law” (v. 21). The Law did not nullify the promise of salvation by faith, for it was not designed as another means of salvation. If there was any way possible for laws to bring us right standing with God, then God would have given us those laws. But the Law of Moses is not designed to give us eternal life.
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The Law cannot give life, because we all fall short of what it requires. “The Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe” (v. 22). Instead of giving life, the Law prescribes penalties, and the result is that the promise of salvation can come only through God’s grace. The Law makes it clear that we all fall short and need the salvation that Jesus offers by faith. But before faith in Christ came, “we [the Jewish people] were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed” (v. 23). The Jews were under the restrictions of the law, under its temporary jurisdiction or custody. “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith” (v. 24). The law had authority from Moses until Christ. It showed that humans are prisoners of sin, unable to save themselves through human effort. It showed that salvation can be received only through faith, not by law. Now that the Law of Moses has fulfilled its purpose, it has become obsolete: “Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law” (v. 25). The Torah does not have authority over us. It is not a way to get right with God. It is not a way to enter his kingdom nor a way to stay in his kingdom nor a way to improve our standing with God. Because of Jesus’ crucifixion, our relationship with God depends entirely on faith. “You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (v. 26).NL
People who think they can improve their standing with God through the Law are misunderstanding its purpose and are not accepting the biblical evidence that salvation is simply by faith, without any role for human efforts. We receive the Spirit by faith and are counted righteous by faith, without any need to add the Law of Moses. 2 0 0 9
Étude biblique de Michael Morrison
La Loi et l’Esprit Une étude de Galates 3
omment quelqu’un pouvait-il croire cela ? Comment les gens à qui Paul avait luimême enseigné pouvaient-ils s’éloigner si rapidement de la vraie doctrine ? Paul, qui avait vu beaucoup de choses dans son ministère, était époustouflé. Il était atterré par le fait que les gens se laissaient persuader par une idée si insensée. Il a écrit une lettre vigoureuse pour mettre fin à ce non-sens. Examinons ce qu’il dit en Galates 3.1 : « Ô Galates insensés ! Qui vous a envoûtés ainsi ? Pourtant, la mort de Jésus-Christ sur la croix a été clairement dépeinte à vos yeux. » Voilà le point de départ de Paul quand il parle de la mort de Jésus-Christ sur la croix. C’est le fondement sur lequel nous bâtissons. Sa crucifixion change tout, comme Paul l’explique. « Je ne vous poserai qu’une seule question : À quel titre avez-vous reçu le Saint-Esprit ? Est-ce parce que vous avez accompli la Loi, ou parce que vous avez accueilli avec foi la Bonne Nouvelle que vous avez entendue ? » (v. 2) De tout évidence, ils avaient reçu l’Esprit par la foi, en acceptant le message qu’ils avaient entendu. Voilà un autre point fondamental. Paul était étonné du fait que les Galates ne voyaient pas la portée de leur expérience avec l’Esprit. « Manquez-vous à ce point d’intelligence ? Après avoir commencé par l’Esprit de Dieu, est-ce en comptant sur vos propres ressources que vous allez parvenir à la perfection ? » (v. 3) De faux enseignants avaient apparemment enseigné aux chrétiens de la Galatie qu’ils devaient ajouter la Loi à leur foi. Ils leur disaient que pour progresser dans la foi ils devaient observer la Torah. Ils enseignaient la circoncision et toute la loi de Moïse (Ga 5.2,3 ; Ac 15.5). Paul dit que c’est une idée ridicule : si une personne reçoit le Saint-Esprit par la foi, sans mériter ce don, le christianis-
La Torah dit que les non-Juifs seront bénis par Abraham et que la bénédiction dépend de la foi et non de la Loi. Abraham n’avait pas besoin d’avoir la Loi de Moïse, et ses fils spirituels n’en avaient pas besoin non plus. me repose donc sur la foi et il n’y a aucune place pour les œuvres en ce qui concerne le salut. (Paul abordera plus tard la manière dont les chrétiens devraient se comporter en réponse à l’œuvre de Christ, mais dans ce verset, il dit clairement que le salut repose sur la foi dans l’œuvre de Christ.) Nous ne pouvons être sauvés par nos ressources humaines, et c’est la raison pour laquelle Jésus est mort sur la croix. Ce qui devait être accompli a été accompli sur la croix. C’est notre fondement. Puis Paul leur demande : « Voyons ! Lorsque Dieu vous donne son Esprit et qu’il accomplit parmi vous des miracles, le fait-il parce que vous obéissez à la Loi
ou parce que vous accueillez avec foi la Bonne Nouvelle que vous avez entendue ? » (v. 5) Les gens avaient vu des miracles se produire parmi eux en raison de leur foi et non des œuvres de la Loi. Abraham Paul utilise ensuite la Torah pour soutenir son argument : « Or, il en a déjà été ainsi pour Abraham, car l’Écriture déclare à son sujet : Il a eu confiance en Dieu et Dieu, en portant sa foi à son crédit, l’a déclaré juste » (v. 6 citant Ge 15.6). Et il poursuit en disant : « Comprenez-le donc : seuls ceux qui placent leur confiance en Dieu sont les fils NORTHERN LIGHT
d’Abraham » (v. 7). Le point de Paul est que, même dans l’Ancien Testament, une relation juste avec Dieu reposait sur la foi. Abraham a été justifié par sa foi, et non par son obéissance. Si nous avons la foi, nous sommes donc acceptés comme Abraham l’a été. Les non-Juifs peuvent-ils vraiment avoir une relation avec Dieu sur cette même base de la foi ? Oui, écrit Paul, et il cite la Torah encore une fois : « De plus, l’Écriture prévoyait que Dieu déclarerait les non-Juifs justes s’ils avaient la foi. C’est pourquoi elle a annoncé par avance cette bonne nouvelle à Abraham : Tu seras une source de bénédictions pour toutes les nations » (v. 8). La Torah dit que les non-Juifs seront bénis par Abraham et que la bénédiction dépend de la foi et non de la Loi. Abraham n’avait pas besoin d’avoir la Loi de Moïse, et ses fils spirituels n’en avaient pas besoin non plus. Paul conclut en disant : « Ainsi, tous ceux qui font confiance à Dieu, comme Abraham lui a fait confiance, ont part à la bénédiction avec lui » (v. 9). La bénédiction de Dieu résulte de la foi. La Loi par rapport à la foi La Loi entraîne des châtiments et non des bénédictions : « En effet, ceux qui comptent sur leur obéissance à la Loi tombent sous le coup de la malédiction, car il est écrit : Maudit soit l’homme qui n’obéit par continuellement à tout ce qui est écrit dans le livre de la Loi » (v. 10). La Loi n’est pas un moyen de gagner la faveur de Dieu. Elle fonctionne à l’inverse, puisque nous sommes tous incapables d’y obéir. Si nous pensons devoir observer la Torah et si nous voulons être sous la Loi, nous serons sous sa condamnation. « Il est d’ailleurs évident que personne ne sera déclaré juste devant Dieu grâce à son obéissance à la Loi, puisque l’Écriture déclare : Le juste vivra par la foi. Or, le régime de la Loi ne fait pas dépendre de la foi la justice de l’homme devant Dieu. Au contraire, il obéit à cet J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y / M A R C H
autre principe : C’est en accomplissant tous ces commandements que l’on obtient la vie » (v. 11,12). Paul met en contraste la foi et la Loi. Les justes devraient vivre par la foi (Ha 2.4), mais la Loi repose sur les œuvres (Lé 18.5). La Loi souligne les efforts humains, tandis que le salut s’obtient par la foi en l’œuvre de Jésus. L’observation de la Loi ne peut nous faire gagner la faveur de Dieu. Si nous y avons recours, elle ne peut qu’apporter
(v. 14). La bénédiction s’obtient par la foi par opposition à la Loi. La Loi n’invalide pas la promesse de Dieu Paul poursuit son explication sous un autre angle, en utilisant l’exemple d’un contrat. « Mes frères, prenons un exemple de la vie ordinaire. Lorsqu’un homme a rédigé son testament en bonne et due forme, personne ne peut l’annuler ou y ajouter quoi que ce soit » (v. 15).
Dans ce verset, Paul souligne que le mot « descendance » est singulier. Même si le mot singulier peut être utilisé pour désigner plusieurs descendances, Paul dit que ce passage de l’Écriture se réalise le plus parfaitement par une seule descendance, Jésus-Christ. C’est par lui que les non-Juifs peuvent faire partie de la descendance d’Abraham (v. 29). une malédiction, puisqu’aucun de nous ne peut l’observer. Mais même dans la malédiction, il y a une bonne nouvelle – dans la crucifixion de Christ : « Le Christ nous a libérés de la malédiction que la Loi faisait peser sur nous en prenant la malédiction sur lui, à notre place. Il est, en effet, écrit : Maudit est quiconque est pendu au gibet » (v. 13, citant De 21.23). La Loi exigeait un châtiment pour l’avoir brisée, et Jésus-Christ a subi le pire châtiment de la Loi. Paul se sert de plusieurs raisonnements pour montrer que les chrétiens ne sont pas sous l’autorité de la Loi de Moïse et que nous ne sommes pas obligés d’y obéir. Non seulement la Loi est inefficace, apportant une malédiction plutôt qu’une bénédiction, mais Jésus a également subi le pire châtiment de la Loi. Paul utilise, comme fondement, la crucifixion de Jésus pour soutenir que les chrétiens ne sont pas sous la Loi. « Jésus-Christ l’a fait pour que, grâce à lui, la bénédiction d’Abraham s’étende aux non-Juifs et que nous recevions, par la foi, l’Esprit que Dieu avait promis » 2 0 0 9
L’apôtre parle en ces termes de la promesse de Dieu faite à Abraham, qui comprend la justification par la foi : « Or, c’est à Abraham et à sa descendance que Dieu a fait ses promesses. Il n’est pas dit : “et à ses descendances”, comme s’il devait y avoir plusieurs lignées pour bénéficier de ces promesses. À ta descendance ne désigne qu’une seule descendance, et c’est le Christ » (v. 16). Dans ce verset, Paul souligne que le mot « descendance » est singulier. Même si le mot singulier peut être utilisé pour désigner plusieurs descendances, Paul dit que ce passage de l’Écriture se réalise le plus parfaitement par une seule descendance, Jésus-Christ. C’est par lui que les non-Juifs peuvent faire partie de la descendance d’Abraham (v. 29). « Eh bien, je dis ceci : une alliance a été conclue par Dieu en bonne et due forme à la manière d’un testament : la Loi est survenue quatre cent trente ans plus tard ; elle ne peut donc pas annuler cette alliance et réduire par là même la pro-
messe à néant » (v. 17). De quelle loi Paul parle-t-il ? De la loi de Moïse donnée 430 ans après Abraham. Les lois que Dieu a données à Moïse ne peuvent changer le fait que Dieu justifie les gens en fonction de la foi et non des efforts humains. Paul continue ainsi : « En effet, si l’héritage du salut dépend de l’accomplissement de la Loi, il ne repose plus sur la promesse. Or, c’est bien par une promesse que Dieu a accordé sa faveur à Abraham » (v. 18). C’est par un moyen ou par un autre, soit par la Loi et les œuvres, soit par la foi et la grâce. Paul n’essaie pas de combiner les deux ; au contraire, il affirme que les deux ne peuvent être combinées. Le but de la Loi Pourquoi Dieu a-t-il donné la Loi ? Paul répond à cette question : « […] Elle a été ajoutée pour mettre en évidence la désobéissance des hommes à l’ordre divin, et le régime qu’elle a instauré devait rester en vigueur jusqu’à la venue de la descendance d’Abraham que la promesse concernait […] » (v. 19). Les lois ont-elles été données parce que les gens les brisaient déjà ? Ou pour que les gens voient plus clairement qu’ils étaient des pécheurs ? De toute façon, la Loi de Moïse a été donnée seulement pour un certain temps, jusqu’à la venue de Christ. Après cela, la Loi de Moïse est devenue obsolète. « La Loi irait-elle donc à l’encontre des promesses divines ? Certainement pas ! Ah ! sans doute, si nous avions reçu une loi qui puisse procurer la vie aux hommes, alors nous pourrions être justes devant Dieu sous le régime de cette loi » (v. 21). La Loi n’a pas invalidé la promesse de salut par la foi, car elle n’était pas destinée à être un autre moyen de salut. Si les lois pouvaient nous justifier devant Dieu, Dieu nous les aurait données. Mais la Loi de Moïse n’est pas destinée à nous donner la vie éternelle.
Les gens qui croient pouvoir améliorer leur position auprès de Dieu par la Loi ne comprennent pas son but et n’acceptent pas la preuve biblique que le salut s’obtient seulement par la foi, sans donner de place aux ressources humaines. Nous recevons l’Esprit par la foi et nous sommes justifiés par la foi, sans devoir ajouter la Loi de Moïse.
leurs efforts humains. La Loi montrait également que le salut peut seulement être reçu par la foi, et non par son observation. Ayant accompli son but, la Loi de Moïse est devenue obsolète : « Mais depuis que le régime de la foi a été instauré, nous ne sommes plus soumis à ce gar-
La Torah n’a aucune autorité sur nous. Elle ne peut nous justifier devant Dieu. La Loi n’est ni un moyen d’entrer dans le royaume de Dieu, ni un moyen d’y rester, ni un moyen d’améliorer notre position auprès de lui. Grâce à la crucifixion de Jésus, notre relation avec Dieu dépend entièrement de la foi. « Maintenant, par la foi en Jésus-Christ, vous êtes tous fils de Dieu » (v. 26). La Loi ne peut nous donner la vie, parce que nous sommes tous incapables de l’accomplir. « Mais voici le verdict de l’Écriture : l’humanité entière se trouve prisonnière de sa culpabilité devant Dieu afin que le don promis par Dieu soit accordé aux croyants au moyen de leur foi en Jésus-Christ » (v. 22). La Loi, plutôt que de donner la vie, prescrit des châtiments, et c’est pourquoi la promesse du salut ne vient que par la grâce de Dieu. La Loi dit clairement que nous sommes tous privés de la gloire de Dieu et que nous avons besoin du salut que Jésus offre par la foi en son sacrifice.
dien » (v. 25). La Torah n’a aucune autorité sur nous. Elle ne peut nous justifier devant Dieu. La Loi n’est ni un moyen d’entrer dans le royaume de Dieu, ni un moyen d’y rester, ni un moyen d’améliorer notre position auprès de lui. Grâce à la crucifixion de Jésus, notre relation avec Dieu dépend entièrement de la foi. « Maintenant, par la foi en Jésus-Christ, vous êtes tous fils de Dieu » (v. 26).NL
« Avant que soit instauré le régime de la foi, nous étions emprisonnés par la Loi et sous sa surveillance, dans l’attente du régime de la foi qui devait être révélé » (v. 23). Les Juifs vivaient sous les restrictions de la loi, sous sa juridiction ou sa garde temporaire. « Ainsi, la Loi a été comme un gardien chargé de nous conduire au Christ pour que nous soyons déclarés justes devant Dieu par la foi » (v. 24). De Moïse à Christ, la Loi faisait autorité. Elle montrait que les êtres humains étaient prisonniers du péché, incapables de se sauver par NORTHERN LIGHT
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Should Intelligent Design Be Taught In The Science Classroom?
n the last few years the concept of Intelligent Design (ID) has really hit the news headlines. Articles in major weeklies like Time and editorials in other magazines and newspapers have discussed the pros and cons of the controversy, which has been raging especially in the United States.
time, space and matter, is outside time and space and is non-material, therefore he cannot be detected by the tools of science. He cannot be seen, measured, weighed, quantified, or objectified.
What is Intelligent Design? It is the idea that, because the universe and life are so complex, they must be the deliberate creation of a higher power. That power is not usually named as God by ID enthusiasts—the point of Intelligent Design theory is merely to introduce the notion of a Designer into the science classroom, as a counter to evolutionism, without necessarily making a statement about who the designer may be. Predictably, the scientific community has reacted very strongly against this. They say it is merely a ploy to introduce the creationist interpretation of origins into education. [Strictly, Creationism is a particular interpretation of Genesis 1, the first chapter in the Bible. What might be called “young-earth creationists” argue that the universe, earth, and all life were created in just six days about 10,000 years ago. But the term is usually also applied to “old-earth creationists,” who accept scientific evidence that the universe is billions of years old but nevertheless argue that God created all there is by separate acts of fiat (“Let there be ...”) during those billions of years.] Most scientists, on the other hand, including many Christian scientists, point out that science cannot prove the existence of God, therefore invoking him to explain something in nature that we may not yet understand, in fact explains nothing. To do so brings all scientific enquiry to a halt. Ironically, these scientists may have Scripture on their side. Jesus Christ specifically said, “God is Spirit.” What this means is that God, who created J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y / M A R C H
Science is simply inadequate to the task of pointing to any one difficult-to-explain gap in scientific knowledge and saying, “There, this definitely, measurably, objectively proves beyond all doubt that God is responsible for the existence of...” The sentence might be completed in any number of ways, such as: the fundamental forces of nature, star formation, proteins and nucleic acids, living cells, complex organs like the eye, species, and so on. This doesn’t mean God may not be behind all these things—it’s just that that the scientific method cannot prove it one way or the other. This actually poses no problem to Christianity. Christian scholars and commentators note that the Bible points out that God can only be known spiritually and relationally. While the Bible does clearly say that the creation is God’s handiwork and gives evidence of his 2 0 0 9
O D Y S S E Y By Dennis Gordon
existence, this is in terms of general revelation. This is why some Christian scientists have no difficulty with, say, the concept of biological evolution, arguing that God fully gifted the creation with the ability to be and to become. These scientists make a distinction between evolution (a natural process that may itself have been created) and evolutionism (an atheistic philosophy that denies the possibility of a creator). Whatever the case, many theologians are themselves agreeing that the idea of Intelligent Design does not belong in the science classroom, though it certainly belongs in classes on religion or cultural history. This is why, on November 18, 2005, the Vatican’s chief astronomer, astrophysicist George Coyne, stated that “Intelligent Design” isn’t science and doesn’t belong in science classrooms. While reaffirming God’s role in creation, he said that science explains the history of the universe. Even the conservative U.S. ministry group Reasons to Believe recently stated, “As it currently stands, we believe ID should not be taught in biology class. That is not to say we think there’s a lack of evidence in the record of nature for the work of an Intelligent Designer. Far from it! ... However, at this juncture, ID isn’t formulated as a scientific theory. To date, ID has not developed an origins model with scientifically testable assertions and falsifiable predictions. No ID theory accounts for the history of the universe and of life. There are no ID predictions about what scientists should discover when they examine the record of nature. Without a testable model, ID cannot guide future scientific investigation.” NL Dennis Gordon, who lives in New Zealand with his wife Brenda and 13year-old son Adrian, is a marine biologist at a Crown Research Institute and serves on the Wellington Council of Churches.
C H R I S T I A N
O D Y S S E Y
By Eric Wilding Member, Toronto East congregation
o, we are not talking about the 2008 U.S. election between Senators McCain and Obama. We’re talking about the election that affects all nations and all people who have ever lived: the election of Jesus Christ. Many theologians have attempted to grasp the mystery of election attested to in Scripture. One of the most influential commentators on the doctrine of election is the Swiss theologian Karl Barth. For Barth, the doctrine of election is the sum of the gospel and the foundation for understanding God. God’s free choice “Election” simply means “a choice.” The Christian doctrine of election involves a choice made by God. For Karl Barth, this doctrine—the decision of God before all time to be who he is for humanity—is the basic truth on which all other Christian truths are built. The doctrine of election involves two aspects, the electing God and the elected man. As the electing God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit together make a choice. The choice God makes is that the Son of God will become the elected man, Jesus of Nazareth. The Triune God eternally elects, or chooses, in divine freedom, to be for humanity the God of grace and love. Therefore, in Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man, God is both the elector and the elected. Barth wrote, “In the midst of time it happened that God became man for our good. While underlining the uniqueness of this event, we have to reflect that this was not an accident, not one historical event among others. But it is the event which God willed from eternity.”1 Theologian and Barth scholar John Webster describes it this way, “God elects to be this God, God in this man, God known in and as Jesus Christ.”2 As the act of grace and love, the Son of God is elected to give of himself to
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The Most Important Election Ever “To pronounce the name of Jesus Christ means to acknowledge that we are cared for, that we are not lost. Jesus Christ is man’s salvation in all circumstances and in face of all that darkens his life, including the evil that proceeds from himself. There is nothing which is not already made good in this happening, that God became man for our good. Anything that is left can be no more than the discovery of this fact. We do not exist in any kind of gloomy uncertainty; we exist through the God who was gracious to us before we existed at all. It may be true that we exist in contradiction to this God, that we live in remoteness from Him, indeed in hostility to Him. It is still truer that God has prepared reconciliation for us, before we entered the struggle against Him. And true though it may be that in connection with our alienation from God man can only be regarded as a lost being, it is still much truer that God has so acted for our good, does it and will also act, that there exists a salvation for every lost condition. It is this faith that we are called to belief through the Christian Church and in the Holy Spirit.” — Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline, page 71. become united with the Son of Man for the specific purpose to save sinful humans. This is the act of free grace where God gives “love in the deepest condescension,” that is, he reaches down to pull humans to himself (p. 10). The Son of God empties and humbles himself so that humans may be united in fellowship with God (see Philippians 2:68; John 17:22-24). This is the work of the Triune God: Father, Son and Spirit, in perfect love and perfect unity for the sake of humanity. Barth wrote, “This work of the Son of God includes the work of the Father as its presupposition and the work of the Holy Spirit as its consequence.”3 We know the Father loves us because we know Jesus loves us, and we live in this assurance by the Spirit.
Scripture tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). As the Triune God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have freely shared their perfect love and fellowship within the Godhead eternally, and by God’s own free choice, he elects to share that same love with humanity through Jesus Christ, who is the elect man on behalf of all humanity. How do we know about this choice? Barth explains, “It is grounded in the knowledge of Jesus Christ because He is both the electing God and elected man in One.”4 We only need to look to Jesus Christ to know about this election. Theologian Robert Jenson explains, “Jesus Christ is therefore the basis of the doctrine of election. All its statements must be statements about Him.”5 NORTHERN LIGHT
C H R I S T I A N
Predestination For Barth, predestination is identical with the election of Jesus Christ. God freely chooses or predestines himself and all humans to be in loving relationship with and through Jesus Christ. God will have it no other way; he loves humanity and will not be without humanity. The problem is that humans are fallen, sinful beings who reject God and need redemption in order to stand in that fellowship from their side. Scripture testifies to God’s foreknowledge—before creation—that human beings would be sinful and would be in need of redemption and reconciliation (see 1 Peter 1:1821; Revelation 13:8; Romans 5:6-11; 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-14; Colossians 1:15-20). Barth explains, “Yet these transgressors are the ones on whose behalf the eternal love of God for Jesus Christ is willed and extended” (p. 123). You may say, “Predestination? Doesn’t that mean that God accepted some (the elect) and rejected others (the reprobate) before he even created humanity?” Barth challenged this hyper-Calvinist version of “double predestination” because of its lack of scriptural support. For Barth, God is not a capricious tyrant who elects some to salvation and elects others to perdition by some abstract absolute decree. On the contrary, all knowledge we have about God and his election is in and through Jesus Christ— there is nothing hidden beyond or behind that knowledge. Double Christ
For Barth, “double predestination” has to do with the election of Jesus Christ for crucifixion and resurrection. Before time began, God accepted us by electing Jesus Christ in our place and on our behalf through the Incarnation, the cross and the empty tomb. At the crucifixion, God rejects and says J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y / M A R C H
NO to disordered human sin that caused alienation from him. However, God’s NO is not directed at us—even though we deserve it because of our rejection of God. Instead, Jesus takes the rejection and the NO of God totally upon himself as the human representative of and substitute for all humanity. The NO is absolutely necessary so that we can hear God’s YES. Jesus Christ does not come to the world as “an accuser, as a prosecutor, as a judge, as an executioner.” Instead he is “the herald of this Yes which God has spoken to it [the world]…. God has loved it from all eternity, and…He has put His love into action in the death of Jesus Christ.”6 The resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s YES to Jesus Christ. It is the acceptance of Jesus Christ’s obedient submission to God’s will. In and through Jesus Christ, the YES of God is freely given to all human beings. Therefore, we may say that Jesus Christ is our elected representative. You may ask, “What does the NO and YES mean for me?” Theologian Joseph Mangina writes, God’s No is “a death-dealing rejection of sin and evil” and Yes is “a life-giving affirmation of covenant love.”7 The NO passed away at the cross; Jesus Christ bore the NO and totally removed it. There remains only the covenant or relationship of YES with the resurrection of Jesus Christ (see 2 Corinthians 1:1920). Ultimately, double predestination involves Jesus dying for the sins of every human being who ever lived—not just a closed number of elect—so that all might have eternal life (see John 3:1617; 1 Timothy 2:3-6; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:2). At the resurrection, the Father gave acceptance to Jesus Christ and everyone with him. Barth states, “We have to see our own election in that of the man Jesus because His election includes 2 0 0 9
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ours within itself and because ours is grounded in His. We are elected together with Him in so far as we are elected ‘in Him’” (p. 120). The good news Barth calls the doctrine of election the sum of the gospel, for it reveals the heart of God: “God’s eternal will is the election of Jesus Christ” (p. 146). He is the loving God who has freely chosen and created human beings to be in his image and in fellowship with him. This is the absolute good news. There is no bad news mixed with the good news, no fear mixed with terror, no certainty mixed with uncertainty. We are not left to blind fate or some unknown will of God. Our election and predestination by God is certain in Jesus Christ, and in him alone and in him fully we have and know the will of God for the meaning and direction of our lives.NL
1 Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline (Harper & Row: 1959), 69. 2 John Webster, Barth: Outstanding Christian Thinkers (Continuum, 2000), 91. 3 Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline, 71. 4 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/2 (T&T Clark, 2004), 3. All quotes, unless otherwise cited, come from this source. 5 Robert W. Jenson, Alpha and Omega: A Study in the Theology of Karl Barth (Wipf & Stock, 2002), 144. 6 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/1(T&T Clark, 1956), 347. 7 Joseph L. Mangina, Karl Barth: Theologian of Christian Witness (Westminster John Knox, 2004), 75.
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The Ottawa Women’s Retreat - 2008 The 8th Ottawa Women’s Retreat met at the Maison Ste-Marie, Vankleek Hill, Ontario from September 19 - 21st, 2008. An atmosphere of excitement pervaded as 42 ladies from the Ottawa, Smiths Falls, Montreal, Cornwall, and Kingston congregations gathered together to praise God.
God’s creation. We learned the many health advantages provided us by the vast assortment of herbs. His amazing creation illustrates his infinite wisdom and his love toward us. On Sunday we enjoyed a lovely lesson from Helen Latimer-Hanah entitled: “Beneath the Clutter.” Just as there is a beautiful table cloth beneath the clutter which often collects on our kitchen table, so in our lives, beneath the clutter of fear, hate, worry, guilt, regret, and shame we too are beautiful when we give it all to God. We become trophies of his grace. “Who Are You Not To Be?” was the challenge given us by Micheline Monti. We are God’s children, we are born to manifest his glory that lives within us; therefore we must be talented without fear, doubts and regrets. We must enjoy our many blessings and gifts. Trust him, believe him, and be joyful that God sees what we really are.
The theme chosen for the gathering was: “Our Walk, Our Journey and Our Growth.” Linda Rabey, wife of pastor Bill Rabey, opened by welcoming everyone. Bev Ferlatte led praise and worship, and Catherine Dolcini then directed a period of questions and answers. We were inspired on Saturday morning with a message from Beth Moore entitled “Pressing Past Our Fears.”She encouraged us to trust in our God and press forward, regardless of the challenges we face, as he is always there for us. Later, Laurie Rand reviewed Proverbs 31 and the book of Esther in a discussion on ‘Brawn, Brains and Beauty.” Laurie explained how we as women can use the many qualities and strengths God has given us to find solutions and direction in our lives. With these God given qualities and our Father’s guidance we are able to solve the difficulties we face each day. We are washed clean by the blood of Christ and stand beautiful before him. Through his spirit we grow in beauty each day. Linda Rabey spoke on the wonders of
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Throughout the Retreat we were led in inspiring songs of praise by Archange Chenier, Bev Ferlatte, Nicole Lim and Helen Latimer-Hanah. We also had the fun of choosing a “Secret Sister.” The idea was to anonymously choose the name of another person, then throughout the year we will send cards and perhaps little gifts to encourage and show love. Amid the many lessons we learned, we laughed a lot, and enjoyed scrumptious food prepared by our wonderful hosts, the sisters from Maison Ste-Marie. Their gracious kindness and hospitality helped to make the retreat a most memorable experience. Colleen Briault
OBITUARIES MANTALA, Francisca: (90) of the Montreal congregation passed away suddenly January 1, 2009 during her annual visit home to Manila, Philippines. She was born on March 10, 1918, and married Pablo Mantala, a seaman with Maersk Lines, in January 1940. Her hus-
band was a US scout during WWII and a Bataan Death March survivor. During the Japanese occupation, Mrs. Mantala escaped to the mountains of the Philippines and told numerous stories of hiding adventures and watching aerial dogfights between the Filipino and Japanese pilots. In the early 1960s, she owned a very successful grocery store and became one of the first women drivers in Manila able to buy her own car. Fire destroyed her business in 1975 and, though rebuilt, it was not as successful. Her husband died in Baltimore, Maryland in December 1965 when Mrs. Mantala was only 47 years of age. She never remarried. In 1977, she arrived in Canada where she worked as a seamstress in the garment industry until she retired. She began attending Worldwide Church of God (Montreal) in 1992. She is survived by two daughters (Carmelita, Evangeline), four grandchildren, including Rose (Deo) Eugenio, of the Montreal congregation, and her family, which includes three (Kristine, Zachary, Jared) of Mrs. Mantala’s thirteen great grandchildren. The Montreal congregation held a memorial service in her honour on January 10, 2009; Mrs. Mantala has been buried in the Philippines. Her faithful participation and cheerful attitude will be missed by young and less young in her home congregation. NORTHERN LIGHT
AFRICA SUMMER CAMP
NORTHERN LIGHT Vol.12, No.1 January-March
Bill Hall Editor Layout and Design
Gary Moore Editorial Advisor
David Bacon Doug Collie Copy Editors
Colin Wallace Online Edition Editor
Francine Lemay French Translator
Feature Editors Dorothy Nordstrom Jonathan Buck David Sheridan Phil Gale Neil Earle
Ben Lim from the Ottawa congregation flew to South Africa in December. He served in several capacities at the Summer Camp there, and then flew to Zambia and served at the summer camp near Victoria Falls for youth from Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. There were youth from the Congo as well, and reps.from South Africa, Ireland as well as Canada. Ben sent us a number of pics from his trip. Two are above: The first is of one of the 11 baptisms that took place at the camp in Zambia. The second is of one of the boy's dorms at the South African Camp. We have heard from people at both camps that Ben was a wonderful ambassador for us. He represented Camp Connections (our eastern camp), his congregation in Ottawa, and the WCG here in Canada. We appreciated Ben's willingness to make the trip, and are delighted with the wonderful impression he left on those he served. Gary Moore
Northern Light Tape Ministry! Do you love to listen to audio tape messages from dynamic Christian speakers? Northern Light Magazine is pleased to provide an audio cassette tape ministry in conjunction with the Edmonton, Alberta congregation.
A sermon based on the theme for each issue of Northern Light will be prepared by some of the best speakers from across the country. Northern Light Tape Ministries 15641 96 Ave. Edmonton, AB T5P 2R7 Phone: (780) 444-8903 Fax: (780) 484-5661 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org This Month’s Month’s Tape Tape Offer Offer : "New Year - Old You?" How much is God really asking of me? Where do I find the power to change?
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