The Kingdom of God and the Future of the Church

Rev. Dr. Dale Woods"The Kingdom of God and the Future of the Church" was the focus of recent discussions among leaders and followers within The Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC). Dr. Dale Woods of Presbyterian College was the keynote speaker at the 2011 Annual General Meeting of The Renewal Fellowship, held at St. Andrew's, Etobicoke ON in March. Dr. Woods warned us that the Christian community may present itself in radically different forms than those familiar to us. He highlighted three trends that help us reflect on the future: Global, Emergent, and Missional.

The Global Church: Dr Woods pointed out that while we see a decline in the church attendance/interest/growth in western nations, the church has strong growth in Korea, China, Africa, and Latin America. In a study of churches in South America, Donald Miller highlighted these keys to church growth:

  • visionary leadership with a humble expectation that God will act through His people;
  • passionate devotion to God through a deep spiritual life;
  • vision for transforming people in the world; and,
  • a spirit of expectancy.

Their focus of leadership is to train the people to do the work of ministry. Academic qualifications take second place to spiritual experience and a passion for Scripture. Growing churches need creativity, imagination, and faithfulness.

The Emergent Church is a new way of "being church" and of practicing Christianity. Supporters of the Emergent Church believe that the old model can't last, and no-one knows what the new one will look like — hence "Emergent" or "Emerging" Church. They compare the present church to pay phones — there are still some in use, but fewer and fewer people are using them. The new way, emergents argue, will not emphasize denominational distinctives but will embrace a more generous orthodoxy. The gospel today has become encrusted like a volcano — the crust that prevents the flow is dogma, bureaucracy, institutionalism, individualism, and consumerism. The Emergent Church looks for new ways for the gospel to break through. The church of the future will not be identified with a building, but will operate as an open source network more than a bureaucracy. It will need to be more open to the work of the Holy Spirit rather than dependent on methodologies and formulas.

The Missional Church distinguishes itself from the attractional church which seeks to draw people into church. The Missional Church says we need to listen to the culture. Supporters of the Missional Church say this is the church God wants for the world. The Missional Church emphasizes God at the centre of all activity. Two key questions are asked: "What is God doing in the world?" and "What does God want to do in His world?" Pastoral parishes ask, "How can we save the church?" But Missional churches ask, "How can we save the world?"

This is about spiritual and theological realities with profound consequences. Leonard Sweet argues that the future church will be EPIC: Experiential, Participatory, Image-oriented, and Connected. Leadership will need to be apostolic. Followers will need to have a deep sense of call by God.

Following Dr. Woods' presentation, three PCC leaders offered their views on a panel moderated by Calvin Brown, Executive Director, The Renewal Fellowship within the PCC.

The Panel members were Charles Fensham of Knox College, Jeremy Bellsmith, pastor of Burns Presbyterian Church (Ashburn ON), and Rick Fee, General Secretary of the Life and Mission Agency. Fensham began by saying that the future of the church is in the hands of God but in a secondary way — how we respond to God — we can also say the future depends on us. He quoted numerous times in the history of the church when renewal was necessary and God raised up strong new leaders. When we think of renewal we think also of the past. This affects theological colleges looking to train ministers for the future by reminding them that renewal comes through profoundly committed leaders — not just intellectually trained but people whose daily lives are shaped by their devotion and commitment to the mission of God. Fensham asserted that his heart is with the Missional Church. Where will we be in thirty years?

Jeremy Bellsmith, a new pastor, began by saying that in thirty years he would be retiring! He affirmed his desire to see the church become all she can be. He said, "I'm a dreamer. Dreams are a form of prayer to get us moving." He wants the church to be a people united in a common desire, to be a church deeply connected with God, with each other, and with their communities. We are called to diversity if we are to connect with our communities. Each congregation recognizes a mission calling unique to their setting. This may mean new worship forms and a new understanding of mission. This is the emphasis of the Emergent Church. As pastors, we need to "do" Ephesians 4 — train the people to do mission and think theologically in their lives. All of this happens in congregations. Jesus Christ and the mission He came to the world for is worth living for!

Rick Fee led with the quotation: "The church is the only institution that exists for the sake of serving its non-members." He noted that if we place an emphasis on the institution and the maintenance of that institution, we may be misleading ourselves and missing the mark. The issue is not decreasing membership and lack of people in the pews, it is our failure to recognize how our society has changed in seismic ways. Society has gone through major secularization and we have not yet learned how to be church in this society. Fee believes that we will learn, but we need to learn to speak the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a radically new culture. The work of the national church is to try to get resources to people in congregations struggling to comprehend what they should be doing, who feel they are caught in a hurricane, hiding in the basement as the hurricane is threatening to lift their house off the foundation. The national church tracks and reports on the progress of the hurricane. Congregations need help to get outside themselves to become engaged in society around them. Fee asserted his view that a Presbyterian renaissance will demand that we dig deep into the very core of our religion, re-experience it in the content of full modernity, and assume that nothing is too sacred to be questioned, reinterpreted, or modified. We need to be an open and collaborative church that depends on all its members — not just the leaders — to discern our faith. We need to grow up. We do find emptiness, but it's an emptiness that holds open the possibility for the divine to emerge. That is what the national office seeks to do — to engage all of us in working for that nothingness to determine where the PCC will be in thirty years' time.

The Renewal Day was challenging and hopeful — an important beginning in helping the church understand itself and focus on some questions that need addressing.

Calvin Brown, Retired Executive Director
The Renewal Fellowship

Sharing the Gospel Today

Alex recently moved to Guelph after being called to Kortright Church as their new Lead Minister. He started on Nov.1st. From 1996, he served on staff at Knox Church, Toronto, most recently as Associate Minister, Leadership and Small Groups. At Knox, he was particularly focused on discipleship and leadership development among the university and young adult community. He was delighted to see six new elders in their 20s and 30s join the Knox session last spring. Alex grew up in Toronto and went to the University of Toronto for history and philosophy before a year studying in Beijing, China, turned him around. To his surprise, he ended up at Regent College in Vancouver, learning about biblical theology from people like Eugene Peterson. He received his M.Div. from Knox College and is currently slogging through a doctoral program in the History of Christianity at the Toronto School of Theology. He has taught modern church history at Tyndale University College and Seminary and writes occasionally for the Presbyterian Record, among other publications. Alex is married to Judith Michell and they have 3 young children. Alex loves to ride his bike, collect and consume hot sauces from around the world, drink pitch-black coffee, and make good use of public libraries.

Getting Outside The Box

Leaders in the church today sometimes wonder how we can be more hospitable towards a new generation of young adults as we try to welcome them into our congregations. I've found Leonard Sweet to be helpful in trying to explain the change in our emerging culture to those who want to better understand the generational gap which exists in our churches.

Leonard Sweet was a history professor until twenty years ago when he experienced a conversion while cleaning out his attic. He came across some mimeographed lecture notes in a box full of out-of-date course material. In an epiphany moment, he concluded that both his chosen profession and the church were like that — dependent on antiquated technology and stored safely away in the dusty corners of our culture. Ever since then, Sweet has been trying to help Christians get outside the box.

Sweet urges us not to settle for today, but rather to aim ahead of the culture. He's still an academic; he teaches postmodern Christianity and evangelism at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. But he also spends a lot of time off-campus — writing, speaking, and travelling around the United States and Canada, teaching various organizations how to respond to what he calls "our emerging postmodern culture."

A New Way Of Understanding

"You can see the emerging culture in the way we've moved away from texts to images and from books to screens." Sweet elaborates. "All of us who were born before 1962 are immigrants to this new ethos which is full of images and centres on screens. There's a B.C. generation and an A.C. generation out there. You're either 'Before Computer' or 'After Computer'. Let's face it, young people communicate differently now. And if we want to influence those who might be the future church, we're going to have to take the plunge. We're going to have to get indigenous."

Sweet spins the metaphor out. He says that we find both "immigrants" and "natives" within the emerging culture. "Natives" are in their thirties or younger, and they can't even imagine a world without computers — to name two prominent "native" characteristics. But the church tends to draw its leadership from among the ranks of "immigrants". This is especially the case in mainline Protestant denominations. Above all, Sweet encourages us to work hard at keeping the "immigrants" and the "natives" together.

"How do immigrants get to understand the foreign culture they're in?" he asks. "The answer is simple: they learn from the children and the grandchildren in their community. Immigrants have always done that. Let your kids guide you. Then let their kids guide you too. These are the natives. We absolutely need to listen to them. And we also have to be open to many of the ways they'll change us. Otherwise, our congregations won't have a voice. The church won't have anything to say; it just won't speak the emerging language."

A Missional Mind Set

Sweet sounds a note of impatience. "What are we so afraid of? Why do Christians run away from popular culture? Martin Luther told us to plunder the Egyptians. By that he meant that we should take whatever might serve the gospel from the so-called secular world. Luther produced some of our greatest hymns from barroom melodies and yet today some churches still hesitate to include drums in their worship. We've spent 500 years in a reformation mindset, focusing on the church. Now we need to develop a missional mindset. We need to go beyond church. What are people listening to? What's on the radio? Let's get out there and learn how to communicate."

Ancient Future Church

Sweet argues that our traditional "sit-and-soak worship" will not reach people today. He praises the Pentecostals and the Orthodox for modelling a new "ancient-future" way of being church. He describes their worship as "E.P.I.C.": it's Experiential rather than rational and intellectual; Participatory rather than focused on one person up at the front; Image-rich rather than text- and word-oriented; and Connective rather than individualistic.

This outline of how the culture has changed may be simplistic, but I've found it helpful for church leaders as we explore ways in which we can be reformed and reforming in the media we use. Marshall McLuhan said that the medium is the message. Whatever your view of that statement, we can perhaps agree that in trying to communicate the Gospel, we do well to renew our Reformation commitment to searching out the latest vernacular and building bridges from that kind of common ground.

Review: Julie Canlis, Calvin’s Ladder

This book, Calvin's Ladder: A Spiritual Theology of Ascent and Ascension, is published by Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2010, 286 pp.

Rev. Dr. Richard ToppingThe Rev. Dr. Richard Topping is the St. Andrew's Hall Professor of Reformed Studies at the Vancouver School of Theology, Vancouver BC.

This book comes out of Julie Canlis' doctoral work at St. Andrew's University, Scotland, where she worked under the direction of Professor Alan Torrance and for which she won the 2007 Templeton Award for Theological Promise. It is tightly argued, carefully expressed and, though focused on Calvin and Irenaeus, is a wide-ranging piece of "catholic" scholarship. I learned a great deal from reading it. Dr. Canlis' ability to situate participation/ascension within the overall context of the corpus of Calvin's work makes her argument quite powerful. Her ability to balance and relate — with theological subtlety — matters which are too often depicted in competitive/contentious terms or as zero sum games (divine and human life, Christocentricity and Trinitarian theology) was a delight to behold.

The burden of this superb piece of theological work is to demonstrate the centrality of the descent and ascent of Jesus Christ to Calvin's understanding of salvation as human participation in the life of God. In a precise statement of what she aims to demonstrate through the exposition of the works of Calvin, Canlis writes:

    Calvin brilliantly synthesized the two movements of ascent and descent into one primary activity: the ongoing story of God himself with us. God has come as man to stand in for us (descent), and yet as man he also leads us back to the Father (ascent). The entire Christian life is an outworking of this ascent — the appropriate response to God's descent to us — that has already taken place in Christ. Thus, for Calvin, the only appropriate human ascent is a matter of participating in Christ (3).

Calvin was not, of course, the first to deploy the language of ascent and participation to articulate an understanding of salvation or as a way of relating human and divine life. Plato deployed a similar vocabulary as did substantialist medieval spiritual theologies of soul ascent, which ascribed powers of ascent to "anthropological endowment" (49) rather than to God or the incarnate Son of God or to the work of the Spirit engrafting us into Christ. Calvin's deployment of the language of human participation (koinonia) in the life of God, however, renders the language of ascent and participation Christologically and with a view to the church; he speaks of the Head of the church bringing his members with him (see 48ff). His use of the categories of participation and ascent are thus not general philosophical principles or statements about human potential or achievement, but "flow directly from Christ's sharing in human life. Because God himself, in the person of Christ, shared fully in our humanity, human beings are able to "share," or participate in God" (4).

Canlis argues the case that participation, as both concept and praxis, is central to Christian faith, present in the Old Testament, central to the New — particularly in the Pauline corpus — and of great significance in patristic theology. Her depiction of the way in which the N.T. and the Fathers of the church borrowed language from philosophy and shaped it for Christian use, with varying degrees of success, is instructive for contemporary theological endeavour. Canlis is mindful that koinonia understood as a sharing-in-being, participation, indwelling or communion with God will need careful articulation in our society, shaped as it is by an extrinsic individualism. However, such language will be a gift to alienated and isolated people who sometimes relate to God and each other, in the words of George Hunsinger, "like ball bearings in a bucket" (7). Moreover the language of ascent and participation has ecumenical promise central as it is to Eastern spiritual theology which derives in part from Irenaeus. Canlis believes that by showing continuity in difference between Irene's and Calvin on the matter of a Trinitarian understanding of divine-human koinonia, she can deliver on this promise.

The irony in Canlis' ecumenical motivation is that she is also aware that in the family of churches that trace their theological heritage to Calvin, the language of participation is suspect. She cites some examples and notes that these are representative of a wide-ranging phenomenon in Reformed thought. The reason for suspicion regarding the language of human participation in God as expressive of the meaning of salvation is anxiety about platonic and scholastic metaphysical residue. The language of participation has the potential to blur distinctions between the transcendent God, who is other than us, and us. The line between Creator and created when participation language is predominant tends to get blurred; intimacy with God is featured at the expense of the distinction between God's being and human being.

Canlis counters these anxieties by drawing attention to the conversion that the language of participation undergoes in Calvin's hands. Calvin redefines terms as he uses them such that participation is set free from platonic and neoplatonic associations and "is characterized by intimacy and differentiation, not consubstantiality" (13). In other words, participation, as both intimacy and difference, is oriented by the Trinity. What is more, Calvin also features the language of adoption when speaking of the reality of salvation in Christ. While the orientation of the Christian life is upwards (ascent) by the Spirit, in the Son, to the end of human life, which is communion with the Father, the nature (type) of this communion is specified by the term adoption, which is often paired with engrafting. While these terms affirm a spiritual theology of inclusion, and not just a change in status, they also give theological traction against absorption or pantheism. Describing the theological dividend that Calvin's understanding of adoption pays, Canlis writes, "Adoption . . . carries radical implications for participation in the divine life while also assuaging traditional reformed fears (i.e., loss of distinction between Creator/creature and neglect of atonement)" (136).

I offer the following comments as inquiries into the thesis of the book, the first two as ways in which more of the Calvin corpus might be brought into consideration in Canlis' argument and the third as a gentle questioning of the thesis itself.

The subtitle of the book — A spiritual theology of ascent and ascension — could be more expansive. What if Canlis included descent and incarnation/crucifixion? A spiritual theology which focuses on life in Christ as ascent by the Spirit to fuller participation/communion with and in the life of God ought, it seems to me, and I think certainly in Calvin, to include our death/descent "in and with Christ." Those who are baptized into Christ Jesus are baptized into his death so that with Christ we rise to newness of life. This move would certainly assuage some of the reformed hesitance regarding the neglect of the atonement, which can bedevil articulations of participation in Christ.

Calvin, speaking of the benefits of baptism writes, "Baptism also brings another benefit, for it shows us our mortification in Christ, and new life in him . . . through baptism Christ makes us sharers in his death, that we may be engrafted in it . . . just as the twig draws substance and nourishment from the root to which it is engrafted, so those that receive baptism with right faith truly feel the effective working of Christ's death in the mortification of the flesh, together with the working of his resurrection in the vivification of the Spirit." (Romans 6:8) (Institutes IV.15.5)

While Canlis refers to Calvin's sacramental theology, she treats principally his theology of the Lord's Table: there is virtually no treatment of Calvin on baptism and our engrafting into Christ's death and resurrection by means of it. The one exception that I could find is in a footnote, p. 135, n. 36. Given the thesis of the book and the corresponding importance of en Christo, an account of Calvin's theology of baptism would seem almost necessary.

Calvin writes, "Baptism is the sign of the initiation by which we are received into the society of the church, in order that engrafted in Christ, we may be reckoned among God's children" (Institutes, IV.15.1).

"[Our] faith receives from baptism the advantage of its sure testimony to us that we are not only engrafted into the death and life of Christ, but so united to Christ that we become sharers in all his blessings" (IV.15.6).

What follows the citation above is a discussion of baptism in which Calvin holds together in the very same sentences the language of adoption (children of God) and participation (union, fellowship). There is intimacy and distinction, distinction and intimacy.

This is only a brief passage to be sure, but it does raise a question central to the thesis of Canlis' work: does Calvin give such prominence to participation that adoption and engrafting ought to be understood in the light of it? or is the relationship between these descriptions mutual, oscillating, perichoretic? Calvin may mix his metaphors — "we are children from the fact that we put on Christ" (IV.15.6) because he wants to keep alive, and in dynamic tension, the full range of biblical language related to salvation. Intimacy and distinction seem to be preserved, at least here; not so much by specifying participation by means of adoption and engrafting but rather by keeping both "more than metaphors" in mutual interpreting play. The section on baptism in the Institutes may be particularly reliable in this regard since in his exposition of baptism Calvin is writing in a less polemically charged context.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. God give us more books of this quality and depth in Christian spiritual theology. I will recommend it to my students and include it in my courses on reformation theology.

Memorial to Rev. Bill Manson

Rev. Dr. A. Donald MacLeodDr. Don MacLeod (at right) gave the following memorial at the funeral of the Rev. William Manson (at left) which was held at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Trenton, Ontario, on November 12, 2010, at 2:00 p.m. Bill was a solid man of faith and member of the Renewal Fellowship, who was unashamed of the Gospel and took a strong stand in matters he felt were authorized and important in Scripture. Bill was also host minister at Cote des Neiges, Montreal QC, where the first Annual Meeting of the Fellowship was held. We feel the loss of his departure but celebrate his life. — Calvin Brown

Rev. William MansonWilliam Manson, son of Edith Lillian Sommerville and Alastair Black Manson, was born in Neilston, Glasgow, East Renfrewshire, Scotland, on 4 September 1936. His family emigrated to Toronto when he was fifteen. They joined first St. Matthew's Church and subsequently Fallingbrook congregation in Scarborough. Bill received his B.A. from the University of Toronto in 1961 in Honours Classics, and three years later an M. Div. from Knox College.

He was ordained by the Presbytery of East Toronto on 16 June 1964 and was appointed for his ordained missionary year to a three-point charge in Pictou Presbytery: Tatamagouche, Wallace and The Falls, NS. On completion of that appointment he returned to Ontario and served briefly in the Millbrook charge in Peterborough Presbytery before being called to Beaches Church, where he ministered for sixteen years. In 1984 he moved to historic Cote des Neiges congregation, Montreal. He retired 1 June 2001, settling in Brighton.

Bill was a Presbyterian confessionalist, deeply committed to the standards of the denomination, and a doughty and brave controversialist who fearlessly made his position known without rancor or bitterness. Moderator of the Presbytery of Montreal in the tumultuous years 1994-5 he courageously maintained the church's position on chastity and faithfulness in marriage. He was a frequent contributor to the Presbyterian Record, always on timely subjects. His successor, Rev. John Vaudry, wrote of his seventeen years at Cote des Neiges: "During that time he carried out a faithful ministry of Bible teaching, pastoral care and diligent involvement in the courts of the Church. He was very concerned to uphold Reformed doctrine and Presbyterian practice in both congregation and presbytery. Undoubtedly, the long hours of work and the tension encountered in many of the meetings he attended had an effect on his health."

Bill married Janet Blair, a primary school classmate with whom he later reconnected, in Scotland on 7 July 1969. Deeply committed to ministry, together they were partners in service for over forty years.

After being diagnosed with leukemia on 17 September 2010, Bill passed into the nearer presence of his Lord on 6 November.

Thirty-five years ago Bill described the faith in which he lived and died: "Someday we shall find that neither death nor disaster has been able to separate us from the love of God. We shall find that our struggles have availed and our faith has not been in vain."

Remembrances of Rev. Bill Manson

by elder Richard Lancing

I first met Reverend and Mrs. Manson at the Renewal Fellowship in 1983. In fact, we sat at the same table for lunch. However none of us at that time knew that we would even meet again. At the meeting of the Fellowship, I was asked to share about the crisis that Cote des Neiges Presbyterian Church was experiencing — the fact that the Presbytery of Montreal did not sustain our call extended to the Rev. John Vaudry. The Renewal Fellowship was very supportive of the congregation and had offered pastoral care in different forms. But the Reverend Bill Manson was the one who offered support in the most practical way. He applied for the vacancy. No one else wanted to move to Quebec at that time. He was inducted in March 1984.

What the Mansons started as a "mission to French Canada" became a settled pastoral ministry until his retirement 17 years later, the second-longest in the 146-year history of our congregation. They endeared themselves to this multi-ethnic congregation: Scots and Arabs, black and white, Asians and Africans. When invited to speak at our anniversary celebration two years ago, Rev. Manson said to Rev. Vaudry, our current minister, "The pulpit has been yours all along, I was just filler." So generous and gracious was his spirit.

He loved his people and his people loved him back. He preached the Word clearly and faithfully. He took a stand for the Scriptures and sound doctrine. He wrote articles to the Presbyterian Record. He defended solemnity in worship and emphasized repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. As the Reverend Vaudry notes in his book on the history of Cote des Neiges Church, these articles "revealed Mr. Manson's keen intellect, concern for good order, and desire for the well-being of the whole church". During his time as Moderator of the Presbytery of Montreal, he dealt firmly and decisively in a matter of grave importance to the whole of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

He encouraged participation and good administration. He felt that the house of prayer should be protected. He introduced building insurance and an alarm system. He delegated responsibilities according to individual gifts. During his ministry, many improvements to the sanctuary were made: new church lights, electric fans, a new organ, a simultaneous translation system, etc. At worship, he insisted that the sound of the organ should not be louder than the voice of the people praising the Lord. He taught us lessons too numerous to mention at this time. It is hard to realize that it has been nine years since he retired, and it is even harder to know that he is no longer with us.

Our sincere condolences to Jan and Ian and the rest of the family. Their loss, our loss, is heaven's gain.

A Spirited Life: Calvin on the Holy Spirit (Part 2)

Rev. Dr. Richard ToppingThis edited article is the second of a three-part series originally presented in a ninety-minute keynote session by the Rev. Dr. Richard Topping, St. Andrew's Hall Professor of Reformed Studies at the Vancouver School of Theology, Vancouver BC, at the Renewal Day in November 2009 at St. Andrew's Newton Presbyterian Church in Surrey BC.

Read Part 1

Let's turn now to what Calvin has to say about the operation of the Holy Spirit.

I. Calvin is not a Secularist.

What do I mean by that? There is a temptation where it comes to the doctrine of the Spirit to confine the Spirit's operations to church, scripture and the Christian life: to do so, however, is to leave a great swath of human life absent of the operations of the Spirit. Calvin resolutely does not do this. Although Calvin takes sin and the fall very seriously he sees the Spirit at work in the whole of creation.

At the most general level, the Holy Spirit is the very life force of the world, animating creation and infusing the whole of the world with life. "For it is by the Spirit who, everywhere diffused, sustains all things, causes them to grow, and quickens them in heaven and on earth . . . in transfusing into all things his energy, and breathing into them essence, life and movement, he is indeed plainly divine." (Institutes 1.13.14).

The Holy Spirit is divine and is the effective power by which the whole of creation is sustained. But this doesn't mean that the Holy Spirit of God is an impersonal force in the world. Calvin is very careful to speak of the Spirit as the agent of God's personal care for the world and for the creatures God has made. Providence over the course of history and human creatures together with the preservation of creation are works of the Spirit. God is involved by the Spirit in "a watchful, effective, active sort [of care] engaged in ceaseless activity . . . an omnipotence that is directed toward individual and particular motions" (1.16.3). The Spirit moves providentially in the world and in human history directing the course of human life — whether elect or reprobate.

The Spirit works in the world and also in the cultural and social life of the whole of humanity. Calvin refers to the "glorious gifts of the Spirit spread throughout the whole human race" (Genesis 4:20). The cultural, social and political life of all people has been blessed with "endowments far from negligible." Such gifts are evident even among those "deprived of the Spirit of regeneration." These gifts ought to be admired, not only as achievements of human ingenuity and skill, but as "the riches of his grace which God has poured out." (Ibid).

Calvin praises God for all the fruits of the liberal arts and sciences, philosophy and medicine, political science and music for they are the result of the Spirit's work in the world. God has left many gifts to human nature, even after it was despoiled by the fall. And so Calvin cautions, not unbelievers, but Christians against despising such gifts. Listen to Calvin:

    Whenever we (Christians) come upon these matters [natural gifts] in secular writers, let that admirable light of truth shining in them teach us that the mind of man, though fallen and perverted from its wholeness, is nevertheless clothed and ornamented with God's excellent gifts. If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonour the Spirit of God. For by holding the gifts of the Spirit in slight esteem, we condemn and reproach the Spirit himself (2.2.15).

For Calvin, human competence in arts and sciences is a gift of God. And Christians in particular ought to be grateful to God for those most excellent gifts of the Spirit distributed through the whole realm of humankind for the common good. For this is a means of the providence (the personal care) of the Holy Spirit for the world that God so loves.

Calvin writes, "If the Lord has willed that we be helped by physics, mathematics (rhetoric, medicine, philosophy) and other like disciplines by the work and ministry of the ungodly, let us use this assistance. For if we neglect God's gift freely offered in these arts, we ought to suffer punishment for our sloth" (2.2.16).

God the Holy Spirit fills and moves and quickens the whole world — natural, human and cultural — and Christians not only ought to be grateful for the ministries of knowledge and care found in the world, they ought to make use of them for their own flourishing in thankfulness for them (the gifts and the people) and in gratitude for God. Calvin says we ought to be ashamed if we can't manage gratitude to God for the ministries of the ungodly since even pagan poets confessed that the gods have given philosophy, law and the useful arts.

Wow! Can you imagine that by means of a secondary agent, your dentist or doctor or even your lawyer, God the Holy Spirit is at work for your good? What if we took that sense of gratitude to the work of others for our sake in the world? What if instead of looking at the ministrations of our government (through health care and public works) not so much as entitlements due us, but as the grace of the providence of God the Holy Spirit? Imagine telling your radiologist that he or she is a minister of the grace of God to you. What if we thought of the work of the guy who digs up the street to fix gas mains as the agent by means of whom God the Holy Spirit cares for us? What if we said so to them? Not only would we create some interesting godly mental distress, we would, I think, live more integrated and grateful lives under God. Calvin helps us to pay attention to the so called "secular" world outside church as the sphere of God the Holy Spirit's gracious and humanizing work: something to imagine, to think about, something to practice.

II. The Problem of Sin: Ingratitude and Idolatry

The fact that God gives gifts to all of humanity by the Holy Spirit does not mean that humanity is grateful for them. In fact, the failure to give thanks for the gifts of God is universal. Apart from redemption in Christ, fallen humanity does one of two things with the gifts God gives. The source of the gifts is wrongly identified (the sin of idolatry); or we use the gifts as an occasion for self-congratulations (the sin of ingratitude). "We are," writes Calvin, "naturally bad interpreters of God's works" and "habituated to errors . . ." (Acts 14, 7:6-7). For Calvin, — as with Paul — the fundamental human problem is doxological. We ascribe praise incorrectly and we accept praise incorrectly. Our praise stops short of God, we praise ourselves, our lives come unglued. The disordering of our lives and of the world, the corruption of the image of God in us, all begins with bad doxology. Here I think G.K. Chesterton and Calvin are on the same page. Chesterton said, "When you stop worshipping God, you don't worship nothing, you worship anything."

A question: how does this important point of Calvin's figure into our thinking when we speak of the ways and means of worship? We tend to focus on how — by what electronic technology — our songs are accompanied. Calvin tended to bet it all on whom we worship and whether our songs speak truly of God. I think Calvin's reticence regarding musical accompaniment, whether we go with him or not, has to be seen in this light.

In Calvin's commentary on Romans he emphasizes the judgment and disorder that issue against those who will not praise God. We fall into sin as we fall from the praise, adoration and service of God. Three times humanity is "given up" because what was to lead us to God — the contemplation of the gifts of God in nature and in us, which do speak loudly of God's authorship (sensus divinitatus) — we distort. We praise gods that are the result of "giddy imagination" or we praise ourselves. Idolatry and ingratitude with their corresponding vices are our lot because we culpably distort the knowledge of God and God's gifts given to us.

III. A More Certain Saving Knowledge of God

Because of idolatry and ingratitude, we no longer know God. Sin in these forms has corrupted and distorted our sense of the divine revealed in nature and in us. Through the gift of Scripture (which Calvin describes as "spectacles") our vision and knowledge of God can be renewed. Three qualifications are necessary here: first, for Calvin scripture is something you look at and look through — hence the metaphor of glasses. Calvin's sermons reflect this movement: exposition and then application — looking at and looking through. We make sense of the text and then we make sense of the world by means of the Bible.

A second qualification is this: some read the Bible and don't benefit from its corrective vision because they don't read it toward and around Christ. The Bible for Calvin is a Christocentric book: dissect its members, isolate its testaments and it doesn't correct vision; it isn't reading the Bible scripturally. The Bible, for Calvin, moves from promise to fulfillment in Christ. There is for Calvin a scriptural way to read the Bible and that is as a Christ-centered story. It is perfectly acceptable and indeed incumbent upon the preacher to speak of Christ when expounding on the Psalms and the rest of the Old Testament — there is hermeneutic current passing through the whole of Scripture and it is generated by the coming of the promised one: Jesus Christ.

Finally, and most importantly, the gift of the Spirit is absolutely crucial. The inner teacher in whose hands the Bible is an instrument of the saving work of God in Christ is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit must light up the room in which the spectacles of Scripture are worn or all is still darkness. The Spirit must illumine the mind and activate the will and move the heart (again and again), or Scripture reading lingers at the level of information gathering, a quaint past-time, the gathering of ammunition to beat up your opponents to the left or the right.

Notice that for Calvin, the Spirit doesn't just illumine and teach, liberate and move, for the sake of our gathering up knowledge about God. Calvin doesn't really talk very much about the mastery of the content of scripture as an end in itself. For Calvin, Bible reading that begins with a prayer for the Spirit is to lay oneself to know God revealed in Jesus Christ and to get swept up into Christ's saving work. Perhaps this is why for Calvin, reading the Bible under the illumination of the Spirit in a Christ-centered fashion is likened to eating — it is to take it into oneself in the deepest manner possible. It is never just information. The Holy Spirit credentials the Bible, but in a manner in which the reader is addressed, comforted and accosted. It is as if, writes Calvin, "God himself speaks" through Scripture. And so when it comes to our proper deportment, Calvin will tell us: we are pupils and learners and we who hear ought to be ready to relent and give way.

In the Genevan Catechism (1541) Calvin has the child ask:

    How are we to read scripture in order to profit by it?

    By receiving it with the full consent of our conscience, as truth come down from heaven, submitting ourselves to it in right obedience, loving it with true affection by having it imprinted on our hearts, that we may follow it entirely and conform ourselves to it.

And this manner of reception is the work of the Spirit in us; it is the answer to our prayers for illumination: "Give us ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church."

Just a brief word about friends: Calvin practiced the interpretation and application in community. He dedicated most of his commentaries on the Bible to other commentators from whom he learned. Simon Grynaeus, Melanchthon, Bucer and Bullinger are among the names mentioned in his commentary on Romans. He has had friendly discussion with them (as well as ancient commentators), and more locally the Company of Pastors in Geneva, about how best to interpret the Bible. The point being that he has learned from others. The point being that he is not the only one to whom the Spirit is given. Calvin maintained that the chief characteristic of a Christian is "a teachable frame." And a teachable frame is not natural. In order to become a person who can be taught by others nothing less than conversion is required; and that is a work of the Spirit who tames our egocentricity so that we can learn as pupils, together with other pupils, in the school of Christ.

Read Part 3

Remembering Rev. Ken Wilson

It is with sadness that we report the passing of Renewal Fellowship member Ken Wilson on October 31. Perhaps it is significant that Ken passed on All Saints Day, and I can almost hear him chuckling about that. It was also on a Sunday, and I suspect he would mention that it was his time to lie down and enter into the eternal rest. Ken had a keen wit and a dry sense of humour that delighted those who knew him. The funeral service was held in a full church at St. John and St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Hamilton on Thursday, November 4, and led by the Reverends George Beals and Gordon Fish. Two of his grandchildren, Andrew and Brandon, read the Scripture lessons, and his sons John and David shared a moving tribute to their father. He was the beloved husband of Donna (nee Truscott), loving father of John (Charlene), David (Liz), dear grandfather of Andrew, Brendan and Christian.

Rev. Ken WilsonKen had served as minister in several congregations including Buchanan; St. Andrew's, Kirkland Lake ON; Westminster-St Paul's, Guelph ON, and in retirement at Calvin-Grace in Hamilton ON.

I knew Ken best after he recruited me to assist in renewing Dorothy Lake Camp. When he was minister at Kirkland Lake, he had been instrumental in working with others to acquire the land and build the initial buildings at camp. After serving the Presbytery of Temiskaming for a number of years, the camp fell into disuse. In an effort to revive it, a committee was formed and it came under the Synod's Camping Agency CAIRN. One day, Ken called me up and asked, "You do renewal don't you?" I replied that indeed we did, as God enabled. He said, "I have something for you to renew." He then went on to explain the situation and hoped we could help. We connected with the Dorothy Lake Committee and offered to help by being the teacher for family camp, advertising the camp, and having Bill Harrison, my Administrative Assistant, come and do the canoeing. We have been doing that every year for well over a decade.

At our suggestion, a partnership was formed with the Renewal Fellowship, Dorothy Lake Camp, and Georgian Native and Outreach Ministries, and for the last several years, camps have been held for aboriginal children and teens.

Among some of my fondest memories of camp was hearing Ken sitting out in the birch grove or in the tepee lodge playing hymns and songs on his keyboard — sometimes surrounded by others joining in the praise, and sometimes just sitting alone. One wonders if he won't be given a keyboard to join in the heavenly chorus.

Ken and Donna were always hospitable, and one thing the Fellowship was thankful for was their hosting of a monthly renewal prayer luncheon in their home in Hamilton for several years until poor health prevented them from continuing. We look forward to a glad reunion.

A Spirited Life: Calvin on the Holy Spirit (Part 1)

This edited article is the first of a three-part series originally presented in a ninety-minute keynote session by the Rev. Dr. Richard Topping, St. Andrew's Hall Professor of Reformed Studies at the Vancouver School of Theology, Vancouver BC, at the Renewal Day in November 2009 at St. Andrew's Newton Presbyterian Church in Surrey BC.

Rev. Dr. Richard ToppingB.B. Warfield, renowned theologian, wrote that John Calvin is "pre-eminently the theologian of the Holy Spirit." On predestination and God's sovereignty, Calvin simply picks up the theological tradition (Augustine, Aquinas and others) and repeats it. Where it comes to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, however, Warfield says we arrive at "Calvin's greatest contribution to theological science. In his hands for the first time in the history of the church, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit comes to its rights."

It is interesting to puzzle over why the Reformed tradition — one that takes its cue and has its roots in the theological work of John Calvin — has not always drawn unto itself Calvin's doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Let me suggest three possible reasons for why this might be the case.

Could it be fear of losing control? The Reformed tradition — and Calvin — are big on order and structure, and the Spirit can be perceived as a threat to institutional and personal continuity. On his deathbed, among Calvin's final words, were these: "Change nothing." And to be fair to Calvin, he had struggled long and hard to reform the city of Geneva and didn't want these gains lost.

On the other hand, an understanding of church and the Christian life that features the work of the Spirit tends to play up disruption, rupture, amazement, bewilderment– and that's hard on us ordered types. Settled structures, patterns of order and liturgy do serve to promote the life of the church, and some institutional shape is a requirement for the life of the people of God.

However such structure can be both instrument of and barrier to life in the Spirit. The Gospel, I believe, is a great deal less serene than we may be tempted to believe. Before ever church is institution with a natural history and organization, the church is a creature of the Word — a gathering that is animated by the Spirit of Christ. And the Spirit is wind and fire; the Spirit blows where he will, which is to say the Spirit is not under our control. Maybe that's why the movements of the Spirit sometimes suffer death through protocol. We hear what the Spirit is saying to the church, and it could change our direction — as a minister it creates more work for me; as a parishioner I could be displaced in the new arrangement; and so on and so on. When the fire of the Spirit ignites, we are at least tempted to extinguish it by presenting the 74 steps that will be necessary according to wont and usage to make the idea a reality. Control (and sloth and envy) sometimes means we quench the Spirit.

But maybe there's another related reason for this reticence where it comes drawing more deeply upon Calvin's understanding of the Holy Spirit. We Presbyterians tend to lead with the mind — understanding is the lead human faculty for Calvin (and Plato), the one by which others (will and affection) are ordered. That might not in itself be all that bad; it keeps us from what Peter Matheson calls, "glandular excess in worship," which is the root of superstition. We don't let our enthusiasms run away with us, we Presbyterians. Piety is theologically controlled by Scripture and the cool Reformed mind.

However, reasonableness — on this side of the Enlightenment — tends toward expunging divine agency out of everything. What do I mean? Well, it usually means that like most secular people, we make sense of our lives, our denomination, and the church in terms that almost always leave God out of account. We don't, like Calvin, see reason as a servant of the Gospel but as a capacity independent of faith for making sense. Church meetings take place in which (after we pray to open them) the predominant language is psychotherapeutic, sociological-demographic, or marketing. And to my surprise, this happens right across the theological spectrum. Whether it's budget time or we're trying to envision what the future of our precarious institutional life might look like, we've been lulled into naturalist (one-dimensional) ways of figuring out the world and even for figuring out the probable future of the church. What's "really important" is a rational business plan that takes account of church as a human and historical artefact, as if that's all there is and no more. Talk of the Spirit, prayer for the Holy Spirit, can be regarded as so much "avoiding the real world; pious talk; escapism" when and where people live in the shrunken-down world of rational secularity.

I'd suggest one final reason (and I sure you can think of others), why Calvin's really delightful doctrine of the Holy Spirit doesn't always filter into the life of the Reformed tradition. If you love Calvin, I'm sorry, but here comes a criticism: he never once mentions imagination in a positive light. It's not that Calvin didn't have an imagination, clearly he had a wonderful architectural imagination, and it's not that his work didn't give rise to a distinctly reformed imagination. His work at Geneva, it might be argued, was the work of sanctified or faithful imagination. However, he never once says a good word about it as a human capacity, and there were from the classical writers he knew positive senses of imagination in circulation.

He does speak of reason, will, and affection as fallen human faculties which, through the sacrifice of Christ and the communication of His benefits by the Spirit, begin to be regenerated. God initiates setting right what is wrong with our minds, hearts, and wills by the grace of the Word and the Spirit. Imagination, however, is at the center of the human predicament where it comes to God. Imagination is the faculty where sin has its way with us. Where our sense of God from creation and from within ought to move us toward piety, imagination interposes and starts churning out idols. For Calvin, Voltaire was right: "God created us in his imagine, and we've returned the favour." Here's a typical passage from Calvin on imagination:

    Man's mind, full as it is of pride and boldness, dares to imagine a god according to its own capacity (deum pro captu suo imaginari audet); as it sluggishly plods, indeed is overwhelmed with the crassest ignorance, it conceives an unreality and an empty appearance as God. (1.XI.8)

Imagination always takes us in the direction of idolatry — the imagination generates blueprints for images which the hands make. Imagination however, unlike reason, will, and affection, never gets reordered for use in the fellowship of the redeemed.

I can't quite put my finger on it, but my theological sensibilities tell me that imagination and the work of the Holy Spirit are related. Faith, which for Calvin is the principal work of the Spirit in the believer, is the ability to live by and see what is not yet. Faith, according to the book of Hebrews, is trusting God's promises for what doesn't yet obtain on the ground; trusting God for what is around the corner… receiving promises at a distance. And it seems to me that imagination enlarged and formed by the promises of Scripture and the grace of the Spirit is crucial here.

Calvin will speak of the Holy Spirit's comfort to us in the present when what will be — eternal life, happy resurrection, our full actual justification, God's coming fully to us in our need, abundance of blessing — is not yet.

Commenting on Hebrews 11, he writes, "The Spirit shows us hidden things, the knowledge of which cannot reach our senses." And he asks, "What would become of us were we not supported by hope and did our minds not emerge out of the midst of darkness above the world through the light of God's word and of his Spirit." (Commentary on Hebrews, 11:1, 157-158)

I think that Calvin is writing here about sanctified imagination, imagination stoked by Gospel and Spirit — it's just that he doesn't use the word. I think that's too bad for the history of the Reformed tradition not only at the level of the Spirit's creative conjuring of hope in imagination by the Word, but also in the form of an austere, white-wash aesthetic. Alas we are Reformed and always reforming…

Read Part 2

Cambodian Experience

Kit Schindell is a member of Fairview Presbyterian Church, Vancouver BC.

"So how was your trip?"

I was home from Cambodia, back at work, chatting with a couple of colleagues about the wretched little village where we worked so hard every day. I chatted about the work, about the task before us, about the seeping evil of the village, about child sex slaves, about imprisoned girls, about human trafficking… and suddenly stopped, realizing I had gone too far. They were uncomfortable, distracted… they wanted to get on with other things. I apologized and the subject changed immediately, and Cambodia was once again just another place on the map. I could feel my face burn with embarrassment.

Now, when people ask, I say, "Wonderful weather! Greatest mangoes in the world." — and for many people that's enough.

Fairview Church has had a connection with Cambodia for several years now. I first went to this complex, recovering country in 2008 as one of two women on a team of ten — a team I have often referred to as "eight strong men and two ancient nurses". That time we renovated a dank, hideous, former child brothel into a church, medical centre, and school, now known as Rahab's House. We obliterated the ugly cells where imprisoned little girls serviced their adult male pedophile clients, and turned the place into a bright airy centre.

The ten of us came back to Canada, changed forever. We returned to our jobs and fell into the familiar pace of our Canadian lives. Oh, we were a motley crew: pastor, health care administrator, sous-chef, classics professor, businessman… but we'd faced things together that we had never before even considered. To this day there is a special bond among us.

And then this year, I had the tremendous honour of being selected to return. That this old girl had the opportunity to go once was a huge blessing. A second trip was an incredible opportunity. This time, four of us from Fairview Church joined up with four from an Anglican church in Vancouver and two men from a church in Australia. Our leader was Grant Wilson, Fairview's pastor and a veteran of several Cambodia trips.

The Sanctuary"The Sanctuary" (shown at the right) — just a few doors down from Rahab's House, our first project — was originally built as a hotel for pedophiles and a brothel for the children — one-stop shopping at its worst. But the economic downturn and increased interest by international police agencies caused the owners (organized crime personnel) to abandon the project. And one day, Brian McConaghy, founder of the Ratanak Foundation, looked up at the unfinished building and saw the windows and thought, "It looks like a sanctuary."

The Ratanak Foundation bought the building, and two teams from Canada went to do the work to turn it into a school, a meeting place, and a couple of apartments for mission personnel.

Our team went first, followed by a wonderful team from a Baptist church in Ontario. Our ages ranged from nineteen to mid-seventies. Our health ranged from excellent to "I-really-want-to-do-this-but-…". Our skills were likely excellent according to our chosen careers. But here we were painters. In this capacity, our skills were… well… negligible. Our teenage team member had worked summers with College Pro painters. One of our Australian guys worked in construction. We accepted their expertise with eager faith and got to work. We painted and painted and painted. Forty-eight rooms. We cleaned, we trimmed, we sealed, we primed, we second-coated, we "cut", we rolled. I do not want to see yellow paint for a very long time.

I walked up to the fifth floor one morning, looking for our nineteen-year-old painter. He was nowhere to be found. I looked from room to room, I looked on the balcony, I checked the "break" area… and then I looked up. There he was, ten feet above me, standing on a plank, cheerfully painting. I shuddered. Suffice it to say my prayers were heartfelt and fervent. My personal prayer every day was that no one would suffer any calamity beyond my clinical skills, and God graciously answered that prayer.

Ten of us, basically strangers to each other, were suddenly thrown into spending the best part of every day together. We shared rooms in twos and threes. We rose shortly after five a.m., shared a time of corporate worship, ate a rushed breakfast in the hotel "dining" room, gathered equipment and supplies (including first aid) and thirty litres of bottled water and piled into the van at 7:30 a.m. to head to the village. Paint, paint, paint. Paint, paint, paint.

Fairview Volunteers

The Fairview part of the team — left to right: Mary Munro, Pablo Angulo, Kit Schindell, Grant Wilson

Lunch was prepared for us at Rahab's House. The former hellhole is now bursting at the seams: a kids' club every afternoon, an overflowing church service on Sunday, a medical centre for the community… . The songs and delighted shrieks of the kids stay in my mind to this day.

After lunch (chicken with bowls of rice and plates of sliced mango was a team favourite, accompanied by fiery sweet chili sauce, bottled water, rolls of pink toilet paper for napkins), we went back to work. We left the village late in the afternoon as the village heated up in more ways than one. The temperature rose, and the paying clientele started to arrive to consume the children's innocence.

We headed back the eleven kilometers to Phnom Penh. We were filthy, exhausted, sweaty, covered in the red dust that is everywhere in Cambodia. Sometimes we were too tired to speak. But the day was by no means over. The daily debrief was only an hour away so we hurriedly took our showers, put on clean clothes, dried our hair… and met for the debrief.

A debriefing is pretty tough when one is working in a village where children are trafficked, children are raped, children are abused, children disappear… but we talked to each other and poured out our frustrations, our anger, our worries, our hopes.

View of Svay Pak

Part of Svay Pak village from the roof of the Sanctuary

And then dinner… we usually chose a restaurant nearby because we were simply too exhausted to do much in the way of sightseeing or investigating gourmet delights. But dinner was always fun. We'd finished another day, we'd survived without calamity, we'd accomplished something. We ate, we laughed, we talked.

Fairview is a small church, and the concept of "family" is alive and well in this congregation. This trip was a family trip, even though only four of us actually got on the plane. Every night we were greeted, encouraged, and cheered by emails from church members. They met regularly to pray for us. We had a "Skype" meeting at a congregational breakfast — it was 9 p.m. in Cambodia, and we were exhausted. We were expected to blog and to post pictures — the family cared. It was very moving to return late one rainy Sunday evening to find dozens of Fairview people gathered at the airport to welcome us home. They waved a banner with greetings and signatures from many more. It meant so much!

What do you do when you look out the front of the building, knowing that young girls across the road, behind shuttered windows, lie sedated and imprisoned, waiting to be trafficked to anywhere in the world; or when you look out the back of the building to the shanty that has a world-wide reputation in the online pedophile community for providing tiny little girls as young as three or four to meet the sexual desires of men from Canada, America, Sweden, Korea, Germany…? I did not recognize even one little girl from when I was there in 2008. Where were they? I can only assume they have been trafficked to other countries.

What did we do about all this? We painted. Inch by inch, we worked against the evil that sustains this small village. And when I got depressed or overwhelmed, or when that ugly voice in the back of my head chided me that we really were doing nothing of value, that our hard work was a mere speck… then I remembered the songs and shrieks of delighted laughter coming from the happy kids at Rahab's House, and I smiled. And I painted and painted and painted.

"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." – Matthew 25:40

Kit Schindell <>

If you would like to know more about the work in Cambodia, please go to

Review: David B.H. MacKenzie, Refusing to Milk the Sacred Cows

This book, Refusing To Milk The Sacred Cows (Low fat protests from a fed-up Christian) is published by Kendal House Publications Incorporated, Regina, Saskatchewan.

Author, David MacKenzie is a former United Church minister who currently pastors Regency Christian Church near Edmonton, Alberta, and is a member of the National Board of the Congregational Christian Churches of Canada. This book comes out of the personal wrestling of someone who has lived in a "waffle filled" mainline denomination and who knows both the anguish and foolishness of living in the midst of the half-truths that pass for wisdom. Rather than becoming bitter, he has exposed these half-truths with dry humour, wit, and hyperbole. He uses creative images like God as an auditor and then challenges the whole church to consider what sort of things God might look at to test our "success." He challenges also such popular ideas as those that see us all as Children of God — de facto. He challenges the new psychology that urges us to see God in our "higher selves" or such other theological travesties, such as that we aren't all that bad, or questioning the authority of Scripture or the essence of orthodox faith. He argues that some of what many want to speak of as merely a matter of emphasis are really matters of black and white truths and falsehoods, and we must make a choice. He says, "Make no mistake, in cases like these, an evangelical Christian is no longer dealing with a curious point of theological or ethical friction. This is not about liturgical style. It is not about mission focus. Or to return to my original premise, this is no mere 'argument of emphasis'."

Instead, it's a core-belief issue. Faith or apostasy hang on the outcome. This is a book written with humour, but it will nevertheless challenge those tempted to compromise when faithfulness is called for.

Review: Jason Zuidema, The Life and Thought of David Craig

Published 2008 by Clements Publishing, 6021 Yonge Street, Box 213, Toronto ON, M2M 3W5

Zuidema has written this encouraging biography of his friend and colleague, David Craig. David was in ministry in the latter half of the twentieth century, at a time when the church, culture, and missions were all in crisis. He traces the early influences on David: David's growing experiences as a young missionary in Nigeria, where his life was threatened several times before a firing squad; and his heart rending days of evangelism and schism in the French work in Quebec. Reading his biography reminded me of much of my own journey as a student and minister within the Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC), attending WLU (Waterloo Lutheran University), participating in Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, attending seminary, serving in missions, and wrestling with theological issues centering around faithfulness to Scripture that the PCC was dealing with. The two struggles, especially around the frustration that the church was not flexible enough in doing evangelism on the one hand, and still being fearlessly loyal to the reformed faith of the PCC on the other, may be especially relevant and poignant for readers. It is significant that the book is dedicated to young Christians throughout La Belle Province. I suspect David would have liked that. Zuidema manages not only to chronicle David's life from 1937-2001 but also to develop his character as a man of both earnestness and humour. This book will be of special interest to members of the Renewal Fellowship, not only because David was a member and he was well loved and respected by so many who were in leadership, but because David was, I believe, the one missionary that the RF made earnest efforts to support financially, although recently, there is a new mission emphasis by the RF in reaching out to aboriginal youth in northern Ontario through camping. For a number of reasons, all support for evangelism to the French-speaking people of Quebec ceased after David was no longer under the sponsorship of the PCC.

Zuidema ends the book with one of David's sermons: The First Mark of the Church. In this review, we, too, will give David the last word, and as we reflect on his life, we will remember that "God's Son, Jesus, prays for us right now — he prays that we be a joyful people! Amen."