The CRC and Missions in Africa

•December 9, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Just a couple of weeks ago, I attended a lecture given by Steve Kabetu, Race Relations Coordinator for the Christian Reformed Church of North America, of which I was raised in and have been a member of for the past few years. He spoke on racial injustice in Canada, primarily from the perspective from the church and its relationship with the First Nations peoples.

He basically talked about how the church needs to work on rebuilding relationships and trust with the First Nations peoples, and how we need to take responsibilities for our actions in the past. Which was interesting. But there was one thing he said that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. My exact facts may be off since the lecture is now just a distant memory, but he basically said that until the late 1930s, the Christian Reformed Church refused to send and fund missionaries into Africa, on the basis that Africans weren’t intelligent enough to understand the gospel. Once Johanna Veenstra, the first CRC missionary in Africa (but commissioned by the Sudan United Mission), had proven that the Nigerians she worked with were receptive to the gospel, the CRCNA finally started supporting missionaries in Africa – this would’ve been 1940. (NOTE – Christianity was prevalent in Ethiopia since the 5th century, and the earliest American missionary in Africa that I can think of was Lott Carey, sent to Sierra Leone in 1820, but I’m sure there were others earlier)

At first, what bothered me about this was the incredible amount of racism – coming from the church, still into the 1930s. That the African “savages” couldn’t comprehend the gospel. What could possibly make them think that people from Africa were any less intelligent than Americans, other than the prejudices encouraged by society at the time? Their beliefs certainly weren’t based on Biblical truths.

But that’s not what bothered me most. We all know that racism is sinful, and most stereotypes are incredibly inaccurate. The racist aspect was an insult to God’s creation, but what’s far worse is the insult to God himself.

Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of ALL nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19-20; also Mk. 16:15-16Lk. 24:46-47Ac. 1:8). Jesus pretty clearly wanted the gospel preached to all nations. It seems awfully presumptuous to assume that Jesus commanded something that he didn’t actually want done. If we truly believed that God’s words are flawless and true, what possible excuse can we give for disobeying? (Ps. 12:618:30Pr. 30:5). There are no exuses. Proclaim the gospel to the WHOLE creation MEANS proclaim the gospel to the WHOLE creation. It’s that simple.

“The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller

•December 9, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Wow. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism is a phenomenal book. This is a very easy-to-read introduction to apologetics, where Tim Keller discusses some of the major objections to Christianity. As lead pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, Keller is constantly brought forth objections from skeptics and doubts from believers. His thesis for the book is that (writing to skeptics and people with doubts) “if you come to realize the beliefs on which your doubts about Christianity are based, and if you seek as much proof for those beliefs as you seek from Christians for theirs – you will discover that your doubts are not as solid as they first appeared.” (pg. xviii) This book is built off of the belief that it is entirely possible to be a Christian and still have doubts and confusions, and the search for truth is an important aspect of a Christian’s life.

Keller’s book is split into two parts. In the first, he explains seven common objections to Christianity, and then refutes each one. The topics he deals with are….
  • Christianity’s claim to exclusive truth (how can there be just one true religion?)
  • The existence of evil (how could a good God allow suffering?)
  • Absolute truth denies freedom
  • The injustices of the church
  • The existence of hell (how could a loving God send people to hell?)
  • The relationship between science and religion
  • The authenticity of Scripture

In the second half of the book, Keller outlines several reasons for the Christian faith, which are mixed in with an explanation of the Christian beliefs. The reasons he discusses are ….

  • The clues of God in science and nature
  • The existence of morality
  • The problem of sin in the world
  • The logic of the gospel
  • The true story of the cross
  • The reality of the resurrection
  • The dance of God (how Christianity makes sense of life)
I was introduced to this book by a friend around a year ago, have read it several times since, and have recommended it to multiple friends. I highly recommend checking this book out, or check out this video of Keller discussing his book (it’s about 40 minutes of him discussing the book, and then 20 minutes of Q&A). You can also check out his website or read the introductory chapter for free. There’s also a free reader’s guide that mostly provides questions for group discussion.