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The Magazine for Alumni and Friends of Calvin College



It's a Mistake
I love reading the Spark when it arrives. But I don't like to see grammatical errors in a magazine from my alma mater. See the article on p. 10 of the latest edition entitled, "Calvin history: Bidding for Calvin." The sentence which includes "...about one-third it's estimated value" made me wince.
Jeni Plooy Hoekstra '57 Grand Rapids, Mich.

Where are the Women?
The article about the Michigan legislature (Winter 1999) stressed the disproportional representation of Calvin graduates in Lansing, but it did not note that all the Calvin legislators are male. It suggested that the presence of eight representatives was due to the values and intellectual rigor imparted at Calvin. If that is the case, we should be asking why no alumnae are among those who received the vision and training to serve. If the under representation of women does not result from socialization in the Christian Reformed Church and training at Calvin, has there been discrimination by Michigan voters? All these possibilities are disturbing. There are two issues of disproportion here. The fact that the total number of Calvin graduates is relatively large does not lessen my disappointment that half the graduates are not represented.
Nancy Joy Jacobs '83 Providence, R.I.

Kudos to Calvin
Congratulations to the Calvin community on its recent string of good, highly visible publicity in the mainstream press-from the Michigan Republican Debate to the announcement of the Calvin-Hope basketball scores on Meet the Press to another outstanding January Series line-up. I am proud of the way in which my alma mater has shown even more of the world that she is a strong Christian institution taking seriously the calling of instructing students in faith and learning.
Katie Vander Molen '98 Grand Rapids, Mich.

Defining Tolerance
I appreciate your dilemma regarding questionable class notes (Winter 1999). I don't know what I would have done. Some of the letters in response to the publication of the class note raise issues of interest. The word tolerance and its ostensible antonym intolerance occur several times. As recently as 1976 (according to my venerable American Heritage Dictionary) the word meant "respect for the nature, belief, or behavior of others." This entails, in my understanding, that while I respect the views of others, they in turn respect mine; the intolerant, then, refuse to respect others' views.

Today, apparently, the word has been redefined for us: "affirmation of homosexual values with no dissension." In other words, we observe the amusing paradox that those calling for tolerance are themselves intolerant of dissidents (sort of like the statement "there are no absolute values" itself being an absolute value). In this spirit of revising time-honored definitions, I propose a new meaning for tolerant: "having no convictions or beliefs regarding right and wrong"; its antonym, then (actually an antonymous phrase; sorry I can't think of a single word), would be "having convictions or beliefs regarding right and wrong." The unfortunate consequence of dictionary definitions is that they ruthlessly apply to all; thus I must be as intolerant of my own sinful behavior as of that of others (although to be honest I would rather judge others by their actions but myself by my intentions).

If my behavior is as execrable as is that of anyone else (and it assuredly is), does that require my silence? No, for two reasons: (1) because God has by His grace warned us of the consequences of our sin, so we in obedience to God and love to others warn (not scold) them of the consequences of their sin; and (2) because the consequences of sin generally affect entire communities, not just the agents. I think the Bible's statements about homosexual behavior are unequivocal: the individuals risk the destruction not only of themselves but of their community. In our day the affirmation of homosexual behavior puts our nation in grave peril of God's judgment. Not only that, but the behavior is notoriously self-destructive. Who in the name of compassion would refuse to warn our homosexual neighbors of the potentially lethal consequences of their activity? If I am labeled a homophobe, so be it, although I neither fear nor hate them. I appreciate voices in the wilderness like Doug Houck who will not silently affirm.
Douglas W. Polinder '81 San Antonio, Texas

Belief Affects Behavior
The Winter 1999 Spark was amusing, with all its back and forth about homosexuality, mastodons and freedom. I guess not very much has changed at Calvin, after all.

William Stevenson's article on freedom, politics and grace asserts that historical efforts at defining freedom are largely inadequate and superficial, and claims that Calvinism synthesizes all of them into a "more intricate and comprehensive conception.." He then proceeds to lay out the standard orthodoxy involving sin, faith, redemption and "will" all grounded by sovereign grace. According to him, it all makes plain, logical sense.

I appreciate his concise synopsis of historical definitions of freedom, but his solution strikes me as superficial and inadequate as well. Such a belief system, so far as I can observe, serves more to stultify ongoing thought and worship than to produce a grateful love of one's brothers. It is too individualistic and too easy.

If he could have shown an immanent and transcendent God who, in the restoration of the world unto himself, requires the help of the creation (made in his image) for the completion of the kingdom, through the operation of his persuasive love and grace, then we might be getting somewhere.

As written, with so little help as to how belief is to affect and improve our behavior, I am not surprised at the continuing controversies in the letters on homosexuality and mastodon deaths prior to Adam. The two are as closely related as cause and effect.
Hank Sikkema '56 Concord, Mass.

Bill Stevenson replied: The Spark article is an excerpt from the introduction to my book on Calvin's idea of freedom. My purposes in writing the book were, first, to articulate what I understand to be the important linkage between Calvin's theology and his politics, and, second, to argue for the legitimacy of Calvin as a political thinker in his own right. In doing these things my hope was to look ahead and suggest ways in which Calvin's stated "parts" of Christian freedom both anticipated Modern notions of freedom and served as appropriate antidotes to their larger pretensions. The letter writer appears to be unhappy not only with Calvin's theology but with anyone who sees it as helpful and/or enlightening. But as a person whose journey to see the wisdom of Calvin's orthodoxy began in a pose of skepticism, I would ask the letter writer only to do me the courtesy of reading the whole argument before labeling it "superficial and inadequate," and "individualistic and too easy."

An alumna, Berna Colsman Folkerts '50, was incorrectly listed as deceased in the Winter 1999 Spark. We apologize for this error. Ed
The Michigan Department of Community Health's budget was incorrectly reported in the Winter 1999 Spark article "More alums in Michigan government." That amount should have been reported as $8 billion. Ed.

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