The letter that Harold Bontekoe wrote on the Sermon on the Mount being a “product of the culture of its time” and containing “some nonsense” (Letters, spring 2013) prompted a family memory. I suspect that my uncle, the learned historian William Bouwsma, when presenting his biography of John Calvin, was rather disappointed that his assertion that John Calvin was “a product of his culture” was not a scandalous proposition to the Calvin College community. He told us that a primary motivation for writing the biography was in order to better get into the head of his father, the philosopher O.K. Bouwsma (Calvin College 1973 distinguished alumnus), a man with a life and career based on dealing with nonsense in one form or another.
Let us thank God for His nonsense; as He says further on in Matthew: “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”
David Bouwsma ’84
Grand Rapids, Mich.
I just noticed the advertisement for the Calvin Annual Fund on the back of the spring edition of Spark. My friends and I think it is super cool that almost every Calvin student’s name is printed there. Thanks for printing such cool advertisements.
Daniel Paulson ’15
I saw that the noted author Rebecca Skloot spoke at the January Series (“An education in 15 days,” spring 2013). She spoke in our area at Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, Ill., last September on the same subject, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” which is also the title of her book. The IWU administration apparently was so impressed with this book that a free copy was passed out to all entering students, faculty and staff. The book deals with the sad story of a poor woman in 1951 whose cancerous body cells were taken, without her knowledge, for medical research. Neither she nor her family ever received any compensation. This is a sad story indeed. It falls into the realms of social and ethical justice, currently popular subject matters on most campuses of higher learning. These issues may also fall into the politically correct category. Some things are openly discussed at universities; others may be avoided.
I have no problem with Calvin College inviting Ms. Skloot to speak. She brings to light a terrible affront to justice. However, albeit touching, this is one isolated case. If the Calvin College administration is game to bring up the areas of social and ethical justice, is the issue of abortion ever openly discussed at school seminars? There have been more than 50 million children euthanized since 1973, most of whose earthly remains have ended up in garbage dumps. This is the modern-day holocaust. It seems that most of our society doesn’t care about this issue; it is swept under the rug or relegated to some dead zone of political incorrectness. What about Calvin College? Is there concern for the unborn at the school? Is there a level playing field in the realms of social and ethical justice? One thing is certain: Almighty God cares. May He have mercy on us for this unconscionable national tragedy.
Alan Swanson ’67
So Calvin College is deeply in debt (“A strategic plan of significance,” spring 2013)? With overbearing real estate holdings and poor investment returns? It seems like it would have been a good idea to have board members with financial and banking expertise, doesn’t it? Especially in light of the crushing losses in real estate over the last several years in our economy, having oversight in these areas would have been helpful. Has Calvin’s board had any such members in the past several years? If so, where were they? And what kind of oversight were they providing? Is the college getting any benefit from their presence on the board? Are they being benefited by calling themselves board members? My guess is they have benefited in their personal and professional lives, and the college has footed the bill.
Matthew Van Hekken ’96
Grand Rapids, Mich.
The juxtaposition of the editor’s piece on sports information and the college’s “financial realities” in another section of the last Spark was interesting. It is not my intent to demean the efficacy of the perceived need for sports information, but that kind of perceived need does, in fact, have a bearing on the college’s financial needs.
The conundrum resulting from the often-conflicting demands of desire and ability within a corporate structure is a well-known problem. Any organization we humans form, whether for personal profit or public benefit, ultimately acquires a life of its own, often in ways contrary to the original intent. Nearly 100 years ago, Oswald Chambers apparently made the same observation, that the organization must be seen as scaffolding constructed by the organism itself and never be allowed to take the place of the organism itself (my paraphrase of his point). This subtle confusion of organization for the organism is ubiquitous.
To achieve success in dealing with Calvin’s financial situation, the trustees and administration must not ignore the possibility that the scaffolding on which the college relies for its daily and yearly operations may need to be redefined and rebuilt. Unlike many large and prestigious private colleges and universities, Calvin does not enjoy the nearly unlimited financial support of large foundations. Calvin must be constantly aware of the old maxim that assets may decrease but debts never do.
Freeman C. Visser ‘49
Grand Rapids, Mich.