I read the winter issue of Spark with interest as usual and particularly enjoyed the article on the Service-Learning Center (SLC). Good content and well-written.
What I missed was a nice-size, captioned picture of SLC’s longest-serving director, Rhonda Berg (1984–2001). I was her colleague virtually all of those years. A disappointing omission; maybe you can make amends.
Warren J. Boer ’60
Grand Rapids, Mich.
I’m writing in response to the critical comments on teaching evolution in the winter Spark. When I was student in the ’50s, I took only the minimum required four science courses because I was primarily interested in foreign languages, literature and philosophy. Fortunately, although evolution was never mentioned in these classes—creationism was assumed back then—all four courses were superbly taught and gave me a strong enough background to enable me to do extensive reading in science after I retired from a career teaching German at the university level.
As a result, it is absolutely clear to me that the earth is very old and that life as we know it today resulted primarily from the extensive changes brought about by evolution. I think it makes more sense to say that God created the world and all that is in it by means of the beautifully intricate changes evolutionists have discovered and documented than to say that He did it in one week.
We need to keep in mind that some of the stories about early biblical people that were later incorporated into the Holy Scriptures were written before the writers had the knowledge we have today. For example, to professional linguists there is no doubt that the languages that exist today result from the inviolable rule that “all languages change all the time in systematic but unpredictable ways.” This explains why we can now reconstruct with a fair degree of accuracy the ancestor—Proto-Indo-European (PIE)—of most European languages as it looked like about 7,000 years ago.
Greek, Latin, Russian, German, English, Dutch, French, Italian, Hindi and so forth all derive from PIE. Different languages were not all created at once while people were trying to build a tower to heaven. That is simply a poet’s way of trying to answer the question: Why is there more than one language?
Lowell Bouma ’57
Among the letters to the editor about that story, published subsequently (winter, 2013), however, there is one that exhorts you and your staff to “ … begin looking at the bigger picture and body of knowledge that is available today and which does not rely on the secular world’s interpretation of the so-called facts.” The author ends with an invitation to “ … check out ‘Answers in Genesis.’”
A second letter to the editor gives the “Answers in Genesis” website address as a source for “ … arguments against the evolutionary process of land to sea whales.”
The problem arises for me that asserting that answers to questions about the history of creation before Genesis was written can be found in that book is a major leap. My training at Calvin exposed me to the fundamental Calvinist belief that revelation is found in two books: scripture and the “book” of nature. Prof. Bebej, like others on the Calvin faculty before him, have shown themselves to be very good students of both.
Because of this, your publication of the two letters to the editor with the same theme made me feel embarrassed for Calvin College. I’m hopeful that you will find a way to discourage the use of your pages for reactionary opprobrium of this sort in the future.
Brandon H. Wiers ’56
I wish to applaud you and your staff for the winter 2013 issue, which was the most fantastic, interesting edition I’ve ever read. “Traveling on Trust” was more than delightful. It was inspiring and depicted a young man who could see a broader view of life inside these United States. Writer Matt Kucinski is to be commended for describing the journey with Josh deLacy in a manner that connected me to Josh.
The story “Through Their Own Eyes” was moving as well, especially since my mother had been born near Budapest, and two of my cousins, one in Illinois and one in Toronto, were part of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.
In addition, the information about Calvin student community service was inspiring, offering hope for the future.
It was also great to see my 1964 German prof on page 37.
And last, but not least, you should know that the last Spark containing “A Whale of a Tale” article gave me hope for those who have had their “eyes wide shut” inside the CRC community regarding the age of this earth. From my viewpoint, even as a child, I could see that the early stories of the Bible were simplistic explanations of creation. For a spiritual journey, which the Bible is, people don’t need complex scientific details about the beginning of the world.
C. A. Baatenburg Lindsay ’66
Having a family I was allowed to live off campus in a rented home. With some help from a friend and after inspecting a prospective residence and determining it satisfactory for our use, I let Celia, my wife, and our two boys, Ronald and Irwin, come to Grand Rapids a few weeks later. It didn’t seem to be too bad a deal, actually. The house was on Logan Street, close to Eastern Avenue CRC as well as within walking distance to the campus on Franklin Street, and for only 30 bucks a month, it certainly was doable. I had found a house in which to put my home. I was 29 and starting college.
The place was small: living room, den, kitchen and bedroom. Come to think of it, the word “house” was an overstatement, something verified years later when I drove by it again and noticed it had been transformed into a tool shed. During summer it had been quite livable, except when Celia had to work the night shift at the hospital and the kids on the property behind our house would play on their poorly oiled swing that constantly went eeh-ah, eeh-ah, eeh-ah at a time that Celia was trying to get some shuteye. As the house was not insulated winter presented its own kind of problems. On the bedroom ceiling icy stalactites often grew that in turn gave rise to equally icy stalagmites. A nightly trip to the bathroom, therefore, was often accompanied by assorted muffled yelps and yowls.
As with college students anywhere, especially those with a small family to support, money was often in short supply, and shortcuts needed to be found. At the time all stores were closed on Sundays, and therefore every Saturday evening between 6 and 7 one could purchase in the nearby A&P store perishable foods like milk, bananas and assorted produce at half price. Another way we economized was by purchasing day-old bread from a bakery on Eastern Ave. The bread had to be handled carefully to make sure it would not crumble and fall apart when placing it on the kitchen counter, giving rise to the suspicion that what was advertised as “day-old” may well have been on the bakery shelves a few weeks longer than that.
Being a regular reader of the Calvin Spark I realize that in many respects Christian liberal education at Calvin has remained the same. One thing, though, I am sure must be different today: chapel. During my days chapel was required three times per week, and appointed “chapel checkers” verified attendance. Chapel checkers were dearly loved by all students. Should you miss a chapel service, a chapel checker would report you to the chapel Oberaufseher where you would be told in no uncertain terms that should it happen again a note would be sent to your parents.
I am convinced some things will not have changed at all. In the commons building, where much of our education took place, we regularly discussed burning issues like election, universalism, creation versus evolution, and whether or not God indeed was able to create a stone so large that he couldn’t lift it, a question that is bound to have been answered satisfactorily by some Canadian sophomore!
I am thankful for the education I received at Calvin. It helped anchor my faith life, gave me perspectives I did not have before, and opened up vistas for me I would not have had otherwise. And it all started way back when.
Frank DeVries ’62