March/April Issue


Melville in Port au Prince

From James C. Schaap

The image I won't soon forget from Haiti's National Museum is a elaborately rigged ball and chain from the nation's horrific dark ages, the days of slavery, an immense, jerry-rigged iron contraption some human being created for another human being to wear, hard as that is to believe.  It's a frame of iron you had to step into to get over your shoulders, a piece of atrocity so unthinkable that even imagining it hung on the shoulders of a human being is nearly impossible. The museum guide wouldn't let me snap a picture. I wish I could have because I can't describe it really, just as I can't describe so much of Haiti.

When you see shackles like that, when you stand there beside them, in front of them, when they loom over you, it's easier to understand John Brown's murderous passion, easier to understand why radical abolitionists were so hated by so many Americans, easier to understand the blood in "Bloody Kansas," easier to understand Huck Finn's perfectly innocent declaration that he'd go to hell rather than haul Jim back into slavery.

My people immigrated to this country and stayed in Michigan and Wisconsin and Iowa because, in the late 1840s, they'd have no part of slavery. But then no one is innocent; the Dutch were famously successful slave traders when, for a century or more, they owned the high seas. Slavery was an institution, as much a part of the way we lived as church attendance. And it's not over. Somewhere, even as I write, someone works is a slave.

But a million shackles are gone or left in museum displays, where, thank goodness, we can stand and stare and wonder, shake our heads at what once was.



From Thomas C. Goodhart

It’s a random memory really, happening sometime in early January of 1989 while visiting my maternal grandparents. I was thirteen years old. After saying hello to grandpa and removing my shoes at the front door, my mom and brother still fiddling with their own, I was the first to walk into the kitchen and greeted my grandmother. She was at the stove putting the kettle on to boil for tea.

“Tommy,” (because everyone who knew me before college called me and still call me that) “did you hear Emperor Hirohito died?”

“Yes, I did.” I replied.

And then the rest of the family entered followed by commotion and what not, that the Monarch’s passing did not come up again during our time together.

I’ve often wondered about that abbreviated conversation. Why did she ask? What did she mean? Was it simply chatting about current events or was there more? Why didn’t the subject come up again? Was my grandmother processing with me something about his passing? I never brought it up again or asked her about it.



DMin or PhD?

From Jes Kast-Keat

I thirst for the living God. Where shall I go?


I love learning. I love the process of reading, studying, conversing, and wrestling with ideas. I love challenging assumed norms and defending new conclusions. I love theory, but theory needs to have feet. I love the ideas, but ideas need to have soul. 

Each week I teach a theology class at West End Collegiate Church. It's on the Scripture passage for worship that week and it's one of the hours of my week I am most alive. I love looking at the passage and then ripping it open from so many angels. What is the context? What would a feminist critique of this text look like? What is the theology of each character in the pericope? How many different ways can we understand this text? Then I love taking what I have studied and organizing it into a lesson plan. I sometimes think I am a little weird for how excited I get to put a lesson plan together. Then the magic happens when we all gather for the class. I consistently hear from my congregation that they enjoy coming to my class because there is a freedom I offer when we engage Scripture in my class. The way I teach helps people not be afraid about saying "the wrong thing." God's grace is alive in this class and we do theology together. We live theology. I love teaching and watching my "students" come alive to the questions they have and the knowledge I bring to our class. 


Ti Gar and Gospel Audacity

From Scott Hoezee

Note: Today's blog is a guest blog by my colleague Dr. John Bolt, Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary, and I thank John for his contribution to The Twelve.

No, the first part of the title of this blog is not a double typographical mistake for “tiger” that mysteriously snuck past the otherwise watchful eyes of the grammar and spellcheck police.  Rather, as Greek-literate students of the New Testament know, it is the Apostle Paul’s first-century equivalent of today’s “Whatever” response and it is found in Philippians 1:18:  Paul had observed (vss. 15-16) that “some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of good will (and love).” And even though the former were not sincere but filled with “selfish ambition,” seeking to “stir up trouble for him” (vs. 17), Paul is remarkably indifferent to all this and almost nonchalantly concludes: “Whatever . . .  so long as Christ is preached . . . I rejoice.”

This is the verse that came to me as I reflected on a recent day of rich experiences among two quite different groups of Christians. In the morning I participated in an ecumenical conversation at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit about, of all people, the Dutch Reformed theologian G.C. Berkouwer (1903-1996).  We discussed topics and issues that have for a long time divided Reformed and Catholic thinkers, such as nature and grace, reason and revelation, Scripture and tradition.  Not only were we able to clear up significant confusion on both sides but, especially over lunch-time discussions with seminary students, I was struck by our common commitment to the gospel and a shared passion to communicate this to the next generation.


Hi Miggy

From Jeff Munroe


Q: Why is Miguel Cabrera so good?

A: Because God likes baseball.

So said an opposing scout, quoted in last week’s Sports Illustrated.  The great Cabrera, defending American League batting champion for the past three seasons, defending American League Most Valuable Player for the past two seasons, just signed the richest contract in baseball history, a ten year –$292 million deal.  Whew!

Hope is in the air because today is Opening Day across baseball.

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