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Equipping followers of Christ to engage in their everyday work as the work of God, so workplaces are invigorated, communities flourish and culture is renewed to the honor and glory of the Lord.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

The Missing Curriculum: Part 4

Here is the 4th installment of The Missing Curriculum:

If we embrace the notion that our original job description (The First Commission of Genesis 1:26-28) was rescinded at the Fall, then we will have a very difficult time seeing how one’s shop as well as one’s chapel can be "holy ground."

But what the Puritans seemed to understand so well, is that because “the earth is the Lord’s and all it contains, the world and those who dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1), God is still the owner of every pair of shoes in every shoe store in the world, and He claims rights to every customer who walks through the front door.

Because they saw Jesus as “Lord of all” (including all shoes and the selling thereof), they did not divide the world into “sacred” and “secular” compartments. They did not see some work as “secular,” and other work as “sacred.” For them, there was no “secular” world.

No, in Jonathan Edwards day, the merchant was doing “the Lord’s work” as much as the pastor.

If I could be a school principal over again, I would have my students complete a course on “the art and science of God-centered shoe-selling.” I would call it, “More Than A Paycheck.” As a matter of fact, I recently wrote such a curriculum, and I have called it just that!

I’d like the next generation to know that no matter which career paths they might take, whether it be in business, the arts, or homemaking, they will always be working in the Lord’s turf. This is because there is no other place to work! It is all His! He is “head over all” (I Chronicles 29:11).

Further, I’d impress upon them that no matter where we work, our ultimate authority is Christ. We might work in places that ignore the Lordship of Christ, and in some places that deny it, but we will never work in any place that is exempt from it.

Is there any place that lies outside the realm of God’s affairs? Is there any sphere of life’s activity that exists independently of God, on its own, in a vacuum, somehow separated from His ownership, interest and involvement?

Hardly!

I would teach my students that they will never have a “secular” job, because there truly is no “secular” world!

Next week: the conclusion to The Missing Curriculum.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Missing Curriculum: Part 3

Here is the 3rd installment of The Missing Curriculum:

Work, at its core, is an act of governance. Governance over wood, metal, cows, cotton and carrots. Governance over electrical currents and wind. Governance over fiber optics and digital images. Governance over people. Governance over things. Governance over ideas.

Randy Kilgore, a leader in the current “faith-at-work” movement, says: “God created a world that functions on order, and requires labor for its tending. He created you and me to be a part of that order, to do that labor. Even when our acts at work don’t seem to have eternal significance, their very rendering fulfills His original commission to humans to tend His creation.”

"Creation-tending" is a very big job! Ruling over all the earth entails a responsibility as broad as the world is wide, and requires many varied occupations, including carpentry, high-tech work and homemaking.

It involves physical work (as with Adam tending and keeping the Garden), and mental work (as with Adam naming the animals).

Both kinds of work occurred before the Fall. Work is not a curse! It was the ground that was cursed. Not the work.

It is our great and awesome responsibility as vice-regents over this remarkable planet to govern over God's creation. And we were made in the image of God so that we could carry out this function well. The curse just made this work more difficult.

If the Fall had not occurred, human beings would be involved in all sorts of legitimate businesses, similar to the kinds of businesses we see going on today—sans the sin.

Some people think that when Adam and Eve sinned, they forfeited their role as governors over Earth. Like ambassadors caught in an act of treason, Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden and removed from their positions as God’s vice-regents over all the Earth. In this scenario, “earth-tending” could no longer be the job description of human beings.

If this is the case, then we are prisoners on a cursed planet, sent out to wander, spending our days toiling for food. Our work, then, is no longer a way of fulfilling the role that God had in mind for us when He created Adam and Eve: “Let Us make man...and let them rule…over all the earth.”

Beyond providing for our subsistence, our work, then, could no longer have significant purpose.

Next week: Part 4

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Missing Curriculum: Part 2

The following is the second installment of an article I recently wrote for the May-June issue of Home School Enrichment magazine. The article is titled, The Missing Curriculum:

I was the principal of a Christian school for fourteen years. During those years, it never occurred to me that my school should provide specific instruction for students in the art of God-centered work. Frankly, I did not know there was such a thing as “theology of work,” or anything close to it, that would make up a full curriculum on the topic, as it did in the days of Jonathan Edwards.

For many years, I, like many others, thought only pastors and missionaries did “God-centered work.” I failed to make any connection between selling shoes (which I did part-time while a college student) and the Kingdom of God.

So what does selling shoes have to do with the Kingdom of God?

If we separate the two, we will never understand what the one has to do with the other.

But as the English Puritan Pastor George Swinnock put it, "The pious tradesman will know that his shop as well as his chapel is holy ground."

This is a teaching that we do not often hear today. When was the last time you heard a sermon along the lines that “your shop as well as your chapel is holy ground?”

But as we know from Genesis 1:26-28, God created humans in His likeness and image with one functional purpose in mind: to rule over the earth and all that it contains.

And this raison d’ĂȘtre necessitates all kinds of work! Furthermore, it makes all legitimate work on planet Earth a response to God Himself!

If this isn’t “holy ground,” I don’t know what is.

The Scripture referenced above, Genesis 1:26-28, says: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our likeness an image, and let them rule…over all the earth.’”

This profoundly important piece of information is often called, “The Cultural Mandate,” or, “The Dominion Mandate.” But I prefer to call it simply, The First Commission.

And what a commission it is! Here we have a commission to rule over the entire globe!

Chuck Colson summed it up this way: “On the sixth day, God created human beings—and ordered them to pick up where He left off!”

Next week: Part 3

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Missing Curriculum: Part 1

Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting an article I wrote for the May-June issue of Home School Enrichment magazine. It speaks to the need for recovering something that many early Americans took for granted, but has since disappeared—to our great detriment.

The article is also relevant to last week’s comments about the Islamization of Indonesia and the inroads Islam is making in Africa today.

Part 1:

Many things have changed since 1721. Some things, like men’s white powdered wigs and women’s corsets, we can live without. But some things have gone out of fashion that we really need to recover.

1721 was the year Jonathan Edwards graduated from the Collegiate School at New Haven, known today as Yale University. But before Edwards and his classmates could exit Yale, whether to work as pastors or merchants, they were tested in a particular field of study that has since disappeared from virtually every school in America: the practical art of God-centered work.

The course of study that Edwards and his fellow Puritans completed had a name: technologia, a Latin term. It was a curriculum complete with textbooks.

Technologia was a holistic curriculum that helped people to approach work in the broader context of a Christian worldview.

It is the biblical worldview that gave work—all kinds of legitimate work—remarkable purpose and meaning for Jonathan Edwards and his peers, whether they were missionaries, bankers, cobblers or homemakers.

Dr. David Scott, professor of history at Southern Evangelical Seminary, discovered the technologia while doing eight years of Ph. D. research on Jonathan Edwards. “The Puritan curriculum of technologia,” writes Dr. Scott, “taught Edwards a God-centered view of all reality. He grew up in a church that believed it had an obligation to teach what it meant to live a God-filled life in everything we do. That is why the textbooks of technologia began with the being of God and traced His truth through creation all the way to how it is lived out as a farmer, shoemaker, or merchant.”

But today, there is little curricula available that integrates an understanding of biblical worldview with everyday work. This is what I call, “The Missing Curriculum.”

Have you ever taken a class that specifically focused on how to align biblical worldview premises with repairing automobiles, designing software or running a legitimate business?

Part 2 next week.