A Changing Future for Cascade Fellows

Through a process of discernment, Fuller Seminary has recently made the decision to place the Cascade Fellows program on a one-year hiatus. While inconvenient, this year-long hiatus for the fellows is going to be critically important for both the church in Seattle and Fuller.

The hiatus will allow Fuller a year of discernment to explore two critical questions with Seattle-area churches. The first question is this: what are the church’s needs for programming around faith, work, and whole-life discipleship that Fuller can uniquely help meet? Second, what sort of new director will we need to execute this programming?

Rather than forge ahead with hiring a director for the Cascade Fellows status quo, Fuller has wisely decided to take the year to listen to leaders and churches in order to discern what the church truly needs and what sort of programming it is willing to invest its time and resources in.

Dr. Matthew Kaemingk, Dr. Mark Roberts, Dr. Uli Chi and Dr. Tod Bolsinger will comprise the  Seattle assessment team in the coming year and are going to be hosting regular gatherings of Seattle leaders to discern Fuller’s next steps together.

Through this year of hiatus, we may decide to simply develop a new and improved version of Cascade Fellows. We may decide to develop something new that we haven’t even dreamed of.  The important and unchanging thing is this: Fuller is committed to empowering local congregations to do faith, work, and whole-life discipleship well. In all future discussions it will be this vision that continues to lead us.

The official beginning of this new conversation will be on April 29th in Bellevue at our “Church and Marketplace Conference.” This event will be designed to equip whole congregations to engage the marketplace in new and innovative ways. I hope you and your churches can join us! The Director of Gotham Fellows in NYC, Dr. David Kim will be one of our featured speakers.  http://bit.ly/2mKKMC4

No matter what direction faith and work at Fuller takes, know that our mission will always be to empower the church of Jesus Christ for mission in the marketplace and culture of the Pacific Northwest.

In Christ,
Dr. Matthew Kaemingk

The Good Questions Lead You: Interview with Joey DeYoung

“So much of life is about answers, but it’s the questions you ask that lead you to where you are… Asking good questions will open so many more doors for God to work in your life.”

Cascade Fellows’ Program Coordinator, Shannon Vandewarker, sat down with Joey De Young, Executive Director of Urban Hands Fellowship in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood. We talked about the new Urban Hands Fellowship program and how being a part of the Cascade Fellows program has helped Joey refine the ways he connects his faith and his work.

Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood

 

Putting Down Roots in Greenwood

While many people feel called to a particular career, Cascade Fellows Alum, Joey DeYoung, feels called to a particular place, specifically the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle. It’s a sense of calling that has come with a real sense of rootedness.

“Being rooted is not easy in a big city,” Joey admits. But being committed to Greenwood for the past eight years has allowed Joey to develop meaningful relationships.

“My work life, my church life, and my personal life are all very tied to that place. Of course, there need to set some boundaries, but really, life is just interruption. And being willing to be interrupted because I value my relationships with coworkers and other business owners is important.”

After a gas leak explosion in March of 2016 that caused a lot of property damage in the neighborhood, the community rallied together.  Joey, Urban Hands, and other community leaders, were at the forefront of bringing the neighborhood together.

“Not only is the community rebuilding, it even seems to have hit a growth spurt.” Joey says smiling. He is very hopeful about Greenwood’s future.

“I feel like we’re on the cusp of something. There’s a lot of development and rejuvenation. What you see so often when that happens is that the people on the margins get pushed further to the margins, or they get pushed out. But there’s an opportunity right now to do something that could be really formational for the neighborhood for a long time. It’s gonna change for the better, regardless of whether I’m there or not.”

“It’s not just about real estate prices and trendy bars and seven-dollar cups of coffee–there are businesses and churches that are working behind the scenes to make this place a place that is welcoming for all people, including those who might not have the same opportunities somewhere else.”

Out of this commitment to the neighborhood, Joey gathered a community of people who’s common faith inform the ways they live and are committed to the Greenwood neighborhood.

“We’ve started a prayer breakfast, meeting once a month, thinking about how we can pray for each other, and talking about work from a faith perspective. It’s fun seeing others have that experience, too. We pray specifically for our neighborhood and our work and what is happening there. We ask each other, how has God been working alongside you?

The hope is that by connecting these organizations, the Urban Hands Fellowship can be an outgrowth of the community at large- the result of likeminded people rallying around a growing need to foster and build into the next generation.

The Urban Hands Fellowship

The Urban Hands Fellowship is designed to connect young people in difficult situations with local businesses, giving them access to jobs.

“It’s an enrichment program that provides full-fledged employment with partnering businesses in Greenwood. While Urban Hands provides the support necessary for people coming out of difficult circumstances, we will also provide case managers, mental health counseling, financial coaching, and educational opportunities.”

“Getting them a job is a great start, but there’s a lot–depending on the person–that they could need in order to be successful at that job.”

In forming the fellowship, Joey used much of what he’s learned in Cascade Fellows, to bring different organizations together. In a lot of ways, Urban Hands is a community endeavor. “I have a team of people from various fields–juvenile justice, education, homeless outreach–reaching out to young people, building a bridge between them and local businesses.”

Joey explained that candidates will interview for the program first, and then be put in touch with local business owners to apply for the jobs that interest them. This also allows the people involved in Urban Hands to screen the candidates, making sure they are ready for that next step. While some may not be prepared for the program the first time they apply, Urban Hands is also thinking of ways to get these young people to the place where they are job-ready.”

Joey’s Cascade Fellows Experience

It was during Joey’s year in the Cascade Fellows program that the Urban Hands Fellowship started to take shape. He had the opportunity to really process this and pray over the development of the program with his cohort.  It was these discussions that helped Joey turn his vision into reality.

“I was able to think about the program as something real and tangible, versus something nebulous. That’s the purpose of Cascade Fellows. Thinking about actual things you’re doing at work and why they matter to God. It’s a community of people who know you really well and can ask you the hard questions.”

“So much of life is about answers, but it’s the questions you ask that lead you to where you are. We all want to have the answers. So, leaving Cascade Fellows with a sense that it’s more important to ask the right questions at the right time was comforting. Asking good questions will open so many more doors for God to work in your life than sharing the right bits of wisdom. And with that comes the language with which to talk about your faith.”

“As I completed the program, I thought that I wouldn’t have to ask the big questions as much anymore, but what really stuck with me is not that we no longer ask questions, but that we learn to ask good questions, and listen to the responses of others.”

 

The launch of Urban Hands Fellowship this next month will certainly bring new opportunities for Joey to work alongside God. 2017 is sure to be an exciting year for Joey and for Greenwood.

For more information about the Urban Hands Fellowship, visit: Urban Hands Fellowship

To learn more about Cascade Fellows, visit our website.

Faith at Work One Day Event

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Faith at Work: Does My Work Matter to God?

An Introduction to the Theology of Work

Many of us spend most of our waking hours at work, and for many, work is a big part of our identity. But, does God care about our work life? Does the Church have anything to contribute to what makes our work meaningful, successful or rewarding? How do we think about our identity in our work in light of our identity in Christ?

When what we do and why we do it come together, there is real power. God made us in his image to create and to love, just as he does. Our work is a key part of that.

What if a new perspective on your work gave you more energy, meaning and satisfaction?

Hundreds have been exploring the intersection of faith and work over the last 3 years through the Cascade Fellows program, and have found new meaning, purpose and depth to their work. Come explore the conversation with us at our one-day overview event and see for yourself!

Topics Include:
  • Spiritual practices in the workplace
  • What the Bible has to say about work
  • The Church and Work
  • Vocation and Calling
Cost is $50 and there are two identical days to choose from:

 

March 11th, 9am-3pm at Bethany Community Church

Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite using this link

Schedule

9-10:15am The Bible’s Story and Our Work, Matthew Kaemingk

10:30-11:10 am Vocation and Calling, Al Erisman

11:15-11:50 pm Spiritual Practices at Work, Shannon Vandewarker

11:50-12:45 pm Lunch

12:45-1:20 pm The Vocational Reformation of the Church, Uli Chi

1:25-2 pm The Church and Our Work, Steve Aeschbacher

2-3 pm Panel Discussion: Showing Grace and Hospitality at Work; Finding Wonder, Heartbreak, and Hope in Our Work

About Our Presenters

Shannon Vandewarker

Shannon Vandewarker is the Program Coordinator for Cascade Fellows. She believes that if God meets us anywhere, it’s right smack dab in the middle of our ordinary lives. Shannon is mom to Declan and Koen, and wife to Dan, a pastor. A transplant from San Diego, she speaks and writes on the topic of finding God in the ordinary, and loves living in rainy Seattle. She holds a BA in Biblical Studies from Azusa Pacific University and an MDiv from Bethel Seminary. 

 

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Uli Chi has lived and worked in the intersection between business, the academy and the church. He has had the privilege of serving as past Board Chair of Regent College in Vancouver, BC, as Vice Chair of the Board of the Max De Pree Leadership Center at Fuller Seminary, and as Chair of the Executive Committee of the Center for Integrity in Business at Seattle Pacific University. He has also been involved in all aspects of local church leadership, including as a member of the adult ministries team’s teaching faculty at John Knox Presbyterian Church.

 

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Dr. Al Erisman is the Executive in Residence and the past Director for the Center for Integrity in Business in the School of Business and Economics at Seattle Pacific University. He is on the board of the Theology of Work Project and is a contributor to this project. He and his wife, Nancy, also spearheaded the founding of KIROS for Christians working in Business. He is the author of The Accidental Executive: Lessons on Business, Faith and Calling from the Life of Joseph. In April 2001, Al completed a 32-year career at The Boeing Company, where for the last 10 years he was Director of R&D for computing and mathematics.

 

Matthew Kaemingk is the Director of Cascade Fellows and the Fuller Institute for Theology and Northwest Culture in Seattle. He earned an MDiv at Princeton Theological Seminary along with doctoral degrees in Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary and Systematic Theology from the Free University of Amsterdam. Matthew teaches courses at Fuller Seminary Northwest in theology, ethics, and culture. Matthew lives in Lynnwood, WA with his wife Heather, their three sons Calvin, Kees, and Cademan, and a dog named Henry.

 

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Steve Aeschbacher served as a trial lawyer for 30 years, first with a firm in Salt Lake City and then in-house at Microsoft, where he focused on antitrust and commercial disputes. He handled many high-stakes cases, including taking several private antitrust trials to judgment in favor of Microsoft. Steve is now in the process of becoming a pastor and is seeking a call. He graduated from the University of Michigan Law School and Fuller Theological Seminary. Steve is an alum and past leader of the Cascade Fellows program. He also attended the Center for Faith and Work’s intensive ministry training. Steve lives in the Seattle area with his wife, Alice, and daughters, Annie and Gracie.

Finding God in the Joys & Struggles of Business Ownership: An Interview with Michael Lee

20160131_004119950_iosMichael Lee, owner of Express Employment Professionals and 2016 Cascade Fellows alum, will join Gideon Strauss on September 15th to talk about how they have brought their work struggles to God.

As an experienced entrepreneur with a vibrant Christian faith, Michael takes the connection between faith and work seriously. In fact, Michael sees the business world as his mission field. Owning his own business for the past decade has been a crucial part of his discipleship.

God has revealed more of himself to Michael through the joys and struggles of business ownership. And in both the highs and the lows, Michael has experienced God’s faithfulness.

It was a leap of faith for Michael to dive into business ownership, in the first place.

Leaving his comfortable, familiar job with no clear plan for what was next was–as Michael puts it–like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.

“I was making decent money, my boss was happy with me. But I began to feel rumblings in my heart that there was more, and that more was outside of the company.” 

“I resigned from that position without a clear idea of what I was going to do. For me, it was important that I made that jump before I knew what was next. But that was a Michael thing–I do not recommend it for everyone.”

“God was teaching me to trust his heart. He’s arranged appropriate leaps of faith for me along the way.”

As Michael felt the call to purchase Express Employment Professionals, he found himself redefining success. It wasn’t about the outcome for Michael, it was about the process of stepping out in faith and facing his fears.

“In buying Express, I knew ‘success’ was not the endgame. I was following the Spirit–I wanted more of God. If I went down in flames, so be it. But, hopefully, I could do it in a way that brought glory to God.”

Luckily for Michael, there were no flames. His leap of faith resulted in both a strengthened relationship with God and the acquisition of a successful business.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.

When Express began to flounder during the recession, God used the struggle to realign Michael’s priorities and to allow Michael to relinquish control of the business.

As a newly successful business owner, Michael’s lifestyle was changing.

“I got invited to parties in downtown Seattle. I wasn’t making the best choices. I bought a nice car. Got three speeding tickets…it was probably a blessing that I got rid of that thing. The recession was a great attention-getter.”

The recession didn’t worry Michael until he realized that he was also about to lose his main client–the one pillar he’d hoped to cling to during the economic downturn.

“I did everything I could to keep that client.”

“In the midst of that difficult time, I woke up in middle of the night. Scared and full of anxiety, I started praying.”

“The Lord spoke tenderly. He asked, ‘what do you want me to do?’ I said, ‘Lord, I need you to save this client for me.’ To my surprise, he said, ‘wrong answer.'”

Reluctantly, Michael accepted God’s judgment and then spent the next half hour deep in prayer.

“I had a personal Bible study with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit said, ‘we don’t want you to ever beg for business. We want you to trust us. Pray for the best for your client; pray for our best in their lives. If that’s Express, then we will open the door. If not, then you will rejoice that it went away. You’ll never have to beg for business.'”

As Michael laid his struggles at God’s feet, he came to a better understanding of God’s heart for him and his business.

By the end of the night, Michael had peace. Even though he knew he would lose his biggest client, Michael’s anxiety was gone. He knew God was in control.

The slow in business gave Michael a chance to rebuild from the ground up, learning more about a company that was still relatively new to him. He also learned more about how to do business God’s way.

With a Biblical Literature degree from Azusa Pacific University, Michael thought he would go into the ministry after college.

And the funny thing is, I am in ministry–God just needed to expand my view of what ministry is. It’s more than just working for a church or as a missionary.”

“It was my faith that drove me into business. I saw myself as a disciple of Jesus, stepping into business because the Holy Spirit was leading me that way. And trusting that he could make me the business person he needed me to be.”

“At Express, God has called me to pastor those people whom he identifies. I’m constantly asking, ‘Lord, is this person part of our flock?'”

When asked about his experience of Cascade Fellows, Michael said his greatest takeaway was the community he developed through the program–a community with which he continues to connect today.

“Cascade Fellows was such a joy. So glad I did it. It was about community, not a religious exercise. Just last week we got together for a barbecue.”

Michael’s Cascade Fellows group even provided him with meals after a skiing accident that left him with a broken neck.

“The content was also great–challenging and encouraging. I love the format. I’m a busy business owner, but there was time. It wasn’t like school where there were tests to pass. It was about meaningful dialogue that would take place, inspired by the content.”

A concrete example of how Cascade Fellows has impacted Michael is the new spiritual practices he has developed.

“I started doing devotions at my desk. Hearing people at Cascade Fellows who do that was an encouragement to me.”

This practice helps to break down the barriers between Michael’s spiritual life and his work life.

“There’s no separation between sacred and secular. We can make spreadsheets to the glory of God, and we need wisdom for that. There’s nothing too small that he doesn’t care about it, and nothing too big that can’t be better with his perspective.”

“It was encouraging for me to see the Holy Spirit moving. Cascade Fellows is an expression of the Holy Spirit’s heart for people in the Pacific Northwest.”

“God has not forgotten us. He’s moving. As a believer, why would you not want to be a part of that?”

Michael looks forward to being an alum and continuing to develop the Cascade Fellows community that has meant so much to him.

To hear more of Michael’s story and how the Psalms of lament can be a catalyst for your work, please join us at “When Work Is Hard: Talking to God About Frustration & Disappointment at Work” with Michael and Professor Gideon Strauss.

For more information about the Cascade Fellows program, visit our website.

Come to the Alumni Retreat!

Cascade Fellows is excited to announce the first 

Alumni Retreat! 

 

Date: October 1-2, 2016

Time: 9 am Saturday- 11 am Sunday

Location: Black Diamond Camp, Auburn, WA

Cost: $175

 

Come spend a night away reconnecting with Cascade Fellows alums as we engage in worship, prayer, discussion, and light teaching. Bring a friend from your cohort, or come and meet someone new. We are excited to spend this weekend reconnecting with you! 

 

Spots are limited, register soon!

For registration, click here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cascade-fellows-alumni-retreat-registration-tickets-25677766892 

 

 

visions of vocation When you register we will send you a copy of Visions of Vocation by Steve Garber. 

The “Christian” Artist: 10 Reflections from Abraham Kuyper

Maggie Hubbard Pile of Stuff I, 2016

Maggie Hubbard, Pile of Stuff I, 2016

 

The “Christian” Artist: 10 Reflections from Abraham Kuyper

The artistic legacy of American Christianity is mixed, (at best). Christians have scorned the arts as useless, wasteful, sinful, elitist, idolatrous, and self-centered. When these same Christians decide to “take back the arts” and make their own forms of “Christian” music, movies, novels, and paintings, the artistic results, once again, are mixed, at best.

What should be our response to this “mixed” legacy of the arts in American Christianity?

Abraham Kuyper’s 1898 reflections on faith and the arts in his Lectures On Calvinism are impressive in their depth, breadth, and insight on the subject. While I do not find myself agreeing with every aspect of his aesthetics, I find his speech (composed in 1898) to be extremely prescient, prophetic, and relevant for today’s discussions of faith and the arts.

It is no surprise that Christians called to the arts are ambivalent about the American church. Some feel mistrusted and marginalized. Others feel isolated and lonely, and still others feel misunderstood, frustrated, and even angry.

This week, for my reflection on Abraham Kuyper, I offer 10 pieces of advice for the Christian artist inspired by Kuyper’s chapter on “Calvinism and the Arts.” I hope that these are helpful in your reading of his lecture.

 

  1. Your Art is Not a Luxury, It is a Necessity

While some Christians have argued that the arts are a wasteful luxury – that money should only be spent on evangelism or helping the poor – Kuyper disagrees. Art, he argues “is no fringe that is attached to the garment, and no amusement that is added to life, but a most serious power.” The arts are a central part of God’s intention for humanity. Take beauty and creativity away from a person’s life and you have removed a core part of their created humanity.

Kuyper argues that art is not a superfluous “decoration” for life. To the contrary – it can help us understand what life is all about. Art, he insists, teaches us lessons “which neither science, nor politics, nor religious life, nor even revelation can bring to light.”(163) For him, a bare utilitarian vision of life which has no space for creativity, imagination, or beauty is not a life worthy of a creative and imaginative God. The arts remind us, in a world of bare rationalism and materialism, that life is about more than simply the true and the good, it is also about the beautiful. For, in “this cold, irreligious, and practical age the warmth of this devotion to art has kept alive many higher aspirations of our soul.”(143)

Standing firmly in the creativity and imagination of the Creator God himself, Christian artists should never apologize for their calling to the arts. They have a high and holy calling.

The artist creates, not because she feels like it, not because she has some extra time and money, not because a space is lacking decoration. The artist creates because her God has called her to create. This is the only justification she needs.

 

  1. Push Boundaries

Christians have historically feared artists because they push boundaries, challenge assumptions, and question the status quo. Christians in America have wrongly married their faith to a stagnant cultural conservatism that fears cultural exploration, innovation, and change.

In opposition to this, Kuyper argues that God called Adam and Eve to explore, cultivate, and develop the Garden of Eden—not freeze it in place. Therefore, he argues, Christians are not in the business of fearful cultural conservation – they are in the business of hopeful cultural exploration, cultivation, and development.

If our God is a God who loves fearless exploration and development, the arts “cannot afford to tarry at her origin, but must ever develop herself more richly… Only, the law of her growth and life… must remain the fundamental law of art for ever.” (163)

 

  1. Don’t Make “Christian Art”

Abraham Kuyper argues that the church should not have its own distinct style of “Christian art.” The church should not be in the business of controlling its artists or they art they produce. The church does not call artists – God does. The artist is responsible directly to God, and not the church. He is radically free to glorify God through his art-making. Because the artist is freed by God’s call, we should not expect one singular “Christian style” of art, but instead, a broad, messy, and beautiful variety of explorations in a multiplicity of media, addressing ever widening themes.

 

  1. Don’t Make “Secular Art”

Embarrassed by the horrible state of “Christian Art,” some Christians in the arts (in particular those called to make art out in the “secular art world”) attempt to hide their faith or ignore it. Fearful of being found out, they try to make art that is disconnected from their deepest convictions and beliefs.

While Kuyper is against “Christian Art,” he is also against “Secular Art.” He believes that “the call for a secular, all-embracing art-style, independent of any religious principle, is simply absurd.” (151) Why is it absurd? Because every song, painting, and sculpture emerges from some conviction about the meaning and purpose of life. It comes from a belief in something. Every artist must have a worldview—a core identity. The only question is, what will that core identity be?

Kuyper insists that the arts “demand a central motive in the mental and emotional life of a people.” (150) In short, if you believe nothing, you have nothing to create. Even the so-called atheist artist believes in something, if she didn’t, she would have no reason to make anything at all. Every artist has a throne that cannot remain empty. The Christian artist has a choice to make, even as she creates for spaces outside of the church.

 

  1. Don’t Be a Snob

Abraham Kuyper was squarely against the modern practice of isolating “the arts” to metropolitan museums, wealthy homes, posh galleries, graduate schools, and the realm of elite professional artists. If it is true that God is an artist, and if it is true God created all of us to long for beauty, creativity, and imagination, then it follows that the arts should be for everyone. Christians called to the arts must be aware of the cultural temptation to isolate, elevate, and patronize—and they must find ways to subvert and challenge this practice. The arts are for all of God’s people.

 

  1. Appreciate Art By Non-Christians

Because of common grace, Abraham Kuyper argues that the “arts are gifts which God imparts promiscuously to believers and to unbelievers, yea, that, as history shows, these gifts have flourished even in a larger measure outside the holy circle.” (160) Kuyper points to the fact that the ancient Greeks far surpassed the ancient Israelites in their artistic abilities. In God’s sovereign freedom he decided to bless the Greeks more than the Israelites.

If this is true, then Christians should never dismiss art made by non-Christians. If they do, they may very well be dismissing the very gifts of God.

 

  1. Don’t Copy Nature, Wrestle With It

The artist does not merely copy the garden God made. The artist explores the garden, unfolds it, dissects it, develops it, tests it, and reveals new insights about life within it. The “vocation of art,” according to Kuyper, is “not merely to observe everything visible and audible, to apprehend it, and reproduce it artistically.” (154) No, artists are called to “the noble vocation of disclosing to man a higher reality.” (153) The artist does not copy life, she wrestles with life and comes out on the other side with new insights to share, new things to reveal.

As we mentioned before, art teaches us lessons about life “which neither science, nor politics, nor religious life, nor even revelation can bring to light.”(163) Furthermore, the artist does not simply tell us what is (in the present). The artist also reminds us what we have we lost (from the past) and what could be (in the future). The artist embraces both memory and imagination.

The true artist does not copy life, she wrestles with it, she reveals it. That is her sacred calling.

 

  1. Pay Attention to the Common, the Ordinary

As a Calvinist, Abraham Kuyper believes that God cares about and saves ordinary people. God loves them, not because they have done something extraordinary, but because he intends to do something extraordinary with their ordinary lives. These so-called “ordinary” people have done nothing to earn God’s love. God freely chooses the ordinary to make the extraordinary.

So, if God loves the ordinary, the common, the mundane; Kuyper concludes that the artist should too. They should not be bored with the commoner’s life, because God isn’t. Kuyper writes,

If a common man, to whom the world pays no special attention, is valued and even chosen by God as one of His elect, this must lead the artist also to find a motive for his artistic studies in what is common and of every-day occurrence, to pay attention to the emotions and the issues of the human heart in it…to interpret for the world at large the precious discovery he has made. (166)

There is something beautiful in the so-called boring, there is something sacred in the so-called secular, and there is something extraordinary in the so-called ordinary. It is the vocation of the artist to investigate, explore, and finally reveal that hidden reality.

 

  1. There is No Such Thing As Evil Art

While many Christians have spurned the arts as evil and idolatrous at their core, Kuyper vehemently disagrees. God created the arts. God is the author of our creativity, imagination, skill, and craftsmanship. These are gifts of God. To label them the gifts of the devil is to disgrace the true giver of the gifts. “Satan,” Kuyper argues, “is destitute of every creative power. All he can do is to abuse the good gifts of God.” Any brokenness or sin that we witness in the arts is simply the perversion of something good. Evil cannot make, it can only destroy. Evil cannot craft, it can only twist.

Furthermore, the complaint that “the art world is evil” is actually a case for engaging the arts—not running away from them. Sin has not only infected the arts, it has infected politics, business, education, medicine, the media, the church, and the family. People who are called to be salt, light, and leaven in a world on fire do not run away from the blaze—they run into it.

 

  1. Approach Your Skills As Gifts (Not Possessions)

The final word of advice Kuyper would give to the artist is that they must, above all, receive their artistic gifts as gifts. Our artistic gifts are something we steward. They are not something that we own. They were given, not for our glory, but for God’s. They were bestowed, not for our personal good, but for the common good.

Strictly speaking, they are not our skills, brilliance, creativity, or craftsmanship that are on display, but God’s. Art, Kuyper argues, cannot “originate with man, for, being a creature himself, man cannot but employ the powers and gifts put by God at his disposal.” (155) Quoting Calvin, his favorite theologian, Kuyper argues that “all the arts come from God and are to be respected as Divine inventions.”

If we are stewards and not possessors of artist gifts, there are at least three practical consequences. First, we may never believe that we earned our success on our own. Second, we are in a constant state of self-learning, exploring and sharpening the gifts that God has given. Third, we do our artistic work, not out of duty, obligation, or raw ambition, but instead we create out of gratitude. Our art-making is fundamentally a responsive act of worship to the One who gave us these gifts. As the artist Makoto Fujimura remarks, “my approach to art resembles the paradigm set by a woman in the gospel who broke her jar of nard upon Christ’s feet.” May we all offer our gifts back to the one who gave them to us.

 

 

Faith, Frailty, and Loss: Reflections from Christian Medical Professionals

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Recently, we were asked to help lead a discussion with a group of Christian healthcare professionals using the book Reclaiming the Body by Brian Volck MD and Joel Shuman. Among the wisdom we gleaned from this inspiring read was the concept of frailty, grief, and loss through the lens of healthcare and faith.

As the discussion progressed, each healthcare professional recounted moments when they experienced loss in their respective fields. Discussing the idea of mortality amongst healthcare professionals can be uncomfortable and often avoided. But, as Christians we are not only called to consider our mortality, but also to live out the hope of Christ in the face of such reality.

“For the truth of Christianity is not ultimately an idea or a set of propositions to be assented to, but a life to be lived…it is a life that must be lived in constancy in the face of unanswered questions and in spite of sometimes significant uncertainty, and it is a life about which the full truth cannot be known until it is ended” (Shuman & Volk, 2006, P.123).

Medicine and the interventions of medicine are often unquestioned by patients, especially in the United States. Accepting our mortality should not be a difficult philosophical step for Christians, “for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

Yet the language of our faith belies a quiet allegiance to a culture of curative medicine. We sing hymns ascribing the sovereignty of God on Sunday, and anxiously await a doctors’ prognosis in hopes of a cure on Monday.

It’s not that cures cannot or should not be sought, but the base anxiety that underlies so many of those conversations often pose unnecessary problems. This anxiety is born out of the ultimate failure of medicine to conquer death.

Despite the fact that many are living longer lives because of medical interventions, our science and research has yet to discover immorality. In conversations around medicine we procrastinate death. “We fear dying, to be sure, but we also prefer not to be present to death, to be reminded of the inevitability of death, or even to talk about death, for such reminders are offenses to our unspoken hope that, with the help of an increasingly able medicine, we might be able to avoid death—at least for a long, long time” (Shuman & Volk, 2006, P.124).

One of the commandments in the bible that is repeated more than any other is “do not fear.” As Christians, we know that we are not spared from death on this earth, but we are told that the sting of death is gone and resurrection is guaranteed through the redemption given to us by Jesus.

If the promise of Christ is true, which it is, then how we treat the dying process should be a direct reflection of this promise. Even though grief and frailty may be ever present, God has overcome true demise through the gift of hope. “Hope suggests that our grief is temporary and this offers us the possibility of being free to live and to die and to care for each other as we face dying, even though we are not in control” (Shuman & Volk, 2006, P.133).

We work in hospice care and we have had the privilege of being present with others at the last moments of their lives. The most beautiful moments have been when a patient has come to a moment of acceptance and hope in the process of dying. Individuals who once resisted care from others, embrace love and nurturing from their community.

As Christ draws His people together and encourages us to live life in community, how then should we help incorporate community into the death and dying process? “It requires faithful participation in the practices of the gathered body of Christ, and the help of the entire Christian community, both to help us discern what to do in particular situations and, just as important, to make possible by our life together, appropriate and possibly atypical ways of caring for one another as we approach life’s end” (Shuman & Volk, 2006, P.126).

The Church at large would be served well to engage in an honest conversation about the inevitability of death and the limitations of medicine; engaging people who work in healthcare industries, and those who care for people at different life stages in other industries.

As we engage this conversation with the community of faith we believe that Christ will transform latent anxieties deeply felt in our culture through the power of His Spirit and the love of His people. The peace that passes all understanding offers our world something that no medical intervention can, and that is a hope worth pointing people towards.

 

Four Rules for Faith and Politics: According to Abraham Kuyper

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I studied political science at a Christian college. Predictably, my classes were filled with passionate debates over the relationship between Christianity and politics.

Is Jesus a Republican or a Democrat? What should Christians think about welfare, abortion, gay marriage, etc? Can Christians fight in war? My liberal and conservative peers spent hours zealously debating these questions. And while we all badly wanted to put our faith first and our politics second, more often than not, the opposite appeared to be true.

I quickly realized that we came to these debates with ready-made political positions and that we wanted the Bible to back us up. We were trying to cram God into our political boxes. Christianity did not come first—it came second. Jesus was not the Lord of our politics—we were. In the end, Christianity was little more than the “spiritual frosting” that we were spreading (rather thinly) over our own political opinions.

This practice became tiring.

Near the end of my college years I came upon the work of Abraham Kuyper. And, while I didn’t always agree with every word, I downed Kuyper like a cup of cool water in a dry desert. Reading Kuyper I could step finally outside the tired right-left binary and look at American politics from a different perspective. In Kuyper I had found a third way out of the noisy and rather boring echo chamber of right versus left.

I can’t hope to fully summarize Kuyper’s political perspective here, but below I have briefly explored four critical “rules” in Kuyper’s thinking about faith and politics that are particularly poignant for our political environment today. I do my best to demonstrate what Kuyper’s critique of both Republicans and Democrats might be if he were alive today.

 

Rule #1 Recognize That All Politics Are Faith-Based

Abraham Kuyper’s first rule for thinking about politics was that there is no such thing as “secular” politics. Every political platform, party, and politician s faith-based. Every political platform rests upon on system of beliefs and convictions about the good life. Whether your politics are defined as Muslim or Christian, Marxist or Capitalist, Conservative or Liberal, Kuyper insisted that all political opinions are founded upon faith-based assumptions that cannot be proven.

The implication of Rule #1 is this: no politician can claim to have absolute access to “the truth.” No worldview, religion, or political philosophy can claim a special authority over another. Politics, therefore, is a debate. It is a contest between a variety of faiths on equal footing.

This is a humbling message for both Republicans and Democrats today, who seem to yell at one another with a God-like authority they have no claim to. Both sides forget the faith-based nature of their politics.

Republicans sometimes speak as if they have direct access to God and God’s opinions—they even dare to speak on God’s behalf sometimes! Democrats, on the other hand, can sometimes claim to be purely enlightened and rational, capable of being uniquely fair and open-minded. From their high-minded secular position they look down on “religious” voters as uneducated, irrational, and biased. Democrats forget that they too speak from a faith-based perspective.

 

Rule #2 Don’t Be Cynical or Romantic About Politics

Today’s politics suffer from two opposite maladies—political cynicism and political romanticism. Cynics argue that government is completely broken, corrupt, and oppressive. Romantics, on the other hand, argue that government is a tool for good—even political salvation. Embodying these dichotomies, Ronald Reagan famously declared, “Government is not the solution, it’s the problem!” While Barak Obama famously announced, “We can change Washington!” and “We are the people we’ve been waiting for!”

In opposition to both political cynics and romantics, Kuyper argues that both sin and grace are always at work in our political life. This did not make Kuyper some sort of middle-of-the-road moderate taking the good with the bad. No, Kuyper was both pessimistic and optimistic about political life.

Kuyper was pessimistic as he argued that sin had infected every aspect of political life. Every politician, platform, and party was influenced by sin. Placing ultimate hope and confidence in a political system was folly. Because of this, Kuyper argued that the government should be carefully limited in its authority, power, and size. He argued that it should never be allowed to become an “octopus” spreading its tentacles into every aspect of our lives. The government is not our salvation it is an unfortunate mechanism built to maintain justice and life in a violent and broken world.

That said, Kuyper did not allow his political pessimism to turn into all out cynicism. Sin, he argued, is not the only thing active in politics—grace is there too. Christians must also recognize that government is a beautiful and undeserved gift from God given to his people to restrain their evil and violence. More than that government is a gracious gift given to promote humanity’s justice and flourishing. Christians, therefore, are not permitted to complain and be cynical about political life. They must be grateful.

If both sin and grace are active in politics, we as Christians are not allowed to give ourselves over to complete cynicism or romanticism. They must approach it with both realistic suspicion and hopeful gratitude.

 

Rule #3 Choose Your Authority Wisely

Who is in charge here? This might be the first and most important political question there is. Kuyper argues that a country’s beliefs about political authority and sovereignty matter a great deal. Getting the question of authority wrong can have dire consequences.

Historically speaking, countries have bestowed divine-like political authority to all sorts of people, systems, and things. Some have given ultimate authority to kings and dictators, others to the interests of money or power. Some have given power to the workers and others to CEOs, some listen to Mohammad others to the Pope. Still other countries have given it final authority to the strongest race or to the largest and most powerful group of voters. One thing is certain, wherever a country bestows ultimate authority, that choice will have far reaching consequences.

What exactly are the consequences of our choices about authority? Abraham Kuyper provides a number of practical examples, here are two. First, Kuyper looked at the concept of “authority” in 19th century Germany and France. In post-revolutionary France ultimate authority was bestowed upon the “will of the French majority” while in Germany ultimate authority was given to the “will of the German state.”

The political consequences of these decisions were clear. In modern Germany it was very difficult for citizens to question, challenge, or limit the holy power of the German state. This ultimately came true when the Nazi state arose, no one could stop it. Newspapers, schools, churches, and whole communities were bulldozed by the German state’s unquestioned authority.

Likewise in modern France it was very difficult to question, challenge, or limit the holy power of “the French majority.” Smaller communities and leaders who stood against the French revolutionary majority were eliminated by the guillotine. In both France and Germany there was no higher authority to appeal to, nowhere else to go.

Secondly, Kuyper also compared Catholic and Calvinist understandings of authority. Catholics, he argued, tended to place greater confidence in centralized authority while Calvinists tended to be more skeptical of centralized authority. Because of this, power tended to be centralized in historically Catholic countries (Italy, Spain, and France) while in historically Calvinist countries, power tended to be decentralized (England, United States, Switzerland, and the Netherlands).

So, who is really in charge? Whether you give ultimate authority to the will of the majority or the will of the state, whether you have a high Catholic trust of authority or a Calvinist skepticism, the implications of Rule #3 are clear; the question of authority matters.

Kuyper insists that God alone deserves the title of ultimate authority. No leader, party, philosophy, race, or group of voters can claim God’s throne. Once again, this cuts against both Republicans and Democrats in different ways. It is often subtle, but both parties bestow unwarranted and unquestioned authority in our political discourse.

Democrats often speak as if progressive values and policies are “on the right side of history.” If you do not get on board you are, by implication, on the wrong side of history. “History” here is the ultimate and unquestioned authority. Republicans, on the other hand, often give unquestioned authority to things like the free market, the military, corporations, and their conception of conservative Christian culture. Both parties are guilty of putting created things on the Creator’s throne.

Once again, who is really in charge?

 

Rule #4 Life is Bigger than Politics and Money 

Kuyper argued that God created human beings to flourish and make culture in a wide variety of ways. God made human life to be rich, complex, and beautiful. Humans are called to work and rest, to make art and make babies, to worship and play, to build communities and cities of beauty and justice, and to explore the world through innovation in science and technology. In all, human beings are called to flourish and engage the world in a wide variety of complex ways. Thus, the world of politics is only one aspect of human life.

Whenever social problems arise in America today, our binary political system normally proposes one of two solutions. Democrats commonly suggest a new government program, law, or tax while Republicans commonly suggest a free market solution. However complex the social issue, both sides suggest a simple solution (either the government or the market will fix it).

Kuyper argues for a more complex understanding of human life and flourishing. In order to flourish, human beings need more than simply a strong state or marketplace. Humans need families, schools, newspapers, art galleries, neighborhoods, laboratories, hospitals, and more. Kuyper argues that this wide variety of “life spheres” are absolutely critical to our flourishing. Without these communities in our lives, something important is lost.

To put it bluntly, Democrats want to promote human flourishing by increasing the power and reach of government. Republicans want to promote human flourishing by increasing the power and reach of the marketplace. Democrats place their hope in government while Republicans place their hope in business.

Kuyper argues that while both government and business are both good and important parts of life, they are not the whole of life. More than that, both government and business become dangerous when they are given too much power.

Both government and business are spheres of life that must be limited so that the rest of life can be allowed to flourish. Families, churches, art galleries, laboratories, universities, and neighborhoods are beautiful and important parts of human life. Both big business and big government can endanger and ultimately crush these smaller spheres of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stumbling Towards Beauty: A Reflection on Christian Design Work

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As an interior designer and architect, I help design work places. I don’t just see it as a job, but as a unique opportunity to influence how others can experience God in their workplaces.

I see my specific role as God’s ambassador in the ability to share His love with others by designing beautiful and functional spaces for them to work.

As a designer, one of my first jobs is to get to know the company I’m designing for. I seek to really pay attention to what truly matters to the company and those who work within it. What are they passionate about? What is this company bringing to the marketplace that is unique and different from any other company? How are the people in this company fearfully and wonderfully made?

Every company has a culture. I try and understand that culture, seeking to know what makes them flourish. And then I ask: How can I align their uniqueness with a design that represents them well?I then take what I’ve found and throughout the process, ask myself as I’m designing: How can their space reflect their core values and ideas?

I believe deeply that God cares about each company I design for, and God cares about the people who work there. So, through my work with them, I try to express even an ounce of God’s passion for them and who they are.

What has been surprising to me is how similar this is to showing my brothers and sisters in Christ love. By paying attention to them, I’m able to love them by aligning with what matters to them most; creating a space that will serve them and their constituents well.

The level of detail involved is usually astonishing for those new to the process, and by the end of the process it can feel like overload on many levels. Usually, this is all done while my clients are still trying to continue doing their usual job.

Talk about stressful.

As a designer, I see my job not only as understanding spatial and aesthetic needs, but also emotional and personal needs. I try to emulate Christ by easing the burden, navigating around any pitfalls and providing additional support as necessary. I want my clients to feel that they are heard and understood, so I also focus on making the design process as smooth as possible.

Countless decisions have to be made regarding the space itself, and those in charge of making those decisions must represent their coworkers and try to navigate what they think will work best for the collective group. It’s a privilege to help them serve their co-workers in a helpful and sustainable way.

The field of architecture and interior design holds great possibility and limitless potential. But, if I’m honest, my work really scares me.

It’s a really hard job and, usually, I don’t think I’m very good at it. I fear that I’m not a great designer; that the things I create are ordinary, if not sub-par. The process is not all smooth sailing. Budgets are constraining, clients don’t know what they want, and we’re often asked to deliver designs in short amounts of time. Often, I fail at communicating design ideas, working through ideas with clients, avoiding pitfalls and simply getting a design right.

While many days, I do see myself as God’s ambassador in my field, I often feel like a failure. I’m trying to create sanctuaries where the people God loves can do their fulfilling work, but, when I remember to view it that way, I’m often just trying to make all the pieces fit together, by myself.

The Cascade Fellows journey is all about learning to see God in the workplace. So I’m learning, slowly, that what it means for God to be with me in the workplace, and to experience His unconditional love and encouragement, in that space as well. What has been most exciting is seeing how God really cares about the work that I do. When I’m reminded of how much God really cares about the work itself, I realize what it means for God to transform me, including helping me become a better designer and coworker.

Slowly, God is helping me improve my design skills. God is helping me with my visual communication with clients. God is giving me patience with difficult coworkers. It’s not up to me to struggle through and be the perfect Christian for God in the work place. My job is to surrender to His love and let Him take the lead, even at work.

This is really, really hard. Work is not an area where I want to surrender control. And it’s deeply counter-cultural to see my work this way. According to my work culture, isn’t my career supposed to all be up to me? Aren’t I the captain of my own success- or some other clique quote hanging on the poster in the break room?

But, God is gracious, He’s helping me see that work is my mission field, a mission field where I’m partnering with God, It’s not all up to me. God is the one at work. For indeed, God is making all things beautiful, including the work I do as a designer. He is making me beautiful, as his disciple and ambassador. And He is making me into someone who designs beautifully, with craftsmanship, creativity, and deep sense of calling. One I’m privileged to have and accept with joy.

 

 

 

Bad Religion at Work: Four Warnings from Abraham Kuyper

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It seems that “Faith at Work” is a hot topic these days. It is difficult to miss the widespread proliferation of marketplace chaplains, break-time yoga sessions, multi-faith prayer rooms, self-actualization retreats, life-coaching specialists, mindfulness exercises, and celebrity leadership gurus.

Here in Seattle, forms of New Age spirituality are part of the fabric of the local marketplace.

If this is the culture we live in, what then, is a Christian response to these new forms of spirituality at work?

I suggest that we turn to a rather unlikely source for guidance—a 19th century Dutch theologian named Abraham Kuyper.

In his lecture on “Calvinism and Religion,” Abraham Kuyper was particularly critical when it came to modern ideas about religion and spirituality. He argued that while these new perspectives on promised personal “enlightenment,” “liberation,” and “empowerment,” they actually led to something quite the opposite.

In the end, Kuyper outlined four modern aspects of what we might call “Bad Religion”

  1. Self-Religion
  2. Expert-Religion
  3. Partial-Religion
  4. Normal-Religion

I want to explore Kuyper’s perspective on these matters in light of new forms of spirituality in the Seattle workplace.

 

  1. Self-Religion at Work

Engaging in spiritual practices at work for the sole purpose of improving self-focus, self-empowerment, and self-actualization is a perfect example of what Kuyper might call “self-religion.” According to self-religion, spiritual practices are “useful” for making your work easier, more efficient, healthy, and productive.

Religion, in short, becomes a tool to make your life better.

While these examples might sound foreign and “New Agey” to Christians, we must admit that Christians are often guilty of using their faith and their God as well.

As Christians we often ignore God when things are going well. Then, when something goes wrong, we turn to God to fix it. Or we resolve to do more “Christian stuff” in order to fix the issue. We resolve to pray more and read the Bible more in hopes that we can use our faith to make the problem go away. The idea, basically, is that God, prayer, church, and the Bible are merely useful tools whose only purpose is to serve and help us.

This, Kuyper argues, is the essence of “self-religion.” Treating God like a divine servant whose sole purpose is to serve and glorify us. Treating the church as a group of people who exist purely to serve, empower, and inspire us.

But the gospel is not about us, it’s about God.

The gospel is not about our power, freedom, or glory—it’s about God’s. Our lives and work are a response to His work. We are an echo of His song—a reflection of His glory. The purpose of our story is to tell His.

The counter-cultural and paradoxical truth of the gospel is this. If we want to live, we must die. If we want to be free, we must submit. If we want to be filled, we must become empty.

“Self-Religion” promises liberation through self-focus, the gospel promises liberation through self-forgetfulness. The good news of the gospel is that it is not about us and it is not up to us to make the world work.

Our daily work is a small part of the much larger, much more complex, and much more beautiful work of God. It is not about us.

The gospel offers a different path to self-empowerment at work; service to others, submission to others, and glory to God.

 

  1. Expert-Religion

Seattle is a culture that loves spiritual “experts” like Yoga teachers, psychics, life coaches, celebrity authors, gurus, and holistic wellness speakers. There are many who look to experts for direction, meaning, and purpose. Looking to them for answers and affirmation, asking them how to live, work, eat, and prosper.

Abraham Kuyper argues that while these spiritual experts promise liberation, empowerment, and self-actualization, they ultimately make us dependent on them. They set themselves up as permanent mediators between people and the “truth.”

Once again Christians can fall into this trap as well. Rather than cultivating a direct relationship with the living God, we look to celebrity Christian preachers and speakers to connect us to God in new and inspiring ways. We look to worship leaders to connect us to God through the use of musical skill and emotion. We feel alienated from God and we look to Christian experts to reconnect us.

But depending on experts and mediators does not liberate or empower us—it weakens and constrains us. Rather than being empowered to live out the gospel freely in our daily work we continually run back to experts to tell us what to do, to give us the answers.

Kuyper argues that we live every day coram deo (directly before the face of God). We live and work everyday in the presence of our creator. We don’t need a priest, guru, pastor, or worship leader to connect us to God, we can meet God everyday and everywhere.

The reality is the God of the universe has established a direct and unmediated relationship with us through Jesus Christ. We were not saved by any expert. The experts can’t tell us “God’s plan for our lives.” We don’t need a sacred place, song, or leader to hear from God. We don’t need to wait until Sunday to connect to God. We can meet Him on Monday. He is Emmanuel—God with us. He’s with us in our offices as we go about our work, he’s in the board rooms and conference rooms and cafeterias and coffee shops where we go about our daily lives. God is already there. God is already speaking.

 

  1. Partial-Religion

The culture around us shouts: “Faith is something personal and private.” In this statement is the temptation to believe that religion and spirituality is something that helps us in those quiet, dark, and secluded corners of our lives. Religion is there to help us with our marriage issues or our depression. It is there to fix our alcoholism or our stress. It is there to provide us with some community when we are lonely. While that is true, the gospel does speak into these places. This is only a portion of what the gospel does.

This practice of religion is private, personal, or, what Kuyper calls, “partial religion.” The belief that religion is here to serve or fix some small dysfunctional part of our “personal” life.

Once again Christians do this as well. We speak of Jesus as our “personal” Lord and Savior someone who helps us when parts of our lives don’t work right. Jesus ends up being our personal God of the gaps. Whenever a gap appears in our lives, God is invited to fill or fix that part.

Kuyper’s critique of partial religion is that when we see him as just personal we never give God the whole of our lives, the whole of our careers, we give him the parts that are safe, that are limited, private, or personal.

The problem is this.

Jesus is not simply our “personal” Lord and Savior. He is Lord and Savior—full stop. Jesus did not come to earth to simply live in our hearts and be our personal “pocket-sized” Savior. Jesus is the lord of the cosmos who came to renew and restore all of life and all of creation.

The cosmic work of Christ means that our faith can no longer be limited to the personal, private, or partial. It has to spill out into every aspect, artery, and avenue of our public and working lives. The implications, Kuyper argues, are clear, “every labora (work) shall be permeated by ora (prayer)…Wherever man may stand, whatever he may do, to whatever he may apply his hand, in agriculture, in commerce, and in industry, or in his mind, in the world of art, and science, he is, in whatsoever it may be, constantly standing before the face of God…” (53).

God’s calling on our lives is not partial, it is holistic; touching, changing, empowering, and using every aspect of our collective beings to bring about his Kingdom in the world.

 

  1. Normal-Religion

It is common today for people to resort to spiritual platitudes like “people are basically good,” “do your best,” or “believe in yourself.”

In such a culture religion and spirituality are not concerned with radical human rebellion, repentance, and transformation. Instead modern spirituality focuses on self-empowerment and the gradual improvement of one’s life and world. When this is the focus of religion, spirituality becomes a tool for elevating one’s personal awareness and mindfulness. Life is basically OK, everything is basically “normal.” The purpose of religion is simply helping normal people become just a little better.

Christians do this as well. We all too often think faith is about “being good.” Being a Christian is about trying and trying hard. Praying harder, working harder, being good even when its hard. Ultimately, we convince ourselves that the gospel is about our effort. That if we work hard we will get a promotion, we will succeed, and God will be on our side.

In the classic film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a knight has had his legs and arms cut off in battle. Rather than admit defeat, he stubbornly demands that the fight continue insisting that he is “OK.” It is, after all, “just a flesh wound!”

Abraham Kuyper argues that this is the message of “normal religion.” Such spirituality looks at the broken, selfish, and rebellious state of our human hearts and world and says “it’s ok” it’s “just a flesh wound.”

But everything is not ok. Everything is not normal, It is not just a flesh wound.

According to the gospel, we are mortally wounded. We are dead in our sins. We don’t need reassurance—we need a resurrection. We don’t need a band aid—we need a surgeon.

Our culture’s message that you are basically good and just need to believe in yourself and try harder, is actually a terrifically cruel thing to say to a person. First of all, it isolates them and tells them that they can believe in nothing but themselves. Second, it tells a person that their improvement depends entirely upon them. Third, that there is no excuse if they can’t succeed. Fourth, every time they fail the only response is to keep working and self-actualizing.

This is what makes Christianity abnormal in our culture. Its message fundamentally does not make sense to a world that believes everything is “ok.”

For those who finally recognize that they suffer from more than a flesh wound, the message that you need resurrection is good news.

This does not mean that Christians have no confidence or power. It simply means that our confidence rests, not in ourselves, but in our God, who is capable of doing what only He can do: resurrect and redeem.

Conclusion

In opposition to “bad religion” Kuyper upholds that:

  • We exist to serve and glorify God. (We do not “use” God at work.)
  • We work directly with God. (We do not need experts to meet God at work.)
  • We give our whole lives and our whole work to God. (We should not limit God to our private lives.)
  • We are in need of God’s redemption. (We do not need just a little improvement, but a whole overhaul.)