Friday, March 10, 2006

Calvinist and Quaker

I've been a little busy . . . but I'm back, at least for today.

Some have thought it odd that I left a reformed, indeed, reformational, college to teach at a Quaker school. Truth be told, from a practical standpoint, there's lots of overlap. For that reason, my reformational perspective is welcome on campus as evidenced by the following articles:

My experience in general at GFU and in this particular instance reinforces my conviction that reformed and reformational believers spend too much time talking to (and arguing with) each other and not enought time engaging other believers. The trick, I think, isn't to try to lay out all the reformational groundwork before getting on to other matters, but to start with scripture, the common source of wisdom and knowledge for all believers (no matter how different they may read and interpret that scripture).

This concern inspired my response to Al Wolters' "What is to be done" piece published in the print version of Comment this past December:

Throughout Al Wolters’ essay, we find an emphasis upon Scripture and upon the Creation Order. Here, I think, we find the foundation upon which Neo-Calvinists can pursue an ecumenical embrace of their philosophy. I have long been troubled by the unwillingness or inability (or both) of many Reformational thinkers to share their vision with, well, those who aren’t Dutch or Christian Reformed or both. But I acknowledge the great difficulties in doing so. Speaking of modal aspects, sphere sovereignty, law and subject side, meaning-nucleus, and so forth, usually leaves the uninitiated Christian confused.

“True ecumenicity,” writes Wolters, “will always depend on biblical . . . rootedness.” And indeed, it is Scripture which opens up to us the Creation Order. The authority of Scripture is also a point which Neo-Calvinists share, at least on the surface, with many of their Christian brethren. I was recently asked by a group of students on my campus to share with them “the Biblical basis for justice.” This group had just formed, calling themselves Quaere Verum (seek the truth). Mostly of Evangelical background or persuasion, they nevertheless recognized that their faith meant more than “worship and evangelism,” as one of them put it. So I joined their meeting and opened the Scriptures for them saying that Christians too often read their Bible from the perspective of the Fall and not from (the Biblically revealed) perspective of the Creation Order. From there I was able to highlight Scripture’s emphasis on our creational calling as human beings, God’s ongoing concern for His creation, the Creation’s own corruption by evil, and the responsibility of God’s people to fulfill their task as God’s image bearers and empowered through Christ’s redemptive work. This was certainly new to them, but it was clear that they began to see the world through new eyes. One student said she found it “refreshing, inspiring, and encouraging . . . because it addressed so much of what I have been struggling to understand on my own.” I can’t say that during my short presentation I turned them into Neo-Calvinists, but I can say that by turning to Scripture, I helped them begin to see the importance of the Creation Order and the radical implications for Christian living.