Monday, October 31, 2011

Plowing in Hope or Probing for Land Mines?

How do Christians understand their place in the world? How deep does the antithesis run? How far does grace extend?

In my experience it seems that Christians often fall into two camps in their approach to the Christian life and their place in the world. On the one hand, there are those who are deeply concerned about brokenness in the world, and particularly their own personal failings or shortcomings. As they apply grace in their lives, they seek to avoid sin, to engage in constant self-reflection in an effort to become more Christ-like. In practice, I see their efforts as akin to probing for land mines. They see the world fraught with moral dangers and their calling in the world is to avoid those dangers.

On the other hand, there are those who see the application of grace in a broader way. It equips individuals to conquer sin in their lives, but also fuels the redemption of God's world. Christians working with this perspective see their calling as more than avoiding sin, but fulfilling their pre-fall calling to work as God's image bearers, to develop his creation, and, in this broken world, to act redemptively in all areas of life (not just their personal lives). Such individuals typically have more confidence about their place in the world and I would characterize their outlook as plowing in hope. Instead of seeing the world as a field that is full of dangerous land mines that must be carefully picked through, they see the world as full of hope and promise, they accept the invitation by our Lord to plow it, not forgetting what every good farmer knows about the potential dangers to themselves and their plowing equipment in the form of stumps, rocks, gopher holes, and so forth.

Literature on the Christian life often falls into these two catagories. For example, Dallas Willard's Divine Conspiracy does a fine job of helping Christians probe for land mines whereas books such as Bradshaw Frey(et al)'s At Work and Play: Biblical Insight for Daily Obedience encourage the faithful to plow in hope.


At 3:02 PM, Anonymous Bruce Wearne said...

I think that's a remarkably apt allusion.
Yesterday I saw a feature film on UN Peace Keeping Brigade in East Timor to supervise the 1999 election.
I don't remember being moved by a film to such an extent - the sheer intractability of the dilemmas that were posed - not just in terms of the strife within the Timorese peoples themselves, but also personally for those concerned was remarkably drawn. You might like to watch it but it might be best to preview it before sharing it. Answered by Fire.

The other side, that is the reconciliation process after Independence is marvellously portrayed in A Hero's Journey, the story of the previously Jesuit-trained, former leader of the resistance movement and first president of Timor Leste, Xanana Gusmao.

I'm probably challenged by these because they also reveal the remarkable level of isolationism that is part of the Australian way of life with respect to our region ... the main character in Answered by Fire explains his interest in being there at that time to the Canadienne fellow peace-keeper (who has been rerouted from Kosovo by RCMP decision) in terms of his personal effort to face up to the fact that Australia simply allowed East Timor to be invaded in 1975, and has happily maintained an ambiguously hands-off approach - while the Jakarta-lobby in Canberra maintains its hold on how elected representatives face up to who we are and our responsibility.

The next problem on the agenda - apart from the ever looming crises of small Pacific Island states inc especially Fiji - is West Papua. Both of these films will give you a picture of the context facing the region where the lethal consequences of political indifference are lined up ready to explode.

At 8:13 PM, Blogger Arnold Sikkema said...

Thanks for that, Paul. This is the first reference to the book At Work and Play that I’ve seen since I read and studied it with a group of Canadian Reformed students during my second year of (secular) university (Waterloo, 1987-88). At the time, I had no idea how valuable it really was, but it must indeed have been part of my worldview shaping — although I think it took another few years to gel, since it was in 1994 when reading Al Wolters, Creation Regained that it all started coming together.

I also wanted to mention that At Work and Play is fully available online for free at Paideia Books (a scanned PDF), and Amazon also lists a few used copies.


Post a Comment

<< Home