Either way, we’re on the wrong track….

great article on why both legalism and licentiousness stem from a serious misunderstanding of the nature of sin.

Legalism vs Licentiousness

Two excerpts:

The legalist believes he can avoid sin, and manage (if only occasionally) to live sinlessly. If he is right, then the legalist doesn’t need the sinlessness of Jesus, or if he does, he only needs it when he fails to avoid sin. The licentious person believes he has permission to sin. If he is right, then the licentious person doesn’t need Jesus to suffer the penalty for his sin.

What comes next is counterintuitive. Many preachers think that they can cure people of licentiousness by preaching the Law more. This is a good first step, but the Law is only the diagnosis and prognosis. The Law alone isn’t the cure for licentiousness. Preachers sometimes think that Legalism can be cured by really driving the Law home to those who think they are keeping it. Again this is a good first step, but the Law alone cannot cure Legalism either. Why are our churches filled with both the legalists and the licentious? Because our pulpits are not filled with both Law and Gospel.


Implications of the Creation Mandate for Education (Part 2)

In Part 1, I suggested that the creation mandate is the foundation of Christian education. Since God created humans to govern and develop creation, education is a normative structure that prepares humans for that responsibility. The creation mandate therefore implies the command to educate. In Part 2, I suggest that the doctrine of vocation, which is rooted in the creation mandate, also implies in the command to educate.

The Creation Mandate Implies the Command to Educate Through the Doctrine of Vocation

The creation mandate supports the doctrine of vocation: that God has given us a divinely ordained “calling” and responsibility to apply the creation mandate each within our own sphere of influence using the gifts and abilities that God has given us. The doctrine implies that our vocations fit into God’s plan for the development of civilization and turns just another day at work into a worshipful, God-glorifying experience (Veith, 62). The reformers saw that, inasmuch as education prepares students for their divine vocations in this world, the creation mandate authorizes and supports that education (Veith, 20).

Vocation is the means by which God uses people to normally govern and care for his creation. God chooses to work through human beings (creatio tertia) who in their different capacities and according to their varying talents serve each other. We ask God for our daily bread, and he answers that prayer through the normal providence of farmers, bakers, and meal-preparers.

“We might today add the truck drivers…factory workers…warehousemen, the wholesale

distributers, the stock boys, the lady at the checkout counter … bankers, futures investors,

advertisers, lawyers, agricultural scientists, mechanical engineers,” etc. (Veith, 13)

We pray for healing and God calls “doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and lab technicians” (Veith, 14). We pray for protection and God provides governments, armies, and police officers. We long for beauty and inspiration and God provides artists and writers. We need to travel and God provides “autoworkers, mechanics, road crews, and airline employees” (Veith, 14). We aspire to cleanliness through “garbage collectors, plumbers, sanitation workers, and even undocumented aliens who clean our hotel rooms” (Veith, 15). And in support of all these vocations, God gives us teachers. Common labor becomes worship when we not only understand its sacredness, but embrace it and consecrate our labors to God’s glory. Education is a means to prepare people for glorifying God in their vocations.

Veith, Jr., Gene Edward (2002). God at work: your Christian vocation in all life. Wheaton IL: Crossway Books.

Implications of the Creation Mandate for Education (Part 1)

The Creation Mandate is the foundation of Christian education.  Also known as the Cultural or Dominion Mandate, it implies both the command to educate and the scope of the command. 

What is the Creation Mandate?

According to Wolters, the creation account describes three levels of the creation:  1) Creatio ex nihilo:   God created the world out of nothing, 2)  Creatio secunda:  God created Laws of nature that govern the development of our physical reality.  In this way God governs his creation immediately, or directly.  3)  Creatio tertia:  God governs his creation mediately, or indirectly, through the involvement of human responsibility (Wolters, p. 36).   Under this third facet of the creation account falls what we know as as the Creation Mandate (Genesis 1:26-31; Psalm 8:3-9).  From it we deduce that God created man to be the governor and developer of the creation: 

“Just as a human sovereign does certain things himself, but gives orders to his subordinates for other things, so with God himself.  He put the planets in their orbits, makes the seasons come and go at the proper time, makes seeds grow and animals reproduce, but entrusts to mankind the tasks of making tools, doing justice, producing art, and pursuing scholarship.  In other words, God’s rule of law is immediate in the nonhuman realm but mediate in culture and society.  In the human realm men and women become coworkers with God; as creatures made in God’s image, they too have a kind of lordship over the earth, are God’s viceroys in creation”  (p. 14).

How does the Creation Mandate Imply the Command to Educate?

The Creation Mandate implies the command to educate by establishing that education is a part of the structure of creation.  The Creation Mandate is “societal and cultural in nature,” i.e., having to do with the substance of civilization (Wolters, p. 36).   Just as laws of physics govern the physical realm, certain immaterial expectations govern the created structures  of civilization.  These expectations are known as “norms.”   Scientists adduce nature’s material laws by the scientific method.  God’s created norms for society and culture are determined through means such as general revelation, the conscience, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit (Graham, pp. 24-28).  The most obvious of these immaterial norms are applied in the creation structures of government, science and medicine, leisure and entertainment, art and literature, among others.   These normative structures form the building blocks of maturing civilizations.  That education is also a normative structure seems self-evident: “Education, therefore, is fundamental to humanity’s task of developing and conserving this created order” (Van Dyk, n.d.).  Without a means for preparing humanity to apply God’s norms within these structures of the created order, the task of the Creation Mandate cannot be accomplished.

Some might argue that the process of  identifying creational structures and norms is subjective and debatable.  Conceding this should “lead us to humility and dependence on God in trying to do our cultural work” (Graham, p. 26). But we should not assume we are left without strong guidance for discerning creation’s normative structures.  A careful, biblically informed study of the development of civilization should reveal the broad outlines of God’s creational structures.  God’s Word, the Holy Spirit, and wisdom can reveal the norms by which they are to be directed.  “The fundamental knowability of the creation order is the basis of all human understanding, both in science and in every day life” (Wolters, pp. 28-29).  

Graham, D. L. (2003).  Teaching redemptively: Bringing grace and truth into your classroom. Colorado Springs:  Purposeful Publications.

Van Dyk, J. (n.d.). “Chapter II:  Context.” Notes distributed in the class Foundations for Curriculum Development.  Covenant College, 2002.

Wolters, A. (1985). Creation regained:  Biblical basics for a reformational worldview. Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans. 


The Imago Dei: The Image of God in Man

Gen. 1:26-27; Gen. 5:1-2

The Imago Dei is a blurry concept in theology, with a lot of dogmatic stuff attached to it. What, at the least, can we conclude about the image of God in Man?

In my former life as a school administrator, I discussed the following points with the faculty as a starting place for discussion:

  • Whatever the image of God is, it is universal within the human race (Christians and Non-Christians alike).
  • Whatever it is, the image of God remains after the Fall, no doubt corrupted, shattered or marred in some way. To what degree we do not know for certain, but it remains nonetheless.
  • Whatever the image is, it differentiates us from the rest of Creation. Whatever it is, relational ethics is predicated upon it. It implies that the human is inherently valuable, whether lost or saved. It underscores the sacredness and dignity of human life.
  • Whatever it is, it stamps us as God’s possession. We belong to God.
  • The image involves reflecting God in some way.Certainly, from the context, humans reflect God through their governing activity.
  • Less certainly, from the context, humans reflect God through their creative activity.
  • By way of inference and application, there is goodness in work, learning, art, music, literature, and in passing these things on to others. To devote ourselves to these things is God-reflecting activity.

Grace is Not….

Grace is the broad term for all that God does to save us. Grace is not a commodity; the word means gift. Giving grace means giving gifts. It implies some cost on the giver’s part and is always good for the receiver. Each part of salvation is a grace, a gift. Love is a gift, forgiveness is a gift, Christ’s imparted righteousness is a gift, and so forth.

However, grace is such a broad and rich concept, it is easily overused. In defining grace, we should know what grace is not.

Grace is not lenience. Lenience is the withholding of a justly deserved punishment. Lenience implies going easy on offenders, like pardoning a thief or condoning cruelty in a child. Unlike mercy, lenience is wrong.

We might think that choosing not to correct an errant child, student, or church member is grace. It may be right or wrong to punish; neither is grace per se. Tolerance can be wrong; it can give the wrong idea of God and His love. God is always merciful, never lenient.

Grace is not kindness. Kindness is what makes one happy, even if it is not best. Pampering and spoiling a child may be kindness but not grace. Often what is best for us makes us unhappy. We might think that keeping someone happy shows them grace. While it is good to make people happy, as a rule, there are times we ought to be sad, angry, or grieved.

Sometimes grace must hurt. It hurts the giver as well as the receiver. For us, Jesus suffered deeply throughout His life into His death. We join in Christ’s sufferings in order to receive the sanctifying power of His earned righteousness in our souls. Suffering can be grace.

Grace is not license. As lenience is the bad side of mercy, so license is the bad side of freedom. In Christ we are free to enjoy every gift and follow the desires of our heart; we are not free to follow every whim and impulse of human nature. The Scripture is our guide to true freedom. and our guard against sin.

Grace is too wonderful to misunderstand. We need to bathe our minds in God’s grace and let it pervade our words and actions. The result will not be softness, indulgence, or moral laxity. True grace produces people who work hard and sacrifice lovingly for each other, who define sin and goodness biblically, and who see every day as a chance to build the kingdom of God.