For the next 7 weeks I am living in Hamilton, Ontario enjoying a family holiday and doing a church placement at St John the Evangelist. My interest in Hamilton for a church placement was two-fold. 1) Some great friends who I met in Leeds live here, 2) Through the influence of WYSOCS, particularly David and Ruth Hanson, I came to appreciate neo-calvinism, otherwise known as reformational theology. Hamilton has alot of reformational types living here partly due to dutch immigration in the past as neo-calvinism has dutch roots such as the likes of theologian-prime minister Abraham Kuyper.. (In my last post I mentioned I was a neo-calvinist and I was surprised to see the number of hits on my blog because of this).
In my last post i mentioned that neo-calvinists appreciate the biblical meta-narrative. One reason this is is important to me is that it provides a worldview by which Christians can authentically ‘improvise’ in today’s world. By improvise I mean that a Christian can seek to live his/her life on the basis of the story/script which is presented in scripture so that the world can helpfully be viewed through the lens of creation/fall/redemption and consummation. With this worldview in place life is differant.
Creation: This world is not an illusion but is created by God. Neo-Calvinist, as with orthodox Christian theology, recognises, in contrast to pantheism and panentheism, that the Creator is distinct from his creation. In day to day life the Christian can be confident that he/she is living/working/exploring/playing in a world which God has sovereignly and lovingly created. God as creator is concerned with all of creation including music,jokes, philosophy and having a glass of wine. The neo-calvinist is someone who celebrates in all spheres the goodness and giftedness of creation.
Fall: The neo-calvinist affirms that this world, although created good, is fallen. In this sense the world is not how it was meant to be. A neo-calvinist affirms the sovereignty of God but also affirms that this creation (families, politics, economics, individual person, music) betrays signs of not only createdness but also of a radical rebellion to God.
Redemption: The neo-calvinist reflects upon the biblical narrative to see that God has embarked on a rescue plan to restore and redeem not only individual humans but also the whole of creation. Neo-Calvinists frequently use ‘all of life redeemed’ as a catchphrase, and use the word ‘shalom’ to signify the redemption which brings deep harmony and peace to all spheres of life. This rescue plan involved the covenant family, who were called to be a light and blessing to the world, and finds its climax in the life, work, death, ascension and resurrection Jesus the God-Man. The Holy Spirit is at work changing peoples hearts and calling them to bring redemption into all spheres of life. This is not just for the vicar but also applies to the baker, butcher and candlestick maker
Consummation: The neo-calvinist does not look to be raptured or to spend eternity as disembodied souls. Instead the neo-calvinist looks to the eschaton as the time when the whole of creation (family, arts, politics. business), which is presently groaning, will be fully and finally redeemed.
The Christian is called to engage with individuals, families, politics, arts, etc in such a way that they become, and here I sound like Tom Wright, outposts of the kingdom. The Christian life is not simply the churchy things (prayer, bible study, church) but is one which involves bringing the lordship of Christ into all spheres of life.
A good friend of mine passed a copy of the North American version of the Drama of Scripture to me a few days ago. I have read it before but it reminded me that I should advertise it on this blog. It seeks to present the overarching (meta-narrative) story of the bible. It has a website which has powerpoints available for those who may want to teach through it. The American version is basically the same as the Uk version except the UK has less footnotes. This is presumably because we are dimmer. It is co-authored by Mike Goheen and Craig Bartholemew. Craig teaches at Redeemer College, Hamilton, Mike used too. They are both neo-calvinists.
Its a great book and a follow up to it will soon be available entitled ‘Living at the Crossroads’. This is a great book. (So much so that if any fellow students at Trinity want a copy I will give you one free of charge as long as you promsie to write a 200 word posting for this blog- Now thats a bargain).
The titles of the chapters are as follows.
Act 1: God establishes His Kingdom: Creation
Act 2: Rebellion in the Kingdom: Fall
Act 3: The king chooses Israel: Redemption initiated
Interlude: A Kingdom story waiting for an ending: The intertestamental Period
Act 4: The coming of the king: Redemption Accomplished
Act 5: Spreading the news of the King. The mission of the church
Act 6: The return of the King: Redemption Completed
If you have read this book please leave a comment.