Monday, January 19, 2009

Plantinga Chapter 5 - Vocation

In chapter five, Plantinga begins by describing kingdoms within a kingdom. As Christians, we are all princes and princesses in Christ, we rule over a sphere of influence determined by our calling and vocation. However, despite having our own territory to rule in, our kingdoms and power come from God above, to whom we pledge our allegiance. God allows us to help rule and renew his creation. The phrase, “Your kingdom come,” from the Lord’s Prayer is not complete without “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Representing Christ here on earth in our own kingdoms does not mean we sit back and observe our kingdom. Rather, it means that we take initiative to make God’s kingdom ever more present here on earth.

This pursuit of God’s kingdom implies that versus being just citizens of God’s kingdom, we are prime citizens. Plantinga quotes Frederick Buechner by writing, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” God desires that we find our niche in life, where our passion and energy can be coupled with the world’s hurt and pain. We need to strive first for the kingdom of heaven, not for our own power, prestige, or wealth. We recognize that our work becomes a vocation, a tool for promoting God’s kingdom. In essence, as prime citizens, we are spreading shalom, a flourishing wholeness and peace, throughout all of creation. God desires that we work towards a common good and mutual service. Perhaps as a prime citizen we need to recognize the position God has put us in right now. We need to look around us and find what God is calling us to be and do. Maybe we need to be a student, or a teacher, or a worker, or simply a friend. God is not limited by who we are. Instead, it is when we find ourselves weak, that God is strong, when we are limited, God is free to work.

Plantinga lists two potential dangers Christians often face while they perform their task if redeeming God’s world. The first is triumphalism, “the prideful view that we Christians will fully succeed in transforming all or much of culture.” We suspect that is it primarily because of our own glorious efforts that parts of creation have been redeemed. We focus on our work, what we did and sweated over. We almost feel a sense of ownership and “you owe me” attitude towards God. We must “memento mori,” remember to die, just as a single man would remind the Roman emperor during a triumph or ovation. Our work means nothing without God’s purpose in mind.

The second danger Christians may face as they redeem the world for God is that of writing the world off, “to abandon it as a lost cause.” Often times, Christians tend to isolate themselves from the world. They feel that nothing can help this utterly despicable and fallen creation. Thus, they isolate themselves if only to make sure they do not become tainted by the fallen nature of the world. However, this does not follow God’s cultural mandate. In isolating ourselves, we hand over our small personal kingdoms to the world. We’ve abdicated our God-given earthly thrones. The problem with this is that “God’s plan is to gather up all things in Christ.” He intends to restore and redeem all of creation, not just those who devotedly followed him. It is our duty as Christians to share the grace God has given us with the rest of the world. We must take responsibility for our kingdoms, not gloating over our progress and control, but rather delighting in our ability to contribute towards God’s greater kingdom.

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