Last time we looked at cultural transformation in light of the biblical meta-narrative. Today we wrap things up by looking at what vocation looks like in light of all we have said.
God’s Sovereignty and Vocation
Working with college students who desire to make an impact on culture, we will certainly minister to students who don’t have the time or “abilities” to engage in cultural transformation as it is normally thought of. Some students will not have the ability to create art or music. Others will not have time or resources to advocate for social justice or to create new ministries. These students will still desire to make an impact on culture but they will feel bad because they think that their “regular,” “unflashy,” or “unspectacular” vocations can’t make an impact on culture. As ministers its our responsibility to show them that even though they are not in a “flashy” or “impactful” vocation nevertheless they are in a vocation which is necessary and important for God’s intentions regarding culture and its transformation. Helping students understand that their vocations as a student, a banker, a barista, or a retail worker is extremely important in God’s eyes is one of my primary tasks. I believe that the best way to do this is to paint a big picture of God’s sovereignty over all areas of culture in a way similar to what Abraham Kuyper did in Lectures on Calvinism.
Kuyper breaks up his lectures into six parts. The first part explains what “life-systems” are and the type of questions and answers that life-systems attempt to ask and answer. He argues that Calvinism is the most coherent life-system. In the second part Kuyper examines Calvinism’s relationship to religion. In the third through the fifth part he addresses the relationship between Calvinism and several specific spheres of culture. In the final part he addresses what Calvinism’s role in the future will be and how it needs to adapt to the future. It is the second part that is especially relevant to our understanding of God’s sovereignty and vocation. In the second part he argues that in the humans tend to make religion about themselves, but Calvinism is different in that for Calvinism true religion is always for the sake of God. In fact all things exist for the sake of God, all of creation exists to glorify God. Since all of creation exists for the sake of God “then it follows that the whole creation must give glory to God.” This means that God is not limited to being glorified within the confines of the church or the “sacred.” God will be glorified in the base things and in the secular. God is interested in all of life, since all of life is meant to give glory to God. Thus when humans do anything whether it be serving coffee, sweeping floors, managing bank accounts, or playing sports, humans are employed in God’s service to bring God glory in those areas. Since God is sovereign over all things, not just the “religious” things, God desires to be glorified through all sorts of vocations.
The sovereignty of God is the theological foundation for helping students understand that all vocations are important, because all vocations have the potential of glorying God. Now when working with college students it will be important to help them make the connections between the tasks involved in their vocation and how that can specifically bring glory to God. For instance if one student desires to be an artist we might help them see that through art we glorify God, ennoble human life, and bring pleasure to others. The first of these is obviously a worthy end and the second two are worthy ends because they encourage human flourishing and they are a part of the cultural mandate. Another student might be considering taking some political science classes because she wants to be a politician. We might also use the doctrine of God’s sovereignty as a way to encourage her that this is a worthy vocation. We could point to the scriptures which say that those who “rule” serve God by ruling people according to His ordinances. However it is important that when we explain how almost all vocations can be used to glorify God we must make it clear that there are God honoring ways to carry out those vocations and God dishonoring ways of carrying them out. For instance there are God honoring ways for students to be baristas at Starbucks or cashiers at the local retail store. For instance the God honoring way will treat others with respect recognizing the formal imago dei in all people, since the imago dei serves as foundation for ethics. The God dishonoring way will ignore the imago dei. By ignoring the value that this other person has in virtue of the imago dei they might end up treating the customers as means rather than ends; this might result in treating them as a sales figure or as a nuisance when they ask for a complicated specialized drink at Starbucks.
By examining these four aspects of Christ and Culture we have seen that having a robust theology of Christ and Culture indeed is very practical and that it can really help college students be more faithful disciples of Jesus. It is my hope that students would engage with these theological and biblical concepts so that in their lives they might engage with culture and thereby fulfill the cultural mandate of bringing glory to God through “making” culture.
 Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1931), 45.
 Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism, 52.
 Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism, 153.
 Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism, 103.
 Emil Brunner and Karl Barth, Natural Theology, (Eugene: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2002), 44.
One thought on “Christ, Culture, and College Students – A Reformed Perspective (Pt. 5)”
So good! So many are always encouraging college students to go “do something big” for Jesus. But it is so often better, and harder, to just go do the little daily things to the glory of God. And it God’s math, it might turn out bigger after all.