Vocation, Vocation, Vocation

Nick gets the two kingdoms. You have to love a writer who begins a post with the line, “This is going to hack some people off.”  He’s reacting to this week’s excellent WHI broadcast, “The Foolishness of God.”  Saith the prophet:

Churches should be clear as to the purpose of church. Why is the Lord’s Day the most draining day of the week? Why is it packed with ‘stuff’ that is not related to word and sacrament? The purpose of church is to feed the flock with Christ. It is a spiritual meal, a refreshing supper that takes hold of God’s righteousness in Christ through word and sacrament.

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  1. Nick’s blog article on the two-kingdoms and a Christian’s place in them is so clearly and succinctly written that it’s difficult to imagine how anyone could disagree with his conclusions.

    Nevertheless, I managed to raise hackles when I read it to a Baptist. At the end she immediately fired back, What about mission work, etc.? Well, I said, that’s all part of the preaching of the Gospel. It kept going ’round and ’round after that until we finally got to the real heart of the matter: works. It’s got to be about feeding the poor and homeless, helping the derelict and down-trodden, etc.

    No matter what they might confess publicly, these people believe that works precede anything else and anything and everything we are put here on earth to do needs to revolve around works. Instead of seeing works coming about as a result of gratitude for God’s saving grace, they apparently see them as a kind of “co-requirement” for faith. Instead of realizing that God will eventually destroy our existing physical environment (heaven and earth) and create a new one, they apparently think that we’re obligated to do everything we can do to preserve the one we now have.

    Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be concerned about environmental issues and try to work in and with the processes in place to maintain God’s creation, but we do so AS CITIZENS, not as members of God’s NEW kingdom in Christ Jesus. It’s definitely a hard sell. Thanks to all of the great books that have been published on this subject in the past 10-15 years by men like Horton, I understand “how” we got to this point in American evangelicalism, but I certainly struggle to figure out “what” to do about it – except maybe ignore it and continue on, enduring as we’ve learned to in the NT.

  2. Is it that there is no “spiritual” and “non-spiritual” work, or that “spiritual” work is not “better” work than “non-spiritual”? I believe in a sacred/secular dichotomy, I just don’t think “secular” is a bad word. Or is the argument that these different kinds of work are just different and we should throw out terms like sacred/secular, spiritual/non-spiritual altogether?

  3. Steve,

    It’s that “non-spiritual” (i.e. civic, common, secular, or cultural) work is an honorable, good, worthy vocation before the Lord. A spiritual vocation (i.e. ecclesiastical or sacred) is also honorable before the Lord.

    Secular, properly understood, is not a bad word. It’s been made pejorative by know-nothings. We might say that “secularism” is the non-Christian anti-Christian counterpart to “theocracy” or “theonomiy.” A pox on all of their houses.

    An honorable secular/common/civil/cultural vocation is good and clean and doesn’t need to be metaphorically baptized by being made into a “spiritual” vocation in order to justify it. We’re not Manichean. We recognize that God instituted different spheres (as Kuyper taught!) in this world and that each sphere is under the Lordship of Christ but that he administers these distinct spheres (or kingdoms) in distinct ways. We don’t need to make civil/common/cultural/secular work into “kingdom” work in order to make it good or pleasing to God nor do we need to make spiritual/sacred/kingdom of God work into common/cultural/secular work in order to make it significant.

  4. Thanks for the clarification – I was wondering if Nick on his blog was trying to erase the sacred/secular distinction by saying it was all spiritual/sacred work. He says:

    “Firstly, there is no such thing as ‘spiritual’ work and ‘nonspiritual’ work. The school teacher, the police officer and the office clerk are all doing God’s work inasmuch as they do their work unto Christ.”

    There is my concern. Many want to collapse the secular into the sacred, by trying to elevate “secular” work to something meaningful and good before God – this is not two kingdoms however. Yet, folks like Nancy Pearcey who do this collapsing are able to hijack Veith (channeling Luther) as though he were saying the same thing when he says that all work is good.

    This seems to get us back to where we started however, because now our secular work has been spiritualized, and “why-aren’t-your eyes-closed-in-prayer-while-you-are-working-on-the-power-lines?”.

    And I’m not picking on Nick here – I get what he means and he clearly gets the two kingdoms, what he said is just an example of a fine distinction I think we fail to make sometimes, but needs to be pointed out, that saying it is all *God’s* work is *not* the same as saying it is all spiritual/sacred work.

  5. Steve, you’re bang on and I should have clarified that. Maybe I’ll dedicate a post to you!

    There is the danger of reading into what I said as denying the sacred/secular distinction, but hey, I believe in the two kingdoms! I absolutely affirm the sacred/secular distinction. Scott, in his reply to you, interpreted my language as I meant it. I suppose I was flogging my point using a little hyperbole and that always has its pitfalls.

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