In the words of John Gresham Machen, for Christians to rightly influence the
world through the truth of God’s Word, “The great Reformation doctrine of vocation must be recovered.” Machen’s works eloquently describe how Christians are called not only to the positions within the church, but in secular positions all across the world. Machen’s analysis is absolutely correct. As followers of Christ, it is not only a duty but also a privilege to shape the culture into a Godly fashion. Christians ought not be consumers of the culture only, but the fashioners and makers of a society that is glorifying to the triune God. Every field of study and occupation must be filled with Christ-following difference makers that are dedicated to bringing about the will of their Father. This noble calling must be carried out through the efforts of the Christian family along with the Body of Christ, all through the working of the Spirit. One of the most vital and important ways that Christians can shape the culture as God commands is through biblical and theological education. Teaching and raising up a young generation of biblically-minded leaders is essential for Christians if they wish to fulfill their God-given cultural mandate, as can be seen numerous times throughout Scripture, works by great Christian historical thinkers, and from the current state of modern culture and education.
One of the most blatantly obvious — and convincing– reasons Christians ought to be teaching the truths of God’s word to the younger generation is because of the importance the Bible places upon “Biblical education.” In Deuteronomy 6, The LORD commands that the words he has spoken to Israel be taught to their children, and that they be bound on each person’s heart, mind, and hands. Psalm 145:4 also explains that “one generation shall declare your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” By commanding his chosen people to educate and cultivate His teaching within the younger generation, it is evident that this duty God puts upon parents and teachers is not to be taken lightly. The joy that comes from teaching God’s truths and works from generation to generation can be visibly seen additionally throughout Scripture. In Psalm 78:4, the Psalmist states that, “We will not hide them from their children; but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” This verse further demonstrates the privilege that believers share to joyfully inform their children and students of the wonderful person, statutes, and deeds of God. These verses obviously hold massive importance for the Christian family — parents teaching and raising their children — but also hold major implications for theological education and schooling as well. It is visibly seen through the clear witness
of Scripture that cultivating a generation of leaders through the doctrines and truths of God is necessary within the family, the church, and the school system if Christians are to fulfill their God-given command.
The mandate given to Christians at the creation of the world to, “be fruitful and multiply,” refers to the raising up of countless individual Christian children, generation after generation, until the entire Earth is filled with nothing but Christ’s glory. However, the Fall has deeply corrupted man’s ability to do so apart from the working of the Spirit. Though Christians can no longer complete this mandate perfectly, each one is called by
God to further his kingdom with what they have been given. This mandate is something that the great theological thinker Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) understood. Kuyper was extremely passionate about this calling and how Christians should react to the command. Kuyper had an excellent grasp upon the fact that the entire world had already been subjected beneath Christ’s rule as he continually reigns at the right hand of the Father. In the words of Kuyper himself during an inaugural address at the opening
of the Free University of Amsterdam in 1880, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” This rightful understanding of the dominion of Christ led him to place an extreme emphasis on shaping the culture by raising biblically and theologically-minded leaders through education. Christians ought to be encouraged in the face of this
daunting task to spread God’s kingdom as Kuyper again says that, “It is impossible, Bible in hand, to limit Christ’s Church to one’s own little community.” The implications of Christ’s ruling and the gospel spreading eventually spill into the everyday life of a Christian. Kuyper again states that whatever a man may do, whether, “in agriculture, in commerce, in industry, art, or in science,” he is employed under the service of God. Christians have been called to do everything to the degree of excellence, and this cannot be done apart from partaking in Biblical training and cultivation by those wiser and more experienced than themselves. It is certain that Christ is reigning and sovereign over the entire universe, and that the promises he has given His church should encourage its members to go forth and multiply in every field and fashion of work, utilizing good, doctrinal education to do so.
One final example of another man who understood the importance of theological education was John Gresham Machen (1881-1937). The author of Christianity and Liberalism comprehended the terrible consequences of having an educational system apart from being rooted in Christian doctrine. He stated that, “ it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberties can subsist when children are placed underneath schools appointed by the state where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out and the mind is filled with the materialism of the day.” Much can be gleaned from Machen’s
teaching, as the current public school system, and as a result, society, is in a rapid decline. Apart from Christ and the teaching of solid doctrine, the culture will continue to erode and fall away. The current state of the public education system demonstrates the need for a higher, more sustaining power that can not be found in man himself, but only in God. Machen describes the solution to this problem in that,“The more we know God,
the more unreservedly we will trust him… the more childlike will be our faith.” God has commanded everyone that the knowledge of his person and works be sought, believed, practiced, and taught to others until Christ returns from his throne. Only when society is fastened and dedicated to the Rock of Ages will it no longer be tossed to and fro. Cultivating and raising solid, biblically-minded leaders in each generation is one of the best ways to infiltrate the culture and to bring changes about in the world for God’s
God commands each of his children to know him on an interpersonal level, to be edified by other believers, and to daily grow to look more like him. This is the true role and purpose of Biblical education. By being continually built up in wisdom, followers of Christ can truly begin to influence and shape the world as God commands. The Christian duty is to be a culture-shaper, not a culture-absorber. Regardless of the field of work, religious or secular, witnesses need to be raised and sent from every nation to illumine the world with the good news of Christ. Theological education is not only important because it benefits the Christian, but because it glorifies the Creator, Savior,
and Redeemer of the world by spreading his kingdom to the ends of the Earth.
De Moor, Henry. “Church/Doctrine.” The Banner, 2017. Accessed 11 Feb. 2019.
Machen, John M. Christianity and Liberalism. New York, Macmillan. 1923.
Kuyper, Abraham. The Work of the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids, Funk and Wagnalls
Student Study Bible, English Standard Version. Crossway, 2011.
PC: Michael Kristenson