What is the Reformed Christian Worldview Concerning Work and Education?
We do need a Reformed Christian world-view
It is popular to think in terms of a worldview and in particular a Reformed Christian worldview. In some circles the concept of a worldview replaces the gospel. People are told to redeem the world instead of becoming reconciled with God. We can have no proper view of the world without the gospel of sin and grace. The Christian must look at the world in a Biblical way, and not simply accept the current view of the world. The Reformation of the 16th century served not only to reform the church and its doctrine, but also people's lives and society. The Roman Catholic Church distinguished between nature and grace, which led to a sharp dichotomy between the clerical and secular spheres. In practice this encouraged worldliness.
What was the Reformers' world-view?
The Reformers preached the need for repentance. True repentance comes from God. They insisted that men must know God as Judge before knowing Him as Father in Christ. If sinners do not know why God is angry with them, they cannot comprehend the meaning of Christ taking their place at Golgotha. Faith is no mere human assent to gospel truth but a living faith. People must turn to God whose gift it is, to the Father of mercy whose work it is. Faith that comes from God unites man to Christ in His death and in the power of His resurrection. This faith leads to holiness. God must renew the sinner's heart and change his nature. In regeneration the Holy Spirit writes the law of God upon the heart.
The Reformers emphasized three principal features of Christian living: fear, faith and confidence in His Word, and love. These three are born together, live side by side, and cannot be separated.
- The fear of God is reverence for God arising out of a consciousness of His majesty and glory. The believer knows and honors God as Father, but the fear of offending Him is his constant dread. God is a Master and a holy Judge and the recognition of our relationship to Him demands that we "stand in awe, and sin not" (Ps 4:4). Consciousness of God led the psalmist to say, "My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; and I am afraid of thy judgments" (Psalm 119:120).
- Faith is the second feature of Christian living. Consciousness of God gives an abiding sense of sin and for this faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only relief. This faith is accompanied by self-denial and separation from the world. Where there is no renunciation of the world and no denying of self, there is no faith in Christ crucified. This faith is also exposed to spiritual warfare.
- Love is the third feature of Christian living. John Bradford says: "...He that is persuaded of God's love towards him and of the price of his redemption by the dear blood of the Lamb immaculate, Jesus Christ, the same man cannot but love God again, and of that love do that and heartily desire to do better, which might please God."1This love is accompanied by profound concern for the unconverted and a fervent love for other believers. It leads the believer to serve God and pray with a burning heart.
The Reformed ethic of marriage and the family is to look for a partner whom you love as your best friend for life. Once blessed with children as God's gift, the Reformed ethic of nurture is to train them up in the way they should go, to care for their bodies and souls, and to educate them for sober, godly, socially useful adult living. The Reformed ethic of home life is based on maintaining order, courtesy, and family worship. Goodwill, patience, consistency, and an encouraging attitude are seen as the essential domestic virtues. Home is also the place to submit to disappointments and hardships, sickness and bereavement as coming from God. Family life is a school for character-building in every sense. Home is also the place where parents as laymen practice ministry and evangelism, laboring that those born in it may be born again to God. The Christian also has a responsibility to live in this world in accordance with the moral law of God and to promote the well-being of his neighbor in accordance with the word of God.
Guarding against worldliness
Enslavement to activities is worldliness. Compulsive work-alcoholism is as worldly as laziness. We are worldly if in the pursuit of pleasure we forget God. Worldliness is the substitution of earthly goals (pleasure, profit, popularity, privilege, power) for the glory of God. It is worldly to find one's highest happiness in being praised by people instead of praising God. We are not worldly if we receive God's gifts with thanksgiving and please Him with their proper use and appreciation. We need to be rescued from society's ways that are tainted by sin (Jude 23). Showing concern for others is part of evangelism, which is the basic form of social service and the first Christian calling in the secular community. We are to share the Law and Gospel with them to save them from everlasting damnation.
Separation, evangelism, and vocation
God's first requirement for Christians in this world is that they be different from those around them, observing God's moral absolutes, practicing love, avoiding shameful license, and not losing their dignity as God's image-bearers through any form of irresponsible self-indulgence (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:17-24; Col. 3:5-11). A clean break with the world's value-systems and life-styles is called for (Eph. 4:25-5:17). The Christian's appointed task is threefold. The church's main mandate is evangelism (Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 24:4648), and every Christian must seek by all means to further the conversion of unbelievers. The impact of one's own changed life is significant here (1 Peter 2:12). Neighbour love should constantly lead into deeds of mercy. But in addition, Christians are called to fulfill the mandate that God gave to mankind at creation (Genesis 1:28-30; Psalm 8:6-8). Man was made to be steward of God's world. It involves hard work, with God's honour and the good of others as its goal. The Protestant "work ethic" is the fulfillment of a divine "calling." Knowing that God in providential kindness and forbearance continues, in the face of human sin, to preserve and enrich His erring world (Acts 14:16-17), Christians are called to all forms of lawful human activity. By doing this in terms of the Christian value system and vision of life, they will be the salt and light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16).
The will of God
The apostle Paul gave the Corinthians certain principles to regulate their conduct, which remain valid today. They are of great practical use in discerning God's will in our lives.
Is it lawful? Any action that is contrary to the Word of God can never be legitimate for Christians. Anything expressly forbidden in Scripture should be avoided. Is it beneficial? Not all things are beneficial (cf. 1 Cor. 6:12). The question is: will it strengthen my relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ? This applies to choices of occupation and location. I may find myself with the opportunity to spend money on something on which I have set my heart. But is it God's will? Will it draw me nearer to Him? Or will it consume my time, energy and interests in such a way that I will be spiritually the poorer? Is it enslaving? "All things are lawful unto me, but I will not be brought under the power of any of them" (1 Cor. 6:12). There is no evil per se in owning a nice car, living in a pleasant house, enjoying good food, etc. But when we can no longer do without them, they have become chains.
The Bible teaches that daily work is not a consequence of sin but part of God's mandate for mankind (Genesis 1:28). For the believer in Christ, daily work is part of his calling. God is honored in the provision of useful goods and services to one's neighbour.
Work is also a means of providing for one's family and others. Many find their work to be repetitive or pointless. A Christian is called to do what he is best fitted to do in the total situation which is God's 'gift' to him. The basic Biblical stance is contentment with one's situation, and determination to work faithfully and vigorously to the best of one's ability. Yet Scripture clearly implies that when God in His providence presents new opportunities, these may be accepted (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:21). There are also unlawful occupations, to be avoided or given up (1 Cor 6:11; Eph 4:28). From 1 Peter 2:21 it is clear that a Christian's calling covers not only his job and the circumstances of life, but also the need to suffer by following in Christ's footsteps.
The Scriptures are the Word of God, the infallible rule of thought and practice. Every thought must be brought into captivity to Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 10:5) and therefore to the revelation of which Christ is the focus. The subject matter of education derives its principles from Scripture. How indispensable to education is the word of Genesis 1:1, that God made all things! The question of 'whence' is essential for education. Whence our environment? Whence the universe? Related is the doctrine of God's providence. God sustains the world by His power and directs it by His wisdom. We derive our being from Him (Acts 17:28). Man's identity is also essential. Education is not only concerned with things but also with persons made in the image of God. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that "man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever". Scriptural teaching is also indispensable for redemption, which presupposes sin. We are by nature in rebellion against God. The fact that man is made in the image of God makes sin so serious. Education must be Christ-centered. History is not the product of aimless fate, but the unfolding of God's sovereign plan in the world He created, sustains, and directs. With respect to science two principles should be kept in mind. Its pursuit is the fulfillment of God's mandate to subdue the earth. The highest aim of scientific investigation is to glorify God by bringing to light the wonders which God created. Why does man have a facility for language? Man speaks and writes because he is made in the image of God who speaks and writes. All of education must be God-centered in accordance with His Word.