As someone who has spent quite a number of years as a Christian portapottie servicer, Carl Trueman’s disdain for Kuyper and the “transformers” (though he oddly also holds Kuyper up as a standard for judging others) caught my interest.
DG’s critique at Old Life of the bombastic claims about transformationism is akin to one I have made frequently in the classroom about talk of the [singular] ‘Christian worldview’: such things are, by and large, code for the expression of the concerns of the middle class chatterati in a blandly Christian idiom. As far as I know, for example, no conferences on the transformation of Christian toilet cleaning or turkey rendering have yet been successfully organised… Forgive me for sounding curmudgeonly here but I heard last week from a PCA friend who cannot find space to rent for his church on a Sunday because of the PCA’s stand on gay marriage. And this is south of the Mason-Dixon, not Boston or Seattle or New York. Yes, it is great that stockbrokers are finding Christ; and I am sure there are some for whom the fact there are Christian artists and Broadway producers is also an encouragement (are there any Christian loo cleaners out there in the Big Apple? ); and Tim Keller’s occasional spot on Morning Joe is an interesting, if somewhat harmless, phenomenon. But the culture is not being transformed at any point where it really counts, where it makes a real difference for pastors and people on the increasingly mean streets of the secular world as they seek to be quietly and peacefully faithful to the Lord. If anything, it is accelerating in the wrong direction.
Of course, no matter how superficial PR might seem, I’m going to have to assume that having Tim Keller do a Google talk defending Christ and the Gospel is a net gain for Christendom.
(Actually, it is more than that: I thought the talk was really good and helpful and counts as preaching the Gospel. And while I have never heard Keller on Morning Joe to sit in judgment on him, I have to suspect that getting enough clout to have the best such opportunity mandates that he promote himself to get his message into any other venue. PR can’t be too picky or else all venues are closed off.)
Trueman is right that for people in Keller’s, DG Hart’s, and his own social class, cleaning toilets is simply a an item on the horizon that is never considered (Keller) or used to score points (Truman). I don’t judge since I would like it to not be a part of my life again either. But as a laborer who serviced portapotties for a living for a number of years. I can tell you that bringing the Lordship of Christ to bear on a portable commode is a real issue that some people (i.e. my boss who still owns a service) had to take and did take seriously as a follower of Jesus. And even if Trueman had a flush toilet in mind, I think my testimony will still address the principle.
The big challenges in my experience is remembering that you are there to serve not the worst construction worker (who you might be tempted to judge as the average one), but the best. I don’t mean that you should judge a stranger’s personal worth, but when you see how some of your units are treated, you can easily get cynical and think to yourself, “Well, if that’s the environment they want, let them have it.” Then you have to remind yourself that such thinking is sinful, and that the man who would never deliberately dirty his environment is still forced to use the same unit. And as a laborer he doesn’t have time to watch over his neighbor’s behavior on the job.
So you remind yourself that you’re are on site to make everything better and that it doesn’t matter who is to blame for the state in which you find it every day.
Of course, I’m not mainly talking about the crap. That wasn’t usually too bad. (Thanks to technology and my boss’ capital investments, there are great tools to use to keep excrement away from one’s person. The only real problems were in winter, especially in the night shift, when frozen turds could block hoses and fixing that problem could put your face too close to a disaster). What I’m talking about is mostly the graffiti. By the time I quit that job to respond to a call to an evangelism ministry I qualified for a Ph.D. in homosexual art criticism.
At some places on the site, the grey plastic walls of the unit functioned as the site intranet. It was their Facebook. And people didn’t get along. The union workers who worked hard saw others as drags who were destroying their reputation. Other conflicts were present as well, plus a great deal of revolting sexual ideas, unrelated to any human context, either written or illustrated.
And so every day the challenge was to try to provide a better environment for the men. My boss tried to sell this ethic of cleanliness to his clients as a feature, even though it had to cut into his profit margin. Cleaning marker off the wall takes time and supplies. But whether or not the client valued it, it was and is his fundamental character to want to do a good job and keep the work environment as upscale as possible. It was and is an expression of his understanding of the calling of Christ on his life.
So no, there are no conferences about this, but not every aspect of life is as open to chatter. That doesn’t mean that “Christian worldview” doesn’t matter in that area (even if that expression could be improved). All I know is that this is an area where a devotion to Christ and his word can and does make a difference.
Doug Wilson has an excellent reply to Truman in which he concludes:
Notice that up in the balcony, we have both victors and martyrs, but we do not have transformationalists and non-transformationalists. They are all transformationalists. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, and the Christian king is the plant that grows from it. Look at history. You cannot have Polycarp without getting Alfred. And if you ever get an Alfred, there must have been a Polycarp. This is how God tells the story. Death and resurrection.
I think the “seed” v. “plant” analogy also works another way. I think we see it in Romans 5 and 6 quite clearly.
To start, remember that the Great Commission begins and ends Paul’s letter to the Romans:
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations (Romans 1:1-5 ESV)
In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, (Romans 15:17-18 ESV)
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen (Romans 16:25-27 ESV).
The Great Commission (Matthew 28.19-22) does not mention faith, but it does call for comprehensive obedience and training others in comprehensive obedience to King Jesus—which is impossible unless you actually trust in this new King. Bringing about the obedience of faith among the nations sounds pretty close.
Romans 6 even shares the order of the Great Commission. Jesus says first to baptize and then to teach. Romans 6 begins by an appeal to baptism and then transitions into the form of teaching the Romans had received in the preaching of the Gospel.
But the real interesting aspect of Romans 6 (for my purposes here, anyway) is how it is obviously an explanation and application of the future promised in Romans 5.12ff. The two passages conclude at the same destination:
Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21, ESV)
But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:21-23, ESV)
To see Paul’s method here, you need to forget about the idea that Romans 5 is “about justification” and Romans 6 is “about sanctification.” There is no justification for such a subject switch. Both Romans 5 and 6 are about the progress and promised transformation brought about by the Gospel. Romans 5 is about how the justification and salvation in Christ is going to far overpower the previous curse of sin and death. Romans 6 is about how we can and must now confidently participate in that process by bringing the members of our body into submission to Jesus Christ.
This is what Paul means when he begins 5.12 with “Therefore.” Romans 5.1-11 show an upward path for justified believer and for world history. Since this is so, it must mean the downward spiral Paul described in Romans 1.18ff has not only been stopped but reverse. The “Therefore” in 5.12 is explanatory. Paul is saying, “Yes, you heard me right, the pain and death and sin brought through Adam will be far exceeded by the salvation and life and glory given to us through Christ.
Indeed, Romans 5.12ff lays out a postmillennial future. Daniel saw a vision of the saint being given the kingdom and now Paul says it is happening in Christ:
But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever. (Daniel 7:18, ESV)
And the kingdom and the dominion
and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
and all dominions shall serve and obey him. (Daniel 7:27, ESV)
For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17, ESV).
Notice that one would expect Paul to contrast the former reign of death with a reign of life. But he doesn’t say life will reign, but rather that “those” will “reign in life”
So how do we get there? Paul’s answer in Romans 6 is “death and resurrection” like Doug Wilson wrote, but it is a death and resurrection in drawing on Christ’s death and resurrection to put the members of our body under the dominion of the risen Lord.
Notice that Paul explicitly refers back to the downward spiral from sin to more sin in Romans 1.18ff:
For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. (Romans 6:19, ESV)
Consider how well this fits with other parts of the Bible.
The Great Commission includes in discipleship: “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Any time you teach your children or any other Christians what God commands, you are participating in the Great Commission. Any time you read the Bible yourself you are teaching yourself more about what Jesus has commanded. Your job is not just to disciple others; your job is to disciple to your hands and feet.
The Bible aims at a glorious city. But to help build that city your own body needs to become a better ordered civilization.
Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city (Proverbs 16.32).
A man without self-control
is like a city broken into and left without walls (Proverbs 25.28).
You already know your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (First Corinthians 6.19). You can think of your habits of work and speech as your construction project. God has made you a king with a grander commission than Solomon’s mandate for mere gold, cedar, and stones. Build wisely and create your tower or be complacent and build a ruin:
Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life;
he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin (Proverbs 13.3).
Whoever keeps [i.e. guards; perhaps even “bridles”] his mouth and his tongue
keeps himself out of trouble (Proverbs 21.23).
So when the Proverbs exhort you to diligence in work, they haven’t failed if you don’t build wealth or extend your dominion in an obvious public way. If you master yourself, God will glory in your work and will say “Well done.”
Furthermore, arguably the Great Commission is a republication of the Dominion Mandate—or a transformation of it. In Genesis 1, Adam is told to take dominion over the animals. But, in James 3, dominion over the body is described as the ability to “bridle.” Dominion over speech is described as the tongue being “tamed” and compared to taming animals. Adam’s charge to rule the animals applies to his own body. Here is a similar concept from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Again, the quest to take control of the world translates into a quest to take control of one’s own body as a part of that larger quest. In fact, the more literal reading would be “I pummel my body and make it my slave.” That is a pretty violent way to take dominion.
So when you learn to smile at your customers when you imagine half of them are writing filth on your work product. When you remind yourself to not get discouraged. When you get your hands and feet in the habit of doing their work quickly despite setbacks or fear or displeasure, this is the seed form of the Great Commission.
Wisdom says, “By Me kings reign.” And you have a kingdom in your own person that God’s Son demands for you to bring into service to Him. Perhaps God will give you new opportunities. “He who is faithful over a little will be set over much” (Matthew 25.21).
Romans 6 gives you your beachhead for the Kingdom.
So, with apologies for quoting Gandhi, I leave you with this summary: Be the Christendom you want to see in the world.<>