Friday, 6 February 2009

Vocation, Vocation, Vocation - Part 5 Affirming the sacred/secular distinction

Steve in the comments section at the Heidelblog raises a good point about my language of spiritual work and nonspiritual work (remember I said that we don't need to be involved in spiritual work like preaching, running clubs etc to please God):

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?

Scott Clark answers:

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.

...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.

So for the record, if there is the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man, then there are two realms, the sacred and the secular. Therefore, contrary to what Rob Bell says, not everything is spiritual. For instance, there's nothing spiritual about me going to the can and taking a dump. All that this is, is my body of flesh disposing of refuse. Nevertheless, I can do it in such a way that honours God. I can give him thanks that my bowels moved nicely. I can flush the toilet and put the lid down to keep my wife happy. I can spray some air freshener to get rid of the putrid stench. I can wash my hands so that I don't spread germs to friends and family. I can do all this because I love God. Nevertheless, what I did wasn't spiritual.

So, folk who say stuff like, I felt really close to God when I listened to jazz/rap etc are misguided. They might have felt nice, but they were doing something secular, something of this world. And why not listen to a bit of r&b? Jesus prayed that we wouldn't be taken out of the world even though we aren't of it. Paul said, didn't he, that we can use the things of the world and not be engrossed in them? Yet, even though we use the things of this world, we know that they (beautiful sunsets, great music, TV, etc) don't draw us near to God. How do we know? Because the place we draw near to God is located in heaven, i.e. Christ. We draw near in full assurance as we hear his word and feed on his body and blood every Sunday.


JohnGreenview said...

A first class blog. If properly understood by evangelicals today it would save much grief and misdirection.

Nick Mackison said...

Thanks John.