A Plea for Poets, Plumbers, Philosophers, and Physicians

Over a lunch of Lebanese shish and tabbouleh, I had a conversation with a young man training at a well-known and respected university to be a medical doctor. During that discussion he mentioned that he hoped he could train at a school that viewed patients as more than research subjects. He longed for his university to understand the biblical view of man. His desire is to serve in his chosen field as a servant of God working from a biblical worldview. The Image of God and a biblical anthropology were important to this future physician. This young man is right.

The 1967 Geneva College paper called Foundational Concepts of Christian Education says, “Man’s fall into sin affected not only his moral nature, but also his intellect, thus making him prone to error, and requiring divine revelation to determine ultimate standards and values in all fields.”

Divine revelation.

In all fields. 

What that implies is that the church of Jesus Christ ought to be developing our young people to serve in many fields and from a biblical and theological framework. But do we do that?

Often those who are interested in theology are hurried towards seminary. Those who are interested in various cultures are encouraged towards the mission field. Those who have abilities that resemble theology, biblical studies, and other such gifting are pointed to “ministry.” As much as I favor seminary, missions, and ministry, are we really doing a service to God’s world by promoting those fields at the expense of others? Do we unconsciously promote a reformed version of “religious orders” versus “the regular” people. It ought not to be so.

There’s a famous story about William Tyndale who was accosted by a priest for his beliefs rooted in the Scripture. Tyndale said to the priest, “If God spare my life, before very long I shall cause a plough boy to know the Scriptures better than you do!”

Notice that he did not say that he would make the plough boy a pastor. He did not say that he was going to send the plough boy to the mission field. He was going to train the plough boy in the Scriptures and he would continue to be a plough boy.

The church needs to encourage our young people to become painters and plumbers and physicians and poets and pastry chefs and programmers and plough boys who know the Scriptures, who know reformed theology, who know church history. And we ought to believe and affirm that this is good. It is God glorifying. All of these fields have their place and we must think about them biblically. Our worldview and our theology ought to affect the way we do work not merely what work we do.

All fields of labor, from the plough boy to philosopher, are gifts of God where we see glimpses of his glory. These fields are gifts to the world and the church has the distinct honor of bringing divine revelation into these fields. John Calvin, argued that even the unbelieving pagans of old understood all types of work as gifts from the gods. How much more ought the church to affirm that these fields are gifts from the True and Living God? Calvin said:

“Shall we say that the philosophers were blind in their fine observation and artful description of nature? Shall we say that those men were devoid of understanding who conceived the art of disputation and taught us to speak reasonably? Shall we say that they are insane who developed medicine, devoting their labor to our benefit? What shall we say of all the mathematical sciences? Shall we consider them the ravings of madmen? No, we cannot read the writings of the ancients on these subjects without great admiration. We marvel at them because we are compelled to recognize how pre-eminate they are. But shall we count anything praiseworthy or noble without recognizing at the same time that it comes from God? Let us be ashamed of such ingratitude, into which not even the pagan poets fell, they confessed that the gods had invented philosophy, laws, and all useful arts.” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.2.15)

Let us raise a generation of useful, productive, and creative men and women who have deep roots in biblical and theological knowledge, and let us send them into the world that Christ is redeeming.

With divine revelation.

In all fields.

15 Comments

  1. Bob Hemphill January 8, 2016 at 2:14 pm #

    Well said, Nathan. Could we post this on our church website?

    • Nathan Eshelman January 8, 2016 at 2:21 pm #

      You may, of course! Glad you enjoyed it.

  2. David Carr January 8, 2016 at 2:29 pm #

    One of my sons aspires to a vocation in acting/theater/cinema while maintaining a clear testimony to Christ and adherence to Sabbath keeping.
    It is not and will not be easy, esp. when he is not following the USA cultural normal pattern of the last 80 years.
    If we want Christians to take dominion of new or neglected areas of geography or culture, we need to be willing to accept and support methods or lifestyles that are different than what we have experienced.

    • Toonna January 13, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

      Hallo,

      Just wanted to say you or your son may be aware of Devon Franklin, a hollywood exec who is known for keeping to the Sabbath strictly, and has written in his book “Produced By Faith” that his decision to not compromise gained him more respect within Hollywood circles that one would expect, attributing it of course to God’s working. You could consider checking him out for an example of one thrives in Hollywood as a child of God.

      God bless.

  3. Sarmishta January 8, 2016 at 5:14 pm #

    great post Nathan. good reminder.

  4. HowardHuizing January 8, 2016 at 5:25 pm #

    I thank God for the pastors that I know who see God’s grace and work in the arts and the variety of professional pursuits of life.

    • Nathan Eshelman January 8, 2016 at 6:04 pm #

      And I thank God for the artists that I know who see the value of good theology. 🙂

  5. James January 8, 2016 at 7:28 pm #

    As one who has worked, helped out, served at a number of camps & conferences, both short term and long, the need for plumbers, electricians and etc has been getting harder and harder to find. Even the ‘handyman’ version. Being able to get problems fixed in a timely manner or having the wisdom to know what to leave alone and call the professionals is a skill I have come to appreciate more and more.

  6. Irene Huizing January 8, 2016 at 11:28 pm #

    Hear, hear! I know an artist who was encouraged as a young man to enter the ministry. He felt a stronger call to art/architecture and it was a good decision; God has used him in His kingdom work in many ways over the years.

  7. Morna Comeau January 25, 2016 at 9:16 am #

    Nathan — I serve as Director for The Fellows Initiative which unites local Fellows Programs in churches across the country for recent post graduates. The goal of Fellows Programs is to do exactly what your post encourages! In full time, small group, “immersion” Fellows Programs, we equip young believers on the cusp of their careers, with the biblical and theological framework for their work — even while they are simultaneously working in the marketplace. We know from more than 20 years of experience, that this framework “lived out” results in personal and cultural transformation. Check us out at http://www.thefellowsinitiative.org.

    • Nathan Eshelman February 5, 2016 at 3:12 pm #

      Morna, Thank you for writing. I am familiar with the Fellows Program, at least the one in Pittsburgh. One of the young women who is a member of my congregation (she attends Geneva College) has applied for the program. I also have a friend, John Sikma, who was a Pittsburgh Fellow as well.

      I appreciate the desire to raise up Christians in all fields and walks of life.

  8. One day we all are free and are together September 11, 2016 at 1:32 am #

    How about those who believe not in the the written STORY and see the true signs and messages of a higher power?
    Where not talking false idols and equations that show the results of the manpulatied equations that will give you what you want if you equate long enough? Love all you say ,he say , and don’t forget everyone else, the sun of God shines on us everyday it returns everyday and living in the right geological location it is as the story says crussified died and the third day rises again , we’ll December 24-27 the solstice sun does that exactly. So am I not loved because I worship the sun ? Something I can see , and is real. Brings me warmth beautiful views , grows me food and brings life to all living things? Wake up , quit following and live and see it and love everyone around you withou judgment and forcing things apon ones consent

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