/ Nathan Eshelman

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.