Pastors should shepherd the flock the Great Shepherd has given them. Pastors must then die to themselves to focus on their vocation. Often, that means avoiding political aspirations or other worthwhile endeavours because of their calling.
In other words, I agree with Pastor James Seward who said, “I’m not just an ordinary citizen. I’m enlisted. I’m a pastor. I’m a Word-man, and under-shepherd of Christ.” But not everyone Christian is a pastor. And God calls Christians to farming and to politics because Christians should enjoy and name the grace of God present everywhere in the created order.
It is not like the farmer does not learn and work for the glory of God. Isaiah says “God teaches” the farmer (Isa 28:26). God institutes all authorities on earth (Rom 13:1, etc). The devil and sin make a muck of things. But God’s common grace shines through.
Cain murdered his brother. God gave him grace. He even gave him a mark of protection (Gen 4:15)! That grace led to more grace. Lamech, a rather diabolical descendant of Cain, fathered children who founded a society, learned to ranch cattle, invented certain musical arts, and forged iron and bronze tools (Gen 4:19–22).
After the Fall, God’s word to even the worst of sinners is grace. It might be cliche to say that all truth is God’s truth. But John Calvin and Christians across time have affirmed it.
For example, Cavin writes “If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishnonor the Spirit of God.” Calvin has in mind philosophers, scholars, and mathematicians. He concludes: “No, we cannot read the writings of the ancients on these subjects without great admiration.”
These gifts of God, according to Calvin, come from the Spirit who distributes them“for the common good of mankind.” These gifts include “physics, dialectic, mathematics, and other like disciplines.” Calvin says, “For if we neglect God’s gift freely offered in these arts, we ought to suffer just punishment for our sloths.”
As another great reformed thinker, Herman Bavinck, once said: “There is thus a rich revelation of God even among the heathen—not only in nature but also in their heart and conscience, in their life and history, among their statesmen and artists, their philosophers and reformers.”
Augustine too found value in the sciences. In Book 5 of his Confessions, he affirms how many great observations philosophers or scientists have made. Of course, they need Christ for salvation. But there is truth, glimmers of hope in this world.
“The true light,” says John 1:9, “illuminates every human being” (Ἦν τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν, ὃ φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον).
Pursue your vocation, build institutions
And this idea of common grace, I think, theologically provides a foundation, even a drive, for Christians to pursue their vocations according to the Spirit. Not everyone is a pastor. But everyone is a Christian in God’s world.
The devil does not get arts and sciences! Damn the devil. Enjoy the cosmos. God made it for you! “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim 4:4).
Granted, there is no need to find “Jesus” in everything. That is not what I am envisioning, which to me, misunderstands what cultural engagement is. We are not “engaging” but participating in God’s created effects to experience the goodness of God revealed by grace.
We must recognize in every effect, the good cause, which is in it by participation. As Paul says, “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Given the context of creation and the next part of the verse (being God’s offspring), Paul here evidently thinks of our being in God as being in his creation as offspring of God. As every effect has something of its cause, so the creation has goodness, which only God can give—it is “very good” (Gen 1:31).
Again: “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim 4:4).
Build up every political, scientific, and cultural institution! Not one square inch does not belong to Christ. He is seated in heaven. Let’s serve him with our gifts.
After all, God instructs farmers and kings (Isa 28:26; Prov 21:1). And that means he instructs everyone in between through his natural revelation, given to us as grace in this fallen and imperfect world.