What is the essence of Christianity? How does being a follower of Christ relate to thinking, to work and to life? Why is this the title of your blog and the topics you address? These are questions I am often asked. So I decided to add a “Definitions” page to my website and offer my answers to these questions.
This new page is for seekers wondering what the Christian faith is all about. It is also for followers of Christ who wonder what the relationship of faith to thought, life and work.
In this blog post I’ll briefly summarize the answers I offer, and then invite you to visit the new “Definitions” page for the fuller definitions of these terms I give.
By this I simply mean someone who has embraced what C.S. Lewis called “mere Christianity”—the essential, core, foundational teachings of Jesus that unite all His followers across time, cultures, ethnicities, denominations, etc. These may be understood as a four-chapter book:
Chapter 1: Creation. God created everything and what he made initially flourished.
Chapter 2: Fall. Something went horribly wrong.
Chapter 3: Redemption. God implemented a plan to redeem all things and restore peace, wellbeing and flourishing, centered in the person and actions of Jesus, most importantly His death and resurrection.
Chapter 4: Restoration. Restoration is the chapter in which we now live. With the Way made in Chapter 3, God is inviting all people back into a healthy, loving relationship with Himself, others and the rest of Creation.
Believing this has intellectual and volitional dimensions. One must give intellectual assent to these points. But one must also choose to act on this knowledge through belief.
This is the art of thinking and living in ways that inculcate the Story above. This includes valuing the goodness of Creation, seeking to live well in our embodied reality (Creation). This also includes taking seriously the problems we face in relation to ourselves, others, all of creation and God Himself (Fall). It entails understanding how God has pursued a solution to these problems (Redemption) and how we can participate with Him in restoring all things to their right, proper, good and healthy states (Restoration).
Thinking is central to who we are and all we do. Thinking is crucial because God created us in His image. God is a Person, meaning He has Intellect, Emotion, and Will—He Thinks, Feels, and Chooses. So we, as human persons, share these essential capacities.
Therefore, part of flourishing personally and in relation to God, others and the rest of Creation is learning to think well about all these relationships.
Such “Christian thinking” will have deep, profound, and exciting implications for every aspect of our lives. It will lead to a life well lived. We will be truly and fully human, living as we were created to live, and thus flourishing in all ways: spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, volitionally, physically and socially.
We spend the majority of our time working, so we must be good at thinking Christianly about our craft. This leads to our wellbeing and flourishing.
By thinking Christianly about our work we also find ways to bring grace, peace, and wellbeing to many others. This is the primary way we are involved in the writing of the Fourth Chapter—being part of the Story of how God is redeeming all things.
If you are a follower of Christ, much of this may be familiar to you. If so, please forward this post to anyone you know who may benefit from these definitions. If some of this is new to you, I highly recommend as further reading Andy Crouch’s excellent book Culture Making. He does a masterful job of developing many of these themes in much more detail.
If you are not a follower of Christ, but are curious, I invite you to dip into my blog posts here and there, as well as the recommended books and other resources. I hope you will find much to answer questions you may have and find a few “kindred spirits” on your journey toward faith. I also suggest picking up a copy of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity for a great summary of the essentials of the Christian faith.
Until next time, grace and peace.
I thought this was a very timely and helpful article. One question–this may be asking for an applied example of what you are defining: How much should a Christian be willing to participate in the arts (literature, painting, poetry, film et al.) especially as a patron, reader, and supporter. It seems Christians often connect thinking to apologetics but are perceived as standing aloof from aesthetics. Is it possible we actually have a responsibility to think well about both haute and popular culture (as Paul apparently did in Acts 17 and Titus 1)?
Thanks for your insightful question, Thol. You are correct–Christians often relate thinking only to apologetics (and theology), but fail to make the connection to the arts and the rest of life and work. But we most certainly do have a responsibility to think well (and engage well) in the arts, both at popular and technical levels, as far as we are able. I hope to blog more about this in the future, but briefly let me say that for large periods of Christian history this was the case. I believe some of this withdrawal from the arts was an unfortunate consequence of the Reformation’s "Sola Scriptura" which was interpreted to mean only the study and engagement with the Scriptures is important. There are a number of other factors as well. But part of the call of Jeremiah 29 to "seek the shalom of the Babylonians" is to discover and promote the "transcendentals"–the three properties that are true of all good things–truth, beauty and goodness. The arts play a critical role in this. For more on this I suggest Andy Crouch’s book Culture Making, to which I refer in the post above. He does a great job of unpacking more this calling of Christians to make culture, which very much includes engagement in the Arts. Hope that helps!