catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 20 :: 2003.10.24 — 2003.11.06


Whether we eat or drink

The following originally appeared in the author's blog on Neo-calvinism Today.

This past Monday, 14. October 2002, I observed my first Canadian
Thanksgiving. I was invited to the home of an older lady where a friend
of mine boards. There were about 15 or so other international students,
and I was seated opposite a Ghanaian fellow named Frederick.

In the course of our feasting and conversation, I asked him if his
country or tribe has any sort of harvest festival. Frederick explained
that some time ago there was a severe famine in his region. Since then,
many gather in the capital city each year "to thank the gods for a
harvest." Fred had mentioned earlier that he was raised Roman Catholic.
So I asked if any Christians in his region participate in the yearly
celebration. "No," he said, "it is for the pagan deities."

"But the Christians don't thank the LORD for harvest at that or any other time?" I asked.

A puzzled look crossed his face. "I don't think anyone's considered it," he said.

This sort of consideration involves a central concern of the
neo-calvinist movement. We are addressing the question: "how are
Christians to live in the world?" or "what is (or should be) the
relation between a community of Christians and the society and culture
in which they live?" Neo-calvinism advocates and embodies a cultural
approach sometimes called "redemptive," "reformational," or
"transformational." Among other things, this means we are persuaded
that "everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if
it is received with thanks; for it is sanctified by the word of God and
prayer" (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

Jesus Christ created people to do culture. That is, the Lord
calls humanity—particularly His own people—to cultivate His creation.
Certainly recreation, celebration, enjoyment, and expressions of
gratitude are part of the Lord's creational design for human life. Such
things are part of our cultural task.

So are we saying that North American Christians are necessarily
obedient to God by observing an annual Thanksgiving celebration,
whereas Ghanaian Christians are disobedient by not similarly
celebrating? Is the Kingdom of God, after all, a matter of "eating and
drinking?" No. Rather, the neo-calvinist movement is advancing a way of
recognizing the rule of Jesus our King in all things. It is quite
possible to participate in (or abstain from) one thing or another for
the wrong reasons—because of a view that denies Jesus' Lordship over

Neo-calvinists are about articulating and living out a view by which
we may—whether we eat or drink or whatever we do— do it all to the
glory of God. This view recognizes that nothing in itself is unclean.
Culture is good, and as we "do" culture according to God's word by His
Spirit's power in thankful prayer, it is cleansed from idolatrous uses
and made holy.

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