Book review: "Engaging God’s World"

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One of the things we are aiming to do through Faith-in-Scholarship is to direct Christian postgraduates (and others) to helpful resources and initiatives. This week I wanted to draw your attention to a book that helped me understand the academic task from a Christian worldview. This book is Cornelius Plantinga’s “Engaging God’s World: A Christian vision of faith, learning and living”.

Engaging God’s World is essentially a Bible overview split into the three aspects of God’s plan for the world: creationfallredemption, before finishing by demonstrating how these three aspects affect our vocation.

What’s important about Plantinga’s book, and what sets it apart from other Bible overviews, is that it doesn’t just retell the story of the Bible but invites the reader to think about what effect the Christian worldview should have on his/her life.

To share one particularly apt conclusion, Plantinga writes, "Learning is a spiritual calling: properly done, it attaches us to God. In addition, the learned person has, so to speak, more to be Christian with."

Plantinga reminds us that the academic life (and, indeed learning more broadly!) can be a calling: something that God wants us to do. Not only this but, Plantinga points out, investing time in understanding God’s world means that we will have more opportunities to show off God’s creation for what it is: God’s.

I found Plantinga’s invitation to academia so compelling I started an MA and now PhD – but it also came with a stark warning. Plantinga writes:

“Christian students on secular campuses may expect to stand against these ideas without caving in to them and without hardening into pious anti-intellectuals. If so, they expect a lot. And if they expect to develop a mature Christian philosophy of life without the help of their professors – in fact, with the hindrance of some of their professors – they expect even more.”

Plantinga, as such, encourages Christian students and scholars to be seeking to be actively engaged in some Christian organisation or institution that will help them develop a Christian philosophy able to correctly steer the young Christian academic toward developing a rigorous Christian worldview that will enable them to be better disciples for Christ. A central aim of Faith-in-Scholarship.

So I thoroughly recommend this book for those who are about to start out on the road of learning, whether undergraduate or taught graduate study or those of you who are engaged in high-level graduate or academic research, Plantinga’s book offers a must-read apologetic for knowing and developing a thorough Christian worldview for anyone in the academy.

Comments

Cornelius Plantinga has a nice short essay written for students at Calvin College in the USA which is directly related to this good book. Since his essay is directed to students at Calvin, he speaks of “Christian education” – however, we should read this essay more broadly, as dealing with all education anywhere and everywhere, not just a Christian college, church or other organization.

“Educating for Shalom: Our Calling as a Christian College” [as Christian scholars]

“The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Old Testament prophets called shalom.
We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or cease-fire among enemies. In the Bible shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights.

“We are now fallen creatures in a fallen world. The Christian gospel tells us that all hell has broken loose in this sorry world
but also that, in Christ, all heaven has come to do battle. Christ the warrior has come to defeat worldly power, to move the world over onto a new foundation, and to equip a people—informed, devout, educated, pious, determined people—to follow him in righting what’s wrong, in transforming what’s corrupted, in doing the things that make for peace.

“That’s what ….. higher education is for. It’s for shalom.
It’s for peace in the sense of wholeness and harmony in the world. It’s for restoring proper relationships with nature and other humans and God, and for teaching us to delight in the wonders of creation that remain.
As my teacher Nicholas Wolterstorff used to say, …. college education equips us to be agents of shalom, models of shalom, witnesses to shalom….”

May God enlarge our vision for our academic work, and then for the Shalom tasks which are ours.

Thom: in your piece, you say: “Not only this but, Plantinga points out, investing time in understanding God’s world means that we will have more opportunities to show off God’s creation for what it is: God’s.”
I wonder if you could expand this point? I come from a business background. Business uses God’s world to provide things people need. But while I am very conscious that we live in God’s world, I’m aware too that we live as if it was ours. What is Plantinga saying that helps me live in a way which shows off this wonderful creation as God’s?
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