If you’re a Star Wars fan, you are counting down the days to the release of the next film, The Last Jedi on December 15th of this year. I love the scenes in the original Star Wars films that show Han Solo’s ship, the Millennium Falcon, jumping into hyperspace. There is a flash of light, a burst of acceleration, and the ship is suddenly light years away from where it took off.
The evangelical church needs this burst of light, this thrust forward, regarding how it views cultural transformation.
The church’s emphasis has, for far too long, been only on personal salvation. Personal salvation is important, but we have wrongly neglected the larger implications of the gospel.
If we are to radically influence our culture and make a positive difference in our communities, our cities, our country, and our world for the glory of God and his kingdom, we need to recover a broader vision of what the gospel means for all of life.
We need a new perspective on creation and creativity that gives vision and guidance to our work and actions.
The Cultural Mandate and Creativity
God gave each of us creativity to use within each of the areas of life he has called us to work. What is the biblical basis for this creativity, and how are we to use it?
In the Great Commission, Jesus calls us to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all that he has commanded us to carry out. The evangelical church focuses on this call to evangelize, baptize, and make disciples without emphasizing the context that makes the call so stunning: God wants to redeem the whole of creation and we can participate in that restoration.
The Cultural Mandate and Discipleship
The Great Commission and the cultural mandate together provide this essential context for the gospel. My colleague Hugh Whelchel writes in How Then Should We Work that,
A strong argument can be made that Jesus’ Great Commission is a restatement of the cultural mandate for his church…it is clear that both call for cultural renewal.
How is this so?
Think about what comprises discipleship. Discipleship involves:
- Knowing the nature of our personal salvation, AND
- Grasping the implications of that salvation for our private and public lives.
The cultural mandate is the starting point for understanding these aspects of discipleship, for it tells us the purpose for which we were created. It tells us that:
- We were made, male and female, in the image of God in order to use our creativity to develop the potential of the creation around us.
- God equipped each of us with dignity and uniqueness and has given us different tasks to collectively carry out this mandate.
Genesis 1:26-28 has been called the cultural mandate because it shows the place of human beings in creation. It also calls us to work with and cultivate God’s creation.
Think of all the activities we do that involve stewarding God’s created order; through our work, we rule over, order, classify, reshape, develop, and unfold the potential of the world around us.
Here is the command itself, from Genesis 1:28:
And God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over everything that moves on earth.
This is the basis for our call to creativity. It tells us who we are—people created in the image of God, endowed with creativity—so that we might go forth and carry out our calling.
Answering the Call to Creativity
But what if you don’t believe you have any creativity to offer? What if you’ve never been taught about the gospel’s implications for life and work?
If we fail to see and believe in the dignity of ourselves and every human being, we will struggle to contribute to God’s call to creativity.
The church has yet to fully mine the implications of the gospel for personal and public life. We need a “light speed” change of perspective about who we are as God’s children and the great calling within the cultural mandate.
Hugh Whelchel has perhaps said it best:
The idea of the cultural mandate is that God entrusts me with something and he expects me to do something with it, something worthwhile, something that he finds valuable. This is evident from the very beginning when God placed Adam and Eve on the earth. This calling implies an expectation of human achievement.
This first calling of the biblical story is a calling to the world, a calling that comes for the sake of God’s purpose to bless all things that he has made. It is a calling informing and shaping all the people of God throughout the entirety of the Bible.
This is my prayer: that you would be “all in” on this incredible opportunity to participate in God’s great plan of restoration through the everyday work of your hands.
Editor’s Note: For help finding and developing the strengths of a young person in your life, consider IFWE’s homeschool elective curriculum developed by Art Lindsley, Understanding God’s Calling.
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