At Work

Keeper of Shalom: A Tribute to Hugh Whelchel (Part 3)

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Editor’s note: Read part 1 of Douglas Monroe’s tribute to Hugh Whelchel here and part 2 here

A Focus on Shalom

When I think about Hugh, the word shalom often comes to mind. Shalom is an all-encompassing Jewish and Christian worldview concept featured in several Praxis Circle posts, and it’s perhaps one of the most neglected Christian worldview foundations. (Hugh would also add that the modern church also neglects, much to its spiritual poverty, Creation and Restoration, which is taken from the four-part Christian worldview scheme: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration.)

As a warmup, Hugh would want me to note that Christ asks for one hundred percent of our time and attention as Christians, and our lives should, therefore, be offered as a sacrifice to our fellow man for the common good as stewards of time and space to the glory of God. This goes for all humans for the benefit of humanity around the world.

How to “do” shalom is the issue, past these important generalities, and Hugh dedicated himself and IFWE to assessing alternatives and recommending specifics based on modern Western history.

Shalom is often referred to in sacred Jewish and Christian scripture as “peace,” but the concept, which will be defined below, is much bigger and more granular than “the opposite of war.” As it turns out, the Bible offers many specifics to complement its generalities that confirm the performance of the Western political-economy since about 1800.

In the middle of his seminal book, How Then Should We Work?, Hugh cites the book of Jeremiah to refer to shalom, highlighting the phrase “the peace and prosperity of the city.” There in Jeremiah, the Jews are in exile in Babylon, and Daniel is being charged to be fruitful and work hard for the good even of his destructors and captors. And we know where Daniel’s story leads in the Bible: straight to the New Testament and Revelation. Again, Judaism and Christianity are global, never ending stories that will only resolve themselves at the end of time:

Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper (Jer. 29: 4–7). 

Hugh then cites Cornelius Plantinga’s definition of shalom from his book, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be. It’s what the Cultural Mandate in Genesis and Christ call us to do now, given the continuing action of the Holy Spirit:

“. . . the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight . . . Shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.” (Bold and italics supplied). 

A Beautiful Life

Shalom is what Hugh pledged himself to create every moment of every day as a Christian, family man, church leader, and American, once he got the idea in his head. I wish I had asked him how and when shalom became so obvious and important to him.

He would say it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we love each other, keep a positive attitude toward good action in this life, and run the race that God, through Christ, has set before each of us as uniquely gifted human beings.

How do I know this? Because that is what he told me when I visited him for the last time face-to-face at the Golden Eagle on July 29, 2022. I am grateful for the hospitality Leslie and Hugh extended during both visits there.

By the second visit, Hugh was completely immobile, confined to his hospital bed, and speaking through a Stephen Hawking-like device. Most remarkably, it was the same old Hugh, sure enough!

God bless you, Hugh Whelchel. Much because of you, I will use whatever time I have left as energetically and wisely as possible for others in Christ’s honor.

We miss you, wonderful friend. If heaven and the saints ever need a turnaround, now they have their man.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matt. 28:19–20). 

Editor’s note: This article was republished from Praxis Circle’s website with permission. Read the entire article here.

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