A Framework for Connecting Faith to Life

Broken GlobeIn his book, A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good, theologian Miroslav Volf argues that Christianity is a prophetic religion—that is, it is characterized by a personal encounter with the divine (receptive ascent) followed by an active response advocating transformation of the surrounding culture (creative return).[1] In other words, we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength—engaging in a personal relationship with the Creator—and love our neighbors as ourselves—living out our faith as a response to that relationship.[2] Our faith should not just be confined to the realm of our private lives; a living and active faith, according to James,[3] affects the way we act and interact with those around us. It is a transformative agent changing each one of us, but also effecting change on the world and culture in which we live. So how do we, as educators, help our students to recognize and embrace the prophetic element of our faith?

One practical framework for this is the Ought-Is-Can-Will approach introduced by the Clapham Institute.[4] Each step of this framework is aligned with an aspect of the Kingdom story:  ought/creation, is/fall, can/redemption, and will/consummation (restoration). It is designed to remind us that we are a part of a much bigger story, a story that spans the entire scope of human history, and that we have been invited to play a part in the unfolding of this story in our world.

hand and globeEssentially, this framework asks Christians to think critically about the world and culture around us. It encourages examining a topic—for example systems of government—in light of scriptural principles to determine what it ought to look like: What are the creational norms that are embedded in the idea of government and systems of authority? Then, recognizing that we live in a fallen world, the framework asks us to look at the topic for what it is: How has sin distorted the creational norms, creating a variety of flawed governmental systems? It is not enough for Christians to recognize the fallen nature of our world, however; we are called to be agents of change. The next step acknowledges this and asks how Christ’s coming and his transformative work in us can work to restore this topic to its right form: What can be done within a particular system of government to move it closer to what it was created to be? And finally, the framework reminds us that though we are to be active agents of change in our world, the ultimate restoration is not ours, but God’s. At the end of the age, when Christ returns, the topic will be fully restored to its perfect form: Governments will no longer be subject to the will of fallen men, but will be fully submitted to Christ.

Using this framework can help us train our students to connect their faith with all aspects of their life. It can remind students of their role in the larger story of God’s kingdom unfolding here on earth. And it can encourage us all to be agents of transformation in a world that desperately needs to know Christ.

Becky Hunsberger

 


[1] Volf, Miroslav.  A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good.  Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2011.  p. 7.

[2] Matt. 22:37-39

[3] James 2:14-26

[4] Clapham Institute:  http://www.claphaminstitute.org/home.html.

Photo Credits:

Broken Globe: N00/3833624039/”>elycefeliz via Compfight cc

Hand and Globe: N05/6700513557/”>Judy ** via Compfight cc