An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

1 Cor 1:10-17 division part 2: boundaries

One important word is boundaries

It’s a word we will need to look at again and again.

Susie and I have been reading this book on Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend – it is very insightful and helpful.

Boundaries are good – but not if they divide us.

Here in this passage boundaries became walls to divide.

But boundaries are also God-given. When God created he created different kinds. Each developed according to their own kind. If we look at creation we have a rich variety and diversity. That rich diversity and variety is what makes creation so great. So too in the church.

Each of us has a calling – that calling forms a boundary. It shows us where our limits, roles, authority, responsibilities and reach lies.

Boundaries are important – we need to know when to say No and when to say yes – boundaries can provide focus to what we do. It prevents us stretching beyond our responsibilities, going beyond what God has called us to do. We need to ask God where are our boundaries.

Boundaries are not meant to be walls to keep us in, or others out; boundaries can be fences with gates. To let the bad out and the good in. Boundaries provide freedom. The fall was the crossing of a boundary – God told Adam and Eve they could eat of any fruit but not one particular one, they were boundaried. But what did they do? Crossed the boundary – and the result was the fall.

Boundaries are important, but they should not be used to divide us.

A lot of people I’ve spoken to recently have mentioned boundary problems; though they haven’t expressed it in those terms; it might be work-home life balance, parent-child issues, job roles, the list could go on. I’ve a few boundary problems at work – I have two part-time jobs at which there is some overlap, I’m also a personal tutor for some students; the boundaries can become challenged. Everywhere I turn at the moment the question of boundaries comes up.

Another book I have been reading recently also dealt with boundaries. Richard Mouw’s brilliant book on Abraham Kuyper. Have I mentioned Kuyper before?

Anyway – as I read one section it made much sense to me and made some issues clear. I hope for some of you it will do the same – it may for some be a word in season, as it was for me, or it may be something to ponder, or it may be something you can disregard with the response He follows Kuyper!

Quote from page 25:

The way in which a parent exercises authority over a child should be different from the way a manager exercises authority over staff, or a professor over students, or a coach over team players. This means too that the skills associated with a specific mode of authority do not automatically transfer to other spheres.

Imagine a woman and a man who are related in three different ways. She is the young man's mother. She is also an elder in the church where their family worships. And she is the academic dean at the university where her son serves on the faculty. Suppose, though, that the young man commits a serious crime — using, for example, a university computer for illicit sexual purposes. As his dean she will be required to fire him. As his church elder she might participate in a decision to place him under some form of ecclesiastical discipline — requiring, say, some special expression of penitence to God and to the community as a part of a process of spiritual restoration, and if he is not repentant, she may have to agree to a decision to excommunicate him from church membership. But as his mother she continues to love him unconditionally as a member of the family; she never entertains thoughts of "disowning" him as a son.

In each case her authority role is a different one, as is also the basis for her acceptance of him within each relationship. In the university she judges his fitness to remain a member of the community by some straightforwardly formal standards of vocational performance. In the church, she also enforces certain norms, but here with a pastoral openness to repentance and spiritual renewal. In the family, the ties go much deeper — so much so that the bond is not easily broken by either bad performance or unrepentant sin. In short, the authority exercised by a dean is different from that of an elder, and each differs from the parental role. And this is because families are families, churches are churches, and the academy is the academy. So if the young man were to complain to his mother, "How can you fire me from my teaching job? — I'm your son," he would be blurring the boundaries of the spheres.

Other important word is perspectives. We all see things from our own perspective, we can’t help but!

But we need to see that we don’t see it all.

We need to try and spend time in other people’s shoes.

Proverbs 17:18

The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.

Our view of things is only partial – as this advert for the Guardian newspaper shows.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this Steve,

It reminds me of the famous quote from Calvin's 'Institutes':

"...lest all things should be thrown into confusion by our folly and rashness, he has assigned distinct duties to each in the different modes of life. And that no one may presume to overstep his proper limits, he has distinguished the different modes of life by the name of callings. Every man’s mode of life , therefore, is a kind of station assigned him by the Lord, that he may not be always driven about at is enough to know that in everything the call of the Lord is the foundation and beginning of right action."

'the beginning of right action' is a telling phrase. Wrong, or unrighteous action comes from meddling in another person's 'mode of life' or 'station'. It reminded me sadly of Dyrness' book 'Visual Faith' wherein he states that 'first and foremost the artist must be a good theologian'.

I can't think of anything farther from the truth, because first and foremost the artist must be...a good artist!

I suppose you could say that this is overstepping the boundaries, but we could also say that it depends on what kind of art you want to produce. Theological art is content-laden and must follow the precepts and language of theology. However, this is not a 'free art', but an art enslaved to another 'mode of life', or 'Sphere'. You could say, it is not a righteous art, because it does not stem from 'right action'.

I was reading Susan Sontag the other day ('Against Interpretation') and she stated that 'content = pretext'! Theological art therefore, and indeed any content-laden art - i.e. ideological art - reveals a crossing of boundaries from some mode of life or another. Art has its own visual language. Art in the service of another 'Sphere' or 'mode' tends to pretext, or in other words propaganda.

The artist must resist the urge to conform to the pressure of those who desire art to be in the service of something. Art must serve a living and breathing community and not an Institution.

Pre-text is a form of insincerity towards your audience. You never convince anyone, never subvert error or tyranny, by such art. Subversion occurs in the sub-text, in the things we don't say directly, in the allusive quality of art. That is where the salt is applied!

Thanks for posting this great reminder of our God-given limitations!