Cultural Mandate Vs. Great Commission
After my last blog about developing a theology of art, I received a response by my good friend Steven. I really appreciate his comments and his push back because they challenged me to think deeper about the Christianity and culture. It’s been almost a week since I last updated this blog, but it’s because I spent a lot of time thinking and reading about culture and Christianity. Here are my thoughts:
The discussion about “calling” or “vocation” is usually divided into two mandates. The first is the cultural mandate from Genesis 1, where God called man to have dominion over the earth. This is practically lived out through civic responsibilities like our jobs or our practice within society. An example of the cultural mandate is a person who is a doctor. By being a doctor he is fulfilling the cultural mandate by providing care for the sick, so that they (as a society) can continue to flourish and have “dominion” over creation.
The second mandate is the “Great Commission” that is found in Matthew 28. Some refer to this mandate as the New Creation Mandate. This mandate is centered around the idea of “going into all the nations and making disciples.” Essentially, this is a call to evangelize or preach the Gospel to the world.
Different churches tend to emphasize one mandate over the other. For example, more of the mainline denominations tend to focus on the creation mandate. They focus on social issues like caring for the poor and social equality. While many of the evangelical churches focus on the Great Commission. They focus on the missions and “spreading the Gospel.” The separation of these two mandates has caused many to pin compassion ministry against evangelism. The mainline denominations will see evangelism as a way to support their social cause, while evangelicals will see compassion ministry as a means of evangelizing. Neither options seem genuine. Both options cheapen the intrinsic value of evangelism and social involvement.
But why are these two mandates separated? Why is it “one or the other” and not “both and”? We must see Salvation as both a rescue mission (God saving the lost) and completion mission (God completing his intended work in this world through man). In the Old Testament, when Salvation was mentioned it usually referred to this idea of the Day of the Lord, where he sets everything right. In the New Testament, when Salvation is mentioned is refers to the rescue of sinners. Salvation is both/and. It is both a rescue mission and a completion projection.
To understand this we must understand it within the historical redemptive paradigm or the four major themes of Scriptures (Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration).
In the Garden (Creation)
- God called man to be in communion with Himself
- God called man to be in relationship with each other
- God called man to steward and co-create in the world
- Man is alienated and cut off from God
- Jealousy leads to murder and man begins to take advantage of others
- Instead of stewarding and co-creating man begins to use and abuse creation (Tower of Babel).
- Man now has access to God through Christ Jesus
- Dividing social, racial, ethnic, economical wall are torn down through the cross (neither Jew nor Gentile).
- Man’s work is redeemed and now done to the glory of God
The Restoration (2nd Coming of Christ)
- Man will be in full communion with God
- Nations will come together under the Prince of Peace
- Beauty, creativity, and work will be fulfilled in the City.
When Jesus calls us to make disciples of the nations, He is call us to not only preach the Gospel to them but to teach them how to participate in this completion project. Their vocation is significant. It is wrong to think that there is a higher calling or different calling than “regular vocation.” All of person’s life is ministry unto God. Some are simply called to vocational ministry. This does not make their calling greater.
Going back to my previous post, this means that an artists work is very important in fulfilling this idea of “Salvation.” It is just as important as the evangelists work of preaching the Gospel. Their work brings beauty, to the world and gives a redemptive language/call to those who see it. This can apply to any other vocation. A stay at home mom’s work is just as important as a pastor who preaches each week. Both are essential to this holistic idea of “salvation.”