Individual Purpose and the Kingdom of God

engineerThe issue of the individual purpose of man first became important to my thinking and my theological interests many years ago when I read R.J. Rushdoony’s Revolt Against Maturity, especially his chapter on “What Is Man?” At the end of that chapter, Rushdoony says the following about the definition of man:

God’s definition of man in Jesus Christ means that man is recreated in God’s image by the atoning work of Jesus Christ and is given a specific task in history. Progress is ensured and historical development opened up by means of God’s defining and redemptive act. The unregenerate seek to end history; Marx’s ideal order is a static, unchanging realm, and the same is true of the dream-orders of anarchists and pragmatists. God’s creation and recreation unaugurate history: man is given an objective and a purpose. The world is to be subjected to man; for this goal to be realized, man must first subject himself to God.1

Rushdoony, of course, uses the word “man” in a general sense, applying it to mankind. But I was at the same time studying the concept of the Trinity, and, being immersed in the understanding of the equal ultimacy of the one and the many, it was impossible for me to not take this admonishment to have clear meaning for the individual man as well. Obviously, from a Trinitarian perspective, for the covenant man to have a specific task in history, the individual man had to have been given such a task. And for the covenant man to have an objective and purpose, to have the world subjected to him, the individual man had to have his own individual objective and purpose. It was not enough to speak generally about the task and purpose of mankind in general; a missionary and a preacher had to speak specifically about the task and purpose of every individual man in the plan of God and in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

revolt-against-maturityMaking the first steps of homeschooling our children in an environment hostile both to our faith and to homeschooling, my wife and I were from the very beginning convinced that our homeschooling would make no sense unless we teach our children to seek and find their specific task and purpose as individuals, in the plan of God. Not just as members of our family, and not just as members of a church, or of a community. We had a very clear postmillenial/theonomic vision not only for the communities they would be a part of, but also for their life: “You know, son, the Bible starts with a Garden where precious stones and gold are scattered around; and it ends with a City where those stones and that gold are built into walls and streets. Your life must be devoted to finding that specific corner of the Garden that belongs to you, and leave it built up and operating for the glory of God when you leave this earth. Your job is to capitalize—that is, make useful and productive—a portion of God’s creation. You’ll have to find out which part of it is yours.” It was a no-brainer for us that children need to be given their own direction and purpose. We wouldn’t even think anyone who understood the Dominion Mandate and the Great Commission would have any other idea about the purpose of the individual and the goals of their Christian education.

The issue came powerfully back to me a few weeks ago when a story about the testimony of the daughter of a Christian apologist hit the Internet. The girl had been trained in apologetics and theology by her father in a very systematic and thorough way; she knew all her verses, she knew all her logical responses to objections. And yet, she testifies, she revolted against her parents’ faith. The supposed reason was that she suddenly discovered a question about the Bible that no Christian—including her father—had an answer to. The question was rather stupid, and the claim that there was no answer to it doubly so. There was an answer. But the main issue was, as far as I was concerned, why would an intelligent girl use such ridiculous pretext as an excuse to reject her parents’ faith? I knew why. In the description she gave of her upbringing, one thing was missing from that rigorous training program in apologetics her father gave her: He didn’t teach her to find her personal place in Kingdom, her own area of the Garden that she was supposed to build into a city. She was trained to defend her faith, or rather, the faith of her parents. She was not trained to advance the Kingdom as an individual with her own purpose and place and area to conquer.

Then a friend of mine called me to ask advice about some issues with raising his children. The specific issue was their desire to play sports on Sunday afternoon. His view of the Sabbath, I gathered, was a bit stricter than mine. I am not as strict Sabattarian as many of my Reformed friends are, but one thing caught my attention in his description: The children’s expectation that they would become professional players, and that would be their way of glorifying God. Even if I ignored my personal suspicions concerning such a way of glorifying God, the conclusion was still obvious: the children had a very clear vision for their future, which vision, though, couldn’t have come from their father’s specific training and influence. My own children have played sports, played different musical instruments, played in the local orchestra, all ostensibly glorious things that tempt a person to feel important and satisfied with his own performance and victories, but not for a single moment have I seen my children succumb to the temptation to believe that these visibly attractive moments of glory point to a future of professional sports, or professional music. My suspicion was that my friend didn’t teach them individual purpose, and the children had discovered one outside the scope of his teaching. My suspicion was correct. He didn’t. He taught them the ethical boundaries of the Gospel; but his teaching lacked the ethical direction and purpose of the Gospel as applied to their own life.

The problem is not limited to these two cases. Even among conscientious, professing, covenantal, theonomic, homeschooling Christians I see the same pattern: children are taught ethical boundaries as the highest expression of their faith. They are not taught purpose, direction, meaning of life, goals for the future, as applied to their individual life. Even where purpose is taught and preached, it is mainly collective, as applied to the family and the church. But individual purpose of man under God is lacking.

“The Stone Became a Mountain”

The Biblical analysis of the problem must start from an analysis of the very nature of the Kingdom of God, as revealed to us in both Old Testament prophecies and in New Testament parables. Contrary to the beliefs of many modern church-goers, individual salvation is not the ultimate reality in the New Testament, and it is not the main message of the Gospel. Individual salvation is only a tool for the Gospel, not its purpose, goal, or objective. The Gospel is much larger than the salvation of individual souls, and its greatness encompasses the whole world. In 1 Cor. 15 Paul gives us a description of the Gospel, and he continues it until he says that “all things will be subjected” to Jesus, so that at the end, “God may be all in all.” “All things being subjected to Jesus” here is that reality which the Bible calls the “Kingdom of God” or the “Kingdom of heaven.” It is this Kingdom that is the purpose and goal of the Gospel. The Gospel is called the Gospel of the Kingdom, and, judging from the Great Commission and from 1 Cor. 15:24-28, the Gospel therefore encompasses all reality, and addresses all reality with this great vision, the rule of Christ over all things. Salvation of the world is the ultimate goal, with individual salvation being only a means to that end (John 3:16-17); and that salvation of the world can come only through establishing the royal power of Jesus Christ over all the earth. Thus an analysis of the nature of that Kingdom is necessary before we can fully understand the problem and its solution.

Such analysis will show us the most striking characteristic of the Kingdom of God: its aggressive growth. Both the Old Testament prophecies and the New Testament parables of the Kingdom reveal a reality that is expanding, increasing, growing, taking all the space available, and consuming its rivals until it rules the whole world. There is nothing like the modern pacifist and passive view of the Kingdom where the Kingdom is a closed, besieged entity defended against the surrounding forces of evil. There is nothing like the modern reductionist idea where certain areas of life and culture are out of reach for the Gospel because they are by their nature part of the enemy’s realm. The Kingdom is shown to be advancing and increasing, and that after the First Coming of Christ, in history, not after the end of history.

Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, revealed and interpreted by Daniel (Daniel 2), shows the Kingdom of Christ coming “in the days” of the kings of the old kingdoms, right after the Roman Empire. The Kingdom is described in the dream as a “stone cut out without hands.” That stone “struck the statue” of the human kingdoms and crushed it, and then “became a mountain and filled the whole earth.” Before Daniel, Isaiah prophesied about the coming Messiah-King, that after His birth as a child and a Son, “Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end.” In fact, the whole passage (Is. 9:1-7) sounds like a battle song, promising God’s active and aggressive involvement in the war against His enemies. Given the fact that from v. 6 we know exactly the time prophesied in the passage, this is all a prophesy about the coming Messianic kingdom, established with the earthly ministry of Christ. There are many other prophesies in the Old Testament that speak about God’s aggressive involvement in history to defeat His enemies, especially the most quoted Old Testament passage in the New Testament, Ps. 110. The promise of ruling the nations with a rod of iron, and the warning to the kings of the earth in Ps. 2 is another example. They all, of course, follow the prophesy-promise in Gen. 3:15 about the coming Redeemer. God is not in the business of simply saving a few souls from what is supposedly a largely unpredictable and uncontrollable historical process; He promised before the Incarnation that it would unleash an era of conquest, or rather, a re-conquest, and the coming of the restoration of God’s kingdom among mankind.

The New Testament is not timid about the expanding Kingdom either. Jesus’s parables unmistakably give us a picture of a growing entity in history before the Second Coming, whether in the parable of the mustard tree or the leaven in the flour. To the Jewish leaders He said that they would see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven (a picture of invasion and aggression, see Is. 19:1), and the timing of it was “from now on,” that is, from the very moment Jesus spoke to them. The Great Commission starts with the declaration of Christ’s total authority over the earth. Paul says the civil government must be God’s servant (Rom. 13), contrary to the statist ideology of Rome; he also says that all things belong to the Christians, including the world and the future (1 Cor. 3:21). It is the declaration that Jesus is King that earned the Christians their persecutions (Acts 17:7), not the declaration of Jesus as a personal Savior, which was actually received rather favorably by the authorities at the time (Acts 26). Jesus gave evidence of the presence of the Kingdom, and that was the work of driving out demons (Matt. 12:28; Luke 11:20), an aggressive assault on what was previously considered territory preserved for the realm of Satan. He also described the Church as pushing aggressively against the gates of hell (Matt. 16:18). Paul’s military language in 2 Cor. 10:3-6 shows an aggressive agenda of “tearing down fortresses,” “taking captive,” “destroying speculations,” and “punishing disobedience.” His sermon in Athens ended not with an altar call of passive expectation for someone’s conscience to be moved but with the verb παραγγέλλω, a military term meaning “charge, give orders, command.”

The picture is very clear: in this world, in history, the Kingdom of God starts from a small seed, Jesus Christ Himself. It grows aggressively throughout history—His Kingdom and peace increase without end—until it fills the whole world, just like the stone in Daniel 2, and the leaven and the mustard tree in Matt. 13. It takes over the spiritual realm of Satan, but it also conquers the minds of men, and through them, their civilization, politically, economically, socially, etc. No church “ghettos” are envisioned in the Bible, no passive expectations of the coming of Christ, no desperate spiritual defense to preserve one’s faith or church against the superior forces of the enemy besieging the church. An aggressive army of an advancing Kingdom, winning cultural victories for her King, is what history after the Incarnation is all about.

“Violent Men Take It by Force”

So far so good. This vision of the Kingdom and the Church is being accepted by a growing number of Christians today, especially young families. The understanding that the defeatism and the eschatological pessimism of the previous generations have brought us cultural defeat and decline is growing, and there is a change in the very theological climate in the church.

What hasn’t been growing, though, is the understanding that this new—in fact, well-forgotten old—vision of the Kingdom must produce a new type of man, just as every ideology and every doctrine produces its own type of man. The pessimistic eschatologies dominant in the last century have produced a type of man that is basically passive to the assault of the prevailing culture. This has either driven Christians to generally acquiesce with the non-Christian culture or to withdraw from influencing it, into Christian ghettos. The churches have been reduced to distributing altar calls and passively registering the growing evil in the world—wherever, of course, they haven’t been actively collaborating with it in the first place. While such mentality is natural to premillennialism and amillennialism with their view of the power of evil vs. the power of the Kingdom of God, the majority of those who have adopted an optimistic, victorious eschatology, are still under the spell of this old mentality.

The mentality produced by the Gospel of the Kingdom of God can be best described with the words of Jesus in Matt. 11:12:

From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.

John Calvin comments on this verse:

The meaning therefore is, A vast assembly of men is now collected, as if men were rushing violently forward to seize the kingdom of God; for, aroused by the voice of one man, they come together in crowds, and receive, not only with eagerness, but with vehement impetuosity, the grace which is offered to them. Although very many are asleep, and are no more affected than if John in the wilderness were acting a play which had no reference to them, yet many flock to him with ardent zeal.

Matthew Henry calls it, “like the violence of an army taking a city by storm, or of a crowd bursting into a house, so the violent take it by force.”

The verse is very interesting in that it uses the word “violent” twice: to describe the manner of “taking the kingdom,” and to describe the nature of men who are taking it. Not just the manner of taking the Kingdom is aggressive; the men who are taking the Kingdom also have that quality of aggressive, uncompromising “vehement impetuosity,” of men who, compared to the others around them, look like “violent” men. Men who have a goal and purpose in life, and who don’t wait passively for things to happen. Men who bring about change in their own life and in the world around them, and are not satisfied with seeing things remain the same, day after day, year after year.

As described by the pietism and misplaced pacifism of modern churches, the image of a good Christian is one who has things happening to him—especially persecutions. While persecutions are characteristic to the life of a Christian, they do not come to people who passively wait for things to happen, or who let the world around them run its course unchallenged and unchanged. The heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 are indeed described as men and women who went through persecutions (vv. 35-38). But these persecutions were not for idly and passively waiting for things to happen. They were the consequence of the same aggressive, warrior spirit which Jesus described as “violent.” These same heroes of the faith also “conquered kingdoms, dispensed justice, became mighty in war, put armies to flight,” etc., etc. (vv. 33-34). Persecutions do not come to those who are content to leave things as they are; the enemy reacts violently only to those who violently threaten his realm.

This aggressiveness of spirit is such an important property of the character of a believer that when Moses appealed to his own inability and lack of aggressiveness in speech, “the anger of the Lord burnt against” him (Ex. 4:10-14). Joshua and Caleb were commended by God for their aggressiveness in wanting to enter the land and take possession of it, while the rest of Israel wanted to go back to the old state of things, Egypt. Gideon was addressed by the angel of the Lord as “valiant warrior,” and when Gideon told him how discontent and angry he was at the way things were in Israel, the angel replied, “Go in this your strength and deliver Israel” (Judges 6:14). The examples are too many for all to be mentioned in one article.

“The Creation Is Eagerly Waiting”

Given all that, it is rather inexplicable why even families who should know better, confine the education and spiritual training of their children to building ethical fences around them. Ethical boundaries are important; there is no doubt about it. Without ethical boundaries established by the Law of God man is left to his own devices, which most certainly produce death; spiritual, cultural, economic, etc. Without ethical boundaries dominion degenerates into tyranny, courage into recklessness, entrepreneurship into greed, leadership into exploitation. There are certain actions that sit outside the sphere of legitimate activities of man and the ethical boundaries which determine that sphere. Aggressiveness, that “violent” spirit Jesus speaks of, must be channeled according to God’s limitations and stipulations; it cannot be determined by the autonomous will of man.

And yet, in themselves, ethical boundaries are not enough to get one into the Kingdom of God, nor enough to “seize” the Kingdom of God. The Great Commission doesn’t read, “teaching them to not do anything of what I have forbidden you to do.” Instead, it presents a positive statement of active obedience, not of passive refraining from action. Jesus Himself, when speaking of “violent men” who are taking the Kingdom “by force,” contrasts that new era of the aggressively expanding Kingdom to the old era where the Law and the Prophets were the defining factor (Matt. 11:13; Luke 16:16). He is not contrasting the Law to the Gospel as some theologians today ignorantly claim; not at all, or His Sermon on the Mount wouldn’t make any sense (Mat. 5:17-19), and nor would Paul’s declaration that the legal foundation of the civil applications of the Law is the Gospel (1 Tim. 1:8-11). Jesus here is contrasting ruling principles of motivation: the passive obedience of ethical boundaries vs. the active obedience of violently taking the Kingdom. It is not enough anymore to just preserve oneself from committing a major sin; this won’t get one in the Kingdom. When a scribe acknowledged to Jesus that ethical obedience to the Law is much more important than liturgical participation, Jesus still did not say the scribe was in the Kingdom, He just said he was “not far from the Kingdom” (Mark 12:28-34). (The often-missed context of these verses is that “God is God of the living, not of the dead,” v. 27.) Teaching believers, or teaching children just to avoid sin, or just to defend their faith against attacks, can bring them close to the Kingdom, but not into it.

There must be something more. Something that agrees with that “violent” spirit of those who take the Kingdom “by force.”

Then again, there are those who, led by pietistic considerations, believe that that “violence” has to do with striving for the simple acts of repentance and profession of faith and the individual salvation the believer receives from God. And then, of course, with the “aggressive” evangelism of preaching that same individual salvation to others, so that they perform the same acts of repentance and profession of faith and get saved.

But this, again, is rather defensive; it is an escape from death and perdition, from the realm of Satan and the curse. It is a legitimate and necessary step for those who have been redeemed by God. But in itself, this step is still self-centered and passive; it doesn’t not have a Kingdom in mind beyond the scope of the individual needs of the believer. It may produce some changes in the individual life of the person, and in his eternal state, but it doesn’t necessarily produce changes in the world around him, in history, in his own generation. The author of Hebrews explicitly says that such repentance and profession of faith and conversion are just “elementary things,” “baby food,” and that the mature believer should “press on to maturity” (Heb. 5:11-6:2).

Therefore, there must be something more. Simple ethical boundaries, or simple conversion and evangelism, are not what defines the “violent” spirit of the men who take the Kingdom by force. What is it that “takes the Kingdom by force”?

The answer must come from the larger reality of the Covenant of God. And I mean, the Covenant of God that He made with mankind at the Creation. It is often called by theologians today the Covenant of Works (although I personally prefer if the name was changed to Covenant of Work). But a better name, that characterizes it best, is Dominion Covenant, or Dominion Mandate. Man was created in the Image of God, and the mistake many theologians today make is that that Image of God denotes something man is, ontologically, in his passive being. Thus attempts have been made to find that image of God in something man has or is, like his intellect, his ability, or anything else that pertains to man’s being. But the first chapter of Genesis defines the image of God as represented in man’s purpose of dominion over the created world. It is not found so much in man’s “being” as in his “doing,” in what he was created to do and to achieve.

With man created to take dominion over creation, the original Covenant of God, the large framework of all successive covenants, was that Dominion Mandate. It was the original aggressive mandate, to take the order and abundance of the Garden and expand it throughout the world. It was the purpose and direction, the “violence” that was from the beginning supposed to characterize man as a creature in God’s image. Violence, of course, not against his fellow man, but “violence” against the disorder and the formlessness and the fruitlessness of a world that didn’t have a steward, a legitimate master under God. Man was supposed to actively increase his dominion over the world and change nature into something better; he was supposed to capitalize it, to bring order to it, to transform it, and to construct it into a civilization.

This image of God, this task, was not destroyed nor annulled in the Fall. It certainly became harder, for man now has to do everything without God’s starting point, the Garden. “You want to be gods, create your own starting point,” was God’s reply to their sin. But man was still defined by God’s image, and therefore he was still under the obligation to take dominion and civilize the world. Sin could not destroy that purpose in man, for the image of God can be twisted but never destroyed. From the very first generations after Adam and Eve mankind began building a civilization—a civilization marred by sin and wickedness, of course, but a civilization nevertheless.

Jesus’s death and resurrection restored man to that original purpose. “All authority has been given to me” couldn’t mean anything else but that the earth was now legally restored to the descendants of the Second Adam, to fulfill their Dominion Mandate. In case that wasn’t clear, Paul told the Corinthians, “All thing belong to you,” including the world (1 Cor. 3:21-22). Abraham’s promise was interpreted in the New Testament not as inheritance of a small strip of land in the Middle East but as “the heir of the world” (Rom. 4:13).

And the redeemed humanity now had work to do, for Paul told them that “the whole creation groans,” waiting for us to be revealed as the sons of God, as being in God’s image, so that the creation itself can be freed from the bondage of corruption (Rom. 8:19-22).

Thus the active element in man’s purpose under God, the essence of that “violence” Jesus is speaking about, is . . . work. Work, that is, applying man’s labor to creation to change it from subject to corruption to proclaiming the glory of God. Rushdoony says that “work is the connecting link in the activities of man in the states of innocence, the fall, grace, and glory.” The goal of man’s work, he continues, “was the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God on earth, putting God’s rule and word into effective government through man in every realm of life.” And then, speaking of the state of grace of man, he says:

In the state of grace, the redemptive work of Christ restores man to his calling, to his work. To the extent that the individual is sanctified, and to the extent that his area and place of work are redeemed ground and in process of being sanctified, to that extent the curse is removed from his work, and to that extent in work, en ergos, he can manifest, as the image of God, the energy of God’s image-bearer at work. The more clearly redeemed and sanctified the man and the ground he stands upon, the more energetic his work, and the more successful his capitalization under God.

And the conclusion he draws for the state of grace:

True work is the religious energy of a society in action, remaking all things in terms of God’s Kingdom, and developing the potentiality of all things in terms of His calling. The redeemed man is a working man.2

Thus the redeemed man is not characterized by his ability to successfully avoid sin; a dead body can achieve the same thing, and still have no life nor aggressiveness in it. A redeemed man is characterized by his productivity, by his ability to transform the created world according to God’s purposes. It is not a mere coincidence that Proverbs, the Book of Wisdom, ends with the description of a woman who is economically productive, and not only economically productive, but also aggressive in her economic actions. Wisdom that constitutes only ethical boundaries but does not lead to economic productivity is the “wisdom” of a dead body.

“Her Gain Is Good”

Indeed, it is important to realize that the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 is not just a description of a good wife, she is a prescription for the church as a whole, and for every one of us as individual members of the church. In the context of the “violence” Jesus was speaking about, we can’t help but notice v. 25 of that chapter:

Strength and dignity [majesty] are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.

The woman described here has a purpose for her life, an individual purpose that is only hers and no one else’s. She is not described as a passive participant in a collective; not even her family is described as a collective where she participates in some collective actions. Under some well-meaning but misplaced views of the family and the relationships within the family, some modern commentators are trying to present her as acting under the constant direction and supervision of her husband, as his errand boy or servant. But the text describes an independently-minded, self-motivated woman on a mission, an individual, personal, actively and aggressively pursued mission within a covenantal framework, not just simple obedience to someone else’s commands.

And what is that mission? Economic productivity.

This very principle must set the goal for our children’s education: Our children must be self-consciously, aggressively, uncompromisingly taught to find their specific, personal, individual corner of the marketplace, where they will be economically productive, and where “their gain will be good.”

This must be the constantly present topic of our family devotions: That our children need to look to the future in terms of their professional development. Teaching them the ethical boundaries of the Law of God and the intellectual defense of the faith is important, no doubt about that, for not knowing the ethical framework of the Kingdom a person can be easily misled to start building his own kingdom. But the active, aggressive element of their spiritual training and instruction cannot be those ethical boundaries and intellectual defenses. This element must be their understanding that there is a place for them in the world where they can transform previously void and formless earth into an ordered structure which renders glory to God and service to men. They need an individual purpose for their lives, not just their place in the family of their parents. When a man leaves his father and mother (Gen. 2:24), he must be spiritually, ethically, emotionally, but also professionally prepared to be on his own and take dominion as an independent man.

The family—before the church—is supposed to be the training ground, the equipping center for the saints to go out and conquer the world for Christ. It must instill in the children a sense of personal, individual purpose, and the aggressiveness of pursuing that purpose. It must give the children the emotional fuel to continue studying and preparing themselves for a life of independence and economic productivity, even when there are no immediate results. Too often today we encourage our children to go into vocations that are glossy and glorious on the surface but require little investment in academic studies—small business, technical jobs, movie-making, arts, etc. But the real culture-changers are those fields of employment and business that require long-term effort of academic and professional training: engineering, the medical profession, science and technologies, organization of labor and production, industrial design, law, banking, etc. They don’t look glossy and glorious and attractive and fun, but it is these areas of productivity that leave the deepest influence on the culture. Whoever serves, leads, says Jesus (Matt. 23:11-12), and the best way to serve your fellow human beings is to invest in years of accumulating knowledge about how the world operates and use it for building a civilization from the scattered resources God placed in your corner.

This professional and academic training is what will give our children the aggressiveness to expand the Kingdom of Christ. It is dominion through service. And our children must be taught to devote their individual lives to the study and work that God has for them. First learn to identify the specific purpose for them individually, and then spend the effort and the energy to pursue it. This part of their training and education is just as important as teaching them to belong to a family or to a church. In fact, if we train them collectivistically, to surrender their individual calling to an institution—even a God-ordained institution as the family or the church—we may succeed in destroying their spirit, and may eventually lose them. Granted, their gifts must be exercised in a covenantal framework, but ‘covenantal framework’ is not the same as ‘institutional subjection’. The Dominion Mandate and the Great Commission are fulfilled not by collectives but by individuals trained by their families and their churches.

This also means that while we as parents need to find the Biblically ethical way of training our children for their future professional successes, we can’t afford to build walls around them that would stop them from exploring and pursuing their gifts to the maximum. While as Christian homeschoolers we need to keep our children at home during the time they are in the stage of maturing spiritually and intellectually, we can’t afford to keep them on the same level when they reach the age of maturity and must grow in their academic and professional pursuits. While a Christian college (for academic, or engineering, or medical, or legal education), or a Christian company (for business, or technical apprenticeship), is preferable to non-Christian colleges and companies, it is still important to understand that in the age of maturity some training is better than no training at all. We can’t trust the non-Christian teachers in the public schools to train and instruct our children in the Lord. But we can trust our already trained and instructed young men and women to survive in a hostile environment, if the prize is the ability to pursue their economic calling before God, under His Dominion Mandate.

Conclusion

The battle for the hearts of our children will not be fought in the area of ethical boundaries, nor in the area of evangelism and apologetic defense of the faith. The battle will be fought in the area of personal, individual purpose for each one of our children. It is this individual purpose that will give them the aggressiveness, the “violent” characteristic of their faith that Jesus was talking about. It is work, the actions that transform a void and formless mess into an ordered, capitalized, useful and usable civilization, that characterize a redeemed man.

Our children need to know that there is a place, a corner of the Garden, for each one of them individually, no matter what their family connections are, and no matter what their church connections are. Church and family must stand only as a covenantal framework, not as an institutional master over them; these two institutions must be there to provide training and equipping, ethically and professionally; and provide that training to men and women as individuals, not as cogs in a collectivist machine. Our family devotions must focus on each one of them as an individual under God, and on finding their individual purpose under God.

Without that individual purpose, and without that understanding that the Dominion Mandate—and the Great Commission as the restoration of that Dominion Mandate—was given not only to mankind as a whole but also to every individual person under God, we will lose the hearts of our children. They will naturally tend to find such individual purpose somewhere else, if they don’t find it through the family or through the church. True enough, in many cases the family will provide that purpose—and many sons have continued the business or the ministry of their fathers; but it must still be in the context of individual purpose, not of de-personalizing the individual for the goals of an institution.

To end with the words of R.J. Rushdoony:

God’s creation and recreation unaugurate history: man is given an objective and a purpose. The world is to be subjected to man; for this goal to be realized, man must first subject himself to God.

And as parents, we need to always remember the flip side of this: If our children do not have their individual objective and purpose, to have part of the world subjected to them individually, there will be little motivation for them to subject themselves to God, individually.

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  1. R. J. Rushdoony, Revolt Against Maturity: A Biblical Psychology of Man (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, [1977] 1987), p. 146. []
  2. R. J. Rushdoony, Revolt Against Maturity, pp. 298-302. []

About Bojidar Marinov

A Reformed missionary to his native Bulgaria for over 10 years, Bojidar preaches and teaches doctrines of the Reformation and a comprehensive Biblical worldview. Having founded Bulgarian Reformation Ministries in 2001, he and his team have translated over 30,000 pages of Christian literature about the application of the Law of God in every area of man’s life and society, and published those translations online for free. He has been active in the formation of the Libertarian movement in Bulgaria, a co-founder of the Bulgarian Society for Individual Liberty and its first chairman. If you would like Bojidar to speak to your church, homeschool group or other organization, contact him through his website: http://www.bulgarianreformation.com/

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11 Responses to Individual Purpose and the Kingdom of God

  1. John C. September 18, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    Great article! I’ve thought about this recently too, after reading Rushdoony’s “The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum.” This quote from the book reinforces your argument:

    “A Christian liberal arts curriculum is therefore a purposive curriculum in terms of the doctrine of the resurrection and the calling of man to exercise dominion and to subdue the earth. Certain requirements are therefore basic to a curriculum which is based on sound theology.
    First, the student must be enabled to grow in his dominion over himself as a necessary first step towards exercising dominion over the earth. A humanistic curriculum can be, as we have noted, either totalitarian or anarchistic. It can suppress the student or use him merely as a social resource to be used by the state, or it can allow him an anarchistic self-expression which is destructive of both learning and discipline.

    According to Proverbs 22:6, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.’ Kidner comments:

    The training prescribed is lit. ‘according to his (the child’s) way,’ implying, it seems, respect for his individuality and vocation, though not for his selfwill (see verse 5, or 14:12). But the stress is on parental opportunity and duty. Train means elsewhere to ‘dedicate’ a house (Dt. 20:5), temple (I Ki. 8:62), etc. Possibly a trace of this meaning clings to it.

    Fritsch also calls attention to the fact that train elsewhere means ‘to dedicate,’ while not seeing it as so intended here. There is no good reason to deny the validity of the basic meaning of ‘to dedicate’; the text requires that we dedicate a child to the way of his individuality and vocation under God. To dedicate means to set apart or to devote. The purpose of education is in part a separation and a devotion of the student in terms of his aptitudes and abilities. It means also a discipline in the same direction. An important aspect of education is to provide a child with an opportunity to find his aptitudes and calling and to develop himself in terms of them.

    There can be no dominion without the tools of dominion. A student who comes to know his aptitudes and is disciplined in the use of them is clearly prepared for dominion over himself and over the world.
    Clearly too the basic tool of dominion is a knowledge of Scripture. As a result, the teaching of the Bible is a basic part of a Christian curriculum in order that the child can have the finest discipline and guidance directly from Scripture rather than second hand. The results of such teaching are highly productive of a self-disciplined character.” p. 27-28

  2. Susan Johnson February 6, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

    Excellent! Nothing else can be or needs to be said.

  3. Larry Crawford February 26, 2014 at 12:38 am #

    Excellent article. I agree that the Kingdom of Christ will not arrive by waiting any more than a garden will bear fruit by simply waiting for it to happen. In such a case, the garden will be lost to the weeds. And so it is today with the Church sitting in the pews studying about “gardening” but never getting out in the field. Growing some sprouts in the kitchen doesn’t count.

    But some plant, some water and some gather in the increase which leads to may disagreement.

    My only point of disagreement was with your statement: “Too often today we encourage our children to go into vocations that are glossy and glorious on the surface but require little investment in academic studies—small business, technical jobs, movie-making, arts, etc. But the real culture-changers are those fields of employment and business that require long-term effort of academic and professional training: engineering, the medical profession, science and technologies, organization of labor and production, industrial design, law, banking, etc.”

    I disagree because most men learn better by apprenticeship in the “trades”. Welders, farmers, mechanics etc. who are running their own small business will be very important in future kingdom building. I’m not discounting science and technology; I’m just saying a vast part of kingdom building will be supported by men working trades they learned from their fathers or other local men who mentored them. Many regular guys doth a culture make. But we shouldn’t lock children into the same vocation of the father. The move “October Sky” comes to mind. If a welder, or farmer or coal miner’s son is interested in science & academics and has an aptitude for those diciplines, by all means, get him an appropriate education.

    But even men in the fields of engineering, the medical profession, science and technologies, organization of labor and production, industrial design, law, and banking will be of little affect if they are a scattered people. What Christians are doing isn’t working as the world is deteriorating into a weed patch in front of us. Scattered people don’t make a culture which leads to my final point:

    I think we need to return to the early American colonial mindset. I realize in our time the concept of a colony is as bad as being “homophobic”. There is a reason for this because the pagans know if God’s people ever wake up and realize their mission; it would be a serious threat to their cultures. Christians have bought into this and have a tendency to dismiss the serious intent of the pagan nations who are seeking to destroy any remnants of Christian culture.

    The colonies flourished until their vision changed from glorifying God to a more “enlightened” unity under central government. Today we think of believers being scattered in a pagan culture is somehow a normal way for Christians to live. A church who has its members scattered over a hundred square miles that only meet together on the Lord’s Day for worship are fooling themselves if they think they are kingdom builders. Children growing up in a culturally isolated Christian home often grow up and discover pagan American culture then look back at their home and all too often think “my parents were weird”. You can’t beat something with nothing and I would argue that Christians have no culture to offer their children or the lost world. We need to see ourselves as a people of God the rest of the week, building a culture as we colonize Canaan. Having no culture to offer is why Evangelical Christians have no answer to the comprehensive world view of Islam.

    Now if God’s people gather to form a covenant community (“preferring one another”) with a colonial mindset they will start the process of becoming a city on a hill. I’m not talking about a hippie commune, but something more along the lines of a Christian part of town. There are Jewish and Islamic parts of town. There are black, white, Italian and Hispanic parts of town. So why isn’t there a Christian part of town? We aren’t limited to colonizing existing cities as Seattle first started as a logging camp. It just depends on how far into the future we are willing to see. Those expecting to get raptured any minute will never plant an oak tree. Likewise those with no vision for dominion and the future will never see a scarcely populated plain as a large future colony/state for the Glory of God and the Lordship of Christ. I am hopeful that Christians will soon regain the civil sphere as a people instead of relegating it to the pagan kings. The fertile ground is all around; we just need to start cultivating it.

    • Bojidar Marinov February 27, 2014 at 8:15 am #

      That’s the Amish way, Larry. And yet, the Amish way hasn’t turned our culture into a Christian culture. Neither have the Islamic or Jewish parts of town made any difference. Geographical proximity doesn’t make a culture; and when it is associated with a culture, it is not necessarily as appealing as you might imagine. Such drive to geographical proximity is usually characteristic of a defeatist culture that tries to insulate itself against external threats.

      The early church did not create “Christian parts of town.” A culture on advance has no time nor need to create colonies.

      Now, when children growing in a Christian home “discover” pagan culture, that is not because the home is not in a “Christian part of town,” that is because the home doesn’t have a Christian culture to start with.

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