I actually LOVED this chapter!!!!!!!! It actually intertwined perfectly with the chapel message today. It is so true that although we want "the coming of the kingdom of God," Plantinga challenges Christians that our actions don't really show it. " 'Your kingdom come,' they say, 'but not right away.' " So true-- and I am just as guilty of that as the next person.
The concept of "kingdoms inside kingdoms" is interesting, BUT Plantinga says, "Below God, there are also presidents, prime ministers, chairmen, chiefs and shahs. In fact, to some extent we are all rulers just because God has created us in his own image to have 'responsible dominion.' " The point is that we all have "little kingdoms." I know Calvin believed governments were ordained by God (in fact Calvin said it was the "most sacred" and "most honorable" vocation), but I am skeptical about that. Government corruption and Christianity have sadly been intertwined in too many circumstances. For example, the Lutheran church in Germany supported Hitler's regime because they thought the government was ordained by God. Part of that skepticism comes from reading Shane Claiborne's Jesus for President and having listened to many Mars Hill sermons on empire.
The chapel message today was "Walking by Hope," and one of the assistant chaplains discussed the misconceptions of the kingdom of God. Hearing about the kingdom of God is so esoteric and confusing. Often, Christians see the kingdom of God as a far off ethereal cloud. In reality, Plantinga and the chapel message discuss the kingdom as NEAR, at hand, as we partner with God to restore shalom to our broken planet. In one particular church I attended, the emphasis was on ditching this planet and saving as many souls as possible in the meantime. We were told to "think eternally," or concentrate on getting people to Heaven and read the Bible. The kingdom is coming HERE; we're not escaping to some far place. As Plantinga said, to be a "Christ person" is to be a "kingdom person," but each of us has a different vocation in forwarding God's kingdom.
Vocation is indeed more than a job or career, and college is more than just job training. I came to college having no idea what I was going to study, and I prayed a lot that God would show me what He would want me to do. There are so many things to do for God, so many ways to help the "least of these." I love the quote on page 118 by Frederick Buechner, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." But, as I heard in a sermon last week, Christians get burnt out when they do the well-meaning work that God doesn't call them to do. I thought that I wanted to study psychology and help others with my knowledge and insight into the topic, but then I realized that I really wasn't passionate about it. Just because the job needs to be done doesn't mean I'm the one who needs to be doing it. I love the quote from Joseph Hall, "God loveth adverbs; and cares not how good, but how well."
An interesting point is that although "a prime citizen of the kingdom of God yearns for shalom," additionally "non-Christians often yearn for at least part of it too." It is true that, "A person wdoes not have to believe in Christ in order, unconsciously, to do a part of Christ's work in the wolrd." I think it is cool that Plantinga addresses this point. It reminds me of a book I recently read called Jim and Casper Go To Church, in which a seasoned pastor took an atheist to all of these churches to see what he thought of them. This atheist was criticizing megachurches for not being interested enough in social justice. My secular Jewish dad has very strong morals, stronger morals than I have and I follow Christ. Plantinga discussed "secular education" related to Christian educaiton, which had particular interest to me, having transferred from a big powerhouse public university. U of M students desire "shalom" with or without religion. The campus is constantly protesting, engaging in the community, and giving back to others. At the same time, secular universities can be extremely harmful for Christians. Maybe there is activism going on the exterior, but the interior is far from honoring to Christ. I can vouch 100% that "in secular academia, religious approaches to learning are generally unwelcome." Meta-narratives are often "forbidden" or rejected under the influence of postmodernity. Secular schools also "promote a secular view of the world and of human life, routinely giving students the impression that theistic accounts of reality have become passe... that educated people don't think about them much." That is all so accurate. I tried to study religion at U of M, and it was the hardest, most infuriating challenge I have met. People are influenced by their surroundings, and if you are fed 8 hours a day with secular humanism, maybe you're going to all the right church activities, but it will be very difficult to prevent the secular atmosphere to permeat into your own life.
Now, there are definitely Christians on the UM campus, I can assure you. They are strong Christians, growing in the Lord, reading the Word, vibrant, and passionate. Yet, I agree that "for most Christian students mainstream higher education simply won't be able to help them understand the kingdom of God and their own vocation in it."
Plantinga talked a bit about the Core Curriculum and the role of Christian education in helping students find their vocations. I love this quote on page 128 by Richard Foster, "Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people." Amen!!! Honestly, I have struggled with that in Grand Rapids. In Ann Arbor, people are openly like, "Yeah, I have serious problems. I am messed up." Here, I find this level of superificiality, similar to that of my hometown, but this superificiality has a pious bend to it. I feel like I should be happy all of the tiem because I'm a Christian, like my life should be great, I shouldn't be upset at all, and I should NOT sin. Sometimes I feel alienated, as if I'm the only one with struggles because people are so detached from their own brokenness.