Christian Anthropology and the Moral Life | September 2022 Tabletalk

As we approach the end of this month, it is good to consider the September 2022 issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional magazine.

The theme this month is “The Doctrine of Man,” and there are five featured articles that work out various aspects of this theme. The last article is the one I have chosen to focus on in this post, in part because it was the most recent one I read (this past Sunday). In “Christian Anthropology and the Moral Life” Dr. David VanDrunen demonstrates how the doctrine of man revealed in God’s Word also defines man’s conduct in relation to God his Creator and Redeemer.

In his introductory paragraphs he explains:

Christian writers sometimes note that doctrine and ethics go together. But while every area of theology has moral implications, the doctrine of man (anthropology) has especially powerful ramifications for the moral life. Who we are is inseparable from how we ought to live. Furthermore, how God calls us to act corresponds to the human nature He bestowed on us.

Such claims challenge the way that many people think about Christian ethics. Even many Christians are tempted to view God’s law as a bunch of rules that God has imposed on us that keep us from enjoying a lot of fun, pleasure, and profit. But God’s law isn’t arbitrary. It commands what it does for good reasons. God’s law not only reflects His own holy and righteous nature but also reflects our own nature. His moral will corresponds to the way He created us and the purposes He made us to achieve. This means that God’s law is hardly a straitjacket constraining us from enjoyable things. God’s law is genuinely good for us.

Of course, in a sinful world we’ll often have to suffer for being faithful to our Lord. But living by God’s law fits His design in making us and thus brings a true satisfaction even in the midst of life’s trials and losses. Living contrary to God’s law can leave human beings only profoundly unhappy and unsatisfied, because such a life works at cross-purposes to how God created us to live. A bird can’t find satisfaction trying to live as a horse does, and a horse can’t find satisfaction trying to live as a fish does. So it is with human beings who try to live contrary to the divine law that perfectly fits their nature and destiny.

From there he describes this biblical anthropology and morality in three areas: work, sex and gender, and race. For our purposes tonight we quote further his section on work, in part because this is such an important part of the Christian witness in our evil world right now, where work has become devalued and displaced by a thousand slothful options. May we take to heart this biblical doctrine of man and true morality as it applies to our calling to work.

Whether we labor inside or outside the home, whether our vocations earn income or not, work often consumes a great deal of our time. We might think of this merely in terms of necessity—so many bills to pay, mouths to feed, and diapers to change. Or we might think of it in terms of our moral duty to be industrious and avoid laziness, as Scripture often reminds us (e.g., Prov. 6:6–111 Thess. 4:11–122 Thess. 3:6–12). Necessity and moral duty are indeed legitimate motivations for work, but there’s something even more fundamental. From the beginning, God created human beings to be working creatures. Working hard corresponds to the nature God gave us.

One of the striking things about Genesis 1 is that it describes God as a worker. He calls all things into existence, puts them in proper order, names them, and gives them things to do. He’s no lazy, indulgent despot but a busy and productive laborer. Thus, it’s no surprise that when He created humans in His own image and likeness, He immediately gave them work to do: to exercise dominion over the other creatures, to be fruitful and multiply, and to fill and subdue the earth (Gen. 1:26, 28). To be human is to bear God’s image, and to bear God’s image entails a call to productive labor. God’s law commands us to work because that is a genuinely human thing to do.

This explains why people who stop working for one reason or another often feel deep loss and disorientation. Those who become disabled and leave the workforce often struggle with depression. Many people who eagerly anticipate retirement begin to feel a lack of meaning in life shortly after they leave their jobs. A sense of purposelessness can strike devoted homemakers when their children grow up and leave the house. A life without work can look so attractive from a distance, in the midst of busyness and stress, but the reality turns out to be hollow.

The world has had to confront these realities in disquieting ways during the past few years as COVID-19 and government restrictions disrupted economic life. Many jobs disappeared, and others became unusually dangerous and stressful. Government checks and online streaming services proved to be poor substitutes for productive vocations. It’s little coincidence that mental health problems and drug abuse have risen dramatically. We now hear, even after the lifting of most pandemic restrictions, that the overall workforce participation rate hasn’t recovered. Especially troubling is that many prime working-age males seem to have dropped out of the workforce altogether.

These aren’t just economic or public policy issues but matters that get to the core of our human existence. God commanded us to work because He gave us a nature that longs to work. When people won’t or can’t labor, the collateral damage is bound to be great.

Source: Christian Anthropology and the Moral Life | Tabletalk

Published in: on September 27, 2022 at 9:03 PM  Leave a Comment