The article below is taken from Jerry Bowyer’s Facebook page. Jerry is a perceptive writer on any number of topics. His analysis of biblical theology is first-rate. Instead of just reading Scripture, he looks for worldview connections that many Christians miss. His The Maker Versus the Takers: What Jesus Really Said About Social Justice and Economics is a book every Christian should read, not only for its economic insights but on the process of how he comes to those insights.
Ralph Waldo Emerson commented that he liked people who could do things. He tells how he and his son Edward struggled with a defiant calf that would not return to the barn. Edward pulled on the calf’s ears while his father pushed from behind. The calf wouldn’t budge. Emerson had read the philosophy of Plato and the science of Newton, but none of these intellectual tools helped in getting a reluctant calf into the barn.
A young girl watched with amusement at the ineptitude of the father-and-son team. Without saying a word, she walked up to the calf and thrust a finger into its mouth. Lured by this maternal imitation, the calf followed her into the barn. Emerson watched with amazement at the ease of her accomplishment. Upon returning to the house, he opened his journal, and wrote these famous seven words: “I like people who can do things.”
Like Emerson, I admire people who can do things. The world is filled with them. As Christians, we need to be mindful that our theology should not be separated from the real world and the work at hand of building within the confines of God’s kingdom. The preface to Erasmus’ Greek New Testament included the following by him: “I would to God that the plowman would sing a text of the Scripture at his plow and that the weaver would hum them to the tune of his shuttle.” William Tyndale said something similar: “If God spares my life, ere many years pass, I will cause a boy that driveth the plow shall know more of the Scripture than thou dost.” Theological knowledge should be learned and retained so it can be applied and work out with our hands.
The following article by Jerry brings to mind as image-bearers of God that we reflect on the doing of things. It’s part of what makes us human. -Gary DeMar
The “greatest” of the ancient pagan thinker such as Plato and Aristotle and Cicero had contempt for manual labor. They thought it distorted the body and the mind. Aristotle said that there were three kinds of knowledge: Theory, Action (by which he meant leadership and persuasion), and technical knowledge. And that was the order in which he ranked them: Theory was the highest and philosophers and mathematicians were the ones in this group. Second, was the politicians, lawyers, rhetoricians who led by being models for those beneath them. Last were those who studied “techne,” or the mechanical arts. Engineers, artisans, etc.
But when the Lord of Hosts became a man, He decided to come not as a philosopher or as a politician, but as a techton a practitioner of techne, which is allegedly the lowest subject of knowledge.
Why? I think He did it to reverse the order of the hierarchy. God Himself was a builder. He built the universe. He is a builder and He built builders. That’s how the Jews saw it, which is why many of the greatest Jewish sages were, in addition to being rabbis, also craftsmen. They did not share in the Greek and Roman contempt for physical and technical labor. But for Plato, God did not create the world. His creation story, The Timeaus, has some inferior very junior quasi-divine figure, the Demiurge, as the maker of the material world. The highest god, the Absolute, would not deign to touch this world. (Ironically, later Jesus meets a “son of” Timeaus, a Bar Timeaus. He doesn’t philosophize to him, or “lead” him, but instead reaches out and touches his diseased eyes, restoring the matter to its original use.)
But the God of Genesis separates the waters, grows the green things, fills the fisheries, leads the cattle up out of the very dirt, shapes man as a potter shapes clay, plants a garden, digs rivers, writes His commands on stone with His fingers.
The God of the Gospels comes as a tekton, builds houses and yokes with which to dig those little rivers by which farmers water their crops, tables on which feasts are laid, becomes a plank Himself, and is nailed to the wood on which He earlier had worked. Even at that moment, the world is saved by the work of the hand, the swing of the hammer, the penetration of the nails.
Labor Day, also, is one of His days and stands beside Christmas and Easter as sacred.
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