April 1, 2011 Volume 25, Number 01
Seeing God in the world
By Glen Shepherd | ChristianWeek Columnist
On a snowy night in early January my wife and I took a seat in a crowded theatre to watch The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. This movie is part of C. S. Lewis' series The Chronicles of Narnia. Narnia is a remarkable allegory built around the cosmic struggle between good and evil and the ultimate triumph of Aslan, the lion, a figure of Jesus. The Dawn Treader contains clear references to the great cosmic battle between good and evil or light and darkness. As such it reflects the truth of Scripture in passages such as Ephesians 6:12 or Revelation 16.
The history of the Church contains brilliant moments when Christians have confronted the evils of the world - The Clapham Christians who joined with William Wilberforce in the 18th century to oppose slavery, or the ongoing mission of the Zimbabwean Association of Church Hospitals who today provide 70 per cent of the health care in that country.
The battle between good and evil, the struggle between the Church and the world is all too evident. And sometimes we retreat into our Christian culture and despair about “the world out there." The reaction is understandable; but I would like to suggest that it is not the whole truth.
Trinity Western University (TWU) in Langley, B.C., took a stand a few years back in arguing the validity of its teacher certificates through the court system. The issue at stake was the validity of professional training in a secular society when that training is done at a Christian university. TWU's battle and its legal victory stand as a landmark in establishing the value of Christian higher education and professional training in Canada.
When I delivered the convocation address at TWU in October 2007, it was important to recognize that landmark in the witness of the Church against the devaluation of Christian institutions by a secular society. I urged TWU to remain true to its Christian values and legacy and to avoid the slippery slope of accommodation to the values of a secular society. A foundational Christian identity can be lost over time - just look at Harvard. For the first 200 years of its existence Harvard's motto - Veritas - pro Christo et ecclesia - with its reference to truth for Christ and the church, pointed to Harvard's Christian origins. Today Harvard's motto Veritas (truth) is seldom directly associated with the truth of the Bible.
Yet, as I pointed out in my address at TWU, we must be careful to typify institutions like Harvard as being redoubts of darkness just because they are not overtly Christian. There is so much goodness in the world outside the Church. My point is deeply felt because it is based on a personal experience.
Our son, John, did his two degrees at Harvard. Just prior to the completion of his MBA program he was paralyzed in a car accident driving from Montreal back to Boston. The immediate response of Harvard Business School to John's paralysis astounded our family. Eighteen months after the accident as he prepared to return to Harvard to complete his MBA we were again touched by the kindness of two members of HBS administration staffneither of whom wears the label of Christian.
We learned from the experience that the goodness of God breaks out in the most unexpected places.
We all know that the failures of humanity do not stop at the doors of the church. Similarly, the goodness of God is not restricted to the actions of the Church. God's Spirit cannot be circumscribed. Christians drove William Wilberforce's anti-slavery crusade. But it was strongly supported by many from outside the community of faith whose spirits were driven by a sense of justice.
In our quest to see the values of the Kingdom of God take hold, let's not overlook our allies in the world outside the Church. God is at work in ways we do not see.
Glen Shepherd is the president of Health Partners International of Canada.