What is Christian Reformed Campus Ministry?
In my travels on the McMaster Campus and in the broader Hamilton community, I am often asked “what is Christian Reformed Campus ministry? This is a question which can summon a lengthy and passionate response from me. In the interest of editorial brevity let me boil this topic down to its bare essentials, highlighting some of the uniqueness of the Reformed approach.
Christian Reformed Campus Ministry takes a `total scriptura’ (all of scripture) approach to campus ministry. Our staring point is the Reformed understanding of an original `good’ creation, a creation wide fall into sin and a cosmic restoration. The Reformed emphasises on an originally good creation that “… all things were created by him and for him,” and our creation/cultural mandate holds up to us a unique worldview that all of creation – every human activity, every blade of grass, every animal, every cultural initiative – was intended to glorify God. CR-chaplains call people to enjoy creation, to delve into it and study it and to strive to be responsible stewards of its bounty.
Continuing in this vein, this perspective bequeaths us scope – it recognizes that everyone one and everything – tangible and intangible on a university campus, from the president to the students, from the custodial staff to the faculty, from the philosophies bandied about in lecture halls, to dorm room entertainment and varsity sports is of concern to us, because it is of concern to God. He created it and it is his.
CR- chaplains are often instruments of the Holy Spirit in it’s work of spiritual redemption as Christ draws people to himself. But another distinctive aspect of CR campus ministry is that it does not limit its understanding of the depth of sin and God’s grace to personal salvation. It has been said that the Reformed take a “very big view of redemption because they take a very big view of falleness.” CR chaplains boldly proclaim `Christ is Saviour,’ but even more than that, we worship `Christ as Lord’ and recognise that not only were humans caught up in the ramifications of the fall, but that the fall was tragic for all of creation. While acknowledging that creation still “declares the glory of God,” that “it both sings and rings” we recognise that sin is like a parasite and the antithesis runs through all of life – popular culture, yes! Academics yes! But also family life, church life and business life. Every aspect of creation has been corrupted, causing it to groan for release from its bondage to decay.
How does this understanding shape CR. campus ministry? We confess that the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ vindicates all of His creation. We do not promoted an `otherworldly’ view of Christianity that degrades physical nature and says what we do on this earth doesn’t really matter because soon God will take us away to heaven. Nor do we take the dualist approach and identify certain aspects of created reality as structurally evil, or neutral, or somehow standing outside of God’s concern. At the heart of CR campus ministry is the conviction that Christ is in the process of reconciling `all things,’ to himself and that we are called to join him as co-workers in regaining His Kingdom. As such, we affirm an everyday, concrete spirituality that sees every person on campus as a potential agent of re-creation and every sin tainted philosophy, every thought and academic discipline as instituted in God and worthy of transformation.
Engaging the university at this level can involve some heavy intellectual lifting, (as well as a good sense of humour) but CR- university chaplains love learning. And with our tool box equipped with Reformed theological and philosophical concepts such as common grace and creational norms, we humbly pursue the Christian Reformed Churches mission to higher education. At McMaster this is a journey we undertake joyfully as a community of believers. Enjoying and exploring God’s creation we welcome all who would join us in celebrating God’s gift to us of higher education.
Dr. Michael Fallon