Monday, February 09, 2009

Dominion over the Earth: What should Christian Students do with their Student Loans? Or, being human whilst being a student. Or, being a Christian student.

Christian students are encouraged to live and speak for Jesus. And that's a good thing. The question is - who is this Jesus whom they live and speak for? If it's just the Jesus of popular opinion then we're talking about a very small Jesus. One who is kept out of saying anything about "our sin, our genitals and our thinking" (Richard Dawkins).The alternative is to meet the Christ of Scripture, the real Jesus, the one through whom and for whom all things were made, the one who came into the world to do everything so that a renewed heavens and earth would be offered to us. The real Jesus who rightly stakes his claim on all of his world, and all of our lives. God's son, God's king, who reigns from God's holy hill where his life was poured out for his people...  Discipleship is the outworking of life in relation to that Jesus. In essence it's taking refuge in Jesus (Psalm 2v12) but what would that look like in all of life...

Luke Wood from Life Church Southampton has some really helpful posts on thinking about student debt:

Should students tithe their student loan?
How not to max out your student loan
How not to max out your student loan: take advice
How not to max out your student loan: plan ahead

In view of the comission of humanity in Genesis 1, it seems humanity is relational (and we could speak endlessly about friendship, marriage and the glory of the church...), but is also given dominion, under God, over God's world. Man is given the world to serve and cultivate, a temple in which to worship God.  

David Attenborough speaks in his Charles Darwin and The Tree of Life, stood in front of St. Charles, saying that "we do not have dominion over this world". We forfeitted it, exchanging worship of our creator for worship of his creation, but in The Man, we can return to once more having a true dominion. As Attenborough and Dawkins become more religious in their expositions of The Great Myth of Evolution I can't help but think they're helping Christians to be free to articulate the Great Myth that came true, with warmth, sympathy and engagement... we all want a bigger story...

The domain given to a student is not insubstantial, though it is only a small fraction of the whole creation. Students have dominion over their education (and future employment), over their time (all 168 hours a week), over the community of unbelievers entrusted to them to live and speak amongst, and over finances. Of all people the Christian can hear God's call to stand up and take responsibility. The gospel issues this call. Jesus is Lord over all of life.

Learning to be human in each of these areas is one of the key aspects of what it means to be a Christlike student. To make good use of the education offered. To make those 168 hours a week count. To love the people around them, like a pastor loving his congregation. To be a good steward of the money in your account - much of which is effectively (actually) borrowed from future earnings, and if badly stewarded will be an even heavier weight to carry than it inevitably has to be. To live generously, hospitably, wisely, prudently.

Studentwork (whether in the local church or in church-loving parachurch) has got to engage with helping to equip Christian students to live gospel-centredly in these areas (offering similar helps to non-Christian students wouldn't be a bad idea either! - though no-one can ultimately regain their humanity without the gospel of Jesus Christ). And Christian youthwork could do student workers massive favours by covering some of this too - let's help teenagers to lead, and that doesn't just mean leading bible study or organising stuff 'in church' - but leading in all of life too. This is more than just "life-skills" it's about a wider reaching, more distinctive Christianity. Taught as the implications of the gospel, rather than imperatives for acceptability, this is about seeing a generation rise who eat, work, play and sleep Christianly.


  1. ooooh, it's beginning to sound like you might have some material for a book on....let's say, money? What happened? Might it soon emerge like the proverbial phoenix from the flames? Hope so. Really.

  2. I shelved that book idea, trying to write on church instead...

  3. seriously, where can i get a Mo mug? Do you ship to the US?

  4. Excellent post. Have linked to and quoted from on my blog (wordpress one, not blogger one:

    You're dead right to say that student work and youth work both need to step up to the mark here. I wonder that sometimes in our student discipleship we don't prepare students for living the Christian life outside of the student scene, hence why there's a fair drop-off in the years just after university. Part of the reason is this whole-life discipleship stuff. As someone with pastoral responsibility for students that scares me.

  5. Probably means a little less evangelism training - but, seems to me, that if you get a massive view of Jesus then the evangelism kinda overflows out of you, and is more interesting and compelling because you've got something to say about life.

  6. But you seem to be saying that the book shouldn't have been shelved because it's so important! I was taught about financial issues in a Young Life / UBM context, but it was more rules-y than it was showing how it flowed from the gospel - my parents taught me that far better. I'm intrigued as to what you have to say on the church that hasn't been covered in the past 10 books out on it... given there haven't been any recent ones on finances to the glory of God as far as I'm aware.

  7. I might come back to it, but for now the church is on my mind, and I think I have some slightly different things to say - whether i make it to book length or publishable is another matter... I just know I have some thinking and writing to do on it.

    The application of the gospel to life is needed, I just don't think I've got it in me to do a full volume on money. And I notice Julian Hardyman has another book coming which looks like it'll develop Glory Days a bit further.

  8.'s sort of been doing the Study and Church seminars at Forum that's got me going on this stuff. I've got more to work out on both. But then I'm probably not doing either this year.

  9. I work with teens in a church and I think that this is a really important idea to get across to them, because you so clearly see the secular sacred divide in operation in many of their lives. So we're spending 6 months doing studies based on glory days (an excellent book) with them to try and help them see that being a Christian is 'all of life'.

  10. Richard - you're a hero! Glory days for teens, quality.

  11. I'll be honest, what we need is glory days (to coin a phrase) for parents. The more I think of it, the better biblical parents we are, the better grounding our kids will have.
    And I think that means teaching parenthood to the next generation of young marrieds.

  12. All good kids work has to build on good parenting work. Yet, the church has youth workers by the dozen and few (if any) parenting pastors...

  13. Bish, your last comment may be true of the British church, but isn't true by & large of the American church, who are good at the "Families Pastor" role, which covers that task.
    There's one or two good books on finance out, but aren't necessarily by mainstream or popular authors. Peter Maiden had a good little one a few years back "Take My Plastic" if I remember rightly. John Benton has a good one on the consumerist society & Brian Rosner had one on greed. There's also a fair bit of tat in terms of books on money too, so you do need to ensure you get one written by a Gospel-centred person!