Two weeks ago in weekly word, I described a broad gathering of Dutch church leaders I attended united under the creed: ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’. However, I suspect that if we had asked ‘Lord of what?’, our unity may have been stretched.
Some no doubt would have answered, ‘Lord of my life’, or ‘Lord of the Church’, maybe ‘Lord of the universe’. But how much do we believe he is Lord of history? Or of the future? We can glibly confess that he is Lord of all, but do we really believe it? That he is Lord of all public spheres of life?
And if so, how is that lordship worked out? Can we see God’s hand of common grace at work in the public spheres, outside church circles?
How much are we concerned about the future direction of our continent, and what role Christians can have in shaping that future? We are living through a key phase of European history when much is in flux. How much do we understand about how government structures at the European level work? Can we recognise God’s purposes for government as an instrument of justice for all being worked out through the EU institutions?
This is a busy week with summits concerning Europe’s future happening in Belgium, Spain and Germany. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has already radically reshaped the European landscape, but not in the way he intended. Instead of talk about who will be next to leave the EU, new nations like Ukraine and Moldova are now queueing to become members. In a reversal of decades old policy, Finland and Sweden this week were welcomed into NATO.
My research last year revealed a high level of ignorance and indifference among Evangelicals regarding European issues. Frankly, we don’t really know where to start. Few training courses offer insight from a Christian perspective on issues facing politicians today. Theological seminaries focus overwhelmingly on church matters, personal discipleship and missions – but not on public life. Fewer believers would be susceptible to conspiracy theories about Europe and shallow bible readings if they had more historical and theological input.
So, back to our question: do we really believe Jesus is lord of all? Then why don’t we have theology courses covering a wider range of human activities?
Moments of grace
What can we do about this?
Firstly, this year’s Summer School in European Studies will be held in Brussels (August 21-25) so we can learn first hand about the institutions shaping our daily lives – the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council. In addition to talks from Evert Van de Poll and myself, we will visit the Parlamentarium and the House of European History (within walking distance from the YWAM centre where meetings, meals and accommodation will be), and seek to discern God’s hand in human affairs, past and present.
Evert and I will talk about the moment of grace after WW2 when nations came together in forgiveness and reconciliation to begin the processs of European integration. We will also talk of a second moment of grace when the Berlin Wall fell, communism collapsed and east and west began to be reunited. The current battle for Ukraine is yet a further stage in this process. One day we may look back and recognise a third moment of grace.
Brussels also offers the chance to get to know some key historical Christian figures like Erasmus (we visit the Erasmus House in Andelecht); William Tyndale (whose bible translation so shaped the modern English language and who was martyred in Vilvoorde on the northern outskirts of Brussels); Groen van Prinsterer (who was secretary to the king in Brussels and strongly influenced the thinking of Abraham Kuyper); and Robert Schuman (whose name pops up around the city but whose story of Christian love and forgiveness remains largely unknown). We will also visit the Waterloo battlefield, where Napoleon’s attempt to dominate Europe ended, decisive in shaping Europe over the past two centuries.
The five days of lectures and field trips costs €400, including accommodation and meals. Some scholarships are available. For details, write me at email@example.com or download this brochure:
Secondly, the three-year part-time master’s degree programme we offer through ForMission College and Newman University, in Missional Leadership and European Studies, is designed to equip any engaged in public fields like education, health care, politics, journalism, business or the arts with theological and historical understanding. Since COVID, lectures and tutorials are all online and can be followed from anywhere the world now.
Next entry points to the programme are September and January. Interested? Drop me a line.
This coming week I will record six half-hour sessions on the making of Europe for a Dutch Christian television company, drawing from my master’s programme lectures. Each time I walk through the centuries like this I become more convinced that the story Jesus has been the greatest factor in shaping Europe’s past. Why not Europe’s future?
Till next week,