Structure and Direction

structure-direction_thumb25255b825255dIn Creation Regained, Albert Wolters explains a helpful and powerful tool for developing a vibrant Christian worldview. This is the distinction between structure and direction. Wolters, like others, conceives of the Christian worldview in terms of Creation-Fall-Redemption. When he speaks of creation, Wolters isn’t talking about the mere act of creation, where God creates all things out of nothing. By creation, he is referring to the way God created the universe to operate. It speaks to what is known as creational structures. So, for example, there is a creational structure for human relationships, designed by God and weaved into the fabric of creation. We ought to be generous, selfless, and edifying toward one another. That’s the direction relationships were meant to follow.

Notice here that God’s creational norms are different from what we normally think of as created “laws” (like gravity or eletromagnetism). Creational structures are personal norms. Impersonal laws (that is, to be clear, “laws” that pertain to impersonal things) cannot be broken except by God’s personal activity (i.e. A miracle). The ball that goes up must come down. Not so with norms. We must struggle to discover creational stuctures and then choose to follow them (for our own good).

But when Wolters introductions the notion of direction, he has in mind the ways in which God’s good creation can be used. All things that God created were good, but since the Fall they can, and will. be used either in service or the true God, or a false god. They will be used either in praise to their Creator, or in service to an idol. Structures are created and ordered by God, direction is determined by our obedience or disobedience to His intended design. Taking God’s good creation a “direction” against God’s original structure is a result of the Fall, while taking it in the direction it was designed for is a benefit of Christ’s work of redemption.

So, let’s think through this a bit, shall we? A concrete example of the distinction between structure and direction can be seen in the realm of human sexuality. As stated in a previous post on sexuality, God created sexual union to be good, pleasurable, and indeed edifying. Of course, He also established boundaries for its proper expression (within the covenantal context of marriage). In Wolter’s terms, God’s structure for sex and sexuality is good, it is designed for pleasure, intimacy, and procreation between two married people. Yet, like everything else since the Fall, this gift has been radically redirected. Our culture’s gospel of sex, and its gnostic notion of sexuality have flipped God’s design from one of radical self donation to one of selfish and sloppy hedonism.

For more on the distinction between Structure and Direction see:

Here is also a great short video on the influential power of Wolter’s book:

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Posted on January 5, 2009, in Book Reviews/Recommendations, Christian Worldview and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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