In this post I’m hoping to walk through a real world example and the insights it gives us into the story of true craftsmanship as defined by God in the Holy Scriptures. Most of us struggle to understand things just in theory and do best when we see them applied in practice. This is not to say that the works of Yale and Walter Camp are operating under the concepts that I’m going to propose here. But what I am suggesting is that it gives insight into craftsmanship and the art of forming a new beautiful thing.
I want to place this on the workbench and study the story of the forming of Yale University’s by its original charter, and Walter Camp’s vision to forge a new sport called American Football – a variation of rugby and association football. As we observe them and seek to understand them, what questions should we be asking? Why were they created? How did they go about creating them? What was created and what need did it fill? When did they realize there was a great need for them to be created? Are these not all questions (along with others) that come into the mind of the craftsman when he is setting out to create something new?
But this will also require looking at a set of lens that can help us more clearly see craftsmanship in this story. Over the years I’ve learned to give myself fully to studying the story of God through the lens of Him being a Master Craftsman, and over time I’ve noticed that four essential themes emerge. These are critical to understanding our role as image bearers of the Master Craftsman, apprenticing to learn His ways and appreciating His workmanship. The Master Craftsman’s story unfolds like this – Revelation, Rebellion, Redemption & Restoration.
At the beginning of the story, we find the Master Craftsman creating all that we know and see, including us. Each thing created by design, and many things able to reproduce after its kind. With much joy and delight He created us as well, and gave us a role, purpose and the ability to accomplish the work for which we were created. He called us His image bearers and when He had finished His work He said it was VERY GOOD! He had made His masterpiece.
But it was at the same time as all these things were being created that there also is placed in our midst a visible representation of what rebellion would look like. And the Master Craftsman told us of the implications for choosing that temptation. And that the Master Craftsman further allowed for there to be a tempter to be present who would seek to steal, kill and destroy the works of God. This tempter awakened our flesh in such a way that it caused us to doubt and diminish the value of being made as an image bearer and see the increasing value of finding our worth in other things. That quickened a desire in us to become rogue, rebellious and choose a life apart from the Master Craftsman. Consequently, we all experienced the disorder, corruption and death associated with a life alienated from the Master Craftsman.
These first two themes which can be read about in the opening chapters of the Bible, created a radical cognitive dissonance throughout all of the Old Testament. There in the melody line we hear God’s holy and honorable kingdom and then this strange “harmony” of our contrived and broken attempts at being God and creating our own kingdoms. This cognitive dissonance also prepared the perfect stanza upon which to introduce two powerful metaphors in which the Master Craftsman would redeem his workmanship . Essential to both these metaphors was the coming of one called the Messiah. He was portrayed as a suffering servant and a triumphant king. The first metaphor was agricultural in nature, and the second was a construction oriented metaphor. Both would call to the lost image bearer to repent and believe that the Master Craftsman was restoring and making all things beautiful again through this one who entered into the world in human form bearing His image perfectly – the Messiah.
It was through these two great metaphors that the Master Craftsman authored and defined His work as completed. All that was necessary to re-establish creation’s original role, purpose so that the works of God might be powerfully displayed was now accomplished. Which brings us to the present day in which we live, this season of time in which kingdom of God has been described as “now and not yet”. But of this we can be sure, that all things will be restored and display the glory of Craftsman’s design and purposeful work. Forevermore, there will be those who will call themselves His Workmanship and He will be known as Our Master Craftsman.
Using these four themes as the “key” for which to read the “map” of the Bible becomes a powerful tool for understanding the story of God and His creation of the World that we now live in. These four themes can also be practically applied to the recorded history that we have and the modern things that are happening today in our world.
Which brings me to the present day and the most recent Super Bowl and the latest recipient of the Walter Camp award. Does this shed light on how mankind for a season in our history leaned into and sought to implement these four themes in practice. Do you find yourself asking,
- Is this a story of seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness?
- Is this a story of the Lord’s prayer being lived out because some people had believed that “yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen”?
While the story of American Football in our modern era has turned into something much different on the surface, it still seems to fit into the framework of the story of God and His creation of the World that we live in. I’m praying that God would continue to raise up people that would once again champion all of life for its original purpose. And I think we see that stated here in this excerpt from the writers of Yale’s original charter to their mother land:
wherein Youth may be instructed in the Arts & Sciences who thorough the blessing of Almighty God may be fitted for Publick employment both in Church & Civil State.
[University of Yale – Original Charter:
ACT FOR LIBERTY TO ERECT A COLLEGIATE SCHOOL, 1701]
So I’ll leave that here out on the workbench for us to continue to study and observe and ask questions that will lead us into greater understanding of craftsmanship. Here’s some links to get you started investigating these things for yourself.