The Voice: Fall 2002

The Voice

Biblical Holism conference draws attendees from fifteen countries

September 11’s aftershock keeps showing up in unexpected places. The Biblical Holism and Agriculture Conference found that out this past summer when several people from other countries were denied visas to attend.

“We didn’t get people from Africa and Haiti, and a couple from the Philippines went through a hassle to get here,” says Dr. Ron Vos from Dordt’s agriculture department.

Nevertheless, the conference drew more than a hundred people from fifteen countries, people interested in the concept that Christ’s lordship extends over the whole creation—including agriculture.

“This is a new idea to many people,” says Vos. “There’s a yearning to learn more.”

The conference was co-sponsored by the Dordt College agriculture department and Food for the Hungry International (FHI), a Christian rural development organization that sponsors long-term programs to improve the lives of children and families around the world.

FHI is committed to a holistic ministry: sharing the gospel, sending people to work alongside those in need, facilitating emergency aid, and helping to implement sustainable development.

“We’re finding more people—both students and outside contacts—interested in being agriculturally-trained missionaries,” says Vos. But viewing the practice of agriculture as under Christ’s lordship is certainly of concern to more than missionaries, he adds.

At the three-day conference, presenters addressed such topics as “Connecting Agriculture and the Kingdom,” “Reclaiming a Biblical View of Agriculture,” and “Production Principles for Good Agriculture.”

Although Vos had hoped that more local farmers would attend, he acknowledges that timing was a problem. Dordt cannot accommodate a conference while students are on campus, and farmers are busy once students leave campus for the summer. But he was disappointed that more pastors didn’t accept the invitation to attend. He believes that the issues discussed directly concern the whole body of believers.

The presentations offered a mix of theoretical and practical insights. In fact, conferees were taken on tours of local farms to see different approaches to agriculture.

“As Christians we can’t just do what the world is doing. We have to ask what a biblically holistic view of agriculture looks like,” says Vos.

In Dordt’s agriculture program that question gets asked regularly. And although the Agriculture Stewardship Center began largely for production agriculture training, professors and students now spend much more time asking how a farm can be productive without depleting the resources God gave for generations of his people.

Vos is excited about how the Holy Spirit is at work in many evangelical Christians who are thinking about doing agriculture biblically. He says he definitely experienced the body of Christ working together with others at the conference.

And he believes that students benefited by seeing dedicated Christians wrestle with hard issues. For example, some students became excited about the growing presence of CSA—Community Supported Agriculture—farms as a way to give farmers a steady local market for their crops and non-farmers access to fresh, nutritious food.

Other have expressed strong interest in ag-missions and development work. In fact, Vos says, he’s had inquiries about whether Dordt would ever consider offering a master’s program in sustainable agriculture. Many of those interested are development missionaries who want advanced training when they are on furlough.

“These are not pie-in-the-sky notions but ideas that have feet,” he says. “The conference allows us to expose a whole group of evangelical Christians to what Dordt has to offer.” He already knows of one person at the conference whose son may well enroll because of the vision he’s seen that all areas of life are under Christ’s lordship.

Vos expects the proceedings of the conference to be published early next year by William Carey Publishing. He also has a video of the presentations available if anyone would like to borrow it.