Any attempt to restrict God’s gifts to the so-called “spiritual” gifts imparted following our conversion to Christ ignores the breadth of Scripture’s thoughts on the subject of God’s gifts to his creation and to his people. When we observe human culture and achievement we cannot but be awestruck at the variety and diversity of God’s design, intent, and ongoing work in all people. God’s gifts to creation come in every conceivable shape, size, and kind.

When we observe human culture and achievement we cannot but be awestruck at the variety and diversity of God’s design, intent, and ongoing work in all people. @alanhirsch Click To Tweet

Aside from the gifts in and through the natural world, God has specif­ically endowed humans with a truly amazing variety of physical, artistic and intellectual abilities, intelligences, and possibilities. It was always God’s intention, and still is, that every person, together with his or her gifts and abilities, serve as an instrument of blessing for others. In this context, each person has a gift, task, place, and role to use as channels of his or her creative goodness for others (Matthew 7:11; James 1:17).

The fundamental logic behind all creational gifts is that of God’s blessing: a blessing to be received, appropriated, and passed on to others. This thought is captured in Genesis, where humans are represented as created in the image of their Creator and subsequently given the mandate to exercise godly stewardship over his creation. This is what theologians refer to as “the cultural mandate.” God’s image-bearers are literally commissioned and sent into the world to cultivate the earth, to engage in productive and creative work, to be fruitful and multiply, and in their own way contribute to human flourishing. Humans were meant to carry out God’s will for his creation and to embody his concern for the enhancement of life. In doing so, they were intended to be co-laborers with God in the ongoing work of blessing his creation.

All this creation gifting and mandate applies to all people—to Christian and non-Christian alike. The fact that God’s goodness can be experienced “incognito” in all aspects of creation is what Luther rather intriguingly called “the masks of God.” He was here referring to what the Latin Fathers call the vestigia Dei (the traces of God)—signs of God’s existence and being, embedded in creation. The “traces” are evidence of the Creator who reveals himself as the beginning and end of all the world’s paths.

Humans were meant to carry out God’s will for his creation and to embody his concern for the enhancement of life. They were intended to be co-laborers with God in the ongoing work of blessing his creation. @alanhirsch Click To Tweet

These are but masks of God in that God chooses to paradoxically both conceal as well as reveal himself—he does it, to use the words of Luther, “in, with, and under” his Creation. We see this especially in human acts of goodness, and through the various forms of human enterprise—art, science, education, family, politics, rule of law, marriage, recreation, and so on. We can thus say that since everything derives from him and may thus bear his image and trace, all creaturely Being can be experienced as an indicative utterance about God.

The point here is that all these and other various patterns and themes in life and nature are derived from the nature and purposes of God and find their way into the archetypes as strands that come together to form a yarn that in turn is woven into the very fabric of cultural and spiritual life. Therefore, all human intelligences, including 5Q, are originated and derived from the intelligence originating within God. This is also the reason why theologians have always taught that all of life, not just the church, can be viewed as the arena of the sacred … as incarnational … as sacramental.

Acknowledging God’s gifting throughout his human creation means these various human aptitudes, gifts, and capacities can be observed, categorized, and developed. In fact, this is the basis of all education. The assumption of universal gifts and abilities is the basis of all personality or aptitude instruments such as Myers-Briggs and StrengthsFinder. It’s not a stretch, therefore, to say that the various APEST types are not simply functions and callings within the church; they are dimensions that are woven in and through all of life. As strange as it seems at first, once we have the categories to “see” APEST, we can easily recognize these as aptitudes and capacities in all the domains of society.

The fact that God’s goodness can be experienced “incognito” in all aspects of creation is what Luther rather intriguingly called “the masks of God.” @alanhirsch Click To Tweet

The so-called imago Dei can be viewed using a 5Q lens to help us recognize that in some real but mysterious way APEST is derived from God himself. These are among others:

Relationality: The desire to “know and be known” reflects in some sense the inherent human desire for righteousness (right relationship), personal intimacy, and for covenantal relationship. Using APEST as a hermeneutical key we can say that this in some way reflects distinctly prophetic as well as pastoral concerns and motifs.

Agency: Humanity is given the command to rule and subdue, exercising vice-regency (under God) over the domain of earth. This kingdom agency reflects apostolic and perhaps evangelistic concerns.

Rationality: The human capacity for logic and reason has always been understood as part of the imago Dei. In relation to 5Q, it lends itself to the acquisition of wisdom associated with the concerns of the teacher and the systems awareness of the apostle.

Creativity: Our ability to reflect God’s good creation in our actions can serve all the fivefold functions equally, but might express itself more fully in the more entrepreneurial and innovative instincts of the apostolic and evangelistic.

Responsibility: This involves the inner capacity to choose between good from evil, to obey or disobey, and comes with the related ability to make right judgments and choices. This likely energizes prophetic and educative (teacher) capacities within the fivefold.

Language and communication: This is important throughout, but apostles, teachers, and shepherds are likely to be especially attentive to communication and community.

It’s important to note here that all humans have all these dimensions as part of their nature as image bearers. While these are markers of universal human nature, not all people express these in the same proportion and measure; some aspects are highlighted in some in a way that is not in others. But all have the latent potential of relationality, rationality, language, morality, agency, etc.

Alan Hirsch
Alan Hirsch founder of Forge Mission Training Network, 100 Movements, and now 5Qcollective. He is author of numerous award-winning books on movements, organization, and leadership, and teaches extensively across North America, Europe, and Australia.

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