Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The theology of work

What does it mean to work as a Christian? Where do we draw the line as far as the kind of work or industries we allow ourselves to work in? How can we become salt and light in our workplace when we are often deemed as fools?

A theology, according to Augustine, is supposed to nourish, strengthen, and confirm the faith of Christians. As such, we need to have a theology of work: we need to understand what work is, how does it sit in the Kingdom of God, how should we as Christians deal with it.

I have downloaded some articles and shall spend some time reading them.

Nolan, Albert. "Work, the Bible, Workers, and Theologians : Elements of a Workers' Theology." Semeia no 73 (1996): 213-20.
Abstract: What does it mean to construct a genuine theology of work? This essay discusses the elements involved in developing a theology of work that is the product of workers themselves. The usual role of the professional theologian as the expert who uses the insights of others is analyzed and critiqued. A rather different role for the theologian emerges within a process in which the experience, faith, biblical interpretations, and interests of workers are fundamental.

Roels, Shirley J. "The Christian Calling to Business Life." Theology Today 60 no 3 O (2003): 357-69.
Extract: Deepening the idea of business as a Christian calling requires understanding the nature of Christian vocation from both biblical and theological sources. By rerooting such perspectives in the central messages of Scripture about creation, sin, and renewal, the vocation of business can be more fully grasped.

Davidson, James and David C. Caddell. "Religion and the Meaning of Work." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 33 Je (1994): 135-47.
Introduction: Most studies of work focus almost exclusively on secular antecedents of "work commitment," "work involvement," and work as a "central life interest." We argue that religion also influences the way people think of work. We use data from 1,869 Protestants and Catholics to test a theory that includes six religious factors, five work conditions» and other personal attributes. Work-related factors have the most effect, followed by religion, especially religious commitment and social justice beliefs. Among personal attributes, education, family income, and gender have a significant effect on orientations toward work.

Kolden, Marc. "Work and Meaning: Some Theological Reflections." Interpretation 48 Jl (1994): 262-71.
Introduction: Because work is of central significance in our lives, it is important to ask theologically about its meaning. At its crassest, the Protestant work ethic suggests that to do work well and to amass wealth are religious duties. In reflecting on the meaning of work, one does well to take the sixteenth-century Reformers as a point of departure. Here work is associated with God the Creator, who continually creates. In work, we humans become co-workers with God and stewards of creation. By our work, we serve not only ourselves in necessary ways but also God, our neighbors, and the larger good.

Volf, Miroslav. "Human Work, Divine Spirit, and New Creation: Toward a Pneumatological Understanding of Work." Pneuma 9 Fall (1987): 173-93.
Introduction: The purpose of this article is to suggest and make plausible a pneumatological understanding of human work. One could think that with such an introductory statement, I have indicated clearly enough the subject matter to be considered and should proceed without further explanation. But this is most likely not the case. So a further word of clarification is needed. Surprisingly enough, a lack of clarity concerning the subject matter at hand—understanding work from the perspective of the Spirit—lies less in the obscure nature of the mysterious Spirit of God than in the vagueness of our concept of mundane work. Thus in order to indicate clearly the scope of the inquiry I need to interject a word about what I understand work to be.

Picture by Ricardo Marques


  1. Hey Pearlie,

    We like totally know Shirley Roels! She went to our old church and John had her for a business class at Calvin. (I hope you still want to read it :)) Let me know how your reading goes! I will be interested to hear what you have to say.

  2. Wow :) Of course I would still want to read it! I only managed to read one - Albert Nolan's - very interesting. Basically its message is that for a theology of work to be valid, it has to come from the workers.