Thursday, June 07, 2007

The worker's theology

Albert Nolan, O.P is a brother of the Vicariate General of Southern Africa. He is currently the Novice Master of the vicariate. He is a well known author with three major titles to his name, Jesus Before Christianity, God in South Africa and Jesus Today. In the 1990s, as a result of his conviction that theology must come from the grassroots level and not an academic, he started a radical church magazine called Challenge, of which he was the editor for many years.

In his article "Work, the Bible, Workers, and Theologians: Elements of a Workers' Theology" (1996), he is convinced that "a genuine theology of work will have to be a worker's theology, that is to say, a theology constructed by workers and for workers - a theological reflection of workers upon their experience of work and their experience of struggle." This is so that they can determine whether their interests are being addressed.

He feels that theologians know about it, heard about it, read about it and have talked about it, but it is not their experience. They deal with it and speculate about it secondhand. As such, he concludes that their theology of work will be of minimal interest and value to Christian workers. He continues saying that they who do not have the experience of work, no matter how well they know the Bible and the Christian tradition, they will never be able to see in God's word what the workers see in God's word.

I am not sure if I agree completely with him. To a certain extent, he may be right. But is there really a dichotomy between the work of pastors/theologians/bible scholars and the rest of us? Should there be? Don't we face the same struggles and issues? We both serve men, but ultimately we both serve God. We both face stress of deadlines, of work pressures. We both work hard, be it physically or mentally. Is there a difference?

Nolan suggested a framework for us to start thinking about the theology work: in the form of a series of questions.

1. Is work a blessing or a curse?
2. Does the Bible see work as a blessing or as curse?
3. How can work be redeemed?
4. How does the redemption of work fit into God's redemption?

What are your thoughts?

Picture by Gfree


  1. Thanks for your comment as always. Yes, take more and POST some for me and others to see :o)

  2. I enjoy my time off after tax season (December-April in the US), but it is also when my struggle with work begins. Because my job gives me a personal satisfaction and usually immediate results, I find it easier to be disciplined and find blessings in it. But the work of a mother, not so much. I find great joy in my children, but often feel hopeless and futile in my efforts. No amount of reasoning seems to take this feeling away.

    Maybe studying out a work theology would be helpful. These are good questions to ask. Just don't make me start with Proverbs 31 !!

  3. Good one ... Prov 31! That's one scary proverb to read! haha

    I don't quite see being a mom as work, as much as it has its own struggles and like you said worse pressures compared to work work :)

    I need a theology of work because I need to find peace.

  4. Yes, that struck me right away - why is he thinking that theologian's work isn't work? We all have to figure out how to get food on the table, how to survive, since we have been vanished from the garden...

  5. Exactly ... I think about the work of my pastors, my lecturers, they have as much "work" as you and I do.

  6. Maybe I already have a work theology and just don't know it. Now I can study out a Mom Theology?

    I, too, agree that a theologian is a worker. But, even if one would agree with Nolan, should anyone rely on another specifically to construct their theology? I see you are looking to the wisdom of others as you study, and most likely discerning through prayer - is that not a wiser approach?

  7. I am sure there is a theology for moms :)

    I gather you mean it is wiser to rely on one another's wisdom and prayer to construct one's theology. Nolan did bring out the fact that workers usually do not have the theological capabilities to work on their own theology and need to work with the theologians to help them form a theology but form one themselves they should.

    Thanks for your thoughts Missy and giving me more to think as I work things out :)

    God bless!