At Work & Theology 101

Developing A Biblical Theology of Work

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Ed. Note: This post has been adapted from its original form. Read the full paper here.

Last week we began asking what is causing our culture’s crisis in calling. A central reason for this crisis is a failure to develop a thorough Biblical theology of work. We have failed to grasp the purpose for which we were created.

Genesis 1:26-28 tells us that we are created in God’s image. This passage also tells us that we are called to exercise dominion over the whole creation. This call is the Cultural Mandate.

Work, Creation, and the Fall

Another way of articulating this call is to say that we are called to creativity. Only God can make something out of nothing, but we are called to make something out of something. We are given the ability to take a tree and make a table; to take clay and make a statue; to take metal and make a musical instrument.

Dorothy Sayers once argued in her book Creed and Chaos that,

…it is more true to say that we live to work than it is true to say we work to live.

Of course, we need to work to provide for ourselves and our families. We need to make a living. But we shouldn’t miss the central point: we are created to work.

The Fall has significantly impacted our attitudes towards work. It has made answering our callings more difficult.

Resistance to doing excellent work can come from vices such as sloth, pride, and greed. Sloth makes it especially hard for us to turn on the ignition and motivate ourselves to work and finish the job.

Work, Redemption, & Restoration

The Gospel was given not only to save our souls. It was also given to restore us more and more into who we were created to be. Yet the Gospel many preach is limited to personal sin and personal redemption. Redemption is also:

  • Corporate: the Church, the Body of Christ, will be redeemed.
  • Cosmic: Redemption will lead to a redemption of all creation and the cosmos – everything (Acts 3:21).

If we emphasize that redemption works to restore everything the Fall has impacted, we would have a theology that could transform all of life.

This complete redemption includes the restoration of a new heaven and a new earth that is mentioned in Revelation 21. Interestingly, there are two Greek words for “new” that are used in the New Testament:

  • Neos, meaning “totally new.”
  • Kainos, meaning “renewed.”

In almost every passage where New Testament authors use the word “new”‘ the Greek word used is kainos. We work towards a redeemed heaven and earth possessing continuity with the ones we live in now.

Work continues from the creation through to the new heavens and new earth – minus the blood, sweat, and tears. In heaven, we will sing a “new song” (Revelation 5:9). Creativity continues.

C.S. Lewis sees our eternal state as an ongoing adventure. At the very end of The Last Battle, Lewis writes,

All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and title page. Now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever,  in which every chapter is better than the one before.

Think of the infinitely creative God coming up with infinite adventures for all eternity. It is not a stretch to anticipate human creativity being part of that “Great Adventure.”

Now that we’ve gained an overview of a more through, Biblical perspective on work, next week we’ll explore the types of callings that Scripture places upon us.

What do you think? What is your perspective on work, and how might that change into a more Biblical perspective?

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Further readings on At Work & Theology 101

  • At Work
  • Theology 101
Truth, Love & the Golden Rule

By: Russell Gehrlein

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Editor’s note: Russell Gehrlein was a special guest on the syndicated radio program The Plumb Line, hosted by Jay Rudolph, on…

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Understanding Truth at Work Through Scripture

By: Russell Gehrlein

4 minute read

Editor’s note: Russell Gehrlein was a special guest on the syndicated radio program The Plumb Line, hosted by Jay Rudolph, on…

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