Posted by The Happy Tutor
Thanks to Gerry Gleason for pointing via email to Work in the Spirit: Toward a Theology of Work, an interview with Yale theologian, Miroslav Volf. As a Pentecostal Christian from Croatia, Volf knows about suffering, injustice, and a nation divided, about the plural and divided self, yet he believes in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the obligations -- including the obligation to embrace the neighbor who wrongs us dreadfully - that the spirit of God places upon us. I had never understood, until reading this article, how Evangelical Christianity might answer to the needs of something even beyond justice - like the loving forgetfulness of injury. Would that our Evangelicals would turn in this direction, and away from gloating over their neighbors, allegedly, Left Behind. If Calvin taught us to worship work as a vocation; Volf appreciates God did not raise His children to perish spiritually in Corporate Cubicles, like veal calves penned for slaughter, though they lick the hand the of butcher.
Volf proceeds from the insight of his graduate school m entor, Jurgen Moltmann, that Christian faith is insistently eschatological and therefore always concerned with new creation. "And the Spirit of God should determine the whole life, spiritual as well as secular, of a Christian," Volf writes. "Christian work must, therefore, be done under the inspiration of the Spirit and in the light of the new creation." If we are called to participate in the eschaton, then we must not be alienated from that world to come--for who we are in this world has some bearing on who we'll be in the next. Rather than allow for vocations that leave us miserable and dejected, we ought to look for work that honors the world to come by honoring our place in it. We have a religious duty to find work that fulfills us.
Using language he learned as a Pentecostal, Volf suggests that such work be thought of not as vocation but as a charism, or gift. According to this pneumatological or Spirit-defined theology of work, the Spirit ensures that "the results of the cumulative work of human beings have intrinsic value and gain ultimate significance, for they are related to the eschatological new creation." We are not meant to suffer in our jobs, waiting for heaven to deliver us, and we can't allow that fate for others, either. God has given us certain gifts that, if properly used, will help us flourish in the new creation, rather than just bide time until that world comes.
God has given us certain gifts.... If that does not bring you first to your knees and then to your feet, in ethical, or informed political action, what will? What is caritas but the circulation among us of that gift? And by "us," Serbs and Croats, and Evangelicals and Postmoderns, Right and Left, might mean their enemies. For "evil" is the word that tempts us from love. Those who polarize us for partisan ends, Mr. Rove, do the work of something, or someone, other than God. (I speak subject to correction by AKMA or Trevor.)