Welcome, Chuck, to markdroberts.com. I’m pleased to be able to interact with you about your fine new book The Faith. In case you missed it, I put up a positive review of your book yesterday. Now, on to the dialogue.
My Question for Chuck on The Faith
Chuck, thanks for this concise and compelling summary of Christian faith and its implications for our lives. The Faith speaks to the challenges of our world with clarity and incisiveness. I am pleased to recommend it to my constituency.
I am the Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence for Laity Lodge, an organization founded by Howard E. Butt, Jr. to advance God’s renewal of individuals, families, institutions, and society. One of our core convictions is that Christians can make a major difference in the world by living out their faith at work. You mention opportunities for believers to share the Gospel in the workplace (p. 156), something we encourage as well. But we also see great potential for broader renewal if Christians would only live out their faith holistically in the context of their daily work. In fact, one of our web-based ministries encourages believers to think in terms of The High Calling of Our Daily Work (www.thehighcalling.org) We want all Christians to understand that they are called to serve the Lord, not only in church-based ministries or through their volunteer activities, but also in their daily work, whether this be in the marketplace, at school, or in the home. Given the breadth and inclusiveness of your vision in The Faith, I expect you would agree with this conviction. Would you be willing to suggest various ways one might live out the faith in the context of daily work? What difference could orthodoxy make at work?
You are Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence of a great organization, so I am particularly heartened by your very encouraging words about The Faith.
The Faith is only the latest book I’ve written. I wrote a book entitled How Now Shall We Live? in which I devoted chapters to the importance of vocation and calling, and living out our faith in the marketplace. I also wrote a book, co-authored with Jack Eckerd, entitled Why America Doesn’t Work in which I again talked about ways of living out the faith in the context of our daily lives. Dorothy Sayers in her book Creed and Chaos said what use is it for someone to spend all their time teaching theology if most of the people listening to it spend all of their life in the workplace. She was strong about this, as I’m sure you know, and absolutely right. I agree with her, and have cited her elsewhere.
The Faith is not meant to be a complete, comprehensive guide to Christianity and its living. It is merely restating the basic tenets that we all need to agree and center our faith around. But if you look at my other writings you’ll see that I’ve covered this pretty exhaustively.
I commend you for what you’re doing.
My Response to Chuck
Thanks, Chuck, for your kind words about my new ministry at Laity Lodge.
Yes, I know that one can’t put everything in every book. For those who aren’t familiar with your other writings, let me quote a passage from How Now Shall We Live?, in which you talk specifically about how Christian faith might impact the workplace.
All of this is symptomatic, however, of a more fundamental problem–which is that Americans have lost a sense of a higher purpose for work. In our materialistic culture, work is reduced to a utilitarian function: a means of attaining benefits for this world, this life–whether material gain or self-fulfillment. Work no longer has a transcendent purpose as a means of serving and loving God. No wonder, then, that many are questioning the very meaning of work. As Morrow writes, people today are asking “Is there some inherent worth in work?”
This offers Christians a rich opportunity to make the case that work is truly fulfilling only when it is firmly tied to its moral and spiritual moorings. It is time for the church to reclaim this crucial part of life, restoring a biblical understanding of work and economics. A biblical theology of work should be a frequent subject for sermons, just as it was during the Reformation, when establishing one’s vocation was considered a crucial element in discipleship. Churches should organize classes on business ethics and biblical work principles for those in the workplace. Finally, they should set up programs to help the able-bodied poor become self-sufficient instead of dependent on government welfare. (p. 392)
(This excerpt comes from the chapter called “The Work of Our Hands,” which includes a broader discussion of work and economics.)
Chuck, I guess I was hoping you might speak a bit more about how orthodoxy in particular can impact the way Christians live in the workplace. You provide a fine example of this sort of application in Chapter 7 of The Faith, which is entitled “God Above, God Beside, God Within.” In your discussion of God’s sovereignty, you write:
God’s sovereignty over all of creation cannot be denied. No wonder Abraham Kuyper, the great Dutch theologian, said, “There is not a square inch of the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all does not cry out: ‘Mine!'” And, I would add, if Christ cries out “Mine!” then the obligation of Christian people in the Church is to look at all of creation and cry out, “His!” Jesus is Lord over every aspect of life–how we spend our spare time, what we read, how we form our families, the way in which we build neighborhoods, the law, politics, science, music, medicine, and on and on. (p. 106)
The doctrine of God’s sovereignty, therefore, leads to a powerful transformation in how we think about all of life, in which our work takes up a majority of our waking hours. Though we might work for “the company” or “the boss,” in a very real sense we work for the Lord. I wonder what difference it would make if we saw our work from the perspective of God’s sovereignty over all things.
Let me cite one more example of ways orthodoxy might impact ones life at work. You affirm that orthodoxy includes a commitment to the sanctity of life (Chapter 12). You relate this to several issues: unborn human life, Christian humanism, slavery, women’s status, special-needs children, and genetic engineering. All of this is right on target. But I wonder how a profound commitment to the sanctity of all human life might also be played out in the workplace. Wouldn’t it tend to modify or minimize the class distinctions so common in corporations? Wouldn’t it call forth a new approach to personnel practices? Might it not transform the way people relate to their bosses? Or the way bosses relate to their employees?
These are some of the things I wondered about as I read The Faith, which is a strong and engaging statement of what orthodox Christianity is and why it matters. Thanks, Chuck, for writing this book, and for visiting my markdroberts.com on your blog tour.