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Chris Armstrong Just Said Something Insightful About Work

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Which is no big surprise—Dr. Armstrong, Professor of Church History at Bethel Seminary, often says insightful things.

But in the Fall 2013 issue of Bethel Magazine (if it were available online, it would be here) he pinpointed a theological missing link: that while people of faith think lots about God and Jesus the Christ and Heaven (and Hell), we have not thought much about what happens between the beginning and the end. Which also happens to be where most of us spend most of our time (that is, we’re all at various points between the beginning and the end).

Work is a key feature of what we often call “life.”

So we have Creation, Incarnation, and New Creation. But most of us are pretty fuzzy on these three key parts of the Bible narrative. And because we’re fuzzy, we super-spiritualize our faith. Faith is about the stuff we do on Sunday, at church. But darned if we knew how it’s supposed to connect with our Monday-to-Saturday life, most of which involves work. The only biblical way to get past this is to reconnect with Creation, Incarnation, and New Creation.”

(Armstrong, Chris. A Theology of Work. Bethel Magazine, Fall 2013. pp. 22-24.)

I like what Dr. Armstrong says and would encourage you to read the entire article. He draws on insights from Tim Keller’s work on work and points out, for instance, that Jesus the Christ had a first career as a contractor (building with wood and probably stone too) before he turned to the Christ business. Or this: the Christ part of his career was there all the time but latent for the first 30 years.

Allow me to adjust Dr. Armstrong’s insight with this: it’s actually our faith spokespeople who direct us toward beginning-and-end thinking. That’s where their expertise lies. You might say pastor/theologian types have (limited) authority and a free pass to talk about that stuff (especially what happens when you die). And so they do. Week after week.

But it’s up to the people living the life and doing the work to talk about what Incarnation says about, say, copywriting. Or craftsmanship. Or selling or surgery or teaching. Or digging wells (or graves). Or caring for kids or forests or the earth itself. And maybe we should look for action rather than sermons from each other, because that is how most of us talk: through the work we do.

I would go on to wager that most of us regularly draw from quite a collection of eloquent life-statements about meaning and work: both how to do it and how not to do it.


Image credit: Via Frank T. Zumbachs Mysterious World

Written by kirkistan

November 20, 2013 at 10:26 am

One Response

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  1. Good message Kirk. I will need to read the article.


    Kris Livingston

    November 20, 2013 at 10:59 pm

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