Tim Keller, the well-respected pastor of Redeemer Prebyterian Church in New York, City, has written a book about vocation entitled Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work. I haven’t read it yet, though I’m ordering it, but from what I’ve heard and read on the preview at Amazon (click the link), it looks promising. Also, he “gets” what Luther is saying and expresses warm appreciation for the Lutheran doctrine of vocation. What intrigues me is what he says about the different emphases of Lutheran, Calvinist, Evangelical, and Mainline Protestant treatments of vocation and the Christian’s life in the world. After the jump, see what he says in an interview in Christianity Today.From Why Tim Keller Wants You to Stay in That Job You … | This Is Our City | Christianity Today:
Andy [Crouch]: What’s been missing from faith-and-work books that Every Good Endeavor was designed to address?
Tim [Keller]: When I read faith-and-work books, they tended to pass by each other. I had the sense that they were drawing on different streams of thought, maybe different biblical or historical themes. I tend to be a complexifier. I like to hold the different biblical themes in tension. I got the sense that most books on faith and work tended to isolate a certain idea. This book is trying to bring the different streams together.
What streams of thoughts have been most missing when we talk about faith and work?
It depends on who you’re talking about. It seems to me the evangelical tradition tends to talk a lot about how faith essentially spiritually helps you deal with the troubles and the stresses of work. You need help to face challenges.
Mainline churches tend to put more emphasis on social justice and basically did a critique of capitalism early on, so whenever the mainline churches or ecumenical movement did faith-and-work stuff, it was usually critiquing the market, not “how’s your heart?”
The Lutheran stream emphasizes that all work is God’s work. Worldview doesn’t matter. You make a good pair of shoes, then you’re doing God’s work, because work is God’s way of caring for creation.
The Calvinist stream was more like yes, it’s not just you are caring for creation through work, but you are shaping it. and therefore your beliefs have an impact.
When you put those four streams together, I think they’re very comprehensive. If you isolate them from each other, they can create idiosyncrasies at best and imbalances at worst.
I love that in the book you don’t just write about people in positions with a lot of authority and influence, although you do cover that. You also include people who, because of what stage of life they’re in or the shape their life has taken, don’t feel like they have a lot of power at work.
What do you have to say to people who just feel like, “Well, I’m kind of stuck in this job and there’s not a lot I can do to change the circumstances of my job right now”?
I would say the Lutheran stream and the evangelical stream [are helpful].
The evangelical stream puts the emphasis on the heart: How do you deal with frustrations? How do you deal with co-workers whom you want to strangle? How do you deal with the fact that nobody seems to see the good work you’re doing?
That gets into Ephesians 6—God sees. It’s pietistic, but in the best sense of the word. You’re Brother Lawrence, you’re practicing the presence of God. He cares whether I do a good job today. He’s watching me.
The Lutheran stream says that everyone on the earth is being fed by God. The simplest farm girl milking the cow, the truck driver bringing the milk, the grocer selling it are doing God’s work—which means there’s no such thing as menial labor, as long as the job is actually helping somebody, as long as you’re not selling internet porn or something like that. Luther gives this amazing amount of dignity to all kinds of work. Actually, I would go as far to say I don’t know that there’s a Christian way to land a plane but I do think there’s probably a Christian way to write plays. I think my faith automatically is going to affect how I write a play. I don’t think it automatically affects how I land a plane. [Keep reading.]
Do you think these different “streams” are compatible?