Christianity Today: How to Eat, Play, Love—And Do Other Christian Acts
Thirty years ago, Ben Witherington III prayed for the energy to write a commentary on every book of the New Testament. This he has done, in addition to writing several other books, including a two-volume work of New Testament theology and ethics. Now, at age 60, the prolific author and Asbury Theological Seminary professor has turned his attention to activities that make up, he says, "99 percent of people's ordinary lives." The result is his latest release, The Rest of Life: Rest, Play, Eating, Studying, Sex from a Kingdom Perspective (Eerdmans). Rachel Marie Stone, author of the forthcoming Eat with Joy: Redeeming God's Gift of Food (InterVarsity), spoke with Witherington about the need for theological and ethical reflection on the everyday things of life.
Having written many scholarly volumes, why are you now turning your attention to the "ordinary" things of life?
There is very little serious theological reflection on the ordinary Christian life: the things we do every day, like working, playing, eating, or going to church. I wanted to ask, "What do these things look like in the light of the coming kingdom of God? Where did God intend all these things to go?" I wanted to somehow take a global view that would work toward the integration of all these things in the mundane life: keeping in balance work, worship, play, sex, and so forth. The aim was to fill a gap in theological reflection.? ...
... What do you want readers to take away from this book?
What we are, and what we do in life, is tremendously important to God, to the kingdom of God, and to ourselves. When we think about our Christian faith and how we spend our work week, faith should not be something that we do on Sunday, but something that shapes our worldview and how we live.
So whether we eat, play, rest, go to a concert, or conjugate the word "to love," it is all doxological, which is to say it's about giving praise to God and preparing us for the kingdom. The question we should ask about anything and everything is, Can I do this to the glory of God and the edification of others? If the answer is no, a Christian shouldn't do it. That's the ultimate ethical question.
I appreciate Ben Witherington's recent focus. I thought his recent book, Work: A Kingdom Perspective on Labor, was very helpful. I look forward to this new book. I hope his focusing on these topics will serve as legitimization for younger theologians to see this area of study as focus of study. There is still a huge gap between the worlds of theology and daily life, particularly work life.