The Bible and Culture: Take a Load Off — The Rest of Life
For some time now I have been working on a series of bite sized books on Kingdom or eschatological perspectives on mundane or ordinary life. There is one on the Kingdom itself (Imminent Domain–Eerdmans), one on worship (We Have Seen his Glory–Eerdmans), one on work (Work– Eerdmans), one on money (Jesus and Money– Brazos Press), one on spiritual formation (The Shared Christian Life– Abingdon), and finally now one on ‘the Rest of Life’–Rest, Play, Eating, Studying, Relating (including sexual relating). Each of these books are under 200 pages, and intended to promote more serious theological and ethical reflection on the things we do most of the time every single week.
What has constantly amazed me in doing this series of books is how few predecessors amongst Biblical scholars I have had in writing on several of these subjects. It’s as if we are not talking about soteriology or theology proper (the doctrine of God) or some forms of eschatology, then we must not be doing theology or ethics. It’s strange. ...
AMEN!!! (Oppps. Did I yell that outloud.)
... The irony is that this little 168 page book, like it’s predecessors, is all about eschatology, or better said, taking an eschatological look at the ordinary. The question being asked in answered in each of these books is— What difference does it make if we view these ordinary things of life in light of the already and not yet eschatological activity called the Kingdom of God? My answeer, as you might imagine, is ‘much in every way’. If we are seriously about our eschatology, both present and future, this should absolutely change the way we view all these subjects— worship viewed from the end backwards looks different, and so does work, and money, and marriage, and rest, and play, and spiritual formation etc. ...
As I read this, my mind went back to a post I did years ago with a lengthy quote from Miroslav Volf, Miroslav Volf on Theology of Work.
Given the paramount importance of work in both liberal and socialist economic and social theory, it is remarkable that in our world dominated by work a serious crisis in work had to strike before church bodies paid much attention to the problem of human work. Theologians are to blame for the former negligence. Amazingly little theological reflection has taken place in the past about an activity that takes up so much of our time. The number of pages theologians have devoted to the question of transubstantiation – which does or does not take place on Sunday – for instance, would, I suspect, far exceed the number of pages devoted to work that fills our live Monday through Saturday. My point is not to belittle the importance of correct understanding of the real Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper but to stress that a proper perspective on human work is at least as important. ...
The post excerpts a few more paragraphs but you get the picture.
There have been a few scholars who have ventured into this territory Dr. Witherington is talking about. Robert Banks and R. Paul Stevens are two who come to mind. But it really astounds me that virtually no one I talk to in the church hierarchy or in the academy has the remotest interest in championing a redress of this indifference. And yet I am thoroughly convinced that there cannot be, and there empathically will not be, any renewal in the church until large numbers of Christians come to see how the work and activities of daily life connect with God's overarching mission in the world. All the efforts to extract Christians out of the world into our evangelistic or social justice programs will have no impact.
Thank you, Dr. Witherington, for tackling these issues. May the theological tribe you spawn multiply and prosper.