How does Darrell Cosden sum up his work in A Theology of Work?
First, “theologically work should be depicted as a threefold non-hierarchical dynamic interrelationship of instrumental, relational, and ontological aspects.”
Second, “it is theologically appropriate and necessary to understand work ontologically, or, that there is an ontology of work.” And this, we know, by recognizing that work is neither merely instrumental nor merely relational, but is “itself a fundamental facet of our human and created existence and…this ontological status is derived teleologically (both protologically and eschatologically) from our essence (constitution and purpose) as humans.”
Thus, we can say, “there is more to the essence of work than its useful results for humanity, other beings, and nature.” Moreover, since “work ontologically also always has eternal value (that is, since it necessarily contributes to the current world order, and as a part of that order when transformed will too affect the resultant nature and order of the new creation,) work must be ethically evaluated in terms of its success or failure to conform to the values of the new creation….” In other words, “work is not to be judged solely according to its current practical benefits.” Finally, “when work’s instrumental and relational dimensions are placed in an eternal framework” properly, alongside its ontological dimension, “both human flourishing and existence become bound up with and a part of God’s eternal telos for his creation.”
Borrowing from Jurgen Moltmann, Darrell Cosden says “human rule as a concept necessarily implies some sort of active project; that is, it includes purposeful working” in A Theology of Work. This means, “to be in God’s image through Christ include…work.” In other words, “work is not simply an instrumental activity associated with survival or even spiritual progress.” It is “a fundamental condition of human created existence. It is ontological.
Furthermore, in the new creation, human purpose, while “transformed and freed from sin, mortality, suffering and grief,” will “still be the same human purpose that we currently experience.” Therefore, “the ontology of work is not a limited ontology in the sense that it is only an ontological reality in the present creation.” “Rather, the ontology of work is ontological because it is also a fundamental condition of being human in the new creation” (emphasis mine).
In A Theology of Work, Darrell Cosden argues, “it is not simply humanity that is unfinished and therefore needs to form its environment.” “Nature too is unfinished. As unfinished, it is likewise open to be worked upon, not just for our human purposes, but for its own purposes and flourishing.”
In his Lectures on Calvinism, Abraham Kuyper observes how, before Calvinism, the Dutch art did not take into account the common people, but “they only were considered worthy of notice who were superior to the common man, viz., the high world of Church and of the priests, of knights and princes.” After Calvinism, however, “by the light of common grace it was seen that the non-churchly life was also possessed of high importance and of an all-sided art-motive.” The “common life of man came out of its hiding-place like a new world,” signaling the “emancipation of our ordinary earthly life.”
In his Lectures on Calvinism, Abraham Kuyper sets art and its tasks in the biblical context of redemption: “if you confess that the world once was beautiful, but by the curse has become undone, and by a final catastrophe is to pass to its full state of glory, excelling even the beautiful of paradise, then art has the mystical task of reminding us in its productions of the beautiful that was lost and of anticipating its perfect coming luster.” This way, art “points out…both the still visible lines of the original plan, and what is even more, the splendid restoration by which the Supreme Artist and Master-Builder will one day renew and enhance even the beauty of His original creation.”
That is, art, not just the artist, testifies to the God of all creation.
In his Lectures on Calvinism, Abraham Kuyper argues against the view that “the only object of life was to merit heaven and to enjoy as much of the world as the Church considered to be consistent with this main end.” This view fails to recognize that “Christianity, besides its yearning for eternal salvation, has to perform on earth, by divine commission, a grand task with regard to the cosmos.”
More specifically, “life on earth were ever destined to merit the blessedness of heaven.” Thus, “Calvinism called Christendom back to the order of creation: ‘Replenish the earth, subdue it and have dominion over everything that lives upon it.’” Christian life remains a pilgrimage, to be sure. But “the Calvinist became a pilgrim, who, while on his way to our eternal home, has yet to perform on earth an important task.” What is that task? “The cosmos, in all the wealth of the kingdom of nature, was spread out before, under, and above man,” and this “entire limitless field had to be worked” (emphasis mine) so that they all may “flourish,” be it “agriculture and industry, commerce and navigation” or whatever else.
In his Lectures on Calvinism, Abraham Kuyper critiques what “Romanists taught,” that “there existed two spheres of life, the earthly or the merely human here below, and the heavenly, higher than the human as such.” In this schema, “the clergy, severing the earthly tie in celibacy, rank higher than the laity, and again, the monk who turns away from earthly possessions also and sacrifices his own will, stands, ethically considered, on a higher level than the clergy.” On top of that is “the stylite, who, mounting his pillar, severs himself from everything earthly, or by the yet more silent penitent who causes himself to be immured in his subterranean cave.”
This, Kuyper says, finds its “embodiment in the separation between sacred and secular ground” under which “everything uncountenanced and uncared for by the church is looked upon as being a lower character.”
But a Calvinist differs: “In his judgment, not only the church, but also the world belongs to God and in both has to be investigated the masterpiece of the supreme Architect and Artificer.” Rather, “looking upon it as his task to know God in all his works, he is conscious of having been called to fathom with all the energy of his intellect, things terrestrial as well as things celestial.” This, Kuyper says, is what “common grace” does.