In Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller points out “so many ministers [incorrectly] assume that investors and entrepreneurs are solely out to make money without regard for advancing the common good.” If this failure to see business “as a way of making culture and of cultivating creation” continues, then ministers will fail to properly support the members of their congregation.
Then he shares an excerpt from Andy Crouch’s Culture-Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling in which Andy Crouch’s wife, a professor of physics, plays classical music in her “somewhat sterile and technological environment of a laboratory” to create “an atmosphere of creativity and beauty.” She also models to her students “both hard work and good rest rather than frantic work and fitful procrastination.” This is how she shapes the culture of her workplace.
I admire the example set by Andy Crouch’s wife.
But the use of this example as culture-making is disappointing to me.
In it, that she is a physics professor seems incidental. What she is praised for — i.e., playing beautiful music at work and modeling proper work and leisure balance among others — can be done regardless of whether she is a physics professor, a big firm lawyer, a high school teacher or what have you. Her profession as a physics professor appears to function solely as an instrument for influencing others with no inherent ability to contribute to culture making.
Instead, I wish the example said something about her contribution to the culture of scientific scholarship in general and to the culture of scientific scholarship of physics in particular that cannot be said with respect to another field — e.g., discovering the way the physical world works and thus laying the foundation for future subduing of the material world, for instance.
As it stands, the excerpt can be read to buttress, rather than refute, the commonly held, almost gnostic view that the world is just a “temporary theater for our individual salvation stories, after which we go to live disembodied lives in a different dimension,” paving the way to a type of unwarranted secular-sacred distinction, and leading many to say, “at the end of the day, only souls matter because they last.”
And that’s a view that Tim Keller himself pushes back against in his very book.