Work in the Spirit 2

imgres“The purpose of a theology of work,” according to Miroslav Volf in Work in the Spirit, “is to interpret, evaluate, and facilitate the transformation of human work.”  Volf’s aim in the book is to develop a “pneumatological theology of work in an eschatological framework” in contrast to the vocational theology of work in a creational framework.

He believes “a responsible theology of work must operate with a definition of work that does not lend itself to…oppressive misuse.”  For instance, defining “work” in such a way so as to exclude “household chores” is oppressive to women and such definition is inadequate.

On the way to defining work, Volf observes “the essential characteristic of work that distinguishes it from leisure is not outer or inner coercion, but instrumentality,” that is, “an activity called ‘work’ is a means to an end that lies outside that activity itself.”  He also notes “what distinguishes pleasant work from a useful hobby is that work must be either necessary to satisfy needs other than the worker’s need for the activity itself or be not primarily done for its own sake.”

Finally, here is Volf’s definition of work around which he’ll develop a theology:

…honest, purposeful, and methodologically specified social activity whose primary goal is the creation of products or states of affairs that can satisfy the needs of working individuals or their co-creatures, or (if primarily an end in itself) activity that is necessary in order for acting individuals to satisfy their needs apart from the need for the activity itself.

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