Miroslav Volf in Work in the Spirit tries to build a theology of work in light of new creation rather than one anchored in vocation. In A Theology of Work, Darrell Cosden seeks to provide “a more detailed unfolding of the implications of this eschatological realism for a theology of work.”
“Normative theological understanding of work is best construed threefold as a dynamic inter-relationship of instrumental, relational, and ontological aspects,” says Cosden.
First, work is instrumental “in the mundane sense” — “a means to continued survival” and “a means for further economic expansion and growth.” Here, “the focus is not on work, but rather its product used directly or indirectly as a way of securing more of life’s necessities or wants.” Work is instrumental “in the spiritual sense” as well — e.g., building character, meeting other’s needs, generating profits to be given to charity in order to lessen the pain of others and spreading the gospel message.
Second, work is relational when it “refers to work’s aim toward appropriate social relationship and / or to some form of human existential realization and fulfillment.” This could be considered “a sub-category of the instrumental.”
Cosden’s focus, though, is on the third — ontological — aspect of work. “God created us to be workers in nature” “not as an accident of nature but because God first is a worker and persons are created in his image.” And work is “built into the fabric of creation by God.” As such work “is a thing in itself with its own intrinsic value apart from but of course related to these [instrumental and relational] functions.”