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.”
“If creation order is completed and thus closed with pre-fall creation, then human life and cooperation with God becomes at best backward looking and negatively restorative rather than creatively an anticipation and participation in God’s new creation,” according to Darrell Cosden in A Theology of Work.
If, on the other hand, the creation is not so completed and closed, it is possible that “God has created the world in such a dynamic way that both God and his creation are genuinely open to new and human contributions.” And this, Cosden believes, is what the resurrection suggests: “through human choice and organization (work), we create these new situations and along with this we necessarily give further shape to the ontologically given order itself.” From this, one can begin to glimpse the non-instrumental — i.e., ontological — value of work: giving shape to the creation order as God himself intended for work to do.
Jurgen Moltmann suggested that “work in the Kingdom of God in some way closely relates to God’s renewing of heaven and earth,” thus giving “a transcendent meaning and value to work itself,” apart from its instrumental and relational value according to Darrell Cosden in A Theology of Work.
Cosden’s strategy in constructing his theology of work that highlights the ontological value of work, then, is “to develop the two interconnected and multifaceted doctrines of theological anthropology and a theology of nature, and to do so teleologically (building upon protological, eschatological and Christological foundations).
Theology. Ontology. Anthropology. Teleology. Protology. Eschatology. Christology.
Phew. That’s a mouthful.
What doctrines does Jurgen Moltmann appeal to for his understanding of work?
According to Darrel Cosdon in A Theology of Work, the first is the doctrine of creation because “God is a worker” and “human work can and should ‘correspond’ to the creative activity of God.”
The second is the doctrine of Sabbath because “when human work truly corresponds to God’s, that is when it is actively creative but also seasoned with Sabbath, [and then] it becomes truly meaningful.”
The third is the doctrine of “the work of redemption.” “The idea is that God is not simply the effortless creator (initial creation) but that he also is engaged in hard and painful work,” the work of redemption. This work by Jesus, a servant of God, is “wearisome work” according to Isaiah 43:24 and 53. Thus, “imitation of Christ’s servanthood should be the theological basis for work.”
In A Theology of Work, Darrell Cosden says the vocational model of work outlines the spiritual meaning of work as both “acts of personal obedience to God/God’s call, and, as outward service to others as God’s means for meeting their physical needs.” Put differently, the vocational model “emphasises particularly the importance of work’s instrumental aspect (especially with respect to human obedience / sanctification) and its relational aspect (concerning how our work can contribute toward meeting the needs of others and the broader society).”
He cites Miroslav Volf as someone who moved from protology to eschatology as the foundation of the theology of work. This “eschatalogical orientation mean[t]…work is perceived as teleologically directed and oriented forward toward the future new creation rather than backward toward the restoration of the initial creation.” As a result, work becomes a type of “eschatological mandate rather than simply a creation mandate.”