busseat“Is there a distinctively ‘Christian’ way to be a bus driver?”

Justin Taylor offers an insightful, varied response, asking six questions to sketch things out. Over at the Hang Together blog, Greg Forster adds another to the list.

In response to the last question — “Is there a distinctively Christian way to think about the particulars of each vocation?” — Taylor offers this:

My sense is that the more intellectual and aesthetically oriented the vocation, the more work has already been done on a distinctively Christian approach. This is, in my part, because the contrast will be more wide-ranging and apparent and because the Bible seems to have more to say directly about these areas. I’m thinking, for example, of areas like philosophy, education, and politics. (For some examples, see Alvin Plantinga’s “Advice to Christian Philosophers,” or the books in the Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition series.) The same would be true for aesthetics, as in music, fine arts, and design. It can be more difficult to see in areas oriented toward manual labor. But there is still much work that can be done in these areas. One of the problems is that intellectuals and philosophers are more inclined to know and study areas they are more interested in, and therefore other vocations become neglected in terms of analysis.

Taylor goes on to give a nod to the influence of Abraham Kuyper on such matters, and indeed, as Kuyper notes throughout Wisdom and Wonder: Common Grace in Science and Art, part of the difference in such “work being done” is due to the distinct differences in the work itself.

The basic techniques of bus driving, for example — steering, using appropriate turn signals, following your route, etc. — will naturally have a broader common consensus to build from, while the basic techniques of more “intellectual and aesthetically oriented” work will require distinctly Christian choices about basic technique. Perhaps one reason we’re more inclined to “know and study” spiritual matters in more intellectually oriented vocations is that they require more spiritual knowing and studying up front.

Now, I say “up front” because, for the Christian, manual labor is bound to drift into the subjective and the spiritual at some point, as trusty as the Big Blue Book of Bus Driver Knowledge might be for ordinary day-to-day activities.

Abraham Kuyper on Common Grace in Science & Art

Speaking specifically of the realm of science — that glorious land of the observable and measurable — Kuyper notes that the Christian scientist “cannot remain satisfied with observing, measuring, and weighing,” and must press beyond, searching constantly for a “glimmer of divine life” in the common labors of his field. In a similar way, the Christian bus driver cannot remain satisfied with simply following maps and training manuals about bus driving, but should push beyond, seeking to “discern the living God” in such work, which could involve a host of unexpected twists and turns. At some point, the Christian bus driver’s technical knowledge about bus driving will need to be paired with and empowered by that same spiritual something that the Christian philosopher is forced to begin with.

We are, of course, speaking of “a distinctively Christian way to think about the particulars of each vocation.” When it comes to the work itself, there is meaning in all of our work. Further, as Lester DeKoster and Gerard Berghoef indicate in Faithful in All God’s House: Stewardship and the Christian Life, the work of the “manual laborer” — in this case, the bus driver — comes with its own particular form of Biblical affirmation that the lofty intellectual’s does not:

The forms of work are countless, but the typical one is work with the hands. The Bible has reference to the sower, to the making of tents and of things out of clay, to tilling the fields and tending the vine. Handwork makes visible the plan in the mind, just as the deed makes visible the love in the heart. While the classic Greek mind tended to scorn work with the hands, the Bible suggests that something about it structures the soul.

Read Taylor’s full post here.

Purchase Wisdom and Wonder: Common Grace in Science and Art.

Purchase Faithful in All God’s House: Stewardship and the Christian Life.

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