Forget Max Weber and his Protestant work ethic, says Greg Forster. We don’t need social science to know that God cares about our work:
Nothing shows the difficulty of understanding the relationship between work and faith more than our continued insistence on framing this issue as a debate over Max Weber’s long-discredited theory of the Protestant work ethic. Weber argued that Protestants value work because they think prosperity is proof that you’re saved; as anyone who knows anything about church history can tell you, this was and is slanderous nonsense. He also argued that teaching people that God values their work created an economic system that thrives on greed and materialism; as anyone who knows economic history can tell you, this is just as preposterous. Weber’s theory has been almost universally dismissed by a century of theologians, historians, and economists.
Nonetheless, Weber’s terms and categories continue to dominate popular discussions, because his approach strictly separates “facts” from “values.” This allows secularists to think about possible cultural connections between faith and work while preserving a comfortable work/spirit dualism in their own lives. That dualism is exactly what the faith and work movement seeks to challenge. As long as Weber dominates the conversation it’s difficult to get people to understand the message.