Theology of Work in the STEM Professions Week 1


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Dr. Fletcher Tink on Theology of Work

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Theology of Work in the STEM Professions Week 1

  1. 1. Study notes for the course.Presented by Fletcher L. Tink, Ph.DProfessor
  2. 2. Instructions:Please follow these Powerpoint notes alongwith the accompanying oral lectures that areprovided. The lectures vary from 30-45minutes each with the exception of the finalone which is 15 minutes long. However, it issupplemented with a 45 minute documentary.
  3. 3. An Introduction to “Theology of Work for theSTEM Professions”
  4. 4. Outline of Session #1Topics to be Covered1. Defining the STEM Professions: Science,Technology, Engineering, Mathematics2. Causes and Evidences of the Gap between the STEMProfessions and Christian attitudes3. Defining Terms: “Theology”4. The Fallacies of the Current Understanding of“Ministry”5. The Current Context of the Discussion6. The Need for a New Theological Paradigm
  5. 5. Introductory Definitions: “Theology”: “The study of God and Hisways”---We only know about God throughHis “mighty acts”, in other words, His“Work” in creation, in redemption and insustaining---bringing all things intoHimself. Theology does not merelyspeculate on who God is, but studies thenarrative of how God interacts and worksamong human beings. That work, in somesense, defines who God is, to humans whothemselves “work” to understand Him.
  6. 6. In other words, there is no such thing asunapplied theology!!!!
  7. 7. 1. Does STEM work matter to God? Or is it only“church work” that has value?2. Does all STEM work have intrinsic value?3. Why do we engage in the STEM professions?4. Does our professional work have a part to playin our spiritual formation?5. Does our professional STEM work have anyeternal significance?6. Is our STEM work defined differently from oneculture to another?7. Do we have an inherent attitude that our workin the STEM professions is superior to thatother professions or other jobs?
  8. 8. What do each of these wordstell us about attitudes about“Work”?Examples: Job, Occupation, Career, Living,Profession, Trade, Labor, Employment, Business.Examples of Attitudes: Drudgery, Travail, Sweat,Toil, Daily Grind, Duty, Obligation, Grunt work
  9. 9. “Hard work never killed anybody, but why take achance?” ---Edgar Bergen“I’m a friend of the workingman, I would rather behis friend than be one.” ---Clarence Darrow“Work is the curse of the drinking classes.” ---Oscar Wilde“I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look atit for hours.” --- Jerome K Jerome“People are still willing to do an honest day’s work.The trouble is they want a week’s pay for it.” ---Joey Adams
  10. 10. “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which isthe probable reason why so few engage in it.”---Henry Ford“Working gets in the way of living.” ---OmarSharif
  11. 11. Dictionary: “Physical or mental effort or activity directedtoward the production or accomplishment of something”John Stott’s definition: “Energy expended whether manual ormental or both, whether remunerated or not,”In other works, effort towards accomplishing somethingwhether paid or not.The STEM professions require both mental and physicallabor, i.e. the laboratory. And much of the effort is notcalculated in financial personal profit but in intangiblerewards.
  12. 12. “A man is not idle because he is absorbed inthought. There is a visible labor and there isan invisible labor.”Victor Hugo
  13. 13. 1. Meaning: Because it brings meaning to thatportion of a person’s life that occupies most ofhis or her waking hours. It is central rather thanperipheral. We spend far more time at ourworkplaces than we do in “Church”.2. Balance: Because it is essential for putting “work”in its proper place. Work cannot be our “god” (thecenter of one’s meaning), nor is it simply a curseas many suppose it to be.3. Freedom: Because work can be a liberation for allChristians in that every Christian lives life in twoworlds---in the world of the Church “gathered”and in the world of the Church “scattered”.
  14. 14. 4. Accessibility: Because all people are called toserve in “mission” and many of them are placedin STEM worlds where missionaries andprofessional Christians have little access.5. Preparation: Because Scripture indicates thatour “deeds” (our work) will follow us intoeternity where we will have a continuation ofwork in the new heaven and new earth. Sincework is not just an earthly activity, we prepareourselves for unimaginable creative activity inheaven.
  15. 15. 1. To earn our daily bread and provide for ournecessities.2. To keep us out of trouble, because laziness is theDevil’s playground. The yearning to create andrecreate is the antidote to laziness.3. To exercise our creative talents and our gifts, orto acquire some new capabilities.4. To make a positive difference in an institution ora community.
  16. 16. 5. To serve our neighbor with the results of ourcreative talents.6. To socialize ourselves in communities of researchand repair so that we don’t become “incestuous”,or totally self-centered7. To appropriate knowledge and insight from othersand to build relationships across communities8. To advance and enhance the reach of the Kingdomof God9. To better conditions for the poor and needy
  17. 17. 10. To experience the euphoria of new discoveries orsolutions for the practical problems and challengesof life.11. To serve God and God’s purposes in discoveringand unfolding the potential of creation.12. To grow in character and Christ-likenessSo which ones of these reasons motivate you in youraspirations within the STEM professions?Which ones of these motivate your friends in their STEMassignments?
  18. 18. “The experience of the race shows that we get ourmost important education not through books butthrough our work. We are developed by our dailytask, or else demoralized by it, as by nothingelse.” ---Anna Garlin Spencer“Work is either fun or drudgery. It depends onyour attitude. I like fun.” ---Colleen C Barrett“The secret of joy in work is contained in onework---excellence. To know how to dosomething well is to enjoy it.” ---Pearl S Buck
  19. 19. “What we do matters to us. Work may not bethe most important thing in our lives or theonly thing. We may work because we must,but we still want to love, to feel pride in, torespect ourselves for what we do and to makea difference.” ---Sara Ann Friedman
  20. 20. 1. The understanding that all seven days of the week areholy days, that the goals of Sunday are the same goals ofMonday, Tuesday, etc. Indeed worship is a seven-dayspiritual act.2. That the whole people of God, including those in theSTEM professions, are empowered for service andministry in the world (there is no division in vocationbetween lay and professional Christian workers).Functions may differ, but intent and purpose are thesame.3. That Christian discipleship training needs to beredirected towards equipping all of God’s people forfinding transcendent meaning in their assignments.
  21. 21. 4. That the dualism that maintains that“church” work is spiritual and all other workincluding the STEM professions is, berejected, thereby producing a higherpurpose in work ethics, motivation, witnessand meaning.5. That Christian training embrace moreintegrated resources intended to equip allthe people of God, not just “calledpreachers” in preparation.
  22. 22. By dividing Sunday from the rest of the week, secular fromsacred, lay from professional, we create the followingproblems:1. Compartmentalization: We are Christian in Church, butsomeone else in other contexts.2. Reductionism: We limit God and His work to “within thewalls of the Church” and fail to see God at work outside,including in the STEM professions3. Depreciation: We lose the effectiveness of the manybrilliant and capable people in the Church, by confiningtheir “service” to church tasks and responsibilities.
  23. 23. 4. Distortion: We diminish the Lordship of God in ourSTEM worlds, and so do not bring to bear our ethics,our compassion, our creativity, our calling to theworld outside. By confining “spirituality” to formalreligious exercises, we let Satan run rampant in all therest.In the words of Paul Williams, “A faulty theology ofvocation and work was a significant contributor to thesecularization of Western society. Recovery of a fullybiblical theology of vocation and work has the potential toenergize a radical new missionary movement in the worldtoday.”
  24. 24. Ironically, many historians believe that it was Christianity itself withits presuppositions about the sacredness of all, that spurredscientific research especially in the West.Indeed, many theologians would argue that Christianity is themost “materialistic” of all religions, in that the Bible teaches thereality and value of the material world.For instance, God came to earth in material form, and Christiansare to experience their eternal fate in their renewed “bodies”.God cares for the material condition of His universe and of thehumans that populate the earth. The concept of “stewardship” isGod’s affirmation of the value of the “material world”
  25. 25. Thankfully, we are being forced back to Biblical understanding of“ministry” by the following realities:1. There are not nearly enough graduates of Seminaries and BibleColleges to expand the impact of Christian faith the world.Many cultures are leapfrogging from their pre-Christianworldviews into secularized materialistic pursuits, withoutstopping at Christian premises.2 Many places in the world no longer welcome “professionalministers”. Indeed, even training centers have changed theirnomenclature from “School of World Mission” to “School ofIntercultural Studies” due to the hostility shown towards thoselabeled as missionaries. On the other hand, people of theSTEM professions are welcomed almost anywhere.
  26. 26. 3. Ministers are becoming increasingly isolated withintheir religious institutions which absorb all theirattentions and energy. Many of them do notunderstand the STEM professions and discount thevalue of their contributions to the quality of life,while appropriating their technologies.4. There is a major cultural backlash against formalreligious figures due to scandals and politicalstereotypes. The scientific world generally requiresa scrutiny and accountability rarely found in thereligious world.
  27. 27. 5. The Church is no longer the initial “point of encounter”for non-believers.6. Christian lay leaders are usually at the forefront of newChristian initiatives. Interestingly, some missionarystrategists bring their engineering skills to theirmissiological tasks.5. There is a growing hunger among STEM Christians to bea “part of the action6. Sadly, the Church, the ministerial training centers andthe traditional denominational programs, are illequipped to face the challenge of the growing number ofhighly educated STEM professionals.
  28. 28. Dennis Bakke, author of Joy at Work, offers his ownstory as a case study of how God reshaped himboth theologically and practically to redesign hisenergy company, AES, to be a transformative forcein the lives of his employees, his clients, and theircontexts. His company established power plants inover 20 nations.
  29. 29. In the course of this class, you will hearcertain “Bakke” themes repeated manytimes. These include:1. We should find “Joy at Work”2. Our work should empower those aroundus3. Failure is not necessarily final or fruitless.4. The leader serves his followers
  30. 30.  5. The leader works in teamwork and sharesdecision-making with all. More and more, the“Wikipedia” model of mutual contribution is used. 6. There must be heightened “trust” amongemployees rather than suspicion and mistrust. 7. There is a need for visionaries who think“outside of the box”. These people should bevalued rather discounted. The entrepreneurial spiritof STEM workers is conducive to this. 8. A certain amount of messiness and chaos ispermissible because people take priority overprogram and because experimentation andresearch presupposes considerable failure.
  31. 31. 9. Christian influence in the STEM professions is seenat many multi-faceted levels, not just inevangelizing or inviting people to church. Itincludes:A. Stirring an environment of freedom andhonestyB. Encouraging people to express theircreative gifts and talents in roles that areappropriateC. Offering a sense of participatory control
  32. 32. D. Finding a role for the business or theinstitution to be transformative withinthe communities and among theindividuals that it servicesE. Fostering a spirit of joyF. Nurturing true community within theprofessional field that it serves
  33. 33. 1. God want to use the STEM professions for His mission ofredeeming the world.2. The Bible is filled with stories of people who used theirSTEM talents to make a difference in their worlds.3. Most parables and examples that Jesus used to teachabout the Kingdom of God involved improbable people.4. God wants to redeem the world in all dimensions notjust those who attend church. He is also looking fortruly creative expressions that address the human needfor transcendence.
  34. 34. 5. We are all called to be agents ofreconciliation: “For God was pleased to haveall his fullness dwell in him, and through himto reconcile to himself all things, whetherthings on earth or things in heaven, by makingpeace through his blood shed on the cross”(Col. 1:19). We are all called to be agents ofreconciliation. The STEM professions are well-poised to serve this function.
  35. 35. Jesus himself did God’s work: “My food is to dothe will of Him who sent me and to finishHis work” (John 4:34).Or . . .“My Father is always at His work to this veryday, and I, too, am working.” (John 5:17)
  36. 36. Was it to . . .Reshape Society by Being Salt and Light?Reconcile People to Himself and Each Other?Usher in the Kingdom of God?Die on the Cross, offering Salvation from Sin?
  37. 37. It includes all of these tasks. God invites all of us toidentify, introduce, proclaim and celebrate themission of God (“missio dei”).Jesus invites us to be co-laborers with him in thesetasks.Everyone is called to “preach the Gospel, and ifnecessary, use words”. Competent, meaningfulengagement in the STEM professions can be a wayof “preaching the Gospel” in that it offers “goodnews” to distressed people.
  38. 38. According to the Dictionary of New Testament Theology:Greek Terms:Ergazomai (to labor, be active, work, bring about)Ergon (deed, action, achievement, work, thing, matter)Ergasia (work, practice, business)Ergates (someone who is doing something, workmanEnergeia (working, operation, action)Energeo (to work, be at work, be active, effect somethingEuergesia (kindness, a good deed, well-doing)Euergeteo (to work, benefit, show kindnesses)Energetes (benefactor)Synergos (working together with, a colleague, fellow-worker)Synergeo (to work together, cooperate, aid)
  39. 39. Problem of inadequate language:“Occupation” can mean to “occupy” or “fillspace”, or it can mean “busy-ness”, or “doingfor the sake of doing”---there is nonecessary “objective” in “occupation”“Employment” suggests work, or again, justbusy-ness, according to the whims of anemployer.“Career” and “Profession” suggest status ratherthan servanthood.
  40. 40. The term “Vocation” comes from the Latin “vocare”,“to call”, and suggests that our purposes are biggerthan just doing a task, or filling space, or busy-ness. It suggests that the God who made us (Hewas fashioning us for His pleasure, His artifact),wants us to be similarly creative. He made us withgifts, and uses families and friends to develop ourtalents, so that we may work with Him in tandemwith His creative process. This we call “ministry”[we will define this term in the third session].In other words, we are all “called” to work alongsideof God for His purposes and our fulfillment.
  41. 41. When God fashioned the world, He did so in two ways,as understood by the verbs used in Genesis 1. Hewas the ultimate “engineer”.1. “Bara” to form, fashion, create. Usually this wordrepresents the miracle of creating something out ofnothing (“ex nihilo”)A. Gen 1:1, “God created the heaven and the earth”(the creation of energy and matter)B. Gen 1:21, “God created great whales and everyliving thing” (the creation of biological life)C. Gen 1:27, “So God created man in his ownimage” (the creation of humankind)
  42. 42. However, on the other “days” of creation,specialization and diversity was produced outof what already existed. In other words,God’s work both operates in a “vacuum” andalso in the context of what already exists.God creates “ex nihilo”, “out of nothing” andout of what is. We, being made in His image,have the similar desire and capacity to createboth that which is imagined (first in the mindof God), and that which is yet to be imagined.
  43. 43. Please read the sermon-poem of JamesWeldon Johnson (1871-1938), given as aresource piece in this session, that sovividly describe one dramatic expression ofthe “Work of God” at Creation. It isentitled, “The Creation” published in 1922as a Negro Sermon.This can be found on the following address:
  44. 44.  As God found joy in his creative efforts, wetoo were intended to find joy in His creationand in the act of creating. God created us to be partners with Him instewarding His creation. Therefore our workis important in God’s Kingdom. Every believer is engaged in “sacred” work, orought to be.
  45. 45.  By seeking to understand our “calling” andfulfilling it faithfully, STEM believers findpurpose and fulfillment in life. Humankind will be held accountable for howwe steward God’s creation.
  46. 46. Feel free in insert below your questions and feedbackon what you have learned in this powerpoint:
  47. 47. This is the end of the PowerPointof Session One