Theology of Work in the STEM Professions Week 8


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Dr. Fletcher Tink on Theology of Work

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Theology of Work in the STEM Professions Week 8

  1. 1. Theology of WorkFinishing Strong
  2. 2. Whether it is a surgical procedure, a mathematicalformula, an architectural blueprint made into abuilding, a programmer’s installation, or a scientist’sdiscovery, each of these efforts can be accomplishedwith diligence, detail and excellence to the glory ofGod.Each task done well earns credibility for the next, untilinfluence and freedom allow for greater and greateropportunities to impact positively both the workplaceand beyond.This concluding session celebrates work well done andputs it in the context of glorifying God. Mother Teresahelps us with her perspective:
  3. 3. God does not judge us on “success” as the worldmeasures it, but on our faithfulness to ourcalling.When Mother Teresa was asked if she felt like shefailed when she was unable to rescue all thechildren on the streets of Calcutta, she said:“No, I have been called to be faithful. This is all Ihave been called to do.”
  4. 4. Please read the carefully transcript of the 1989Time Magazine interview with Mother Teresa.It can be found on the internet at,9171,959149,00.html1. Did she understand her vocation?2. Did she see her work as tedious?3. Did she experience joy?
  5. 5. It is so easy to start ambitiously, idealistically about how onewill enter into the world to transform it.The danger is that over time, we allow the institutionalpressures to finally conform us to their culture.We need to remind ourselves of Rom 12:1-2 (NIV): “Therefore,I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer yourbodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God---whichis your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to thepattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing ofyour mind. Then you will be able to test and approve whatGod’s will is---his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
  6. 6. “Work” in the systems of the world needs tobe anchored in a theology that engagesbody, mind and practice in humble serviceto God, fulfilling His purposes , “growingwherever we are planted.”
  7. 7. The danger is that one enters into theworkaday world with great enthusiasm to bea transformative agent, a representative ofJesus Christ but, over time, becomecompressed by the cultural or institutionalhabits and values, until no lasting legacy isleft. Yes, unfortunately the Christian attimes plays one or a variety of four inferiorparts:
  8. 8.  That of a “mole”: seeking to identify and slanderall of the sins of the institution. That of a “witness”: seeking to obsessivelycompel people to accept Christ That of a “persuader”: seeking to push peopleinto Church That of a “tentmaker”: seeking to earn enough tojustify ChurchworkThese all are beneath the calling of the Christian!
  9. 9. But the business, or the institution, itself is notimpacted or transformed or changed. Norhas there been a significant change in the“systems” that it represents.God’s calling for all Christians is more thanthese noble and good tasks. We persist untilthe end to be transformative agents to “growwherever we are planted” and to embellishthe world that God has called us to serve.
  10. 10. A fitting conclusion to this course is given in the film clipfrom “Chariots of Fire”, an Oscar-award true story aboutthe Scottish track-star and Olympic gold-medal winner of1924.The story of the two different motivations of two men toexcell is given in this documentary. Please watch this! called to be a missionary to China (where he died in1944), he recognized his extraordinary gifting in runningsprints. Despite peer jealousy, physical ailments, familypressures, and ethical challenges, he persisted to utilizehis speed to witness to the nation and the world, hissingle-minded commitment to Christ.
  11. 11. Eric Liddell: “You came to see a race today. To see someone win. Ithappened to be me. But I want you to do more than just watch arace. I want you to take part in it. I want to compare faith torunning in a race. Its hard. It requires concentration of will, energyof soul. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape -especially if youve got a bet on it. But how long does that last? Yougo home. Maybe youre dinners burnt. Maybe you havent got ajob. So who am I to say, "Believe, have faith," in the face of lifesrealities?“I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can onlypoint the way. I have no formula for winning the race. Everyoneruns in her own way, or his own way. And where does the powercome from, to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said,"Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. If with all your hearts,you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me." If you commityourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straightrace.”
  12. 12. “I believe God made me for a purpose. Godalso made me fast. And when I run, I feel Hispleasure.”Another quotation by his dad:“Compromise is a language of the devil. Run inGod’s name and let the world stand back andwonder.”
  13. 13. What is not generally known, is that Eric’s finaldays showed the same incredible integrity,transformative spirit, and love of God andothers, that impacted a secular journalist,Langdon Gilkey, confined with him in aJapanese concentration camp at the end ofWorld War II.
  14. 14. In a book entitled, Shantung Compound, journalistGilkey, recalling the intricacies of desperate lifein the camp where teenagers ran amok becauseof boredom and uncertainty, he writes of fellowprisoner Eric Liddell (he calls him by the codename of “Ridley):“The man who more than anyone brought aboutthe solution of the teen-age problem was EricRidley. It is rare indeed when a person has thegood fortune to meet a saint, but he came asclose to it as anyone I have ever known.
  15. 15. “Often in an evening of that last year I (headedfor some pleasant rendezvous with my girlfriend) would pass the game room and peerin to see what the missionaries had cookingfor the teen-agers. As often as not EricRidley would be bent over a chessboard or amodel boat, or directing some sort of squaredance---absorbed, warm, and interested,pouring all of himself into this effort tocapture the minds and imaginations of thosepenned-up youths.
  16. 16. “If anyone could have done it, he could. Atrack man, he had won the 440 in theOlympics for England in the twenties, andthen had come to China as a missionary. Incamp he was in his middle forties, lithe andspring of step and, above all, overflowingwith good humor and love of life. He wasaided by others, to be sure. But it was Eric’senthusiasm and charm that carried the daywith the whole effort.
  17. 17. “Shortly before the camp ended, he wasstricken suddenly with a brain tumor and diedthe same day. The entire camp, especially itsyouth, was stunned for days, so great was thevacuum that Eric’s death had left.”A question: When you die, what vacuum willyou leave in the places where hopelessnessand distress, competition and abuse reign?Will anything be transformed?
  18. 18. Gilkey, in a later reflection, on Eric’s influence, saysthis:“I was continually reminded of Reinhold Niebuhr’sremark that religion is not the place where theproblem of man’s egotism is automaticallysolved. Rather, it is there that the ultimate battlebetween human pride and God’s grace takesplace. Insofar as human pride may win thatbattle, religion can and does become one of theinstruments of human sin.
  19. 19. “But insofar as there the self does meet God and socan surrender to something beyond its own self-interest, religion may provide the one possibilityfor a much needed and very rare release from ourcommon self-concern.”It is in the world beyond, that Christianity finds itstruest expression when it can “surrender tosomething beyond its own self-interest”, andseek to become a transformative influence in theworld beyond the four walls of the Church.
  20. 20. Because the STEM professions offer such hope andinfluence, there is the danger that they can beself-serving at best, and perverse, at worse---aplace where human hubris reigns and Babel isrecreated again.Yet, the STEM professions more than any other cantake us into the world of discovery, of miracles, ofbeauty and utility that will either enhance humanlife or blight it. Only with a sense of accountabilitybefore God and man, will its true purpose beserved.
  21. 21. Feel free in insert below your questions andfeedback on what you have learned in thisPowerPoint:
  22. 22. This concludes the Powerpoint LectureSessions of the course. We trust that it hasbeen informative, instructive and meaningfulto your pursuit in the STEM professions asyour vocation seeks to honor God.