Book Review: Basic Principles of Biblical Counseling – By Larry Crabb

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letter-lLarry Crabb is continually one of my favorite Christian psychologists, and in this book he offers a basic summary and outline of what he believes to be the – as the title denotes – the basic principles which should be employed for biblical counseling.

Crabb operates off of what might be called the cognitive-behavioral approach to psychology, as seen through a Christian lens. This approach can perhaps best be summed up in Crabb’s statement that “the event does not control the feeling; the evaluation of the even controls it.” 

That is to say, events themselves do not directly result in the things that plague us, rather, it is our interpretation of those events which cause us trouble.

Crabb opens his book with a wonderfully insightful section on the basic philosophical underpinnings of his theory, such as the necessity of God in interpreting our experience and noting the failure of the rationalistic/scientific philosophy/endeavor to provide true certainty (but merely the ‘floating anchors’ of existentialism).

With this foundation set Crabb goes on to discuss the basic needs of people and how they go about meeting these needs (and in turn, how they should go about meeting them), to include that “The basic personal need of each personal being is to regard himself as a worthwhile human being” and furthermore that “In order to regard themselves as worthwhile, people need not only significance but also the security of being loved… People need that kind of love [which God offers]. We need, really need, to be loved as we are, loved at our worst. We need to regard ourselves as worthwhile. In order to do so, we must not only be significant but also be secure in the unconditional love of another person. We need relationship.”

Crabb notes that change is dependent upon the value system that is brought to a problem, and that the goal is to change the person towards Christ-likeness (and that in doing so clients must be held responsible for their actions, doing away with the more deterministic approaches of early twentieth-century psychology).

Naturally, this is an approach in which the therapist instills proper – Biblical – values onto the client, rather than merely humoring whatever values the client may already have, hence: “The initial task of the Biblical counselor is to recognize the basic personal needs of people (significance and security) and to identify the wrong thinking about how to meet those needs which has led to either sinful behavior (the problem then is guilt), or sinful feelings (resentment or anxiety).”

Crabb does not believe that this change should be brought about merely through the counselor-counselee relationship, or between the pastor and the church-member, but rather “God has designed the local church as the primary vehicle through which people are to exercise their significance-providing gifts… As long as pastors do all the work in the local church, they are robbing their people of an opportunity to meet their needs as God intended.”

Thus, Crabb’s model is one in which the church plays a significant role in working to aid those members which make it up.

As with most everything I’ve read by Crabb, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and find his insights – and overall approach – to Christian counseling to be wonderfully well-grounded both philosophically and biblically (and, indeed, psychologically).

Memorable Quotes:

– “In a sentence, my argument is this: the field of counseling needs a certain and meaningful unity. Science by itself can provide neither. It can attach greater or lesser probability to hypothesis but it can never prove a single proposition… if there really is a personal God, then there is a truth about people and their problems which can provide the necessary foundation or framework for variety in counseling technique. And basic truth apart from God cannot be known with certainty apart from revelation.”-24

– “… people must accept themselves as adequate in a truly significant role if they are to honestly regard themselves as worthwhile and so to enjoy the fulfillment of being a real person. The need to be significant can be met only by glorifying God in my life by surrendering to Him.”-61

– “Either God has failed me or He hasn’t. Either He is meeting my needs right now or He isn’t. Christianity demands that I trust God to be faithful.”-67

– “God is where the buck-passing ends. Because He is sovereign, I must either thank Him or blame Him for what happens to me.”-69

– “Personal problems begin with a wrong belief which leads to behaviors and feelings which deny us the satisfaction of our deep personal needs.”-81

– “When I am faced with a sinful pattern of thinking, and I therefore am prompted to behave sinfully, I am to die to that sinful pattern experientially just as I already am dead to it positionally. I am to actualize in my immediate experience that which God says is true: I am dead to sin. In other words, I am to identify with Christ in His death by doing with sin exactly what He did with sin.”-101

Specific Criticisms

I am unable to provide any critique of this book, which is as always not to say that the book is perfect, but merely that I haven’t advanced to the point of being able to pick out whatever flaws might be present.

John Calvin on Infant Baptism

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Wherefore, there is no difference in the internal meaning, from which the whole power and peculiar nature of the sacrament is to be estimated. The only difference which remains is in the external ceremony, which is the least part of it, the chief part consisting in the promise and the thing signified. Hence we may conclude, that everything applicable to circumcision applies also to baptism, excepting always the difference in the visible ceremony…”Institutes, Bk4, Ch16

Letter IIn the fourth book of his Institutes, Calvin begins a discussion on the church. Calvin puts forth two marks of the church “the preaching of the word and the observance of the sacraments,” and included in the sacraments is the institution of baptism.

One of the objections which had been raised against Calvin’s was that paedobaptism is not found explicit in Scripture and is therefore not valid, that it is something devised by men rather than by God.

The above quote is the heart of Calvin’s rebuttal.

Calvin bases his defense on an appeal to circumcision in the Old Testament, stating that “prior to the institution of baptism, the people of God had circumcision in its stead.” He analyzes what the two sacraments are meant to represent, what it is that is at their essence. He concludes that they have the same internal meaning, namely, that it points to the forgiveness of sin and to the mortification of the flesh; that is, they both have their foundation in the promise of regeneration.

Once it is established that the two sacraments symbolize the same inner truths, Calvin notes that the only thing then differing is the external ceremony – that is, how those truths are applied in each case. In light of this Calvin concludes that everything which pertains to circumcision should therefore also apply to baptism.

In regards to the debate concerning paedobaptism this forms the backbone of the argument for the baptism of infants. The key point is that throughout the Old Testament circumcision was used by the people of God as a sign of their first entrance into the church, professing their allegiance to God, and most importantly that the people applied this sign to not only themselves, but also to all of their children (to include infants). Hence Genesis 17:10, “This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.”

If it is objected that baptism is a sign of penitence and faith, Calvin points out that the same was true of circumcision.

Calvin’s argument goes, then, that since circumcision and baptism convey the same notions – and perform the same office – concerning the individual’s relationship with God, what applies to one applies to the other. Since circumcision applied to infants in the Old Testament, baptism must therefore include infants in the New Testament; “since the Lord, immediately after the covenant was made with Abraham, ordered it to be sealed in infants by an outward sacrament, how can it be said that Christians are not to attest it in the present day, and seal it in their children?”

Although infant baptism is not explicitly illustrated in the New Testament Calvin points out that it is implied when the Biblical writers speak of families being baptized (Acts 16:15, for instance).

This, of course, does not rule out the baptism of those who convert to the faith, for just as those who were brought into the nation of Israel in the Old Testament were circumcised upon entry, so those who enter into the new covenant of Christ are baptized upon entry (what would be popularly termed the ‘believer’s baptism‘).

He thus concludes: “Wherefore, if we would not maliciously obscure the kindness of God, let us present to him our infants, to whom he has assigned a place among his friends and family, that is, the members of the Church.”

 

The Puritans: Church and State

puritansLetter DDuring the early seventeenth century the group known as the Puritans left England and settled the area of New England, there setting up their colony. They would do this due to a combination of wishing to escape religious persecution in England and the desire to create for themselves a sanctuary where they could develop their ideas and prove to the world that their form of religion could work.

In the creation of their colony the Puritans wished to be sure that the same sort of situation were the church was dominated by the government would not occur in their colony as it had in England, however at the same time they wished to create a “city upon a hill.” In organizing and making their colony a reality the Puritans would need to have a working relation between the church and the state to give liberty to their citizens but also to ensure discipline and deter depravity.

Three authors that discuss this dynamic in various ways are Jack P. Greene in his book Pursuits of Happiness, Thomas J. Wertenbaker in The Puritan Oligarchy, and David D. Hall in his book The Faithful Shepard.

Each work discusses the topic and for the most part, each work agrees fluidly on the way that the Puritans organized their colonies and dealt with the issue of the relationship between the church and the state.

The State’s Duty to Maintain the Church

In his book Pursuits of Happiness, Jack Greene delves into the formation of the British colonies in North America and their social, cultural and economic development. In his discussions Greene spends some time addressing the creation of the Puritan colonies and the relationship they had between church and state.

Greene is quick to note the desire of the Puritans to become a model for the Christian world to form itself after and that in this desire for such a Christian model the Puritans would need a powerful church and clergy.

Furthermore, in order to create such a model the relationship between the religious and civil leaders would need to be a close knit, supportive one. The Puritan colonists desired a community of Christian love and of people of the same mind as themselves.

They desired to keep order, hierarchy, and subordination and in doing so to exercise control over the economic, moral and social conduct of the citizens; all imperative for maintaining their model Christian colony.

This was coupled with a desire to exclude and isolate those who opposed their beliefs, a justification for being highly intolerant of other religions.

In the course of reaching these ends the magistrates passed laws mandating that communities establish schools for the purpose of creating in children the right religious and social principles desired. The state thus required religious schools.

Furthermore, Puritan voting rights were based upon the classification of freemen, a classification which was given only to those with church membership. Greene even goes so far as to note that in the duties of the magistrates apart from “establishing political institutions, allocating land, making laws” and “dispensing justice” included “reinforcing the position of the clergy and churches.” It is this relationship and debates over the organization of church government, focusing much on voting rights, which would cause the Puritans much trouble later.

Not only does Greene discuss the way in which the civil aspects cooperated with the religious, but the religious also worked towards helping the civil government. The Puritans accepted a social hierarchy as well as the authority of their magistrates, authority which was enhanced by the cooperation of the clerical leaders.

The religious leaders believed that it was their responsibility to create and maintain a “political society which would have as its primary emphasis the protection of the rights of the churches.”

The Puritans believed the community was bound in a covenant with God. This visible group of secular and clerical leaders, which they often brought with them from England, gave authority to the government as well as the church through their cooperation.

Finally Greene notes the strong power of family in the Puritan community. According to Green these strong, extended, patriarchal families played a part in helping to keep the social control and in guaranteeing peace. This power was so much that it leaned towards oligarchy as a few wealthy families dominated office, families that had previously grown from the older powers.

All in all Greene views the Puritan relations between church and state as a cooperative one. The church helped the state and in turn the state helped the church, thus giving the ministers considerable political power. To top it off the community as a whole was dominated by powerful, near oligarchic, families.

Church & State – Mutually Supportive Enforcers

In his book The Puritan Oligarchy Thomas Wertenbaker approaches the relationship between the church and the state from multiple angles and for the most part, Wertenbaker and Greene agree on how this relationship was conducted. He notes the close relationship between the civil and the religious and expounds upon the degree to which they worked as one.

Beginning with the founding, Wertenbaker notes that the Puritans intentionally tied the government with the church in the colonies due to their failure to gain support in England before their migration.

In this the ministers had a powerful influence in the community; a power that was not only religious, moral or intellectual, but also political.

The amount of power that the minister held is made apparent in the voting laws. As Greene had also pointed out, in order to vote a person had to be a freeholder, or freeman, and in order to be a freeholder a person had to be a member of the church.

The rationale for this was that only people of God could elect godly leaders.

The minister’s power came in that he had the ability to excommunicate the members of the church. This ability would thereby indirectly give the minister the power to decide who voted and who didn’t, a considerable political tool.

To further tie the state and the church Wertenbaker describes how it was the congregation that elected the minister but it was the town as a whole that paid the minister’s salary. This meant that even those not a member of the church still paid for the minister (although at least for the first generation there were few inhabitants who weren’t members of the church).

Wertenbaker describes the Puritans as a whole creating a mutual ruling relationship between the church and the state. In support of this he quotes the Puritan Urian Oakes as declaring “the commonwealth and holiness in the churches inseparable” and that “to divide what God hath conjoined… is folly in its exaltation;” that God’s interests are set in both the institutions.

The church government was there to strengthen the civil government rather than to oppose it and the civil government was there to support the faith and suppress all others.

Both church law and civil law where to be based upon the Bible, thus it was also the duty of the magistrates to punish such things as blasphemy, heresy and idolatry. The magistrates were thereby in effect responsible for punishing sins.

Finally, Wertenbaker makes it apparent that for all intents and purposes, most of the people who ran the state also ran the church and vise-versa.

Since in the beginning almost everybody was in the church it was not unusual for the congregation and the political body to be one and the same, even though on paper the two where separate institutions. The freemen assembled in a meeting-house that the community was built around and as Wertenbaker notes they discussed both religious and civil affairs; as Wertenbaker puts it “it (the council) could at one moment be considering the matter for the common fence around a grain field and the next, if it so chose, convert itself into the congregation without leaving the meeting room.”

Wertenbaker builds a picture of the Puritan community as one were the church and state enter mutually supportive roles. Each was there to strengthen the other and to serve God. They were meant to work together and as Wertenbaker points out this was quite easy as the same people that made up the civil government also made up the congregation.

Church & State in Conflict

As with Greene and Wertenbaker, David Hall in his book The Faithful Shepard also describes the close relationship between the Church and State in Puritan New England.

Unlike Greene and Wertenbaker, Hall focuses more on the struggles concerning the minister’s role in the society and the changes in that role throughout the Puritan period, primarily changes concerning the appointing of the minister and voting rights. Hall’s goal is to follow the evolution of the minister’s status, power and conflicts from the founding through the declension.

He takes a slightly different stance on the church and state relations.

winthrop.jpegHall begins his chapter on Church and State by describing John Winthrop telling his shipmates that “a covenanted people must build their form of civil government upon the basis of the word.”

This is quite similar to Wertenbaker’s statement that the Puritans believed both civil and church law were to be based upon the Bible. However, unlike Greene or Wertenbaker, Hall goes on to note that with the creation of a godly state in mind, a “’Theocracy’ in which the civil government served the will of God” was the plan for the Puritans.

The Puritan ministers at a point began to speak in terms of “soldiers” and how these soldiers should act in Christ’s stead to rule the kingdom.

The magistrates, according Puritan Thomas Cartwright, were there to defend the church.

According to Cartwright “the civil magistrates must remember to subject themselves unto the Church, to submit their scepters, to throw down their crowns before the Church, yea, as the prophet teacheth, to lick the dust off the feet of the Church.”

Despite this goal of a sort of theocracy and the harsh subjection of state to church that Cartwright promotes, Hall describes a relationship between church and state that is quite adversarial.

Hall points out the church membership requirement in voting and how the Puritans believed this was vital in order for the state to be a tool for enforcing moral law. The state and church were also close in that the ministers had power and used it such as in cases of warfare where the minister had to be consulted beforehand. Even further the colonies extended the protection of the state to ministers.

Hall describes them as believing that the church and state should help and strengthen one another, allowing the ministers to intervene in state affairs, have direct consultations with the government and to attend sessions of the General Court, even when it met as a judicial body. This meeting of the ministers with the court went so far as to even allow the ministers in at least one case to listen to debate, give advice and make motions on the court floor. The meeting days would even be scheduled on lecture days so that the most ministers available could attend.

This shows great cooperation between the church and state, yet even with all of these factors to create a close relationship between the Church and State they were still often at odds with each other.

Puritan John Cotton insisted that the two institutions be separate but equal, both seeking to promote the good of men and God’s glory. He believed that both religious power in state hands and civil power in church hands were wrong.

Ministers turned to politics when attempting to turn theory into practice and found politicking useful for maintaining social order, the state fought against this.

In cases where this happened the social authority of the minister could be degraded. Furthermore, offices could not be held in both institutions such as in the case of Increase Nowell, an elder of the church who was told that he could not be both an elder and the secretary of the Massachusetts government. To make this matter more fragile there was the conflict over voting rights, and furthermore over whom it was that could ordain pastors, God or the people. The Puritans believed the post to be an “ordinance of God” but also needed to elect the individual, thus they sought ways around this.

With these complicated relations between the church and the state in New England a sort of compromise was reached in the time of the declension, though not to the original desire of either side. Hall notes how around the 1640s, the ministers joined with John Winthrop and his magistrates in order to fight against the “purists to their left and the worldly to their right” during the declension.

This alliance between church and state is still apparent, though it wasn’t the norm but rather a reaction to troubled times.

Hall shows just how complicated the relationship between the church and the state were in Puritan New England.

He shows them as being two institutions that weren’t meant to be crossed but that often worked together. He also shows them as being adversarial and working against one another at times despite their closeness, fighting to keep themselves separate and from becoming as they had in England, one institution dominating the other.

Putting It All Together

On the whole the three texts discussed all work together to create an agreeable theory. The three all recognize the requirement of church membership for the allowance of voting rights and the power of the ministers in regard to this, but also the strife that it caused between the church and the state. All three also agree on the close relationship between the church and the state and the power that both the ministers and the magistrates held.

They all note that the two worked together, or at least that the ministers had a strong hand in the affairs of the civil government and they also all recognize the state carrying out the lack of toleration of those not of the faith, persecuting for the church and its religious mandates such as those against blasphemy.

Whether the church and state are described as “separate but equal” or as a group of people fulfilling two roles, the mutually supportive relationship is the same.

Finally they all also agree on the power of the family, Wertenbaker even to the point of calling the colonies a “Puritan Oligarchy.” In these ways the three texts complement each other, each offering a good picture of the Puritan life. Each offers a slightly different point of view, whether the slight overview offered in Pursuits of Happiness, the focus on the founding, family, and decay in The Puritan Oligarchy, or the analysis of the minister’s changing duties and roles throughout the Puritan period in The Faithful Shepard.

Though there are no major contradictions there are some grievances between the conclusions reached by the authors.

Where Greene points to a hierarchy Wertenbaker argues against one, especially within the church government of the colony. Greene states that the Puritans wished to maintain a hierarchy and to subordinate those that disagreed with them. Contrary to this Wertenbaker notes that, especially in the church, the Puritans believed that there should be no hierarchy as it “had no sanction in the Bible.”

Hall also differs from both Greene and Wertenbaker in his depiction of the negative relations between the civil and the religious aspects of the Puritan society.

While all three describe the closeness that the church and state felt and the openness of the civil government and magistrates to the opinions and desires of the ministers, Hall more-so than Greene or Wertenbaker describes the disdain of the magistrates for the ministers meddling in civil affairs, especially towards holding office in both church and civil government. Hall also more than the others describes a subordinate position of the state to the church through the eyes of Thomas Cartwright.

The differing conclusions reached by each author show us one primary fact about the Puritans, the Puritans were not monolithic. If we read the writings of individual Puritans we find that some desired a more hierarchical system while others believed this unbiblical. We’ll find that many desired a close relationship between the church and the state while others saw this as problematic.

We will also find that the views of the Puritans as a group changed over time. During the first generation the Puritans as a group – while they still had their differences – were fairly homogenous. This is why it can be noted that early on to only allow church members to vote still resulted in most everybody being able to vote.

Yet as time passed the first generation gave birth to a second generation and a third. These latter generations were tied less to the ideals of their parents and grandparents. This resulted in an inevitable tension between those who were ostracized by the Puritan system, with tensions growing between the groups on the matter of how closely the church should identify with the state (and vis versa).

The Puritans had a close relationship between church and state, one that could be at times interpreted as a theocracy but was in fact much more complicated and filled with much more tension. It was a system in which the church attempted to guide the formation of the society through its influence in the state, but which ultimately could not be sustained as the society grew and became more diverse.

Book Review: Hope When You’re Hurting – By Larry Crabb & Dan Allender

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Letter IIn the realm of counseling books, Dr. Larry Crabb is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine. This is the second book which I’ve read by him. I picked it up one evening planning on doing some light reading before bed and ended reading the book through in one sitting, simply because I didn’t want to put it down.

As the cover text notes, the book is organized into four parts, each dealing with a one of a sequence of questions that hurting people ask: What’s wrong? Who can help? What will the helper do? What can I hope for if I do seek help?

In going through these questions Dr. Crabb doesn’t simply address one technique, but rather develops a narrative which discusses a handful of approaches present, each addressing an apparent cause of the pain, to include: spiritual warfare, psychological dysfunction, sin, biochemical disorders, undisciplined living, and deficient spirituality. Dr. Crabb notes the strengths and weaknesses of the various approaches while also offering his own insights – it is these insights which will help the individual dealing with pain, while the overall discussion on the approaches will be helpful both to the one in pain as well as the potential counselor looking for which avenue to deal with their patients.

Dr. Crabb’s position might best be summed up in the notion that: “If some problems have no adequate explanations, and never will have, then we must come to grips with confusion and learn to live in mystery… We want to reduce mystery to a usable system. Mystery requires us to connect with someone, to trust. System allows us to follow a plan, to control… Unexplained problems put us out of control. As a result, the urge to explain becomes stronger than the urge to connect, so strong that it may be getting in the way of developing deeper levels of trust… I worry that, once we have a system, we’re in danger of placing more faith in a manageable plan with predictable results than in God, who is neither manageable nor predictable…

“The philosophy of individualism, in which noting is more important than the individual’s needs and rights, runs today’s world, at least in the West. God’s deepest passion, however, seems directed not towards individuals (though he numbers the hairs on our heads) but towards individuals-in-community… Individual fulfillment is never the point. It is the by-product of yielding oneself to the greater good of a community, first the community of the triune God(who is served by receiving glory) and then the community of God’s people…”

This is perhaps the key message to those who are hurting. The world is fallen; our pain will not fully cease in this life, and often we will not know the cause; it is this mystery in the case which drives us to trust in God and connect with fellow Christians in community and worship and pursuit of that God. When we simply seek an explanation or a cure then “we approach God, not to know him, but to secure his cooperation in solving our problems.”(p35)

Under-girding this discussion of pain is a discussion of which approach we should be searching for, which is the best to suit or needs, and what part the church should play in all of this. A main thesis of Crabb’s is that ideally, most counseling needs can be met “through the local church, through communities of God’s people relating meaningfully and healingly to one another as together they search for God.” (p10)

Or more fully:

“Those two realities – a hunger for connection with God and a resolve to satisfy that hunger elsewhere – lie at the very center of our souls. But we have taken those two realities and made things too complicated. We have gone beyond the idea of an image-bearing but fallen soul hungry for God but resistant to him and become enamored with the idea of a psychological self capable of being damaged, abandoned, manipulated, and unwisely defensive on it’s own behalf.

We no longer call the soul of a person to pursue God and forsake idolatry: instead, we now work to develop a healthier self… But if the internal roots of our personal problems lie simply in our unaroused hunger for God and our unadmitted arrogance that says we don’t need him, if dealing with life’s problems require that we face these two basic realities of the soul rather than all the complex dynamics of the self, then, I suggest, the community of God’s people is back in the healing business.”(p176)

This is Crabb’s underlying thesis, that of a need for a community centered and God centered drive for dealing with individuals within the Christian context, that is, not simply as individuals isolation but as children of God created for community and worship. On the one hand the ideas presented by Crabb here are meant to be of use to those going through pain themselves, and on the other hand they are meant to help instruct those working with people who are going through pain.

Memorable Quotes:

This is one of those texts which is absolutely littered with great quotes, here a few of them,

-“Speaking the truth in love does not give anyone license to share whatever he happens to think or feel.”(p14)

-“The principle is worth more thought: the problems we face, even big ones, aren’t so bad. It’s the unexplained ones that scare us to death. We’re not nearly so bothered by the size of a problem as we are by its degree of mystery. It’s not knowing what’s wrong that arouses the worst terror. Mystery scares us because it puts us out of control and leaves us with an option we don’t naturally like – to trust someone besides ourselves… Once we know what’s wrong, we feel back in control… Knowledge is the key. Explanation becomes our hope. We don’t need a person if we have a plan. Trust becomes unnecessary, a nice concept to talk about in church but one we don’t have to practice in real life.”(p22)

-“People can be divided into two groups: those who think that life works (or could work if certain principles were followed), and those who know it doesn’t.”(p23)

-“It is crucial to accept the limits of help… More often than not, the limit is due to the tension that we are made for heaven and all help is time bound and incomplete.” (p86)

-“Idolatry is not the by-product of forgetting God; it is the means by which we forget him.”(p96)

-“Our worst human relationship will determine the quality of our relationship with God, says John. In human relationships we see most clearly our deepest struggles with God.”(p99)

-“The real killer of the self and the real cause of all addictions is shame… Shame causes us to see our identity as flawed rather than seeing ourselves as having flaws.”(p107)

-“Love honors the other with a heart to do her good; it is not the avoidance of conflict, nor compliant servitude. Love is not making someone feel good; it is not avoiding conflict; it is not merely getting along. Love is a commitment to see Christ grow in the heart of the other by offering a strength that disrupts patterns of idolatry and a tenderness that invites reconciliation and hope. Love will be tender and long-suffering; it will also be bold and wounding. If it involves one without the other, then it is an offer of something less than God’s character. We are told that God is a God of mercy and strength (Psalm 62:11). To love other is to give them a taste of the full character of God.”(p113)

-“The soul will not be healed without relationship.”(p117)

-“When we understand who we are and what goes wrong in our lives, it becomes clear that we are not damaged things that need repair; we are rather disconnected persons that must depend on the gospel to reestablish connection.”(p170)

Specific Criticisms

I really can’t say I have any criticisms of this book, it is an excellent, insightful and moving read, and I suggest it to anybody whether you’re dealing with pain or not (though really, I’m not sure if anybody is ever not dealing with pain of some form or another).

The Missional Church of the Missional God – Coming Into a Fuller Understanding of Christian Missions

Missions.pngletter-fFor many Christians in the church today the term “missions” brings to mind fuzzy images of Caucasian Christians entering into jungles to give the Gospel to the unreached tribal peoples who live therein.

Mission isn’t something that the majority of Christians see themselves as being involved in apart from the occasional donation they might give to their church’s mission fund; instead, they see mission as the vocation of the few specially called individuals who dedicated their lives to taking the Gospel to unreached peoples. This is an unfortunate view to have of missions and a view that the church needs to work to correct.

If the church is to correct this it must first properly define mission and convey an understanding of its relation to the Gospel, afterwhich it can analyze how mission has been approached throughout history whether for good or bad, learning from those lessons and bringing into the church a more holistic missional theology such that all those who locate themselves within the body of Christ will understand their role in the mission of God.

A Biblical, Gospel-Centered Foundation of Mission

Along with the misconception that mission is a “West to the rest” endeavor for the specially called, there is the further misconception that mission – and indeed evangelism as a whole – is something that was started in the New Testament, when in fact “the source of world missionary activity is rooted in God’s call to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament.”

If the church is to gain a Biblically based and Gospel-centered theology and vision of mission, it must first understand what exactly mission is and where it began; this requires the Christian look to the Old Testament.

The concept of mission in the Old Testament goes as far back as Genesis. In Genesis God connects his blessing of Abram and of making Abram into a great nation with the good of the entire world. Abram is blessed by God “so that you will be a blessing” and “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” This theme is made clear again in Exodus 7:5 where it is stated that one goal of God’s actions in the exodus narrative was that “the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” A key point of the Exodus then is that “in his mighty acts of salvation for his own people God makes himself known to the other nations.”

God’s actions towards His people are never for His people alone but also for the rest of the world, for “when God graciously saves his people, it is not only for their own sake; it is also for the sake of others.”

This key theme of the Old Testament – that God’s acts of salvation are God’s means of making himself known to the nations – is central for understanding mission because it both provides the Biblical foundation for mission as well as its Gospel center.

Firstly, this theme highlights the fact that mission is primarily God’s doing, that mission is primarily derived from God. As inspired by Karl Barth and articulated by David Bosch, this theme finds its outworking in the idea of the missio Dei, of God the Father sending the Son and the Holy Spirit, and all three sending the church; God is thus recognized as a missionary God, where the church is an instrument for that mission.

Indeed, the church is essentially missional and “mission is essentially ecclesial.” The result of this is a focus on the ecclesial nature of missions and the missional nature of the church, the two go hand in hand, with God’s hand being the one wielding them. They go hand in hand because the church is the visible incarnation of the kingdom of God on earth; He makes himself known not just for its own sake, but to expand His kingdom.

The church in this context is not merely a church building or the group of people that meet in that building, but is the entire body of Christ, the kingdom of God, all professing Christians.

Mission should therefore be seen primarily as the mission of the Triune God working through the instrument of his people – the church – to the end of blessing the nations and making Himself known to them via His acts of salvation to His people for the purpose of expanding his kingdom.

The greatest of these missional acts of salvation came in the form of Christ’s death on the cross, and it is through this that the missio Dei builds upon its Old Testament foundations to incorporate the message of the Gospel.

The Gospel is central to mission and mission is central to the Gospel, with the Gospel being the supreme message and means of God making Himself known to and blessing the world. God works through his people the church to achieve His missional ends and does so in two methods, via centripetal and centrifugal mission; that is, by the church drawing others into the fellowship through the witness of their lives and by actively expanding the church, both which serve to make the church into a “light for the nations,” or as Timothy Tennent puts it: “Missionaries are both bearers of a message and embodiments of that message.” The first of these is the practice of what Francis Schaeffer calls “an observable love” before “a watching world.”

By living a life of love toward God and neighbor, the church draws outsiders towards it. But the church is not merely meant to attract others to it, it is also meant to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” In breaking down this command it can be seen that it involves an outward thrust of ‘going’, that this going involves making disciples – a task that necessarily entails the spread of the Gospel message – and baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit, which is an act that necessarily involves the expansion of the church.

The way this works itself out practically for missions today must be analyzed, but it is helpful to first look at the ways which mission has been approached throughout Christian history and glean what lessons can be learned from those examples.

Mission Throughout History

Christian mission has been approached in a variety of ways by a variety of groups over the history of the faith and these approaches have had positive and negative qualities. In the earliest church mission based on the attractiveness of the local congregation and the individual Christian community. These were a group of people who differed from their culture in attractive ways such that “the exemplary moral lives of ordinary Christians stood out against the rampant immorality of Rome.”

After a few hundred years Christianity found itself accepted by the Roman empire, eventually even becoming the official religion of the empire, thereby ushering the long era known as Christendom.

As the church gained the power which came with being the official religion of the empire its focus shifted from one of missions to one of maintaining power; as the official cultural religion the need of standing out against the culture and of spreading the Gospel was seemingly lost.

In spite of this loss, Christendom did help to shape the cultural life of Europe for the better and when the monastic movements came about they worked to spread the Gospel message to the ‘barbarian’ people and also brought back some of the godly living which had attracted earlier cultures to the faith; their missional function was therefore not entirely intentional, but the way they lived their life made them attractive to those around them.

Around this same time but further to the East the Eastern Orthodox church took a different approach to missions, an approach which focused almost exclusively on the literal expansion of the church.

Because of this strong church-centeredness the Orthodox church came to equate the expansion of the church with the expansion of the kingdom, thus their missions were almost solely ecclesial; missions could not occur outside the established institutional church.

As Europe began to expand around the world Christendom entered into an age of colonialism. During this period “missions flowed along colonial lines.”

The primary focus was the Christianizing of native peoples (even if by force), and following the Reformation this Christianizing took on a highly individualistic aspect of focusing on the individual faith of each believer over and above institution of the church, specifically on the salvation of souls. On the whole, this created the sort of cross-cultural missions which focused on taking Christianity from the West to the rest of the world.

After hundreds of years of being tied to the ruling groups of Europe, Christianity became almost synonymous with European culture and with European political power. The result of this was a missionary endeavor which sought to transplant European culture onto other parts of the world, to “remake the world in their own image.”

As this era continued the Christian attitude toward missions took a number of different turns as more denominations and theological approaches came onto the scene. Missionary agencies came into being that would attempt to spread the Gospel around the world by preaching the word as well as by working to provide poverty relief and aid with other physical needs. This focus on physical needs grew in certain parts of the church and came to be known as the Social Gospel.

Mission Today

There are many lessons that can be learned from the history of Christian mission – some good and some bad – which can be used to craft a better approach towards mission today. These lessons should not be taken on their own, but should be woven into the Biblically grounded and Gospel-centered understanding of the missio Dei of the Triune God.

The missio Dei involves the Triune God using His people – the church – as His instrument for bringing the world into a knowledge of Himself. This is accomplished both through the centripetal and centrifugal action of God through His church, and it is through this lens that mission today must be undertaken.

First, the Triune God accomplishes His mission through the centripetal action of His church as its members live lives that are attractive to those outside.

This was a strong-point of mission in the early church and of mission in the monastic tradition; indeed, this is the mark of the Christian. This centripetal action is not merely passive, of refraining from doing certain things, but it is also active, of living out the love of God and of neighbor. It is this active aspect of mission that gave strength to the Social Gospel movement; part of the attractiveness of the Christian life is that the  work Christians do for societal transformation by helping those who are in need.

This centripetal work therefore consists of living lives in obedience to the will of God, to include both refraining from sin as well as actively working to help the poor and needy.

Second, the Triune God accomplishes His mission through the centrifugal action of His church as its members actively go out and spread the Gospel of the kingdom – and thereby the church – around the world.

Merely avoiding sin and helping the needy is not sufficient for missions, the Gospel and the church should also be present, for it is Gospel that ultimately empowers the Christian to live the life described above and it is within the context of the kingdom – the church – that they are to live it, drawing others into that community.

Christians are called to spread the Gospel of the kingdom, a key part of which is the salvation of souls as highlighted by the Reformation theologians.

This salvation is not an individualistic salvation, but it is salvation into a community, into the kingdom of God, into the church (the body of Christ). With this in mind the Christian cannot focus on getting non-believers to accept Christ without also bringing them into the baptism of the institutional church family, for it is in this family that they are discipled and in which they grow in the faith. The importance of this is twofold.

First, mission is not merely the calling of a handful of exceptional people within the body of Christ, but it is instead the calling of every believer as members of the church. All Christians are called to live missional lives, to live centripetal lives that are are in keeping with God’s commands and which in turn will prove attractive to the outsider.

Second, mission should not be divorced from the church as an institution. It is this ecclesial church-planting focus that the Orthodox so rightly emphasized, for missions and the church are vitally linked. This is not to say that a group such as a missionary agency cannot spread the gospel, but it is not as effective as it could be if it were wedded with the church.

This salvation is furthermore a salvation from one kingdom and into another, which further highlights the reality of the spiritual. While part of missions is working to help the needy materially, this material aspect must be balanced with the spiritual aspect of the kingdom, of the salvation of souls along with the defeat of the kingdom of Satan. One failing of many of the mission endeavors throughout Christian history has been a downplaying of this spiritual reality. Even when they did manage to focus on the salvation of the soul they would often neglect the spiritual warfare.

It is of note here that little has been said of contextualization or of cross-cultural, international mission. The global church has arisen and missions can no longer be seen as a question of how those in post-Christendom Western society can reach the rest of the world. 

The message of Christ is spread throughout the world and in turn mission and evangelism are becoming more synonymous.

Mission is a matter of leading lives representative of the Gospel, of spreading the church of the Triune God, and of teaching the Gospel which empowers those lives, which results in the spread of that church, and which results in the salvation of souls in the eschaton. Each group must decide how to incarnate the Gospel into the culture into which they are speaking regardless of whether they are ministering in China, Egypt, Russia, Mexico, Germany, or the United States.

Each mission field has its own cultural barriers and its own contexts that must be taken into account, and Christians cannot suppose that it is merely a matter of accommodating Western Christianity into some other context; to do so is to engage in ethnocentrism. Rather, each group must analyze their context and discern how best to engage the culture in which they minister. When this results in a Western Christian ministering to another culture, special care must be taken while teaching the doctrines of the Gospel and spreading the institutional aspect of the church that the Christian does not attempt to take the stance of superiority, but that they work as servants to the people they minister to, helping them to apply the truths of the Scripture to their native culture.

Whether interculturally or cross-culturally mission is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. As Stan Guthrie comments “There is no one way to ‘do’ missions in the local church, though there are many wrong ways.” It is up to each individual and each missional church body to discern how to apply the gospel to their own culture or to the culture of another, and when applying it to the culture of another they must always seek to do so in servant-hood to those they are ministering.

 

“Before a watching world an observable love in the midst of difference will show a difference between Christians’ differences and other men’s differences. The world may not understand what the Christian’s are disagreeing about, but they will very quickly understand the difference of our differences from the world’s differences if they see us having our differences in an open and observable love on a practical level.”–Francis SchaefferThe Mark of the Christian

Shame & Abuse in the Christian Home

Shameletter-given the fact of living in a fallen world there are many unpleasant things people have to deal with, things which cause varying types of pain. Things which must be confronted.

Within the Christian church, one such cause of pain which does not get the attention it needs is the abuse of women within the Christian home.

It is said that in the early eighties churches did not even realize that there was wife abuse within the Christian home; over thirty years later the church still seems to be struggling to bring this issue into the light and there is still the vast need for the church to realize the prevalence and severity of the abuse that occurs within its midst. It is a silence that needs to be broken, both from the side of the individual being abused and from the side of the church’s confrontation of the issue.

This silence is difficult to break, especially for the individual who lives within the midst of this abuse, because “for most couples, religious or not, violence is a strongly guarded secret.” If the church is to minister to those suffering from abuse within the Christian home, it is imperative that those in the church become familiar with what it is that keeps the abused silent in their suffering.

One of the key factors which keeps the abused wife silent is the shame that she struggles with, a shame which is further complicated by teachings that women receive in many churches. By examining these shame dynamics surrounding the abused wife – both the shame that she feels from the abuse and the confused messages that she receives from the church – church leaders can begin to understand and minister to these women. As has been noted by Catherine Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark, the “shame and humiliation in which she [the abused wife] has been engaged render it well nigh impossible to speak.” If this silence is to be broken one must first understand the shame and also understand the ways that the church has addressed many of these situation; with this done one may then proceed in the first steps of breaking the silence with much greater understanding of the abused woman.

What Shame Is

It has been stated that if a person has never heard a victim disclose “it is nearly impossible to comprehend the shame, or the fear, or the impact” of abuse. If one is going to understand the shame that the abused wife feels, one must first come into an understanding of what this shame is.

Shame itself is an often nebulous idea; Sandra Wilson describes it as a “strong sense of being uniquely and hopelessly different and less than other human beings.” Shame is often confused with guilt, yet Wilson distinguishes shame from guilt in that while guilt tells the woman that she made a mistake, “shame shouts that I am a mistake.”

In this way the feelings of shame are not merely surface level emotions that the abused wife is dealing with, but are rather deep-seeded dynamics that affect her very identity as a person, as a woman, as a wife, and as a child of God. It is not merely her emotions that she must overcome in order to break her silence, but the entire false identity that has been forced upon her.

This sort of thing does not appear out of nowhere. Indeed, Neil Pembroke explains that shame “arises when the self evaluates itself as flawed, defective, inferior.” The evaluation does not stop there; because she exists in community, shame is not merely the personal evaluation of being inferior, but also exists as the fear that these “sensitive and vulnerable aspects of the self” might be exposed. Yet even unexposed, this shame can and does “burn secretly within.”

It can thus be stated that shame is something that affects the very identity of the woman, something arising from being made to feel as if she is inferior and being complicated by a fear of this being exposed.

Where This Shame Originates

Upon concluding that shame arises when one evaluates oneself as flawed or inferior, it must then be asked where this evaluation comes from. In the case of wife abuse within the Christian home, two primary sources may be identified. The first of these sources originates from the husband, the second from the woman’s interactions with the faith community.

Shame from the Husband

The most direct cause of shame for the abuse wife is her abuser, this is one of the things that makes him an abuser. The evaluation that one is without worth is in large part a reaction to the lies that the wife has been fed by her husband. One aspect of many abusive marriages is “the deliberate humiliation of one’s spouse,” and this shame is one of the “immediate responses to the hurt and humiliation” to which she has been exposed.

This hurt and humiliation comes in a wide variety of forms: she may be belittled, called names, threatened, isolated, disrespected, ignored, embarrassed, or she may be blamed for all the family’s problems; she may be told that she is stupid, fat, ugly, incompetent, or incapable of taking care of herself. While sexual abuse is the most shaming of all the types of abuse, it is important to be aware that abuse can come in this wide variety of flavors, including not just sexual or physical abuse but also verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse.

The result of this is that many abused wives end up feeling so poorly about their own identity that they begin to believe that they actually deserve the abuse they receive, and due to the threats and psychological abuse are often too fearful to attempt to do anything about it.

Shame from the Faith Community

While the abusive husband is the most immediate cause of the shame which the abused wife feels, it is important to note that the relationship does not exist in a vacuum, especially when the family is part of the Christian community.

On the one hand this is important because the fear of exposure is one of the defining aspects of shame, yet it is important for more than just that. It is also important because it is the faith community that defines much of the world that the marriage exists in and what ideals it is expected to live up to. Thus the second source of shame – as noted by Pembroke – stems from judging that one has “fallen short of a cherished ideal.”

This is especially relevant when the ideal that the woman perceives she has fallen short of is a false ideal. While this ideal may also be tied back to the husband – in not being able to live up the standard which he holds his wife to – but it also comes from the husband and wife’s interactions with the faith community; indeed, the husband may have gained the false ideals he holds his wife up to from the faith community.

One of the key ways that the faith community can instill false ideals and other ideas which may foster abuse is in the way that they talk about the wife’s submission to the husband, in the way they make sense of those passages in Scripture that discuss submission. These sex roles are used as measurements of perfection.

In the past, many churches have taken an extreme stance on the issue, such that the wife essentially was felt to be owned by the husband – not in any legal sense, but in his superiority within the family unit. In such faith communities as these when problems arise within the marriage the abused wife is often blamed for not submitting to her husband well enough.

This idea of absolute submission where the husband rules over his wife is one such false ideal which the faith community has been known to communicate.

The woman is then made to feel as if the abuse is somehow the result of a lack of pious submission on her part, a notion which then seeps into the way she understands her own identity.

While the dynamics of submission are one of the most easily critiqued ways that the faith community might mislead the family, this is not the only ideal that they are prone to put forth. A broader ideal that the faith community sets is the pedestal that they place in the intact family on. The failure of this family unit is seen as a personal failure on the part of the wife, focusing on the wife’s responsibility for her husband’s behavior while failing to call the abuser to accountability.

It is for this reason that James and Phyllis Alsdurf note that “Christian women have been told too long that keeping the marriage together is their responsibility.” These women feel that the failure of their family is their own fault and face the fear of rejection at church when attempts to repair the relationship fail.

Because of this abused wives feel pressure from family, society, and the church to ignore or suppress the reality of their situation.

Church leaders, in turn, often take the path of least resistance when dealing with these situations by simply refusing to look at the wounds that are there. In these contexts divorce is seen as failure, which even further limits the options that the abused wife sees as being open to her.

These varying sorts of twisted theology, from false ideas of submission to placing the intact family on a pedestal to placing the responsibility for maintaining the relationship squarely on the shoulders of the wife due to the inability to divorce all have the potential to wreak enormous harm on the already hurting individual.

Shame from the Self

While the shame that the abused wife feels is most directly the result of the husband, it has been observed that this shame does not exist in a vacuum; rather, the faith community also plays a large role in the formation of this shame. Yet not only do these women feel pressure from the faith community, “they also place incredible pressures on themselves.”

This pressure comes in a variety of forms, and while some of it is the result of the woman trying to live up to the false ideals of the church, some of them are more directly personal and tied to the very way they function psychologically as women.

Thus, it can be noted that the sensitivity that women have to the needs of others and the way they “assume responsibility for taking care of others” can often “lead women to listen to voices other than their own.” This psychological dynamic is not necessarily bad in and of itself, but this perceived responsibility affects the moral lens through which women interpret a situation and can thus lead them to assume more responsibility than they should, responsibility for things which are beyond their control.

The way this plays out is perhaps most summarily stated in the idea that “women tend to define themselves in terms of relationships, and they also evaluate themselves morally in terms of their ability to care.” This dynamic plays a large part in the way that the wife views her own identity, her own worth. If her relationship is failing it may likely be seen as a shortcoming in their own ability to care, thus she may view the relationship’s problems on their own moral failings. The result of this is becoming guilt-ridden and seeing her own amount of endurance as representative of her moral strength, perhaps even going so far as to feel that it is their responsibility to save their husbands from themselves.

This dynamic of how women interpret relationship is important because it is more deeply rooted than merely a false ideal set up by the church or the slanderings of her husband. Instead, perhaps it might be argued that the reason why the false ideals of the church and the slanderings of the husband affect the abused wife in such a deep way is because it hits on a dynamic of the woman’s psychology which is already prone to read the problems of the relationship in that way.

The difference here is that while it is not bad in and of itself that the woman’s moral categories work in that way, it is bad when she assumes responsibility for things that are in fact beyond her control and allows those things to then reflect back upon her self-worth and cause her undue shame. The abused wife must take a pivotal step of making the inner choice to begin to “embrace personal autonomy and to refuse the victim role” and in this way realize that while she cannot control the abuser’s behavior, she can control her own and “refuse to function from a victim stance.”

Taking all of this into account, there are various responses that need to be made, responses which include the faith community, the religious leaders, and the individual herself.

Necessary Responses

The shame that the abused wife feels must be confronted if she is ever to regain any semblance of her former self. As Larry Crabb notes “the basic personal need of each personal being is to regard himself as a worthwhile human being.”

This regard is the opposite of shame. Although secular programs may be of much help to the wife who has suffered from abuse, it is within the context of the faith community and of proper religious teaching the process of gaining this regard may begin, and in order for this to happen the faith community and the religious leaders must send the appropriate messages, messages that let her know that she does have the ability to change her circumstances (for this is often something that they do not believe is possible).

From the Faith Community: Regaining the Body of Christ

The faith community is of key importance in the life of the believer, and it should therefore serve a key purpose in the helping and healing of the wife who has suffered abuse, for “God has designed the local church as the primary vehicle through which people are to exercise their significance-providing gifts.” Often the messages are not helpful; indeed, the message they hear most often is “self-heal, self-love, and self-help.”

This false do-it-yourself message must be countered with the fellowship of the body, because without this sort of support “an abused woman may have great difficulty believing that anybody cares.” Indeed, one of the main reasons it is important for the faith community to come alongside the victims of abuse is because every abused woman feels abandoned and afraid.

This process of aid from the faith community begins with them recognizing the truths which surround the abusive relationship, many of which have been outlined above. The first and foremost of these comes in the community acknowledging openly the sinfulness of that state of affairs; thus “one giant step toward rebuilding the shattered self-esteem of Christian battered women would be made if the church acknowledged that wife abuse is a sin.”

Making this first step is perhaps not as hard within mainstream Christianity as it was thirty years ago, but in areas where the misconception still holds power it is a necessary step.

The faith community must aid the wife who has suffered abuse in realizing that she is not alone, that the body of Christ is there to stand with her. As they come alongside her they must do so realizing the difficulty of what is happening in her life, avoiding giving over to the cynicism which assumes she is at fault or that it is not a big deal or naive questioning which can only think to ask why she doesn’t leave, not knowing the fear of leaving or responsibility for staying that she feels.

The church family must understand what it is that the woman feels so that they may dispel the myths that she believes about herself. The church would make a great step to work to remove the stigma of silence surrounding the issue, helping the woman to realize that it is not her fault and that saving her husband is not her responsibility. In this she may not want to shame her husband, yet it must be said that he must take responsibility for his actions and for his sins.

From the Pastor: Regaining Her Identity in Christ

As the faith community changes its false conceptions surrounding domestic abuse in the Christian home, the religious leader is of pivotal importance. It is the religious leader who has perhaps the greatest ability to influence the beliefs of the congregation and of the woman who is suffering from abuse. It is the pastor who is responsible for guiding his flock in what to believe, and “what you believe has a huge connection to how you respond to disgrace, violence, denial, shame, guilt, [etc].” As has been noted by Catherine Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark, those who suffer from abuse often report that “simply hearing their pastor or religious leader condemn the abuse they have suffered aids in their healing.”

Perhaps one reason for this is that it affirms for them that their pain is justified, that the things that they feel are not just in their head but that they are real and the church and God hates what is going on just as much as she does.

Apart from correcting false ideas, the pastor also has a direct duty to respond responsibly to the domestic abuse situation. Historically pastors have tended towards wanting to save the marriage at all costs and to go for quick-fixes, yet neither of these is ideal when dealing with an abusive relationship.

Rather than trying to save the marriage at all costs, the pastor needs to be willing to recognize when a marriage is beyond repair and when a woman needs to get out for her own safety. The pastor should realize that many times “letting go, not hanging on, is the difficult issue.” For the pastor who seeks to be faithful to the Scriptures this requires wrestling with the Biblical warrants for divorce, which are typically seen as nothing more than either abandonment or infidelity.

Bradshaw helps in this dilemma by defining ‘abandonment’ in such a way as to include all forms of abuse. Alsdurf similarly helps further by explaining how if the faith community were to understand fidelity as implying more than simply sexual faithfulness but also encompassing “the honoring of one’s partner in a life-giving way” then “marital violence becomes a manifestation of infidelity.” Kroeger his perhaps most helpful here when she notes how in seeking divorce it is not the wife that has failed her marriage; rather “husbands who abuse their wives have already broken the sacred covenant of marriage,” abandoning them emotionally, and thus “the wife’s declaration of divorce merely makes public what has already been done by the abuser.”

It is quite possible that the man will not change, and in such circumstances the woman needs the hope that she is not doomed to live a life of shame and torment, that there is indeed a way out.

A final way in which the pastor can aid the wife who has suffered abuse is by providing her with a proper theology through which to interpret her experience. Thus the pastor can help her reflect on the nature of God, on her need of God, and on God’s ability to meet her need. Most importantly, he can help her in regaining her identity in Christ, so that she may be no longer bogged down by the shame of her experience but can gain life anew. She must know that she has gained victory in Christ and been cleansed through him, able to come to the Father in a Christ-centered confidence. Rather than see her shame, God sees her “as complete and perfect.”

Thus, “Christ’s victory gives us back our identity and restores our meaning.” It is this identity – found in Christ – which will be pivotal in overcoming the shame which the abused wife has acquired, of defeating the lies which she has been fed by her husband, the world, and by Satan. When she is able to stop believing the lies the first hurdle is overcome.

From Herself: Breaking the Shame

Pride is often a counterpart to shame, and it is this pride which in part contributes to the silence of the abused wife. Pride doesn’t want that which it perceives to be the truth to be exposed.

This is one reason why exposing that what the abused wife believes about herself as not being the truth is important. Yet as was noted above, the common message that abused wives get is often “do it yourself,” which is a command that is not merely external but also plays off of the internal environment of the wife; as Nason-Clark and Kroeger point out, “most of us have a strong streak of independence: we want to do it by myself.”

She must realize that she cannot do it by herself, indeed, bringing this knowledge to people is one of the chief benefits which God brings out of trials; through trials God lets his people know that they cannot do it on their own, but that they need to rest upon him.

As was noted above, it is important for the abused wife to be clear about her limits, about what she is and is not responsible for in the relationship. While she is not responsible for those things that are beyond her control, she must accept responsibility for those things that she can do. After-all the “gift of the Spirit includes self-control, not control of others or events.” Being soaked in a proper fellowship of the body and in right teaching will help in allowing her to break the fear of shame which serves to keep her in silence.

What to do…

It is imperative that Christians not be poorly informed about the nature and prevalence of the abuse that is present in churches, in their churches.

As long as the church is quiet in while women are being abused it is failing in its ministry. It is important to remember in this analysis that women are not generic, each is facing their own individual circumstances with a unique set of contributing factors; what has been outlined is not a strict rule, but a general idea of what women in abusive relationships face.

The women who face these situations need to be equipped with the tools required to overcome their shame and break their silence, and the groundwork for this is something that the faith community and the Christian leader can do before they are even aware that any particular woman is being abused.

By fostering an environment in which abuse is condemned, which exonerates the woman of responsibility for things beyond her control and which minimizes the undeserved shame that the woman will face upon coming forward (although this shame may not be able to be completely eliminated), the church can move well on its way to being able to effectively help wives who face abuse within Christian homes and elsewhere.

Without these things it will be near impossible for the woman to find a positive solution. If men and women are faithfully taught of the realities of abuse within the church many of factors contributing to abuse may be put to rest before they are able to find root; a key step is naming the sin of abuse and bringing it out of the dark corner which the church has banished it to. If the faith community and the pastor are doing the jobs that they are supposed to do then the woman will be able to grab ahold of these realities, even if no-one is initially aware of her abuse.

Why Work? — Dorothy Sayers

tractor3.pngI have already, on a previous occasion, spoken at some length on the subject of Work and Vocation. What I urged then was a thoroughgoing revolution in our whole attitude to work. I asked that it should be looked upon, not as a necessary drudgery to be undergone for the purpose of making money, but as a way of life in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself to the glory of God. That it should, in fact, be thought of as a creative activity undertaken for the love of the work itself; and that man, made in God’s image, should make things, as God makes them, for the sake of doing well a thing that is well worth doing.

It may well seem to you – as it does to some of my acquaintances – that I have a sort of obsession about this business of the right attitude to work. But I do insist upon it, because it seems to me that what becomes of civilization after this war is going to depend enormously on our being able to effect this revolution in our ideas about work. Unless we do change our whole way of thought about work, I do not think we shall ever escape from the appalling squirrel cage of economic confusion in which we have been madly turning for the last three centuries or so, the cage in which we landed ourselves by acquiescing in a social system based upon Envy and Avarice.

A society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated in order to keep production going is a society founded on trash and waste, and such a society is a house built upon sand.

It is interesting to consider for a moment how our outlook has been forcibly changed for us in the last twelve months by the brutal presence of war. War is a judgment that overtakes societies when they have been living; upon ideas that conflict too violently with the laws governing the universe. People who would not revise their ideas voluntarily find themselves compelled to do so by the sheer pressure of the events which these very ideas have served to bring about.

Never think that wars are irrational catastrophes: they happen when wrong ways of thinking and living bring about intolerable situations; and whichever side may be the more outrageous in its aims and the more brutal in its methods, the root causes of conflict are usually to be found in some wrong way of life in which all parties have acquiesced, and for which everybody must, to some extent, bear the blame.

It is quite true that false Economics are one of the root causes of the present war; and one of the false ideas we had about Economics was a false attitude both to Work and to the good produced by Work. This attitude we are now being obliged to alter, under the compulsion of war – and a very strange and painful process it is in some ways. It is always strange and painful to have to change a habit of mind; though, when we have made the effort, we may find a great relief, even a sense of adventure and delight, in getting rid of the false and returning to the true.

Can you remember – it is already getting difficult to remember – what things were like before the war? The stockings we bought cheap and threw away to save the trouble of mending? The cars we scrapped every year to keep up with the latest fashion in engine design and streamlining? The bread and bones and scraps of fat that littered the dustbins – not only of the rich, but of the poor? The empty bottles that even the dustman scorned to collect, because the manufacturers found it cheaper to make new ones than to clean the old? The mountains of empty tins that nobody found it worthwhile to salvage, rusting and stinking on the refuse dumps? The food that was burnt or buried because it did not pay to distribute it? The land choked and impoverished with thistle and ragwort, because it did not pay to farm it? The handkerchiefs used for paint rags and kettleholders? The electric lights left blazing because it was too much trouble to switch them off? The fresh peas we could not be bothered to shell, and threw aside for something out of a tin? The paper that cumbered the shelves, and lay knee-deep in the parks, and littered the seats of railway trains? The scattered hairpins and smashed crockery, the cheap knickknacks of steel and wood and rubber and glass and tin that we bought to fill in an odd half hour at Woolworth’s and forgot as soon as we had bought them? The advertisements imploring and exhorting and cajoling and menacing and bullying us to glut ourselves with things we did not want, in the name of snobbery and idleness and sex appeal? And the fierce international scramble to find in helpless and backward nations a market on which to fob off all the superfluous rubbish which the inexorable machines ground out hour by hour, to create money and to create employment?

Do you realize how we have had to alter our whole scale of values, now that we are no longer being urged to consume but to conserve? We have been forced back to the social morals of our great-grandparents. When a piece of lingerie costs three precious coupons, we have to consider, not merely its glamour value, but how long it will wear. When fats are rationed, we must not throw away scraps, but jealously use to advantage what it cost so much time and trouble to breed and rear. When paper is scarce we must – or we should – think whether what we have to say is worth saying before writing or printing it. When our life depends on the land, we have to pay in short commons for destroying its fertility by neglect or overcropping. When a haul of herrings takes valuable manpower from the forces, and is gathered in at the peril of men’s lives by bomb and mine and machine gun, we read a new significance into those gloomy words which appear so often in the fishmonger’s shop: NO FISH TODAY….We have had to learn the bitter lesson that in all the world there are only two sources of real wealth: the fruit of the earth and the labor of men; and to estimate work not by the money it brings to the producer, but by the worth of the thing that is made.

The question that I will ask you to consider today is this: When the war is over, are we likely, and do we want, to keep this attitude to work and the results of work? Or are we preparing, and do we want, to go back to our old habits of thought? Because I believe that on our answer to this question the whole economic future of society will depend.

Sooner or later the moment will come when we have to make a decision about this. At the moment, we are not making it – don’t let us flatter ourselves that we are. It is being made for us. And don’t let us imagine that a wartime economy has stopped waste. It has not. It has only transferred it elsewhere. The glut and waste that used to clutter our own dustbins have been removed to the field of battle. That is where all the surplus consumption is going. The factories are roaring more loudly than ever, turning out night and day goods that are of no conceivable value for the maintenance of life; on the contrary, their sole object is to destroy life, and instead of being thrown away they are being blown away – in Russia, in North Africa, over Occupied France, in Burma, China, and the Spice Islands, and on the Seven Seas.

What is going to happen when the factories stop turning out armaments? No nation has yet found a way to keep the machines running and whole nations employed under modern industrial conditions without wasteful consumption. For a time, a few nations could contrive to keep going by securing a monopoly of production and forcing their waste products on to new and untapped markets. When there are no new markets and all nations are industrial producers, the only choice we have been able to envisage so far has been that between armaments and unemployment. This is the problem that some time or other will stare us in the face again, and this time we must have our minds ready to tackle it. It may not come at once – for it is quite likely that after the war we shall have to go through a further period of managed consumption while the shortages caused by the war are being made good. But sooner or later we shall have to grapple with this difficulty, and everything will depend on our attitude of mind about it.

Shall we be prepared to take the same attitude to the arts of peace as to the arts of war? I see no reason why we should not sacrifice our convenience and our individual standard of living just as readily for the building of great public works as for the building of ships and tanks – but when the stimulus of fear and anger is removed, shall we be prepared to do any such thing? Or shall we want to go back to that civilization of greed and waste which we dignify by the name of a “high standard of living”? I am getting very much afraid of that phrase about the standard of living. And I am also frightened by the phrase “after the war” – it is so often pronounced in a tone that suggests: “after the war, we want to relax, and go back, and live as we did before.” And that means going back to the time when labor was valued in terms of its cash returns, and not in terms of the work.

Now the answer to this question, if we are resolute to know what we are about, will not be left to rich men – to manufacturers and financiers. If these people have governed the world of late years it is only because we ourselves put the power into their hands. The question can and should be answered by the worker and the consumer.

It is extremely important that the worker should really understand where the problem lies. It is a matter of brutal fact that in these days labor, more than any other section of the community, has a vested interest in war. Some rich employers make profit out of war – that is true; but what is infinitely more important is that for all working people war means full employment and high wages.

When war ceases, then the problem of employing labor at the machines begins again. The relentless pressure of hungry labor is behind the drive toward wasteful consumption, whether in the destruction of war or in the trumpery of peace.

The problem is far too simplified when it is presented as a mere conflict between labor and capital, between employed and employer. The basic difficulty remains, even when you make the State the sole employer, even when you make Labor into the employer. It is not simply a question of profits and wages or living conditions – but of what is to be done with the work of the machines, and what work the machines are to do.

If we do not deal with this question now, while we have time to think about it, then the whirligig of wasteful production and wasteful consumption will start again and will again end in war. And the driving power of labor will be thrusting to turn the wheels, because it is to the financial interest of labor to keep the whirligig going faster and faster till the inevitable catastrophe comes.

And, so that those wheels may turn, the consumer – that is, you and I, including the workers, who are consumers also – will again be urged to consume and waste; and unless we change our attitude – or rather unless we keep hold of the new attitude forced upon us by the logic of war – we shall again be bamboozled by our vanity, indolence, and greed into keeping the squirrel cage of wasteful economy turning. We could – you and I – bring the whole fantastic economy of profitable waste down to the ground overnight, without legislation and without revolution, merely by refusing to cooperate with it. I say, we could – as a matter of fact, we have; or rather, it has been done for us. If we do not want to rise up again after the war, we can prevent it – simply by preserving the wartime habit of valuing work instead of money. The point is: do we want to?….

Whatever we do, we shall be faced with grave difficulties. That cannot be disguised. But it will make a great difference to the result if we are genuinely aiming at a real change in economic thinking. And by that I mean a radical change from top to bottom – a new system; not a mere adjustment of the old system to favor a different set of people.

The habit of thinking about work as something one does to make money is so ingrained in us that we can scarcely imagine what a revolutionary change it would be to think about it instead in terms of the work done. To do so would mean taking the attitude of mind we reserve for our unpaid work – our hobbies, our leisure interests, the things we make and do for pleasure – and making that the standard of all our judgments about things and people. We should ask of an enterprise, not “will it pay?” but “is it good?”; of a man, not “what does he make?” but “what is his work worth?”; of goods, not “Can we induce people to buy them?” but “are they useful things well made?”; of employment, not “how much a week?” but “will it exercise my faculties to the utmost?” And shareholders in – let us say – brewing companies, would astonish the directorate by arising at shareholders’ meeting and demanding to know, not merely where the profits go or what dividends are to be paid, not even merely whether the workers’ wages are sufficient and the conditions of labor satisfactory, but loudly and with a proper sense of personal responsibility: “What goes into the beer?”

You will probably ask at once: How is this altered attitude going to make any difference to the question of employment? Because it sounds as though it would result in not more employment, but less. I am not an economist, and I can only point to a peculiarity of war economy that usually goes without notice in economic textbooks, In war, production for wasteful consumption still goes on: but there is one great difference in the good produced. None of them is valued for what it will fetch, but only for what it is worth in itself. The gun and the tank, the airplane and the warship have to be the best of their kind. A war consumer does not buy shoddy. He does not buy to sell again. He buys the thing that is good for its purpose, asking nothing of it but that it shall do the job it has to do. Once again, war forces the consumer into a right attitude to the work. And, whether by strange coincidence, or whether because of some universal law, as soon as nothing is demanded of the thing made but its own integral perfection, its own absolute value, the skill and labor of the worker are fully employed and likewise acquire an absolute value.

This is probably not the kind of answer that you will find in any theory of economics. Bu the professional economist is not really trained to answer, or even to ask himself questions about absolute values. The economist is inside the squirrel cage and turning with it. Any question about absolute values belongs to the sphere, not of economics, but of religion.

And it is very possible that we cannot deal with economics as all, unless we can see economy from outside the cage; that we cannot begin to settle the relative values without considering absolute values. And if so, this may give a very precise and practical meaning to the words: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”…. I am persuaded that the reason why the Churches are in so much difficulty about giving a lead in the economic sphere is because they are trying to fit a Christian standard of economic to a wholly false and pagan understanding of work. What is the Christian understanding of work?

I should like to put before you two or three propositions arising out of the doctrinal position which I stated at the beginning: namely, that work is the natural exercise and function of man – the creature who is made in the image of his Creator. You will find that any of them if given in effect everyday practice, is so revolutionary ( as compared with the habits of thinking into which we have fallen), as to make all political revolutions look like conformity.

The first, stated quite briefly, is that work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.

Now the consequences of this are not merely that the work should be performed under decent living and working conditions. That is a point we have begun to grasp, and it a perfectly sound point. But we have tended to concentrate on it to the exclusion of other considerations far more revolutionary.

(a) There is, for instance, the question of profits and remuneration. We have all got it fixed in our heads that the proper end of work is to be paid for – to produce a return in profits or payment to the worker which fully or more than compensates the effort he puts into it. But if our proposition is true, this does not follow at all. So long as Society provides the worker with a sufficient return in real wealth to enable him to carry on the work properly, then he has his reward. For his work is the measure of his life, and his satisfaction is found in the fulfillment of his own nature, and in contemplation of the perfection of his work.

That, in practice, there is this satisfaction, is shown by the mere fact that a man will put loving labor into some hobby which can never bring him may economically adequate return. His satisfaction comes, in the godlike manner, from looking upon what he has made and finding it very good. He is no longer bargaining with his work, but serving it. It is only when work has to be looked on as a means to gain that it becomes hateful; for then, instead of a friend, it becomes an enemy from whom tolls and contributions have to be extracted. What most of us demand from society is that we should always get out of it a little more than the value of the labor we give to it. By this process, we persuade ourselves that society is always in our debt – a conviction that not only piles up actual financial burdens, but leaves us with a grudge against society.

(b) Here is the second consequence. At present we have no clear grasp of the principle that every man should do the work for which he is fitted by nature. The employer is obsessed by the notion that he must find cheap labor, and the worker by the notion that the best-paid job is the job for him. Only feebly, inadequately, and spasmodically do we ever attempt to tackle the problem from the other end, and inquire: What type of worker is suited to this type of work? People engaged in education see clearly that this is the right end to start from: but they are frustrated by economic pressure, and by the failure of parents on the one hand and employers on the other to grasp the fundamental importance of this approach.

And that the trouble results far more from a failure of intelligence than from economic necessity is seen clearly under war conditions, when, although competitive economics are no longer a governing factor, the right men and women are still persistently thrust into the wrong jobs, through sheer inability on everybody’s part to imaging a purely vocational approach to the business of fitting together the worker and his work.

(c) A third consequence is that, if we really believed this proposition and arranged our work and our standard of values accordingly, we should no longer think of work as something that we hastened to get through in order to enjoy our leisure; we should look on our leisure as the period of changed rhythm that refreshed us for the delightful purpose of getting on with our work. And this being so, we should tolerate no regulations of any sort that prevented us from working as long and as well as our enjoyment of work demanded. We should resent any such restrictions as a monstrous interference with the liberty of the subject. How great an upheaval of our ideas that would mean I leave you to imagine. It would turn topsy-turvy all our notions about hours of work, rates of work, unfair competition, and all the rest of it. We should all find ourselves fighting, as now only artists and the members of certain professions fight, for precious time in which to get on with the job – instead of fighting for precious hours saved from the job.

(d) A fourth consequence is that we should fight tooth and nail, not for mere employment, but for the quality of the work that we had to do. We should clamor to be engaged in work that was worth doing, and in which we could take pride. The worker would demand that the stuff he helped to turn out should be good stuff – he would no longer be content to take the cash and let the credit go. Like the shareholders in the brewery, he would feel a sense of personal responsibility, and clamor to know, and to control, what went into the beer he brewed. There would be protests and strikes – not only about pay and conditions, but about the quality of the work demanded and the honesty, beauty, and usefulness of the goods produced. The greatest insult which a commercial age has offered to the worker has been to rob him of all interest in the end product of the work and to force him to dedicate his life to making badly things which were not worth making.

This first proposition chiefly concerns the worker as such. My second proposition directly concerns Christian as such, and it is this. It is the business of the Church to recognize that the secular vocation, as such, is sacred. Christian people, and particularly perhaps the Christian clergy, must get it firmly into their heads that when a man or woman is called to a particular job of secular work, that is as true a vocation as though he or she were called to specifically religious work. The Church must concern Herself not only with such questions as the just price and proper working conditions: She must concern Herself with seeing that work itself is such as a human being can perform without degradation – that no one is required by economic or any other considerations to devote himself to work that is contemptible, soul destroying, or harmful. It is not right for Her to acquiesce in the notion that a man’s life is divided into the time he spends on his work and the time he spends in serving God. He must be able to serve God in his work, and the work itself must be accepted and respected as the medium of divine creation.

In nothing has the Church so lost Her hold on reality as in Her failure to understand and respect the secular vocation. She has allowed work and religion to become separate departments, and is astonished to find that, as result, the secular work of the world is turned to purely selfish and destructive ends, and that the greater part of the world’s intelligent workers have become irreligious, or at least, uninterested in religion.

But is it astonishing? How can any one remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of his life? The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.

Church by all means, and decent forms of amusement, certainly – but what use is all that if in the very center of his life and occupation he is insulting God with bad carpentry? No crooked table legs or ill-fitting drawers ever, I dare swear, came out of the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth. Nor, if they did, could anyone believe that they were made by the same hand that made Heaven and earth. No piety in the worker will compensate for work that is not true to itself; for any work that is untrue to its own technique is a living lie.

Yet in Her own buildings, in Her own ecclesiastical art and music, in Her hymns and prayers, in Her sermons and in Her little books of devotion, the Church will tolerate or permit a pious intention to excuse so ugly, so pretentious, so tawdry and twaddling, so insincere and insipid, so bad as to shock and horrify any decent draftsman.

And why? Simply because She has lost all sense of the fact that the living and eternal truth is expressed in work only so far as that work is true in itself, to itself, to the standards of its own technique. She has forgotten that the secular vocation is sacred. Forgotten that a building must be good architecture before it can be a good church; that a painting must be well painted before it can be a good sacred picture; that work must be good work before it can call itself God’s work.

Let the Church remember this: that every maker and worker is called to serve God in his profession or trade – not outside it. The Apostles complained rightly when they said it was not meet they should leave the word of God and serve tables; their vocation was to preach the word.

But the person whose vocation it is to prepare the meals beautifully might with equal justice protest: It is not meet for us to leave the service of our tables to preach the word. The official Church wastes time and energy, and moreover, commits sacrilege, in demanding that secular workers should neglect their proper vocation in order to do Christian work – by which She means ecclesiastical work. The only Christian work is good work well done. Let the Church see to it that the workers are Christian people and do their work well, as to God: then all the work will be Christian work, whether it is church embroidery, or sewage farming. As Jacques Maritain says: “If you want to produce Christian work, be a Christian, and try to make a work of beauty into which you have put your heart; do not adopt a Christian pose.” He is right. And let the Church remember that the beauty of the work will be judged by its own, and not by ecclesiastical standards.

Let me give you an illustration of what I mean. When my play The Zeal of Thy House was produced in London, a dear old pious lady was much struck by the beauty of the four great archangels who stood throughout the play in their heavy, gold robes, eleven feet high from wingtip to sandaltip. She asked with great innocence whether I selected the actors who played the angels “for the excellence of their moral character.”

I replied that the angels were selected to begin with, not by me but by the producer, who had the technical qualifications for selecting suitable actors – for that was part of his vocation. And that he selected, in the first place, young men who were six feet tall so that they would match properly together. Secondly, angels had to be of good physique, so as to be able to stand stiff on the stage for two and a half hours, carrying the weight of their wings and costumes, without wobbling, or fidgeting, or fainting. Thirdly, they had to be able to speak verse well, in an agreeable voice and audibly. Fourthly, they had to be reasonable good actors. When all these technical conditions had been fulfilled, we might come to the moral qualities, of which the first would be the ability to arrive on stage punctually and in a sober condition, since the curtain must go up on time, and a drunken angel would be indecorous.

After that, and only after that, one might take character into consideration, but that, provided his behavior was not so scandalous as to cause dissension among the company, the right kind of actor with no morals would give a far more reverent and seemly performance than a saintly actor with the wrong technical qualifications. The worst religious films I ever saw were produced by a company which chose its staff exclusively for their piety. Bad photography, bad acting, and bad dialogue produced a result so grotesquely irreverent that the pictures could not have been shown in churches without bringing Christianity into contempt.

God is not served by technical incompetence; and incompetence and untruth always result when the secular vocation is treated as a thing alien to religion.

And conversely: when you find a man who is a Christian praising God by the excellence of his work – do not distract him and take him away from his proper vocation to address religious meetings and open church bazaars. Let him serve God in the way to which God has called him. If you take him away from that, he will exhaust himself in an alien technique and lose his capacity to do his dedicated work.

It is your business, you churchmen, to get what good you can from observing his work – not to take him away from it, so that he may do ecclesiastical work for you. But, if you have any power, see that he is set free to do this own work as well as it may be done. He is not there to serve you; he is there to serve God by serving his work.

This brings me to my third proposition; and this may sound to you the most revolutionary of all. It is this: the worker’s first duty is to serve the work. The popular catchphrase of today is that it is everybody’s duty to serve the community, but there is a catch in it. It is the old catch about the two great commandments. “Love God – and your neighbor: on those two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

The catch in it, which nowadays the world has largely forgotten, is that the second commandment depends upon the first, and that without the first, it is a delusion and a snare. Much of our present trouble and disillusionment have come from putting the second commandment before the first.

If we put our neighbor first, we are putting man above God, and that is what we have been doing ever since we began to worship humanity and make man the measure of all things. Whenever man is made the center of things, he becomes the storm center of trouble – and that is precisely the catch about serving the community. It ought perhaps to make us suspicious of that phrase when we consider that it is the slogan of every commercial scoundrel and swindler who wants to make sharp business practice pass muster as social improvement.

“Service” is the motto of the advertiser, of big business, and of fraudulent finance. And of others, too. Listen to this: “I expect the judiciary to understand that the nation does not exist for their convenience, but that justice exists to serve the nation.” That was Hitler yesterday – and that is what becomes of “service,” when the community, and not the work, becomes its idol. There is, in fact, a paradox about working to serve the community, and it is this: that to aim directly at serving the community is to falsify the work; the only way to serve the community is to forget the community and serve the work. There are three very good reasons for this:

The first is that you cannot do good work if you take your mind off the work to see how the community is taking it – any more than you can make a good drive from the tee if you take your eye off the ball. “Blessed are the single hearted: (for that is the real meaning of the word we translate “the pure in heart”). If your heart is not wholly in the work, the work will not be good – and work that is not good serves neither God nor the community; it only serves mammon.

The second reason is that the moment you think of serving other people, you begin to have a notion that other people owe you something for your pains; you begin to think that you have a claim on the community. You will begin to bargain for reward, to angle for applause, and to harbor a grievance if you are not appreciated. But if your mind is set upon serving the work, then you know you have nothing to look for; the only reward the work can give you is the satisfaction of beholding its perfection. The work takes all and gives nothing but itself; and to serve the work is a labor of pure love.

And thirdly, if you set out to serve the community, you will probably end by merely fulfilling a public demand – and you may not even do that. A public demand is a changeable thing. Nine-tenths of the bad plays put on in theaters owe their badness to the fact that the playwright has aimed at pleasing the audience, in stead of at producing a good and satisfactory play. Instead of doing the work as its own integrity demands that it should be done, he has falsified the play by putting in this or that which he thinks will appeal to the groundlings (who by that time have probably come to want something else), and the play fails by its insincerity. The work has been falsified to please the public, and in the end even the public is not pleased. As it is with works of art, so it is with all work.

We are coming to the end of an era of civilization which began by pandering to public demand, and ended by frantically trying to create public demand for an output so false and meaningless that even a doped public revolted from the trash offered to it and plugged into war rather than swallow anymore of it. The danger of “serving the community” is that one is part of the community, and that in serving it one may only be serving a kind of communal egotism. The only true way of serving the community is to be truly in sympathy with the community, to be oneself part of the community and then to serve the work without giving the community another thought. Then the work will endure, because it will be true to itself. It is the work that serves the community; the business of the worker is to serve the work. Where we have become confused is in mixing up the ends to which our work is put with the way in which the work is done. The end of the work will be decided by our religious outlook: as we are so we make. It is the business of religion to make us Christian people, and then our work will naturally be turned to Christian ends, because our work is the expression of ourselves. But the way in which the work is done is governed by no sanction except the good of the of work itself; and religion has no direct connection with that, except to insist that the workman should be free to do his work well according to its own integrity. Jacques Maritain, one of the very few religious writers of our time who really understands the nature of creative work, has summed the matter up in a sentence.

What is required is the perfect practical discrimination between the end pursued by the workman (finis operantis, said the Schoolmen) and the end to be served by the work (finis operas), so that the workman may work for his wages but the work be controlled and set in being only in relation to its own proper good and nowise in relation to the wages earned; so that the artist may work for any and every human intention he likes, but the work taken by itself be performed and constructed for its own proper beauty alone.

Or perhaps we may put it more shortly still: If work is to find its right place in the world, it is the duty of the Church to see to it that the work serves God, and that the worker serves the work.

–By Dorothy Sayers


 

[Dorothy Sayers was neither strictly Reformed or Presbyterian, but her theology of work as presented here provides an excellent compliment to Martin Luther’s own ideas on the subject.]