Thursday 21 February 2013

Every Good Endeavour

There aren't many sizeable books around which concentrate totally upon the subject of Work - even though it takes up much of our waking hours! But Keller has brought 25 years of developed thought and teaching and distilled it here. His claim to be heard is based on the development of his ministry at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Being located at the centre of the business district in New York led him into many discussions with city workers about a distinctively Christian understanding of work and what it is for. He finds it rooted in Genesis and God's original plan for man - to be in his image and to work. To cultivate the earth as a vocation. Work therefore has dignity and purpose, and cultivation embraces cultural efforts and the building of human society. It is the fall of man into sin that makes work to be a very different experience: pointless, fruitless, selfish and even idolatrous. At this point the gospel which changes a believer's heart, changes his viewpoint on work. Keller proposes a 'toolkit' of principles so that everyone can reflect on their own particular work, apply it, and seek to faithfully serve the Lord. eg. biblical understanding gives realism, but not cynicism, and it is balanced by hope. There is much practical wisdom in this section. However in general I found the first part of the book to be better than the last. For instance I like how Keller cites Luther as seeing that God designs his providence to be (in part) mediated through man's labour. Thus we rightly thank God for our daily bread - but there is a lengthy production process before it comes to our table.
Is this a must-read book? Well, no, in short. It is helpful but I feel Keller is stronger on his philosophy than his bible exposition. It contains an over-elevated view of 'common grace'. It extends redemption to all things, not just the realm of man's salvation. Now I realise this is a popular concept nowadays, but would urge caution. One other gripe is that Keller always seems to bend over backwards in order to be PC and 'with it'. This rather distorts his good endeavours!
'Every Good Endeavour. Connecting your work to God's plan for the world.' By Tim Keller, published by Hodder & Stoughton, h/b with dust jacket. RRP £12.99. From us £8.99.

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