Is Work Working For You? A Biblical Theology of Work & Vocation

Stephen Hague, Christ and Culture Seminar at Faith Theological Seminary, Nov 11, 2017
(To see the whole essay, click here A Biblical Theology of Work by Stephen T. Hague)

  • For a vast number of people today, Christians included, work is “not working” for them since they have never been taught a biblical theology of vocation. Indeed, work is often seen as the obstacle to life, the antonym for fun and enjoyment. Many people think and speak as if work itself is their curse in life, or God’s curse on them. (Hopefully you have never had employment that led you to feel this way! I certainly have).

  • Think of all the work related bumper stickers these days (above).
  • In fact, there has frequently been in modern European (and some American) literature and film the theme that work crushes the soul. (This is remarkable in light of the truly crushing load of pre-modern labor and slavery in the world in contrast to the relative ease and comforts of much labor in “developed” countries.) Yet, the main thrust of this theme is typically that work has no purpose, significance, or meaning. It is even sometimes seen to be what will destroy our person.
  • Or, as in many cultures, work was only for the lower classes, since to dirty one’s hands was beneath the elite. Ancient Greek views led to a diminished understanding of the material world, in which work was for servants and slaves; to the elite work was a degrading curse, so they sought a life of philosophy, politics, and art. Aristotle and Socrates considered leisure the goal of life. This attitude led to the pursuit of freedom, freedom especially from the necessity of labor.
  • Consider the ascetic views historically in the church: dividing secular/sacred, mundane/spiritual, body/soul(as of higher concern);  in the Middle Ages there was the widespread assumption of life divided  into sacred (spiritual workers) and secular (ordinary workers). Consider the history of asceticism in the church and its cultural separatism  –  UNTIL THE REFORMATION redressed it.
  • Consider, for example, the phrase “full-time Christian service/ or ministry” that we often hear today; this indicates we have not completely moved beyond the medieval notions of sacred and secular work.
  • Negative attitudes really blossomed in the 1960’s in the USA and Europe with the Marxist revolution that shook our world, and in large measure as a reaction against broadly biblical conceptions of work, property, and profit we have shared in the U.S. since Colonial times. In total ignorance, our generation revolted against the fruits of the free-markets and labor that have produced so much prosperity and affluence. This led to the very destructive view that work itself is exploitation and denigration of the person and the poor, and that profit and prosperity are usually the fruits of that exploitation.
  • The result: hippie communes (lame experiments in pseudo-communism where food, money, drugs, property, and men and women were shared “freely” with so-called “unconditional love.” The reality: exploitation and denigration of all those involved, since greed and laziness are the best fruits of that ideology).
  • No matter what form they take, unbiblical conceptions of work result in the institutionalization of envy, covetousness, cruelty, theft, power-mongering, and greed.
  • I believe in many ways this is the most important topic we have yet considered in our seminars at the Seminary, since I am convinced that unbiblical views of work, labor, vocation, calling, money, and economics, are at the heart of the vast majority of our troubles today, whether  personal, national, or international; whether related to meaning and purpose, or to personal finances and careers, or to psychological and social realities of marriage and family, church life, as of course in all of the workplace. The issues of poverty, drug proliferation and addictions, crime, and violence in the cities, human trafficking, and especially the enormous ideological divide in America, are all products to some degree of unbiblical views of work, money, property, vocation, and economics.
  • To see the whole essay, click here: A Biblical Theology of Work by Stephen T. Hague

An election week postscript on the credulity of the Progressive Mercedes-Marxists in our times who run our cities and control our Federal Government

In our time, in most places on the earth, the Marxist gospel has been spread with a subversive and ruthless sword, but in the constitutional republic of America, thus far, it has largely been advanced with a silver tongue that masks a spiteful heart (to get elected). This mission has been possible without any need for gulags or prison camps. 

In our time, the extraordinary Clinton/Obama/Sanders type credulity is the uncompromising creed that their Socialistic theocracy has relieved poverty, rather than created it. This delusionary belief may, or may not, be sincerely embraced by all who claim it, but its messianic propaganda has been widely received by those convinced that they will be beneficiaries of a benevolent dictatorship of government largesse. For the recipients who follow this doctrine, it is not necessary to understand that state ownership of the means of production, and its massive, forced redistribution of wealth, has in the past resulted in the totalitarian control of everything. Willing converts to this faith frequently discover too late that they have become the property of those engineering the Socialistic reconstruction of the economy, who in the process must create sufficient poverty for the masses to become dependents in a vicious cycle of votes given in order to assure basic needs of food, shelter, health-care, and education.

In our time, these zealous neo-Marxists have in reality created an enormous plantation right in our midst, in nearly every American city, enslaving faithful millions who willingly surrender their votes in hope. Their misplaced hope is of salvation from grinding poverty (even hunger) and social degradation: arguably, the very best products of Progressive ideology. It does not seem to occur to the devotees that their Rulers’ systems are perfectly designed to get the results they are getting, and that all such societies must inevitably perish along with the martyrs to their false economies.

The most bitter venom of these new Master-priests of societal and economic engineering is reserved for any who digress from their orthodoxy, maligning them as those who do not care about the plight of the Progressives’ impoverished and needy congregations. Indeed, they falsely characterize opponents of the socialist faith as enemies of their opiated, dependent millions.

In reality, for all who do care, recent history in the USSR (and China, North Korea, Vietnam, etc.) should remind us that the Marxists there have taught us well how to reduce the majority of the faithful population to abject misery and hopelessness by creating sufficient poverty and total dependency. It hardly needs mentioning that this scenario requires the social engineers of this failed experiment to retain their own great power and prosperity to manage it all. Yet, I am compelled this election week to make note that in America, the most prosperous and free land in history, that these elected Progressives have, right under our noses, created miseries unmatched even in the Communist nations. These sad tales include spiritual, moral, economic degradation, and violence on a scale that only Josef Stalin could fully appreciate. To deny this direct link between their ideology and its fruit is one of the worse kinds of their dissembling; it is not simply disingenuous. In regards to violence, there are hundreds of murders every year in every American, third-world inner-city plantation (the disastrous Progressives’ “Projects”); there has been genocidal violence against millions of their unborn, minority children, intentionally concentrated where the clinics of “termination” are mostly located. Adding further injury, countless families have been divided by the Socialist Welfare policies of cutting off payments when any sign of a male presence is discovered in the home of women with children, further impoverishing the family and destroying opportunity. To cope with their hopeless captivity, millions there have also become addicted to drugs in desperation. Baltimore alone estimates some 70,000 addicts. Is it then not a marvel that anchors on Chanel 11 still gush about a “Baltimore uprising,” romanticizing drug dealers and anarchists who took control of a few of our city blocks for a weekend back in 2015? The dealers strategically targeted and emptied many liquor stores and pharmacies, while the anarchists fomented violence and burned buildings in the name of Marxian theology, dramatically escalating the drug-war casualties since. Is this the best Progressives can offer us? This was no revolution, nor even a “race riot,” in any sense of the word. And those most hurt were the elderly and their neighborhood pharmacies which depend upon a free, market economy, the very front and center object of the attack. Those most enervated and energized were the Leftists-on-the-Street who are the unwitting, prophetic mouth-piece for the theocrats’ Progressive message. True to character, they have sought to revise the facts of reality to assure at the polls that they will retain, and gain more, power for very real oppressors who will continue this cyclic, downward Progress of economic and social impoverishment.

As we go to the polls,
this may sound rather alarmist,
because it is.

Speaking of the Baltimore press on the so-called “Uprising”: some throwback thoughts on Socialism-Communism

MarxHistoryI have shared below some sobering insights from Berdyaev that might seem a bit out-of-date and unwelcome, since we all know that “Communism has collapsed.” And also, no-one likes to hear from alarmists. Nevertheless, if you can bear with me momentarily, I suggest that there is recent evidence of an increase of deluded ignorance about economics in our beloved USA: it is seen in the Baltimore riots, the Marxian news anchors who keep calling it an “uprising,” the Anarchists’ and Communist Party’s support for the riots, as well as the meteoric rise of people like Bernie Sanders in the (Socialistic) Democratic Party. It is true that many people try to differentiate Communism from Socialism, but in Marxian theory they are simply different stages in the supposed dialectical evolution of the class struggle. In both cases, the small details that are often overlooked by careless historians and Messianic-Dreamers of the New-World-of-equal-everything, is that it will require the impoverishing of all (but the Party), millions of deaths, gulags, and the eventual destruction of civilization. Have we forgotten that all of the above happened not-too-long-ago in the DeathCamp of The Soviet Union, The DyingField of Vietnam, the WalkingDead of North Korea, the sixty-million who perished in Mao’s China, as well as the uncounted deaths in numerous other nation states? Have we become a nation of Amnesiacs on Huxley’s Soma? Is it time to re-read Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984?

“All the untruths of Communism come from its Godlessness and inhumanity; the falseness of the sanguinary coercion by which it wants to found social justice, the falseness of the tyranny that cannot bear man’s dignity; its admission of every conceivable means to further the end it considers as supreme and unique; rancour, hatred and revenge as a way of obtaining perfect life, the brotherhood of men. There was a demoniacal element in Marx’s teaching, which gave it its invincible dynamism. He believed that good can be produced by evil, that light can be obtained through darkness, that freedom would result from dire blind necessity. Evil must increase, darkness must thicken. That is how he understood the dialectics of the social process. The workmen’s lot must grow worse in capitalist society (the Verelendungstheorie), the labourers must become more and more embittered and penetrated by vindicative and violent emotions. That is the basis of Marx’s revolutionary messianic hope. He wants the working class, which is an empirical reality, to be saturated with proletarian consciousness. When that happens, feelings of resentment, envy, hatred and revenge will grow up in it.”
N. A. Berdyaev,THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION, Sheed and Ward edition, p. 84 (entire book available on



“The greater the protection afforded to particular interests, the greater the damage to the community as a whole, and to that extent the smaller the probability that single individuals gain thereby more than they lose.” Socialism, p. 229

“If history could prove and teach us anything, it would be that private ownership of the means of production is a necessary requisite of civilization and material well-being.” Socialism, p. 583


ludwig-von-misess-quotes-3“No intelligent man could fail to recognize that what the socialists, communists and planners were aiming at was the most radical abolition of the individuals’ freedom and the establishment of government omnipotence. Yet the immense majority of the socialist intellectuals were convinced that in fighting for socialism they were fighting for freedom. They called themselves left-wingers and democrats, and nowadays they are even claiming for themselves the epithet ‘liberal.’
Ludwig von Mises, The Anti-capitalistic Mentality, p. 61

It is quite sad to see the philosophically confused universe of many of our elected politicians:  they often stand conflicted between the many ideologies and attitudes they were raised by: Liberation theology; “black” theology; anti-colonialism; anti-Americanism; generalized anger and hatred; Communism/Socialism underlying the paganism and communalism of the drugs, sex, and alcohol culture of the hippies and the (covertly) radicalized in our contemporary political parties; anarchism; and the empty theological liberalism of the many churches bereft of belief.  This is the short list of ideologies plaguing our generation. Of course, one of the bitter ironies sometimes noted, is that so many who follow such delusions for identity, and to bring about “change” [read “radical disruption of the market and redistribution of wealth”], actually are children of great privilege, as in the case of our present President [though he never knew poverty, but great privilege. he often plays the poverty/oppressed card]. Apparently, the central truth is that such confused radicalized individuals do not see that their privileged lives are the real fruit of our democratic society and market economy. It has been the market economy that gives these children of privilege the freedom and resources to seek the very destruction of the very tree that blessed them with bounty and freedom.

In truth, though, none of this confusion can be resolved without an eternal [God’s] perspective on life and this world. Nevertheless, ideologies of identity and Utopian radicalism will continue to capture peoples’ fanciful and deluded imaginations, because they embrace the religious components of these dreams that promise them a personal identity, purpose, cause, reason to be, significance, and “redemption.” In fact, redemption cannot come from what is finite and human, not even can one’s identity come from what is finite, whether cultural or ethnic; no money, no class, no genetics, sexual/social relations, and certainly not one’s skin color. In the eternal perspective of the gospel, it is that only in the One God who is infinite and eternal that we finite creatures can find our integration point, our identity, our reason for being. There is nothing finite that is sufficient to provide any of these, therefore all of the ideologies noted above falsely promise what they will never be able to deliver. It is within that context also that we must come to understand economics, and the absolute necessity of private property in a free market governed by sound ethics and moral law. What we need is redemption, not revolution nor plunder from our neighbors’ stores, homes, and property. This is impressed upon with me renewed force this week during the Baltimore riots and plundering in the city, but also by reflecting on the government policies increasingly expanding the dystopian realities of those seeking to build their utopian fantasies at our expense and at the expense of freedom and prosperity for our children.

Vital Lessons in Economics [for Baltimore] from Ludwig Von Mises: # 5

MisesPoster“People may disagree on the question of whether everybody ought to study economics seriously. But one thing is certain. A man who publicly talks or writes about the opposition between capitalism and socialism without having fully familiarized himself with all that economics has to say about these issues is an irresponsible babbler.” Ludwig von Mises, The Anti-capitalistic Mentality, p. 34.

“It is not the fault of the capitalists that the Asiatics and Africans did not adopt those ideologies and policies which would have made the evolution of autochthonous capitalism possible. Neither is it the fault of the capitalists that the policies of these nations thwarted the attempts of foreign investors to give them ‘the benefits of more machine production.’ No one contests that what makes hundreds of millions in Asia and Africa destitute is that they cling to primitive methods of production and miss the benefits which the employment of better tools and up-to-date technological designs could bestow upon them. But there is only one means to relieve their distress—namely, the full adoption of laissez- faire capitalism. What they need is private enterprise and the accumulation of new capital, capitalists and entrepreneurs. It is nonsensical to blame capitalism and the capitalistic nations of the West for the plight the backward peoples have brought upon themselves. The remedy indicated is not ‘justice’ but the substitution of sound, i.e., laissez-faire, policies for unsound policies.” Ludwig von Mises, The Anti-capitalistic Mentality, p. 55