Integrating Work and Theology

I do not often use the word “powerful” to describe something but in the case of the following presentation I think the epithet is well deserved. In this lecture Paul S. Williams critiques the problem with modern theological education and offers some important correctives and opportunities. What makes this talk so masterful is that he uses a brilliant approach that draws from various disciplines. He hits on issues of ¬†hermeneutics, pedagogy, philosophy, theology and missiology all in one lecture. Below is the full audio of his presentation with a Q&A session afterwards. Click the link below for his presentation slides.

Presentation slides

He claims we are using a 19th century German idealist factory model for theological education today for a world that no longer exists. With theological education he focuses on how we approach and study the Bible which he argues is essentially from an Enlightenment paradigm. The Bible was never intended to be read that way. As such he thinks the problem is a hermeneutical one that is, what we think the Bible is and what it is for, and his entire presentation is framed around this issue. The predominantly devotional model we use makes it hard for us to see how scripture applies to every facet of work, life and learning.

If you have been following this blog closely you know many of these things are dear to my heart. Biblical literacy is very important to me and I have talked about it several times. He emphasises seeing the Bible as a metanarrative, being wary of Enlightenment thinking as well as the importance of vocation. These are things I imagine N.T. Wright, a theological hero of mine, would agree with a lot. Also his reference to the current education model and it’s crippling effects reminded me of something a friend of mine pointed out to me last year. I hadn’t really thought about it since but this lecture brought it back in view in a fresh new way. As a young entrepreneur and innovator as well as devout believer he would be another person I think would agree with Mr. Williams a lot.

Paul S. Williams is a research professor in theology at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada. He is also a trained economist. He does work at the Oikonomia Network. It is an organization which seeks to help Christian professionals integrate their faith with their work. You can go here to find the original presentation with summary notes and more resources on the intersection of vocation and theology. Go here for a more detailed summary.


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