Human Flourishing and the Christian perspective on Work

The Christ on Campus Initiative is a project set up by the Gospel Coalition with the goal of reaching university students with the truth of Christianity. To do this, the Initiative is focused on releasing literature that addresses important intellectual and practical issues from a Christian perspective (previous articles have been on Christianity and Sexuality, Arguments for the existence of God, Religious Diversity and more).

This month, CCI have released a new 25 page article by Danielle Sallade on human flourishing. In the article, Sallade examines the practical aspects of what it means to live a life that might be correctly described as having flourished. Looking particularly at the lives of University students that she interacts with on a daily basis, she agrees with the philosopher, Blaise Pascal, who said that “the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room”. Sallade argues that a “culture of busyness” inhibits our ability to live in right relationship with God, our environment, neighbors, and ourselves. She writes:

I am troubled by this change in students as they progress through their education, and I have wondered what causes it. I think a major reason behind the change is that college students are constantly thinking about how their education is tied to the job they will get or the graduate school they will apply to. Since they know they are competing for a finite number of jobs or graduate school positions, their focus becomes the competition to outperform everyone else or at least stay toward the top of the pool. Their education and extracurricular pursuits become more about résumé-building and standing out from classmates rather than on what they are learning and how they are enjoying their God-given gifts. The same is true for high school students competing for a finite number of college acceptance letters. This causes pressure, fear, and stress, which in turn causes students to overwork and overcommit.

With this as the environment, my colleagues and I have thought much about how to counsel our students to live out their faith in their unique role as students. What should they believe about the purpose of a college education? How should their faith as Christians affect how they should study? How they should manage their time? How they should rest? How might they flourish in the fast-paced, pressure-filled culture they inhabit?

In thinking through the answers to these questions, I have realized that the students’ drive to achieve and outperform others is directly tied to their understanding of the nature of work and their definition of success. Most are working with a worldly viewpoint as their foundation. But as sinners in a fallen world, the worldly viewpoint is flawed and has caused our society to lose a God-centered perspective about work and success. The Bible graciously provides an alternative way to live that is God-centered rather than self-centered. When lived out, the result is freedom from the competitive rat-race and freedom from fear.

Our self-centered rather than God-centered approach has at least three mistakes at its core: (1) We wrongly value certain types of work over others. (2) We place our identity in our work and seek justification through our work. (3) We work as if we were independent operators, solely responsible for our daily provision, forgetting that God is our ultimate provider. These three mistaken perspectives about work affect what people believe about college education, which in turn affects the culture on college campuses today.

You can read the whole article on the Gospel Coalition site or download the PDF here.

Here’s her full outline:

1. The Culture of Busyness

1.1. Value in All Types of Work
1.2. Value in All Types of Work—by Design
1.3. Value in All Types of Work—By Example

2. Identity in Work

2.1. Identity in Christ
2.2. Work That Flows Out of Identity in Christ

3. Depending on God in our Work

3.1. Sabbath
3.2. Focus on Faithfulness

4. Conclusion

Sallade is a graduate of  Princeton University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and currently a staff member of Princeton Evangelical Fellowship.

(HT: Andy Naselli)

Simultaneous Causation

In discussing the Kalam Cosmological argument[1] an objection is often raised against the conclusion that the universe has a cause. This is that there cannot be a cause of the universe because there were no prior instants of time before t = 0 in the initial Big Bang singularity. Similarly, for the universe to have a beginning requires there be a time before the universe existed, and since the universe includes time there is no “before” the universe, making the notion apparently incoherent.

One of the worlds leading philosophers of time and proponent of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, Dr. William Lane Craig, definitively answers this objection bellow.[2]

For he [Grünbaum] fails to consider the obvious alternative that the cause of the Big Bang operated at t = 0, that is, simultaneously (or coincidentally[3]) with the Big Bang. Philosophical discussions of causal directionality routinely treat simultaneous causation, the question being how to distinguish A as the cause and B as the effect when these occur together at the same time [Dummett and Flew (1954); Mackie (1966); Suchting (1968-69); Brier (1974), pp. 91-98; Brand (1979)]. Even on a mundane level, we regularly experience simultaneous causation; to borrow an example from Kant, a heavy ball’s resting on a cushion being the cause of a depression in that cushion. Indeed, some philosophers argue that all efficient causation is simultaneous, for if the causal conditions sufficient for some event E were present prior to the time t of E‘s occurrence, then E would happen prior to t; similarly if the causal conditions for E were to vanish at t after having existed at tn < t, then E would not occur at t. In any case, there seems to be no conceptual difficulty in saying that the cause of the origin of the universe acted simultaneously (or coincidentally) with the origination of the universe. We should therefore say that the cause of the origin of the universe is causally prior to the Big Bang, though not temporally prior to the Big Bang. In such a case, the cause may be said to exist spacelessly and timelessly sans the universe, but temporally subsequent to the moment of creation.

My favorite example of simultaneous causation is that of a submerged log which causes the water to be displaced. Another example is of a man who from eternity has been standing, and by sitting (the cause A) creates a lap (the effect B). In these there is no question of the causal directionality, even though the cause and effect are operative at the exact same instant.

So the so-called problem of it being impossible for the universe to have a cause is not at all insuperable. As Craig says, it is “pretty clearly a pseudo-dilemma.”[4]


Footnotes

[1] 1.) Everything that begins to exist has a cause,

2.) The universe began to exist

3.) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

[2] William Lane Craig, “Creation and Big Bang Cosmology.” Philosophia Naturalis 31 (1994): 217-224.

[3] – coincidentally in case “simultaneity” is strictly defined in terms of occurrence at the same time. Since the singularity is not an instant or moment of time, but a boundary of time, a cause producing its effect at the singularity could not be strictly said to be simultaneous with its effect. Nonetheless they both occur coincidentally (in the literal sense of the word), that is, they both occur at t = 0. Ibid., Craig, “God and Big Bang Cosmology.” Footnote 1.

[4] Ibid., Craig, “God and Big Bang Cosmology.”