Monday, August 24, 2015

A Christian Approach to Work and Leisure

Leland Ryken, Redeeming the Time: A Christian Approach to Work and Leisure. Baker Books, 1995. 301 pages. ISBN 080105169x

Leland Ryken is professor emeritus of English at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. He is the author or editor of over forty books, including The Christian Imagination (editor), Realms of Gold: The Classics in Christian Perspective, Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were. Ryken is one of my favorite modern authors and I have read many of his books over the years. I have never been disappointed in reading a book authored by Ryken. Redeeming the Time is one of my favorites. Few books seek to apply biblical principles to both work and leisure in the same work. This is the only book I have read that gives the same attention to both work and leisure in the same work. It is beneficial to seeing the relationship between work and leisure in the same work.

Redeeming the Time: A Christian Approach to Work and Leisure is separated into five parts. The first part is "understanding work and leisure." In chapter one Ryken describes different ways people look at work. Some of these are work as a means to provide for our needs, work as toil or a curse, "work as a means of production," and work as service. Chapter two looks at different view-points about leisure. Ryken notes, "Leisure is not ethically neutral. It flourishes only when people believe in the goodness of pleasure and human fulfillment" (33). People usually favor one over the other, work over leisure, or leisure over work.

In part two Ryken discusses problems with work and leisure. One of the problems is the affect of technology. In chapter three he discusses some of the negative results of the technological revolution on work and leisure. The author thinks that it is not true that we have more time with the advances of technology. In chapter four he discusses how secular attempts at getting meaning out of work has failed. It has tried to get too much out of work and not enough. It is either a panacea or a curse. One of the problems that Ryken recognizes is the loss of the concept of work as a vocation or a calling.

Part three provides a historical view of work and leisure. The view of work in the classical age was that it was beneath you. In the Middles Ages there were the secular/sacred divide. Calling was only for those called to the service of the church. In chapter eight Ryken debunks certain myths about the Puritans and the Protestant Work Ethic. Some of these fallacies are: Work should absorb nearly all your time; self-interest is the motivation for work; getting rich is the goal of life; people can be successful through their own efforts; and others. In the second part of the chapter he discusses what the Protest view of work as vocation was really about. He notes, that the Protests "advocated work . . . because it was God's appointed means of providing for human needs" (101).

Part four looks at "inadequate solutions" to the modern problem of work and leisure. The last part presents the author's Christian view of work in leisure. In chapter 13 the author looks at work and leisure in the "created order." Since i have emphasized work, so far, I will discuss leisure in this part. The author believes leisure to be a "creation ordinance." In the first few chapters of Genesis, we have "rest as a commandment." The author notes that we have a "nonutilitarian creation." The Christian view of beauty is discussed by the author in this section. He says, that beauty is even "an attribute of God."

There are many other points I could mention about this book. He has an important chapter about time. He argues that we do not have time to do everything. We must make choices. In addition, the author speaks of higher leisure, for example the development of our mind. Ryken does a good job in presenting a Christian view of work and leisure. I highly recommend it to others.

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