Does God Work Hard Enough?
by JUSTIN D. BARNARD
Director of the Institute for Intellectual Discipleship
March 27, 2012 -
Every wise six-year-old intuitively grasps what foolish old administrators frequently don’t. The axiom of industrial logic (more + faster = better) is not universal in its application. For example, the six-year-old knows that slurping a frozen slushie on a hot afternoon is a refreshing treat. However, the sagacious six-year-old also knows that the intrinsic goodness of slurping one refreshing slushie does not entail that guzzling 10 slushies in 5 minutes would be better. (If there’s any doubt about this, ask any slurp-savvy six-year-old.) The generation or production of more of any single good by more efficient means is not always better. What’s true for widgets isn't true about slushie slurping.
Regrettably, industrial rationality has its skeletal fingers in a deathly vice-grip around the throat of common sense. Thus, the insufficiently-oxygenated gasp at the idea that the vocation of college teaching and scholarship, with its manifestly industrially-inefficient methods, might actually warrant the compensation associated therewith. Put differently, the industrialist doesn’t think college professors work hard enough.
Of course, from the standpoint of industrial rationality, this is obviously true. The logic of industrialization is utterly artless. It is nothing more than the science of squeezing out more in less time. Thus, if a college professor can “teach” (if one should call it that) 30 students at a time during a single class period, why not 40, 50, 100, or 500? And if a college professor can teach during a single class period, why not 5 class periods, or 10, or as many as there are “working hours” during a single day?
Obviously, the very possibility of reply to these rhetorical queries depends upon the rejection of industrial logic. One must deliberately embrace the idea that more in less time is not always better. Sadly, industrialization has corrupted our thinking to the point that this is increasingly almost incomprehensible to us.
For Christians, perhaps cognitive renewal might come from God’s self-disclosure in the narrative of Scripture itself. This is because the grand sweep of God’s salvific action in human history is utterly inefficient. To see this, one need only contemplate the simple fact that had God proposed the events that actually transpired over thousands of years - the events that ultimately led to Christ’s death and resurrection - as his “plan of salvation” to an industrially-minded board of investors, it would never have been approved.
The deep mystery of the Gospel - what is foolishness to the industrial rationality of the Greeks - is that God’s artistry moves in keeping with the rhythms of Divine Love - a love that transcends time. This theological reality is not bounded by any industrial economy. Indeed, it cannot be bound. Thus, the effort to bind ourselves to efficiency as the greatest virtue, while perhaps eminently practical in the industrial eyes of mammon, is ultimately a form of idolatry. And like all idols, the idol of industry will eventually demand the ultimate sacrifice of those who live according to its liturgy.
Much like slushie sipping, salvation from such demands is slow and sweet - “my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). But one cannot savor its delight apart from Grace. Perhaps our incessant need to assess whether we are working “hard enough” is a sign of our cultural damnation.