Summer 2011

Introduction: Work

The Summer, 2011 issue of Communio is devoted to the theme of “work.” The Book of Genesis presents God instituting man as priest and king of the material universe. Priestly and royal dominion are consequences of man’s unique dignity among created beings as the image of God, an image constituted by an altogether special relationship with the Creator (cf. Gn 1:26–30) and, as Cardinal Ratzinger has argued, revealed in light of the Sonship of Jesus Christ to be filial in nature. Perhaps we could see the serpent’s suggestion that Adam and Eve eat of the tree of the knowledge as a temptation to turn priestly and royal dominion measured by the living God into the non-filial domination that is forgetful of God. When man yields to this temptation, his punishment is not simply “work” (after all, Genesis says that man was needed to tend the garden of Paradise even before the Fall). Rather, the punishment is the sweat that reminds postlapsarian man that he is drawn from the dust of the earth. These biblical elements require us to ponder the question of work jointly in light of the task of dominion that is not revoked on account of sin, on the one hand, and the perennial temptation to “Adamic” domination, on the other. It is particularly urgent to discern the difference between these in an age such as ours in which the technological transformation of nature has become the chief occupation of the entire world. It would be simplistic to critique technological culture for its soulless materialism. At the same time, thoughtful Christian critics like Canadian philosopher George Grant have argued that technology is the ontology of modern liberal societies.

The present number of Communio reflects on these issues, placing its discussion within the framework of creation in Jesus Christ. Christ, as Son of God and “the first-born of all creation” (Col 1:15), is both the model and the fulfillment of the pedagogy of providence that leads us back to rightful—priestly and royal— dominion by assuming human nature and offering himself together with the whole of creation back to the Father.

Michael Hanby in “Homo Faber and/or Homo Adorans: On the Place of Human Making in a Sacramental Cosmos,” traces the inversion of art and nature that characterizes modern technology. Hanby suggests that the deepest response to the question of technology is a new integration of work and worship that situates human making within the sacramental order of creation. “Techno-logy,” he argues, “as a certain kind of fusion of knowing and making, is not just a way of manipulating the world to our benefit. It is a way of understanding the world.” Since we “participate in creation in the ontological mode of the child,” and thus receive “our being as a gift, the inner form of making . . . is characterized by wonder and thanksgiving.”

David L. Schindler, in “America’s Technological Ontology and the Gift of the Given: Benedict XVI on the Cultural Significance of the Quaerere Deum,” argues that America’s liberal tradition lacks the capacity to let be what is first given, and thus the ability to recognize the given as gift. Proposing a reading of the founding assumptions that drive America’s characteristic way of being and acting, Schindler develops his argument in light of Pope Benedict XVI’s emphasis on the importance for human culture of the monastic “search for God and the readiness to listen to him.”