In roughly two weeks the missus and I will be returning to Turkey with students and faculty from the College. We spend a lot of time on a bus in order to go from Istanbul, down to Ephesus, out to Urfa, and back through the center of the country to Ankara and back to Istanbul — about 3,500 miles in all. I am packing lots of books.
Our driver in all likelihood will not be a Christian since Turkey’s Christian population is miniscule. But if he is the driver we had a year ago, he will be very good. From negotiating millenia old back streets in Istanbul or construction clogged avenues in Izmir, to remaining on the road while winding over and through the cliffs to Antalya or finding rest stops for his periodic smokes, this driver could drive a tour bus through the proverbial eye of a needle.
Justin Taylor’s recent post on Christian bus driving prompted these memories of Turkey. He asks a series of questions that generally adopt a 2k outlook. But Taylor can’t take the plunge and opts to play in the neo-Calvinist/pietist wading pool:
1) Does the Bible teach how to be a bus driver? No
2) Does the Bible teach how to be a Christian bus driver?
Of course. The Bible teaches that as Christians we should function within our God-ordained vocations (i.e., legitimate callings) (1) from biblical foundations, (2) with biblical motives, (3) according to biblical standards, and (4) aiming at biblical goals. These are the necessary and sufficient conditions for Christian virtue.
Faith working through love—before God and for our neighbor—is essential for virtuous action in our various vocations (1 Corinthians 13; Luke 10:27; Gal. 5:6, etc.). All things are to be done for God’s glory in accordance with his revealed will (1 Cor. 10:31). We are to work heartily unto God, not man, knowing that ultimately we are serving Christ before we serve our boss or our customer (Col. 3:23-24). We work in imitation of our creative, working God, and we work from a position of divine acceptance and not for a position of justification before him.
Well, if you rephrase the question, you could leave off “bus driver” and the answer would still apply (or you could insert YOUR VOCATION here). So the answer here is really a non-answer since it has nothing directly or overtly to do with driving a bus.
3) Is being a non-Christian bus driver inherently sinful?
It depends on what we mean here.
The vocation itself is a legitimate calling, sanctioned by God.
But one’s spiritual condition is not irrelevant in God’s evaluation of the proper way to fulfill a vocation. The Bible teaches that “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” (Heb. 11:6) and that “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23); therefore, any vocational pursuit devoid of genuine Christian faith is ultimately marked by sin and is finally displeasing to God. (The Westminster Confession of Faith 16.7 is helpful on this.) Their work is used by God but not fully pleasing to God.
But God is not a passenger on the bus. I am. And I don’t care for the sake of transportation (as opposed to for the sake of eternity) whether the driver is Christian or Muslim. Is he able to deliver me and the rest of the passengers safely to our destination. Can he do so while conserving fuel (for the sake of the environment)? And can he drive in a way that protects the bus owner’s property (for the sake of the economy)? Can he drive in a way that is free from stress (for the sake of his family)?
4) Can a non-Christian be a good bus driver? Yes, by “common grace” (of course).
5) Is a Christian necessarily a better bus drive than a non-Christian?
No. Christians are justified (uncondemned because of being clothed in the righteousness of Christ) but indwelling, entangling sin still remains. That means that before glorification Christians will never have pure goals, motives, or standards. A non-Christian may achieve a higher degree of competency in his or her vocation than a Christian—though this should not be the case. Sometimes this is a result of the non-Christian’s idolatry (achieving skills and competency at the expense of God and family and friendship and service); at other times a non-Christian will simply have more natural gifting from God for a particular vocation (e.g., a bus driver with better eyesight, superior reflexes, driving skills, experience, etc.)
Again, the skills are different from the piety, so why try to make devotion correspond to ability?
6) Is there a distinctively Christian way to think about the particulars of each vocation?
Yes, I believe that there is. My sense is that the more intellectual and aesthetically oriented the vocation, the more work has already been done on a distinctively Christian approach. This is, in my part, because the contrast will be more wide-ranging and apparent and because the Bible seems to have more to say directly about these areas. I’m thinking, for example, of areas like philosophy, education, and politics. (For some examples, see Alvin Plantinga’s “Advice to Christian Philosophers,” or the books in the Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition series.) The same would be true for aesthetics, as in music, fine arts, and design. It can be more difficult to see in areas oriented toward manual labor. But there is still much work that can be done in these areas. One of the problems is that intellectuals and philosophers are more inclined to know and study areas they are more interested in, and therefore other vocations become neglected in terms of analysis.
Great, so we need bus drivers to theorize about bus driving and write books, complete with study guides. Wouldn’t it be better to have a country music singer write songs and croon about the challenges of bus driving?
If we simply break this down by three parties — God, the bus driver, and (all about) me, the passenger, we can say that being a Christian bus driver only matters to the driver (ultimately). Bus driving has nothing to do with the driver’s standing before God. God ordains bus driving, and it is part of his providential care for creation to provide good (and sometimes bad) bus drivers. But the eternal status of a saint has nothing to do with whether or not he drives a bus.
I as a passenger, as noted above, don’t care (for the sake of the trip) whether the bus driver is a Christian. And if he is self-consciously so, it could make the journey unnecessarily awkward.
But I can imagine these questions matter to a bus driver who is a Christian. Should he or she (sorry Tim and David) try to honor God and love neighbors through his or her vocation? Sure. But it’s no one else’s business. So why do we need to have everyone else talking about it?
It strikes me that this question is on the order of this: there a way of driving a bus that yields an electoral victory in 2016 for Hilary Clinton? I suppose there may be. But who wonders about such things? Bill?