The Heavenly Good of Earthly Work. By Darrell Cosden. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2006. 148 pp. Paper. $17.95.
Most Christians throughout the history of the church have truly struggled to bring their spiritual lives into a healthy balance with the everyday matters of work life. Darrell Cosden has written an enriching glimpse of “a theology of work that works” (p. 103). From the beginning of this short work, Cosden engages his readership with a brief history on his subject then appropriately broadens the scope of his argument. Cosden guides us from the more recent discussion of the matter to his own thought on the relationship of work in the two spheres of concern—the eternal and the earthly. The author has divided his book into three short sections for us, outlining his discussion in an easy to follow way while building his argument inductively.
In the first section, Cosden focuses on explaining the nature of the dualistic thought that has developed in many Christian traditions where the “calling” and “class” tend to divide believers from unity, frustrating them from connecting earthly work with the eternal (pp. 16-48). He then responds to both Roman Catholic and early Protestant thought on earthly work in his second section. Here, Cosden focuses his response to these traditions in view of the Scriptural understanding of Christ as both the “prototype” (p. 54) and “quintessential Adam” (p. 60) for all those who have believed. He devotes much of this section to explain how Luther’s understanding of justification should allow us to work out of love in response to (not for) our salvation from the penalty of sin. But at the same time, Cosden creates distance from Luther, seeing a theology of earthly work much differently. The concluding section is more practical as it deals with applying the Word of God to self by means of Godly stewardship and a strong focus on missions.
Cosden’s book highlights a few Free Grace issues, but the Judgment Seat of Christ is primary in his consideration (pp. 111-21). In Free Grace theology, one understands that earthly work has both a present value (the experience of eternal life now in a perishing body), and a future value (the rewards at Christ’s coming, the hope of reigning with Christ, a greater fullness of eternal life in glorification). Cosden is relatively clear on the Judgment Seat in relation to rewards. However, when dealing with the receiving of eternal life, Cosden slightly leans towards a Reformed view at times. This is evident in his unclear explanation of the “right relationship” he suggests a “friend” has to the Master in John 15, but the “servant” may or may not have (pp. 121-22). He never clarifies his meaning.
Darrell Cosden has given us a quick look at Christian traditions concerning the area of earthly work. He is usually clear that earthly work is not an addition to justification, but the freedom to thank God for justification daily, “partnering with Christ as co-heirs” (pp. 122-24). Though he is unclear at times with his position on Free Grace issues, this book is easy to read, user-friendly, and properly places our work in the Lord as earthly work which is not in vain.
William R. Turner
Grace Evangelical Society