Every Waking Hour - A Review

Every Waking Hour is the third installment of volumes published as part of the Economic Wisdom project at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. This brief volume, written by Benjamin Quinn and Walter Strickland, focuses on the doctrine of vocation and presents it at a level accessible to the average church member.

The book consists of five content chapters in addition to its introduction, conclusion, and three brief appendices. Chapter one presents an overview of the theology of work. The next two chapters outline the concept of work as it is presented in Old and New Testaments, respectively. Chapter four focuses on the relationship between Christ, wisdom, and work. The last content chapter synthesizes the biblical data and relates it to the idea of working for God’s kingdom, being on mission, and being a good disciple. The three appendices answer the potentially sticky question of how to work with and for non-believers, describe how to evaluate your job in relation to your vocation, and offer suggestions for further reading.

Every Waking Hour is a clear, basic introduction to an important topic. After all, people spend a great deal more time working for a living than they do in church or actively praying. If we cannot redeem those hours spent on the job for the kingdom of God, then one wonders how Christianity is really valid as a totalizing worldview. The text begins with Scripture and remains close to that touchstone throughout. This is a volume that does not seek to baptize vocation, but to explain what the Bible says about it.

Strickland and Quinn exhibit a pastoral concern for Christians trying to figure out how to reconcile their workaday roles with their Christianity. They reinforce the reality that the pastor’s work is not holier than the janitors. The lowliest employee on the job has the potential to bring about redemption of some part of the world through his work. Upon reading this, one can hope readers will respond with gratitude as they have the value of their vocations affirmed beyond their ability to earn a paycheck and fund the church’s various endeavors.

For those well read in the faith and work movement, this volume adds little that is new. It is not a scholarly volume designed to stretch the field or innovatively explain the topic. Rather, it is a basic primer for the uninitiated. At just over one hundred small format pages of text, this is the sort of book that can be devoured in an airplane ride. It could also serve as a resource for a several week Sunday School elective on the intersection of faith and work.

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary has produced three volumes like this, which offer simple, clear, and basic introductions to important topics. Although such resources lack the scholarly weight of a technical monograph, this sort of resource created for the Church is likely to contribute to the welfare of a significantly larger number of Christians. As such, this book and the entire series are a welcome addition to a pastor’s library.

Every Good Thing - A Review

Some Christians seem to doubt the goodness of the world around. They take the opposition of “the world, the flesh, and the devil” to mean that somehow the material world around is sinful and must be repudiated.

This position has its roots in an exaggerated application of Jesus’ commands to seek the kingdom first and store up treasures in heaven. These commands are intended to call Christians away from the this-worldly focus that tends to consume our minds by virtue of proximity.

The anti-world attitude has been popularized in Christian hymns like, “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through.”

We have reason to hope in the coming restoration of all things. This is an eschatological hope. However, that hope should inspire action in this world, not cause Christians to withdraw into a bunker mindset.

The balancing act between hoping in heaven and working in this world can be difficult, but it is absolutely necessary.

The recent book from David W. Jones, Every Good Thing, is a valuable resource for Christians seeking to balance heavenly mindedness with this-worldy goodness.

Every Good Thing is an intentionally introductory volume, which has as its main goal the reunification of the Christian life. We are called to be seven-day Christians, who apply biblical ethics to each decision, and every situation. We are driven, because of the demands of a biblical worldview, to see each area of our life as subordinate to the lordship of Jesus-Christ. Jones’ recent book helps with that reunification.


The book is brief, with a little over 100 pages of text, but in a small format. It is designed to be easily read, digested by a wide audience, with clear lines of application. The format is ideal for a short term book study in a small group or use as a text in a discipleship context.

The first of six chapters provides a foundation for the remainder of the volume, defining terms and outlining how Jesus’ life and ministry fits into the discussion of goodness and the material world. Chapter two deals with work and vocation. The topic is en vogue in conservative Christian circles, but mainly because it has been neglected for a number of years. This chapter charts a course for reuniting the Christian life through a better understanding of calling.

The third chapter seeks to balance out the idea of work and vocation with a discussion of rest and Sabbath. One of the possible side-effects of viewing work as an opportunity to serve God is that it will cause a restless, relentless push for productivity. That isn’t the point, as Jones stresses in the third chapter. Rather, rest and Sabbath are gifts from God to balance the goodness of human productivity with the joy of God’s provision.

Chapter four outlines a biblical theology of wealth and poverty. Here, Jones pushes back against attitudes that see spirituality as necessarily connected to financial prosperity. He fights the errors of the so-called Prosperity Gospel as well as the competing errors like asceticism. Christians need to value the world properly, which generally means walking a narrow road between extreme errors.

In the fifth chapter, Jones takes on the idea of valuing creation and stewardship. Environmental ethics has generally gotten a bad rap among conservative Christians. Part of this is that much of the environmental movement has gone head over heels for anti-human attitudes that run contrary to Scripture. However, there is a strong place in Christian theology for rightly caring for the creation God has entrusted to humans. Jones makes a good case for that in this chapter. He then closed in Chapter Six with some summary comments, pointing toward areas for further study.

Analysis and Critique

This book’s greatest limitations are in its format. The accomplished scholar will pick up this brief volume and wonder what it adds to the scholarly discussion. The answer to that is simply, nothing. No chapter is comprehensive. There are no footnotes. Every rabbit trail is not chased. A particular set of assumptions about Scripture and theological method are made and not defended. That is the nature of this book as an introductory volume.

Conversely, the greatest strengths of this book are in its format. The layperson or young theological student can pick this book up and gain a quick understanding of a conservative perspective on the relationship between Christianity and the surrounding world. It is grounded in a distinctly orthodox worldview, and intended to bring people into the conversation that might otherwise not be exposed to these important ideas. 

This book fills a desperate need for the Church. It helps form the connection between a Christian worldview and the world around. Jones has written winsomely and carefully. This is a book that would serve well in a number of settings in the local church, and would be a particularly useful tool in discipleship activities with young Christians.

Note: I received a gratis copy of this volume from the author with no expectation of a positive review.

Every Square Inch Belongs to God

How much of creation is under Christ’s lordship? Bruce Ashford answers that question in Kuyperian fashion in Every Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians.

This small book packs a punch as Ashford translates his understanding of the Church-culture relationship into terms laypeople can understand and appreciate. Having spent several years living outside of the culture of the United States, Ashford gained insight into ways his understanding of Christianity was inappropriately tied up in his perception of American life.

 Ashford sums up his biggest point as he wraps up his discussion of culture,

Absolutely everything in life matters to God. He cared not only about the goings-on within the four walls of a congregational gathering, but also about the goings-on in other corners of society and culture. We must live Christianly not only as the Church gathered on Sunday morning for worship, but also as the Church scattered into the world in our work, leisure, and community life. We must take seriously our interactions in the arts, the sciences, the public square, and the academy.

 Every Square Inch seeks to show what the interface between Christianity and culture should look like.


 After a brief introduction, Ashford demonstrates how views on culture vary. Just as a fish can’t describe water, so do we have difficulty understanding our own view on culture until someone points out distinctions between positions. In Chapter Two, Ashford explains his vision for a theology of culture, following the pattern of the biblical narrative through three movements: Creation, Fall, and Redemption/New Creation. These categories provide the rubric for much of Ashford’s academic work.

Dorothy L. Sayers

Dorothy L. Sayers

 In the third chapter, the topic is vocation as it relates to culture. For many, vocation means the work one does to earn wages. However, Ashford’s vision is richer and fuller, encompassing various aspects of life like family, career/work, church, etc. We are called to more than just a career, we are called to honor God in every aspect of our lives. Chapter Four outlines six case studies on engagement with culture, which helps prove Ashford’s position is valid. He uses Augustine of Hippo, Balthasar Hubmaier, Abraham Kuyper, C.S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Francis Schaeffer as examples. Although none of these examples are expounded thoroughly, Ashford gives sufficient information to portray them accurately and to point the readers on to do further investigation for themselves.

Chapters Five through Nine all deal with particular spheres that Christians should seek to influence for Christ. In these five chapters, Ashford discusses engagement with the Arts, Sciences, Politics and the Public Square, Economics and Wealth, and Scholarship and Education. None of these chapters is a final analysis, but they do provide a helpful introduction and a place to begin the process of discovery.

Ashford concludes the book discussion the Christian Mission, which entails living all of life under Christ’s lordship and seeking to help demonstrate his Lordship in all creation. This a grand theme that permeates Scripture and pushes the Church outside her walls and into her communities for the glory of the Lord.


In about 130 pages of content, Ashford manages to provide a solid overview of a broad sweep of Christian thought. Besides the question of the relationship between the Law and the Gospel, there are few questions more significant to Christian theology than how Christians should relate to cultures which are, most often throughout history, not distinctly Christian. Ashford’s book is a beginner’s field guide on the topic.

 This is the sort of book I would recommend as a gift as a High School or College graduation gift. It’s the sort of thing I wish I had read earlier in life. It would also be a useful tool for pastors seeking to help expose an inquiring parishioner to meaningful cultural engagement or to help someone break out of a pattern of cultural isolationism.

 As Western culture becomes increasingly post-Christian, learning to be a Christian minority will become more and more significant. Ashford’s book will help someone make a beginning step in that direction.