IVP - Behind the Books - In Good Humor

December 26, 2012

In Good Humor

I heard a surprising comment about this blog the other day from one reader whom I know particularly well: my mom. (Hi, Mom!) She said, "One thing I can tell from reading your blog is that you're having fun at your job." Yes! It's true. I'm thankful for the opportunity to experience joy in my work, and that reminds me of a string of quotations I've seen lately in IVP books for serious professionals.

The central link in this chain is from Mark Strong, a man who's written a book on a very heavy topic: fatherlessness. But fortunately that doesn't mean he doesn't know about joy:

When I was in seminary, one of my professors made a comment about some of the guys he went to school with: "The guys who played Ping-Pong and enjoyed life during their seminary days are still in the ministry today. The guys who were so serious and never came up for air or to have some fun are not in the ministry today." The point is well taken: we are to have a measure of joy in serving the Lord. …Be joyful and have some fun whenever you can.1

Just a few days earlier, I had run across this quotation from that giant, Karl Barth, quoted by Kelly Kapic in his new book, A Little Book for Young Theologians:

The theologian who has no joy in his work is not a theologian at all. Sulky faces, morose thoughts and boring ways of speaking are intolerable in this science. May God deliver us from what the Catholic Church reckons one of the seven sins of the monk — tædium [weariness] — in respect of the great spiritual truths with which theology has to do. But we must know, of course, that it is only God who can keep us from it.2

It might be tempting to cut short that quotation without the last sentence — but it's such an important reminder that the joy Barth is talking about is as much a gift given as a condition to be cultivated.

Finally, just in case we were wondering whether this "fun at work" stuff is just a contemporary phenomenon, an outgrowth of postmodern hedonism, there's this from G. R. Evans's "Roots of the Reformation":

Some sixteenth-century Reformers had a sense of humor — sometimes a coarse one by modern standards of good taste. Luther was particularly notable for guffaws of that sort. In fact this was an age of variegated humor, challenging old securities, with a rich vocabulary of mockery, laughing down the nose, derision, scurrility, irreverence. Satire and farce were popular. Dramatic monologues performed at feasts of the church could include risqué jokes: in drama, a pretend preacher could be a woman; macaronic games lowered the prestige of the learned languages by mixing them mischievously with the vernacular. Melanchthon taught his students to approach their studies with a smile, speaking of “games with words” as a ludus [game].3

I'm not sure I'll start mixing in bawdy jokes during staff meetings here at the Press, but it's good to know we're in good company in our good humor.

Here's hoping you find joy in your work!

1 Mark E. Strong, Church for the Fatherless: A Ministry Model for Society's Most Pressing Problem (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, IVP Praxis, 2012), 166.

2 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 2:1, trans. G. W. Bromiley (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1957-1969), 656, quoted in Kelly Kapic, A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, IVP Academic, 2012), 120-21.

3 G. R. Evans, The Roots of the Reformation: Tradition, Emergence and Rupture (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, IVP Academic, 2012), 425-26.

Posted by Jon Boyd at December 26, 2012 3:21 PM Bookmark and Share


I, for one, am very glad for the joy you have in your work these days, Jon. It is a gift to so many!

Comment by: Ann Boyd at December 27, 2012 10:21 PM

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