Christians May Not Be “Better” Bus Drivers, But They Should Be

Skinner bus driver

Justin Taylor does us a service by the unusual way he approaches the question, “is there a distinctively Christian way to be a bus driver?” Instead of a yes or a no, Justin breaks this question down into a number of component questions:

  • Does the Bible teach how to be a bus driver?
  • Does the Bible teach how to be a Christian bus driver?
  • Is being a non-Christian bus driver inherently sinful?
  • Can a non-Christian be a good bus driver?
  • Is a Christian necessarily a better bus drive than a non-Christian?
  • Is there a distinctively Christian way to think about the particulars of each vocation?

He then gives his answer to each question; some of them are “yes,” some of them are “no” and some of them are more complicated than that!

Building on the idea of two anxieties to be avoided in culture making, I would want to add one more question to this list. It grows from the last two questions on Justin’s list.

Justin asks whether a Christian is necessarily a better bus driver than a non-Christian and answers with a flat “no” – for a variety of reasons, we are not entitled to expect that any given Christian bus driver will be a better bus driver than any given non-Christian bus driver. On the other hand, Justin answers “yes” to the question of whether there is a distinctively Christian way to think about bus driving – the gospel and biblical revelation open up a whole new spiritual world to us, including in our vocations. He points to an emerging field of reflection on how distinctively Christian knowledge can reshape our understanding of fields like philosophy, art and social science, and suggests that the same could be done for less academic professions.

I would hasten to add, however, that it is not enough simply to “think about” our vocations in a distinctively Christian way. The work of the Spirit in our lives empowers us to drive busses and carry out all our other vocations in ways that are shaped by our gospel knowledge, and we are responsible to carry that spiritual power into action. As I wrote in an earlier post:

[The Christian factory worker] should radiate the gospel in both objective and subjective ways. Objectively, he should not only be a highly virtuous worker, he should go above and beyond the predominant ethical expectations that prevail on his factory floor. Perhaps he will take on more tasks or be a peacemaker when coworkers are in conflict. He may need to constructively challenge unethical practices. Subjectively, his bearing, spirit and demeanor should radiate the gospel. His company should taste different to those around him.

This doesn’t mean Christian bus drivers disregard their road maps and instead take a quiet moment of prayer and reflection to determine which way God wants them to steer the bus. It does mean that Christian bus drivers do their work with a different spirit (or rather, “Spirit”), and as a result their performance should change in objective and subjective ways that do, in the most important and relevant sense, make them “better bus drivers.”

So now to my proposed question. Once we’ve said Christians are not necessarily better bus drivers, but there is a distinctively Christian way to understand bus driving, we can then ask:

  • Are Christian bus drivers specially empowered for their work by the Spirit, such that they ought to become better bus drivers than non-Christians, who are not thus empowered?

Three guesses how I’d answer.

17 Thoughts.

  1. Pingback: Should Christians be the Best at What They Do? : What's Best Next

  2. If this is true then all Christians in the work force should be paid the most, have the highest positions, and be unbeatable in professional sports…

    • Well, obviously “being the highest paid” should not be their goal. And as Justin and I both mentioned, Christians will not always live up to their obligations, so in fact they may not be noticeably better than their peers.

      Also, if you note the standard I’m setting for what counts as a “better” bus driver, it’s not always “better” in terms of what the labor market rewards. A bus driver who demonstrates a spirit of cheerful hope in his work is in fact a better bus driver, but that will not necessarily raise his pay.

      Plus, there are natural limits to the efficiency of labor markets. Suppose for a moment that (for example) the Christian bus driver is a peacemaker who defuses conflicts among his coworkers. That delivers major economic value to his employer. However, it’s unrealistic to expect labor markets in the real world to deliver him a higher paycheck for that. The big bosses in the central office don’t know which employees are the peacemakers and would have difficulty assigning a dollar value to their contribution even if they did know.

      Finally, even beyond the natural limits of the labor market, there are unnatural limits. From the Wagner Act to racial discrimination, there are all kinds of injustices that prevent wages from representing the full economic value of the employee’s work even when it could otherwise do so.

      In fact, one reason Christians may not be the highest paid even if they’re the best at what they do could be discrimination against Christians!

  3. I will have something to say about all this. A talk I gave last year at Regent University was subtitled, “What Does It Mean to Be A Christian Bus Driver?” As to Jeremiah’s point, yes indeed, much of this would have to be indexed to the individual! So even if we conclude that the Christian faith would have a measurably qualitative impact on the observable performance of driving a bus, that impact would have to be indexed to the individual’s own starting point, so to speak, his or her own abilities, talents, and dispositions. So it would be a relative improvement, and not necessarily an absolute improvement in terms of all bus drivers.

    • But the social scientist in me wants to add: that “indexing” would average out across large populations, and you could statistically control for confounding factors such as age, education, employment history, etc. In principle, it should be possible to measure whether there’s a relationship between religiosity and income. In fact I believe there have been a number of studies to this effect that did find a “faith bonus”!

      Pay no attention to the fact that I’m simultaneously pushing back on both you and Jeremiah! :)

  4. It might be all those crazy stories I heard growing up in charismatic churches — “the Holy Spirit told me to turn left instead of right, aaaaaaaand x, y, and z happened…” — but I’m tempted to push back on whether a Christian bus driver should disregard his maps.

    Perhaps we can rephrase a bit and say that he should *be prepared to steer elsewhere* or *be actively listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit* should an abornomal situation arise. Methinks the maps will be the norm, of course, but I think there’s a particular space the Christian needs to leave for actions that may not seem “better” in a variety of ways (labor market or otherwise), but may in fact lead to unexpected, nay, miraculous outcomes.

    Ok, ok. I guess it is the charismatic in me. :)

    • Not sure if there was a misunderstanding or if your irony is just too subtle for me before I’ve had my coffee this morning, but just for clarity, I was saying Christian bus drivers should use the map!

      Some people do disregard natural means because the think they must do so in order to rely “instead” (or “entirely”) on the Holy Spirit. What we need to see is that the map, too, is a tool of the Holy Spirit. By common grace, the Holy Spirit equips us for service through the map.

      UPDATE: OK, sorry, it was me who misunderstood! I misread your comment. (Where is that morning coffee!) I agree we should be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading but I’m inclined to lean against more than a minimal level of deviation from normal processes. That, of course, is my Presbyterian bias. The Spirit is supreme, but the Spirit uses the natural and ordinary means that define our everyday systems and processes, so we should keep the Spirit supreme but we shouldn’t think we’re following the Spirit more when we deviate from the ordinary than when we stick to it.

      Okay, Holy Spirit, any time you want to equip me for service through the natural means of a cup of coffee…

  5. The confusion could have very well come from me having *too much* coffee in my system much too late at night. A stretching of the natural means, perhaps!

    I agree with your comment about the Spirit using natural and ordinary means on the whole. I’ve seen more than my share of abuse when it comes to deviation from normal processes. I was mainly just trying to add a minor qualification that deviation from such means may indeed come in to play at certain points in time, and we should be duly prepared for it. Though when this occurs, I’d prefer to call it an “amplification” rather than “deviation.” :)

  6. In my thinking it’s a matter of being Spirit-led everyday, in every action (vocational or not). Seems that He will always be leading us to what is “best” in the situation which may not always seem “best” or “top notch” from an outside perspective. Jesus often said things (led by the Spirit) that were harsh, offensive, even hurtful. I could see many, many people looking on saying, “I though He was a CHRISTIAN!”

  7. Pingback: Thinking Christianly About Bus Driving | Acton PowerBlog

  8. A Christian worker will work as unto the Lord, and not unto his boss. At this time, when bosses are increasingly expecting more and more from you, a Christian may choose to scale down his work in order to spend time in each of his other vocations at home and at church.

    Such a worker will definitely not be the best worker in the opinion of his boss, but his work ethic will teach volumes about what is truly important and challenge other work-driven colleagues to consider whether their own lives are balanced and meaningful.

  9. Pingback: A Biblical Theology of Work – Part 4 | A Thimble-full of Theology for Daily Living

  10. Pingback: Bits & Pieces (5/14/13) |

  11. Pingback: Tim Keller: 5 Ways the Bible Shapes Our Work | Acton PowerBlog

  12. Pingback: Tim Keller on How the Bible Shapes Our Work | Human Action and God

  13. Pingback: Soma San Ramon Valley – A Church in Danville » Blog Archive » 5 Ways Your Faith Can Influence Your Work

Leave a Reply