This is the last in a series of posts that apply four frames of the biblical narrative—Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation—to the realm of libraries. As I explained in the first post, the series is based in part on the work of a discussion group that convened in my workplace earlier this year. In subsequent posts I outlined a biblical view of library users; library resources; and library programs, services, and roles. Here I explore a biblical perspective on the people—credentialed librarians and others—who perform the work needed to mediate access to information.
According to the Creation frame, God has acted through Jesus Christ to create all that exists, whether visible or invisible.1 The created order brims with function and beauty, and humans, reflecting God’s image, have natural proclivities for inquiry and creative expression.2 In addition to creating a world worthy of exploration and placing human tenants in it to unlock its potential, God has endowed certain people with personalities and skills that are suited to library work. I count myself among those who find it enlivening to collect, organize, and preserve works of human knowledge, and to assist others who wish to consume and/or produce such works.
The Fall frame portrays the human condition as being thoroughly marred by sin. All people share in the reality of alienation—from God, the environment, self, and other humans.3 Therefore, library workers fail to deliver fully as responsible stewards of God’s creation. Noble visions aside, library personnel sometimes perpetrate unkind or prejudicial treatment toward library users.4 Furthermore, library workers are particularly susceptible to engage library users in the pursuit of worldly wisdom rather than God’s truth.5
The Redemption frame conveys hope for divine blessing in spite of the brokenness of self and society. I discussed in Parts 3 and 4 of this series how libraries whose mission is openly secular can advance God’s gracious purposes in society; library workers who make no claim to faith in Jesus can, in his sovereignty, promote shalom to some extent.6 Nevertheless, redemption in its fullest biblical sense entails a personal transfer from darkness to Christ’s kingdom.7 The remainder of this post explores that narrower angle.
As sinful people recognize the error of rejecting God and turn to Jesus Christ in faith and repentance, they receive new life.8 Although personal salvation is based on entirely on God’s grace rather than human works,9 it compels and enables good works among those who receive it.10 Following Jesus in the realm of library work, as in any other endeavor, entails submitting one’s life to God’s authority.11 Such submission will normally manifest itself in respect for human authority;12 however, in a case of irreconcilable conflict, divine authority must be recognized as supreme.13 Christians view their work as a venue for glorifying God, showing love toward others, and serving as agents of God’s reconciliation.14 Even in professional situations where it is difficult or impossible to articulate gospel truth verbally, believers’ lives should still be marked by evidence of divine grace.15
Although disciples of Jesus who work in libraries desire to exert redemptive influence in their workplace and in the broader library profession, the form and extent of such influence may vary widely. Libraries that support organizations with an explicit Christian mission will presumably present few barriers to faith-based expression and may even encourage active integration of faith and library service. However, libraries generally oppose—officially or unofficially—the overt application of religious belief in the performance of work, suggesting the need for Christians to exercise discernment as they seek to work for God’s kingdom in the context of library employment.
Displaying virtues such as joy, patience, kindness, and self-control amid the demands of library work should prompt little, if any, opposition from managers, co-workers, or patrons.16 Likewise, demonstrating moral integrity and professional excellence will generally meet with appreciation.17 Respectful relationships with co-workers are especially to be cultivated.18 These may sometimes flourish into gospel-oriented conversations. More often, though, they will subtly express the blessedness of life in Christ and help to expose the dysfunction that results from denying God’s existence and authority.
Christians who work in libraries do so amid directives, policies, and professional norms that sometimes conflict with biblical standards. When faced with pressure to conform, believers should humbly and prayerfully seek to avoid compromising their convictions.19 The goal is not to impose Christian ethical stances on others, but to provide paths for believers to live peaceably in society while remaining in good conscience before God.20
Assurance of a coming Consummation impresses on followers of Jesus who work in libraries the need to conduct themselves daily with a sense of responsibility and expectation. The promise of a future resurrection implies that co-workers and patrons should be treated as people who will have an eternal existence.21 The certainty of ultimate judgment demands integrity in the performance of all dimensions of work22 and compels the communication of the gospel.23 The pursuit of heavenly rewards takes precedence over worldly priorities such as wealth, comfort, position, and popularity.24 Service to one’s earthly community is certainly not diminished,25 but it is grounded in awareness of heavenly citizenship.26
Readers who wish to think more deeply about serving Christ through library employment may find the following sources helpful:
Caudle, Dana M. “Christian Faith and Its Impact on Library Interpersonal Relationships and Professionalism.” In The Faithful Librarian: Essays on Christianity in the Profession, edited by Garrett B. Trott, 179–88. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2019.
Gillie, Esther. “Loving Your Co-Worker as Christ Expects: Personnel Practices through the Eyes of Faith.” In The Faithful Librarian: Essays on Christianity in the Profession, edited by Garrett B. Trott, 154–69. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2019.
Smith, Gregory A. “The Core Virtue of Christian Librarianship.” The Christian Librarian 45, no. 2 (2002): 46–51. https://doi.org/10.55221/2572-7478.1822.
As discussed throughout this series, the biblical worldview accounts for the fact that libraries emerged in antiquity and have taken root in cultural settings throughout the world. It offers a plausible explanation for the reality that library users and workers alike are both noble and flawed. It acknowledges the ways that libraries contribute to desirable social ends even as they reflect and celebrate the illusion of humanity’s independence from God. It recognizes that God has chosen to gift certain people with traits that serve them well in library work. Furthermore, it prescribes principles through which library workers who have experienced God’s saving grace can advance his kingdom through their occupation. Although the Bible almost never mentions libraries directly, analysis of its teaching through the frames of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation shows that it is remarkably relevant to the practicalities of this enduring social institution.
- John 1:1–3; Col 1:15–16.
- Exod 36:1; Eccl 12:9–11.
- Eph 4:18–19.
- Jas 2:1–4; 3:7–9.
- Rom 1:19–23.
- Isa 44:24–28.
- Col 1:13–14.
- 2 Cor 5:17; Eph 2:4–7.
- Eph 2:8–9; Titus 3:4–7.
- Rom 6:22; Eph 2:10; 4:20–24; Titus 3:8.
- Rom 12:1.
- Rom 13:1–7; 1 Pet 2:18.
- Acts 5:27–29.
- 2 Cor 5:18–20; Gal 5:13–14; Col 3:17.
- Jas 3:13, 17–18.
- Gal 5:22–23.
- 1 Pet 2:12.
- Gal 6:10.
- Rom 12:2.
- 2 Kgs 5:18–19a; Dan 1:8–14; 1 Tim 2:1–2.
- Dan 12:2; Acts 24:14–16.
- Matt 12:35–36; 2 Pet 3:11–14.
- 2 Cor 5:8–11; 1 Thess 2:8–9.
- Matt 6:19–21; 1 Tim 6:17–19.
- Jer 29:4–7.
- Phil 3:20–4:1.