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How to Develop a Christian Mind in Business School

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“Why are you going to business school?” my friend asked, with some concern, “It seems like such a waste of your time. Why not study history or philosophy or the Great Books or something you’d enjoy.” It was a good question. I was committing myself to spending two years going to school full-time (while working full-time) to get a degree in a subject—business administration—in which I didn’t feel particularly passionate. But I felt that God was calling me to go to B-school. So I went.

Living in northern Virginia I was fortunate to have several excellent MBA programs to choose from so I applied to a local, private Catholic university. Although I’m an Evangelical (a Reformed Baptist, to be exact), I figured attending a Catholic school would help teach me to integrate business with my Christian faith. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

School of BusinessWhat I soon discovered was that in this “Catholic” school Christ could be found on the crucifix above the doorways but would be found nowhere in the curriculum. None of the professors ever expressed a specifically Christian viewpoint and some grew rather uncomfortable when I or my classmates would do so. Just as in non-Christian colleges, the prevailing impression at this Catholic school was that secular neutrality was the only legitimate norm. The result was that expressing an opinion that resembled that of, say, a Catholic bishop, was often considered offensive. For instance, in a class on non-profit marketing the adjunct instructor was shocked when I expressed the opinion that Planned Parenthood was the epitome of corporate evil and was not, as she had assured us, a model for marketing excellence.

I suspect my experience is not uncommon. While there are still some schools that subscribe to the idea of Christian scholarship, they have become exceedingly rare. In most schools—particularly in most business schools—the assumption is that the topics of study are “religiously neutral.” What does God have to do with finance? What does Wall Street have to do with Jerusalem?

Quite a lot actually. In fact, there is almost nothing about business administration that is “religiously neutral.” Yet every year thousands of Christians enter and exit B-School without learning how to “think Christianly” about their education or vocation. With so few direct resources available to them in business school, how should they go about developing a “Christian mind”?

I’ve pondered that question for two years, and although I completed my MBA program two weeks ago, I still can’t stop thinking about it. While I certainly don’t have all the answers and it would take a book-length treatment to adequately cover the topic, I wanted to explore the issue in a series of blog posts.

In this series we’ll consider a variety of topics, including what you really get out of such programs, what it means to develop a “Christian mind”, and how can we learn to engage in Business Administration from a Biblical worldview.

But before we get to that there’s more prolegomena to cover, so in the next post we’ll clarify what business school is and reasons why it may or may not be the right educational choice.

See Also: Part IPart II, Part III, Part IV

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • Phil Steiger

    Great idea for a set of posts. It is entirely possible that Christians (of all kinds of stripes) have dropped the educational ball, and we are living the consequences of mistakes made a couple of generations ago.

  • fctorino

    Catholic institutions are going the way of other institutions that were once Christian. That is, Catholic institutions are tempering the Christian gospel so as to not offend any potential student, and by doing so safeguard potential income revenue. Indeed, catholic institutions these days are more about Liberation Theology and Social Justice than traditional theological courses. But this shift is not limited to Catholic institutions. Here in Southern California, the Christian gospel has been watered down in such institutions such as Azusa Pacific, Chapman, Concordia, Pepperdine, Vanguard and so forth. Indeed, in many of these institutions, many theological courses are eliminated, in part, to make way for business classes and nursing programs-income producing programs. Such a move, while practical, ensures that many students of a different mindset populate the campus. Of course there are exceptions: Liberty University, Regent, and Yeshiva University. Then again, the Bush era taught us that to be a law student of Liberty University was tantamount to graduating magna summa cum laude from Heidelberg University under the Nazis. Then again, it could be that many of these institutions are forced to recruit professors from a secular base because there are few professors who profess and believe in the act of God’s loving posture toward the world. In fact, some would even argue that the financial crisis came about because morality had been eliminated from many high ranking universities’ business courses. After all, the Law and Economics school has reigned supreme for a while now. Yet, if we are not taught how to engage the financial, economical and scientific world as Christians, are we to concede that the barbarians have broken through the gate?

  • MiddleAgedKen

    This topic is important. I interviewed at an institution (unfortunately, I didn’t get an offer, but no hard feelings to a fine school) that explicitly attempts to incorporate Christianity into the business curriculum. My field is marketing, and I always start by defining marketing using Wroe Alderson’s framework: voluntary mutual exchange for mutual benefit (i.e., both parties are better off for having made the exchange). I put the emphasis on mutual benefit, and take pains to put resort to coercion or deception in the exchange process out of bounds, as it were.

    I think approaching the market with this mindset is the foundation of customer relationship management and of Christian liberty.

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