Acton Institute Powerblog

Faith at Work: A Symposium on Economic Flourishing in the Christian Life

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The faith and work movement has grown significantly over the past decade, yielding a range of researchers and institutions that seek to explore the intersections of work, economics, and the Christian life.

Each year, Acton University offers a unique center of gravity for these intersecting voices, and now, in a new special report from the Washington Times, the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics has sponsored a similar symposium of thinkers, each tackling a unique angle on economic flourishing and the church.

Authors include familiar Acton partners such as Michael Novak, John Stonestreet, Amy Sherman, and Andy Crouch, as well as leading figures in the church (Tim Keller, Os Guinness) and the public square (Governor Sam Brownback, House Speaker Paul Ryan).

Our very own Rev. Robert Sirico also makes a key contribution, exploring work as an expression of who we are. “The idea of a ‘worker,’” he writes, “contra Karl Marx, doesn’t reduce the person in question to a conceptual and ideological generality”:

Work and the individuals who perform the tasks required of it are, in fact, expressions of human creativity applied toward productive results. Just as we refer to the panoply of artistic endeavors as “works,” we are called also by God to consider each moment of “not-leisure” as a creative activity. True, our labor and talent may not compare favorably with the ultimate act of Creation or even the works of Shakespeare and Dante, but however dimmed in contrast, they reflect the brilliance of humanity’s initial design in the image of God.

Work, either requiring toil and sweat, mental labor or performing even the most seemingly menial tasks, reveals an essential aspect of God’s plan for humankind. This may appear shocking to those modern-day Gnostics, who view the material world as anathema to the truly spiritual life. To persons possessed of such a mindset, work at best is a necessary evil or benign utilitarian requirement. However, they couldn’t be more wrong.

Pope John Paul II noted the flawed theological underpinnings of Gnostics, both in the past and resurgent in the present, regarding not-leisure when he wrote that work is required of man “because as the ‘image of God’ he is a person, that is to say, a subjective being capable of acting in a planned and rational way, capable of deciding about himself, and with a tendency to self-realization.” The pontiff concluded: “As a person, man is therefore the subject of work.”

Read the full report here.

Joseph Sunde is an associate editor and writer for the Acton Institute. His work has appeared in venues such as The Federalist, First Things, The City, The Christian Post, The Stream, Charisma News, Juicy Ecumenism, Ethika Politika, Made to Flourish, and the Center for Faith and Work. Joseph resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and four children.

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