Category: Faith and work

family_discipleship-hands-cutouts1The spate of Planned Parenthood videos raises many issues, one of which is the importance of nurturing the lives that we have had a hand in conceiving, adopting, and welcoming into our homes.

As we participate in the Economy of Love, nurturing discipleship will include biblically and theologically informed insights for parents as they express faith, hope, and love in welcoming children into God’s world. Thus, the following insights come from 35 years of parenting and pastoring in churches large and small, including plenty of financial and geographic upheaval and more divine grace than my wife and I deserve.

Our aim with our own children has been partnering with the Holy Trinity to make disciples that are neither anarchists nor automatons, but passionate and principled volitional followers of Christ. We are parents of adult children (ages 31, 28 and 25) and enjoy good relationships with each of them. They are each in different time zones and unique places in their journey, and they bring us no end of delight and concern. Recognizing the diversity of family circumstances and structures, these reflections are not culled from a one-size-fits-all-prescription-laden text.

Here are some thoughts for discipling parents in our communities. (more…)

What is the purpose of money? Is it for our survival? For our status, significance, or success? Is it for the service of ourselves or for the service of others?

In a talk for the Oikonomia Network, theologian Darrell Bock sets out to answer the question, drawing from the numerous treatments of money in the book of Luke — from the rich fool and Lazarus’ wealthy neighbor to Zacchaeus and the widow’s mite.

“Money is to be surrendered into stewardship,” he says, “because that is the way God has designed not just the resources that he gives us; that’s the way he’s designed our very lives.”

Money is ultimately about a stewardship of managing the creation in which God has placed us. It’s for others, and it’s for Him…It’s a stewardship that serves and leads to flourishing, and we are all stewards, every one of us. It’s a surrender to Christ. It’s a surrender to others. And it’s a surrender to the divine design. It’s a commitment not to serve the self, and it’s a commitment not to use other people as currency…

Yes, money does make the world go around, but we drive that bus. And it’s not the money that’s the agent of change; we are the agents of change. So how do we make money that matters? We don’t make money the old fashioned way, by earning it for ourselves. We make money useful the divine way, by stewarding it so that others can flourish and be developed, and by generating value for those who are around us.

(more…)

Braekeleer_Ferdinand_de_A_Peasant_Family_Gathered_around_the_Kitchen_Table_Oil_on_Panel-largeWith the expansion of economic freedom and the resulting prosperity, we’ve reached an unprecedented position of personal empowerment and vocational choice. This is a welcome development, and it can be seized for good in any number of ways. But it also comes with its own risks and temptations.

As with any surface-level “freedom,” unless we seek God first and neighbor second, our action will quickly be steered by pleasure, pride, pursuit of power, or plain old personal preference — leading to shackles that may be looser, but remain shackles nonetheless. Such illusions are nothing new, and lurk no matter what the sphere of our stewardship. But if modernity has wielded a tangible, visible blow to one area in particular, it’s that of the family.

Over the last few decades, marriage has increasingly been misunderstood, and our misaligned approaches to business, education, and politics haven’t helped. Rather than a basic starting point, a foundation of a flourishing society, the family has become just another optional perk in the worship of narrow self-fulfillment.

“Oh that? It’s not for me. Not now.”

As a result, marriage is increasingly seen as a mere contractual arrangement, a 50-50 partnership for the purposes of personal pleasure rather than duty and sacrifice. In turn, culture and family have “evolved” accordingly. Fewer and fewer people are getting married, and those who do are doing so later and later and having fewer and fewer kids, if any at all. Divorce is routine. The basic definition of marriage is constantly questioned. (more…)

In the latest video from Made to Flourish, Al Mohler reminds us that it’s our job as Christians to discover God’s original design for work and recover it for the glory of God:

To be human is not only to be an economic creature, but is to be a fabricator, a worker, the one who understands the stewardship of work, and understands we were made for it. Work is not a result of the fall. We were assigned work right there in Genesis 1:28.

Untitled But the work we do now is affected by sin in every way we can imagine. The things we build will not last. It is labor. But work is still meaningful. Even as the image of God was not obliterated in the fall, though it was corrupted in all of its parts, so work is also corrupted. But that means that we are to understand our task as Christians, to recover as much as possible of what it would mean to be an economic creature before a holy and loving and just and righteous God.

loan treeThere are three possible futures for American Evangelicalism. These diverse destinies depend upon the moral, social and theological convictions of the communities and leaders of the different streams. They also represent patterns found in three centuries of American Evangelical history. These futures will also determine whether or not particular communities flourish economically and socially.

American Evangelicalism has never been a uniform subculture. The term “Evangelical” denotes adherents of historic Christian faith within a Protestant ethos.

Remembering the Past

Synthesizing the insights of historians George Marsden and Mark Noll, the Awakenings that gave shape to the Evangelical ethos between 1730 and 1840 focused on five key attributes: (1) Biblical authority and inspiration, (2) affirmation of historic creedal theology, (3) the necessity of personal conversion, (4) commitment to local and global evangelization/missions, and (5) integration of personal piety and public charity and engagement in making the world a better place.

Integrating personal faith with deliberate generosity of material and spiritual resources for the common good was normal discipleship for Evangelicals. John Wesley, founder of the Methodists, eschewed any separation of piety and public charity, insisting that members develop relationships with the recipients of their largesse. He also commended entrepreneurship and hard work, enjoining friends to “earn, save, and give” in proper proportion.

The three reactions mentioned above have their origins in the 18th century. One group resisted change and rejected the affective experiences of renewed believers and their insistence that their ministers display sufficient enthusiasm and fidelity to Scripture. These were the “Old Lights.” They eventually split into two camps, with some retaining historic creedal faith and others embracing Deism and/or Unitarianism as the Enlightenment calls for eschewing old superstitions gave way to modern scientific understanding.

By 1800, reactions to change are established: (1) retrenchment and rejection of new experiences and ideas, (2) revision of the faith itself, including questioning cardinal doctrines, and (3) renewal leading to reform and revival of biblical faith. (more…)

communion-on-moonToday marks the 46th anniversary of the day we landed on the moon, and as we look back on that monumental moment, it’s worth remembering the efforts taken by one astronaut to pause and recognize his creator.

Prior to the lift-off of Apollo 11, Buzz Aldrin spoke with his pastor about finding the “right symbol for the first lunar landing.” After some discussion, they agreed it was a communion service, and the scripture passage he’d use would be John 15:5:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

“We wanted to express our feeling that what man was doing in this mission transcended electronics and computers and rockets,” Aldrin wrote. “…I wondered if it might be possible to take communion on the moon, symbolizing the thought that God was revealing Himself there too, as man reached out into the universe.” (more…)

JMM_18.1 front cropOur most recent issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality has now been published online and print issues are in the mail.

Volume 18, no. 1 is a special issue. Guest editor Shirley Roels details the origins of the contributions in her (open access) editorial:

To highlight the 2013–2014 English publication of the first volume of [Abraham] Kuyper’s theological commentary on common grace, the Calvin College Business Department organized an October 2014 symposium, which was co-sponsored by the Acton Institute. Faculty, business practitioners, and students gathered to think about the meaning of Kuyper’s common grace theology for twenty-first-century business. Over an exceptional day of discourse, presentations and panels were woven into a robust discussion about the light of faith for business when that life is shared together by Christians and those who follow other paths. Leaders from banking, manufacturing, natural resources, film, food, and floral industries, among others, joined with business educators to shape the current intertwining of common grace and business.

The symposium was framed around three themes that emerge from Kuyper’s writings about common grace. Its planners described these as the protective, constructive, and imaginative functions of common grace. Through such grace, God protects remnants and echoes of his good created order as gifts for all people despite continuing human perversity. God designs the expectation and possibility that together humans will construct institutions to respond to needs and support social order. God provides continuity between the values and virtues of all people so that Christians as well as those in other faith traditions can work together imaginatively.

The article contributions to this journal issue originated in that October 2014 symposium. Peter Heslam’s opening article provides some of Kuyper’s less-known commentary about business life. Then eight articles, all authored by Christian business educators, articulate the implications of Kuyper’s common grace theology for business ethics, strategic planning, global debt markets, entrepreneurship, market pricing, the accounting profession, operations management, and human resource frameworks. Richard Mouw’s closing article enjoins us to bring robust Christian faith to the business spaces where God’s light can readily flood. (A separate review essay unrelated to the symposium also appears as part of the journal’s regular publication schedule.) Finally, integrated into the journal’s book review section are four reviews of recent books about faith and business that highlight resources to deepen this intersection of faith and business.

In addition to Dr. Roels’ editorial, I have made my review of The Common Good: An Introduction to Personalism by Jonas Norgaard Mortensen open access as well. You can read it free here.

If you are interested in a subscription to the Journal of Markets & Morality, subscription directions and prices can be found here.

Once you’ve purchased a subscription, you can read our most recent issue, volume 18, no. 1, here.

FLOW_EXILEIn the various discussions surrounding the Acton Institute’s film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, a common response has been to call into question the basic notion of Christians existing in a state of “exile.”

The general complaint is that it’s somehow hyperbolic, given the privileged position of the modern West in the scope of human history. From here, things typically descend into detailed historical debates about the realities of America vs. the Middle East vs. the Roman Empire vs. Babylonian rule, and so on.

But as Russell Moore now helpfully points out, such a critique assumes a false definition of “exile” that most simply misses the point.

Exile has nothing to do with some temporal decline from this earthly rule to that — in our case, from some nostalgic memory of a “Christian nation” to the present “post-Christian” dysphoria. “The political and cultural climate of America does not make us exiles,” Moore reminds us, and such a perspective “just continues the triumphalist rhetoric of the last generation.”

Indeed, Christians have never been “at home” in America: (more…)

“The cultivation of imagination is to begin to integrate life into faith and every other facet, whether mundane or extraordinary, whether 9-5 work realities or worship in a church. Imagination is key to the thriving God intends for us.” –Makoto Fujimura

makotoThe burgeoning faith-work movement has does a fine job of re-orienting our perspectives about the meaning of everyday toil and the importance of stewardship in the area of work and creative service. But one area that continues to suffer neglect is that of the human imagination.

The problem isn’t so much with imagination in a strictly “for-profit” or utilitarian sense. We all recognize the importance of the imaginative capacity of a Steve Jobs, for instance, insofar as he delivers some innovation or experiment or new convenience.

But do we have a more basic concern for cultivating and stewarding the imagination in and by itself? Do we see value and meaning in simply learning to connect reality with faith, truth with beauty? Do we recognize the type of long-view foundation it takes to even get to that more “useful” Silicon-Valley phase?

As Stephen Grabill reminds us in Episode 6 of For the Life of the World, we rarely give ourselves the time and space to pause and cultivate this corner of the human intellect, and even when we do, it’s often for the wrong reasons. “We need to develop a palate for what is good,” he says, “not just for what it can do for us, but for what it is in itself.” (more…)

FLOW-house-evanAs the Acton Institute’s latest film series continues to reach churches, colleges, and communities, the positive reviews continue to pour in. Andy Crouch calls it “the best treatment of faith & culture ever put on a screen.” Byron Borger calls it “artfully expressed” and “thoughtfully inspiring.” The Gospel Coalition ranks it in the top 10 best resources of 2014.

Today on BreakPoint radio, John Stonestreet of the Colson Center calls For the Life of the World “quirky and yet compelling,” “entertaining and yet thought-provoking,” answering the basic question of whole-life stewardship and cultural restoration “better than any other resource I know”: (more…)