Category: Faith and work

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…)

Hands On Originals is a small printing company in Lexington, Kentucky, that, up until recently, had very few problems when they declined to print a certain message.

Last year, however, the owner, Blaine Adamson, was found guilty of discrimination by a Lexington human rights commission for refusing to print T-shirts for a local gay pride festival. The commissioners ordered that Adamson must violate his conscience, and further, must participate in diversity training to be conducted by the commission.

Fortunately, this story has a happier ending than that of the baker and florist, as the Fayette Circuit Court ended up reversing the commission’s decision. “It is their constitutional right to hold dearly and to not be compelled to be part of an advocacy message opposed to their sincerely held Christian beliefs,” Judge James Ishmael wrote in his decision.

Watch below for more of Blaine’s testimony:

(more…)

leaders_edition_-_flow letters to exiles1The Acton Institute’s seven-part film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, was created for a wide-ranging Christian audience, whether Baptist or Catholic, Orthodox or Presbyterian. As Andy Crouch says in his review, “this series is marvelously catholic, in the small-c sense,” appealing across political and theological divides while still proclaiming a specific vision of creativity, beauty, and service in the Christian life.

But while the series is highly enjoyable for any viewer, it is particularly suited to more intimate explorations, whether in a college classroom or a church small group. Churches, colleges, discussion groups, and dinner parties have already been using it in this capacity. But now, in order to further empower such explorations, a special Leader’s Edition is now available.

Designed to equip leaders with tools and resources to navigate discussion and education around the themes of the series, the Leader’s Edition includes everything anyone would need to bring this resource to your community, whether to small-group discussions or even sermon bumpers or illustrations.

The Leader’s Edition includes the following:

  • DVD and Blu-ray — All 7 episodes of the film series are included in both formats.
  • Field Guide — This companion Field Guide jump-starts group and individual investigation and includes additional content to enhance the film experience.
  • Extras Disk — The extras disk includes many never-before-released digital resources including:
    • Digital Field Guide broken down into 7 episodes
    • One-page discussion guides for each episode
    • Digital files to help church promote a church-wide campaign or a screening event on social media or produce mailers, post cards, banners, flyers, bulletin inserts, PowerPoint slides, and radio spots.
    • Modular components — Each episode has 5-6 modular components (e.g. All Is Gift). We have lifted these out and put them on the extras disk to be used as teasers, event promoters, and/or sermon illustrations.

Watch the trailer below, and order your copy today(more…)

“We view autism as one of our key competitive advantages,” says Tom D’Eri of Rising Tide Car Wash in Parkland, Florida, which employs 43 employees, 35 of which are on the autism spectrum. “Our employees follow processes, they’re really excited to be here, [and] they have a great eye for detail.”

Hear more of their story here:

Among adults with autism, the unemployment rate is around 90%, and yet, if you were to ask D’Eri, whose brother has autism, the market is simply not recognizing the enormous potential and unique gifts these people possess. “Typically people with autism are really good at structured tasks, following processes, and attention to detail,” he says. “So we saw that there are really important skills that people with autism have that make them, in some cases, the best employees you could have.” (more…)

monkIn a lecture on markets and monasticism at Acton University, Dylan Pahman gave a fascinating overview and analysis of the interaction between Christian monasticism and markets. He’s written on this before and has a longer paper on the topic as well.

In the talk, he highlighted a range of facts and features, from monastic teachings on wealth and poverty to the historical realities of monastic communities and enterprises. Over the centuries, monasteries have contributed a host of products and services to civilization and culture, often countering the common assumption that all such communities are flatly against trade, production, and wealth creation.

One point that stood out in particular was Pahman’s summary of a recent study by Nathan Smith, in which Smith ponders how these communities have managed to succeed for so long, particularly given their many (internally) socialistic traits. According to one study, the average longevity of monasteries is 463 years(!), which is far longer than the lifespan of most companies and states, never mind your run-of-the-mill secular commune (Portlandia variations included).

There are a variety of forces that may contribute to this, including unique pressures of lifelong commitment, corresponding theological reinforcement, etc. But when it comes to some of the more universal traits that help monastic communities thrive, they may offer some lessons to help orient and affirm our broader thoughts about community in the context of work, trade, enterprise, and worship. (more…)