Category: Faith and work

Blog author: jsunde
posted by on Thursday, August 21, 2014

soil-hands-web“A Christian society is not going to arrive until most of us really want it: and we are not going to want it until we become fully Christian… I cannot learn to love my neighbour as myself till I learn to love God: and I cannot learn to love God except by learning to obey Him.” –C.S. Lewis

In Economic Shalom, John Bolt’s Reformed primer on faith, work, and economics, he includes a chapter on how we might understand flourishing in the social order through “a biblical understanding of the human person, created in God’s image and living in God’s world.”

Bolt reviews a variety of different areas and approaches, providing a firm critique of top-down social planners who, in their attempts to impose utopia, far too often impede, distort, or destroy the positive manifestations of organic and spontaneous order that already exist, whether in churches, schools, businesses, communities, or the family. That’s not to say such planners don’t have some role to play or vocation to fulfill, but it must be constrained accordingly and focused toward that which is productive and possible.

As political theorist Kenneth Minogue explains: “We could never produce a crystal by directly placing [i.e., mechanically] the individual molecules from which it is built up. But we can create the conditions under which such a crystal will form itself. . . . Similarly, we can create the conditions under which a biological organism will grow and develop” (507–8). (more…)

baby expensiveThe cost of raising kids in the United States has reportedly gone up, averaging $245,340 per child according to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which factors in costs for housing, food, clothing, healthcare, education, toys, and more.

From the Associated Press:

A child born in 2013 will cost a middle-income American family an average of $245,340 until he or she reaches the age of 18, with families living in the Northeast taking on a greater burden, according to a report out Monday. And that doesn’t include college — or expenses if a child lives at home after age 17.

In response to these estimates, much of the reporting has aimed to paint an even grimmer picture for prospective parents, emphasizing other factors such as the likely trajectory of declining wages and rising costs in areas like healthcare and education.

Taken together, it’s enough to make your average spoiled youngster run in the opposite direction. And indeed, many actively are. As Jonathan Last details extensively in his book, What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster, birthrates in the Western world are in a free fall, with more and more adults opting for fewer and fewer kids, if any at all, and making such decisions later and later in life.

For those of us who shudder at the prospect of a world with fewer children, and who increasingly encounter negative attitudes about child-bearing and -rearing amongst our peers, many of whom are in their child-bearing “primes,” one wonders how we might respond with a compelling financial case for having children amid such supposedly grim prospects. (more…)

Boston_Skyline_Web-Banner1Conversations about “faith-work integration” are alive and well, whether in the church, workplace, or academia, and the Acton Institute continues to offer a variety of resources on the subject, from its growing series of tradition-specific primers to various books and lectures to educational video curricula.

In keeping with these efforts, the Acton Institute will be a co-sponsor to the very first Faith @ Work Summit in Boston, MA from October 24-25, where a diverse group of businesspeople, students, pastors, and various others will gather to discuss the state of the faith-work movement and how we might move forward.

From the event’s web site:

On October 24 and 25, 2014, a seminary, a technology school, a business school, and a foundation join forces to convene a summit to address these two over-arching questions.

The purpose of the summit is to gather active leaders and participants in the faith at work movement to assess the state of the movement (achievements, needs, obstacles, opportunities, and resources) and together to develop an agenda going forward for individuals in the workplace, churches, marketplace ministries, seminaries and Bible schools, and universities and business schools.

This is a working conference, not a celebrity or performance-oriented event. All speakers, leaders, and organizers are donating their time and effort. We welcome and encourage every voice in attendance to help shape our understanding and our sense of agenda going forward.

This is an important gathering for the movement at large, and an encouraging sign of the growth and prevalence of this important conversation. I look forward to seeing the fruit that comes from it.

View a list of speakers here, and register for the conference here.

For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles DVD & Blu-Ray Combo

For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles DVD & Blu-Ray Combo

Regular price: $59.95

Ever wondered what it means to be "in the world but not of it?"

For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles is a seven-part film series that explores big picture questions, like, "What is our salvation actually FOR?"

Join Evan and his friends on a creative journey to discover God's Economy of All Things. 

Visit letterstotheexiles.com for more information.

$59.99

FLOW-gifOver at Capital Commentary, Byron Borger offers some valuable reflections and rather extensive praise for the Acton Institute’s new educational DVD series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a visually enjoyable Christian educational video curriculum,” he writes, “and I know I’ve never seen one so thoughtfully inspiring about a foundational Christian view of creation, culture, social life, and redemption.”

Indeed, FLOW offers a peculiar blend of artistic beauty and educational oomph. FLOW excels and exceeds at both showing and telling, and does so in a way that not only captures the mind, but instills a deeper, meditative longing in the heart for restoration and renewal across all spheres of life.

As Borger aptly captures, the series is unique in the way it unleashes the imagination toward a fuller, more nuanced vision for cultural engagement.

The teaching interviews and bold cinematography are so artfully expressed, though, that the blend of neo-Calvinist and conservative Catholic social theories that form some of the theoretical/theological background of the films are hardly noticeable; they are what Calvin Seerveld would call “suggestion-rich” and allusive. And they are often illustrated, not preached, with curious narratives and fantastic footage in settings as diverse as Makoto Fujimura’s art studio and Dr. Tim Royer’s Neurocore clinic which studies brain-related neurological issues. (more…)

chick-fil-a-truett-cathy-closed-sundayWhenever I get a craving for a chicken sandwich and waffle fries, it’s invariably on Sunday—the one day a week when Chick-fil-A is closed. Rather than become frustrated by the closure, though, I appreciate that Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, was motivated by his religious beliefs to give his employees a day of rest.

It turns out I’m not the only one. “I am from the South and there is a company called Chick-fil-A, and they are known for their religious affiliation — they even have it posted on their wall,” says Kelly Cowart, assistant professor of marketing at Grand Valley State University. “What does that mean to the people that come there? What does that mean for the employees? What does that mean when a company has a religious affiliation? Nothing had really been done looking at that effect.”

A new study led by Cowart and published in the Journal of Services Marketing shows religious affiliation can safeguard companies against negative reactions to store policies, such as limited hours of operation or a temporary store closing:

(more…)

Jacopo-Bassano-Jacopo-da-Ponte-Departure-of-Abraham-and-his-family-and-livestock2“To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.” –Ecclesiastes 5:1

Obedience to God is a fundamental requirement of the Christian life. With our constant recitations of “thy will be done,” it may seem a rather obvious point, but while many of us are comfortable with the basic aims and directives of the Gospel – feed the poor, serve the needy, steward your talents, love your enemies – when it comes to the actual implementation, we tend to defer to our own designs and desires.

Yet no matter how much spiritual frosting we may apply, that basic question still longs to be asked: “Lord, what would you have me do, and how would you have me do it?”

In a free society, wherein individual choice and action are largely uncontrolled and often empowered, we have increased opportunities to align our lives and actions to God, and thus to others. But this same elusive freedom can also mean heightened temptations to become wise in our own eyes. For the Christian, such freedom is only as authentic as it is subservient to the true and the good — a perplexing and paradoxical notion, to be sure. (more…)

The StudentThe church has found a renewed interest in matters of “faith-work integration,” but while we hear plenty about following the voice of God in business and entrepreneurship, we hear very little about the world of academia. What does it mean, as a Christian, to be called to the work of scholarship?

In Scholarship, a newly released collection of convocation addresses by Abraham Kuyper, we find a strong example of the type of reflection we ought to promote and embrace. For Kuyper, the call to academic life is a “sacred calling,” one that demands wise and creative stewardship of the mind and a Christianly posture and position that connects with each other area of the Christian life.

Although the Economy of Wisdom may differ from other spheres in its emphases and modes of operation, those of us called thereto are at a fundamental level propelled by the very same stewardship mandate: be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth through truth, knowledge, and wisdom.

As Kuyper explains, the scholar’s very mind is his “field of labor,” one that must be cultivated actively and attentively:

In your mind lies your glory as scholars. That is your field of labor. Not merely to live, but to know that you live and how you live, and how things around you live, and how all that hangs together and lives out of the one efficient cause that proceeds from God’s power and wisdom. Other people, when evening falls, have to have sown and plowed, counted and calculated; but you have to have thought, reflected, analyzed, until at last a harvest of your own thoughts may germinate and ripen on the field of your consciousness. (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
posted by on Friday, August 8, 2014

mourn-work-woundI recently wrote about “wounding work,” a term Lester DeKoster assigns to work that, while meaningful and fruitful, is “cross bearing, self-denying, and life-sacrificing” in deep and profound ways. Take the recent reflections of a former Methodist minister, who, upon shifting from ministry into blue-collar work at a factory, struggled to find meaning and purpose.

“I am not challenged at all in this work,” he writes, “and I want something more.”

Although DeKoster helps us recognize that meaning and purpose do reside in such work, and that our day-to-day labor is not exempt from the sacrifice and obedience bound up in the Christian life, the pain for those of us in the midst of all this is likely to persist, even if for a season.

On this, Evan Koons continues the discussion over at the FLOW blog: “To stress that all work is about gift-giving, to marvel at its vast community of relationships, or allude to the suffering one share’s with Christ by remaining in said environments, doesn’t make the experience any more pleasant.”

What, then, are we to do amid such suffering? How ought we to respond, whether as wounded workers ourselves, or as those who simply serve and disciple alongside those who suffer? As Koons explains, there is no quick-and-easy cookie-cutter “solution,” spiritually, economically, or otherwise, and going down the paths to peace that Christ does provide will inevitably involve those same familiar features of our fallen world.

(more…)

Gilbert_ChestertonIn Episode 1 of For the Life of the World, Stephen Grabill and Evan Koons lay the groundwork for viewing Christian cultural engagement through the lens of exile. “We are strangers in a strange land,” Grabill explains, and yet “we are meant to make something of the world.”

As Koons recently expounded over at Q Ideas, Christians have long struggled with the idea of being “in but not of the world,” resorting to a range of faulty attitudes and approaches, whether it be fortification, domination, or accommodation.

In his famous work, Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton writes of his own struggle in this area, describing the difficulty he endured in reconciling this with that. In chapter five (“The Flag of the World”), he ponders the peculiar tension between pessimism and optimism in the Christian life — a feature that perplexed him throughout much of his life. “Christianity was accused, at one and the same time, of being too optimistic about the universe and of being too pessimistic about the world,” he writes.

These distinct accusations continued to compete throughout his intellectual and spiritual development, and as they did, Chesterton continued to be confounded by the paradox. “On this system one could fight all the forces of existence without deserting the flag of existence,” he writes. “One could be at peace with the universe and yet at war with the world. St. George could still fight the dragon, however big the monster bulked in the cosmos, though he were bigger than the mighty cities or bigger than the everlasting hills.”

Then, one day, it all made sense. (more…)

Economy of LoveFor today and today only, you can watch Episode 2 of For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles for FREE over at Flannel.org.

Produced by the Acton Institute and spread across seven episodes, the series seeks to examine the bigger picture of Christianity’s role in culture, society, and the world. Episode 2 focuses specifically on the Economy of Love, and the grand mystery we find therein.

As host Evan Koons concludes: “Family is the first and foundational ‘yes’ to society because it is the first and foundational ‘yes’ to our nature, to pour ourselves out like Christ, to be gifts, and to love.”

Stream the full episode here for the rest of the day (July 23).

Watch the trailer for the series below, and purchase it here.

Visit the Acton Book Shop to find related books and media