Category: On Call in Culture

Blog author: jsunde
posted by on Tuesday, December 31, 2013

????????????????????????????????????In a recent piece for the Wall Street Journal, Emory economics professor Paul H. Rubin makes an interesting argument about the way economists tend to over-elevate and/or misconstrue the role of competition in the flourishing of markets.

“Competition plays a supporting role,” he argues, but “cooperation makes markets thrive”:

The way we use the term competition instead of cooperation fosters anti-market bias. “Competition” carries a negative connotation because it implies winners and losers, and our minds naturally feel sympathy for the losers. But cooperation evokes a positive response: It’s a win-win situation with no losers. And in fact the word competition doesn’t depict market activity as aptly as the word cooperation. The “competitive economy” would be better described as the “cooperative economy.”

Consider the most basic economic unit, the transaction. A transaction is cooperative because both parties gain from a voluntary exchange. There is competition in markets, but it’s actually competition for the right to cooperate. Firms must compete for the privilege of selling to consumers—for the right to cooperate with consumers. Workers compete for the right to cooperate with employers. Competition matters because it ensures that the most efficient players will gain the right to cooperate on the best terms available. But competition plays a supporting role, while cooperation makes markets thrive. (more…)

inner-city-main

Several months ago, in the wake of Detroit’s bankruptcy and the flurry of discussions surrounding it, Chris Horst and I co-wrote a post on how Christians mustn’t forget or neglect the role of business in our attempts to rebuild, restore, and reinvigorate failing cities.

In the latest issue of The City, we return to the topic, expanding a bit more on what exactly businesses contribute — materially, socially, and spiritually — and how Christians might adjust their imaginations in response. If a city’s economic future is driven in large part by entrepreneurialism, high levels of human capital, clustering of skilled workers and industries, or in the case of North Dakota’s Bakken region, bountiful natural resources, what role should the People of God play therein?

Of  course, churches musn’t pretend to be economic chess players — surveying cities and placing pawns accordingly — but certain economic drivers and actions are bound to influence the way our witness ultimately takes shape. What do we miss if we ignore such factors? (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
posted by on Tuesday, December 3, 2013

In a stunning new video, Matt Bieler strings together beautiful images and a few simple words to celebrate the work of three stay-at-home moms from three different regions of the country.

The tasks shown, like those of any mother, are numerous and varied, and those explicitly mentioned follow accordingly: breakfast-maker, sibling caretaker, teacher, cleaner, doctor, angel. “She’s with me all the time,” one child whispers.

In our celebration of work — the dignity it brings, the service it provides, the provision it leads to — how often do we neglect to remember that which is spent outside the confines of the office or the interwebs? Our modern way of thinking about “work-life balance” doesn’t help us in this regard, encouraging us to draw false divides between the punch clock and the playroom, even when, as any parent knows, the work of the latter is often far more consuming and less forgiving. (more…)

Common Grace, Abraham Kuyper, Noah-AdamChristian’s Library Press has released the first in its series of English translations of Abraham Kuyper’s most famous work, Common Grace, a three-volume work of practical public theology. This release, Noah-Adam, is the first of three parts in Volume 1: The Historical Section.

Common Grace (De gemeene gratie) was originally published in 1901-1905 while Kuyper was prime minister. This new translation is for modern Christians who want to know more about their proper role in public life and the vastness of the gospel message. The project is a collaboration between the Acton Institute and Kuyper College.

For Kuyper, Noah provides “the fixed historical starting point for the doctrine of common grace lies in God’s establishment of a covenant with Noah, after the flood.”

As he explains further in the beginning of the book:

Until the time of Noah, everything surged back and forth in continual unrest, and was subjected to change. The curse continued its wrathful operation. But with Noah that turbulence was changed into rest through an omnipotent act of the Lord’s mercy. After the flood God provided his covenant: his covenant given to this earth, to all who were called human beings, his covenant even to the animal world and to all of nature. It extends from Noah to the Maranatha for the external order of things, in undisturbed stability, rest, and order. It is the Lord’s design. It is his sovereign good pleasure. (more…)

Gray Matters, Brett McCrackenIn his 2010 book, Hipster Christianity, Brett McCracken explored the dynamics of a particular cultural movement in (and against) modern evangelicalism. In his new book, Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty, he pulls the lens back, focusing on how the church more broadly ought to approach culture, particularly when it comes to consuming it.

Though McCracken’s book focuses on just four areas — food, drink, music, and film — his basic framework and the surrounding discussion offers much for Christians to ponder and absorb when it comes to cultural engagement at large.

In an interview with On Call in Culture, McCracken was kind enough to answer some questions on the topic.

Early on, you explain that your book is not about “making culture,” but about “consuming culture well.” Yet you also note how consumption and creation can intersect and overlap. How does our approach to consumption impact our creative output?

In order to be a good creator of culture, one must be a good consumer of it. We will never make great films if we don’t love the greatest films, know the greatest films, and understand why they are great. The best chefs are the ones who love food the most and take the time to consume it well — to pay attention to flavor profiles, to savor tastes that go well together, to understand what cooking methods work and don’t work, etc. The great artists in history didn’t just make their masterpieces from some innate mastery of technique. They studied the masters first and did the work of understanding why one painting or symphony was a masterpiece and why another one wasn’t. They were good consumers before they were good creators. (more…)

WisdomWonderInterVarsity’s Emerging Scholars Blog recently posted two reviews of Abraham Kuyper’s Wisdom and Wonder: Common Grace in Science and Art, one from Dan Jesse, the other from David Carlson.

Carlson nicely summarizes some of the book’s key implications for the life of the believer:

One does not need to do Christian science or Christian art to be a faithful Christian in those domains.  One needs to do good science or good art. Yet, science and art are powerful tools that come without a clear moral compass or centering integration. A believer ought to do art or science in a way that is truly integrated by means of Special Grace.

Jesse focuses a bit more on Kuyper’s discussion of science, concluding that rejecting science “would be a rejection of God”:

What we need to judge, Kuyper concludes, is whether or not science has its starting point with the spirit of the world or with the Spirit of God. The former will always lead us to destruction and the latter towards greater knowledge of our Creator.

When it is all said and done, Kuyper leaves us with a framework to judge science from. We are not to reject science, as that would be a rejection of God. We should not discount science, as it can inform our world. We should not try to proof-text science, and make sure that it conforms with a literal view of scripture, as this would be doing both scripture and science a disservice. Kuyper’s section on science…seems to be calling out to us today. It is issuing forth a call that needs to be heeded by the church. We need to embrace and embody science. (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
posted by on Thursday, November 14, 2013

decision-2_300Over at Desiring God blog, Sam Crabtree offers 16 simple principles, each accompanied by Scripture, to help reorient our thinking about the work of our hands, particularly among those in executive and administrative roles.

Highlighting our persistent human tendency to neglect our Creator, Crabtree cautions against the subtle temptation to begin operating “as if we really can execute on our tasks all by our lonesome, without the constant help of our God.” What distinguishes a distinctly Christian executive?

Some examples:

6. God-centered work is not work with God as an appendage or afterthought.

He is the core, the root, the source, the origin, the power, the point of it all.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:24–25)

8. God-centeredness implies, requires, and builds humility.

What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Corinthians 4:7) (more…)

Faithful in All God's House

I recently shared a lengthy excerpt from Faithful in All God’s House, highlighting the investment-return motif that appears throughout the Bible. “All of God’s gifts to mankind are as a divine investment on which the investor expects full return,” write Berghoef and DeKoster.

Several readers pushed back on the analogy, interpreting it to mean that God rolls out his divine plan according to earthbound assumptions, as if “prudent investment” means being beholden to the outputs of a narrow, materialistic cost-benefit analysis.

It’s troubling on many levels that “prudent investment” has come to reckon imaginations of something so imprudent for so many. We humans, the “agents of return,” are called to live within a framework much more varied, complex, and mysterious than the confines of a Wall Street banker, despite those times when such considerations have their place. We serve a God of love, and just as that love is deep and distinct from distorted human variations, we are called to live and think and act according to an economy not of our own constructing. (more…)

Flourishing Churches and CommunitiesWhat distinct features does Pentecostalism bring to our discussions about stewardship and whole-life discipleship?

In Flourishing Churches and Communities, one of three tradition-specific primers on faith, work, and economics, Dr. Charlie Self provides a response, exploring how Pentecostal considerations influence our approach to such matters.

In the introduction, Self offers a basic portrait of Pentecostalism and “Spirit-filled” Christianity that is easy to connect with some of the key drivers of stewardship — vocation, virtue, responsibility, obedience, discernment, decision-making, etc.:

Spirit-filled Christianity touches all of life. Living in the power of the Holy Spirit includes active participation in the economy, work as worship, and “providential increases” (John Wesley) in the influence of the kingdom of God…

…The heart of Pentecostal identity is the present reality of the work of the Holy Spirit, who empowers all believers for gospel service. This includes the expectation of continual encounters with God that enrich calling and effectiveness and release believers to follow in the delivering, healing, and reconciling work of Jesus Christ. (more…)

SpiritualDangerGreerPeterPeter Greer has spent his life doing good, from serving refugees in the Congo to leading HOPE International, a Christian-based network of microfinance institutions operating in 16 countries around the world. Yet as he argues in his latest book, The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, “service and charity have a dark side.”

As a study from Fuller Seminary concluded, only one out of three biblical leaders finished well, despite the good they accomplished during their lifetimes. How can Christians avoid the spiritual dangers that persist in pursuing the good of our neighbors?

Greer’s book offers plenty of answers, and in an interview with On Call in Culture, he was kind enough to offer a glimpse.

As a young man, you noticed a certain brokenness in the aid industry—manipulation, phoniness, failure to uphold the dignity the human person. Yet you began to recognize these same traits within your own heart. Why does the position of the heart matter? Why isn’t it good enough to get busy?

In 2002, a volcano erupted in Congo. I went to help. Up high on a platform, I handed out blankets to refugees. And a photographer was snapping photos. But I wasn’t thinking about the refugees. My thought was: I can’t wait until people back home see these photos of me.

That moment helped me see how it’s possible to appear to be serving God but actually be making our service all about us. Unless we rediscover why we serve, our service can become a way to promote our image, heightening vanity and pride. (more…)