Posts tagged with: Evan Koons

3-ways1How are we to be in the world but not of it? How are Christians to live and engage, create and exchange, cultivate and steward our gifts and relationships and resources here on earth? Beyond getting a “free ticket to heaven,” what is our salvation actually for?

These questions are at the center of Acton’s film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, which begins with a critique of three common approaches to Christian cultural engagement: fortification (“hide! hunker down!”), domination (“fight, fight, fight!”), or accommodation (“meh, ok whatever”).

The framework comes from Pastor Greg Thompson’s paper “The Church in Our Time,” in which Thompson summarizes the paradigms as follows (bold emphasis added):

The fortification paradigm suggests that the fundamental calling of the church is to guard the integrity of its divinely wrought life against the assaults of the world. In this view, the basic task of the church is vigilant preservation and the basic threat to the church is the destructive character of the larger culture…

…The domination paradigm suggests that the fundamental calling of the church is to triumph over her cultural enemies. In this view the basic task of the church is to extend its own values into the world while the basic threat to the church is those whose values differ from its own…

…Contrary to fortification, the accommodation paradigm suggests that the fundamental calling of the church is collaboration with the world in the service of the larger good. From this perspective the basic task of the church is active partnership with its neighbors in the interest of social renewal, and the basic threat to the church is its own separatist tendencies.

Each stems from a legitimate theological starting point, but each also tends to falter, in part due to the typical confusions and conflations between the sacred and secular. In Thompson’s paper, he seeks to avoid these pitfalls, attempting to pave a “fourth way” forward by drawing on James Davison Hunter’s notion of “faithful presence.” In For the Life of the World, we see a similar but slightly different path, one framed around embracing a position of Christian exile and “seeking the welfare of the city.” Rod Dreher has been busy exploring yet another. And the list goes on. (more…)

The oxygen masks dropped as the plane began to drop in altitude and lose cabin pressure. As he and his friends applied the masks, Reid Kapple began to wonder if the end was near.

Thankfully, the plane stabilized and landed safely, but for Kapple, a pastor in Kansas City, the experience stuck with him. A few months later, during a sermon series at his church on faith and work, Kapple was reminded of the mask and how great a contribution a small product can make to the common good.

“The Lord was doing something in my heart and mind by granting me this kind of imagination for the way in which the work of literally millions of people serves to bless me and make my life better,” Kapple says. “I was immediately reminded of the oxygen mask.”

Kapple began to see the bigger picture of work and creative service in the context of widespread economic exchange. In a new video from Made to Flourish, he tells his story. (more…)

In Leonard Reed’s famous essay, “I, Pencil,” he marvels over the cooperation and collaboration involved in the assembly of a simple pencil — a complex coordination that is quite miraculously uncoordinated. 

In a short video from economist Alex Tabarrok, the same lesson is applied to Valentine’s Day roses:

“Behind every Valentine’s Day rose, there’s an extensive network of people from all over the world,” says Tabarrok, “from the farmer to the shipper to the auctioneer to the retailer—all cooperating to produce and transport roses from field to hand in a matter of days.”

But though these countless creative partners are surely acting out of some degree of self-interest, and though (in this case) they are working to enable and empower what we presume to be “loving” exchanges, there is something deeper going on throughout the activity. (more…)

umpFor many evangelicals, 2 Chronicles 7:14 has become a predictable refrain for run-of-the-mill civil religion, supposedly offering the promise of national blessing in exchange for political purity.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

If the nation returns to golden days of godliness, we are told, blessings shall abound and the land shall be restored. If policy follies are fixed and rampant rulers remedied, the garden will once again grow. We are to “take our country back,” saith the Lord, if grace and mercy are to enter the scene.

Yet as Russell Moore reminds us, to apply the verse in such a way amounts to little more than “theological liberalism” – “whatever one’s political ideology”:

This verse is a word written to a specific people – the people of God – who were coming home from exile. They were coming home from a time in which they were dominated and enslaved by a foreign power. At a time when they needed to be reminded of who they were, who God was and what he had promised to do, this passage was given to them to point them back to Solomon’s reign, reminding them of what Solomon did when he built the temple, the house of the Lord, the place of the gathering of the worship of God…

… When God said to them, “If my people who are called by name,” he was specifically pointing them back to the covenant that he made with their forefather Abraham. At a specific point in their history, God had told Abraham about his descendants, saying “I will be their God” and “They will be my people.” That’s what “My people” means.

God reminded a people who had been exiled, enslaved and defeated that a rebuilt temple or a displaced nation cannot change who they were. They were God’s people and would see the future God has for them.

But what future does God promise us?

(more…)

marriage-bandaid1As Christianity loses influence in the West, and as culture corresponds by taking its cues from the idols of hedonism, it can be easy to forget that most of these challenges are not new.

In an article for Leadership Journal, Ryan Hoselton highlights these recurring “crises,” pondering what lessons we might learn from Christian responses of ages past.

On the topic of family, and more specifically, family in decline, Hoselton points to Herman Bavinck’s The Christian Family, which takes aim at the range of threats to the family and how we (the church) might counteract the social drift. “There has never been a time when the family faced so severe a crisis as the time in which we are now living,” he writes, describing everything from divorce to sexual immorality, human trafficking to infanticide.

The book was written in 1908, but do these problems sound familiar? (more…)

night-sky-lanterns-all-is-giftThe Acton Institute’s latest film series is having a profound influence on churches and communities of all kinds. Hearts are being stirred and inspired, minds are connecting mission with culture, and as a result, the church is unlocking a bigger-picture vision of God’s plan for creation.

Over at the Letters to the Exiles blog, Evan Koons is compiling letters and testimonials from viewers of the series, sharing how For the Life of the World is transforming their lives and communities.

In the latest letter, we hear the story of Judilynn Niedercorn, a self-described “crazy middle-aged woman from D.C.,” who recently felt the call to leave her 30-year consulting career and relocate to rural New York.

Why? She knew she wanted to “be in the world” and she knew she wanted to change culture, but she wasn’t sure about God’s precise plan. “I thought it was to go to school and learn to be a social worker,” she writes. “But nope…it is to bring peace and prosperity to rural Appalachian NY!” (more…)

“God somehow demands of us so much more than this transactional nature. It is really about the gift that we’ve been given, and the only response we can give back is with extravagance, with gratuitous beauty.” –Makoto Fujimura (Episode 6, For the Life of the World)

sara-feature-305x305We live in a society that has grown increasingly transactional in its way of thinking. Everything we spend or steward — time, money, relationships — must secure a personal reward or return. Even when we give things up for “useless” activities, it is framed in terms of self-indulgence or personal release. We are making “me time,” “emptying our busy brains,” or “rewarding ourselves.” Even our wasteful moments are in the service of balancing some imaginary busyness ledger.

But countering our transactional nature will require far more than surface-level tweaks such as these.

In For the Life of the World, Evan Koons discovers that we must learn to appreciate the value of God’s creation in and of itself. If we hope to unlock the Economy of Wonder, we must realize that everything need not be tied to or offered up for some sort of pragmatic use. God wants us to be gift-givers who focus not on scarcity but divine abundance.

In a new video blog, musical artist Sara Groves touches on these same themes, inspired by artist Makoto Fujimura, who also makes an appearance in FLOW. “Pragmatism and utility have infected every area of life,” she says. “…It’s the artist’s role to push back against pragmatism and utility.” (more…)