Acton Institute Powerblog

The cultural connection between economics and belief

Is there a connection between economics and belief?

In a recent Karam Forum lecture for the Oikonomia Network, theologian Jay Moon uses a Perplexus ball to explain the overlapping influence and impact of distinct cultural spheres — what anthropologists call the “functional integration of culture.”

According to anthropologist Darrell Whiteman, every culture can be understood as having three interconnecting sectors: (1) an economics and technology sector, (2) a social relationships sector, and (3) an ideology and belief sector. “These sectors are so integrated that if you create a change in one of them, it automatically influences the others, to create a change there,” Moon explains.

Moon recounts a missionary experience in Ghana through which economic provision served as a catalyst for transforming social and ideological perspective.

After a cholera epidemic hit the surrounding area, residents began to see the love of God evidenced in the provision of something as simple as hand-dug wells. Nobody knew that the epidemic was coming, but God had already been working through a local church to provide a solution at the mundane levels of economics and technology.

And what was the response?

“Revival,” Moon explains. ”But now think about where that change started. While the ball ended up in this ideology and belief shift, it started in the economics and technology sector —.a simple, what we call “secular work” of well drilling. In the end, people started to see how they socially interrelated with the church in different ways, such that their ideology and belief was changed.”

In our day-to-day economic decision-making, God is speaking to us, looking for active partnership in the work of our hands, seeking to shape and mold our service toward redemptive, Spirit-centric purposes.

But are we listening? We are free, but are we willing to participate?

“Think about what relationships God has put into your hand,” Moon concludes. “…Where is the energy? Where is the ball situated right now?…Ask yourself, ‘Lord, what is the next step I can take to move that ball and make that change, such that ideology and belief is changed.’”

Joseph Sunde

is an associate editor and writer for the Acton Institute. His work has appeared in venues such as the Foundation for Economic Education, First Things, The Christian Post, The Stream, Intellectual Takeout, Patheos, LifeSiteNews, The City, Charisma News, The Green Room, Juicy Ecumenism, Ethika Politika, Made to Flourish, and the Center for Faith and Work. Joseph resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and four children.