This is the second half of a two-part article that appeared in the Winter and Spring 2013 issues of InTrust magazine. Both parts, with full graphic treatment, appear here. This half focuses on what seminaries and churches can do to help heal the divide between faith and work in many Christians’ lives today.
Theology for Workers in the Pews
In the last issue of InTrust, Chris R. Armstrong wrote that churches are good at helping people find meaning on Sunday morning, but during the “other 100,000 hours”—the lifetime that people spend earning their daily bread — pastors often have little to contribute. This is unfortunate, because when people labor, it’s possible for them to be co-laborers with Christ who both build up the world, helping it flourish, and also grow in grace, learning new disciplines.
Read the full article at www.intrust.org/work.
In this companion article, Armstrong describes how schools and organizations are making connections between faith and work. In some cases, organizations are helping business leaders to think ethically and theologically. In other cases, they’re helping clergy to engage more intelligently with business leaders in congregations.
Let’s take as given that work matters—it matters to God, and it is most people’s primary arena of discipleship. And let’s agree that the primary role of seminaries and theological schools is to form pastors and scholars who teach and lead people in discipleship. Therefore, it makes sense that theological education should serve a vital role in making the connection between faith and work.
Yet most theological schools are not doing this well. Continue reading
English: Coca-Cola 375 mL cans – 24 pack (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So let’s go down the list of the individual tools and substances used to make a can of Coca-Cola, and their places of origin:
Bauxite from a mine in the 4,000-person town of Pinjarra in Western Australia.
Molten cryolite from Greenland.
Bars of pure aluminum shipped from the port of Bunbury, Australia, to Long Beach, California and shaped into cans in a rolling mill in Downey, California.
Corn grown in any number of places, milled and processed in sophisticated ways to produce high-fructose corn syrup.
Vanilla from a Mexican orchid.
Cinnamon from a Sri Lankan tree.
Coca-leaf from South America, processed in a unique factory in New Jersey to remove the cocaine.
Kola nut from a tree in the African Rain Forest.
Processed in Atlanta.
Says the source of all this information (check it out–it’s worth the read):
The number of individuals who know how to make a can of Coke is zero. The number of individual nations that could produce a can of Coke is zero. This famously American product is not American at all. Invention and creation is something we are all in together. Modern tool chains are so long and complex that they bind us into one people and one planet. They are not only chains of tools, they are also chains of minds: local and foreign, ancient and modern, living and dead — the result of disparate invention and intelligence distributed over time and space. Coca-Cola did not teach the world to sing, no matter what its commercials suggest, yet every can of Coke contains humanity’s choir.
You go, civilization!
(Hat-tip to the fascinating NextDraft newsletter.)
Economics and Theology in Creative Partnership:
toward a thriving society
Folks, in April I’ll be in Seattle doing this. Come join me!
The Center for Integrity in Business (CIB) and the Center for Biblical and Theological Education (CBTE) are pleased to co-host a conversation in partnership with the Acton Institute on the intersection of business, economics, and Wesleyan theology. This April 10-12, 2013, series of seminars will examine how Wesley’s theology, with its focus on the complete and practical integration of life and faith in holiness, can speak to marketplace and church leaders alike about building a flourishing workplace.
Speakers include Bob Doll, chief equity strategist for Nuveen Asset Management; Sondra Wheeler, professor of Christian ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary and author of Wealth as Peril and Obligation: Possessions in the New Testament; David Wright, provost at Indiana Wesleyan; Stephen Grabill, research scholar in theology at Acton Institute; and Chris Armstrong, professor of church history at Bethel Seminary.
Check the CIB website or contact Stacey O’Farrell (firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-378-5415) or Tom Lane (email@example.com or 206-281-2054) for more details and registration information.
Having reflected in a previous post on Jonathan Rauch’s recent National Journal on the plight of many working and non-working American men today, I’m going to re-post here a response to Rauch. The original article may be found over at Hang Together.
Jonathan Rauch’s (Mostly) Failed Agenda for Hurting Workers – and What Would Work
College of the Ozarks’ “Hard Work U” Program
I see lots of attention being paid to this article by Jonathan Rauch on the economic crisis of America’s working class. He’s looking at the right problem, but he’s looking at it all wrong. As a result, he misunderstands both the cause and the needed remedy. Continue reading
It is no good to talk about “theology of work” and “faith-work integration” as if these topics somehow floated above the economic realities in which we live. Nobody has to remind us that those realities are pretty grim right now. But we can’t very well address them effectively with the resources of the church–or any other resources–unless we understand what’s going on in our economy.
Does this mean we need to be trained economists as well as pastors, seminarians, theology professors, engaged laypeople? Not at all. A chaplain or pastor can minister effectively in a hospital room without a medical degree. But it sure helps if said pastor has some idea of what challenges a patient might face within today’s medical system; what the patient’s prognosis is and what that will mean for their quality of life; and so forth. Just so with those Christians who today want to address work through eyes of faith.
This is one thing I respect highly about the Kern Family Foundation’s current grant-making activities in evangelical seminaries across the country: the foundation will not let seminaries get away with a surface-y, pietistic approach that majors on our individual gifts and vocations while ignoring economic realities. Indeed, the foundation and its seminary partners are now working toward a set of faith-informed “economic wisdom maxims” that are securely grounded in economic realities. I can imagine few more helpful enterprises in moving forward the faith-work conversation today.
Apropos all this, friend Collin Hansen, Editorial Director over at the Gospel Coalition, brought the following article to my attention. This piece by Jonathan Rauch in the top policy magazine The National Journal is sobering, to say the least. But the first step in solving a problem is knowing you have one. And right now, America has a very big one. Continue reading
Posted in Work with purpose
Tagged Brookings Institution, Economic Policy Institute, economics, education, Gospel Coalition, Jonathan Rauch, marriage, National Journal, responsibility, unemployment, work
I’d like to share part of a fascinating article (thanks to Drew Cleveland of the Kern Family Foundation for bringing this to my attention) on the special “body knowledge” and skills required of the long-haul truck driver. It’s called “Dignity and the Professionalized Body: Truck Driving in the Age of Instant Gratification” and is by Benjamin H. Snyder. I find it eye-opening, compelling, even moving. It is an excellent specimen of the journalistic species of the “creative nonfiction” genus.
The article sure made me stop and think of the ease with which I hit that “order” button in Amazon.com. I sure don’t think about what the truck driver will quite possibly go through to get that package to me, or indeed the indignities he will suffer as he does so. Here’s a taste of the article, which is from UVA‘s Hedgehog Review. For the whole thing, go here.
3:32 a.m. Over the last hour and a half, we have stopped at three more truck stops and one rest area. They have all been completely full. We pull into another truck stop—a fifth attempt at parking tonight. Yet again, it is full. Alvaro tries to remain optimistic. He turns to me with a wry smile and says, “looks like we’re going to Little Rock, man!” Continue reading
Posted in Work with purpose
Tagged business, dignity, driving, economics, embodiedness, embodiment, Transportation and Logistics, truck driving, trucking, vocation, work
If you’re interested in the new global movement of “Business as Mission,” Mats Tunehag is your guy. He is Senior Associate on Business as Mission for both the Lausanne Movement and for the World Evangelical Alliance Mission Commission, and founder and co-leader of the first global think tank on Business as Mission (now in its second multi-year session). Recently on his blog, and re-posted on the Bam Think Tank blog, Mats gave us a pithy but penetrating run-down of 12 dimensions of BAM.
In case you haven’t run across the term before, before I share a summary of Tunehag’s piece, here is how BAM is defined at http://www.businessasmission.com: Continue reading
I appreciate a man who not only is a fan of Dorothy Sayers’s essays on work, but also read all the Lord Peter Wimsey novels with his wife during their first year of marriage. This is Steve Garber, of the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation, and Culture, blogging on the institute’s website:
As we talked, my friend the businessman-become-farmer asked me if I had ever read Why Work? by Dorothy Sayers. I have, and think it is as a good a statement about work as anyone has written. And I smiled, telling him that Meg and I had read aloud all her Lord Peter Wimsey novels the first year we were married. She is a favorite for many reasons.
The following is a short bit from her work on work, Continue reading
My friend Greg Forster has written a thought-provoking article on the humane roots and recent corruption of capitalism. I recommend this as well worth reading. Here’s the first bit, to whet your appetite:
Last week John Starke wrote for TGC about “The Myth of the Protestant Work Ethic.” I’m grateful to Starke for exposing the egregious theological errors in Max Weber‘s theory of capitalism’s origins. But Weber’s theory of what happened next, the “cultural contradictions of capitalism” thesis, has done just as much damage. Christians ought to understand how Weber’s view of capitalism undermines the moral foundations of a humane and genuinely productive economy, promoting materialism, greed, faith/work dualism, debt, and crony capitalism. Continue reading
Cover via Amazon
Greetings from Acton University 2011. The Acton Institute is an ecumenical think-tank dedicated to the study of free-market economics informed by religious faith and moral absolutes. This is my second summer attending their “Acton University” seminars in Grand Rapids, MI.
One of my favorite presenters last year was Dr. Stephen Grabill, director of programs and research scholar in theology at the Acton Institute. A careful scholar with a Reformed background and a unique knowledge of both economics and theology, Grabill edited the NIV Stewardship Study Bible (2009) and authored Rediscovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics and edited the Sourcebook of Late Scholastic Monetary Theory. Here are my notes on his excellent, if basic, presentation on the social and economic context of the New Testament:
Tertullian famously asked “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?” Meaning, what does the thought world of the Greek philosophers have to do with the Gospel? Why should Christians bother with the culture of the empire when they should be living according to their Scriptures?
We could ask: What does Wall Street have to do with Jerusalem; or economic practice with the seemingly unrelated world of the New Testament? Continue reading