One more post related to my faith-and-work activities. The Bethel Work with Purpose initiative team has put a lot of time and care into developing a well-resourced conference on work and vocation. The other day we sent out an invitation to pastors and seminary alumni, and I’d like to extend this invitation to Grateful to the Dead readers too. If this question of how our faith and work lives relate to each other, or questions about finding meaning and “a vocation” in work, engages you, please join us for this “mini-conference.” If you know someone who could benefit from the conference, please let them know:
I write to invite you to join us at MISSION:WORK, a mini-conference for workers and their pastors (seminary.bethel.edu/work-with-purpose), Thursday night, Oct. 10, and Friday morning, Oct. 11.
Recent Barna research shows that young adults of the Millennial generation who have remained active in their churches are three times more likely than those who “dropped out” to say they learned to view their gifts and passions as part of God’s calling (45% versus 17%). They are four times more likely to have learned at church “how the Bible applies to my field or career interests” (29% versus 7%).
The truth is: churches benefit in many ways from equipping their members–especially young adults–for applying their faith to their work. But “most churches,” says Barna president David Kinnaman, “leave this kind of vocation-based outcome largely at the door unless these students show interest in traditional church-based ministry.” Continue reading
I think I’m well and truly into the Creation chapter of Getting Medieval with C S Lewis. Hoping to have it finished tonight or tomorrow. As with most of the other chapters, I’m starting with a framing of the modern problem(s) to which medieval faith suggests a solution. In this case, we’re looking at two sub-Christian attitudes to material stuff (including rocks, strawberries, gerbils, our human bodies, and all the ways we make culture in our social interactions). I don’t discuss the “medieval” solution yet – that will come in the next couple of posts.
Our issues: Gnosticism and materialism
The early Christian Gnostics disavowed the spiritual significance and goodness of the material world: the world was created not by our God, who called his handiwork “good,” but rather by an inferior sub-god called a “demiurge.” Thus one must set aside the material world if one is to reach God. The world cannot be in any way a channel of Grace – it is rather an impediment to grace.
One online author who is convinced he sees Gnosticism all over the modern church suggests the following tests—a sort of “you might be a gnostic if . . .” The signs of gnostic thinking he identifies are (1) thinking Christianity is about “spiritual” things (only), (2) thinking of our destiny only in terms of our souls going off to heaven, (3) forgetting that “Christianity teaches the redemption of all creation (New Creation) and not evacuation from creation (‘the rapture’),” and (4) believing that God neither gives us material things as means of grace, nor indeed cares about the earth at all – and neither should we.
This syndrome of devaluing the material—sapping it of all spiritual significance—supports a number of modern Christian bad habits. One is the sort of “it’s all gonna burn” end-times scenario indulged in the Left Behind novels. Another is the excuse Baby Boomers (and others) make for the fact that their faith makes no difference in their daily life: “I’m ‘spiritual but not religious.’” Continue reading
Posted in Medieval Wisdom for Modern Protestants
Tagged Augustine, Creation, faith and work, gnosticism, Hans Boersma, hedonism, idolatry, Martin Luther, materialism, Spirituality, Tradition, work
Just wanted to show y’all this conference we’ve been working on here at Bethel Seminary, for Thur-Fri Oct 10-11, 2013. Come one, come all!
[The following is reposted from the Acton Institute’s blog:]
In a lecture at Acton University titled “Business and the Common Good,” Dr. Scott Rae of Biola University examined the role of business in serving the common good.
Rae began by examining some of the common criticisms lobbed against business, namely, that it promotes greed, inequality, and consumerism. As Michael Miller often notes, these are human vices, not economic ones, and thus business, properly understood, is not immoral in and of itself.
On the contrary, business has great potential for serving and contributing to the common good. Though some believe profit-seeking enterprises are only valuable insofar as they can “give something back” out of what’s leftover, Rae emphasized how business advances the common good right from the get-go.
Rae offers four primary ways this occurs:
- By peaceably providing needed goods and services that allow human beings to flourish and enhance their well being
- By providing meaningful work that allows human beings to flourish and enhances their well being
- By facilitating wealth creation and economic growth
- By enabling the poor to lift themselves out of poverty
By leveraging business, we not only yield profits that can be used for the glory of God outside of business, we can serve our neighbors in the here and now. “God is not just redeeming individuals,” Rae concluded. “He is redeeming all of creation. He is redeeming the marketplace.”
To listen to Rae’s lecture, you can purchase “Business and the Common Good” here.
Purchase Rae’s book, Business for the Common Good: A Christian Vision for the Marketplace
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A couple of months ago, Seattle Pacific University held a conference centered on a new book by Indiana Wesleyan University Provost David Wright, How God Makes the World A Better Place: A Wesleyan Primer on Faith, Work, and Economic Transformation. I was invited to introduce a couple of the meetings at the conference with some remarks tied to David’s work and to Wesley’s thinking on work and economics.
This is what I said at a breakfast event with a roomful of eager SPU school of theology students and fellow-travelers:
Where can we learn from Wesley in the area of work and economics?
Theological first principles
The focus of this primer is “Work as cooperation with God.”
“In the Wesleyan view, godly work is not defined by what one does, but by the way one does it,” says David. I think that’s fair to say, and I would add, not only the way one does it, but the motivations and character out of which those actions flow. In examining the motives behind John Wesley’s extraordinary lifelong dedication toward bringing material as well as spiritual flourishing to the poor, Duke’s Richard Heitzenrater argues that it comes most fundamentally from a Christian virtue ethic, not an ethic of obligation.
An ethic of obligation sets the rules and laws for behavior, and then lays down the imperative: Go and do it! A virtue ethic recognizes that despite what Nike would tell you, you can’t “Just do it.” You have to “be it” before you can “do it.” Ethical behavior flows from ethical character. And ethical character is not a matter of gritting your teeth and performing a series of actions. It is about having your heart changed. Continue reading
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