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
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 (email@example.com or 206-378-5415) or Tom Lane (firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-281-2054) for more details and registration information.
In the first history class of each new year at Bethel Seminary, I have my students talk about their sense of calling. Many of them tell a similar story: “I quit my job to go into the ministry.” What drove them to this decision was a sense of frustration and meaninglessness in their daily work. They didn’t see their workas pleasing to God or useful in the kingdom. The frequent assumption is that ordained ministry is where people are really working for God.
If that’s true, where does that leave the vast majority of Christians, who by the end of their lives will each have spent an average of 100,000 hours in non-church work? Can they see secular jobs as a holy vocation? Can non-church work be a means to serve others, giving cups of water to the thirsty, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked (Mt. 25)—which (for example) parents do every month, whether through a paycheck or in the work they do in the home? Those in secular work often feel like only those doing things of significance in ministry positions will get to hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
This sense that ordinary work is spiritually second-class isn’t so much taught as caught. Continue reading
Posted in Medieval Wisdom for Modern Protestants, Resources for Radical Living, Work with purpose
Tagged Benedict of Nursia, Benedict's Rule, Benedictinism, Gregory the Great, Johann Tauler, Martin Luther, Meister Eckhart, Pope Gregory I, vocation, work