Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Ken Magnuson, professor of Christian ethics
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary joined the Oikonomia Network in January 2014, launching The Commonweal Project on Faith, Work, and Human Flourishing to engage students, faculty, pastors, alumni, and Christian business leaders on issues of faith, work, and economics. The Commonweal Project has put on a range of events.
Lunch talks: One of our initiatives is a luncheon series that has drawn over 300 students this year. It includes a free lunch for students followed by a presentation and discussion. Spring speakers included David Kotter, a Southern Ph.D. student who teaches New Testament at Colorado Christian University and is a visiting scholar at the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics. Kotter also has extensive experience in business with Ford Motor Company and has taught business, economics, and entrepreneurship. His topic was “What Every Pastor Needs to Know About Economics,” highlighting how we can apply biblical truths in an economic world that is dramatically different from the world of Jesus and Paul. At another luncheon, Jonathan Pennington, associate professor of New Testament interpretation and director of research doctoral studies, presented a paper on “A Brief Biblical Theology of Human Flourishing.” This fall, the first lunch talk was given by Southern’s president, R. Albert Mohler, who addressed “A Biblical Perspective on Economics.” The 2014 lunch talk series was completed with a talk by Mark Coppenger, professor of Christian apologetics, who examined why worldview matters for economic flourishing, and compared Judeo-Christian worldviews with other religious perspectives.
DVD series: Another initiative has led students to think about the causes of and solutions to poverty worldwide by viewing the Poverty Cure DVD series produced by the Acton Institute. Students said it has been very instructive. One challenge has been to coordinate busy schedules, which tend to be very different for single students compared to married students and families.
Faculty retreat: In May we held a two-day faculty retreat in Lexington with 25 of our faculty. Featured speakers included Greg Forster, Al Mohler, and plenary speakers Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus, who addressed findings from their book “The Poverty of Nations.” The retreat was very well received, and allowed faculty to get away together to have focused time to engage the issues presented.
Business dinners: We organized two dinners for Christians in business, aimed at bringing our faculty, pastors, and Christian business leaders into conversation on issues of faith and work. David Kotter spoke at our first dinner, in June, on how economics has radically changed over the past 200 years, and how we ought to think about those changes as Christians. In the second dinner, Wayne Grudem spoke on private property and business as implications of the eighth commandment. We received very favorable responses, including from a businessman who said he appreciated being given great things to think about without being asked for something in return.
Commonweal Conference: One of our featured events this year was our first theology and economics conference. We brought Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus to campus to speak about “The Poverty of Nations.” There were 75 in attendance, including students, faculty, and staff, and members of local churches. Attendees heard breakout speakers such as Gregg Allison of Southern on a theology of work; Anne Bradley of the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics on income inequality; Kotter on using economics to make moral decisions in the marketplace; and a representative of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Missions Board on marketplace ministries.
Commonweal Colloquia: We hosted two events this fall in a two-day colloquium format, consisting of speakers and participants that included faculty from Southern and other schools, as well as pastors and denominational leaders. The first was titled Vocation and a Theology of Work and featured Tom Nelson, Greg Forster, and Scott Rae. The second focused on the Church and Community Transformation in a Gospel-centered ministry, and included a visit to Sojourn Community Church in Louisville to hear from pastors and ministry partners about how they engage their community. We also featured Ryan West, director of Love Loud for the SBC’s North American Mission Board, and Christopher Brooks, pastor of Evangel Ministry in Detroit and Dean of Moody Theological Seminary’s Michigan campus. The goal of each Commonweal Colloquium is to equip leaders to equip the church in vital areas of faith, work, and human flourishing.
In the coming year, we look forward to continuing and building on these activities. In addition, we will be developing new initiatives, including reading clubs for students and faculty, in order to engage at a deeper level those who are interested in exploring further the intersection of faith, work and economics.