Scott Rae, professor of Christian ethics
At the Talbot School of Theology of Biola University, we are excited about what is happening on our campus and are proud to be members of the Oikonomia Network.
Curricular integration has gone well over the past three years. A highlight has been the series of three courses on Calling and Vocation added to our spiritual formation track, which is required of all Talbot students. The sequence of classes concludes with a capstone retreat, which all students go on, that specifically deals with this area of work, calling and vocation. This has turned out to be an ideal pipeline to ensure that every Talbot student is exposed to our material on the integration of faith and work. This year, we standardized the course, putting the lecture material on video, so we are no longer dependent on adjunct faculty to teach the core content of the course. This will improve consistency and quality in the essential content.
We’ve also seen curricular integration in several theology classes, in our course on Church and Society and in some of our pastoral internship classes. Although we do have an online elective course on Theology of Work, our main strategy has been to introduce relevant material in smaller segments at several points in the required theology curriculum, as opposed to entire courses devoted to the subject. In our theology sections on the doctrine of creation, different faculty introduce the notion of work and vocation and use readings from Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavor and Martin Luther’s writings on work. Our section on ecclesiology has provided a very good touchpoint in the definition of “ministry”; we teach our students that all believers are in full-time ministry, regardless of where they get a paycheck.
A further point of curricular integration is related to economics as well as work. One of our faculty is a specialist in the doctrine of the image of God, in the subfield of theological anthropology. He is relating the image of God to the dominion mandate and spelling out the implications of the imago Dei for both work and economics. Human beings are made to cultivate creation both individually (in their work) and collaboratively (through relationships of economic exchange).
Faculty Reading Group
In the area of economics, we have held two faculty reading groups, looking at a variety of books and articles on the intersection of theology and economics. They have been small groups, limited to six participants each time. This has provided rich discussion and exposure to new ideas for faculty. Here’s the list of what the group read this past semester:
ADDRESSING GLOBAL POVERTY
Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor . . . And Yourself, expanded ed. (Moody, 2012)
Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else (Basic, 2000)
WORLD OF COMMERCE
Past: Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success (Random House, 2005)
Present: Kenman L. Wong and Scott Rae, Business for the Common Good: A Christian Vision for the Marketplace (Zondervan, 2004)
VALUING WORK & SUPPORTING THE CHURCH
Amy L. Sherman, Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good (InterVarsity, 2011)
The Pastor’s Guide to Fruitful Work & Economic Wisdom: Understanding What Your People Do All day. Drew Cleveland and Greg Forster eds., (Kern Family Foundation, 2015)
SHORTER BOOKLETS (70 pages or under)
Paul Heyne, A Student’s Guide to Economics (2000)
Osvaldo Schenone and Samuel Gregg, A Theory of Corruption: The Theology of Economics of Sin (Acton Institute, 2003)
Philip Booth, International Aid and Integral Human Development (Acton Institute, 2011)
Victor V. Claar, Fair Trade? Its Prospects as a Poverty Solution (Acton Institute, 2010)
Robert G. Kennedy, The Good That Business Does (Acton Institute, 2006)
Samuel Gregg, Banking, Justice, and the Common Good (Acton Institute, 2005)
Stephen Grabill, Kevin Schmiesing & Gloria Zúñiga, Doing Justice to Justice (Acton Institute, 2002)
Flourishing Churches and Communities (Economic Wisdom Project booklet)
Here are some comments we’ve received from participants in the reading group:
“I think the main take-away, for me, is that there’s a lot more theological work that evangelicals need to do on these fronts. Or maybe it’s just that I have a lot more theological work to do on these fronts!”
“It made me think more critically about what is truly helpful for people. For example, I was particularly struck by the readings and videos which talked about how charitable giving could actually do harm by creating dependency and entitlement, interfering with the development of local economies, etc. As Christians, we want to be able to help, but we are also responsible to make sure to the best of our abilities that we are not simply following an emotional compulsion to do something while not thinking carefully about the ramifications of our actions. In other words, we may actually be acting more to assuage our guilt rather than out of a truly compassionate response.”
“It just a very interesting theological issue by itself, but I was struck during one of our discussions how our churches often do not act intentionally and in an informed way based on deep theological introspection. I appreciated the effort to ask how we might bridge this gap between church and the academy regarding this particular social issue (based on materials created for the church).”
“Regarding conveying content in a church setting, it is extremely important to convey the theological importance of work to people who are not working in pastoral ministry. Despite the fact that this was a fairly central issue in the Protestant Reformation, it seems like we have forgotten a lot of this lesson. That was one of the places where the readings we had really shined.”
Talbot Center for Faith, Work and Economics
We also host a regional development center for churches, the Talbot Center for Faith, Work and Economics. The center is led by Helen Mitchell, who served for some time as director of workplace ministry at Saddleback Church. The center has produced several short videos available for use in classrooms and conferences and has served as a church consulting organization, serving churches that desire to see faith, work and economics integration happen more intentionally in the life of the church. We have been involved consulting with four churches so far, and have a major church conference coming up at Emmanuel Faith Community Church in Escondido, Ca. in October. The center has also been involved with the ReGenerant Network of church planters on the West Coast, holding two different seminars for 25 church planters in the past few months. We are delighted to see the work of the center multiply in this way.