Over the last four years, we have brought in scholars and experts in connecting faith, flourishing and the economy to speak in chapel services and workshops. These guests have included Tim Keller, Os Guinness, Russell Moore, Wayne Grudem and Scott Rae.
Keller drew from his book Every Good Endeavor, contending that the gospel gives believers (1) an identity without which work will sink us because of pride, (2) recognition of the dignity of all work without which work can become boring, (3) a moral compass without which work will corrupt us and (4) a new world view without which work will become our master rather than our servant. Guinness touched on the contribution of sixteenth-century reformers, who deepened our understanding of the human dignity God makes work instill, providing theological underpinnings for biblical understanding of vocation and the healthy flourishing of entrepreneurship and capitalism.
We have held a biannual, ten-pastor symposium to engage faith and work, and develop initiatives and programs within the local churches these pastors lead. Over the last three years this group has gathered around faith and work conferences here at Beeson and has read numerous books together, including Michael Novak’s classic The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism and John Schneider’s The Good of Influence. We have also shared with and supported one another as each pastor has launched various initiatives focused on work and the economy with the congregations we lead. These include special Labor Day sermons and video presentations, conferences, retreats and cohort groups meeting regularly to explore the intersection of faith with work, business and wealth.
Each academic year I have offered an elective course, “Between Sabbaths: Faith, Work, and Economics on the Other Six Days,” and authored The Other Six Days blog. The “Between Sabbaths” course was launched originally under the title “Faith, Work, and Economics on the Other Six Days.” Over the years, this course has developed a more biblically and theologically grounded orientation, helping students see work and the economy as integrated in the doctrines of creation and redemption, and in relation to the Sabbath.
We are gratified that the subject is no longer strange to the Beeson community. Our focus is now shifting to build upon the work of the last three years. While there has been growing exposure to this conversation and consistent student interest in “Between Sabbaths”, we now want to aim at integration into the core of academic life at Beeson. And we want to be good stewards of the investment made in the pastors in our symposium, and strike while the iron is hot.
We shall pursue these goals in two ways. First, we will deploy five of the symposium pastors to train others, both fellow pastors and business leaders. We have invested heavily for more than three years in the training of these symposium pastors. Now we want to shepherd them to train others as they have been trained. Second, I will come alongside four other professors as they explore this integration in syllabi for courses in four disciplines: history and doctrine, pastoral leadership, Old Testament and New Testament. Through this curricular initiative we seek to achieve more permanent integration of concerns related to work and the economy into the DNA of our master’s program.
This embrace of the curricular dimension of this newest initiative demonstrates that this ever-deepening focus on faith and work belongs to the core values of Beeson Divinity School.