The Oikonomia Network at Beeson
Mark DeVine, Associate Professor of Divinity
Eight influential senior pastors from four states and Washington D.C., representing six theological traditions, gave intensive attention to the intersection of faith, work, and economics at a March pastors’ symposium hosted by Beeson Divinity School. The symposium was led by Greg Forster of The Kern Family Foundation and Dan Scott, pastor of Christ Church in Nashville.
Forster helped us see how jobs ranging from those in the highest echelons of commerce and business, right down to the factory worker repeatedly pulling a lever or pushing a button, contribute something highly valuable to human flourishing. Scott helped us understand the relevance of work and market economies to the relief of poverty and the life of local congregations. Both illumined human work with Scripture and modeled ways of theologizing about the work that engages our efforts for the bulk of our waking hours. Our pastor participants brought keen questions and insights to our discussion, which helped all of us see more clearly the importance of our theme and how much more reflection it deserves.
Also in March, we welcomed Gene Veith to campus to speak about vocation during the Beeson community’s weekly worship time. On April 22-23, we welcomed Tom Nelson, senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Leawood, Kan., and author of the book “Work Matters” to lead Beeson’s spring pastors’ conference. Next year, we plan to welcome Tim Keller, who will lead a major conference on faith and work, exploring themes from his book “Every Good Endeavor.”
The Oikonomia Network at Southern Baptist
Kenneth Magnuson, Professor of Christian Ethics
“What Every Pastor Needs to Know About Faith, Work, and Human Flourishing” was the main theme of the first event hosted by The Commonwealth Project on Faith, Work, and Human Flourishing. Around 60 students and faculty attended the Feb. 26 event at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The featured speaker was David Kotter, a New Testament doctoral student at Southern. Before studying theology in seminary, Kotter worked as a plant controller with the Ford Motor Company in America and Europe. He currently teaches business, entrepreneurship, and economics at Indiana Wesleyan University, and is a visiting scholar at the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics in Washington, D.C.
Kotter began by challenging attendees with a quote from Francis Schaeffer: “Every generation of Christians has this problem of learning how to speak meaningfully to its own age. It cannot be solved without an understanding of the changing existential situation which it faces.” Kotter then demonstrated the radical change that has occurred in the world’s economic situation in the last 200 years, including a rapid rise in life expectancy; an exponential increase in world population, food production, and personal income; and a dramatic decrease in world poverty and the cost of goods. Kotter argued that the church must speak into this new economic world through the lens and authority of Scripture, focusing on the importance of understanding the creation mandate of Genesis 1:28. He asserted that “an honest profit” is one key measure of obedience to the creation mandate in the economic sphere, and went on to unpack this assertion in relation to the dynamics of economic exchange.
Though the topic of faith, work, and economics was new for many attendees, the overall response was very positive. During the discussion period, thought-provoking questions were asked, such as: “How do we think biblically and theologically about the inherent goodness of profit?” and “If the free market ‘runs on greed,’ how is it compatible with Christianity?” Kotter fielded the questions and led the group in an engaging dialogue.
The April issue of Southern’s campus publication “Towers,” which has an online readership of 2,000 and a paper print run of 3,000, was dedicated to the topic of faith and economics; Kotter’s presentation was the featured story.
Other events planned in 2014 by The Commonweal Project include three more lecture luncheons, including one on April 30 that features Jonathan Pennington discussing “A Brief Biblical Theology of Human Flourishing”; a faculty retreat on May 12-14; an Institute on Vocation event in September; an Institute on Community Transformation event in October; and a large conference on human flourishing (“Thrive”) scheduled for Sept. 26-27, featuring Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus speaking on their book “The Poverty of Nations.”