John Taylor, associate professor of New Testament, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
A conversation around a table at the Kern Fellows’ curricular integration workshop at Acton University in June 2013 bore unexpected and very welcome fruit. What began as a discussion became a conference that we hope will contribute to an ongoing renewal of scholarly efforts.
At that gathering, a group of New Testament scholars discussed problems they all face in their efforts to incorporate a theology of work and economics in their courses. There are inadequate written resources available to those who wish to integrate these subjects into New Testament courses. A lot of people are drawing on the New Testament in formulating ethical and theological approaches to economics, but in this area not many resources are being produced by New Testament specialists, especially evangelical ones. The first step is to provoke scholars to start researching and writing. After all, history belongs to those who write.
Despite some prominent exceptions, evangelicals have generally been notable by their absence in examining the New Testament in areas related to economics and work, despite the clear concerns of the New Testament writers in these areas. The New Testament shows an interest, for example and in no particular order, in: money and wealth; government and authority; work; benefaction; slavery; giving; taxation; financial ethics; church and mission finances; and poverty. Most of the work in the field, although it can be useful, does not have a Bible-based foundation, and overall the scholarly consensus tends towards a statist or a socially progressive perspective. It is all too common for New Testament scholarship to find the Jesus that we want to find. While some bias is unavoidable, it is important as far as possible not to impose such bias on the scriptures, but to follow where the Bible leads cognizant of its historical and social context.
The discussion at Acton became an ongoing conversation. As part of the Oikonomia Network program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, under the auspices of the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement, we held a colloquium on the New Testament and Economics in September 2014. The goal was to bring together scholars to stimulate biblical scholarship, build relationships, and provide a core of material for a book of articles. We hope the book will be useful both in the classroom and as a contribution to the field.
Eighteen evangelical scholars gathered from across the country on September 18-19. They represented a wide range of denominations and interests. As well as New Testament professors, there were two Old Testament scholars, two economists, and an archaeologist. The full list of papers appears below.
Klaus Issler, Talbot Theological Seminary
“The Diversity of Method and Presuppositions in NT Interpretation of Economic / Commercial
Factors with Illustrations from Jesus’ Parable of the Talents (Matt 25:14-30)”
Jim Hernando, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary
“The Economic Substructure in the Parables of Jesus: Implications and Insights”
Craig Blomberg, Denver Seminary
“Redistribution of Wealth: A Socialist Anathema or a Biblical Fundamental?”
Edd Noell, Westmont College
“Wealth, Exchange, and the ‘Rights of the Poor’: New Testament Teaching in Light of Old
Testament Conceptions and Institutions”
Terence Mournet, Ashland University
“Wealth in Luke/Acts in Greco-Roman Context”
James R. Wicker, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
“An Assarion for Your Thoughts: The Challenges of Translating NT Numismatic Terms”
J. Brian Tucker, Moody Theological Seminary
“The Jerusalem Collection, Economic Inequality, and Human Flourishing: Redistribution of
Money or Relationships of Mutuality or Both?”
David Kotter, Colorado Christian University
“The Distinction between Greed and Self-Interest in the Life and Letters of the Apostle Paul”
John W. Taylor, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Labour of Love: The Theology of Work in First and Second Thessalonians”
Tom Davis, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Business Secrets of Paul of Tarsus”
Keith Reeves, Azusa-Pacific University
“Show Me the Money: Romans as a Fund-Raising Letter”
Aaron Kuecker, LeTourneau University
“Liturgical Economics in Philippi: Economic Practice in Union with Christ”
We are greatly encouraged by the feedback from the conference participants. Here are several examples:
- “Excellent colloquium.”
- “Papers flowed into one another.”
- “Scholars were feeding off each other’s comments and questions.”
- “These papers are going to make an invaluable resource.”
- “Wonderful colloquium, stimulating variety of presentations, good fellowship, and great lodging and food.”
- “A really fruitful colloquium.”
- “These sort of things take a lot of extra work to pull off, and the event was so well-crafted and run. Thank you.”
- “Just the sort of feedback for which I was hoping.”
We fervently pray that the Lord will continue to bless the fruit of this conference and bring us all many more opportunities in the future!