Helpful models of video resources: Some video resources profiled in this article were selected by the ON Advisory Committee as “helpful models” for network faculty to consider.
The faith-and-work world is still talking about the Faith@Work Summit last October, and videos of the powerful talks given at the summit are now online. Of particular interest are several talks that helped push the conversation beyond the personal, individual level of “faith and work” to talk about the social and cultural dimension of work – economics. These short, TED-style talks introduce that connection; several video resources selected by the ON advisory committee as helpful models take it much deeper.
One talk that has already created a stir in the Oikonomia Network community is Paul Williams’ discussion of why faith and work needs to be at the heart of theological education. When this talk was played at the ON faculty retreat in January, we got many requests that we let you know when it was on the web. (Here’s your notice!) Williams challenged the dominant “clerical and scholastic” model of theological education; argued that a faulty theology of work was contributing to the secularization of the West; and pointed to major economic challenges facing the seminary that can only be met by a renewal of mission-focused, vocationally sound education throughout the core curriculum.
Another talk that was played, in part, at the ON faculty retreat was that of Tom Nelson, who serves as a member of the ON advisory committee. Nelson argued that love of neighbor and the imperatives of the pastoral vocation compel us to look beyond “faith and work” to faith, work, and economics. With a moving exegesis of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, he urged the movement to broaden its thinking and develop “capacity for compassion.”
Yet another presentation arguing for the economic connection was Greg Forster’s talk on the stewardship mindset and the entrepreneurial economy. He argued that teaching people to do their work with good stewardship, and to love strangers, has helped extend equal rights to all people; transformed economic systems for the better; and broken down barriers between racial, religious, and cultural groups. To teach people to love each other and do justice to each other, he contended, we must teach them about value creation, productivity, opportunity, and responsibility.
Quite a few other talks at the summit touched on economics, entrepreneurship, and job creation. Larry Ward shared stories of helping struggling people get jobs and start businesses – including in Gordon-Conwell’s class on church-based entrepreneurship. Julius Walls reminded us that America hasn’t always practiced what it preaches about economic opportunity, but it can and must do so. Will Messenger suggested that the principle of mutual respect implicit in economic exchange could have helped him confront injustice at a racist gas station. The full playlist is well worth checking out.
But once these initial videos have helped people see the need for economic connections when we talk about faith and work, how do they go deeper? A number of videos from the ON’s list of helpful models point the way to a fuller engagement.
Forster has laid out the case for expanding beyond work to talk about economics at greater length in a number of other talks. In a lecture given at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in 2013, Forster describes how economic systems are cultural systems that form, and in turn depend upon, our moral character. In an ongoing series of podcasts with Darrell Bock of Dallas Seminary, Forster discusses his white paper on theology and economics, “Theology that Works,” in detail. Also of interest are more recent talks, not yet considered by the ON advisory committee: Two lectures on theology and economics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, on the history of the entrepreneurial economy and the challenges facing the church today in this area; and a seven-lecture course on theology and economics in Western Seminary’s digital learning program.
In his AGTS talk, Forster quotes Dallas Willard several times. At the time, Willard had just given his two lectures on economic wisdom to the ON faculty retreat. Willard’s talk on work and spiritual disciplines at a 2012 Biola faculty retreat has been selected as a helpful model, along with two short panel discussion clips in which Willard particularly focuses on economic questions. In one, he emphasizes that business is a primary means God uses to accomplish his purposes in the world. In the other, he stresses the tight connection between moral character and respect for private property.
In lectures at the 2013 AGTS conference, Stephen Grabill and Dwight Gibson of the Acton Institute speak to the deep connection between theology and economics. Grabill reviews how the early church used the phrase “the economy of God” to refer to two distinct but closely related things. In one respect, it means God’s good plan for all things; in another respect, it means the ways in which we are called to respond to this plan, ordering and stewarding creation to conform to it. Turning from history to the future, Gibson argued that a deeper appreciation of the role of the Holy Spirit was needed to renew “a culture of exploration;” such a culture of entrepreneurship and openness to discovery is needed if the church is to find “the unexplored journey of the Spirit in our time.” These ideas would later find their way onto many more screens as they formed the central message of For the Life of the World.
As the ON moves forward, more resources will continue to arrive. The ON advisory committee is looking forward to identifying more helpful models to serve the ON community!