One of the many things we have discussed among our faculty and with our students over the past five years is how work and economics represent a major arena in our lives, through which we have opportunities to love and serve our neighbors. It is a reminder that we exist in a network of relationships and we depend on one another. Indeed, God meets our needs through the work of our neighbors, both near and far.
This has certainly been true for the work of The Commonweal Project at Southern Seminary, and we are deeply grateful for the many partnerships that have encouraged us in the work we have done on Faith, Work and Human Flourishing. In particular, we appreciate the people and resources shared by the Oikonomia Network and Made to Flourish, each of which has made our work possible and has shaped our thinking in significant ways. Beyond those major partners, we have enjoyed partnerships with our denomination, other schools, churches and many individuals. In turn, we have been able to share ideas and resources with many of our faculty and students, and those outside of our institution over the past five years.
Among the most gratifying fruit we have seen is the way many of our faculty have integrated work and economic issues into their classes, writing and speaking. Over 20 courses engage these issues with lectures, discussion or assignments. More than ten of our faculty have either been involved in a faculty reading group or led a student reading group – or both – spending extracurricular time devoted to reading and discussing texts on these issues each semester. This has influenced several of our faculty to engage these issues further, in ways that intersect with their disciplines.
Faculty Taking the Lead
Mark Coppenger (philosophy) has consistently integrated work and economic issues in his courses in philosophy and ethics, and several times he has brought his classes to Commonweal lecture lunches. He has also developed an online course on Work and Leisure, which can be used to teach students around the world for years to come. In that course, one of the interesting things he did was to carry a video camera with him as he traveled to interview dozens of people, from hotel workers to coal miners to white collar professionals, to find out how they viewed their work.
Jonathan Pennington (New Testament) wrote an article on “A Brief Biblical Theology of Human Flourishing” that was picked up by the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics, and published on their website. Building on that, Pennington wrote a book on The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing (Baker, 2017) that has received widespread attention. He has had a chance to speak to a number of groups and conferences on human flourishing, and teaches a course on The Sermon on the Mount that deals with human flourishing.
Jim Hamilton (Biblical theology) preached a sermon series at his church on a biblical theology of work, after which he published a book entitled Work and Our Labor in the Lord (Crossway, 2017).
Rob Plummer (New Testament) has, perhaps, been more actively engaging these issues in his work than anyone else on our faculty. Because of his engagement with our reading groups, he became very interested in the Biblical teaching on vocation, and developed a lecture entitled, “A New Testament Professor (re)Discovers the Doctrine of Vocation.” He has now given that lecture in many different venues. He developed additional lectures on vocation and gave them as plenary addresses at a conference in Greece for missionaries, touching on work, the economy, vocation and rest. Plummer also does a regular “screen cast” called a Daily Dose of Greek, which extends to over 10,000 people in 190 countries, where he helps students and alumni and anyone interested to keep up their Greek language skills. In these, he regularly uses the Greek text to show how often issues of work and the economy are present in the Bible. He discusses these issues in his classes on campus, and recently has recorded videos for an online course on the Greek Exegesis of James, where he shows how James touches on poverty, wealth and doing all things for the glory of God. In addition to this class, he has published a commentary on James in the Hebrews-Revelation Expository Commentary for Crossway (2018), where he highlights these themes.
For these and others on our faculty, the issues discussed by The Commonweal Project have become integrated into their teaching and scholarship, and this is in large measure thanks to support and encouragement from the ON and MTF.