[F]or Christians interested in advancing God’s agenda
of peace, justice and reconciliation,
a focus on business and its role in society is critical.
– Jeff Van Duzer
This past weekend, Laity Lodge hosted a retreat on the topic: Christians in the Marketplace: What would it Look Like if God Was Running the Show? Our speakers were Tod Bolsinger, Senior Pastor of San Clemente Presbyterian Church in California and Jeff Van Duzer, Dean of the School of Business and Economics at Seattle Pacific University, Washington. From their different perspectives and on the basis of their diverse experiences, both Tod and Jeff challenged us to think creatively as Christians about business. Many of those who attended this retreat are business owners and/or leaders.
Both speakers commented on the fact that most of us who seek to follow Christ have not done much deep thinking about business. We have tended to uncritically endorse either of two popular options. One idolizes capitalism and the market. The other demonizes capitalism and the market. Thus, we are desperately in need of careful, creative thinking about business in light of God’s purposes for the world and for us as creatures created in his image.
Both Tod and Jeff approach theological questions in light of Scripture. Both are also concerned about the practical challenges faced by actual practitioners. Tod is slowly working on a book that will deal with some of these theological-practical matters. Jeff has already written such a book: Why Business Matters to God (And What Still Needs to Be Fixed). I thought it might be interesting to my blog readers to learn some of what is in this book, which I consider to be an outstanding discussion of a theology of business. So, today, and in in the future, I’ll share some excerpts from Why Business Matters to God, and perhaps a few of my own thoughts as well.
So throughout what follows you may experience the tension that I have encountered as I have sought to pursue these two goals. On the one hand I hope that what I have written can be a life-giving affirmation to a whole class of Christians who for too long have felt like their work had, at best, only instrumental value to God. To this end I simply want to affirm what is. On the other hand I do believe that the dominant paradigm that governs much of our business practices today is flawed and needs to be changed. I seek to call Christians to be at the forefront of these changes. Affirming and challenging. Priest and prophet. (Kindle Locations 184-188)
WHY IT MATTERS: The twenty-first century is destined to be the century of global business. More than any other institution, business is likely to shape the face of our world. The sheer magnitude of the resources controlled by corporations makes it almost certain that business will dwarf the influence of other traditional institutions. Of the 150 largest economies in the world, nearly half are not countries. They are businesses. Annual sales from the top two hundred corporations are larger than the combined economies of all but the twenty-five largest countries in the world. Moreover, businesses are increasingly multinational or transnational in reach. Notwithstanding the retraction in global trade and investment accompanying the 2008-2009 recession, it is very unlikely that we will see a long-term diminution of the cross-border influence of companies. In short, companies doing business will, in many ways, dictate the kind of world we will live in. Thus, for Christians interested in advancing God’s agenda of peace, justice and reconciliation, a focus on business and its role in society is critical. (Kindle Locations 188-194).
I would add that we a living in times when the purpose, identity, role, and value of business is greatly in debate. This provides both an unprecedented need and an unprecedented opportunity for Christians to reflect on business in light of God and his purposes for the world.