But Why Economics?
“But why “economics?” I get the faith and work bit, but I’m not sure about the last part…”
The integration of faith, work, and economics as stated in our network’s mission continues to cause people to ask questions like the one above. And it’s understandable! “Economics” is rarely talked about among pastoral circles. It doesn’t have easily accessible Bible reference points (though it’s very present throughout!) and it’s often connected to the divisive political conflicts of our time.
The faith and work movement, while well-intentioned, can often reduce its robust message down to: it’s just about You, Jesus, and Your job. Personal application and life transformation are essential and powerful, but they are only part of the mission of the church. We are social creatures, not simply sovereign individuals. We are created to cultivate creation, to create, and to build civilization; we have been given a mission to create culture! (Read Genesis 1-2.) Our mission is not simply to create for ourselves. We have a responsibility to steward and serve the culture-making world – our neighbors, communities, and nations – so that they can see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven.
Soong-Chan Rah eloquently highlights this point his 2010 book, Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church.
Corporate Cultural Responsibility
“We can see the good work of God in the different cultures that have been created but we must also recognize the fallen nature of collective human efforts. As we appreciate the working of God’s image in an individual, though fallen, we must also appreciate the working of God’s image in corporate culture as we recognize the fallen nature of corporate culture. When we try to define and understand culture, we can take a too limiting view that hinders our cultural intelligence. Some of the inability of American Christianity to understand the corporate and social nature of culture arises from the excessive individualism entrenched in Western culture.
For instance, if we were to view culture strictly through the lens of excessive individualism, our view of culture would be myopic; our attempt to understand it would be a largely irrelevant and fruitless endeavor. Any effort to understand or work within a cultural framework should be subservient to the true work of changing individuals. Dealing with culture would be a waste of time, given that this culture would actually be hindering the work of saving individuals. Because American evangelicalism tends to reduce everything to a personal application, we limit the way we engage with the culture around us.
Culture, however, is a corporate social creation. Therefore, for those of us for whom personal and individual faith is paramount, our social life becomes subservient to our personal life – which leads to the incorrect assumption that our personal life has authority over and overrules our corporate and common life. Many of us, therefore, may have preconceived notions about how to deal with cultural realities.
The reality of fallen culture requires living holy personal lives, but we do so in a sociocultural setting in order to address the needs of a fallen culture. If we reduce our faith to purely individualistic terms, then we lack the capacity to deal with culture on corporate, societal terms. Individual salvation is essential to our soteriology, but our transformation in Christ should extend beyond personal experience to the influence we have on the culture. Scripture leads us to the reality of corporate as well as individual sin, and calls us to consider both individual and corporate components of life.”
From Soong-Chan Rah
Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church
This pastors network is striving to cultivate communities of pastors and churches who wrestle with both the individual and corporate dimensions of our culture-making and seek to find biblical and trans-partisan moral commitments that the whole church can embrace and work toward. One example of this effort is the Economic Wisdom Project and its foundational document: A Christian Vision for Flourishing Communities, documented below.
Why connect theology and economics?
“Because our lives should manifest the Gospel, making it tangible and visible. In addition to personal holiness, we need to reach beyond ourselves and have an impact on the world around us. Christians are called to live out God’s creation purposes and be signposts of the glorious future to come. That includes activities like religious works, charity, and volunteering, but these take up only a small fraction of our lives; discipleship must be a whole-life endeavor. If we want to follow God’s call and live into our true identity as his stewards, we have to integrate our faith with the spheres of life in which we invest most of our time: work and the economy.”
From the Introduction
- Dallas Willard and Gary Black, The Divine Conspiracy Continued (2014)
- Scott Rae and Austin Hill, The Virtues of Capitalism (2010)
- Amy Sherman, Kingdom Calling (2011)
- Victor Claar and Robin Klay, Economics in Christian Perspective (2007)