Monthly Archives: February 2012

Settling for an Insufficient God

I suggest we should not settle for an insufficient God, or relationship with God. It is easy to do and given our natural leaning toward laziness,… uh, efficiency, we too often do.

God is God. Dr. Marva Dawn, a professor at Regent College in Vancouver captured it well: “God wouldn’t be God if we could always understand Him.” Allow God to be mysterious. Let the Bible leave you a little baffled sometimes. It is okay not knowing everything.

That attitude forces us to accept our own limitations, and the limitations of others. If you assembled all the knowledge of God from all those who have known Him through all history, it would still be like a single grain of sand amidst the Arabian deserts. God is infinite. Trying to understand Him and his ways can be complex, time-consuming, and sometimes downright confounding.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is like it: to love our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27). In fact, He said that sums up the ethical demands of our faith.

When we decide we have things figured out, we make law. Jesus said living by the letter of law is the wrong way. We are to live by the Spirit in a dynamic, moment-by-moment walk with God. When we think we know something, we become proud. God resists the proud (James 4:6), so we actually know far less than the little we thought we knew.

When we make law, we reduce God to our understanding. We put Him in a box that we can control. We make Him a lesser, insufficient God. We need to let God be God, in many ways beyond our grasp and reasoning. Otherwise, He is no god at all.

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Healer of My Soul

Psalm 147:3 says the Lord “heals the brokenhearted, And binds up their wounds.” The term translated as brokenhearted means simply broken. The term for wounds includes emotional pain: to grieve, to become tired or weary, to be bitter or despairing, to be troubled.

In Matthew 8:16, the term for healing is therapeuo, where we get therapy, which we typically think of not so much as healing but restoring physical or mental health. Jesus was going about…healing every kind of disease and sickness… (Matthew 4:23). That seems redundant but sickness here is malakia (the origin of malady) which means softness or weakness. Jesus offers restorative therapy for grief, weariness, bitterness, despair, and worry. He repairs softness and weakness.

Jesus healed us spiritually by displacing our guilt before God by paying the penalty for sin at the Cross. We are healed as we displace our guilt, shame, worry, and weakness by placing our confidence in Christ.

Jesus made a way for us to become different than we have been. The Bible makes a lot of promises and Jesus invites us, by faith, to believe every one. His invitation includes the gift of eternal life. That means our physical afflictions are temporary.

But Jesus’ invitation also includes the opportunity to live in a new perspective…His. The quest to find His perspective helps us focus on something greater than ourselves. We can learn to stop worrying about offenses we have inflicted on others (finding forgiveness) and put to rest the offenses we have received (by forgiving others).

Above all, Jesus gives us the opportunity to be in right relationships…with God and with everyone we have ever known or ever will. Relationships made right…that is the meat of healing the soul.

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from Eden’s Bridge – Excursus: On Capitalism

(This essay is a close adaptation excerpted from the book Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission, © David B. Doty, 2011, available from the author or from Wipf & Stock Publishers. This essay should be read with the thesis of Eden’s Bridge—the marketplace is an institution of God, implicit in the creation narrative of Genesis 1–2 and vital to God’s mission in the world—in full view.)

Market functions have existed on a wide variety of levels from creation forward. Capitalism is a relatively new twist to market economics and human history, evolving through various stages of development over the last five hundred years.(i) But the potential of the marketplace has unleashed an unprecedented era of collective imagination and hope.

Within capitalism, entrepreneurs with access to increasing global wealth have been empowered to think in larger and more efficient ways. The collective faith of risk-taking investors has allowed the development of new technologies and new enterprises that few individuals, even the wealthiest, could have facilitated historically. Pooled capital has helped industries leapfrog from local and regional scales to transnational presence while bringing about dramatic innovations. The advance of medical science is an illuminating and encouraging case validating capitalism.

Corporate management is still prone to corruption at times. Though it may seem prevalent corruption is actually the exception rather than the rule (ii)  and corporations have contributed to an expansion of global wealth unprecedented in human history. The poor in developed countries are now seldom poor by the standards of even fifty years ago, based on household amenities and access to healthcare and education. They remain relatively poor only within the context of their local or national economies. They live with fewer of the difficulties experienced by their parents and grandparents and more than twice the life expectancy. Many of the poor in developing economies have been lifted from abject poverty and middle classes are beginning to emerge. In the last twenty years, China and India have increasingly embraced capital markets, instituting legal and governmental systems with foundations in moral reasoning. (iii) Collaboration and cooperation continue to develop higher efficiencies in market activities, increasing global wealth and its reach further down the economic ladder.

Modern corporations allow for stock ownership through affordable buy-in across a broad range of income groups. Many corporations begin informally among family and friends who pool their funds and talents to make a better life. Small business can be an inexpensive means for a broad range of operators to take greater control of their financial destiny by investing sweat equity. Even the very poor can exercise their entrepreneurial talents starting with very little capital as markets continue to specialize and decentralize, and collaboration increases between operators and resource-oriented NGO’s.

Capitalism is the dominant economic system in the world. But the reality of sin dictates the need for moral direction and constraint. The drive to produce and accumulate wealth makes optimizing profit the primary motivation behind many business decisions. (iv) The church is in a position politically, economically, and philosophically to work with secular, socially-conscious business operators and owners to redirect and ensure capitalism is moving toward supporting just relationships. Despite its shortcomings, capitalism still offers enormous economic and empowering potential, demonstrably more so than any other economic system in history.

In Revelation 21, the New Jerusalem holds untold wealth. The foundations and gates of the city are bedecked with jewels and the city made of gold. In the day that Christ’s Kingdom is fulfilled, precious metals and jewels, the currency of the ancient world and still valued today, will be of no more worth than cinder blocks and pine boards are today.

The call of the church is to encourage a righteous and abundant culture where the individual accumulation of wealth is all but pointless. Capitalism offers the greatest opportunity in our day toward that goal, but only as it is morally restrained and committed to the common good.

i. Novak, Michael. Business as a Calling: Work and the Examined Life. New York: The Free Press, 1996, 80.

ii. It is easy to take a jaded view of corporations given the accounts of corruption and greed in the daily news. But corporations include small businesses in every community, from gas stations and light manufacturing to lawn care companies and restaurants. The majority of business owner/operators are hardworking, honest people simply trying to make a good life for themselves, their families, and their communities. About 80 percent of corporations have less than 10 employees (

iii. Studying numerous philosophers, political scientists, and economic theorists, like Adam Smith, John Locke, and Thomas Jefferson, is necessary to understand the complexities of democratic governance and market economics. Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments is a good example of the intellectual thought that characterized the democratizing and market developments of the 17th and 18th centuries.

iv. Profit is necessary to ensure financial sustainability. Pursuing profit becomes immoral when it relegates human welfare to a subordinate concern.

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(A) Musing: Psychotherapy vs. Christian Discipleship

I found several chapter headings using language applicable to Christian discipleship in the table of contents of Psychotherapy Relationships that Work (Norcross, 2011). The whole world is desperate for Truth! (Chapter titles are italicized and in bold.)

Alliance ­– God coming along side us in our journey of faith. “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23).

Cohesion in Group Therapy – Healing amidst fellowship. “Jesus was going about…healing (therapeuo) every kind of disease and sickness…” (Matthew 4:23).

Empathy – Jesus “emptied himself…being born in human likeness” (Philippians 2:7). He faced our same temptations (Luke 4:13).

Goal Consensus and Collaboration – In John 17, Jesus asked His Father to make the Church of one mind, as He was with His Heavenly Father (v. 21), that unity would bear witness to the world of God’s love (v. 23).

Positive Regard and Affirmation – Paul calls Christ-followers saints (hagios) which means a most holy thing (Ephesians 1:1). That’s you and me in Christ!

States of Change – “We…are being transformed into the image [of Christ] from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Preferences – It is all about choices: “choose…whom you will serve…we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

Culture“You are the salt of the earth [and] the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14). We are a counter-culture movement.

Coping Style “Be anxious for nothing, but…by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Sadly, the godless do not have a prayer.

Expectations“‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘…to prosper you… not to harm you, [but] to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11).


‘Nuff said.

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Invitation to Connect – Researching and Networking God’s Marketplace Activity

We are, as the Church, the Body of the Living Christ, called to action as witnesses to the glory of our Heavenly Father by our good works, to be inspirational salt and light to the world, loving one another by ministering to the needs of the Church, and embodying God’s love for the lost. The Church has not only its own collective knowledge, wisdom, will, and resources, but the knowledge, wisdom, will, and resources of God, by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, to transform the world, including every overarching institution, false ideology, and social and cultural construct. It is to this aim that…

I am trying to network globally with anyone interested in the topics of Christian faith, economics, marketplace ministries, discipleship, and development. This is an open invitation to connect with me via LinkedIn. If you do not have a LinkedIn account or have access to me there (for my Facebook readers), join any of about thirty prominent LinkedIn marketplace-oriented groups and you can find me through my regular posts.

My interests lie in continuing the conversation, especially toward mobilization strategies, concerning the role of the marketplace functioning as a vital component of God’s Kingdom and for advancing God’s Kingdom via missional initiative(s). I am interested in soliciting and collecting case studies on any type of Christian marketplace ministries or initiatives including workplace discipleship, marketplace discipleship (not exclusive to a particular workplace), workplace prayer groups or prayer chains, focused academic programs, workplace Bible studies, Christian business or community development initiatives (including investment models, micro-economic development both domestic and international, and so on), or pretty much any model that connects any of the above.

One goal is to establish a network that can facilitate matching people, ministries, education, and needs to advance marketplace evangelism and discipleship, the alleviation of economic suffering and injustice, and intentional movement toward the biblical model of shalom for all.

 And now, a little more about my research to date and about me:

About Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission and the Author, David Doty

For the last twenty or thirty years, it has become increasingly obvious that God is moving in the marketplace. Many marketplace-related ministries have sprung into action including workplace Bible studies and prayer groups, executive discipleship programs, economic development and skills training programs by missions and urban renewal ministries, and so on. A great deal of literature has been produced, especially on principles-based Christian marketplace ethics, the theologies of work and stewardship, and development work among the poor (both domestically and internationally).

What has been missing is a theological understanding of the marketplace, specifically in Biblical and missional perspectives. According to Victor Claar, economics professor and co-author of Economics in Christian Perspective, my newly published book from Wipf & Stock Publishers, Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission, makes both the theological and practical cases for the marketplace in creation and the mission of God.

The central thesis of Eden’s Bridge is that the marketplace is an institution of God, modeled implicitly in the creation narrative of Genesis 1–2 and vital to God’s mission in the world for the advancement of His Kingdom.

Eden’s Bridge accomplishes three important things:
1)     It articulates the first biblically-based theology of the marketplace;
2)     It validates the careers of Christians in the marketplace as divine calling, liberating Christian workers from the false notion of “secular” vocation;
3)     It challenges each Christian worker to consider how their vocation glorifies God and contributes to advancing His Kingdom.

 Given the imperfection of a fallen world, there are no perfect answers to current issues in the marketplace. But, Eden’s Bridge aims to challenge the status quo. It asks readers to press more deeply into the Bible and their knowledge of God and His ways to bring about positive change in and through the marketplace as glorifying witness to the goodness of God and to advance the mission of God (the missio Dei) in the world.

Outcomes that I envision are 1) the empowerment of marketplace Christians toward a rising witnessing and discipling movement in the marketplace, 2) the opportunity to coordinate intentional advancement of God’s mission through the marketplace with regional, national, and global ministries, and 3) pursuing additional research toward that coordination and the revelation of God’s intentions in the marketplace and in economic justice in our day and looking forward.

Re my personal history and the making of Eden’s Bridge: I have held business management and administrative positions in a variety of industries through my thirty year career. Half my career has been as an entrepreneur, starting and owning three small businesses. In the midst of that career, God called me to complete an M.A. in World Mission and Evangelism at Asbury Theological Seminary (2006). I came to write Eden’s Bridge as a convergence of those two paths. The book is the result of eight years’ research and the opportunity to complete it came after Teresa and I shut down our last business in February, 2010, as a result of the recession. I believe God called us to the Atlanta area last fall to facilitate bringing this message to the church globally. We have been excited to connect to the church on many fronts, especially through North Point Community Church in worship, through C3G, and the Men’s Prayer Group.

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Praying for Our Nation(s)

“If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and [if] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Now My eyes shall be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place.” – 2 Chronicles 7:13-15 (emphases mine)

How often do we pray for our nation(s) without first humbling ourselves, without seeking God’s face, and without turning from our own wicked ways? It appears from this passage that the reason our land is not healed and remains ungodly is because God’s own people are not humble, not seeking His face, and not turning from their own wicked ways.

How often do we pray against someone else whom we have judged? Perhaps we believe our leaders (in government or at work) are ungodly and pray that God’s righteousness would come upon them. But we are commanded – “Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7: 1–2).

Lord, heal me first before I ask you to heal others. Let the pride of my heart be revealed to me to compel my own repentance such that I, like Christ, can intercede in righteousness according to your Holy Spirit. Father, our land does need your healing touch. Convict Your people today that we are humbled and become the salt and light of the world. In Jesus name, Amen.

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God Calling Marketplace Christians: Introduction to Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission

(This post is the  Introduction to Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission.  The book is now available via Amazon at or from the author on ebay at

Missiologists and mission practitioners have embraced the marketplace as a vital component in wholistic(i) evangelism, as it ministers to the needs of the whole person in mind, body, and soul. Jesus ministered through preaching, healing, deliverance, and feeding the people of His surrounding culture as they came to Him in their real world needs. He spoke of the hope of economic justice to the poor, that the covenantal system was being re-established in the world. As indictment that they would be held to account for perpetrating selfish injustices, Jesus called the rich and ruling classes to repentance.

This book proposes that the marketplace was intentional in God’s original design. Due to the scope of the subject, time and space dictate presenting broad themes in a globalistic way.(ii) The global view looks across disciplinary divides. Practice in the marketplace, politics, the arts, medicine, education and so on, move along a trajectory toward increasing specialization. Such narrowing disciplinary foci create blinders to the interconnectedness of diverse interests.

The treatment of specific material here is necessarily brief. Scholarly considerations of even one component could fill volumes and launch decades of legitimate discussion and development. The intent here is only to open the door a bit wider on a theoretical level and invite others to carry the conversation forward.

I came to this manuscript as a convergence of thirty years business management and administrative experience (fourteen as an entrepreneur starting and co-owning three small businesses) and eighteen years pursuing Christ, both spiritually and intellectually. It is also the culminating point of eight years’ research and reflection begun in 2003 while pursuing my Master’s degree at Asbury Theological Seminary. The early research was undertaken at the suggestion of my professor, mentor, and friend, Dr. Michael Rynkiewich, an anthropological missiologist.

Chapter 1—Proposing a Biblical Marketplace Theology is a brief statement (one page) of seven propositions supporting the central thesis of Eden’s Bridge—that the marketplace is an institution of God. Those propositions involve content of the creation narrative, filtering the biblical text through economic language and theory, the nature and character of God, Eve’s pivotal role, good and evil in commerce, and the missional function of business.

Chapter 2—An Economic Walk in the Garden is a reflective reading of the first three chapters of Genesis, the narrative of the creation and the Fall. This review is intentional in applying economic terminology to the narrative to illuminate the economic foundations in creation and the juxtaposition of the inherent goodness over against the moral corruption of the marketplace.

Chapter 3—Economic Models and Theological Concerns addresses relevant issues in theological and biblical perspective related to these propositions including economic models, God’s mission in the world (the missio Dei, iii), eschatology (the last things), teleology (the end, as goal or outcome), soteriology (salvation), and ecclesiology (the church).

Chapter 4—Engaging Relevant Modern and Ancient Terminology examines terms which, when understood in biblical and historic perspective and logically defined, help toward acquiring a Kingdom perspective of the marketplace. These include economic verbiage, definitions of business and the marketplace, and key biblical terms from the original Old and New Testament languages.

Chapter 5—Redeeming the Marketplace considers marketplace-related issues in God’s mission of redemption including the godhead and consecration (sacredness), and how these relate to scarcity, stewardship and debt, collaboration, competition and capitalism, eschatological vision, and the redemption of worldly wealth.

Chapter 6—Market and Mission reflects on a variety of Christian marketplace initiatives and socio-cultural concerns, the marketplace and evangelism, and possible pitfalls in current mission pursuits as the church explores reformative theories of commerce.


(i) The specific spelling wholism is adapted as a linguistic means to distinguish Christian application of the term holistic from its general uses, especially in medicine and pagan religious appropriations. In Christian mission, wholism (or holism) has been predominantly used in two ways. The first references the whole ministry of the church, determining that evangelism and social action are inherently inseparable. The second recognizes that persons are whole in being, more than spiritual or temporal beings in isolation, and that Christian ministry should address all aspects of the person, including their temporal (psychological, emotional, intellectual, social, etc.) and spiritual needs in toto, as it seeks to make disciples.

(ii) Globalist was the term used by Thomas Friedman in The Lexus and the Olive Tree (2000, 23–28) to describe one practicing information arbitrage to span vast and divergent topics to reveal the “bigger picture” and the ecology between diverse parts.

(iii) Missio Dei is the Latin phrase for the mission of God, the redemption and restoration of all creation.

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The Mystery of Walking in the Spirit

We tend to fixate on material reality: where will I live, what will I eat, where will I work? But even when we are unaware, our walk on earth is simultaneously a walk in the heavenlies.

God has equipped us with His Spirit. That has far deeper meaning than we can understand. Jesus performed miracles and we often think “Yeah, but He was God.” But Peter and Paul and others performed miracles. Do we see miracles in our own lives?

Our walk with God is shrouded in mystery and the busyness of life is noisy, overwhelming God’s “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). We have to quiet our spirit to hear His Spirit. That is why Jesus went to the desert and into the Garden at Gethsemane to pray, alone, in a quiet place.

It is a challenge to find that space amidst the scurry of our world but God is speaking to each of us every day. Can you hear Him? What is He saying? Many times it may be nothing more than “I love you” but all His words are eternal. Everything He has ever said to us, He is still saying and will always say.

God is always speaking, leading, comforting, reassuring, healing: “This is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21b). Galatians 5:25 says that “if we live by the Spirit,” focusing on God and drawing direction from Him, “let us walk by the Spirit,” motivated by divine character.

When spiritual and earthly realities align, we see the glory of God, even if the miraculous is only in the fundamentals: the changing of our perspectives, values, and actions.


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We live in a culture that most mornings would prefer to microwave its instant coffee. We want everything done at least by right now and preferably the day before. We rush to complete projects, race to meetings and activities, and exhaust ourselves choosing between too many priorities. This flies in the face of “entering into rest” (Matthew 11:28–29) and creates undue anxiety (Matthew 6:25–34). God was explicit: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a).

But taking life step-by-step is designed into creation and evident in God’s pattern in His mission in the world. We race right past God when we try to take too much control over a process now more than 4,000 years old. Abram became Abraham and through him the Christ would come. Many generations have passed and the world has inched its way toward God’s ultimate goal of the redemption of all creation.

The “stepping” process is also characteristic of our growth in Christ. We get anxious when we stumble, not living up to the holy standard. We strive after acceptance by our performance. But our flesh fights us along the way. “But we all . . . are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18, emphasis mine).

And perhaps a bit at a time we come to understand the depth and breadth and the width of God’s love for us as He forgives and encourages us onward. Take a time-out today . . . just to rest, commune with God, or hang out with friends or family. We are all on the way. God will get us to where we are going (Philippians 2:13) in His way and in His time, step-by-step.


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Overcoming Sweat: A Possible Future

(This essay is a close adaptation excerpted from the book Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission, © David B. Doty, 2011, available from the author or from Wipf & Stock Publishers. This essay should be read with the thesis of Eden’s Bridge—the marketplace is an institution of God, implicit in the creation narrative of Genesis 1–2 and vital to God’s mission in the world—in full view.)

The consequences of Adam’s sin (taking Eve’s curses separately) were guilt, shame, spiritual isolation, banishment from the Garden, the curs­ing of the ground, toil (`itstsabown), and sweat. While Adam did work in the Garden before the Fall, the ease of access to its abundant resources apparently made for easy work, at least by comparison to how we see work afterward.

Creation outside the Garden took on a contentious nature after the Fall, producing weeds that corrupted the fields, stealing essential nu­trients from Adam’s produce, and adding to the actual work needed to produce food. `Itstsabown (Strong’s 6093) is interpreted as pain, labor, hardship, sorrow, or toil. It is easy to picture Adam sowing seed, weed­ing, and harvesting under the heat of the sun, sweating, and groaning from muscle aches. `Itstsabown is also one of the terms used to describe Eve’s pain in childbirth in Genesis 3:16.

Through the ages work has remained tedious and physically de­manding, but there have been dramatic reductions in the monotony and physical difficulty of work in developed economies. The creation and ac­cumulation of new wealth has empowered the development of new tech­nologies that have eased the burden and increased the productivity of work. Labor saving and productivity tools and systems are everywhere, from indoor plumbing to the Internet, from hand tools to earthmoving machinery.

There is a hierarchy to making work easier. The foundation is the essential cooperative element of the marketplace—the division of labor. While this was instituted in the Garden with the introduction of Eve as ezer (one who aids), the Bible reveals the second key, derived from the division of labor, in the very next generation: specialization. Abel was a keeper of flocks and Cain was a tiller of the ground (Genesis 4:2b). It is likely that they each brought different products, of their individual efforts and expertise, to the well-being of the family community.

Specialization fosters the third key: innovation. Practitioners en­hance productive efficiencies through creating innovative processes and technologies. The creative impulse of God, apparent in our inheritance of the imago Dei, enhances human critical and imaginative thinking, such that that which is unseen might be envisioned and brought into reality. Andy Stanley calls this practice visioneering . . . “the [intellectual and action] process[es] whereby ideas and convictions take on substance.”[i]  Innovation invites the fourth key: collaboration. This development moves the marketplace from its basic operations in the exchange of goods and services to include the exchange of ideas. All these—the divi­sion of labor, specialization, innovation, and collaboration—along with the right moral mindset and favorable circumstances, contribute to an upward cycle of increasing human productivity.

World religions have historically spread along trade routes, such as the roadways of the Roman Empire or along the Silk Road, and with mil­itary and colonizing conquests as invaders brought their own religions with them. Despite cultural resistance to the philosophic ideas brought by dominating powers, acceptance by elite groups in conquered societ­ies is often a pragmatic decision as a means to bring higher social order to the receiving culture.[ii]

After the initial spread in the Middle East in its first four centuries, Christianity spread predominantly to the west into Europe and the Americas. In the last two centuries it has continued to spread and is growing dramatically in Asia and Africa.[iii]

A democratizing influence has spread to the West more or less concurrently with Christianity, especially after the Reformation under­mined the centralized political power of the Roman Catholic Church. The underlying principles of the democratic movement have been ap­propriated from liberal Greek philosophy and conjoined to Christian personal and political ethics, especially thought development on indi­vidual liberty of conscience and responsibility. There are, however, argu­ments demonstrating a fair degree of formative liberal government and economic thought derived from the Jesus teachings,[iv] now evident in Roman Catholic social teaching and emerging Protestant literature.[v]

Classical liberal governance and economics have encouraged the pursuit of free enterprise and individual wealth as reactions opposing the oppression of the masses in the history of feudalism and the enslave­ment of monarchical tyranny. Labor and capital consolidated around individuals, households, guilds, and communities to establish their own economic engines and leave the economic fate of others to themselves.

In The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, David Landes examines the influence of the Judeo-Christian value system in social and economic de­velopment, especially its views on private property, freedom, decentral­ization, egalitarianism, accountability, transparency, legal institutions, and so on.[vi] Orthodox Christian eschatology anticipates the re-ordering of human society, compelling it toward ever higher levels of cooperation and collaboration and furthering the institutionalization of accountabil­ity. In short, Christianity promotes economic and governmental systems based on trust, not necessarily of individuals but of the social contract and corresponding systems for avoiding or resolving conflict.[vii]

Trust creates environments conducive to complex economic activi­ties, e.g., the emergence of sophisticated capitalism. Though its founda­tions may be traced even to ancient times and was somewhat developed in Medieval monastic orders, capitalism is a pursuit that has come into its own, so to speak, in the last two hundred years.[viii]

The expansion of global wealth through capitalism has brought the human family to the economic capacity to eradicate extreme hunger. But wealth tends to concentrate in high growth and complex economies rather than being distributed evenly universally. The growth of the economies of India and China in the last quarter century have accounted for the percentage reduction in global poverty. Poverty rates in other places have remained stagnant and some have actually increased.

Two opposing approaches to the alleviation of poverty, or at least economic and political inequality, seem to have reached their polar ze­niths in the last century. One extreme seems right for leveling the playing field for all members of a society. Collectivism and social engineering, top-down efforts, have obviously failed in real ways but still draw the support of a broad audience as the shortest route to the equitable re­distribution of resources and wealth. The political left in democratic societies, while not always collectivists per se, favor coerced redistribu­tion through government interventions of taxation and social programs. These interventions are intended to offset the apparent evils (in their minds) of greed and economic oppression inherent in concentrations of wealth in free market economies. They make a good point that money corrupts political power.

There is a downside, however, to the interventionists’ approach. Free societies designed to protect religious, political, and philosophic freedoms and populated by a broad mix of sub-cultures and ideologies bring a wide variety of views and beliefs to the table. To honor the rights of all value systems governance is forced to become theologically neu­tral. Interventionist idealism is motivated by compassion and moral zeal but moral oversight in a pluralistic, free society must ultimately descend to the lowest common denominator allowing all parties to pursue what “is right in their own eyes” (Prov 21:2).

All that is not to say, however, that the motivations of any political leaders are ideologically neutral. Philosophically-based value systems always have guiding hands in the mix. “Theologically neutral” simply removes God’s Word, along with the sacred texts of other religions, from the public conversation on moral guidance.

The other pole, libertarianism, focuses on liberty as uncoerced personal and corporate responsibility and tends to favor unfettered free markets. Libertarianism would remove all but essential government functions and regulation from bureaucratic hands and leave each person to pursue what “is right in their own eyes”. Sound familiar?

Libertarianism relies on personal character and motivation to supply the needs of society and encourages each individual to optimize their lives according to their wits and resources without the hindrance of overly burdensome regulation or taxes. But like interventionism, liber­tarianism also has serious failings. For one, it discounts the fallen nature of the human heart. Without reasonable legal or cultural restraint cor­ruption abounds. It also offers less protection for those who cannot pro­vide for or protect themselves. Libertarianism undermines recourse to hold abusive wealth and its power to manipulate economies to account.

Both systems stand on moral ground. The left expresses a ready willingness toward personal sacrifice for the greater good. The right favors individual liberty and opportunity. Both have merit on moral grounds, as said, but fail in application.

Within the same time frames which exposed the political and economic failings of socialism, free trade has enhanced the creature comfort of human experience. Newly created wealth does trickle down, but does so slowly. Two problems present themselves in open market systems. One is the current trends in wealth concentration. The other is libertarianism’s willingness to forego government protection against predatory business practices and ensuring reasonable provision for the economically vulnerable. Pervasive sin demonstrates the need for social protection of “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40; 25:45).

The political left has demonstrated a particular righteousness in protecting the economically vulnerable from falling through the cracks. While both sides of the political aisle advocate for government involve­ment in the public and private lives of the citizenry, the right contin­ues to argue for less government control and decreasing government bureaucracy. They favor privatization to use market competitiveness to reduce the inefficiencies inherent in non-competitive government bureaucracies.

Market advocates regularly cite government inefficiency due to the lack of price indexing as a legitimate value indicator. Judging govern­ment performance can be arbitrary subject to the assumptions of the reviewer’s agenda. The political right views the cost of government pro­grams, mostly funded by taxes on corporate and private incomes, as a drain on economic productivity. And in recent history governments and private individuals have relied on increasing debt to pay for the goods and services the public wants.

Public and private debt is overwhelming both rich and poor nations. High concentrations of wealth, which enslaves debtors, in the hands of a small elite is politically dangerous and socially unjust as interest costs drain economic strength from states and households. There is upside potential to high concentrations of wealth if it is invested to increase productivity or is disbursed philanthropically. The downside is not un­like central planning operating from the top down. Wealthy investors and donors form a virtual economic oligarchy and have inordinate say as to what is useful in society. Their decisions affect millions of people in the middle and lower classes. This concentration of economic power, and in turn, social and political power, is a real danger of trickle-down economic philosophy.

No money ever leaves the global economy and even non-pro­ductive[ix] government expenditures are repeatedly cycled through the marketplace. But the more funds are used to support administrative, non-productive work, the less ability those funds have to fuel increasing productive output, and its growth potential is diminished. Government is inefficient by its nature and especially hinders the efficiency of markets where it over-taxes incomes and over-regulates market activities.

A pervasive problem in government is the same self-centeredness (sin) of politicians and bureaucrats that affects markets. Fear motivates actors to take self-protective and self-serving measures by creating im­penetrable fiefdoms and serving their greed. Legislators have the ability to line their own pockets, as shown by the generosity of the retirement and benefits programs of the U.S. House and Senate. The growth of gov­ernment agencies, which further hinders the efficiency of the economy, allows the career entrenchment of bureaucrats. Both causes, self-service and bureaucracy, are protected and economic justice is undermined when the players in the game are allowed to make their own rules. Business is subject to government oversight but still experiences abusive practices. The oversight of government by an ill-informed, lackadaisical electorate exacerbates base human tendencies and abuse which is no less prevalent than in the business world.

Government is necessary to provide for the common good, espe­cially in defense, safety, and public works, such as managing infrastruc­ture, disbursing aid, and providing police protection. Government is also necessary to house the legal institutions that protect against abuses of power by the tyranny of both independent wealth and over-reaching government. In a republic the ultimate responsibility of government falls to the constituency and freedom tends to undermine itself due to the fallen nature of the human heart. Personal liberty requires personal responsibility which appears to be tenuous at best. Living in a “free” so­ciety, the electorate gets exactly the government it creates, and changing the system is stymied by the vested interest of those with economic and political power.

As becomes obvious, the views of the interventionists and the lib­ertarians both have legitimate concerns about the effectiveness of the other.

One way to help overcome sweat, as the laborious burdens of eco­nomic inefficiency, is to re-engineer government to perform its func­tions in efficient and accountable ways. This requires the electorate to establish new standards of performance, such as demanding balanced budgets. All parties must recognize that material scarcity limits having all that we want and demands compromise and efficiency.

Incorporating a second strategy, through the cooperation, col­laboration, and collective creativity of varied points of view working together, enormous good can be done through emerging commercial strategies like social venture. These models, funded by donations or loans, provide jobs and support charitable needs rather than new high-end subdivisions. Social venture uses market mechanisms to serve public needs without relying on government intervention and thereby reduces the need and size of non-productive bureaucracies.

Overcoming sweat requires a focus that walks in the delicate bal­ance between compassion, realistic and reasoned expectations, and a sacrificial willingness to accept delayed gratification. By enhancing just trade and the economic viability of all, even outrageous goals, like redi­recting the industrial-military complex to unleash capital and intellec­tual potential toward more favorable ends, and ecological and economic sustainability have greater chances of becoming realities.

Trade and expanding wealth, as we have seen, can contribute sig­nificantly to the development of peace. While colonialism and impe­rialism have distorted the expansion of wealth, righteous trade across cultural and political borders reduces international strife. Economic aggression, through corporations seeking to manipulate governments and governments pursuing protectionist policies, continues to perpetu­ate widespread injustice, and results in the unintended consequences of political backlash. Global business has a role to play in overcoming economic injustice and promoting peace. International trade focused on achieving equitable, win-win relationships reduces political tension and expands wealth, fostering peaceful and prosperous outcomes.

Overcoming sweat hinges on recognizing the good of cooperation and collaboration founded on trust, the necessity of free-will redistribu­tion through just investment and charitable giving, and the political will to bring them about. That vision of a hopeful eschatology rests on the choices of human will in submission to God. Given the corrupted nature of the human will, Christian vision abides patiently in grace, aligning itself with the movement of God, and encouraging human obedience. The mission of God, the missio Dei, was set on its path before creation, invigorated by Christ’s obedience to the Cross, and empowered by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church. Changed hearts embrace co­operation, giving, and political good-will, and are changing the world toward Kingdom culmination at Christ’s return and the restoration of Edenic shalom.

Hearts transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and attuned to the Kingdom of God as a functional, temporal reality are the impetus to create the groundswell for radical social change. Just as unfettered capitalism and socialism result in economic and political oligarchies, grassroots entrepreneurial and political movements, guided by the Holy Spirit, offer the greatest future hope for humankind.

This groundswell needs to occur both in the marketplace and the halls of justice to find the appropriate balance between the marketplace and governance. Then “they will hammer their swords into plow­shares” (Isa 2:4). The contrast of these instruments of competitive strife (swords) and economic productivity (plowshares) offers an encouraging vision of the peaceful, just, and life-feeding aims of the actively coming Kingdom.

[i] Stanley, Andy. Visioneering: God’s Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Personal Vision. Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 1999, 8.

[ii] Mongomery, Robert L. The Diffusion of Religions: A Sociological Perspective. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc., 1996, 156.

[iii] Jenkins, Philip. “The Future Demographics of Religion,” in The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, 89–92. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

[iv] Such as, Wilson, Clarence True. “Jesus Christ, the Embodiment of Democratic Ideals,” in The Divine Right of Democracy, 46–62. New York: Abingdon Press, 1922.

[v] Three excellent resources: Claar, Victor V. and Robin J. Klay. Economics in Christian Perspective: Theory, Policy and Life Choices. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007; Piedra, Alberto M. Natural Law: The Foundation of an Orderly Economic System. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2004; and, Woods, Thomas E., Jr. The Church and the Market: A Catholic Defense of the Free Economy. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005.

[vi] Landes, David S. The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1999, 33–35.

[vii] This is not to say that any particular known form of government or economic system is directly or absolutely endorsed by God or the biblical record. The church has flourished under other systems.

[viii] Novak, Michael. Business as a Calling: Work and the Examined Life. New York: The Free Press, 1996. Oxford University Press, 80.

[ix] Government is unproductive when revenues are not used efficiently to promote increasing productivity and wealth. Corporations, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, and households face the realities of living within their means. Government has limited accountability and little overt motivation to pursue efficiency

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