how Broad Is
are business and economics religiously
neutral? Of course not!
the word “secular” suggests there are areas of life that are non-religious. It assumes some aspects of life are sacred, but others are not.
In Christian circles we often talk of “spiritual things,”
the implication being there are non-spiritual things.
These distinctions may be culturally prevalent, but are
they true to the gospel?
I commented in a previous column how significant
it was for the Supreme Court of Canada to acknowledge
that philosophically there is no place of absolute neutrality
when dealing with religion.
Interestingly, Bob Dylan came to the same conclusion
in the lyrics to “Gotta Serve Somebody.” He sings, “It may
be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have
to serve somebody.”
If there is no neutral place, then we worship and serve
someone or something in all we do. For example, in a
society that preaches individual autonomy, the one who
“sits on the throne” is the individual.
People of many times, places and religions have recognized this. Christians may think first of the Apostle Paul’s
words, that if we do not worship and serve God, then we
“exchange the truth of God for a lie, and worship and
serve the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1: 25).
Dutch politician and theologian Abraham Kuyper (1837-
1920) put it another way: “There is no part of creation to
which the Lord does not cry out and declare, ‘Mine!’ ”
All these voices echo the psalmist, who declared in
Psalm 24:1: “The Earth is the Lord’s.”
So when we go to work, when we play, when we study,
when we pray – and, yes, when we pay our taxes and vote
– who do we worship and serve? (Think of 1 Corinthians
10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do,
do it all for the glory of God.”)
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The evangelical Fellowship of Canada is the national association of evangelicals gathered together for influence, impact and
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While living in our society, though, those of us who
affirm the Lordship of Christ can get caught up in the
debilitating myth of neutrality. We can presume religion
really does not have much to say beyond “behave ethically”
in employment, economics and other areas.
When I was about 11, my closest friend wanted to be
a pastor. I didn’t sense that call, so I decided I would be
a businessman and support him in his ministry. It never
occurred to me that being in business was also a worthy
calling in itself and not merely a means of making money
for Christian ministry.
Likewise, when I went to university to study economics, it didn’t occur to me to challenge the basic assumptions
of economic theory: that demands or wants are unlimited
and resources finite, and therefore the basic problem is
one of scarcity. We were taught economic forces (demand)
look for supplies, and the market determines the price of
goods and services, and thereby their allocation. Adam
Smith, the father of economics, wrote about the “invisible
hand” of the market that directs economic activity.
My gospel was too narrow. My understanding of the
scope of God’s redemptive plan through Christ was too
limited, and my understanding of what a life of discipleship meant was truncated. I told my friends at university
that Christ was Lord of my life, but from their vantage
point, it meant only that I was an ethical person, attended
church on Sunday – but my faith had little to do with
my studies. Business and economics was outside what I
understood to be the scope of my faith. It did not need to
be reconciled to Christ.
Are business and economics neutral? Of course not!
What would happen if we exchanged the notion of scarcity
with a biblical notion of stewardship and the related notion
of enough, and saw business as contributing to our well-being by creating meaningful work and producing goods
or providing services that sustain and enhance life – and
that our task includes caring for creation, not exploiting it?
This is what I think the Apostle Paul meant by the need
to transform our minds (Romans 12), and take all thoughts
captive to make them obedient to Christ ( 2 Corinthians
10: 5). The gospel challenges culturally prevalent myths
and assertions. This is often hard work, but part of our
witness and being a disciple.
Our surrounding culture and its myths should not determine the scope of the gospel. We are to be living witnesses to
the breadth and depth of the gospel in all we do. Ft
BrUCE J. CLEMENgEr is president of The evangelical
Fellowship of Canada. Read more of his columns