On the Oikonomia Network: An Interview with Greg Forster

November 06, 2017
Posted by Joe Gorra

We recently interviewed Greg Forster about the Oikonomia Network [ON] and their Karam Forum. Greg serves as the Director of the ON at the Center for Transformational Churches at Trinity International University. In addition to his writings on work, vocation and economics, his expertise also includes issues of political philosophy, especially as an expert on John Locke. The ON is a sponsor of an EPS session on “Human Flourishing” at the AAR/SBL meeting in Boston, on November 17th. 

Why was the Oikonomia Network started?

Christian higher education has a vital role to play in forming people to live as disciples of Jesus in everything they do. In the chaotic cultural environment of advanced modernity, the natural drift is away from whole-life discipleship toward mere consumption of religious goods and services. Most of what we do all day is work, so if we want to sustain whole-life discipleship, the key missing piece is the Christian idea of vocation – that we do our work for Christ.

What does the Oikonomia Network do?

We serve Christian higher education, with a particular focus on theological educators. We are a network of schools and faculty who are working to reconnect higher education to whole-life discipleship, fruitful work and economic wisdom. We do things like organize events such as Karam Forum, publish a newsletter and resources. Face-to-face networking is a big part of what we do, so we can build a community dedicated to this mission.

Why should EPS members care about thinking philosophically and Christianly about Work, Vocation and Economics?

Work is what we do with most of our lives, and if we don’t think Christianly about what our work is and why we do it, we’ll be conformed to the world. One of the most important functions of philosophy is to free people from cultural captivity by helping them think independently. At the individual level, a Christian philosophy of work is needed for the doctrine of vocation to have real effect on people’s lives. At the social level, our economic systems have a huge formative effect on us, and a Christian philosophy of economics (and, more broadly, human flourishing) is needed to separate wisdom from folly. 

What is the Karam Forum?

Karam Forum is a two-day gathering of faculty from across the country and (thanks to our partners in Australia) even from around the world. The focus is networking, collaborating and equipping among educators who want to raise up the next generation to live all of life for King Jesus. We’re led by leading Bible and theology scholars like Darrell Bock, Vincent Bacote and Brent Waters, and by other wise Christian voices like Andy Crouch, Mako Fujimura, Amy Sherman, David Iglesias, Brian Fikkert, and Stephen Grabill. It’s at the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel (January 4-5, 2018).

Why might EPS members want to participate in the 2018 Karam Forum?

While we cover a lot at Karam Forum, one of our key focal points this year will be “what is flourishing?” That’s a very deep question with implications for everything from how each of us does our daily tasks to how we organize political, economic and social structures at the highest levels. Helping Christians resist and reform worldly, materialistic ideas of what it means to flourish is not something any of us can do in isolation. We need all the intellectual firepower the church can muster on this critical question of what it means to flourish – so come be part of the conversation!