Search Results for: Amy Sherman

Vocational Stewardship: An Interview with Amy Sherman

In my interview with Amy Sherman, we explore some of the main themes in her latest book, Kingdom Calling, by also seeking to articulate what ‘vocational stewardship’ might look like for scholars, especially Christian philosophers and theologians.

Amy, a Senior Fellow at the Sagamore Institute for Policy Research, is not some mere academic type, preoccupied with scholarly output or simply responding to the latest trends in her area of expertise. She’s a skilled and insightful practitioner at heart; an educator and communicator who is attentive to the ‘social’ dimensions, needs and questions of life through her vocation. Her articles have appeared in such publications as Christianity Today, First Things, The Public Interest, Policy Review, Philanthropy, and Books & Culture
Here are some excerpts from our interview:
Amy, the meaningfulness and significance of vocation looms large in your writing, and most importantly, this value shapes how your life is led in the Kingdom of God. So, let’s start with this: in this season of your life, how would you describe your vocation and what does it look like for you to steward that for the good of others?

I’ve been really blessed because from a young age I’ve had a clear sense of vocational calling: that my life was going to be about the church and the poor. I didn’t always know exactly what that would look like. Over the years it has involved both direct ministry, like running an inner-city nonprofit, and indirect ministry, like researching policy questions related to poverty alleviation. My principal vocation now is that of a communicator and educator, I think. Through writing, public speaking, consulting, and training, I’m trying to be a “minister to ministries:” helping congregations and nonprofits serve their communities more effectively. My work also affords me opportunities to discover “what’s working” in communities and to shine the spotlight on those activities. So, to the extent that God has gifted me in communications, I am stewarding that skill to equip His people for effective service among the poor, to inspire believers to action on behalf of community renewal, and to raise awareness of promising practices for addressing social ills.

How has Kingdom Calling shaped you thus far?

In the course of writing Kingdom Calling, one of my regular prayers was “Lord, make me the first reader of my book.” What I meant was: this book is exhorting readers to live as the tsaddiqim, stewarding all that God has given them to advance His Kingdom. I wanted Him to show me fresh ways that I could live that out. And He answered the prayer. A light bulb came on for me regarding the devotional booklet I’d self-published back in 2000, Sharing God’s Heart for the Poor. Maybe because it’s short and cheap, it’s been my best seller! Anyway, one day I realized that over 35,000 people had been touched by the booklet, and hopefully more would continue to be as it continued to sell. So I wrote a new edition and added information in the back of it on a ministry in Guatemala that I’ve supported for over 20 years. They work alongside families in desperate poverty who live in the city trash dump. As the new edition sells, readers get exposed to this great ministry and I’m now committing half the proceeds to this ministry. 

You have a grand view of the Kingdom of God in your writing. How does that view inform your conceptualization of vocation and its significance through the church in our communities in our Father’s world?

That’s a big question and a full answer would be far too long! In brief, the four chapter Gospel—creation, fall, redemption, and consummation—has many, many implications for our vocational lives. It helps us to better understand (when compared against the truncated gospel of only ‘fall and redemption’) what it means to live missionally through our vocations. 

How does the ‘big Gospel’ focus our attention?

The big Gospel reminds us of God’s big story. He created a paradise and invited us to steward it, legitimating all kinds of work. We blew it, but God did not retract the cultural mandate from us even after the Fall. But the Fall meant that our work would be much more difficult and sometimes feel futile. Jesus’ redemption means that the restoration project is underway. Jesus’ great salvation work pushes back every aspect of the curse: redeeming the broken relationship between humans and God, humans and themselves, humans with one another, and humans with the creation itself. All of that is Jesus’ work, not just “saving souls.” And the doctrine of consummation reminds us that King Jesus will indeed renew all things and that the eternal life we’re going to live will be lived in redeemed bodies on a new Earth. So it’s not going to be about being disembodied souls floating about on clouds playing harps forever and ever!

And how does the ‘big Gospel’ shape how we work in the world?

When we take all that orthodoxy seriously, we see that all of our work—as farmers and teachers and architects and scientists and plumbers and bureaucrats and auto mechanics and secretaries and lawyers and cops and you-name-it, matters to God and participates in His work. We participate in His ongoing, sustaining work of creation. We participate in His work to restrain evil and corruption. We participate in His work of renewal. All our work has dignity; there is no hierarchy of “spiritual” work that is superior. And, according to the doctrine of the consummation, we can find deep meaning and purpose in our work because some of it will actually last into eternity.

It is common for ‘careerism’ to replace ‘thinking vocationally’ about one’s life. In academic or scholarly circles, something similar seems to happen: we often describe what it means to be ‘philosopher,’ a ‘social scientist’ or a ‘theologian,’ for example in non-vocational ways. For example, we tend to be mostly satisfied by knowing and describing these ‘roles’ in terms of just necessary and sufficient conditions for being such and such, professionally speaking, through one’s lens of specialization. But how might your concept of ‘vocational stewardship’ offer a corrective?

By ‘vocational stewardship,’ I mean the strategic and intentional deployment of all the dimensions of our vocational power to advance foretastes of the Kingdom of God. By foretastes, I’m referring to the marks of the future, consummated Kingdom, as we see those described in the scriptural texts that provide glimpses of the new heavens and new earth.

Do you have some examples of these ‘foretastes’?

Some examples of Kingdom foretastes are beauty, justice, wholeness, and truth. I believe people in each vocation need to consider which Kingdom foretastes they might especially have opportunities to advance. Medical professionals, for example, obviously bring the foretaste of health and wholeness while architects and artists can bring beauty. Academics also can focus on bringing beauty and on advancing truth. They can also pursue justice—such as when a historian choosing deliberately to focus on subjects that others have ignored.

Let’s further contextualize your thesis to scholars, since EPS readership mostly consist of philosophy/theology scholars and students. For example, how might Christian scholarship (especially work in the humanities) be more attentive to the ‘social’ and, indeed, help to advance foretastes of justice and shalom in and through our classrooms and communities.

Well, this is the sort of thing I was getting at in my answer just now about what a historian can do. When I think about academics stewarding their vocation, my mind runs along two kinds of tracks. One has to done with the content of what’s studied – like the historian’s choice to raise awareness of the contributions made by people that perhaps have not had their full due in the literature. Philosophers, I think, can participate in God’s work of restraining corruption when they labor to discern and expose patterns of thought or ideologies that are harmful to genuine human flourishing. They can also participate in God’s work of renewal by encouraging the cultivation of wonder and imagination in an age marked by too much irony and suspicion.

How might these endeavors jive with the ethos of ‘academic freedom’?

Academics have freedom to decide their research agenda—and they should steward that freedom well. They need to attend very seriously to their intellectual investments—avoiding studying something just because it’s a “hot topic” or the thing likely to get one a spot in an academic journal. Their research agenda should be informed by God’s priorities and the needs of the world.

So, ‘vocational stewardship’ is a way of prioritizing how a Christian scholar can approach their work. Is there an additional way to think about this stewardship?

The second track has to do with intentional choices about sharing knowledge. When we invest tons of time in research, when we tackle intellectual or theological conundrums, when we publish, who benefits? Do we know? Have we thought about how to widen the circle of our beneficiaries?

Can you offer an example of what this looks like?

Here’s a little analogy. I like to challenge lawyers to think about the legally underserved. It’s not like every Christian lawyer has to go work for International Justice Mission or the local legal aid clinic. Some really are called to Wall Street or big corporate firms. But there’s a lot of lawyers out there to meet the needs of well-paying clients, and there’s a lot of underserved folks in need of legal services. So I believe that Christian lawyers ought to be intentional to invest some of their time seeking to serve those folks. Similarly, academics should stretch their thinking a bit regarding the beneficiaries of how they are investing their talents, and mull over whether they are missing out on serving some “underserved” folks. 

 To read the full text of the interview, you can download it here.

Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good: An Interview with Amy Sherman

Amy Sherman is not some mere academic type, preoccupied with scholarly output or simply responding to the latest trends in her area of expertise. She’s a skilled and insightful practitioner at heart; an educator and communicator who is attentive to the ‘social’ dimensions, needs and questions of life through her vocation.

In this interview, we explore some of her main themes in her latest book, Kingdom Calling, by also seeking to articulate what ‘vocational stewardship’ might look like for scholars, especially Christian philosophers and theologians.

To read the full text of the interview, you can download it here.

On the Oikonomia Network: An Interview with Greg Forster

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!

Interview with Paul Gould: The Missional Professor

Here at the EPS website, Amy Sherman and Amos Yong have helped us see some of the vocational and pneumatological dimensions of a Christian scholar’s mission in service to Christ and our neighbors. For example, Sherman articulates the following in an interview with me, where she discerns the significance of ‘vocational stewardship’:

By vocational stewardship, I mean the strategic and intentional deployment of all the dimensions of our vocational power to advance foretastes of the Kingdom of God. By foretastes, I‘m referring to the marks of the future, consummated Kingdom, as we see those described in the scriptural texts that provide glimpses of the new heavens and new earth.

More recently, evangelical philosopher, Paul Gould, has written about similar yet distinct topics regarding the vocation and mission of the Christian professor in his book, The Outrageous Idea of the Missional Professor (samples here). Paul is a member of the EPS Executive Committee, a professor of philosophy and apologetics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and bottom line, an earnest follower of Jesus!

Wipf and Stock is offering the following bulk discounts if purchased directly through their website 20% for orders of 4 copies or less, 40% for 5 copies or more! You can gain further resources, including a leader’s discussion guide for the book, by going to and by following updates on Twitter @MissionalProf.

I recently interviewed Paul about his book, and the kind of vision it encourages.

How does this book reflect your many years in campus ministry and now as a professor?

Working as a campus minister for the past 16 years, I have become convinced that the university is one of the most strategic mission fields in the world. Many students come to the university looking for answers to life’s biggest questions—What is truth? How can I find happiness? Is there a God?—and often look to university professors for answers. The reality is that we often falter in our response. Some professors because they think belief in God is a delusion, a crutch, an irrationality. Unfortunately, Christian professors often think there must be a sharp divide between faith and the subject matter of the academic disciplines. The result is that the gospel is relegated to the perimeter of the university—given a role in the private and social lives of students, but not their cognitive lives. Jesus bids us a better way. My desire is that every student would have a chance to know and learn from Christian professors who love Jesus and faithfully (and wisely) integrate their faith into all aspects of their teaching, research, and service within the academy. In doing so, I believe lives will be changed, the gospel will get a fair hearing, and God will be glorified.

Is ‘missional professor’ a clever marketing term or does it refer to a kind of distinct calling for Christian professors?

As I read Scripture, it is clear that God is on mission. He sends Jesus to seek and save the lost. In turn, Jesus sends his followers to the world. The word “faithful” instead of “missional” works but I wanted to highlight one of the aspects of faithfulness to Christ that I think is often overlooked by Christian academics: the fact that God is a God on mission and those of us who have been called to the university are involved on the front lines of God’s plan to reach the world for Christ.

Obviously, there’s a variety of Christian professors with different backgrounds, areas of expertise, and different contexts. If I am a Christian who teaches at UC Berkeley in the areas of sociology, what might it look like to be a ‘missional professor’ in this context? How would you guide that professor to see what you see about their teaching, discipline and overall service to others, etc?

I would encourage this professor in three areas: mission, wholeness, and strategy. First, I’d encourage him to understand the importance of the university, his place in God’s story and God’s mission, and his calling to serve God in his teaching, research, and service. Next, I’d encourage him to seek Christian wholeness by cultivating moral and intellectual virtues and pursuing Jesus as his highest good and greatest need. Finally, I’d help him to be strategic as a witness for Christ locally and through his academic discipline. This would include banding together with like-minded Christians and thinking through the key integrative issues between his faith and the academic discipline of sociology.

We will talk more about the anatomy of an academic discipline below. But for now, given the allusion to Marsden’s Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship, do you think that ‘Marsden-Noll revolution’ did not go far enough in calling Christian professors to address the ‘scandal of the evangelical mind’?

I think their work was and continues to be very important for those of us who would be Christian scholars. I do not, however, think they went far enough. Conceptual integration—the integration of our academic work with the cognative content of our faith—is part of what God calls us to as Christian scholars, but there is much more. This book aims to fill in the “much more” aspect of faithful living within the university: becoming Christ-like, understanding our vocation and calling as professors, evangelism, discipleship, and the importance of coming together for a cause bigger than ourselves or our CV.

Is the problem that prompts the need for forming ‘missional professors’ the problem of Christian professors not being adequately enculturated within Christian traditions of thought and practice? How would you characterize this?

In my experience the two biggest areas of struggle for Christian academics is lordship and mission. Given the competitive, self-serving, often hostile-toward-faith environment of the university, it is easy for Christian professors to lose their first love or get caught up in the pursuit of a career, often at the expense of a vibrant faith in and love of God. It is a daily struggle to keep Christ as Lord over all of life. For others, the struggle is one of a lack of vision and understanding. It is a failure to see one’s work as a vocation—a calling—and students and colleagues as people lost and in need of a Savior. In all cases, I think the root issue is a lack of theological understanding regarding the trajectory of God’s story in the Bible and a failure to find meaning and purpose within that story.

How is the Holy Spirit’s movement integral to the movement of missional professors in the academy?

Without the Holy Spirit moving in the lives of Christian professors both individually and corporately we will not see real change in the university (and because of that, the world). The university is one of the key culture-shaping institutions in the world. We must pray for God’s Spirit to convince us in our heart of hearts that Jesus is our highest need, greatest good, and only hope of the world.

What are the relevant institutions that ought to view themselves as stakeholders of the formation and training of ‘missional professors’ to become who they are called to be and to do under the authority of Jesus?

I think there are four primary stakeholders. The most important is the church. I long for the day when the church prays for, equips, and sends professors to the campus and sees their work as the Kingdom work that it is. Secondly, parachurch organizations located on the university that work with professors play a key role in the formation and training of ‘missional professors.’ Organizations like Faculty Commons, InterVarsity, Ratio Christi and many others bring a wealth of experience, expertise, opportunities, and resources to the table. I’d encourage Christian professors to get plugged into the local faculty movement for fellowship, training, and ministry. Third, Christian study centers are playing a key role as they give Christian professors and graduate students a place to hone their craft with respect to research and to think missionally about the university. By being physically located on the university, and by forging positive working relationships with the university, Christian study centers are modeling the kind of “faithful presence within” that will lead to real change. Finally, Christian academic societies can play a key role in the formation and training of ‘missional professors’ as they challenge their members to join together to work on projects, pursue Kingdom enhancing research, and reach out to others within the discipline with a robust gospel and a gracious spirit.

What is involved with the ‘transformation of an academic discipline’? Can you sketch a framework of the conditions involved?

In the book, I argue that our goal shouldn’t be to transform an academic discipline, rather the goal should be faithfulness unto Christ, and as a by-product, Lord willing, such transformation will occur. I specify four aspects of an academic discipline—guiding principles, a guiding methodology, a data set, and a shared narrative and history. Then I highlight for each aspect possible points of contact between an academic discipline and Christianity. Central to our task is the understanding that there is no such thing as neutrality in the scholarly enterprise, the need to move beyond mere conceptual integration, and the conviction that Jesus Christ is the beginning, means, rational, and end of the academic life for the Christian scholar.

Readers may be interested in the “Christ-shaped philosophy” project here at the EPS website as one possible example that seeks to advance the centrality of Christ for a discipline. Moreover, what does it look like for ‘missional professors’ to speak and live prophetically in their disciplines and departments?

In living for a cause greater than self, the missional professor will be truly outrageous in today’s hollow and fragmented world. Heads will turn. Non-believing professors and students will be forced to examine their own beliefs and hearts in light of the gospel of Christ. Missional professors, captured by the love of Jesus, a passion for research, teaching, and the service of God and man, will, Lord willing, be used to bring others to saving faith in Jesus, meet the needs of the world, and transform their respective academic disciplines and departments.

Learn more about Paul Gould’s work by going to

On Entrepreneurship, Poverty and Abraham Kuyper: An Interview with Peter Heslam

It is rare to find a scholar with a practitioner’s heart. Peter Heslam, though, is as much ‘into’ ideas as he is practices. In fact, he says that “The best ideas are rooted in practice and the best practice is rooted in ideas”

In my wide ranging  interview with Peter Heslam, we discuss his Cambridge multidisciplinary project, “Transforming Business,” the value of entrepreneurship, thinking about enterprise solutions to poverty, and the wisdom of Abraham Kuyper and John Wesley when helping us think about the current economic crisis and recovery in light of the value of thrift, magnanimity and magnificence. We close our conversation with him by offering some encouragement for emerging scholar types concerning how they might think about their academic pursuits ‘beyond’ academe.

At the University of Cambridge, you direct an innovative and very interesting research and development project, called “Transforming Business.” Why don’t you tell us about that endeavor, how it came about and why it’s at Cambridge?

Transforming Business analyzes and catalyzes the contribution of Christianity and entrepreneurship to human flourishing. Our focus is on enterprise solutions to poverty – ‘what works?’ In finding answers to this question, we pay particular attention to the role of faith in building social capital – the institutional, relational, moral and spiritual aspects of society.

The role of faith in building social capital is fascinating.

Social scientists increasingly agree that social capital is fundamental to business success, economic development and wellbeing and that Christianity is one of its key contributors.

Through innovative research and instruction we aim to channel the rising concern about global poverty in fresh directions that will deliver tangible improvement and genuine opportunities for people in poverty, based on biblical, holistic approach to what it means to be human.

We use robust, creative and multidisciplinary thinking, along with practical models and case studies, to discover and disseminate the most effective means by which Christians integrate faith with enterprise to provide sustainable routes out of poverty.

Are there advantages for Transforming Business to be at Cambridge?

By being based at the University of Cambridge we have the advantages of a globally recognized research institution. Its multi-disciplinary make-up and close associations with other spheres are also important to us, as the project crosses such disparate fields as divinity and economics and has strong links with the real worlds of church and business, both locally and globally.

In finding and advancing effective ways for Christian faith to combine with business enterprise in the fight against poverty, we draw not only on the best ideas but also on best practice. This reflects our determination to equip and inspire the rapidly growing numbers of Christian entrepreneurs, business leaders and opinion formers worldwide with research-based resources that help maximize their impact, for the good of all.

Surrounding the project is a growing international network of business ethicists, economists, practitioners, consultants, psychologists, educators, theologians and thought leaders. They are united by a passion to integrate their faith with their knowledge and skills in order to address the most pressing social, economic, and moral challenge of our time: the elimination of poverty within the constraints of finite natural resources.

What are some of your research questions?

The current global entrepreneurial revolution and rapid rise of Christianity ensure that these questions are of crucial importance to the future of the planet and its people: How does the convergence of Christian faith and enterprise help tackle poverty? How do Christian business leaders understand their vocation and how can they inspire and equip those considering a call to business? What would a theology of entrepreneurship look like and what is its practical value? How does Christian belief help foster innovation, integrity, responsible risk-taking, and entrepreneurial aspiration?

What do you think is the unique contribution that Kuyper brings to the questions of economic development, poverty, welfare and state vs. society spheres (e.g., from The Problem of Poverty), which perhaps differs from other Christian social thought thinkers and ethicists.

Kuyper maintained that neither enlightenment individualism nor the collectivism of state socialism offered viable solutions to the endemic poverty associated with the industrial revolution.. He denounced socialism for its revolutionary nature that rode roughshod over democratic freedoms and resulted merely in the replacement of one sort of tyranny with another. It also excluded any reference to a transcendent ‘other’, basing its political programme solely on human reason – which is fallen. A third problem he found with socialism was its secular materialism, which reduced humanity to the realm of nature, robbing human beings of the dignity they have by virtue of being created in the image of God. For Kuyper, the world only has meaning because of its contingent relationship with a sovereign creator. And hope for the future doesn’t reside in a socialist utopia but in faith in the Lord of history. This did not mean, for Kuyper, that piety or charity were any more the solution to poverty than socialism. As he wrote in the publication you refer to of 1891: 

If you do not acknowledge this and think that social evil can be exorcised through an increase in piety, or through friendlier treatment or more generous charity, then you may believe we face a religious question or possibly a philanthropic question, but you will not recognize the social question. This question does not exist for you until you exercise an architectonic critique of human society, which leads to the desire for a different arrangement of the social order.

Perhaps Kuyper as political theorist is best known for his notion of ‘sphere sovereignty’. Do you think it’s of any relevance today?

I would indeed. Whereas Christian integralism tends to restrict civil liberties, as it allows the state to dominate the other spheres of society, promotes religious freedom and a flourishing civil society without the need to secularize the public square. This is because of its belief that society is made up of autonomous spheres that are all directly accountable to God, rather than to the state.

This is key to Kuyper’s notion of sphere-sovereignty and I believe it is of some considerable importance to the way Christianity develops in the developing and emerging world in the coming decades. Christians in those parts of the world, as in ours, need to work out what an ‘architectonic critique’ of society based on sphere-sovereignty would look like today. From Kuyper’s attempt to do that in his day, we can learn that this needs to be passionate in its pursuit of justice and the fight against poverty; determined in seeking freedom for the poor from the patronising hegemony of the rich, so that initiative and hard work are properly rewarded; unrelenting in its foundational critique of secularism and libertarianism; and rigorous in its propounding of freedom for the various spheres of society, with all the rights and responsibilities such freedom entails. While we cannot draw blueprints from Kuyper’s thought and work, these elements do provide rich sources of inspiration and reflection.

Did Kuyper see his theology of common grace as offering a critique against the ‘privatization of religion’?

That’s right. In propounding his doctrine of common grace, Kuyper’s argument was not so much with medieval asceticism as with modern religious philosophy. He was critical of what he regarded as its attempt to ban religion from the field of the human intellect and to confine it to the emotions and the will, in order to exclude religion from science and from public life.

For Kuyper, this attempt threatened to undermine the potential of the Calvinistic worldview based on common grace. It was indeed this worldview that, for Kuyper, accounted for the ‘Protestant ethic’ that, as Max Weber argued, had a dramatic effect on work and the economy. Weber maintained, in a similar way to Kuyper, that Calvinism propounded beliefs, attitudes and behaviours that had great economic significance: hard work, honesty, diligence, a sense of calling, discipline and the rational and productive stewardship of resources.

What was Kuyper’s view of wealth?

Although Kuyper wasn’t hostile to wealth, he was opposed to its accumulation at the expense of the poor, such as through usury and exploitation. Indeed, he sometimes stressed God’s ‘bias for the poor’ in ways that sound the liberation theologians of the 1960s: ‘When rich and poor stood opposed to one another, he [Jesus] never took his place with the wealthier but always with the poorer.’ He frequently pointed out that Jesus had more in common with the homeless and those on the margins of society than with the wealthy and the powerful.

Is there a concern that motivates Kuyper’s view of the poor?

Indeed, Kuyper’s worry was that the ideals of the French Revolution and enlightenment rationality amounted to a bias against the poor. For him, rationality, utility, pragmatism, secularism, and moral relativism helped increase injustice and inequality.

This is interesting contextualization. What did he think was distinctive about the Christian view?

The Christian worldview maintained that ‘authority and freedom are bound together by the deeper principle that everything in creation is subject to God.’ Without this starting-point, individual free will threatened to become the foundation of society. This, Kuyper believed, would allow pride, license, egoism, and material consumption free reign, as reflected in the French Revolution, which ‘left nothing but the monotonous, self-seeking individual asserting his own self-sufficiency.’

Sounds like an identification of societal problems in our own day.
Precisely, and Kuyper also attacks the French Revolution with other phrases that have contemporary resonance:

It [the French Revolution] compelled men to seek happiness on earth, in earthly things, and thus created a sphere of lower pressures in which money was the standard of value, so that everything was sacrificed for money. Now add the demolition of all social organization, followed by proclamation of the mercantile gospel of laissez faire, and you can understand how the ‘struggle for life’ was ushered in by the ‘struggle for money. 

While today’s crisis is far removed from the tyranny of eighteenth century French aristocrats, Kuyper dismissed both the individualism of libertarianism and the collectivism of state socialism as the answer to the problems caused by the industrial revolution. He sought to develop a ‘third way’ based on Christian principles.

As we conclude our interview, I’d love for you to encourage Christian graduate students in philosophy and ethics, who think that a career in such areas must amount to doing just quintessential academic work: be a professor and publish. Of course, some are, indeed, called to do that. But can you speak to the broader purpose of academic pursuit? Many academic discussions are often fraught with over-specialization.  How would you encourage scholars to avoid myopic thinking?

Central to Protestantism is the notion of calling. In the first instance, this is a calling to Christ and to his church but this leads to a further calling, to serve Christ in the various spheres of ‘secular’ life. That includes the academy. So the challenge for a Christian in the scholarly world is the same as that for a Christian in any other sphere of life – to use our gifts for the glory of God and for the service of humanity. This will inevitably mean our scholarship is infused with a sense of higher purpose. While this may not take explicit form, my experience is that people feel the difference – all the more so with the increasing emphasis on academic detachment, specialization and empiricism.

 Can you offer a personal example?

I try to make sure that, for every piece I write for academic peer review, I produce at least one piece for the general reader and one for the business leader. This discipline helps ensure I don’t lose the bigger picture – how my research serves wider humanity (however modestly), rather than simply my peers.

From what I said earlier about Kuyper, it’s perhaps not surprising that I find him an inspiration in this quest. Given his early scholarly achievements, the young Kuyper would have had the prospect of a glittering academic career. Yet he was determined to serve the wider ends of intellectual pursuit and to lead and inspire ordinary people. He wrote many learned books but most began not in scholarly journal articles but as newspaper columns. And as founder and rector of the Free University he succeeded in forming a group of more narrowly-focused academics around him, such as Herman Bavinck, who gave Kuyper’s ideas a deeper and more rigorous scholarly outworking than Kuyper himself provided.

Few Christian academics who aspire to be public intellectuals today find they can fulfill this aspiration while also meeting the exacting demands of the academic peer-review process. But they should be encouraged to devote at least some of their time and energy to discussing their ideas and findings with those outside the academy, for mutual benefit. Organizations like the Acton Institute provide great opportunities for such cross-fertilization between specialists and non-specialists in various fields of Christian engagement. The best ideas are rooted in practice and the best practice is rooted in ideas.

Read the Full Text of the Interview by Clicking Here.

Interested readers might also enjoy the recent interview with Amy Sherman, where she discusses “vocational stewardship for the common good.” Moreover, in our recent series of interviews, Ross Emmett discusses the need for Christian conceptualization of entrepreneurship and innovation, and Andreas Widmer speaks of “business as a moral enterprise.”