An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Friday, 17 August 2012

How the Church Fails Businesspeople by John C. Knapp. Eerdmans, 2012

How the Church Fails Businesspeople
(And what can be done about it)
Eerdmans, 2012
ISBN 9780802863690
pbk, 178pp, 
publisher's web page

"Is faith only of value when healing is needed? Is it not essential to living our daily lives as instruments of God's healing power in the world? Church culture, like business culture, reinforces the notion that the proper place for faith is the private sphere. Despite this, many men and women in the pews are not easily persuaded that the God they worship on Sunday morning is unconcerned with how they make their living."
So writes John C. Knapp, director of Samford University's Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership. This perspective resonates with many. Our life outside the congregation is of little 'spiritual' value; Christianity is a part-time activity.These are the implicit messages conveyed by far too many church services. Knapp's contends that the church has failed us and has failed businesspeople in particular.

The ground covered in this book is similar to, but more focussed, than Amy Sherman's excellent Kingdom Calling. Going to most church services we would never realise that there are over 2000 Bible verses that deal with business, the impression given would be more in tune with Augustine's when he is alleged to have declared that 'business is in itself an evil'.

Knapp and his team interviewed 230 people to see how church has helped them in their businesses. It makes for sombre reading.  Most found that the church was too concerned with the (so-called) private sphere of life and uninterested in the public realm. The majority found that the church had done 'little or nothing to equip them for faithful living at work'.

It's not all doom and gloom though. Knapp identifies some glimmers of hope. The faith at work movement provides some promise. He stresses that this is a laity led movement. But is that such a bad thing? This highlights one weakness of the book. It doesn't really address the role of the church - it fails to distinguish between the church as an institute and as an organism.

This is a book to give to your pastor. My concern is that it will only be read by the 'laity'. Until we see a change in clergy training it may be a while before we see a paradigm shift in the way that the church as institution equips the church as organism for 'works of service'.

Buy from Byron Borger's Heart & Minds store.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Kuyper's The Implications of Public Confession

The Implications of Public Confession
Abraham Kuyper
Translated by Henry Zylstra
Zondervan, 1934
88 pages

This short booklet was translated by Henry Zylstra from part III of the Dutch Voor Distel een Murt (1891). It was originally published in English in 1934 by Zondervan. It has since been republished by Federation of Protestant Reformed People's Societies (1934) and by Kessinger Publishing as a print-on-demand book (2010).

Voor Distel een Murt comprised 44 devotions on the sacraments, baptism, public confession and the Lord's supper. The twelve on public confession make up this booklet. They were originally written for, and published in, De Heraut from 11 Jan 1891 - 29 March 1891.

For Kuyper 'Baptism is not complete without its complement, the holy supper'. This posed a problem as Kuyper advocated infant baptism. In part to overcome this public confession was required after baptism before taking the 'holy supper'. In these short chapters Kuyper examines the nature of this public confession. He looks at the 'who' and 'why' questions, as well as the questions of church membership and tithing.

It is available here as a pdf.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Jan Dengerink on the church

According to reformed conviction, the church-organized-with-special-offices is looked upon as a specific and separate sphere of life. Perhaps we can best describe the church as a community of believers instituted by Christ and by Him endowed with offices for the administration of Word and sacraments. She does not find her place at the top of a hierarchically organized “natural” life but in the midst of other life-spheres such as family, school, state and industry. The church may not govern the latter but serve them through the proclamation of the full Word of God. This Word teaches that the bearers of special offices as well as individuals Christians have their own task in life according to the general office of believers. 

However, in view of the fact that the church is entrusted with the administration of Word and and sacraments, ... she does not occupy a unique position. Although this position is not at the “top” of human life in the Roman Catholic sense, the church may not be placed on a par with the other socalled “natural” spheres which are rooted in the crration-order. In Christian life the Church occupies a central, as a matter of fact, the central place for which no community can act as a substitute. Without the church Christian life on earth cannot be understood since there the communion of saints is experienced in the most central manner. 

Jan Dengerink 

Monday, 6 August 2012

Wordle on the whole of Kuyper's Lectures on Calvinism

In previous posts I have displayed Wordles of each of the separate chapters of Kuyper's Lectures on Calvinism. Here is a wordle on the whole book:

This list is largely in alphabetical order. 
Two things stand out: 
  • the little use, compared with the word 'God', of the word 'Christ' - only slightly more than 'Calvin'!
  •  and how often the word 'life' is used.

Wordles on

Mind maps on

Saturday, 4 August 2012

The Entrepreneurial Vocation by Robert A. Sirico

The Entrepreneurial Vocation
Robert A. Sirico
Acton Institute, 2012

The Lord is my entrepreneur I shall not lack?

This is little book asks the right questions. I'm not sure it always gives the right answers.

Robert Sirico is a Catholic priest who co-founded the Acton Institute in 1990. He has written this book out of a concern for the church and the lack of understanding of economic principles. He writes with the aim of integrating the concept of entrepreneur and vocation. He is right when he writes:

While entrepreneurs should not be unfairly criticized for making money, they also must not be treated as victims of unjust discrimination who deserve a special blessing. However, it is also true that their chosen profession deserves to be legitimized by their faith. The public must begin to acknowledge the value of the entrepreneurial vocation, the wise stewardship of talents, and the tangible contributions of entrepreneurs to society.

He starts by highlighting the lack of insight many have regarding the integration of faith and business. Typical of many examples is this one Sirico gives:

I recall one man, a self-described conservative Christian, saying that he no longer attended church services because he refused to sit in the pew with his family and, in effect, be chastised for his business acumen. How many critical sermons can a small-business owner or investment banker hear before he or she loses heart and decides to sleep in on the Sabbath? 

His analysis is correct. "An obvious reason for this ignorance is the astonishing lack of any economics training in virtually all seminaries." He may well be right, but is that the role of seminaries? Does this mean we should also provide science training in seminaries, and what about politics, art .... the danger then would be the seminary becomes a general education college. I would rather see seminaries equipping the pastors to be able to equip the rest of the saints. That may include some economics training, but better would be equipping in the tools to be able to critique the economic, scientific, political, .... ideologies.

I must also confess to being a little troubled by his 'principal argument':

The principal argument of this essay is that the pursuit of excellence, like the mind’s original constitution, discloses humanity’s ontological orientation toward the highest and most supreme good, namely, the perfect apprehension of God in heaven (cf. 1 Cor.13:12).

This sounds a little close to being neo-platonic.

He helpfully contrasts two views of the market the first held by 'religious leaders' as they pass the collection plate, is static and commands a Robin Hood morality; the other held by entrepreneur is of making rather than collecting money, the market is dynamic, a process rather than a place or object. This is obviously an over-characterisation. He makes this point to show that the 'clergy' must understand the market economy.

For those who think that the business enterprise is fuelled by selfishness and greed or that when entrepreneurs make economic losses they are getting their just deserts, this booklet will provide a helpful antidote.

He closes the book by taking a look at the parable of the talents and uses it to show how business and entrepreneurship are not no-go areas for Christians. As he rightly notes: "Entrepreneurs are the source of more social and spiritual good than is generally recognized."

There is much in this short booklet for careful and considered thought, it will provide the stimulus to think more carefully over these issues. The entrepreneur is a part of God's good creation and should be valued as such. The entrepreneurial vocation is just as much a vocation, a calling as being a priest, pastor or preacher.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Wordle on Kuyper's Lectures Ch 6

This is a 'wordle' of Abraham Kuyper's Lectures on Calvinism Ch 6 "Calvinism and the future". The size of the word is proportional to its use. 

Throughout the lectures Kuyper has been making much use of the word 'life'. Here it is the word most used. For Kuyper Calvinism is life in all it fullness - and that affects the whole of life. 

Wordles on