Business as calling

Toward a Theology of Business

Van Duzer et al. 2004 : Business as a Calling: Book Excerpt

A Statement on the Biblical Purposes of Business

Skeptics wonder how commercial activity can serve as a legitimate means of doing God’s work in the world when it is conducted within a system that to them appears to be antithetical to Christian values. In particular, economic growth seems to hinge on exporting a Western consumption-oriented way of life to all corners of the globe. An increase in the wealth gap, the elimination of distinctive cultures and value systems, and damage to the environment are mere tradeoffs to be made in the pursuit of the goal of growth.

As a faculty in an evangelical Christian university’s business school, we have been wrestling with the fundamental question of how does God perceive the institution of business and how does God intend for it to function? “Wrestling” is actually an appropriate word, for our debates have been and still are vigorous as we seek to understand the vocation of business as an institution. How should Christians, particularly the laity who work in business-oriented vocations, thoughtfully and faithfully approach their work (Nash & McLennan, 2001)? Historically, Christians have opted for different orientations towards the “world” and their role within it (Niebuhr, 1951). Is there a particular approach that should be adopted for Christians involved with business? Should commercial activity be engaged exclusively through hostile “prophetic” means, enthusiastically embraced, or something in between?

In an attempt to answer these questions, we have undertaken to articulate a theology of business rooted in an evangelical, Protestant worldview. We are convinced that such a theology of business is needed because business substantially influences the world, for good or for ill. Clearly, the current way of doing business is morally deficient and we have a unique opportunity to influence the direction of this pivotal institution. But, without a solid theology, Christians in business lack a sense of purpose or an adequate understanding of the spiritual environment in which they operate.