Culture > Books

The Christian calling

Books | Common beliefs to the contrary, "profit" is not a dirty word

Issue: "Modern martyrs," Nov. 30, 1996

Although socialism has disappeared as a serious economic force, it survives in academia and among the clergy. For some believers, the very idea of profit seems unChristian.

Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute acknowledges those tensions in Business as a Calling. He explains: "[T]hose who have eaten awhile of material success know that there is more to life than bread. They desire more than having." That desire may be made more intense by the vernacular of business. Observes Mr. Novak, "a strictly economic, business language has grown up without including within itself the moral, religious, even humane language appropriate to its own activities."

Mr. Novak ably attempts to supply that vocabulary. While never forgetting that businessmen may do evil, he treats commerce as a calling. As he puts it: "Business is a demanding vocation, and one is not good at it just by being in it, or even by making piles of money. The bottom line of a calling is measured by pain, learning, and grace."

We see you’ve been enjoying the content on our exclusive member website. Ready to get unlimited access to all of WORLD’s member content?
Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.
(Don’t worry. It only takes a sec—and you don’t have to give us payment information right now.)

Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.

Politics is a vocation too, but one whose practitioners usually attempt to escape all pain, irrespective of the catastrophic consequences for everyone else. That would seem to be the case with continual deficit spending and an ever-growing national debt. An interesting, unconventional view comes from Francis X. Cavanaugh of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board in The Truth About the National Debt. While Mr. Cavanaugh doesn't disagree that there are costs to the debt, he disputes the conventional analysis that deficits burden future generations and "crowd out" private investment. The book is an enjoyable read, and Mr. Cavanaugh concludes on a sound note: "The real reason we should hate the deficit is that politicians... should not have the pleasure of spending (getting votes) without the pain of taxing (losing votes)."

Another controversial issue is the environment. While few people dispute the importance of balancing stewardship and dominion, environmental groups have tended to play on the public's fears in pushing expensive command-and-control regulation when far more cost-effective mechanisms would achieve the same or better results. Indeed, policy today is largely driven by emotion and bad theology.

The latter topic is discussed in The Cross and the Rain Forest. This book is critically important for Christians who worship God, not Gaia. Explain the authors: "[W]e feel it is necessary to warn Christians of the pitfalls which can ensue from embracing the Green movement, as it is currently constituted, too warmly. At the heart of Greenery lie values which are fundamentally different from those of our Judeo-Christian tradition." They back up that assessment in their well-researched book.

The authors, serious scholars all, do not advocate environmental rape and ruin, however. They present a view of ecology that is deeply rooted in Christian truth--especially the belief that creation can be understood only through the incarnation, an insight that gives direction to all Christian callings.


You must be a WORLD member to post comments.

    Keep Reading


    Life with Lyme

    For long-term Lyme patients, treatment is a matter of…