Biblical Principles & Business: The Foundations, edited by Richard C. Chewning
This book is a deeply interesting one that seeks to discuss different perspectives about the applicability of biblical law and thinking to the affairs and business of this world. Unfortunately, while there is a great deal of interest here, the book itself is filled with essays that operate under the assumption that believers are dual citizens of the earth and heaven simultaneously and have to work out that tension, not that they are strangers and pilgrims on earth with citizens in heaven. This assumption presents a slanted perspective, as nowhere do any of the authors examine why it is that they adopt a view of the citizenship of believers and a responsibility of believers in this present world that is not justified by the Bible itself. And interesting argument from mistaken premises is mistaken on account of those premises. One cannot come to the right conclusions unless one starts from the right premises, and unfortunately that does limit the worth of this book. That said, those who share the worldview of the authors of the various essays will find a lot to appreciate here, as within the dual citizenship perspective there is a fair amount of diversity in the views expressed and a generally friendly and respectful approach throughout.
This book is between 250 and 300 pages and is divided into six sections that feature debates about the specific application of biblical principles and approaches to the contemporary world. After each of the essays in the book the editor presents the discussion between the participants about the essay and its perspective and approach as well as the editor’s reflection on the debate as a whole. The editor begins the work with a discussion on the making of a Christian worldview (1) after a preface. This is followed by a discussion of the balancing of biblical commands (A), including ideas on the transformation of society (2) and personal holiness (3). This leads to a discussion about the covenants (B), including the question of whether there are two (4) or one (5) biblical ethic in operation. Two authors discuss absolutes in a situational environment (C), emphasizing absolutes (6) and subjectivity (7) respectively. Two authors present distinct views on the relationship between biblical law and natural law (D), and the question of total depravity (8) and general revelation (9). A discussion on the distribution of wealth (E) leads to a look at the importance of personal effort and merit (10) or a redistributive ethic (11) as being predominant. Finally, the author ends with a look at eschatology and business ethics (F) with a discussion of the implications of premillennialism (12) and postmillennialism (13), as well as the editor’s discussion of the application of biblical principles in the business world (14), after which there are notes.
Interestingly enough, the authors here appear to be aware of and deeply uninterested in the approach of theonomists to the view of law. The writers here deliberately position themselves in opposition to such thinking while themselves demonstrating a marked interest in such matters as the relationship of the ethic of the Hebrew scriptures to that of the New Testament, and the extent to which there is continuity between the two, as well as a look in how the laws of the Old Testament remain relevant to contemporary believers. That is not to say that this interest leads to correct conclusions, because the authors in general spring from a tradition that exaggerates the discontinuities between the biblical law and Christian practice–none of the authors appears to be interested in obeying the Sabbath laws, for example–but despite the mistaken premises that this book is full of there is some interest in the wrestling that these writers make with the law and how it applies to the practice of believers today. If I would not agree with their conclusions or their premises, there is still a lot here to respect and appreciate anyway.