Tag: Karam Forum

Karam Forum Mini-Talks

Reprinted from the Oikonomia Network

Each session at Karam Forum 2018 was hosted by a leader from our community who framed the session with a 7-8 minute mini-talk. Like our Economic Wisdom Project Talks, these mini-talks are packed with catalytic insight. Check them out below and mark your calendars for Karam Forum 2019, featuring Miroslav Volf, David Miller and Mark Greene!

Vincent Bacote: “Seminaries or Cemeteries? A Mission as Big as Life Itself”

Vincent Bacote told the audience that, being in Los Angeles, they were sitting not far from the most influential seminary in the world: Hollywood. The movies win hearts and minds by showing people an imaginary world on a screen for two hours. Theology may not have big special effects budgets, but it can do something even more impressive than the movies; it can show us the real world. Bacote argued that theological education needs to recover a sense of how big the mission of theology is – a mission as big as the whole world, as big as life itself. Only then will it reverse its reputation as a storehouse of lifeless abstractions and decaying formulas.

Greg Forster: “Discovering Oikonomia: A Christian Life of the Mind”

Introducing Charlie Self, the event’s closing speaker, Greg Forster described how his conversion to the faith as an adult forced him to reevaluate what it meant to live the life of a scholar and educator. In a universe where God cares about building bridges and feeding the hungry as much as he cares about knowledge and insight, how can we have a Christian life of the mind? Forster argued that reason must have a place in the oikonomia theou, God’s plan for all things, because we use reason to discover the oikonomia theou. Everyone in the kingdom of God, in all vocations, has valuable knowledge; nonetheless there is an indispensable role for those who live the life of the mind – as Self put it, raising up poets and prophets for God’s people and world.

P.J. Hill: “Theology and Economics: Getting Past Cognitive Dissonance”

P.J. Hill shared the story of his journey as an economist who slowly discovered that moral and even theological questions were not secondary to his discipline; they were right at the heart of it. From a starting point where he struggled to connect his faith to his economic studies, producing “cognitive dissonance,” Hill eventually concluded that economic understanding had to begin with questions of justice, rights and morally ordered desires. Hill also described some insights the economic discipline provides on market economies that can inform theological evaluation of their functioning, such as the role markets play in coordinating social activity among people who don’t know each other well.

Chris Armstrong: “Flourishing: More than Souls on Sticks”

Gremlins sabotaged the audio feed at Karam Forum 2018, but this memorable mini-talk will be re-recorded and released at a future date – stay tuned!

Chris Armstrong argued that a well-rounded Christian view of human flourishing is essential to the faith in the coming generation. Too often, the church has treated people as if they were “souls on sticks” – addressing their eternal fate, but not their whole lives. Many young people leave the church today not because they think Christianity is false but because they think Christianity is irrelevant to anything they care about; our problem is not so much “intellectual atheism” as “practical atheism.” Bringing in delightful wisdom from C.S. Lewis and pointing to its origin in the earlier ages of the faith that Lewis studied, Armstrong made a case for Lewis’ maxim that “because we love something else more than this world, we love even this world better than those who know no other.”

New EWP Talk: Andy Crouch on Isaiah’s “Posterity Gospel”

Reprinted from the Oikonomia Network.

We’re very excited to release our latest EWP Talk: Andy Crouch’s brief but powerful address at Karam Forum 2018. Drawing on the imagery of Isaiah 5, Crouch spoke about the challenge of separating real flourishing from transitory prosperity in the midst of economic growth and technological innovation. In a world where we can have instant gratification in so many ways, what is of lasting importance?

“If you want to have a biblical conversation about flourishing, you are going to end up – sooner or later – at the story of the vineyard,” said Crouch. The image of Israel as the Lord’s vineyard, most fully developed in Isaiah 5 but recurring in many other places as well, contains a wealth of potential insight that speaks to the present state of our own civilizations and cultures.

Like us, the Israelites were prosperous. But the story of Isaiah 5 is not a happy one. The vineyard produces “wild grapes,” which explode with seeming abundance, but aren’t properly tended and don’t last. Crouch compares worldly prosperity built on fragile foundations to sidewalk chalk art in the tradition of trompe l’oeil (“deceive the eye”). It isn’t what it appears to be; take one step to the side and the illusion disappears.

And it’s doomed to be washed away in the next rain. The Lord wants flourishing from his world, Crouch points out, so if we don’t pursue real flourishing we can be sure our efforts will ultimately fall apart.

The point is not that economic success is bad; the point is that we need to change our definition of what counts as economic success. We tend to seek out activities and accomplishments that are “low friction” – that involve less investment and provide a shortcut to enjoyable experiences. But low-friction activities are by their nature unstable; precisely because the barriers are low, today’s quick fix is quickly replaced by tomorrow’s quicker fix. Crouch points to the music industry, which is contracting rapidly because access to recorded music has become effectively free.

What are we producing that is worth preserving? Crouch suggests that while the Bible does not have a “prosperity gospel,” it does have a “posterity gospel” – it calls us to prioritize what kind of world, what kind of culture and what kind of civilization we leave for our grandchildren. We should invest in things that are worth passing on.

The flourishing life is a pruned life. The Lord prunes his vineyard and it flourishes sustainably.

And the irony is that once we accept the pruned life, the massive power and wealth of modern markets become tools we can use to accomplish the Lord’s purposes. An internet-based music community allows musicians to collaborate digitally and produce art that is superior to what the major labels produce. Crouch even points to fast-food restaurants like In-N-Out and Chik-Fil-A, which have been built on serious and worthy visions of what a fast-food restaurant ought to be like. It is people – from the CEO to the fry cook – who live the pruned life who produce and sustain such visions of flourishing.

“This is where the church needs to be,” concludes Crouch, “going to every part of the world of mere affluence and turning it into a vineyard.”

Report from the Karam Forum, Los Angeles, 2018

The Oikonomia Network hosted their second annual Karam Forum last weekend in Los Angeles. The forum is an opportunity for theological educators at seminaries throughout the U.S. and beyond (there were also a few folks from Australia in attendance) to learn and reflect on themes of faith, work and economics – and really, at a big picture level, about God’s…

From the Karam Forum: Jesus and Paul as Economic Teachers

The Karam Forum is using a unique “flipped conference” model for their January conference, releasing the talks now and discussing them in January at the conference. Check out more info below as reported in the Oikonomia Network newsletter, and register for the conference here.

Following our unique flipped conference model, the Oikonomia Network is proud to present the first two talks for Karam Forum 2018. The future is now!

Check out these talks on Jesus as an economic teacher and Paul’s idea of the oikonomia theou ­– the economy of God. The speakers. Joshua Jipp and Nathan Hitchcock, will be with us at Karam Forum for discussion and collaboration, so register today to join us in Los Angeles on Jan. 4-5! (Don’t forget, faculty and leaders at ON partner schools can get a coupon code for registration.)

In this highly personal talk, Joshua Jipp of Trinity International University shares stories of his grandfather on the Iowa farm where he grew up. Jipp asserts that his Grandpa Wayne lived the way he did because he had absorbed key economic teachings from Jesus. The Parable of the Rich Fool provides a focus for these teachings.

Jesus teaches us to choose contentment over consumerism. He warns us that greed will deceive us into thinking life or happiness is about consumption. The rich fool worked to store up goods for himself; Grandpa Wayne knew that a good life does not consist in possessions.

Jesus teaches us to value productivity over extraction. Created in the image of a creative God, our role is to create value for others, rather than seek to take it from others. The rich fool didn’t work for what he had; he used his social position to exploit other people, getting his goods through their work without contributing himself. Grandpa Wayne had run-ins with that kind of person, too, but he obtained all he had through his own work.

Jesus teaches us to pursue community over isolation. Our good is intertwined with the good of our neighbors. The rich fool hardly even knew he had neighbors; he was too busy thinking about himself. Grandpa Wayne worked to benefit others, and was generous with what he had.

Nathan Hitchcock of Sioux Falls Seminary unpacks the meaning of a biblical term that’s very familiar to readers of this newsletter: oikonomia. He points out that Paul uses this term frequently, comparing Paul’s “economy of God” with the gospels’ “kingdom of God.” We usually don’t notice the importance of this term, however, because it’s translated differently in different passages.

Walking through the use of the phrase oikonomia theou in Ephesians, Hitchcock argues that God’s creation plan – the economy of God – is an audacious enterprise.

God’s enterprise is all-encompassing; there is nothing that isn’t part of God’s plan for his world. It includes the work of Yvette, who once struggled to see how her banking job connects to God but now does her daily work in a way that aligns with God’s economy.

God’s enterprise is all-in; our commitment to it should be as unreserved and self-sacrificing as God’s own commitment to it. Knowing that God is all-in helps David, who works in crisis counseling, avoid the twin traps of workaholism and dropping out.

God’s enterprise is all-including; every person is called to join as a partner in the divine project of creation. God recruits sketchy partners like Paul (a violent racist) and Matthew (a tax collector) – and John, a recovering addict and mentally challenged individual who has discovered how God can use him for great things in his daily work.

Check out these videos as you prepare for Karam Forum – and consider using them with students in your classes!