Baptists Do Work: Brand Talks About Political Economy
EDITOR’S NOTE: In what follows, Southern Seminary Magazine editor Aaron Cline Hanbury talks with Chad Brand about his new book, Flourishing Faith: A Baptist Primer on Work, Economics, and Civic Stewardship. Brand is associate dean of biblical and theological studies and professor of Christian theology at Southern Seminary’s Boyce College.
ACH: Why did you write Flourishing Faith?
CB: I was contacted by the Acton Institute [an organization that deals with politics, church-state issues]. The organization wanted to publish a series of primers about political economy and the church; it wanted four: one from a Baptist perspective, one from a Reformed, one from Wesleyan and one from a pentecostal. Initially, Acton contacted Danny Akin about it. Danny knew that I have been at work for some time on a rather large project that deals with the church and political economy, so he suggested it to me.
ACH: What is a Baptist political economy?
CB: What political economy describes is the interface between government and whatever economic system prevails in a given nation or culture. The political economy in the Soviet Union in the 1980s was a communist state with a socialist understanding of economics — a controlled-market economy. The United States was basically founded as a republic with a free market economy.
So when we introduce the idea of a Christian, and specifically Baptist, political economy, what we’re asking is, “How does the church rub itself up against a free market republic?” “How does a Baptist understanding of theology and ecclesiology interface with that.”
Because Baptists have long held the idea of religious freedom, political freedom, individual freedom and so on, the place where a Baptist political economy most manifests itself is in a kind of republican or libertarian form of economics. “Laissez faire” isn’t in the Baptist Faith and Message, but if you read and believe its statements on government and anthropology, I think you would come to the same conclusion that the government that governs least, governs best.
The notion of political economy has been around for quite some time — the first professor of political economy was a guy by the name of Thomas Malthus at the University of Oxford in about 1815 — but it hasn’t edged its way into evangelical circles until fairly recently.
ACH: How do you want your readers to think about work after reading your book?
CB: Luther’s idea of vocation, that the Puritans and later Baptists picked up: everyone has a calling. You should find out what that calling is and pursue that calling. Realize that God doesn’t just put his stamp of approval on the “sacred” callings, but on all callings. Because all of life is lived, Luther said, coram deo, in the face of God.