Stealing


I was too poor to buy books.

The caught thief, Constant Wauters

No, I didn’t steal them.

Years ago, I was asked by a local group to give a talk about business ethics.Since my degrees focus on “ethics” but not “business” I decided I should visit a bookstore to see what business leaders were saying.

bookstoreBook stores were still plentiful in the 1980’s. I visited one closest to me. The business section was clearly marked, I found half a dozen books to peruse, and began to scan the pages.

It took me all of thirty minutes to make the startling discovery.

All the books and their authors were stealing their ideas from Solomon in The Bible.

Authors were using biblical principles straight out of Proverbs to communicate business principles.

I was shocked. My research, document-everything, graduate-education persona was incredulous!

SolomonHow could business leaders, bound by ethical principles espoused in their own books, steal from Solomon?!

And then it hit me. The authors couldn’t help themselves. The books simply reflected what theologians call “common grace.” I realized that I was viewing an example of God’s beneficence to all people.

We find ethical principles for everyday living in any subject; business is no exception.

The book of Proverbs commends itself to all people, cultures, places, and times because God has embedded basic principles within His creation. Life “works” a certain way because God’s consistency and dependability are woven through His Works.

How to readThis summer I have been preparing to teach on “wisdom”in my church body to adults on Sunday mornings. In my study I was re-reading Tremper Longman’s book How to Read Proverbs. I was struck again by the “common grace” approach to life when I revisited Longman’s connection to Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence. Dr. Longman tied EQ ideas directly to proverbial wisdom. In his words, Goleman’s “knowing how” is the connection to wisdom. God’s Word in Proverbs explains there is much more we need to navigate in life than “knowing what.” We need to know how.

Proverbs is a “how” book. We are taught about situations that arise in daily life for which we need foresight and thoughtful pondering. Proverbs teaches us how best—not how perfectly—to respond, react, remember, or resist.

OdysseyI am presently teaching a literature course to high school students where “how” will always be linked with everyday living. Juniors and I will recite the importance of memory, navigating Odysseus’ return home in Homer’s Odyssey. We will ponder the distinctiveness of the Genesis origin ideals against the materialistic ways of the Enuma Elish. Virgil’s Aeneid will point us to our need to live piously, loyally, and respectfully.

Here is how I have connected everyday life with God’s view of life elsewhere:

Common Grace allows

Common Truth to establish

Common Law for the

Common Man finding

Common Ground with all.

I am no longer surprised by the commonality of agriculture, business, the arts, or education principles with Scriptural prescriptions.

waifs stealingHow can anyone steal something which is already there?

Mark’s own study of Proverbs shows how much more wisdom he has to learn. Dr. Mark Eckel is president of The Comenius Institute.

Ethics


Everything is founded on faith.

word-picture

Three stories.

warA group of students and I discussed a question they had heard in class: “Why are humans always at war?”

I asked what was said in class. The discussion centered on people needing to make a decision against violence, for peace. I asked if the professor gave a standard, a reason given, against violence, for peace. There was none.

“There are two basic beliefs which form the basis for the Christian worldview,” I said, “Absolute truth and humanities’ inherent corruption.”

“Absolute truth gives us a basis for saying what is right and wrong,” I continued, “Inherent corruption—what comes from inside us—shows the reason why humans are at war.”

“Think of it this way,” I concluded, “The problem is not out there (pointing away from myself), the problem is IN HERE (pointing at my chest).”

lawAnother Comenius student stopped by at lunch to ask, “My law professor says that the law changes depending on the culture. What will he base his ethics on if judicial rulings are based on the shifting standard of the day?”

“The only basis your professor has for law,” I began, “Is the hope of evolutionary development based on the assumption of human perfectibility.” I expanded on the ideas over lunch.

After her class that same day she texted me. “My law professor gave a lecture on Liberalism. He believes humanity will learn from its mistakes and flaws and evolve into morally better people – exactly what we were discussing at lunch!”

cyber-securityOne of our students studies informatics (an emphasis on cyber security). She was discussing a class assignment with me. The question was based on a Steve Jobs quote:

“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.”

The class discussion questions (not repeated here) had nothing to do with the obvious, underlying assumption of Jobs’ assumption: people are basically good.

“Concern about cyber security itself is based on a glaring premise” I stated, “We need protection against technological threats. Technology may change, but human nature does not.” We discussed the assumption that humans are inherently corrupt even if people do wonderful things with technology.

beliefStudents in public university are being taught from a belief system. Every belief system begins with assumptions. Comenius students have the opportunity to understand their academic – intellectual development from a decidedly Christian perspective.

The Comenius Institute, where Christian wisdom connects with college life.

Everything we teach, everything we learn, is founded on faith. Dr. Mark Eckel points out belief statements wherever he sees them. Mark is the president of The Comenius Institute.

Why Do Good?


Our problems originate inside.

inside-out-1

Our hope originates from outside.

 

Over the last three days I have posted these statements on social media:

“Racism” is not the direct result of history, nationality, ethnicity, nor privilege. Racism is the direct result of sin in our hearts.

“Greed” is not a result of big business, banking institutions, capitalism, or economic class. Greed begins in every human heart.

“Hate” does not originate in ethnicity, nationality, political persuasion, or economic class. Hate originates in every human heart.

inside-out5My focus is the same: human problems begin with our sinful selves.

Some evangelicals believe correction for our problems begins “outside” (my biology, environment, psychology, privilege, etc). But if that is true, then we will subscribe to the source of fixing problems through external intervention (government, law, policy).

The only true change against privilege, negative home situations, or psychological dispositions is the saving grace of Jesus. The gospel changes our “hearts” then motivates us to “do good” (Titus 2.11-14 leads right into Titus 3.1, 8, 14).

inside-out6If we begin by believing that “doing good” is our first response to sin then our view of salvation begins with us rather than with the redemption we need found only in Christ.

If “doing good” has solely a human origin then humans get to define “the good.” Motivation of “doing” belongs to the individual. What is “good” for me may not be “good” for you.

inside-out7But if “doing good” is a focus on others because of Another, then the origin of and motivation for “good” is prompted by Someone who is Good. “Good” now has a standard.

Only the exclusivity of the gospel allows for the inclusivity of help. If we don’t have the first, then the second is up to the whim of the individual or institution. [See my essay on exclusivity – inclusivity.]

inside-out8Some Christians want to pawn-off policy issues with trite bumper-sticker theology. But if we do not have a biblical foundation for government, law, policy, etc. then biblical truths will not permeate the culture. 

My students have heard me say this for decades: “My environment – biology – psychology may accentuate my behavior but it is not the root cause of it” (Mark 7.21-23).

I agree with my friend Stacey “certain outward forces or institutions perpetuate, promote, and propel the indifference of the human heart.”

If you would like my pictorial overview of a cultural – versus – Christian viewpoint concerning sin, salvation, and service, click this link: christian-versus-cultural-views-of-sin-salv-serv

inside-out-1Another of my many mantras classes have seen goes like this, “The problem is not out there (I point to things around me) but in here (I point to my chest).”

True change, lasting change, eternal change has a Source outside us which changes us inside.

Mark, like the rest of the human race, has many internal struggles. But Mark also knows that the human race will be saved not by themselves but through the sacrifice of Jesus. Click the link for The Comenius Institute to see some of Dr. Mark Eckel’s activities.