Pragmatic Prosperity

Today I will be discussing an article from Christian Headlines titled:

The Bible Can Help Companies Restore Public Trust, Princeton Professor Finds

Written by Michael Foust |

I have seen articles like this before. I’ve even heard sermon messages, podcasts, and have read blog posts that are very similar. What if we could view the Bible as a source of human wisdom but disregard it as Gods Holy Word for bringing salvation through the Holy Spirits gift of repentant faith?

David W. Miller, director of the Princeton University Faith & Work Initiative, released a white paper this month declaring that “religious traditions have amassed extraordinary wisdom and learning about human nature, brokenness, and healing” that can be instrumental in helping institutions restore public trust. The paper focused on the Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Judaism and Islam).

Article: The Bible Can Help Companies Restore Public Trust, Princeton Professor Finds

What if we treated the Bible like other worldly works-based religions? What if we only viewed the Bible as a source of wisdom and empowerment for this life? What if we viewed the Scriptures as principles to implement into our daily lives to make ourselves, our circumstances, and our life better? What if we viewed the Bible as a how to manual for getting what we want in this life? The questions are one of pragmatism and prosperity. Using the Bible for ways of earthly wisdom to see what might work is to miss the point of Scripture. It is by definition the same temptation of Adam, I want knowledge… I can find God, or be God, with my mind; rationalism.

“One thing that religion tends to do really well is to think about and help heal brokenness. There’s sort of a common theme that humanity is not perfect, and that we’re broken and we make mistakes,” Miller told Christian Headlines. “… Maybe the corporate world can look at it afresh. Maybe we should pause and say, ‘Is there any wisdom, insights or lessons from these wisdom traditions?’ … These ideas are relevant today – and not just for Sunday worship hour or Saturday synagogue. They can make a difference.” 

Article: The Bible Can Help Companies Restore Public Trust, Princeton Professor Finds

Every religion understands the Law. Every religion understands that we are imperfect and that we have a burdened conscience. Every religion tries to appease this conscience by human works; except for Christianity. Christianity stands out on its own because we believe that works outside ourselves have appeased God’s wrath and have fulfilled the Law; that is Christ’s work alone. Let’s look at this quote from Mueller’s Dogmatics:

Investigation shows that all heathen religions stand in direct opposition to the Christian religion. They are all, without exception, religions of the Law. To the heathen, religion means the earnest endeavor of men to reconcile the deities by their own efforts or works, such as worship, sacrifices, moral conduct, asceticism, etc. In this respect all non-Christian religions agree, no matter how much they may differ in individual details. Nor can we expect anything else; for the heathen by nature do not know the Gospel (1 Cor. 2,6 — 10: “We speak . . . the hidden wisdom, . . . which none of the princes of this world knew”), but only the divine Law, namely, so far as this is written in their hearts. Hence all their religious thoughts move within the sphere of the Law, so that from beginning to end their religions are, and indeed must be, religions of the Law.

Christians, on the contrary, believe true religion to consist in the very opposite. To Christians, religion means true faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or in the gracious message, revealed in Holy Scripture, that a perfect reconciliation has been effected between God and man through the vicarious atonement (satisfactio vicaria) of the divine-human Christ, the Redeemer of the world.

Mueller’s Dogmatic’s ‘Of Religion in General’

Mixing the Law with the Gospel only ends up in covering, rejecting, and poo-pooing on Christ’s merits. This is the danger put forth in this article. It is presenting a way, not to appease God, but the idol of prosperity. If we can find some way to feign humility then we can get more customers who will help us turn a profit and prosper our business. The “gospel” they are trying to work towards is the idol of prosperity. To try works, morals, and principles that might help them attain a prosperous life while using the Holy Word of God to do it.

Can a company restore trust with its customers, regulators, and other stakeholders – especially if the organization has a checkered history that is etched in people’s minds and experiences?” they ask in the white paper. “Companies often turn to lawyers, lobbyists, public relations personnel, crisis managers, social media experts, and other such specialists to try to clean up their reputation and restore trust.” 

Article: The Bible Can Help Companies Restore Public Trust, Princeton Professor Finds

As you can see, they place Holy Scripture on the same level as lawyers, social media experts, and public relations personnel. As if the point of Scripture is to help market your business.

For God’s name cannot be misused worse than for the support of falsehood and deceit… But, the greatest abuse occurs in spiritual matters, which pertain to the conscience, when false preachers rise up and offer their lying vanities as God’s Word.

Large Catechism; Second Commandment

This is a terrible use of the Word of God. This is a misuse of the Word of God and a violation of the 2nd Commandment, which they are clearly violating the First Commandment as well because they are rejecting the God of the Bible and instead are following the idol of Mammon. All the while taking the name of God and mixing it with a lie, that the Bible is a source of marketing and public relations wisdom, because all that matters to them is prosperity and this earthly life.

Each of the Abrahamic traditions speaks of the need for a humbling moment within the redemptive arc of the individual and institution,” it says before quoting James 4:10: “Humble yourself in the presence of the Lord. And the Lord will restore you.”  “The institution needs to linger in its humbling moment longer than it may wish if it sincerely desires restoration in the eyes of the general public,” the paper says.

Article: The Bible Can Help Companies Restore Public Trust, Princeton Professor Finds

Context Matters

James isn’t giving tips on marketing strategies or public relations tips. He isn’t discussing how a business can earn back it’s customers, or to bring in new customers and make a profit. He isn’t giving tips on how to improve your business, turn a profit in the next quarter, or how to best advertise after you have done something that’s cost you your customer base.

Where do wars and fightings among you come from? Don’t they come from your pleasures that war in your members? 2 You lust, and don’t have. You murder and covet, and can’t obtain. You fight and make war. You don’t have, because you don’t ask. 3 You ask, and don’t receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 You adulterers and adulteresses, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who lives in us yearns jealously”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Be subject therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament, mourn, and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will exalt you.

James 4:1-10

The quote they pulled out of context is where James is quoting Proverbs 3:34. Yet both of these passages are not showing us how to feign remorse for marketing strategies. These passages are discussing repentant faith.

32 For the perverse is an abomination to Yahweh,but his friendship is with the upright.33 Yahweh’s curse is in the house of the wicked,but he blesses the habitation of the righteous.34 Surely he mocks the mockers,but he gives grace to the humble.35 The wise will inherit glory,but shame will be the promotion of fools.

Proverbs 3:32-35

Yeah there isn’t anything in this context that shows how a company can restore trust with customers and stake-holders. What is clearly written is that our sinful nature is one with the world, following worldly passions, being under the curse of sin, and that those who reject the gift of God’s grace is to reject God and to choose to be an enemy of God.

Therefore, repent, be contrite over your sin and cling to the promise of forgiveness in Christ Crucified for you. See your sins as they are and be humbled and broken under God’s law. The verses of ‘Being in subjection (Jas 4:7) and being humble (Jas 4:10) are parallels and speak of being under God’s forgiveness and the verses in between discuss how this is done, namely, in repentance. Contrition and faith, that is what these verses are discussing.

When we allow ourselves to listen to someone else claim their vanity’s are God’s Word we are following someone who is speaking falsely about God. There isn’t anything in these passages that have to do with marketing strategies; that is a falsehood masquerading as truth. When we look to scripture for prosperity principles for pragmatic strategies we are missing the entire point of the words that are contained therein. This is because when we try to insert our pretext we have to remove the context and the context tells us what is actually being said. Context is key.

Instead of mining for passages to suit your itching ears it is best to read the passages in context and to see how the context always points to Christ. He is the context of Scripture (John 5:39). This is because the word of God is given to you that you may believe (John 20:31). So that you are granted the gift of repentance by the Spirit who works through the Word (John 16: 4-15). God loves you, and you won’t know just how much He loves you if you reject to hear what He says to you. May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. With your sins forgiven, go in peace.

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