The Church’s Great Challenge

Last year, Zogby International took a poll of American college seniors in which 97 percent said that they believed their professors had given them a good education in ethics. But when asked what those professors had taught them, 73 percent responded, "What is right and wrong depends on differences in individual values and cultural diversity." Only a quarter of them said they had learned that there are "clear and uniform standards of right and wrong." Similarly, a reporter for Forbes magazine observed an ethics class at Harvard Business School in which the professor and students discussed case studies but avoided coming to any moral conclusions. Students were graded on how well they could logically defend their position, not on whether their position was actually defensible. The reporter wrote that students in this kind of class, rather than developing moral principles, merely "develop skills enabling them to rationalize anything short of cannibalism." This is the last of a seven-part series based on BreakPoint's "Christians in the Marketplace" conference. We've talked extensively about the importance of bringing Christian ethics into the business world. Why do we spend so much time on this subject? Think of it this way: We spend a third of our lives in the workplace, exercising the talents, creativity, and energy given to us by God. For this very reason, the Reformer John Calvin believed that the first act of discipleship was choice of vocation. The impact of our work on our lives and on the lives of those around us is huge. Yet our churches spend less and less time teaching about how to apply our Christian principles in the workplace. And this is at a time when the business world is in dire need of ethical, principled people. The fact is, we are living in a postmodern age, when people find it impossible to agree on standards of right and wrong. We can't even teach them. What disasters this leads to was evident in the scandals rocking the business world in the past couple of years -- Enron, WorldCom, and the like. What people are just beginning to realize is that this kind of behavior at these companies is simply the logical result of the moral relativism that permeates our culture. The good news, as I have discovered, is that people who have been hurt by the economic scandals are willing, maybe for the first time, to listen to biblical teaching on ethics. But the Church has to be ready to meet that challenge. A recent poll by George Barna showed that 54 percent of people who called themselves born-again Christians do not believe in ultimate moral truth -- without which, of course, there can be no ethics. But consider that for a moment: We say we follow the One who is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life," and yet we can't bring ourselves to acknowledge that truth exists? No wonder we're having little impact on our culture. If we truly believe in Christ and the Christian worldview that He taught, then we can't help bringing that worldview into every sphere of life -- including, and especially, the workplace. If churches are not teaching ethics and followers of Christ aren't setting an ethical example, who will? For further reading: "Ethics, Enron, and American Higher Education: An NAS/Zogby Poll of College Seniors," National Association of Scholars, July 2002. Dan Seligman, "Oxymoron 101," Forbes, 28 October 2002. "Americans Are Most Likely to Base Truth on Feelings," Barna Research Online, 12 February 2002. BreakPoint Commentary No. 030717, "Taking Care of Business: Virtue in the Boardroom." "Christians in the Marketplace," a Christian Mind in the New Millennium III conference, took place April 4-6, 2003, at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort and Conference Center in Colorado Springs, CO. At this BreakPoint worldview conference, speakers -- including Charles Colson, Mark Earley, Michael Novak, and others -- discussed the role of Christian worldview in today's business sector and marketplace, how businesses should apply ethical standards to their practices, and how our work should be viewed as a calling, an opportunity to serve God in our business. (Audiocassette and CDsets are available.) "A Time to Learn about Ethics" -- Chuck Colson addresses Harvard Business School on developing a personal code of ethics (CD). The speech is also available in brochure form. "How Now Shall We Work?" -- Charles Colson delivered a speech, "How Now Shall We Work?", to more than 600 workers in October 2001. He asked and answered five provocative questions, including "Can we work well without God?", directing them to an audience of those in the marketplace. Colson's words provide Christians with practical tips on applying their faith at work (audiocassette). "Truth in the Public Square" -- In June 2003, Charles Colson spoke to congressional members and their staff about the need to uphold truth in the public square, advocating moral truth as the basis of legislation and the need to make reasoned arguments based on natural law principles in order to make a significant influence in politics and public policy (CD). J. Budziszewski, What We Can't Not Know: A Guide(Spence, 2003). Gina Dalfonzo, "Cheating Themselves," Boundless, 16 January 2003. Visit these two "Worldview for Parents" pages: "What's So Important about Work?" and "Fragmented Minds." The BreakPoint Worldview Survival Kit for Students includes valuable books and resources, in a useful canvas satchel with a water bottle, to help your high school or college student develop a Christian worldview.


Chuck Colson


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