Faith, Fortune and the Future: Christianity and Enterprise in Human Development
- What is it about the EPCM (used in this article interchangeably with Pentecostalism) that makes it significant for human development?
- Will the EPCM and its associated virtues inevitably decline as entrepreneurial capitalism and its associated prosperity rise?
- Are there any alternatives (‘functional equivalents’) to the EPCM? In other words, could some other worldview (religious or secular) take its place in terms of practical impact?
2. How Does the EPCM Promote Development?
3. Will the EPCM and Its Virtues Inevitably Decline?
I fear, wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of true religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger and love of the world in all its branches.7
4. What Practical Alternatives Are There to the EPCM?
One of the things that we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world. We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.
Stark’s views on the positive social impact of Christianity have evoked considerable critique, some of it equally polemical (Carroll 2012; Gonçalves 2016; Hasan 2016; Payne 2016), although more recently Tom Holland and Benjamin Friedman have expressed similar perspectives to that of Stark (Holland 2020, pp. xxii–xxix; Friedman 2021). Regarding the positive social impact of the EPCM in particular, much more work needs to be done than the surface-scratching in this article. This is partly because scholarship on Pentecostalism has given greater attention to the socio-economic determinants of the movement than to ways in which the movement positively impacts society (whatever may be its negative impacts).16Christianity created Western Civilization. Had the followers of Jesus remained an obscure Jewish sect, most of you would not have learned to read and the rest of you would be reading from hand-copied scrolls. Without a theology committed to reason, progress, and moral equality, today the entire world would be about where non-European societies were in, say, 1800: A world with many astrologers and alchemists but no scientists. A world of despots, lacking universities, banks, factories, eyeglasses, chimneys, and pianos. A world where most infants do not live to the age of five and many women die in childbirth—a world truly living in ‘dark ages’. The modern world arose only in Christian societies. Not in Islam. Not in Asia. Not in a ‘secular’ society—there having been none. And all the modernization that has occurred outside Christendom was imported from the West.
Conflicts of Interest
Although this paper does not have space to discuss definitions of religion, entrepreneurship and human development, it is important to note that the latter term includes life expectancy and education, not just per capita income.
This is not to imply that the vision driving these movements lacks intellectual credibility. Indeed, many of its theological foundations lie in the robust ‘whole-life Christianity’ that derives from the neo-Calvinist worldview and spirituality of Abraham Kuyper (1837–1920) and which challenges the pervasive sacred–secular divide in contemporary Christianity (Heslam 1998; Kim et al. 2012; Bartholomew 2017; Heslam 2021). For ‘kingdom entrepreneurship’, see Yamamori and Eldred (2003); for ‘faith-driven entrepreneurship’, see Kaestner et al. (2021); for ‘redemptive entrepreneurship’, see Praxis Labs (2021); for ‘business as mission’, see Johnson (2009); Rundle and Steffen (2011); Rundle (2012); Gort and Tunehag (2018); and Ward (2021).
The reports are available on the website of the British Academy: https://www.thebritishacademy.ac.uk/programmes/future-of-the-corporation/ (accessed on 27 July 2021)
Ferguson cites Book 5, Part 1 of Adam Smith’s famous work of 1776 An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in arguing for the power of religious competition to stem the tide of secularism (Ferguson 2011, pp. 273–76). Although the paragraphs of Smith’s work Ferguson has in mind must be 190, 197 and 205, they lack the thrust of Ferguson’s argument. Competition between Protestant groups has also been associated with the stimulation of mass education, mass printing, civil society and democracy (Woodberry 2008, 2012b; Gallego and Woodberry 2010).
Weber’s work also predates significant advances in historical theology. His most well-known claim, that the pursuit of wealth was driven by how Calvinists interpreted the doctrine of predestination because they needed to prove to themselves and to others that they belonged to the elect, lacks robust theological and historical evidence. Although, on his own admission, Weber was no theologian, he was somewhat selective in his use of the theological evidence that would have been available to him (Weber  1930; Adair-Toteff 2018; Zafirovski 2018).
Cited in Weber ( 1930, p. 175). The sermons are reproduced in Outler (1988, vols. II and III). Although Weber cites no reference for his quote from Wesley, it can be found in Southey (1820, vol. II, pp. 235–36), which draws on a variety of original sources without providing specific references.
Reliable data on contemporary religious demography are produced by the Pew Research Center in Washington (https://www.pewresearch.org (accessed on 16 October 2021)). Much of its data on Christianity derive from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (https://www.gordonconwell.edu/center-for-global-christianity (accessed on 16 October 2021)).
See, for instance (Stark 1996, 2003; Schmidt 2004; Hill 2005; Bao 2006; Zhuo 2006; McGrath 2007; Freston 2008; Ranger 2008; Backholer 2009; Joireman 2009; Lindsay 2009; Lumsdaine 2009; Hart 2010; Hunter 2010; Bragg 2011; Mangalwadi 2011; Spencer 2011; Stark 2011; Tracey 2012; Woodberry 2012a, 2012b; Calderisi 2013; Beckwith 2016; Stanley 2018; Holland 2020).
Some of this revival of interest in Weber is driven by the rise of neo-Calvinist religion in China, especially amongst urban intellectuals (Kang 2019).
See an interview with Zhao Xiao published in PBS Frontline World. Available online: https://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/china_705/interview/xiao.html (accessed on 16 October 2021). See also his interview published as ‘Sons of Heaven: Christianity in China’, in The Economist, 389.8600, 4 October 2008, p. 58. In the first of these two interviews, Xiao notes writing a paper in 2002 entitled ‘Market Economies with Churches and Market Economies without Churches’. The PBS editor notes that this paper formed the basis of an essay Xiao wrote entitled ‘God is my Chairman of the Board’ for the Chinese edition of Esquire. The only available bibliographic reference for Xiao’s paper or essay is the one noted in Tong and Yang (2016), which appears in the bibliography below as Xiao (2006).
Official Chinese estimates of religious affiliation, such as those produced by the government-sponsored Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), are much lower. Estimates produced by the research centres noted in an earlier footnote above command global respect. The fastest-growing religious group is clearly Protestants. This is despite religious restrictions in China having remained tight since the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) abolished its total ban on religious activities in 1982. Overall, the attitude of the state towards religion in recent years has been deeply inconsistent (Cao 2018). But the CCP’s distrust towards religion appears to have been increasing since 2018, following a period of partial relaxation. Recent state repression of Christian organisations, including those that are state-sanctioned, has included the removal of rooftop crosses from churches, forced church demolition and harassment and imprisonment of priests and pastors. The official principles of the CCP regarding religion when the party was founded in 1921 included respect and protection of religious belief (Zhuo 2015, pp. 57–61).
The renowned political scientist Francis Fukuyama argues that the Buddhist analogies to the Protestant ethic were compounded by the Bushido ethic of the Samurai class, which was an aristocratic worrier ideology that stressed asceticism, economy and learning (Fukuyama 1992, p. 227). The role of Roman Catholicism, especially of enterprising monastic orders, in stimulating the rise of capitalism, has been largely overlooked, reflecting in part the influence of the Weber thesis. See, however, Novak (1993), Bruni and Milbank (2019) and Zafirovski (2019).
In such scholarship, Pentecostalism tends to be associated with ‘neo-liberalism’. See, for instance, Meyer (2007), Comaroff (2009), de Witte (2011), Smith and Hackett (2012) and Obadare (2016). Mookgo Kgatle acknowledges this association but suggests that Pentecostalism has the potential to offer a viable alternative to neoliberalism (Kgatle 2020). A notable exception to the deterministic scholarly tendency noted here is Miller and Yamamori (2007).
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Heslam, P.S. Faith, Fortune and the Future: Christianity and Enterprise in Human Development. Religions 2021, 12, 1039. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12121039
Heslam PS. Faith, Fortune and the Future: Christianity and Enterprise in Human Development. Religions. 2021; 12(12):1039. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12121039Chicago/Turabian Style
Heslam, Peter S. 2021. "Faith, Fortune and the Future: Christianity and Enterprise in Human Development" Religions 12, no. 12: 1039. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12121039