PLUS: Utopia or Kingdom Come?

Discerning wheat from chaff in the new business spirituality

Borrowing from various "wisdom traditions," New Paradigm business spirituality includes biblical values, but the vocabulary is often two-faced. It can take a neutral term—self-actualization, for example, which originally described just one human need among others in Abraham Maslow's hierarchy—and give it a decidedly New Age spin.

From a biblical view, the term self-actualization means realizing personal potential as stewards of God-given abilities. Philosopher Elton Trueblood asserted that, as beings made in God's image, we are obligated to realize our potential as a means of fulfilling and glorifying that image. Irenaeus of Lyons wrote that God's glory is man "fully alive."

When a business strives to develop its workers/managers with education, training, and greater autonomy or latitude for creativity, it helps them fulfill their potential as creatures made in God's image. Thus jobs designed or redesigned to fit employee gifting and development can serve kingdom ends. Often it will also improve the company.

"What people can be is more important than what they can do, because what they can do will flow from what they can be," wrote Max De Pree, who directed the Herman Miller furniture company with Christian regard for his employees' personal and professional development.

Such a people-first philosophy is a key in both biblical and New Paradigm business models. Very quickly, however, the New Paradigm movement hijacks the term self-actualization. In the more radical New Business wing, self-actualization becomes synonymous with transformation and other code words—enlightenment, inner wisdom, authentic or higher self, and higher consciousness—for states equated with deity.

"The purpose of business," said one woman during a Spirit ...

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Christianity Today
PLUS: Utopia or Kingdom Come?
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February 2003

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