Economics 101 & Theology 101

Loving God, the Church, Your Family & Yourself

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Editor’s note: Dr. Anne Bradley was recently featured in an interview with Praxis Circle. Below are a few highlights of that conversation that center around love in celebration of Valentine’s Day. You can watch the interview in full here.

Loving God

Question: Are we better off living according to God’s word?

AB: I think the way to look at this question is to say that we are obedient to who God has created us to be and how he wants us to live and act. There are broad principles there but this is also highly personal, how he wants you to live and how he wants me to live, he is going to ask us to do different things. The basic principles of course are always the same. 

When we are obedient to him, we are going to experience less frustration. When we disobey him, when we live against who we’re created to be, there is going to be lots of frustration. So it’s the fulfillment-frustration divide. 

Now, we can be fulfilled and still have tough stuff that’s thrown at us. So it’s not the prosperity gospel. It’s not that if you do what you think God is telling you to do that you’re going to have a mansion and you’ll never have any worries again. No, Job promises us, we learn from him that trial, trial, trial, trial—that’s the world we’re in. Our faith is always going to be tested because the world is against Christianity. 

I think it’s never without trial, but it always is fulfilling if you’re doing what God is asking you to do. It’s a hard thing to do. I think sometimes it’s a hard thing to know! What does he want me to do right now? How do I know that with clarity? It takes a lot of prayer and I think dedication to be Christ-centered. So this is a hard thing, but I think you can be challenged and under siege and fulfilled. 

I don’t think it’s that you’re not going to be rich or not have any problems or all of this stuff is going to go away. Isn’t it just easier when we obey? I think it is easier but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy, but we’re fulfilled.

(Watch this part of the interview here.)

Loving the Church

Question: What trends do you see about loving your neighbor and loving the church? 

AB: I think the biggest trend that we’re seeing is people are walking away from church attendance. So I’m going to tie that data point back to your question. It may go back to, “I wanna do things the way I wanna do it.” So the problem is with a fractionalized church. You have a church, and then you have maybe a group of people in the church who don’t like the direction of the church—we might say that’s a good thing, especially if the church is doing something that’s unbiblical. And what do they do? They start a new denomination or they start a new version. I’m a Presbyterian. This is happening a lot in the Presbyterian church. 

So I think the problem is that people are pulling away and starting their own thing, so we see these kinds of disparate groups among Christianity. And what unites them? I mean, can we answer that question in the twenty-first century the same way we would answer it in 1900 at the onset of the twentieth? I don’t think so. So I’m a little worried about this. 

And if you look at church attendance among Millennials, it’s going down. We don’t want to judge, you know maybe they’re doing it their own way, maybe they’re reading scripture. But it is concerning because a church is a place we get discipled by others, and we need to submit ourselves to that. And I think that takes some humility and submission to what God is asking us to do. 

I’m worried a little bit about the future. Now the digital age gives us a lot of interesting ways to consume church in ways that we couldn’t fifty years ago. That might be a good thing. If you’re traveling, you can watch a church sermon on TV or you can listen to a podcast from your pastor. Those are good things, but I do worry about the breaking up of that routine of coming together on Sunday. 

You know, I’m not sure what the answer to your question is, but I don’t see convergence, in terms that we’re uniting around certain core principles. I actually see the opposite, which is that when we don’t like something in a church, we just start a new denomination. Instead, what would the alternative have been fifty or seventy years ago? We fix it in the church; the church doesn’t disband. 

It’s easier to do that now, and becomes confusing for Christians especially for people who are new Christians. Where do I go to church? How do I even know how to decipher what a Baptist church offers and a Presbyterian and a Lutheran—I’ve got them all in my neighborhood. How do I know what they mean? That’s a harder thing to know, and it’s very individual to the church. So I think that might be a concerning trend.  

(Watch this part of the interview here.)

Loving Your Family

Question: As a parent/professor, how do you face this assault on truth?

AB: Yeah, as a parent, this assault on truth—I’m going to answer it two ways, as a parent but also as a professor—it’s just astounding, the thought control, the desire to limit a dialogue. I mean, if we’re going to get to truth, we’re going to have to dialogue this exactly. I keep going back to Novac, but this is what he was talking about. A culture in which we can ask real questions and you’re not shot down for asking the question—and this is the world we live in today.

As a mom, this is terrifying. I send my children to private school. We’re very blessed that we can do that at a Christian private school. I have many friends who are homeschooling their children as a way to get around this. What makes me sad is that it’s very hard to send your kids to private school, it’s very hard to homeschool because it’s hard to compete with free. So all of the resources at the local level are dedicated to these public schools and private schools have a hard time competing. And think about parents who are making the sacrificial choice to homeschool. They’re giving up, in many cases, one parent not working because that’s your full-time job, so it’s a very expensive thing to do. 

But I don’t want my children to be exposed to someone else’s perception of truth in a dogmatic way that they are not permitted to question. And I think, by the way, that this is possible in the private schools too! You’re never away from it. I think what we have to do with our children is to teach them to seek truth that’s grounded in scripture. 

As a professor, I’ll just say that it’s terrifying what’s going on in college classrooms. I have a part of my syllabus now that is explicitly addressed to academic freedom. And in that paragraph I talk about how we are going to question our beliefs to their core. That’s what it means to seek truth and that’s what it means to be a learner. If you’re offended because you hear an idea but you’re not willing to investigate whether that idea is true or not, you’re never going to learn. So I think there’s a real reason to be concerned about the culture. 

(Watch this part of the interview here.)

Loving Yourself

Question: What is self-interest?

AB: Self-interest is one of the most misunderstood concepts among everybody. It’s confusing because it sounds like we’re being greedy. Self-interest is just the way that you choose. In fact, God created you to be self-interested. What does it mean? It means you’re trying to live in the things that benefit you. Here’s the distinction: it benefits you to make Christ the center of all your decisions. That’s in your self-interest. But that means you have to constrain yourself. You have to say no to things. You can’t indulge every whim. And so, self-interest is not about unmitigated greed. It’s about what’s the filter of your choices. When Christ is the center of our self-interest, our self-interest has great benefits. 

(Watch this part of the interview here.)

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