I am an avid and serious reader. I often chose topics that I want to learn more about and collect books that will give me a rudimentary start on my education.

After leaving a nonprofit I led for seven years I found myself in a fish out of water situation. I was no longer “in ministry” which is saying something to those who are. You can get so wrapped up in being in full time ministry that you convince yourself that anything outside of full time ministry isn’t ministry at all.

I found myself in a secular job again. I was no longer serving God in full time. I was gasping for air and flopping around on dry land hoping that I would somehow make it back to the soothing waters of ministry.

God in His providence kept me from returning to full time ministry. So I have been on a quest to find out what ministry looks like for me now. On my quest I remembered how the Puritans equated God’s calling with vocation/career, and considered that calling to be a persons ministry.

It did not matter if you were called to be a shoemaker, a hair dresser, a lawyer or a home maker. You were called by God, and your calling was your full time ministry.

I somehow stumbled across the book, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism by R.H. Tawney. In this book Tawney discusses the beliefs of Luther, Calvin, and the Puritans as it relates to social theory, and economics.

I was impressed to find a book that discussed aspects of Christianity, was a challenging read and written in the 20th century. I have often had to go back a 100 years to find that rare combination in Christian writing.

This is a book that I would have to read again to gain a true understanding of the text, but in my limited grasp of the text I did learn more about the beliefs of major sects of Christianity and was inspired to read more about these subjects.

Books like this can help us learn historical contexts of Christianity and how they affected the world around them. We have the opportunity to be exposed to old, but new concepts to us, of how Christians lived out their lives, affected change, and the development of the world as we know it.

Some key concepts that I picked up from the text include:

  • Modern social theory vs. the church.
  • How the church separated from being the end all to a separate compartment.
  • Social theories of Luther, Calvin and the Puritans.
  • Calvin: I learned more about Calvin here then in any previous book. There was more to him then just a few controversial doctrines.
  • The role of the Church of England in economics.
  • A medieval background of capitalism and religion.
  • Puritans and individualism.

I think it is apt to highlight a few quotes that might give you a taste of Tawney.

“A spiritual aristocrat, who sacrificed fraternity to liberty, he drew from his idealization of personal responsibility a theory of individual rights, which secularized and generalized, was to be among the most potent explosives that the world has known.” (pg. 230)

“Puritanism became a potent force in preparing the way for the commercial civilization which finally triumphed at the Revolution.” (pg. 232)

Religion and the Rise of Capitalism is a book that needs read and re-read to grasp the monumental amount of ideas and concepts. I would recommend this book to anyone desiring a challenging Christian read, wanting to learn more about the history of the church and capitalism, and anyone interested in social theory.

Marcy Pedersen

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