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Part 1 in a series on Entrepreneurship

In the beginning, God created…

- Genesis 1:1

Editor’s note: today we introduce Dr. Brian Baugus, a new contributor to the IFWE blog. He is an assistant professor of economics at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and a visiting professor of the African Bible University in Kampala, Uganda. Dr. Baugus will post will post periodically about entrepreneurship and economics from a biblical perspective. 

Throughout the history of Christianity a sort of Christian hierarchy of accepted vocations emerged. At the top are those that answered “the call,” such as missionaries and others in full time church employment.

Somewhere near the bottom has traditionally been the merchant class, businessmen as we call them today. As the Barna Group found in a survey it conducted this year,

…few Christians believe they’re called to do what they do. This data presents a challenge to the popular Christian understanding of career as calling since most Christians in the U.S. don’t seem to be thinking about their jobs in terms of calling.

This is consistent with historical Christianity. During the larger part of Christian history a number of commercial activities were prohibited or at least discouraged by church teachings. Martin Luther wrote against foreign trade and trading in what he termed things that “serve no useful purpose” in his 1524 tract On Trading and Usury.

We still see vestiges of this thinking in the seminaries as this report from the Acton Institute found. Undoubtedly this is carrying over into the pulpits. This is wrong, and we need a better understanding of what entrepreneurship is and what entrepreneurs do.

Entrepreneurs are creators. The creative process is often something we celebrate. Christians can look at great art, like the Sistine Chapel or the Last Supper, and marvel at the beauty and creativity of the art (which we should). But we often completely miss the creative act required to start and successfully operate a commercial enterprise.

Entrepreneurs are creative people. They are often as passionate as artists about what they are doing, but also have to serve people passionately. There is a stereotypical characterization of the starving artist creating only to please himself. While this is a romantic notion of artists with only the barest hint of realism, we do not have the same notion of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs must be sure they are doing one thing: their creation must serve their fellow man or they are no longer entrepreneurs.

The entrepreneurial process requires a lot from a person. It requires them to:

1. Look at the world and see an unmet need, an area of dissatisfaction, or a problem.

2. Visualize a solution, often a solution others disparage and ridicule. In many cases the solution requires a completely different approach, something no one else could see, like a vision that there could be a mass market for wireless hand held phones or computers in every home. Few saw that life would be that much better with such devices. Within living memory, this stuff was science fiction.

I am not saying that entrepreneurs are closer to God in some way because they are entrepreneurs. But the entrepreneurial process requires certain Christian traits, and is enabled by our being made in God’s image.

To create something truly useful we must create like God did, for others. It serves his purpose to have a world and people and a universe, so he created it, but it is largely for our benefit and us. In Genesis 1:27-30 God tells Adam and Eve he has given them creation for substinence and cultivation. God reiterates this to Noah in Genesis 9:1-3.

The same is true of an entrepreneur. To create something lasting and of value the enterprise must serve others, give them value, make life more enjoyable and easier in some way. An entrepreneur that creates purely for himself has a hobby, not a business. He is indulging his interests, not looking to serve his fellow man by making life better in some way.

The first thing the Bible tells us about God is that he is a creator. “In the beginning God created…”. The above picture shows a hand creating the world, a world that is artistically beautiful but also a system designed to work and function. We cannot tell for sure if the hand is holding the paintbrush of an artist or the pencil of an architect. Both forms of creation are in his nature and ours, and we should embrace them both, and celebrate a successful business just as we do a beautiful work of art.

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Dr. Brian Baugus

About Dr. Brian Baugus

Brian Baugus is an assistant professor of economics at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Dr. Baugus is also a visiting professor of the African Bible University in Kampala, Uganda. He holds a doctorate and masters in economics from George Mason University, and MBA in finance from Vanderbilt University and a BA in economics from McDaniel College. He has worked in banking, consulting and government.

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  • Dan Burke

    While it is true that we are in God’s image, our creativity is dependent and derived from His. It is hard for me to think of God as an entrepreneur since entrepreneurial activity implies risk, which implies imperfect knowledge.

    • Brian Baugus

      Hi Dan – Thanks for your comment. I agree that human entrepreneurship requires risk and that is certainly
      due to our imperfect knowledge. But that does not diminish the fact that
      there is a creative aspect to entrepreneurship, indeed it is a vital
      part. This creativity comes from the fact that we are created in the
      image of a Creator. Like everything below, our creative impulses are an
      imperfect reflection of his and can be thoroughly corrupted by sin. Our
      knowledge is limited and his is not, but there is creation both above and below
      and the creative impulse is the key and in that sense it seems that God is an
      entrepreneur. – Brian

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