Tuesday, June 28, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: "Doing Virtuous Business" wanders away from theology into philosophy

"Doing Virtuous Business" is a book written by Theodore Roosevelt Malloch (published by Thomas Nelson) that does an admirable job of defending the virtues of a capitalist economy and society, but fails as a Christian apologetic for conducting business from the resource of spiritual capital.

Malloch works at defining what he calls "spiritual entrepreneurship" and the value of building "spiritual capital" and conducting business from a plethora of essential virtues (both "hard" and "soft") he describes in detail.

The premise of the book is stated simply by the author: "For years, I've paid close attention to something that fascinates me --- the ability of people with religious faith and spiritual commitment to make great successes of their businesses. Success comes to them, I believe, because faith changes business for the better, just as it changes lives." He also writes, "Without faith or hope, humankind simply exploits the natural world and leaves it weakened, threatened, and very much at risk."

Good thoughts, and ones he strives to substantiate. The problem is that Malloch's contention that he's making a Christian argument for doing virtuous business falls apart quickly when he states: "I write as a committed Christian, but what I say does not reflect a narrow or specifically sectarian Christian theology. Throughout the book I draw examples of virtue and spiritual enterprise from other faiths, and I heartily believe that spiritual enterprise is often conducted from Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and other perspectives, and that every religion and spiritual tradition offers blueprints for building spiritual capital in its own distinctive way," and in his last chapter before the conclusion he writes, "This book has admittedly been written from a Christian perspective, although in recognition that the gift of faith has been granted in other forms and through other channels."

With those and other such statements, I must disagree with Malloch on a biblical basis: the book wasn't written from a solely "Christian perspective." Malloch's work is a philosophy of business that is informed from his spiritual beliefs, but his view that "the gift of faith" comes through "... other forms and through other channels..." is not a Christian view. Jesus Christ gave us great clarity about Christianity with these simple words of His: "Jesus told him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me'," John 14:6

From his view that any religion can be a source of spiritual capital, Malloch provides examples of how business leaders have succeeded in doing virtuous business from a variety of religions. As a means of introducing the story of Rumi Verjee, a Muslim businessman, Malloch begins by writing, "Nor are the spiritual virtues a monopoly of the Christian faith." He then tells Verjee's story and adds, "In everything thereafter, he felt himself guided by a higher power, to whom he prayed and in whom he trusted. Thanks to his faith, Verjee never lost hope that he would be able to reverse the disasters that had befallen him and his family."

It seems Malloch believes a Muslim praying to Allah is the same as a Christian praying to the one, true God. How, then, can Malloch claim he has presented an argument for doing virtuous business from a Christian perspective? Malloch muddles the word "spiritual" by leaving the reader to constantly question whether he means real Christian "spirituality" or the "spirituality" of the world that does not lead to Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation.

In the case of "Doing Virtuous Business," Malloch is a capable defender of capitalism, but not of Christianity. My concern for young Christians considering this book is the potential to be misled by concepts of "spirituality" that are not biblical. Otherwise, you may enjoy Malloch's capacity to de-bunk politically liberal arguments against capitalism.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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