GOD IS AT WORK: TRANSFORMING PEOPLE AND NATIONS THROUGH BUSINESS
by Ken Eldred
Book Review by Jeremiah Koshal, Ph.D – Former Research Fellow, RCE
A nation’s culture determines its economic success. In his book, God is at work: Transforming people and nations through business,Ken Eldred points out the cardinal role that culture plays before a nation can ever witness economic prosperity. He posits that the most fundamental need for developing nations is not an infusion of capital, a higher level of education, a democratic government or even a robust form of capitalism, but rather a real and meaningful cultural change. A cultural change involves a transformation of core values, beliefs, attitudes and practices. For any clear economic, political and social transformation to take place there must be a change of fundamental values and beliefs.One of such great catalysts of holistic transformation is a cultural makeover grounded in the Bible, which is often needed for a nation to build its spiritual capital. Spiritual capital is exhibited when a nation demonstrates a long pattern of being truthful, of following the rule of law, and treating others with fairness. A cultural makeover that conforms to Biblical values is also the basis from which a society will produce a more just, fair, free and honest political system. Spiritual capital goes beyond moral precepts to include a much higher calling.Cultures in which Biblical values are ingrained grow spiritual capital and establish the environment for successful commerce while those that do not reflect the same values fail to grow spiritual capital. Societies marked by chaos, dishonesty, poor work ethics or distrust need cultural reforms to pave the way for better commerce. As illustrated by the crippling corruption in Russia and elsewhere, promoting capitalism alone without the moral-cultural values (spiritual capital) necessary for its success is like building a house on sand.It is not by chance that democratic capitalism flourished first and foremost in countries with a strong Judeo-Christian worldview. In the United States, for instance, the founders and citizens set the country on a path that resulted in much spiritual capital accruing to the nation’s account. The faith of Great Britain also comes into play as far as successful capitalism is concerned. It is further noted that almost every economically developed nation has a history steeped in Judeo-Christian culture. With the exception of Japan and Hong Kong, every nation at the top of the GDP per capita list has a long Christian tradition.
Interestingly, it has been observed that the Japanese Shinto-Buddhist culture shares some key values with Christians that lead to business success. Honesty, trust, commitment and order are Japanese cultural traits that are highly important to successful capitalism. In key aspects, Japan’s moral-cultural fabric includes biblical values and provides confirmation of the connection between culture and economic development.
Transformation of culture really starts with the individual. A transformed individual will bring his/her new beliefs, values and attitudes to bear on the economic and political systems and will begin to influence the collective culture. For instance, the infiltration of the Biblical culture began to take roots in South Korea in the 1950s with the influx of Western missionaries. But it took several years for the impact to be felt in every sector – social, cultural, political and economic.
Dr. Jeremiah Koshal is Research Fellow at RCE. Dr. Koshal came to Regent University from his native country of Kenya in the spring of 1999. Being passionate about enterprise development, he planned to pursue an MBA degree then return to Kenya. Following the completion of the MBA program, Koshal felt the call of God to pursue a leadership degree in order to be able to teach, and undertake leadership training and development in Kenya and Africa – a continent that is currently ravaged by poor and egoistic leaders. While pursuing his Ph.D. in organizational leadership, Koshal also served as a Ph.D. fellow at the School Business – mainly doing research and teaching assistance.