Bebbington Quadrilateral, Gnosticism, and The Quadruple Bottom Line

Have I told you lately how much I enjoy retirement? I mean, I am working a little bit, I am playing a lot of golf, but I am also voraciously reading. I love to read and think. Some would say I am not a very good thinker, but I am, to the best of my ability, trying to think things through according to my worldview.

As a business manager who cares about stewardship and the efficient use resources, I love discussing those topics with anyone who wants to listen. I had breakfast Wednesday with a very good friend and we both agreed that the most important resource is our people. How we lead them is critical to the success of the organization. This is why I think the Quadruple Bottom-Line is so important. I have previously written about this but would like to reinforce why I think it is important for those of us who believe and follow Jesus Christ to adhere to the quadruple bottom-line.

Although there are many versions of this concept, I adhere to the following: Providence, People, Planet, and Profit. I thought about calling this the 4P’s, but that would be confusing due to marketing theory. The question is what do each of these words mean? I’d like to define the word providence first, and then give an illustration from the Bebbington Quadrilateral.

The definition of providence encompasses one thing, “the foreseeing care and guidance of God.” If I think this is true then it should guide how I run my business, or how I manage the organization I am responsible for. Another way we could look at the word is “a prudent management of resources.” I find that very interesting. As a Christian I think it is critical for me to properly manage resources in a prudent manner, because it is the right thing to do as I live out faith in my life. You see I have been saved by grace. As a result, God is working in me to do good works. How I run my business is a part of those good works. How I view the world is a result of my philosophy being aligned with Biblicism, Crucicentrism, Conversionism, and Activism.

Obviously, my leading my organization in a godly manner is part of my activism. Activism is about doing good and creating a better world. However, if my motive is to create just a better world then I am missing the most important part. You see, my willingness to run my organization well is a result of my faith in God that has grown due to my understanding of God’s word the Bible. So, the Bible is central to my life. What is also central is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and His resurrection. Without either of those Christianity is worthless. However, if I run my business well, but never care about the eternal destination of the people I come in contact with, then I am doing less than required. Don’t worry, I don’t think I as a manager should put pressure on my employees to “get saved,” but I will live my life in a manner where they know what is important to me. And I will be constantly praying for each of them.

Most views on the Quadruple Bottom-line will have eternity, or providence, as the fourth part of the bottom-line. I think it should be first. All or our actions come out of that very important relationship. We do because we first are. Then we can take care of our people, our planet, and properly use the profit that we are entrusted with. Providence must be first to provide the best motivation for the other three P’s and stay away from modern Gnosticism.

Mark Sayers in his wonderful book, “Disappearing Church,” gives a great illustration how in this post-Christian era that many are retreating from providence to a modern expression of Gnosticism. What he calls contemporary Gnosticism is described as extreme individualism where you find victory over a life that is inferior and mundane, and personally growing past a strong Christian view, to one of spirituality. Subsequently one moves to “fulfillment” by deconstructing the past, leaving traditional Christianity, and creating your own sense of belief. In the table where Sayers compares contemporary Gnosticism with the Gospel, he states “it is all about you.” This is why I think providence should be first. It is not about me, it is about God first, and then His work in me, leading to activism.

I believe that business, especially business-as-mission, can create positive social change. If we as believers use a philosophy and a quadruple bottom-line worldview we can ensure the world is a better place.

And that is my thought for the day!

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