On January 29th, 2014, Gordon College economics professor Stephen Smith, who recently published “Economic Growth: Unleashing the Potential of Human Flourishing,” traveled to Houghton College to offer a chapel lecture and facilitate a pair of classroom discussions. Accompanying him was Tyler Castle, V&C’s development associate, who met with Houghton students leading Houghton’s “Two Views” V&C mini-grant project, in partnership with the campus newspaper.
More than 800 students attended a campus-wide chapel service. Dr. Smith’s address—entitled, “Does God care about wealth?”—drew out insights from Deuteronomy 8 and Proverbs 8, describing wealth as part of our service to God, and an expression of our God-given creative abilities. God intends for us to flourish, to accumulate material wealth, and to steward these resources wisely, Smith said. According to the biblical vision of flourishing presented in Proverbs, this is an invitation to all those with ears to hear.
Later in the day, Prof. Smith visited Prof. Robert Black’s class on “Money, Banking, and Financial Markets” for a Q&A session. Topics of discussion ranged from the minimum wage to globalization to the social safety net. Smith then gave a public lecture to 60 students, asking: “Is economic growth moral?”
Prof. Smith spoke transparently about growing up in Hong Kong in the 1950s, which today finds itself in a vastly different economic category, thanks to immense economic growth. Having transitioned from grinding poverty to prosperity in just a half-century, Hong Kong provides a compelling illustration for what is possible in our world. Smith argued that if you care about serving the poor, about the environment, and about global income distribution, you must care about economic growth.
Smith and Castle also met with students and several professors over two meals, filled with robust discussion about the themes raised by these talks.