“The Entrepreneurial Calling: Perspectives from Rahner” by the late William J. Toth of Seton Hall is an extraordinary theological reflection on the entrepreneurial vocation and the deeper significance of the entrepreneur’s hope, risk, and service to others. It was originally published as a chapter in Business as a Calling: Interdisciplinary Essays on the Meaning of Business from the Catholic Social Tradition (ed: Michael Naughton and Stephanie Rumpza).
A central concept for Toth was that of “providential love.” This idea combines anticipation of the future with a desire to create something of value for others. Entrepreneurs demonstrate providential love when they look forward, anticipate the future needs of others, and take risks based on what they think will be the response of others.
The entrepreneur intends to create part of the future but, at the same time, recognizes that success or failure will be determined by others who are free to accept or reject the offer made by the entrepreneur. The entrepreneurial response to this dependency on the free decisions of others is not to draw back and conserve wealth but rather to proceed with persistence and a willingness to change, trusting that the world is (or eventually will be) open to the creative change offered by the entrepreneur.
From the perspective of a practicing entrepreneur, an obvious objection is that on most days, our work seems more mundane than Toth’s description. Yes, we try to develop products and services that others will find worthwhile and often need to invest and sacrifice before we see the response. Still, as we do it, the work does not feel especially theological.
But that is beside the point. A theology of vocation needs to project a vision that identifies the deeper meaning of what we are doing so that we can begin to see the sacred and its potential realization in our day-to-day work lives. There is a deeper reality behind the mundane details of our work; Toth’s article helps us to see this reality and the deeper meaning of our entrepreneurial activities.
Also available: C.F.E. Chairman Rob Tribken wrote an article reviewing and commenting on the above chapter by William Toth that was originally published in the online Field Notes Magazine published by the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary.
(Some of this post was borrowed and adapted from the Field Notes Magazine article.)