Positively Positivism

I’ve just returned from an accounting course for non-financial managers at SMU. Whew. That was more math than I’ve done in the last ten years. It was a great course with lots of interesting people: lawyers, salesmen, headhunters, executives.

Now, there is an idea out there called “positivism.” Positivism is the notion that everything in the world can be measured, analyzed, and examined on a rational basis. Accounting is positivism to the nth degree. You take a bunch of measurements, analyze them against other measurements, and use those ratios to make business decisions.

The only problem is that positivism only gets us so far.

Don’t get me wrong – accounting is crucial. Churches and businesses need well-trained accountants to understand our cash flows and budgets and investments. The issue is when accounting (measuring, analyzing, examining) becomes the question, answer, and solution.

See, accounting (and positivism for that matter) only takes us so far. Sure, in the Kingdom of God we measure, analyze, and examine our resources – but a spreadsheet can’t tell us everything we need to know. Prayer, worship, liturgy, spirituality; these are the meat and potatoes of the Christian faith.

Positivism – our ravenous post-Enlightenment appetite for measurement and dissection – creates in us hearts of stone.

So yeah, I’ll use what I learned in my accounting course. But a spreadsheet is just a tool, not an answer.

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