Bahnsen addresses concept of ‘good life’ in new book

By Carrie Brown McWhorter
The Alabama Baptist

What is the “good life”?

David Bahnsen, author of the new book “Crisis of Responsibility: Our Cultural Addiction to Blame and How You Can Cure It,” believes the answer lies not in material prosperity but in the soul.

“This concept of the good life is a reference to the kind of existence we can have on earth, on this side of heaven, by being in a loving relationship with God and in obedience to Him,” Bahnsen said in a recent interview with The Alabama Baptist. “When we’re faithful and obedient, we please God and it brings blessings to ourselves.”

Bahnsen, who is the managing partner of The Bahnsen Group of HighTower Advisors, oversees more than $1 billion of capital. He is a frequent guest on Fox Business and CNBC and has been recognized as one of the top advisers in the country by Barron’s, Financial Times, Forbes and others.

Bahnsen also is the son of the late Greg Bahnsen, an Orthodox Presbyterian minister, theologian and apologist known for his debates with prominent atheists in the early 1990s.

Bahnsen’s faith, especially as he discusses the concept of work, underlies the message of “Crisis of Responsibility.”

“God created us to be productive,” he said. “From creation, he told Adam and Eve they were created in the image of God to go and cultivate and steward. He was giving man this overwhelmingly important calling.”

The crisis, as he sees it, is that people today want to be consumers but don’t want to work. The result is a culture of blame that indicts the big institutions of society, including Wall Street and the government.

“There’s a huge category of folks, in my opinion, that have been fiscally responsible, who are good participants in civic society, and yet are still likely to blame big Wall Street for what is plaguing the economy or big government for hampering our freedoms.”

Bahnsen wants readers to think before casting blame, to “maybe pause next time and instead of blaming some impersonal force, to be able to recognize they’re individual actors that need to take better responsibility.”

‘Be a prophetic voice’

There is also a large segment of Americans who “want better economic opportunities but refuse to show up for a job interview or fail drug tests that are conditions for employment,” Bahnsen said. That’s a problem the Church can and should address.

“The Church needs to be a prophetic voice in stating this behavior is unacceptable for grown adults,” he said. “The need of the hour is to preach what we practice.

“Most people who feel content in the present context of society, those who have certain behaviors, actions, attitudes and characteristics, including a stable family, those people are least likely to say to others ‘this is what you need to be doing.’ People who have created this healthy environment seem unwilling to share with those that are in need of the message,” Bahnsen said.

That should change, he believes, as should the practice of what he calls “nonjudgmentalism.”

“There is this idea that perfectly judgeable behavior that is doing such damage to people should not be condemned,” he said.

He advocates a different approach.

“I don’t mean the obvious aspect of cruelly and harshly judging individuals hypocritically and unlovingly, but sternly judging the behavior. The behavior is awful, but what is worse is coddling of bad behavior. The problem is not the 35-year-old playing video games in his mom’s basement, it’s the fact that he doesn’t feel any shame in doing so.”

Cultural issues

Generally, Bahnsen said, “I would lovingly indict the overall Church in America for being unwilling to lead and too often willing to follow” when it comes to cultural issues like broken families and taking responsibility.

Recognizing that the problems he sees were not created overnight, Bahnsen says they won’t be corrected overnight.

But they won’t be corrected at all if individuals fail to put away the victimhood mentality and take responsibility for their lives.

“Our approach must be a both/and — dealing with shortcomings in policy and also addressing the overwhelming need for greater initiative, self-reliance and responsibility.”