Graceful Marketing in a Broken World
Religion & Liberty Online

Graceful Marketing in a Broken World

In his reflections on art and common grace, Abraham Kuyper affirmed that “the world of beauty that does in fact exist can have originated nowhere else than in the creation of God. The world of beauty was thus conceived by God, determined by his decree, called into being by him, and is maintained by him.” Beauty is, in this deep sense, a creational good, and even though beauty is often pressed into the service of evil, beauty, like all good things, is a creation of God.

During last week’s symposium at Calvin College on common grace and business, Dr. Vahagn Asatryan of Redeemer University College presented on marketing and common grace. To open his paper, Dr. Asatryan used this advertisement. Be sure to watch to the end and pay special attention to the message at the conclusion of the commercial:
Asatryan noted the deep beauty of the story told in this piece, and yet ultimately it depicts a situation that conflicts with God’s will for human social life. In the old days it was referred to as “living in sin.” What might a marketing piece that is more affirming of God’s common grace as reflected in his will for the human institution of marriage look like?

I submit that two simple changes would be all that are needed to reform this advertisement. The couple could have been depicted wearing wedding rings, and the message at the end could have been “Happy Anniversary.” The basic message of the piece, which emphasizes love, intimacy, devotion, and loyalty, would have remained unchanged. And yet these alterations would have transformed the piece into something that more powerfully and even more beautifully affirms the goodness of one of God’s institutions for social life, specifically of marriage and family life as the foundational social unit. When beauty is joined with the good and the true, the result is multiplicative.

Asatryan’s presentation, which included a call for Christians to think more deeply and creatively about how to engage in something as mundane as marketing in a way that brings grace to a broken world, was one of the highlights of this wonderful event. A selection of the papers presented at the conference will be appearing in a theme issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality next spring.

Jordan J. Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is director of research at the Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy, an initiative of the First Liberty Institute. He has previously held research positions at the Acton Institute and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and has authored multiple books, including a forthcoming introduction to the public theology of Abraham Kuyper. Working with Lexham Press, he served as a general editor for the 12 volume Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology series, and his research can be found in publications including Journal of Markets & Morality, Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Faith & Economics, and Calvin Theological Journal. He is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary and the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity & Politics at Calvin University.