A Theology for Christian Stewardship

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A. Kantonen, Muhlenberg Press, 1956

I took some time to revisit an old friend recently. A Theology for Christian Stewardship by T. A. Kantonen was part of the bibliography for my doctoral research in the late 1980s. Published in 1956, it is a classic.

As I re-read the book, I was struck that all the stewardship principles I have learned over the course of more than 26 years of stewardship ministry are summarized here in a mid-twentieth century treatise. Those principles were all unpacked for me some thirty years ago in a concise but thorough exposition of biblical theology specific to the topic of stewardship.

Kantonen (1900-1993) was a Harvard-educated theologian who, at age three emigrated with his family from Finland to the United States. In a succinct manner, he lays a comprehensive foundation for Christian stewardship that has not been rivaled by more recent expositions.

From the fact that God is creator and owner to the concept of personal trusteeship, Kantonen lays the basic, biblical foundations we have all heard. But two insights were, for me, unique to this book.

When I first read the book as part of my research, I was struck by the thought that we are created in the image of a generous God. In order to fulfill the image that God has implanted in us, we must be generous. Kantonen sums it up best with the last sentence of chapter three: “Christian giving thus mirrors faithfully the image of God and the nature of Christian stewardship.”

My second reading revealed for me another concept that, when read earlier, did not have quite the same impact that it had this time. Kantonen correctly identifies the idea of stewards as trustees of God’s creation. But he takes it deeper by reminding readers that as children of God we are more than trustees: we are the heirs and are therefore caring for our own inheritance.

I could go on reminiscing about the reunion with an old friend. Better yet, I can wholeheartedly recommend A Theology for Christian Stewardship for anyone who desires to explore, in concise and complete form, the biblical theology calling us to our role as stewards.

Review by Marc L. Kirchoff, DMin, adjunct faculty member for the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving. He formerly served as director of development for The Foundation for Evangelism and as minister of grants and fundraising for the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky. He is a member of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center Resource Editorial Team.

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