The size of the economic resource pool
do our beginning assumptions about the nature of markets and labor
influence our particular theorization of it? Henry
Krabbendam has a very interesting and challenging definition of economics
that calls into question some of the classical views of mercantilism and
is stipulated . . . from a biblical perspective as a science that
assesses and prioritizes the various human needs and aims at a
disciplined, focused mode of administering a potential abundance of
resources to meet them. Admittedly,
this definition runs counter to the usual one that calls for economics
to concern itself with satisfying unlimited wants by means of limited
2. The impact of the Bible on the science of
to Ian Smith, the three main views regarding the relationship between the
Bible and descriptive economics include:
Autonomy: “[The Bible has] nothing to contribute directly to the
understanding of modern economies. There
is a gulf between specialized theory and the biblical witness.[. . .] The
implication for the Christian economist in his or her professional
capacity is that Christian witness does not manifest itself in the
economic analysis but rather in the excellence of personal conduct and
Interdependence: “[I]f it can be demonstrated that ethical
considerations pervade economic analysis, then there is clearly scope for
biblical values to shape economic descriptions.”
Christian Economic Analysis: “Biblically derived institutional norms
not only show us how we are meant to live--how institutions such as the
state, the family, the corporation, and the financial system should be
shaped--but also provide a way of understanding
pathological economic outcomes.”
suggests, then, three broadly differing approaches:
“The extreme version argues that the biblical revelation is of little
(even indirect) relevance for economic life, beyond personal
responsibility not to steal from the taxman and to respect private
property.[. . .] The more moderate and less privatized position would
accept the importance of biblical injunctions in their application to
economic life but construe them in rather general terms.”
“For those who desire to pay closer attention to the guidelines of the
biblical material, an approach based on a systematic formulation of
derivative social principles (or middle axioms) commends itself.”
“The critique of the thematic method forms a starting point for the
theonomic approach that turns to the Old Testament law, at least those
aspects that deal with social institutions, as a normative socio-political
model for contemporary society.”
What do you think about
claim? Is he on to something? Should we begin by assuming an abundance
of resources rather than a limited pool of them? Why or why not?
how does our view of the relation between biblical authority and modern
economic theory shape our willingness to draw on biblical ideas?
- How might a broad biblical pattern of creation-fall-redemption help us to
think about capitalism and economic development and justice? Would it
suggest one approach more than the other two?
Declaration on Christian Faith and Economics
“From God and through God and to God are all things.
For its continuing existence creation is dependent on God. [. . .]
God has entrusted the earth to human beings to be responsible for it on
God’s behalf. They should
work as God’s stewards in the creative, faithful management of the
world. [. . .] Non-human creation was not made exclusively for human
beings. [. . .] Since human beings are created in the image of God for
community and not simply as isolated individuals, they are to exercise
dominion in a way that is responsible to the needs of the total human
family, including future generations.”
Rhythm of Work and Leisure: “The
sequence of work and rest that we see in God’s activity is a pattern for
human beings. . . . .The Sabbath erects a fence around human productive activity and
serves to protect both human and non-human creation.
Human beings have, therefore, both a right and an obligation to
SOURCE: The U.S.
Bishops' Pastoral Letter
“All work has a threefold moral significance.
First, it is a principal way that people exercise the distinctive
human capacity for self-expression and self-realization.
Second, it is the ordinary way for human beings to fulfill their
material needs. Finally, work
enables people to contribute to the well-being of the larger community.[.
. .] Commitment to the public good and not simply the private good of
their firms is at the heart of what it means to call their work a vocation
and not simply a career or a job.[. . .] Support of private ownership does
not mean that anyone has the right to unlimited accumulation of wealth.[.
. .] For this reason it is all the more significant that the teachings of
the church insist that government
has a moral function: protecting human rights and securing basic justice
for all members of the commonwealth.”
A Theology of the Corporation (Michael Novak)
The Character of Economic Activity:
“The Creator locked great riches in nature, riches to be discovered
only gradually through human effort.”
“The corporation mirrors God’s presence also in its liberty, by
which I mean independence from the state. “
and Mortality: “As products of human liberty, corporations rise and
fall, live and die. One
does not have in them a lasting home—or even an immortal enemy.”
Motive: “Corporations, as the very word suggests, are not
individualistic in their conception, or in their purposes. [. . .] The
fundamental intention of the system from the beginning has been the
wealth of all humanity.”
Character: “The corporation is inherently and in its essence
corporate. The very word
suggests communal non-individual, many acting together.[. . .]
Corporations depend on the emergence of an infrastructure in
intellectual life that makes possible new forms of communal
“Constantly teams of persons meet to brainstorm and world out common
strategies. Insight is the chief resource of any corporation, and
there cannot be too much of it. Its scarcity is called and
Risk of Liberty and Election: “A corporation faces liberty and
election; it is part of its romance to do so.”
Declaration on Christian Faith and Economics
The thoughtlessness, greed, and violence of sinful human beings have
damaged God’s good creation and produced a variety of ecological
problems and conflicts.[. . .] Humanity has constantly been confronted by
the two challenges of selfish individualism, which neglects human
community, and rigid collectivism, which stifles human freedom.
Christians and others have often pointed out both danger.[. . .]
Economic production results from the stewardship of the earth which God
assigned to humanity. While
materialism, injustice, and greed are in fundamental conflict with the
teaching of the whole scripture, there is nothing in Christian faith that
suggests that the production of new goods and services is undesirable.
Technology's Need for an Ethical End: “Technology mirrors the basic paradox of the
sinfulness and goodness of human nature.[. . . ] What is technologically
possible is not necessarily morally permissible.
We must not allow technological development to follow its own inner
logic, but must direct it to serve moral ends.”
SOURCE: The U.S.
Bishops' Pastoral Letter
Love and Solidarity: The commandments to love God
with all one's heart and to love one's neighbor as oneself are the heart
and soul of Christian morality.
calls for fundamental fairness in all agreements and exchanges between
individuals or private social groups.
requires that the allocation of income, wealth and power in society be
evaluated in light of its effects on persons whose basic material needs
implies that persons have an obligation to be active and productive
participants in the life of society and that society has a duty to enable
them to participate in this way.
“Basic justice demands the establishment of
minimum levels of participation in the life of the human community for all
persons.[. . .] The common good demands justice for all, the protection of
the human rights of all.”
“The obligation to provide justice for all means
that the poor have the single most urgent economic claim on the conscience
of the nation. [. . .] The "option for the poor," therefore, is
not an adversarial slogan that pits one group or class against another.”
fulfillment of the basic needs of the poor is of the highest priority.
active participation in economic life by those who are presently excluded
or vulnerable is a high social priority.
investment of wealth, talent and human energy should be specially directed
to benefit those who are poor or economically insecure.
and social policies as well as the organization of the work world should
be continually evaluated in light of their impact on the strength and
stability of family life.
Profit and Justice
should be concerned with human needs rather than wants, though not all
wants are necessarily dangerous. Do the products by which the company
earns a living promote and answer true needs and healthy wants in its
the same time, we need economic realism. We should recognize what
motivates the average person in a fallen world.
the company’s pursuit of profit impact the environment in a
hazardous manner? (Recognize the need for some social trade-off.)
profit pursuit respect workers’ rights to a fair wage, safe working
conditions, a fulfilling, engaged environment, periods of rest, etc?
that pursuit of profit if couched within the above concerns can be an
expression of God-given creativity, liberty, insight, etc.
the same time, recognize the ways that profit pursuit and company life
can violate God’s standards for social life and community.
must be some concern for justice and care for the poor. This ought to
be more than simple welfare, but should be educational and restorative
in its intents, enabling people to be productive and creative.
Smith, Ian. "God and Economics." God
and Culture. Eds. D.A. Carson and John D. Wobridge, Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1993. 162-179.
ed. Stackhouse, Max, et al. On Moral
Business: Classical and Contemporary Resources for Ethics in Economic Life.
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995.