Divine Economy: Theology and the Market

Divine Economy: Theology and the Market

Divine Economy: Theology and the Market

Divine Economy: Theology and the Market

Synopsis

What has theology to do with economics? They are both sciences of human action, but have traditionally been treated as very separate disciplines. Divine Economy is the first book to address the need for an active dialogue between the two.D. Stephen Long traces three strategies which have been used to bring theology to bear on economic questions: the dominant twentieth-century tradition, of Weber's fact-value distinction; an emergent tradition based on Marxist social analysis; and a residual tradition that draws on an ancient understanding of a functional economy. He concludes that the latter approach shows the greatest promise because it refuses to subordinate theological knowledge to autonomous social-scientific research. Divine Economy will be welcomed by those with an interest in how theology can inform economic debate.

Excerpt

Let me begin with a confession. I am a theologian; I am no economist and I make no pretense to be one. In fact, when I became interested in the question of the relationship between theology and economics I structured my study of the discipline of economics according to a theological method. Christian theology can adequately be done only through the application of an historical method. It assumes an original revelation, given to the apostles, that we can designate, for want of a better description, ‘the Christ event’ (Karl Barth). This original event is given completely to and in history and then is diachronically passed on through its non-identical repetition in and through the church.

This does not assume that theology tries to uncover some original event ‘behind’ history through critical methods. It neither denies that the Word is present today; nor assumes that the past needs to be reconstructed to have access to the Word. It does privilege the apostolic witness, recognizing that the church produces this witness (although never through its own power alone), bears witness to it, and authorizes it. And thus theology is always situated in history, ‘fleshing out’ the apostolic witness, passing it on from generation to generation through hearing, speech, and practice. Such traditioning is no more passive than is tapping one’s foot to a beautiful melody. As Barth put it, hearing itself is ‘self-determination, act and decision.’ Theology critically assesses the historical performance of that passing on, but—and this is what makes theology so arduous and so suspect—all critical sources for evaluation will also be mediated through that historical performance itself. Theologians have no neutral, objective, and universal standpoint outside of the tradition from which to assess the performance of its transmission: we theologians are ourselves part of this performance.

For better or worse, when I began to study the relationship between theology and economics I applied these assumptions to the question under investigation. To try answering the question of how the disciplines of theology and economics are, and should, be related, I began by studying the economists’ own original revolutionary event—Adam Smith—and then tracing the historical traditioning of that event through the philosophical

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