Academic journal article Journal of Markets & Morality

Applying Judeo-Christian Principles to Contemporary Economic Issues

Academic journal article Journal of Markets & Morality

Applying Judeo-Christian Principles to Contemporary Economic Issues

Article excerpt

That Christian Scripture, the social teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, and other Christian theological systems contain transhistorical normative principles intended for application to contemporary socioeconomic life is a common claim. An instance of this approach is illustrated by a selection of Protestant economists. They argue that particular principles can be derived from scriptural exegesis intended to guide the organization of employment in advanced capitalist economies. The methodology employed in this undertaking is demonstrated. The second section takes the form of an elaborate Bible study. It utilizes the work of biblical exegetes to show how the economists in question deduce a particular normative principle intended to inform the organization of business firms. The third section discusses how this principle might be applied in the advanced capitalist economy. The methodology underlying the entire enterprise has been criticized, and the validity of the critique is assessed in the final section.

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Gregory Gronbacher canvasses the enduring question whether "such a thing as Christian economics" could exist. (1) He is optimistic that an affirmative answer in personalism can be provided, even though its construction is still unfolding. Gronbacher evaluates previous attempts to develop forms of Christian-based economic analysis. He reviews Roman Catholic-influenced distributism; new deal(ism); solidarism and liberation theology; and Protestant antecedents in Luther via Reinhold Niebuhr, in Calvin via Abraham Kuyper, and in John Wesley. This article describes another related contemporary process that has been used by particular economists and theologians in the quest to develop Christian-based modes of economic analysis.

The approach has been described by a variety of Catholics and Protestants and involves the application of normative principles contained in the Judeo-Christian thought system to contemporary economic phenomena. Thus, Marcelo Sorondo, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, seeks "to demonstrate that the Gospel and the social doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church ... contain those essential principles ... which no economy, if it wants to be a good economy, can forget." (2) This is similar to theologian, Scott Rae who also advocates "seeking from Scripture general principles or norms that govern economic life and can be applied to different economic arrangements." (3) Evangelical economist, John Stapleford, defends the approach in proposing "the 'application of biblical precepts and insights to the study of economics' ... to a range of economic concepts and issues." (4) This article reviews an example of work by selected Christian economists who have used these procedures. They investigate the relevance of particular behavioral principles, norms, precepts, themes, intentions, purposes, and ethics from scriptural interpretation to contemporary economic life. In the second section of this article, an illustration is given of the methodology employed by these economists in deriving a particular general principle from Judeo-Christian Scripture that, in their view, can be applied to current economic matters in the advanced capitalist economy. The third section shows how these economists relate the given principle to a contemporary economic issue, while section four evaluates the approach. The methodology implied in the views cited above has been assailed, and this critique is assessed in the fourth section.

Deriving Judeo-Christian Economic Principles

This section explains the methodology that the selected Christian economists have employed in deriving Judeo-Christian principles allegedly applicable to the specific area of contemporary economic life in question. Only one example area is discussed to permit detailed consideration. The area concentrates on economists who have asserted the pertinence of given Judeo-Christian principles to the contemporary organization of, and generation of opportunities for, paid employment in business firms in advanced Western capitalist countries. …

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