Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Economy of Grace

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Economy of Grace

Article excerpt

Economy of Grace. By Kathryn Tanner. Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 2005. xiii + 158 pp. $16.00 (paper).

With her newest book, Kathryn Tanner joins the growing ranks of theological responses to what popular culture calls "economy." Making it unmistakably clear for Christians today that they live in an economic system that is incompatible with their faith practice, Tanner outlines an "economy of grace" in stark contrast with orthodox capitalist assumptions. The book's three chapters discuss the characteristics of this "economy of grace," formulate alternatives to the present financial system, and imagine what it might look like to put those into place. Tanner proposes that all goods turn on the hinge of money as either what brings money or what money buys, while in Christian history the state of grace and one's economic status have often been intricately linked. Her account focuses on the matter of grace (God's creating and redeeming action in the world) and money (material wealth and success) (p. 5). The most helpful formulation of her claim that "money means grace" (p. 6) is that "Grace has everything to do with money because in grace money finds its greatest challenger and most obstreperous critic" (p. 29). Tanner's "economy of grace" aims to allow for "maximum contrast between economic principles the world follows and those involved in the Christian story" (p. xi). Thus it is shaped by principles of "unconditional giving" (p. 63), "universal giving" (p. 72), and "non-competitive" economic relations (p. 75), where "goods circulate without self-sacrifice and for the benefit of others" (p. 31).

In this welcome book, Tanner helpfully advances current theological conversations on economy, gift, and grace on several counts. Elegantly side-stepping current obsessions to conceive of gifts as devoid of intention, of reciprocity, and as anti-economic, she argues that far from "forbidding a return, God graciously accepts back the gifts of that proper response" (p. 71). This "proper return for God's giving is not so much directed back to God as directed" towards creatures (p. 69). Admirably, Tanner manages to provide a comprehensive discussion of such complex issues as Lockean ideas of property, wages, welfare, transnational finance, and money markets, as well as a critique of the Bretton Woods institutions. Her method includes a Weberian analysis but is perhaps most comparable with Cobb and Daly's 1989 For the Common Good, updating and enlarging it with discussions of financial markets, wage structures, welfare, and the interdependences of transnational production. …

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