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Aug 07, 2009

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Peter+

I've often thought the same kind of obscurantism that fundamentalists fall into regarding the question of origins rears its ugly head when mainline and emerging pastors and theologians discuss economics. The same person who would be shocked at the unscientific approach of the creationist has never taken time to understand even the rudimentary lessons of the modern science of economics.

Looking forward to your series!!

Rick McGinniss

Michael,

I just finished reading"Money, Greed & God." I can't believe how many lines per page are now highlighted in yellow or pink. Not having been trained in economics (my background before seminary was Math and Computer Science), I was astounded at the inherent (divine?) wisdom of the free-market system. Rodney Stark's "How the West Was Won" is next on my list and I suspect I will come to a similar conclusion. Plus I keep reading this blog which also prods me in the same direction. :-)

However, a question keeps nagging at me that perhaps you will address in this series:

So what?

Not "so what" in the sense of "what economic policies seem to have the greatest chance of producing the greatest good and allowing the greatest number of people to experience more of the biblical vision of shalom?" but "what does this mean to a pastor of a local church? What am I to do with this kind of information as it pertains to my congregation?"

At this point, it makes for a lot of very interesting conversation with my family, staff and a few skeptics, but as to the practical day-to-day value in the life of people in my congregation, I'm having trouble connecting the dots. (I think I see an application at a denominational level, where I assume part of the task is to speak in a prophetic voice to "the powers" and influence public policy.)

About the best I can come up with is "change people's worldview about economic issues so they don't fall for the ineffectiveness of socialism or any other -ism." The most obvious practical individual application of that seems to be "how people vote" but is there more? I think I see some relationship to how people look at work, too, but that could come off as "take your place as a cog in the machinery that produces wealth."

I hope this post doesn't sound smart-alecky or like I am asking you to change the direction of your series. I'm just a little perplexed over what to do with all of this (beyond shaking my head at the current direction of economic policy in our country).

Thanks

Michael W. Kruse

Crimanitlies! Those pesky pastors always thinking there should be something practical in all this. :-)

Seriously, your concern is a legitimate one. As I come to the end of this series I expect to get to some practical application pieces.

For now I'll say that I think the most critical thing is that it gives us a lens that shapes the way we see ourselves and our work ... sometimes in ways so subtle it may not be apparent to us. The challenge is to get a handle on the lens but also to be cognizant of other lens we frequently encounter that distort our vision and avoid them.

When we come to see ourselves as co-regents with God over creation it forms us spiritually ... we come to see our daily labors as part of God's mission in the world. We also come to see the importance of the work others do and it shapes how we minister to them.

More later.

John Lunn

As an economist and a Christian, I have thought and read on the subject. I am also working on a long-term project on why theologians don't like markets. One part of the work was published in the JOURNAL OF RELIGIOUS ETHICS in the December 2007 issue. (Co-authored with Peter J. Hill of Wheaton College.)
It is also the case that many theologians don't like markets and don't like modern economics. As noted in the original post above, economics came out of the Enlightenment and everything about the Enlightenment is suspect in our post-modern age. Also, economics is too individualistic, too narrow, and so on. I have been working on a second article and a book-length treatment, but the current economic and financial crisis has diverted me. I plan on returning to the theologians/economics question in another year or so. Hopefully the crisis will be over by then but I doubt theologians will have accepted markets by then.

Michael W. Kruse

John, I neither an economist nor a theologian. Just someone who sees the need for us to have good economic lens through which to view the world as we live our Christian discipleship. I'm certain I'm wading in way over my head.

Thanks for the heads up on your article! I'll drop by a local seminary on Monday and check it out. It sounds like it is directly addressing my concerns. I look forward to learning more about your work on the topic.

Rev. Edwin Bernard

A question a friend recently asked...

Q: Why did God create economist?

A: To make weather forecasters look good.

Rev. Edwin Bernard

As a retired CPA and retired pastor I appreciate your insights. A lot of food for thought here. Thanks for your thoughts.

Michael W. Kruse

"A: To make weather forecasters look good."

But how can you say that when economists have correctly predicted 9 of the last 5 recessions? :-)

Thanks.

Josh Rowley

In think the commenter above who connected the divide between economists and theologians to the postmodern critique of the Enlightenment is on to something.

I would add, though, that there is an earlier challenge to modern Western economics as well--namely, the radical ecclesiology of the New Testament. How does a Christian theologian square the economic practices described in the book of Acts with contemporary capitalism and consumerism?

Michael W. Kruse

Josh, you are anticipating where this series is going. I'll get to that.

amarsay@mweb.co.za

I am an economist and theologian (Reformed evangelical) and get on with myself quite well thanks!

'Austrian' economics - when not applied ad absurdum - is reasonably consistent with much in conservative theology.

And wasn't economics' original name ' moral philosophy'?

I have to think theologically every day in my (main) profession which is the application of economic principles to infrastructure investment prioritisation.

Andrew Marsay, Johannesburg, South Africa

Michael W. Kruse

"I am an economist and theologian (Reformed evangelical) and get on with myself quite well thanks!"

LOL. You are not alone. We just need more of you available to the general public. :-)

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