Acton Institute Powerblog

Economists and Clergy

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Tyler Cowen fielded an interesting topic on his blog last week, focusing on economists who are (or were) clergy.

There’s an interesting list, including notables like the Salamancans, Paul Heyne, and Heinrich Pesch. I didn’t realize that Kirzner is a rabbi. Malthus is named first, but as the initial comment on Cowen’s post notes, anytime you mention Malthus you should mention Anders Chydenius in the following breath.

How about Edmund Opitz of the Foundation for Economic Education, or even Rodger Charles, S.J., or James Schall? It depends largely on how narrowly you define being an “economist,” of course, as the inclusion of the Salamancan theologians indicates. Being a moral theologian who focuses on ethics and economics might not be enough to qualify. Does being a political philosopher/political economist count? But certainly A. M. C. Waterman should be noted.

And of course it also depends on how narrowly you define “clergy.” As Asher Meir notes in the post, how about non-ordained academic theologians, or economists with theological training (or theologians with economic training)? Then the list would start to get very long, indeed.

Any other names come to mind?

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • Do clergy who were once economists count? If so, then Bulgakov could be added.

    • Once an economist, always an economist?

    • HV Observer

      I didn’t know this — the author of “The Master and Margarita” and “The Heart of a Dog” was also an economist?

      • The Bulgakov I have in mind is Sergei Bulgakov (1871-1944), who began his career as a Marxist economist, moved away from Marxist materialism and toward more traditional Christianity through German idealism, served in the Second Duma as a representative of the Christian Socialist party and later, in 1918, ordained an Orthodox priest and later exiled from the Soviet Union with hundreds of other Russian intellectuals in 1922. His theological work remains influential and controversial to this day.

        I believe you have in mind the Soviet writer and playwright Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940), author, as you note, of ‘The Master and Margarita’ and ‘The Heart of a Dog.’ An understandable mistake. I do not know whether he was an economist or clergy.

  • Shawn Ritenour

    Francis Wayland a Baptist pastor and theologian wrote his ELEMENTS OF POLITICAL ECONOMY. There is also, of course, the Rev. Thomas Malthus. John McVikar was an Episcopal priest who taught political economy at Columbia college for forty years. Alonzo Potter, an important Episcopal bishop, authored POLITICAL ECONOMY. He taught at the University of Pennsylvania from 1836 to 1855.

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  • bmac6446

    Although Gary North wouldn’t be considered “clergy” he at least has contributed immensely by the work he has done in Christian based economics. He has quite an impressive tower of written essays, books and articles.