Economic Shalom: A Reformed Primer on Faith, Work, and Human Flourishing by John Bolt is now available from Christian’s Library Press. Intended to raise questions and create discussion, Bolt explains the Reformed perspective on stewardship, property, capital, and morality. Economic Shalom explores a variety of issues, including the human need for liberty, the challenge of consumerism, concerns about fairness and justice, and evangelicalism’s mixed history in applying Christian compassion in politics and economics. Bolt notes that there is
a real challenge for Christians living in our democratic, capitalist, socio-economic-political order. The market is ubiquitous and rather overwhelming and, in good measure, its very neutrality strikes us as a moral problem. For starters, Reformed Christians are especially wary of designing something as “neutral.” Abraham Kuyper’s famous line about Christ owning every “square inch” does not fit well with the notion of leaving alone such a huge arena of human activity as the economy and calling it “neutral.” To clarify, I am not suggesting that specific actions by participants in the market–entrepreneurs, inventors, and consumers–are beyond religious concern or morality. All participants in the market should be governed by a moral compass with a view to serving a moral purpose. Consider here a parallel with eating. There are moral rights and wrongs with respect to food; there is sin (gluttony) and there is worship (whether you eat or drink…do all to the glory of God,” 1 Cor. 10:31) There higher (or lower!) purposes, however, are not intrinsic to the acts of eating and drinking as such. They arise out of our religious-spiritual-moral nature as God’s image bearers. Am I making too much of this distinction? Some might even suggest that i am, in fact, in error when I keep speaking of the market as basically neutral reality and warning against expecting anything eschatological from it. No, they say, we need to see our economies restructured in such a way that they more and more reflect the values of the kingdom of God where, for example, there are no poor.
Economic Shalom is a thoughtful, carefully argued treatise in defense of ordered liberty. Bolt provides a rare combination of deep theological reflection and sound economic thinking in his analysis of the world of work, social structures, and political economy. I recommend this title to anyone who wants an articulate integration of the Christian faith, coupled with an excellent understanding of economic reality.
John Bolt is professor of systematic theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he has taught for more than twenty years. The primer is the fourth in a series of faith, work, and economics titles from CLP. The others are:
- Flourishing Churches and Communities: A Pentecostal Primer on Faith, Work, and Economics for Spirit-Empowered Discipleship
- Flourishing Faith: A Baptist Primer on Work, Economics, and Civic Stewardship
- How God Makes the World a Better Place: A Wesleyan Primer on Faith, Work and Economic Transformation