Acton Institute Powerblog

Orthodoxy and Economic Liberty

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In the most recent issue of The City, I have an essay on Orthodoxy and ordered liberty. I argue that Orthodox theological anthropology, which distinguishes between the image and likeness of God and two forms of freedom corresponding to them, fits well with the classical understanding of ordered liberty.

In particular, I examine these freedoms with regards to the family, religious liberty, political liberty, and economic liberty, arguing that the Orthodox ascetic tradition has much to offer to modern Christian social thought with regards to how best to order the freedom we have by virtue of being created after the image of God toward that freedom from passion and sin that finds its fulfillment in the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Of interest to our readers here, with regards to economic liberty, I write,

We are created with a capacity for freedom, autexousio, to be used for the purpose of the moral freedom of theosis: eleutheria. Thus, just as we ought to offer up our bodies as living sacrifices to God (cf. Romans 12:1), so also we are to offer up God’s creation to him through our labor. God has given us the earth in order “to tend and keep it” in a paradis[ai]cal state (Genesis 2:15). Thus, acknowledging … our propensity for failure, we nevertheless have a duty to make of God’s creation what we can, imitating the creativity of God and exercising the dominion he gave us (Genesis 1:26).

We must, then, have liberty in society to freely cultivate the resources of the earth for the sake of the higher good of self-sacrificing love. Helen Rhee affirms in Loving the Poor, Saving the Rich, her study of wealth and poverty in the early Church, the consistent patristic teaching of both the affirmation of private property rights and our moral duties to use our property for the good of others (what is known in the West as the “universal destination of goods”)….

You can read the full article online here.

And while you’re at it, take the time to subscribe to The City. It’s free and published in print and online three times a year. Subscribe here.

Dylan Pahman Dylan Pahman is a research fellow at the Acton Institute, where he serves as managing editor of the Journal of Markets & Morality. He earned his MTS in Historical Theology from Calvin Theological Seminary. In addition to his work as an editor, Dylan has authored several peer-reviewed articles, conference papers, essays, and one book: Foundations of a Free & Virtuous Society (Acton Institute, 2017). He has also lectured on a wide variety of topics, including Orthodox Christian social thought, the history of Christian monastic enterprise, the Reformed statesman and theologian Abraham Kuyper, and academic publishing, among others.


  • Alexander Mytnik

    I have yet to find one Orthodox thinker who is an advocate of capitalism and free market economy. Orthodox Church does not have a very good track record when it comes to issues such as liberty, individual rights, the rule of law. Moreover, for most of its history Orthodox Church has consistently supported and fostered statism and despotism. One has only to look at the state of affairs in countries where Eastern Orthodoxy has been the dominant religion. Its traditional model of church state relations is truly a disgrace and completely incompatible with a free society. The legacy of the Orthodox Church is not liberty. On the contrary, it is precisely “the Orthodox way” that helped pave the way for the arrival of the most bloodthirsty and inhumane regimes in human history.

    • Dylan Pahman

      Well, if you actually read my article that I linked to instead of just presumptuously commenting on this blog post, you’d at least see: 1) I’m Orthodox and in favor of economic liberty; 2) I’m well aware of the murky history of human rights in the Christian East; and 3) that history isn’t as universally terrible as you and others describe it. It also is not true that no Orthodox thinker favors economic liberty. For starters, you could look into the recent monograph by Fr. Michael Butler and economist Andrew Morriss, Creation and the Heart of Man, which, incidentally, I referenced in the article that you clearly didn’t read.

  • Dylan Pahman

    The “tens of millions of people killed and tortured” in the twentieth century were by atheist, anti-Christian, governments. Tens of millions of those killed were Orthodox as well as Eastern Catholic, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and others. Would you, by the same logic, impute the holocaust to Lutherans and German Catholics?

    Being ethnically Western makes one no less an Orthodox Christian. To suggest otherwise is racist, and I personally take offense to that. Being a member of the Orthodox Church makes one Orthodox; that’s all. I’m sorry you’ve had a terrible experience with the ROC—again, if you’d read my article you’d see that I criticized them for being too close to the state in Russia today and criticized the Westernizing reforms of Czar Peter the Great for literally making the Church subservient to the state. But instead you just commented out of ignorance.

    As for economic freedom in Orthodox countries, the Balkan states, Orthodox or otherwise, have almost all significantly improved since the Soviet era, though they have much more progress to make. Greece is still terrible. Your native Ukraine, according to the most recent Heritage Economic Freedom Index, is the worse than all of them, however. Should I impute that to something inherently wrong with all Ukrainians or Ukrainian Catholics or Orthodox or others there? Or might the situation be more complicated than that? Wouldn’t that be prejudiced and racist of me to do so? See

    As for *Eastern* Orthodox in support of the free market, what about Gheorghe Sava? “Although the Christian doctrine and the ethics of the free-market are
    promoting different moral messages, they are not incompatible in

    Or Irinej Dobrijevic, Serbian Bishop of Australia and New Zealand? “[I]n a democratic society, the aim of the Orthodox Churches should be
    beyond mere intervention in political and economic activities, but
    rather to be concerned with existential and humanitarian issues, by
    promoting the healthy development of an eclectic and equitable
    capitalist system with a human face.”

    Or are Romanians and Serbians not “Eastern” enough for you?

    If you want to find more, I suggest you put aside your prejudice and do some actual research yourself.

    • Alexander Mytnik

      No matter how hard you try to spin it, but Orthodox Church has never been a friend of liberty. Yes, tens of millions of people died, including Orthodox, because Orthodox Church, instead of advocating much needed reforms and helping build civil society was the handmaiden of the state, giving aid and comfort to the oppressive czarist regime which persecuted religious and ethnic minorinities while keeping millions of people in ignorance and poverty. When that regime fell, it was replaced by an even more oppressive totalitarian regime which turned against the old order which included the corrupt church addicted to government support. It is no accident of history that the most ruthless and inhumane ideology in human history took hold in Eastern Europe, especially in the Russian empire. Orthodox Church, the subservient handmaiden of despotism, completely failed in its mission. Its ideology of statism did an irreparable damage to the people of Eastern Europe relegating them to the status of surfs instead of free men and women, the consequences of which we can witness even today.

      As far as ROC MP is concerned, I do not know how anyone can call it a church. The Church of Jesus Christ does not publish calendars devoted to Joseph Stalin, one of the greatest mass murders in human history, and does not give medals of Honor and Glory III degree to the leader of the communist party of Russia for his contribution to “moral values”. The contribution of the communist party to “moral values” is well known. It is tens of millions of people murdered, starved and tortured. ROC MP is a disgraceful neo-Stalinist, caesaro-papist outlet, not a church.

      • Is the Orthodox Church, the “handmaiden of despotism,” sponsoring these Stepan Bandera demonstrations in Ukraine?

        Failure to slam neo-Nazis in Kiev sure sign something wrong with EU – Czech president

        PRAGUE, January 5. /TASS/. That the European Union has refrained from saying at least something critical about the recent torch-light street procession by neo-Nazis in Kiev is a sure sign some something is fundamentally wrong with the EU, Czech President Milos Zeman said on a local radio station. The procession and the way it had been prepared looked pretty much like Nazi parades in Hitler’s Germany before World War II.

        “Something is going wrong with Ukraine. On the Internet I saw a video of a crowd of several thousand demonstrating in Kiev’s Independence Square. They were carrying portraits of Stepan Bandera. I saw that portrait for the first time. He (Bandera) reminded me of Reinhard Heydrich (the chief of Nazi Germany’s main security office and acting Reich-Protector of Bohemia and Moravia – TASS),” Zeman said.

        Unease as an Opposition Party Stands Out in Ukraine’s Protests

        • Alexander Mytnik

          Stepan Bandera is not running Ukraine. As you know, he has been dead for quite some time now. In fact, the political party that most ardently promoted Stepan Bandera got only 1 percent of the vote at the last parliamentary elections. By the way, it was not Stepan Bandera who annexed a territory of another country, but Vlad Putin, self-described Orthodox Christian and a tyrant, the first person to do so since Adolf Hitler, and whose reign Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev called “a miricale from God”. But I understand why you are trying to change the subject. When it comes to liberty and human rights, the legacy of the statist Orthodox Church is so bad that even its most steadfast devotees cannot defend it.

          • You’re the one who introduced the history lesson, Mr Mytnik. All the way back to the czars, who have been dead for quite some time now. Now you want to say that Bandera is not running Ukraine. Technically correct. But his spirit lives there.

          • Alexander Mytnik

            “His spirit lives there.” What does it mean? I am originally from Kyiv. I have yet to see one monument to Bandera in Kyiv. Yet I have seen countless monuments and street names in Russia dedicated to the biggest mass murderers in human history.

          • Was the “the subservient handmaiden of despotism” i.e. the Orthodox Church behind the construction of this giant Bandera monument in Lviv? Was Patriarch Kirill the one who recommended plastering Bandera’s image on government buildings in Ukraine?



            From the Moscow Times:

            Russian officials wanting to deride Ukrainian nationalists refer to them as “banderovtsi” after Stepan Bandera, the Ukrainian nationalist leader who fought both Nazis and Soviets in the 1940s. For many Russians, Bandera’s brief alliance with Hitler’s Germany and the collusion of Ukrainian nationalists under his command in the killings of Jews makes him nothing more than a fascist traitor and an anti-Semite.

            But he is venerated in western Ukraine as a freedom fighter, and his image is displayed prominently on government buildings across the region.

            Bandera’s legacy played an important role in the uprising against ousted President Viktor Yanukovych. In one notable moment, nationalists paraded through the streets of Kiev carrying flaming torches on Jan. 1 — Bandera’s birthday. Lviv has a large statue of Bandera, which was unveiled despite opposition in 2007.


          • Alexander Mytnik

            I have noticed that you are citing TASS and Moscow Times as credible sources for your disinformation campaign in an attempt to change the subject away from the discussion about Orthodox Church. That alone speaks volumes about who you are, and it is not a conservative. Would you like me to remind you who ROCA and ROC MP collaborated with during that time? I also suggest that you watch this video.