Category: Christian Social Thought

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Employer/employee relationships, in themselves, are not morally neutral, says Wayne Grudem, but are fundamentally good and pleasing to God because they provide many opportunities to imitate God’s character and so glorify him.

Employer/employee relationships provide many opportunities for glorifying God. On both sides of the transaction, we can imitate God, and he will take pleasure in us when he sees us showing honesty, fairness, trustworthiness, kindness, wisdom, and skill, and keeping our word regarding how much we promised to pay or what work we agreed to do. The employer/
employee relationship also gives opportunity to demonstrate proper exercise of authority and proper responses to authority, in imitation of the authority that has eternally existed between the Father and Son in the Trinity.

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Blog author: jcarter
Monday, September 22, 2014
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o-WOMEN-AT-WORK-facebook-1050x700.jpg.pagespeed.ce.PapYl9sXixChristians not only have a duty to work for virtue in their souls and the production of material goods in the world, writes Acton’ Dylan Pahman at Humane Pursuits, but also to encourage and enable others to fulfill this divine commandment.

One might object that locating our self-worth in our work, even if only in part, is misguided. Our American, capitalist culture is overworked and work-obsessed, or so the story goes. We work so much and overvalue it to the point that people who are not currently able to work feel ashamed.

Certainly, one can place too much value in a job. There is a grain of truth to that caution. But abuse does not negate use; overvaluing work does not justify undervaluing it. And the latter fails to acknowledge the dignity of work and those who could be workers.

It is a dignity, I would add, that is grounded in duty. The nineteenth-century Russian Orthodox philosopher Vladimir Solovyov argues that such a duty is part of the natural and God-given order to the world.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, September 18, 2014
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bible-studyMost Christians recognize that the Bible has lot to say about economic topics, such as money and poverty. Yet there is a paradoxical assumption, whether stated or unspoken, that these passages don’t speak to larger economic issues. Occasionally this is true, but more often than not, we can find principles from Scripture that can help us discern how we should think about matters related to economics.

Consider, for example, the issue of economic systems. The Bible doesn’t claim to favor any particular nation-based economic system, such as American-style capitalism or the old Soviet-style communism. But Scripture does seem to have a clear preference for the economic activities that underpin the free market. As David Kotter explains,
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Last week in Washington, D.C., AEI’s Values and Capitalism initiative hosted their inaugural Evangelical Leadership Summit. The summit was a nonpartisan conversation among leading evangelical writers, pastors, parachurch leaders, business executives, artists, and policymakers that focused on “concrete paths to enhancing human flourishing.”

Summit panels emphasized distinct contributions to human flourishing made by the church, universities, the arts, Christian relief-and-development organizations., local antipoverty initiatives, and more. Click each link below to watch a video of the panel sessions:
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AnomalyWith Lecrae’s Anomaly album claiming number the one spot on Billboard’s Top 200, the rapper has come under fire for his recent comments about the inconsistency of those who rightly protest police abuse yet do not protest forms of rap music that glorify violence in general. The critique comes, in part, because some people believe that to call blacks living on the margins of society to moral virtue, in the midst of their protests about injustice, is “blaming the victim.” However, when we pay close attention to the Judeo-Christian tradition, what Lecrae’s comments represent is a model of a prophetic witness, a witness that speaks the whole truth to error and sin.

Lecrae is a highly skilled and creative rapper whose music has developed in recent years to contain the type of poetry that we might find in the wisdom (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes) and prophetic (Isaiah, Amos) literature of the Bible. Lane Whitaker over at Billboard.com reports Lecrae’s comments on the Mike Brown killing in Ferguson, Missouri:
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Chelsen Vicari

Chelsen Vicari

If you’re familiar with the Acton Institute and with the discussions that take place here on the PowerBlog, you’ll know that Acton has had a lot to say about the Religious Left. (For instance, here’s an example from 2008 featuring Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico). This is to be expected, considering that the way we approach economics and society generally are often very different, and lead to very different ideas on how to build a stronger society and solve the problems that stand in the way of that process. But it seems fair to say that sometimes, these differences go beyond simple arguments over economics or policy disputes: there seem to be very real differences in the way the Christian Right and Left view the very faith that they claim to share.

On this edition of Radio Free Acton, Acton Communications Specialist and regular PowerBlog Contributor Sarah Stanley speaks with Chelsen Vicari, Evangelical Program Director at the Institute on Religion and Democracy, about her new book Distortion: How the New Christian Left is Twisting the Gospel and Damaging the Faith. You can listen to the podcast via the audio player below.

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, September 15, 2014
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slaveryThere is a near universal agreement that America’s experience with chattel slavery, where people are treated as the chattel or personal property of an owner and are bought and sold as if they were commodities, was one of our country’s gravest moral horrors. But some people seem to believe that the despicable institution aided the nation’s prosperity.

That’s not the case, explains economist Scott Sumner, who points out that countries with free labor tend to be more prosperous:

Between 1850 and 1880 the market value of slaves falls by just over 100% of GDP. And that decrease is almost precisely offset by a slightly more than 100% increase in capital (industrial and housing.) The total capital stock declines slightly in the Piketty graph, but that’s only because of a fall in the value of agricultural land, not capital.

Now here’s where mislabeling slaves as capital comes into the equation. At first glance it looks like America’s capital stock was unaffected by the abolition of slavery. But the actual capital stock rose by over 100% of GDP—an industrial revolution. If you insist on treating slaves as “capital” it doesn’t change the basic story. Because in that case a separate ledger of “labor resources” would have soared after 1865. Former slaves would now be classified as “labor,” and hence the labor stock would rise dramatically, even on a per capita basis. Either way, abolishing slavery made America a much more productive, and hence richer country.

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university-analysis-1To be a Christian requires, at a minimum, that a person subscribe to certain beliefs (such as that Jesus is God). For an organization to be labeled Christian would therefore imply that the members (or at least the leaders) also subscribe to certain beliefs. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) is, as the name implies, a Christian organization, so it isn’t surprising that it requires it leaders to subscribe to Christian beliefs.

Sadly, it’s also not surprising that some people are offended a Christian organization would expect its leaders to be Christians. That’s why it is not altogether unexpected (though still disconcerting) that California State University schools has “derecognized” IVCF. As Ed Stetzer says,
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Those of you in West Michigan with a taste for libertarian cinema may want to to join local restaurateur Tommy Brann for a special screening of “Atlas Shrugged 3: Who is John Galt?” Brann is hosting the showing at Celebration Cinema North at Knapp’s Corner tomorrow (Sept. 12) at 7 p.m. Tickets are $7.75 and email tombrann@branns.com to reserve your seat.

Before you go, read Rev. Robert A. Sirico’s essay “Who Really Was John Galt, Anyway?” published at Patheos.com in 2011. Also see the PowerBlog post and video from 2012 in which Rev. Sirico talks about Rand’s “false gospel.”

long-spoons“How can we explain this emporiophobia—a fear of markets—given the overwhelming evidence that such institutions provide the greatest wealth, health and happiness for humankind?” When economics professor Paul Rubin asked that question last December he answered by saying that we need to shift the metaphor of markets from “competition” to “cooperation.”

Cooperation isn’t just more important in the economic sphere—it’s also more common. We cooperate with everyone involved in making all the products we buy and sell, millions of people we’ll never know.

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This discussion may seem semantic, but words have meaning and power. People would feel much more favorably toward a “cooperative economy” than a “competitive economy.”

To emphasize the cooperative aspects of the market in order to provide a more accurate perspective requires that we apply new metaphors and symbols when explaining how markets work. A story I believe can be especially helpful is the “parable of the long spoons.” Caritas Internationalis created a video about the allegory that brilliantly emphasizes the utility of cooperation.
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