Acton Institute Powerblog

Wealth creation and the Reformed confessional tradition

I have been working as part of the Moral Markets project for the past couple of years, and as the formal end of the project looms, some of the outputs of the project are coming to fruition. This includes a recent article that I co-authored, “The Moral Status of Wealth Creation in Early-Modern Reformed Confessions.”

This piece appears as part of a special issue of Reformation & Renaissance Review co-edited by Wim Decock and Andrew M. McGinnis on the theme, “Interconfessional Dialogues in Early-Modern Ethics and Economics.”

In our piece, van der Kooi and I examine the teachings of a variety of Reformed confessional documents on the 8th commandment, “Do not steal.” A typical Reformed approach to the commandments is to look at both the negative prohibitions as well as the positive duties enjoined for each commandment. When we look at the teachings of more famous texts like the Heidelberg Catechism as well as the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms as well as other confessional documents, we find “that while there are indeed restrictions, and even sharp warnings against vices such as envy and greed, the Reformed confessions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries surveyed here present a positive view of wealth creation in the context of Christian morality.”

There are a number of details of interest we discovered as we explored these texts. This includes, for example, a list and exposition of virtues that one of the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism, Zacharius Ursinus, discusses as part the 8th commandment: (1) commutative justice, (2) contentment, (3) fidelity, (4) liberality, (5) hospitality, (6) parsimony, and (7) frugality.

The whole article is available to read via Open Access.

Jordan J. Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is director of research at the Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy, an initiative of the First Liberty Institute. He has previously held research positions at the Acton Institute and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and has authored multiple books, including a forthcoming introduction to the public theology of Abraham Kuyper. Working with Lexham Press, he served as a general editor for the 12 volume Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology series, and his research can be found in publications including Journal of Markets & Morality, Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Faith & Economics, and Calvin Theological Journal. He is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary and the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity & Politics at Calvin University.