The research notes of the Economic Wisdom Project (EWP) provide a valuable resource for anyone looking to explore the connections between the EWP’s 12 Elements and theology. Recently, we released a large collection of these notes for Elements 1-3 and Elements 4-6. This month, we’re releasing the notes on Elements 7-9, which you can download here. The notes for Elements 10-12 will be released soon.
“A Christian Vision for Flourishing Communities,” the EWP vision paper, asserts that its 12 Elements of Economic Wisdom are “grounded in biblical and theological learning” and “in organic continuity with historic Christian thought and practice” (p. 8). Exploring how the EWP connects with theology, biblical studies, and Christian history is one of the key tasks theological educators face in the Oikonomia Network. To assist writers and scholars who wish to explore those connections, we are conducting a research project providing notes, quotes, and references from 29 books on these topics.
The research to compile these notes was overseen by Scott Rae (Talbot School, Biola University) and Charlie Self (Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Evangel University). Like the Elements themselves, this is not a comprehensive overview or summary of everything the Bible has to say about economics, nor is it a work of systematic or constructive theology. Rather, this document uses the Elements as a starting point, and explores where they intersect with some important works in the traditional, theological disciplines.
To whet your appetite, here are a few of the hidden gems the research has unearthed. Items without quotation marks are paraphrases, not quotations from the source.
Element 7: Households, businesses, communities, and nations should support themselves by producing more than they consume.
Pope Leo XIII’s “Rerum Novarum” argues that working is the proper and necessary way by which a man supports his life and his family’s.
William Placher, ed., “Callings,” p. 369
Jesus does not seem to view profits as immoral since in the parable of the talents, he praised the servants who turned a profit. Jesus did not condemn usury or interest, but rather praises the servants who earned much from wise investments, while faulting the one who refused to at least earn some interest on the money. Jesus faulted the money-changers for where they conducted their business, and not for “the nature of the business itself.”
David Cowan, “Economic Parables,” p. 70 and 198
“Every economy that intends to progress must have as its motive the ability to get more out of the economic process that it puts in.”
Max Stackhouse, et. al., “On Moral Business,” p. 781
Element 8: A productive economy lifts people out of poverty and generally helps people flourish.
“In addition to ignoring the issues faced by businesspeople, seminaries offer little analysis of or appreciation for the moral roots of the modern corporation, the concept of business as a calling, or the multiple tasks that business performs for society and the common good. . . . For some in the academy, this may require a theological paradigm shift to recognize that business, even operating under a marketplace system of democratic capitalism, can be a source of social justice.”
David Miller, “God at Work,” p. 96-97 and 144
“Beyond just providing the opportunity to earn wages, business is also responsible for creating many ‘good jobs’ that offer challenge, opportunities for personal development and at least partially fulfill the human needs for achievement and community by providing the opportunity to use ingenuity, creativity and collaborate with others on tasks.”
Kenman Wong and Scott Rae, “Business for the Common Good,” p. 83
Element 9: The most effective way to turn around poverty, economic distress and injustice is expanding opportunity for people to develop and deploy their God-given productive potential in communities of exchange, especially through entrepreneurship.
In I and II Thessalonians, Paul clearly intends for all believers to earn their food through work, and to not become inappropriately dependent upon the charity of others. All who could work should work. I Thess. 4:12 shows Paul’s goals for this command: (1) to not be a burden to the Christian community; and (2) to win the respect of non-believers as they “see previous recipients of ‘welfare’ turning into industrious and productive citizens.” Christians today must ensure the genuinely needy do not suffer, and should ensure that as many people as possible work for their living.
Craig Blomberg, “Neither Poverty Nor Riches,” p. 179-182
Wesley challenged people to be entrepreneurial and hard-working. He taught living this way would lead to the accumulation of wealth which could in turn be used to help others. Wealth was not to be accumulated for its own sake and horded.
David Wright, et. al., “How God Makes the World a Better Place,” p. 58
Global capitalism and business can be a “powerful tool for good in the hands of God,” and is “one of the best hopes for addressing the problems of the world.” Creative, productive innovation can contribute to human flourishing and help redeem and restore broken relationships, oppression and injustice.
Jeff Van Duzer, “Why Business Matters to God – and What Still Needs to Be Fixed,” p. 9 and 152