Politics As Spiritual Formation

Politics as Spiritual Formation

This guest post is by Jeff Wright.

Political engagement shapes us. It forms us. Politics affect, not just our thoughts, but the inclinations of our heart. Political engagement is a type of spiritual formation.

I mean “politics” in the common sense as when someone says, “I hate politics.” “I enjoy watching my political shows on Sunday mornings.” “My grandfather and I always talk politics when we get together.” Politics, generally speaking, is that which deals with government, public policy, and things that affect the community as a whole.

Since most of us are not elected officials, politics is a spectator sport. It’s something we hear about in the news, listen to talk-show hosts discuss, or pay attention to when it’s time to vote for a president every four years. Political engagement is typically a passive affair. We pay attention to the more important issues of the day, form some sort of opinion on the matter, and hope that our side prevails.

Read More

Is Wealth a Sin?

Whenever statistics about inequality and the so-called “control of wealth” get published, the Progressive blogosphere goes wild and their social media statuses light up with indignant calls for concern for the poor in the face of “obvious injustice.” Since few people read beyond the headlines and summary paragraphs, and even fewer seek out alternative analyses of the data, the popular meme of “rich get richer, poor get poorer” pervades our world. It is a sad reality that few people think beyond their emotional responses.

Read More

Property & the Bible: A Response to Stoker (Part 2)

This article was jointly written by Doug Stuart and Jessica Hooker. See Part 1 here.

Elizabeth Stoker has argued against what she presumes to be the incompatibility of Christianity and libertarianism.  In our first post we examined the first of her three arguments. Here we begin to look at the subject of private property.

2.) Not only does the Bible indicate that God values private property, in it we see God’s desire to see property stewarded for its value to humanity. 

John Locke began his Second Treatise on Government with a comment on property:

“…we must consider what state all men are naturally in, and that is a state of perfect freedom to order their actions and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit…”

The idea of private property is fundamental to libertarian philosophy and is clearly supported in the Bible.  We find in the book of Exodus the laws God gave the people of Israel as they emerged from Egypt.  This covenant between God and the Israelites ordered justice in their community.  Part of that covenant and establishment of justice included property rights.  Exodus 22 deals solely with laws regarding property—both livestock and land—and also lists the restitution that is required if these laws are violated. While this may be an oversimplification, the concept of property rights was a part of God’s arrangement with Israel in ordering a just society. God expected them to share, yes, but how can one share what is not one’s own? Perhaps the phrase “stewardship rights” is more accurate a description than “property rights.” We each “own” something, which is to say, we are stewards of real property, and God has certain expectations of us.

Read More
Christian Anti-Capitalism

Christian Anti-Capitalism

Review of Daniel M. Bell Jr., The Economy of Desire: Christianity and Capitalism in a Postmodern World (Baker Academic, 2012), 224 pgs., paperback.

This is the sixth volume in the series The Church and Postmodern Culture, edited by James K. A. Smith. The series “features high-profile theorists in continental philosophy and contemporary theology writing for a broad, nonspecialist audience interested in the impact of postmodern theory on the faith and practice of the church.”

Although I am not the least bit interested in postmodern theory, I am very interested in the intersection of Christianity and economics or politics. Thus, the phrase “Christianity and Capitalism” in this book’s subtitle caught my eye. Nevertheless, I have never been more disappointed, or bored.

The author describes his work as “a contribution to the conversation about the relationship of Christianity to capitalism with a postmodern twist.” That twist is nothing short of pure Christian anti-capitalism, although of a very unique kind. You see, Daniel Bell, professor of theological ethics at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary and the author of several books, is not a socialist. He maintains that his book “changes the focus from capitalism versus socialism to capitalism versus the divine economy made present by Christ and witnessed to by the church.”

Fortunately, I didn’t have to read through the whole book to discover what the author meant by capitalism. He equates capitalism with the “free-market economy” because the name “highlights the centrality of the market.” This is well and good, and certainly makes it easier to understand where the author is coming from. Unfortunately, this is not the case for understanding Bell’s concept of the divine economy.

Read More