While I am grateful for the helpful contribution of Aryeh Spero’s editorial in the Wall Street Journal (“What the Bible Teaches about Capitalism”), it actually highlights the difficulty of the task of developing a Biblical theology of economics.
For example, Spero provides several quotes from the Bible (which is the only valid foundation for any theology of economics), yet the quotes are short paraphrases without any citation. This broad-brush approach is helpful in general, but the hard work of theology requires specific quotation and careful exegesis (exegesis is a word theologians use for explaining or interpreting a text).
Spero also appropriately asserts, “the Bible is not a business-school manual.” Unfortunately, he continues to state that the Bible “has nothing to say about financial instruments and models such as private equity, hedge funds or other forms of monetary capitalization.” In one sense, this is strictly true because these words do not appear in the biblical text. Nevertheless, wisdom allows us to understand principles from an ancient context in the Bible and how these can be properly applied in analogous modern contexts. For example, “insider trading” is a form of stealing and “cooking the books” is a form of lying, and the biblical position is crystal clear on lying and stealing (see Colossians 3:9 Exodus 20:15).
Finally, Spero confines himself to the Old Testament based on his Jewish background. We can be grateful for his contribution yet go on to mine the rich text of the New Testament in building a theology of economics. The gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ is the most important message of all time. It undoubtedly affects all spheres of life, especially the human interaction inherent in free markets.
This editorial highlights the challenge of the task, gentle reader, but the goal of this blog over time is to take part in (and facilitate) a dialogue to develop a Biblical theology of economics that will serve Christian businessmen and the local church around the world.
Part 1 of 2