Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 3

One of the reason I appreciate Dr. Chad Brand and Tom Pratt's book Seeking the City is because they are writing as Christians seeking to write on the challenging issues of how the Christian gospel affects our views on politics, poverty, economics, and the political economy.  I have yet to come across a book that is as thorough and practical on the subject from an explicitly Christian worldview. No doubt Christians disagree on a range of issues, but in their introduction, the authors offer five points of agreement that most Christians ought to be able to find common ground. I offer them only in brief and elaborate only on a few.

1. A biblically informed economic outlook is essential for evangelical faith and social interaction. (27)

2. The Bible does not explicitly lay out a theory of economics and social justice. (27-28)*

I appreciate the authors word here. One common form of eisegesis regards political economy. If you are looking for a strict biblical defense of capitalism, Marxism, socialism, or Kensian economics in the pages of Scripture you will only find it if you force the issue. Yes the Bible defends private property in the Torah, but that does not automatically mean it is anti-socialist. Likewise, the selling and sharing of property among the first believers in Jerusalem does not make Christianity inherently Marxist. Such readings are simplistic.

It is important to respect the context of the biblical writings. The authors are not thinking in categories of the American Republican or the Marxism vs. free market capitalism dichotomy. Therefore, anytime one argues otherwise, we should be quick to note to ourselves we are witnessing eisegesis, not exegesis. Though the authors ultimately defend laissez faire economics, they are careful in their exegesis and avoid the all-too common errors of those who come to Scripture with an agenda rather than those who allow Scripture to shape their agenda.

3. Christians should be concerned about the poor, the helpless, and the oppressed.

4. A marketplace of commerce is necessary to the production of adequate wealth for access to it on a wide enough basis to reach all people. (29) 

5. American and Western materialistic/secularistic society are a frightening and challenging menace to biblical Christianity that must be confronted.

I will add the following. When we speak of economics and prosperity we must also keep in mind what the Bible has to say about wealth, riches, materialism, greed, power, covetousness, etc. At the same time, the Christian must guard against granting Caesar too much power. Both free market capitalists and socialists can be unbiblical extremes that the Christian must guard himself against. We neither trust unchecked human nature nor unchecked government power. We instead trust Christ.

* However, the authors state at the end of the introduction:
We believer that though the Bible does not spell out an economic or political philosophy as such, that a free-market system of economics accompanied by a political system that elevates human freedom classically conceived, is most consistent with the teaching of Scripture. We recognize that, since humans are sinners, a system of checks and balances in such a system will be necessary for its success and that the political structure should be concerned to provide an environment that promotes a maximum of equal opportunities for all. We believe that such convictions are implicit in Scripture and found their highest point of historical development in the founding and refounding of the American experiment. We further believe that this structure is under assault in our day and may not survive into the distant future. That is a main part of our concern. (38)

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Preface

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 3

For more:
"Flourishing Faith" by Chad Brand: A Review
Brand on Coveting and Classwarfare
The Secular vs the Sacred: Brand on the Influence of Luther
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