Christianity and Economics

Bob Goudzwaard
Free University of Amsterdam
Amsterdam, Netherlands
The broad setting of this article is how Christians view economic life today. Two
aspects of this call for remark straight away:
• Views about economic life vary massively among Christians. These
views range from complete indifference to significant interest on the one
hand, and from complete acceptance to sometimes total rejection on the
• Most Christians seem to regard opinions about economic matters as a
private matter one holds such opinions as one!s own. They are not, or
are only very indirectly, related to the profession of Christian faith.
These two aspects are, of course, interrelated. "f Christians are not aware of any
direct connection between their faith and their perception of economic life, their opinions
will be very diverse, and any point of common orientation will be missed. #t the same
time, however, this observation raises intriguing $uestions:
• "s the %iblical revelation silent about economic life, and the way it
should be perceived&
• "f it is not, what e'planation is there for the strange opinion among
Christians that one(s views about economic life are a merely private
These $uestions are of great practical importance, including in the area of education.
)hat kind of curriculum should Christian schools use when dealing with economics and
socio*economic issues& Can e'isting economic te'tbooks be used without any problem, or
do we need a different approach& #nd what could possibly be said by Christian teachers
about this subject&

This is the te't of a lecture presented at a conference !,haping the Christian Mind!, in ,ydney,
#ustralia in -uly .//0 and published in Signposts of God's Liberating Kingdom, Vol.., "nstitute for
1eformational ,tudies, 2otchefstroom 3niversity, ,outh #frica, .//4, pp.55/*567. The te't has been edited
by ,arah 8ordham. 1eproduced by permission of the author
+ Bob Goudzwaard is 9meritus 2rofessor of 9conomics at the 8ree 3niversity of #msterdam, The
:etherlands. ;e was elected to the <utch 2arliament in the ./47!s. ;is books include Idols of Our Time
!hat does the Bible say about economic matters"
The answer to the first $uestion * whether the %ible has anything much to say on
economic matters * is, in my opinion, strongly in the affirmative. " have at least three
important arguments to support this.

a)The Old Testament
The @ld Testament gives a great deal of information on economic life through some
of the some clear statements of the prophets * for e'ample, on issues such as the needs of
the poor, the necessary care for the land, good wages for completed labour, and the use and
misuse of capital. :e't to that, the Torah includes in nuce a complete economic order,
giving the outline of a societal economic system, which has a very interesting consistency
all of its own. This consistency is focussed upon realiAing a number of purposes at the same
time. These are:
• a continuous care for the land and its inhabitants =achieved by the
institution of the ,abbath year?
• a structural prevention of lasting sharp differences in wealth and income
=achieved by the year of the -ubilee, and the prohibition of interest?
• the elimination of e'cessive forms of the growth of production and
income =achieved not only by the various feasts of sharing, but also by
the acceptance of rest * Sabbath * as the beginning and starting point of
all economic life, and by the perspective of shalom, leading to saturation
and fulfillment?
@ne could say, of course, that this economic system is outdated. %ut its principles
and purposes are not without implications for our present economic life.

b) The New Testament
The :ew Testament in several places introduces the concept of economy
=oikonomia?, always in the conte't of Bod!s calling to take good care of the household
=oikos). The household includes not only the land, but also those who are working on the
land and living from its fruits. The good steward (oikonomos) gives them their food in time.
This last prescription is what we would call !ethical!, but in the :ew Testament it is an
e'pression of !good economy!, of the responsible care for the householdC D9conomicD in the
:ew Testament is a word loaded with normativity, and that normativity is not just
DefficiencyD. Oikonomia is even related to the schaton, the 1eturn of the =Eand?lord, who
comes back to his own property, asking us, as stewards, to render account. # steward
(oikonomos) can therefore also fail or become disloyal, especially if he loses sight of the
,ee, for instance, the publications of #braham -oshua ;eschel about the remaining significance of
the ,abbath: The Sabbath! Its "eaning for "odern "an, 8arrar, :ew Fork ./>0.
interests of the landlord and his people
. There is also, in the words of -esus, an absolute
difference between the priorities of the Gingdom of Bod and those of the Gingdom of
Mammon. The difference is too strong to be ignored by any Christian.

c) A broad perspective
There is the ongoing confession in the %ible of economic life as belonging to the
fullness of the earth as part of the Eord!s creation. "n accordance with the Bospel of -ohn,
Chapter ., where Bod the 8ather speaks ;is creation into e'istence by ;is )ord =,on?
through ;is breath =the ;oly ,pirit?, we are therefore able to speak of this world as created
to #nswer the Triune Bod, and it is therefore endowed with an Danswer structureD =%ernard
Hijlstra?. This world is obviously created in such a way that everything in it is in one way or
another related to the multi*colored calling of mankind to answer this speaking Bod, in the
dialogue which we call human history. 9conomic endowments, natural resources, the
human labour potential, the possibility of technical inventions are therefore never given to
us to become a goal in themselves. They are destined to be in the service of:
• oikonomia # the careful administration of everything entrusted to us
• the preservation of life and the well being of all =think as well of the
use of power and se'uality, created by Bod not to be transformed by
us to goals in themselves. They, too, are also destined to become an
#nswer in our calling to do justice and to give love?
Christians should therefore always have a DdisclosedD view on all present social,
economic and political realities * following their Eord who was the )ord of Bod and the
#nswer to Bod in one person. %onhoeffer!s concept of the fore#last! das $orlet%te as
presented in his 9thics
is another way of saying the same thing. " love the emphasis here
that meaning in our daily social and economic life comes to us from Bod, not only via his
mandates in creation =#lpha? but also from the side of the Dlast thingsD =@mega? * the
9schaton being the end and fulfillment of history.

Conclusion# the role and influence of economic life
"n conclusion then, it is not true to say that the %ible is silent about economic life.
Christians who think and act as if this domain of their life is neutral, or that it belongs to the
private realm, or who reduce the %iblical message to no more than an urgent plea to work
hard, are simply holding an unbiblical opinion. ,o what then is the origin and background
of such a common attitude&
#n interesting addition in the :ew Testament is that in the case of abuse the failing steward is
praised because of his capacity or shrewdness to make friends under the debtors of his Eord he invests, as it
were, in their loyalty to give him shelter and support in the future. ="n Euke .0 the steward is able to do so by
removing the accumulated interest already given loans, so that the Eord cannot do anything against him.? The
economics of the Gingdom has many forms.
<ietrich %onhoeffer, thik =9thics?, written in ./6.. Chapter "V. 9'cerpts can he found in:
%onhoeffer #uswahl 6, Konseknen%en, ,iebenstern Taschenbuch, Munchen ./47.
;ere, in my opinion, we have to look primarily at the role and influence of
economic science, at economics as it is usually taught and as it has crept into the hearts and
minds of us all =even if we are not aware of it?. ,tandard economic science is built on a
very closed worldview, which upholds the dichotomy between faith and science in a highly
artificial way. 9conomics as we know it can even be seen as a direct offspring of
9nlightenment thought, which almost continually guaranteed a kind of scientific neutrality
for all sciences =along with the social sciences?, getting rid of all kinds of religious criti$ue
and other so*called normative or metaphysical DovertonesD. My point is that we have all
inherited that kind of scientific escapism in our bloodstream and mind.
This may be a sharp statement, even a kind of accusation, so it may be worthwhile
looking carefully at the reasons for it.

$he history of economic thou%ht
Eet us first take a $uick look at the history of economic thought itself. "n medieval
times economics was a kind of sub*division of 9thics, and so open to all types of normative
statements in the conte't of the well*being of the whole of human society. Thus we find
comments in, for instance, Thomas #$uinas! work about the correct wage for labour, the
good price * the so*called &ustum pretium * and the desirability of a prohibition of interest.
"n the time of the 1enaissance also economic thought was changing. "t substituted its
serviceability to the doctrine of the church for a submission to the goals of the courts and
the governments in order to realiAe the greatest possible accumulation of money =gold and
silver?. 9conomic thought, however, took a new turn at the beginning of modern capitalism,
around .447*.>I7. 8rom that moment, the goals of the study of Dpolitical economyD
became far less partisan. They were increasingly related to the desire to contribute to the
material well*being of the population as a whole. %ut even #dam ,mith, who wrote the
main book about this subject =his famous in$uiry into the causes of DThe )ealth of
:ationsD? did so as professor of social ethicsC ;e was therefore not afraid of making
economic judgments upon what in his learned opinion was DgoodD or necessary.
Fet in his work we also find the beginnings of another perspective. "t is the
approach which tries to frame or mould economic thought increasingly to the natural
sciences, with their admirable high standards of objectivity and measurement. This is
understandable, because not only had natural science in the .>th century already led to
fantastic new discoveries =:ewton was called Dthe light of the worldD, though he himself
was a humble Christian?, but it had also clearly shown that dealing with reality in
mechanical*mathematical terms was a powerful instrument, which could lead to the
formulation of important new scientific laws * laws which had never been found or could
never have been found in the conte't of a limited organic or just theological view on
reality. #dam ,mith is the first economist who tries to understand economic life
mechanically, as a functioning mechanism. #nd according to his friend <avid ;ume, the
result was e'cellent: in a lunatic(s eyes it seems that ,mith indeed invented society as a
machine, composed of autonomous individuals as its working parts, and with a market
DmechanismD as its unsurpassed core
. "n this way a new perspective was opened for
9conomics, which gradually became a type of real science as respectable, for instance, as
2hysics: a science built on its own scientific foundations, no longer dependent on insecure
subjective opinions or normative value*statements, but founded on the basis of
e'perimentally*found concrete laws =supply and demand? and secure measurement
=pricesC?. "n the J"J century, the mechanical worldview began indeed to dominate all
economic*theoretical reflections.
%ut an enormous problem soon posed itself. # stone always falls according to the
law of gravity, but a consumer will not always buy more if the market price goes down.
Consumers and producers are living beings, and therefore never fully predictable in what
they do. ;owever, the new concept of science asked for just those determinate results and
predictable outcomes, derived on the basis of objective measurementsC ,o what was to be
done& )as it necessary simply to forget that economics could ever just be a natural science,
but that it was and had to be a social science, more oriented to understanding than to a full
e'planation of human economic behavior& That, however, would have meant that value
judgments could still enter, and that the theory would not have been entirely free from the
influence of metaphysics or different kinds of religious beliefs. @r was it necessary to
maintain the so*called objectivity and neutrality of economics at all costs&
This decision is, and always has been, a choice which in itself is not value*free. 8or
here different views on humanity, society and theory clash with each other. The outcome of
the debate was that the so*called DpositiveD and mechanistic view prevailed over the
Dnormative D and more historical view. %ut this choice carried severe conse$uencesC
The blueprint for a solution dictated that that if determinate outcomes are to be
attained, with objective laws in economic thought in every case and at all costs, a solution
must be found for the insecurity and whimsicalities of human behavior as such. @nly two
possibilities are available. The first is to internali%e securit', and the second is to
e(ternali%e insecurit'. Fou either have to make your theory immune to insecure outcomes,
by presupposing a type of human being who is predictable and secure in all that he or she is
doing =so internaliAing security and determinateness in your theory?, or you have to build
up a type of economic theory, in which everything which causes insecurity or
indeterminateness is removed from your own scientific domain =so to say e'ternaliAed? by
declaring it to be of a non*economic nature * as an issue properly studied by other sciences,
or merely subject to probability*calculus.
The first possibility was chosen by -ohn ,tuart Mill =.>66?, who invented the homo
economicus: the man who is always looking for the highest profits, the lowest prices, the
ma'imum utility. ;e is secure and predictable and so, therefore, are the conse$uences of
his actions. The theory now becomes determinate again * but the problem is that economic
reality itself can easily escape from your theoryC 8or if people act differently from the
homo economicus, and they often do, then the theory has nothing to say.
,ee the "ntroduction by #ndrew ,kinner in the 2elican edition of #dam ,mith, The )ealth of
:ations, ./47:.5
,o we see that economic theory, especially around .>47, began to follow the other
line. "t is the line of the e'ternaliAation =elimination? of all forms and types of insecurity. #
so*called Dcircle of dataD is invented, a whole series of Dgiven factorsD for the economist.
<ata is no longer De'plainedD, but accepted as given starting points for every economic
analysis. To this data belongs, for instance, the preferences of the consumers: these are
presupposed to be known, but also the desires of the producers are considered to be
DgivenD. #lso the political and legal order is taken as previously known, together with the
present state of technology and the siAe and capacity of the population. 9verything which
could possibly make the conclusions of the theory indeterminate is shifted by economic
theory to the data*circle as the big as'lum ignorantiae of economics, the biding place of all
forms of ignorance. #lso the word DcircleD is indicative of how closed is the theoretical
worldview which arises here. This circle of data, so to speak, surrounds what is fully
determinate and measurable and therefore can be De'plainedD * which boils down to no
more than all the movements of prices and $uantities within the market*mechanism. The
real markets are, one could say, stripped from all aspects of reality outside their
mathematical and mechanical functions, to become fully determinate in their outcomes. ,o
the new economic =neo*classical? theory gets its shape * the economic theory which still
dominates economic thinking to this very day.
%ut what kind of theoretical world is emerging in this way& Eet us look at that
$uestion very carefully, for it could be that we see parallels, reminders of our own present
world and of our own present ways of thinking * particularly if we are sincere Christians.
To put it differently, this worldview could also be very similar to the world as it functions
today, as well as the world as we have learnt to see it * but which may, in both cases, be an
entirely different world seen from the viewpoint of the economy concept seen in the
"n the following paragraph, " will try to mention three basic characteristics of this
new artificially created world. These characteristics are:
=i? a lack of responsibility and accountability
=ii? a loss of $ualitative aspects and insights
=iii? a restless and risky dynamism
)hen we have considered these three features, " will try to draw some conclusions
from a Christian point of view.

8or this data the concept of DcategoriesD is used, the thought by which the scientist, according to
"mmanuel Gant, can order and DmouldD his perception of reality. ,ee 1. ,trigl! )ie okonomische Kategorien
and die Organisation der *irtschaft, -ena ./5I. ,grigl was a :eo*Gantian and his approach is linked to that
of Eionel 1obbins in his famous ssa' on the nature and significance of economic science, Eondon ./K5.
,ee in this conte't also the beautiful dissertation of #lan ,torkey, +oundational pistemologies in
,onsumption Theor', V3 3niversity 2ress, #msterdam .//I.
A lac& of res'onsibility and accountability
The first characteristic of the economist is that in his world the $uestion of
responsibility or accountability for economic problems or evils is no longer asked. To
understand this, we only have to look at what happened to the place of the concept of
causality in 9conomics. "n his book on this topic
, :obel*priAe winner -ohn ;icks gives an
intriguing e'planation of what happened to economic analysis when, as he says it, Dthe
eighteenth century looking at causes and effects in a theologico*legal mannerD could no
longer be accepted. That was what he calls Dthe old causalityD, in which Devery event must
either be the act of some person, who was thus responsible for it, or it must be an D#ct of
BodD =./4/:K? in which, therefore, causes Dare always thought of as actions of
someoneD=./4K:0?. That concept of causality had to go. "t gave rise, for instance, to the
debate Dabout the moral $uality of supernatural actionsD, like the big earth$uake at Eisbon
=idem?. %ut, so ;icks =./4/:4, /? continues: DThe solution was found by the philosophers
of the 9nlightenment, ;ume and Gant ... "t was the old association between Causality and
1esponsibility which had to be rejected. Causality is a matter of e'planation but when we
e'plain, we do not necessarily praise or condemn ... 9conomics, ever since that day, has
been committed to the :ew Causality.D
" have $uoted ;icks e'tensively because this is a very important point. To evade
$uestions of a DsupernaturalD nature, to become a science which really could De'plainD
without any reference to Bod or belief, 9conomics chooses the type of causality which in
relation to economic problems refrains from asking the D)ho&D $uestion. "t no longer asks
which agent has caused something =as is asked usually in the science of Eaw?, but restricts
itself to asking the D)hat&D $uestion: what events or specific situations could have caused
something to happen. ,tated differently * and here we find something which has become a
DnaturalD part of our own way of thinking and doing =and also, for instance, in politics? * if
we are confronted with an important economic problem, let us say inflation, the growth of
poverty, the rise of debt*burdens or the growth of unemployment, we have taught ourselves
and others not to bother about $uestions of responsibility for those evils. )e De'plainD
those phenomena in terms of the level of savings or consumption, the interest level, the
level of government e'penditures. The economist!s world is a world free of accusations,
free from any analysis of accountability for what happened
. 1eferences to guilt and debt
never therefore enter the economic debate without being seen as unscientific, which also
means that references made to the need for a different kind of behavior, or the need for
redemption, have no chance. 8or economic theory has taught us to accept all economic
subjects as they are, inclusive of their thrift, their eagerness, their self*centredness. There is
an inner legitimiAation in that science for everyone and every economic agent to strive
without any moral restraint for his or her ma'imum utility, income or power. ,o, if we meet
an economic problem, we start with the $uestion D)hat can we do about it& ;ow can we
cure the symptoms&D, and never with the $uestion D)ho could have caused this&D
-ohn ;icks. ,ausalit' in conomics, @'ford ./4/, published by %asil %lackwell.
;ere " have to mention at least one important e'ception : the contribution of #martya ,en, who, in
his thorough analysis of the origins of famines in "ndia, does not evade the D)hoD $uestion, and highlights
especially the role of the landlords and the failing local government. #martya ,en, -o.ert' and famines! /n
essa' on entitlement and depri.ation, @'ford ./>5.
To summarise: 9conomics is a science which not only ma'imiAes utilities, but also
forgiveness. Maybe this is the reason why so many Christians like its approach&

A loss of (ualitative as'ects and insi%hts
%ut there is a second conse$uence. 9conomics has chosen to see the world as a
$uantifiable world. Lualitative aspects, for instance, related to the world of social
interactions between people, to the world of their moral standards, or to the $uality of
health and the $uality of nature which surrounds us, escape from economic theoretical
reflections unless a price can be given to them, or if they can be introduced in a $uantitative
way in the DpreferencesD of economic subjects =such as consumers and producers?. %ut of
course this works if, and only if, these economic subjects actually DrevealD these
preferences. "f they like to s$uander their own health that is seen as a matter of their own
choice. =Maybe this can also be e'pressed by saying that economics tends to recogniAe only
Dobjects of useD it has no interest in Dobjects of careD as such.?
This narrow focus upon what is $uantifiable and measurable often leads to incorrect
economic conclusions, at the micro* as well as at the macro*level . # good illustration may
be the way in which we all tend to perceive markets now.
Markets belong to all cultures they have e'isted in all times. "n principle, there is
nothing wrong with them. Calvin even saw markets as a sign of the spiritual community
between men and in that way as a token of the grace of Bod to us.
%ut this high
appreciation of markets relates of course to DrealD markets, full of $ualitative aspects such
as social interaction, some degrees of care and loyalty etc. The market of the neo*classical
economic theory misses out all of those aspects: here the ideal market is even anonymous.
# large group of producers and consumers do not even meet each other they only meet a
given price. ,o what will happen if this, or similar concept=s? of the market, with their
stress on individuality, anonymity, and autonomous feedback is given a central place in
modern society, and even treated by some political currents as a compass which we have to
follow in all circumstances& Then the social and moral $uality of economic life will be
drastically reduced. 9ven the inner limitations of every market tend to be DforgottenD *
restrictions which can be observed by everyone:
• that the market can only satisfy those needs which e'press themselves as
Deffective demandD =which always presupposes some kind of economic
The awful conse$uences which this approach can have, and has already had, for the anti*poverty
policy in the 3,# both on the democratic and the republican side, is illustrated in: %ob BoudAwaard, *ho
cares0 -o.ert' and the )'namics of 1esponsibilit', in ,tanley ). Carlson*Thies and -ames ). ,killen,
*elfare in /merica! ,hristian on a polic' crisis, 9erdmans .//0:6/* >..
#lso here a concrete e'ception deserves mention: the work of ;erman <aly, especially the last
book which he wrote together with Cobb jr. a theologian: ;erman 8. <aly and -ohn %. Cobb, +or the
common Good2 reorienting the conom' to3ards ,ommunit'! the n.ironment and a Sustainable +uture.
%oston .///. 8or the distinction between objects of use and objects of care see also: %ob BoudAwaard and
;arry de Eange, 4e'ond -o.ert' and /ffluence! to3ard an conom' of ,are, Brand 1apids, .//K.
,ee #ndre %ieler, La pensee economi5ue et sociale de ,, Beneve ./K/:66/* 6KI.
buying power?, and cannot honor other needs, however pressing they
may be.
• that the market can only deal with those forms of supply which are
financially rewarding for the suppliers, leaving aside all provisions
where the costs tend to be higher than the financial benefits.
• that where there is no price, the market can and will attach no economic
value to any goods, any service, or any situation. # market*mechanism,
for instance, will not automatically notice the value of its own or other
cultures, nor the value of nature!s eco*system, nor the most precious
things in life such as human love and dignity. The market*appreciation
of all those entities tends to be Aero, which means that they are free to
use and free to e'ploit.
)oe, therefore, to a society which thinks to do well by taking the market*
mechanism as its final compass. "t cannot evade the rise of markets in human organs, in the
se'ual DservicesD of women and children, and is bound to permit marketable Drights to
polluteD in the poorest countries in the world. :either will it be able to supply society with
sufficient provisions of general or public health because, no matter how urgent the needs of
the poor may be, they lack buying power.

A restless and ris&y dynamism
The final aspect of the strange world created in economic thought is its devotion to a
risky but everlasting dynamism. This feature is of course related to the general )estern
faith in progress, which can be seen as an intrinsic and inalienable part of the whole
9nlightenment movement.
;owever, there is more to it than that. There is also a direct
connection with the fascination for economic growth in the structure of economic theory.
That fascination follows directly from the decision to see and declare human preferences as
a datum, * a given factor or starting point for all economic analysis. The so*called DcentralD
economic problem of scarcity is then automatically reduced to the $uestion of how, given
in principle, unlimited human needs or preferences, more goods and services can be
produced in an efficient way to fulfil all these desires. The other side of the Deconomic
problemD, however, is that if the desires for goods and services themselves are chosen at a
responsible economic level, then there can be an escape from economic theory. "t is only
the means which are the problem: their allocation, their distribution and their continuous
The Berman philosopher ;egel was already aware that this may create a growing
tension in human society. "n his criti$ue on civil society, as can be found in his -hilosie des
1echts! =about .>50C?, he defends the thesis that there is a narrow correlation between the
e'pansion of production and the growth of human needs. The Dlabour systemD and the
Dsystem of needsD of civil society are in his view directly interrelated if more goods are
,ee for further comments about this Christopher Easch, The True and Onl' 6ea.en2 progress and
its critics, :ew Fork .//., and %ob BoudAwaard, ,apitalism and -rogress2 a diagnosis of *estern Societ',
9erdmans ./>5, = to be reprinted in .//0 in 9ngland in the Classics ,eries of 2atmos?.
available, all people want them, starting a process towards what ;egel called falsche
7nendlichkeit =false infiniteness?. The perception is wrong, that there is no possible limit to
rising production and consumption this is for ;egel no less than the prelude to the total
breakdown of civil society, in which there is an increasing sense of scarcity as desires grow
even more rapidly than the means allow.
9ven in times of growing environmental and social problems, our modern society
clings to its eagerness and ac$uisitiveness at all costs. %ut we should be aware that a real
crisis is looming * one to which most economists turn a blind eye. "n countries which are
already rich, 9conomists simply continue to think of further e'pansion and accumulation.
%ut is that not a type of blindness which is unacceptable from the viewpoint of Christian

A few conclusions from a Christian 'oint of view
Eet me summariAe, and see what conclusions may be drawn.
)e have seen that economic science has tried in the last two centuries to create its
own world, a world full of measurable entities and predictable results. %ut this is a world
stripped of its $ualitative aspects a world in which no sins are committed, and no economic
agent held accountable for economic evils and a world devoted to a limitless e'pansion of
"n this way, it becomes only too clear why so many )estern Christians who have
become accustomed to this way of economic =and social and political? thinking have a
problem relating their faith to economic realities. "f they are of good will, they speak of the
desirability that soon a kind of bridge will be built between these two separate DworldsD: the
world of Christian faith and the world of the modern economy. %ut already by posing the
problem in that way, clearly they are $uite unaware of the fact that the living connection
between faith and economic life, which e'isted for good or evil through the ages, has been
deliberately and artificially cut into two parts by 9nlightenment thought: a physical
=mechanical? part and a so*called meta*physical one. "n this way the wrong perception has
been created in our hearts and minds, that indeed there is an inherent autonomy on
economic life and in all practical economic reflections.
%ut there is a more sinister aspect to this: the theoretical world of an autonomous
economy has also become, to a large e'tent, our practical world. This world is present not
only in our perceptions but as a concrete reality, where we do indeed find markets
organiAed as pure mechanisms policies without any element of economic accountability or
correction of wrongdoing and a business*life for which the horiAon has often become the
fight for one!s own market*share in the conte't of a limitless e'pansion. The belief in
economic and technological autonomy has, to put the matter differently, become incarnate
in our society. #t the same time, it is leading us astrayC To use, one more time, the last
time, the concept of the data*circle: obviously the e'pansion of the market*economy itself
has now become the real datum in society, the only given factor which everything and
everyone around it has to accommodate, obeying its sovereign will: these include our
desires =changed via commercials?, our planet =eroded, sometimes e'ploited?, the cultures
of the ,outh =dealt with as if they in themselves have no value?, and our political systems
=primarily economic communities?. %ut such a degree of accommodation of the whole of
society to the economy points to the e'istence of an idol * one worshipped perhaps by the
whole of an alienated society.
"n telling you all this, " hope " am not discouraging you. "n fact, it can be said that
the more this analysis holds and is true, the more we as Christians can cherish real hope,
and can also point to the solution of the crisis of our time. 8or this analysis shows that the
deep economic problems of today do, in fact, have spiritual roots and are related to forms of
unbelief * for which a solution is present. #nd to make that answer more apparent we
urgently need personal Christian reflection on economic life * in our schools as well as in

<#EF, ;.9. M C@%%, -.jr., .//7. +or the common good! redirecting the econom' to3ards
communit'! the en.ironment and a sustainable future. Eondon : Breen.
B@3<H)##1<, %. M <9 E#:B9, ;., .//K. 4e'ond po.ert' and affluence2 to3ards an
econom' of care. Brand 1apids : 9erdmans.
B@3<H)##1<, %., .//0, ,apitalism and progress8 a diagnosis of *estern societ'.
Brand 1apids : 9erdmans.
,T@1G9F, #., .//I, +oundational epistemologies in consumption theor'. #msterdam :
8ree 3niversity.
T"9M,T1#, -. ed., .//7, 1eforming economics8 ,al.inist studies on methods and
institutions. :ew Fork : 9dwin Mellen.
9laborated further in my book Idols of our Time, "V2 ./>6.

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