Christian Principles, The Abstracted Gospel

Recently a friend and former professor of mine was engaged in a forum where he heard several professors of business talk about how we should work to get the world to follow Christian economic principles. He disagrees, and I do as well. The reason being, these principles serve as a form of Constantinianism, as identified by John Howard Yoder.

Update: “…To get the world to follow Christian principles in the economic realm [is] an attempt to abstract the message of the kingdom that in the end neuters the gospel of its power and absolves the church of living as people of new creation.” – My professor friend

These principles were they put in place would not make us work towards the gospel, they would absolve us from the gospel. Were these principles to happen to coincide all at once, there would be no reason for the church. If you have all the “principles” of the church in common life, why go to church? If there’s no difference between being an American investor and a Christian investor, why stop to consider that a rabbi’s death has claim on you and what you do with your money?

Once upon a time the Enlightenment project assumed it could do the same thing. It assumed that the religious differences we have could be put aside if we could boil it down to a few core dogmas about God that were universally acceptable. This did not put an end to war, famine or bloodshed, it just gave people even more destructive forms of control over society. Without the Enlightenment project Nazism and Stalinist projects are inconceivable.

Boiling Christianity down to principles is not the renewed life of Christianity, and yes I’m talking about people like John Maxwell, who have capitulated to this “leadership culture.” Leadership is desired by our culture, but without the virtues that Christianity produces to make real leadership possible it’s an act of self-congratulatory masturbation. It’s a nice big empty pat on the back for finding the “core underlying truths.” Yet, the core underlying truths are simple, Jesus Christ the rabbi from Nazareth was vindicated by God from the grave and is therefore this world’s rightful king. This rabbi was and is God along with His Spirit and the One Whom He calls Father. Together they are One God.

When you abstract the gospel which is the Church’s proclamation, from the life of the church, you don’t still have the gospel, you have another creature altogether. It looks like the gospel, but is not the gospel.

The proclamation of the church has power to speak, but only from within the life of the church, if taken outside this context, it becomes another form of coercive market serving power.

It is the church that has to be the live solution to economic problems through charity, training, catechesis, worship, communal life, liturgy. All of these things are the politics of the church, and they belong in her. When we take them out, no matter how right they may sound, they are not the gospel.

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3 thoughts on “Christian Principles, The Abstracted Gospel

  1. Brilliant, Eli, just brilliant, not only intellectually, but with the light of Christ.

    Thank goodness there are people like you, preaching the original and true message of the Nazarene. Reading your heart-felt analysis, I was so reminded of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in “Cheap Grace,” one of my all-time favorite Christian works.

    I may be working in a different vineyard, but what blesses one, blesses all, and a Christianity that sticks to its true business, not the business of the world, is a blessing to all of us.

    Many thanks,

    • Steve, Thank you. I am always honored to have your insight.

      I learned quickly yhtat the business of the gospel was not me. ANd it took me years to really get it. But once I got it, it was got, and it has since consumed me.

      Bonhoeffer is a martyr i remember fondly and often. A true source of wisdom in the faith.

      A Christianity that tries to be Christianity is really what we all need.

      Thanks for reading,

    • Thanks, and you are most welcome.

      I always find food for thought at your site. Wish I had more time to comment on your and other blogs I appreciate, but all my own blog writing takes up most of my time.

      Keep ’em coming!
      With affection,


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