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.