Clearing out a few books today, I found inside one of them the text of an address I gave, back in 2002, to the annual Baptist Assembly. This particular session was held in one of the reception rooms of Lancaster Park in Christchurch, and I think it was the last time I went to that ground. There were two speakers in the session. The first was the Rev Brian Smith, former missionary and theological college principal, who was making the case for interest-free credit, as standard Christian practice. My session – with the title I used for this post – was that of an economics practitioner, who had thought and read quite a lot on Christianity and economics, and had done some speaking on the subject over the years. At one stage, I was part of a long-running dialogue with some fairly liberal church-people, involving Don Brash and several others from the Reserve Bank on the one side (some Christian, some not) and some Methodist and Presbyterian clergy and laypeople on the other. It was fascinating dialogue, even if we probably mostly (with the best will in the world) talked past each other.
But. for anyone interested, here is the text of my talk, typos and all. If a couple of paragraphs now read a little oddly, I’d stand by most of it, and perhaps even express the ideas in much the same way today.
My talk started as follows:
“Economics” and “economy” aren’t phrases that appear in the Scriptures, but a quick glance at my NIV Exhaustive Concordance did produce 150 or so references to “money”, 150 more to “wealth”, and 200 or so to the poor and “poverty”. Those statistics, and any thoughtful reading of the Pentateuch, the gospels, or indeed much of the rest of the Bible, suggests that matters economic are of considerable importance to the writers of Scripture – not, to be sure, all important, but a significant part of any disciple’s question: “how then shall we live?” The church, its theologians and thinkers, have grappled ever since with the issues and challenges these everyday realities pose for those who would follow God, revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
And as I put it then in concluding
An absence of specific all-encompassing rules does not mean that following Christ has no implications for how we shall live, work, invest, and spend – what we do with what we have. The overarching challenge which will, and should, never escape in this life is to truly love, both God and our fellow people. Love truly, and then do as you please, as St Augustine put it.
But learning what true love is, and means, is itself the journey of a whole life – and then beyond. Now we know only in part, then we shall know in full.