Christian Perspecitive on Capitalism

Discussion Group, March 12, 2020

 

Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father, open our hearts to the voices of our neighbors, and let us be ever mindful that through them You speak to each of us.  This we ask through You Son, Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

Bible Verses
Deuteronomy 16:17: ”Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he has given you.“

 

Zechariah 7:8-10: ”And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, ’Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”

 

What does everyone want?

 

What is one thing that everyone wants?  Everyone wants happiness.  Happiness may be a process; perhaps one is happier in seeking to fulfill one’s desires than in actually having achieved them.  The process of seeking to achieve happiness is “flourishing”.

 

Think of it: Who is happier, a heroin addict after he has just had his fix or a poor, struggling artist who is living out her dream in a cold, dreary apartment in Brooklyn?

 

The great question and answer of ancient philosophy

Ancient philosophers focused on the notion of eudaimonia.  We might think of that idea as a life well lived.  Here is Wikipedia on this point:

 

"In his Nicomachean Ethics (§21; 1095a15–22), Aristotle says that everyone agrees that eudaimonia is the highest good for human beings, but that there is substantial disagreement on what sort of life counts as doing and living well; i.e. eudaimon:


Verbally there is a very general agreement; for both the general run of men and people of superior refinement say that it is [eudaimonia], and identify living well and faring well with being happy; but with regard to what [eudaimonia] is they differ, and the many do not give the same account as the wise. For the former think it is some plain and obvious thing like pleasure, wealth or honour… [1095a17][4]


So, as Aristotle points out, saying that eudaimon life is a life which is objectively desirable, and means living well, is not saying very much. Everyone wants to be eudaimon; and everyone agrees that being eudaimon is related to faring well and to an individual's well being. The really difficult question is to specify just what sort of activities enable one to live well. Aristotle presents various popular conceptions of the best life for human beings. The candidates that he mentions are a (1) life of pleasure, (2) a life of political activity and (3) a philosophical life.”


"Happiness is a constitutive result of being an excellent person, developed and practiced consciously over time.  It’s an art that is cultivated and lived out in prate in relationships and society.” (p. 41)  Did Kant’s categorical imperative undermine this ancient notion of the goal of philosophy?

 

The great question and answer of ancient religions
What can we do to flourish?  

  • Buddhism: the Triple Gem
  • Islam: the Five Pillars
  • Judaism: live out the Covenant
  • Christianity: the writings of Augustine and Aquinas

 

Human flourishing according to the Bible
Old Testament
shalom—Genesis 34:21 “These men are friendly toward us,” they said.  “Let them live in our land and trade in it; the land has plenty of room for them,  We can marry their daughters and they can marry ours.”


ashre— noun from ashar: to go straight, go on, advance  another kind of flourishing?  It can mean blessed.


tamim—adjective tamam to be complete


New Testament
eirene—Eirene (/aɪˈriːniː/; Greek: Εἰρήνη, Eirēnē, [eːrɛ́ːnɛː],  lit. "Peace"),[1] more commonly known in English as Peace, was one of the Horae, the personification of peace. She was depicted in art as a beautiful young woman carrying a cornucopia, sceptre, and a torch or rhyton. She is said sometimes to be the daughter of Zeus and Themis and sister of Dike and Eunomia. Her Roman equivalent was Pax.


makarios—usually translated as blessed.  This adjective is used in the beatitudes in Matthew

noun from ashar: to go straight, go on, advance  another kind of flourishing?  It can mean blessed.


tamim—adjective tamam to be complete

 

Makriori    hoi eirenopoioi     Hoti autoi huioi  Theou   klethesontai
Μακάριοι  οἱ   εἰρηνοποιοί    Ὅτι αὐτοὶ υἱοὶ   Θεοῦ     κληθήσονται
Blessed   the peacemakers for  they  sons  of God  will be called

 

telios is greek comes to us in teleological.  The development and fulfillment of a force in history  τελείως, completely, perfectly, thoroughly

 

We will watch this video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbkSRLYSojo  about health and economic well-being


Christian human flourishing
“The point of this essay is ultimately to argue that biblical Christianity is essentially about true human flourishing.  Entailed in this claim is that other non-Christian versions of flourishing are not ultimately true.  The claims of the Bible are mot merely the offering of one helpful view of things; they are claims of centrality and exclusivity.” (p. 50)


Are there different ideas about human flourishing?  
Different values
The New Testament notion of love is our central value.
Different people
For us Christians, human flourishing entails that all people must flourish, especially the most marginalized
Different means
Is Christianity unique in its central observation that suffering leads to human flourishing?
Different goals

  1. Covenantal relationship with God
  2. The bible is forward-leaning.  We are progressing towards some ultimate goal.
  3. We ascribe glory to God.  Our flourishing is ultimately God’s gift.
  4.  Missional, priestly and outward focussed

Implications and conclusions
We should re-orient our faith around the foundational nation of flourishing.


Bradley argues for an (almost Episcopalian) via media: we should neither be focussed on worldly pleasure nor on self-denial and asceticism.  She explicitly rejects an idea such as the Prosperity Gospel; she also rejects an overly Puritanical vision that would deny all earthly pleasures.  Bradley is careful to emphasize, “The details of which economics and/ior political system best promote the eudaimonizing can and should be a dialogue in which Christian leaders engage.  But all Christian leaders must agree that one’s personal flourishing only can never be embraced as the goal or end of Christian work in the world.”  (p.58)

 

".. How should a Christian understand capitalism?  Does it encourage us to serve one another and bring about well-being?  Or rather, at its heart, is it exploitative and corrupt? These are questions a;; Christians should wrestle with as they seem to live in accord with God’s coming kingdom and His abiding mission in the world.” (p.59)

 

Discussion Questions

  1. Was Jesus happy?  Did He flourish?
  2. In what ways do you flourish?  Is flourishing more important for you than happiness?
  3. What does it mean to be blessed?  Are you blessed?  Is being blessed being happy?
  4. What is your vision about the practical implications of the ideal of human flourishing for society today?
  5. Why did pluralistic democracy, the rule of law, and economic prosperity develop in the West?
  6. What did this chapter have to do with capitalism?

 

Closing Prayer
Gracious God and Father, you have given your Son for us all, that his death might be our life and his affliction our peace.


We pray for THE SUFFERING
the hungry …
the refugees …
the prisoners …
the persecuted …
all who bring sin and suffering to others …
all who seek to bring care and relief …


THANKSGIVING
Gracious God and Father, we give you thanks for the cross of Christ at the heart of creation,
the presence of Christ in our weakness and strength, the grace of Christ to transform our suffering …
for all ministries of healing,
all agencies of relief,
all that sets us free from pain, fear and distress …
for the assurance that your mercy knows no limit,
and for the privilege of sharing Christ’s ministry in prayer

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