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The Good of Affluence(Seeking God in a Culture of Wealth)
판매가격 7,000
저 자 John R. Schneider
출판사 Eerdmans Publishing / 2002 년도 / 233 페이지
상 태 중상
구매 적립금 120
재고 판매중
구매수량 EA  
국판, Hard cover, Originla판

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wealth incompatible with true Christianity? In The Good of Affluence John R. Schneider reopens the debate over the proper Christian attitude toward money, arguing, ultimately, that Scripture does indeed provide support for the responsible possession of wealth. This is a provocative book of Christian theology, written to help people seeking God in a culture that has grown from modern capitalism. By comparing classic Christian teaching on wealth with the realities of our modern economic world, Schneider challenges the common presumption that material affluence is inherently bad. Careful interpretation of Scripture narratives - creation, exodus, exile, and more - also shows that abundance is the condition that God envisions for all human beings and that faithful persons of wealth are part of this plan. Schneider believes that the "wealth-as-blessing" themes of the Old Testament are not to be spiritualized and do not run contrary to New Testament teachings but provide exactly the frame of reference for the incarnate identity, life, and teaching of Jesus, who came to make real the messianic feast, both in this age and in the age to come. Through insightful engagement with the biblical text Schneider overturns some of the most cherished and unquestioned assumptions of influential Christian writers (particularly Ronald Sider) on modern capitalist affluence. Yet Schneider's message is also finely balanced with the need for responsible Christian living. He offers rich Christians biblical affirmation but also challenges them to a life shaped by an uncommon sense of stewardship and compassion. Incisive, thought provoking, and biblically grounded, The Good of Affluence is a superb resource for anyone - students, professors, businesspeople, general readers, discussion groups - wishing to grapple seriously with the subject of faith and wealth.

The Good of Affluence
Seeking God in a Culture of Wealth By John R. Schneider
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Copyright © 2002 John R. Schneider
All right reserved.
ISBN: 9780802833631
Chapter One

The "New" Culture of Capitalism

Democratic capitalism is not just a system but a way of



In 1891 Pope Leo XIII published an official letter named simply RerumNovarum, "Of Things New." Its reference was to the breathtaking changesthat had come over the Western world in the previous century: the greatrevolutions in democracy and science that had spread to all parts and beenmidwives to the birth of modernity. But the focus of the letter was most directlyon the "new things" that came with the new economic order of capitalism,For this new economic order - still in its awkward adolescence - hadalready begun to raise a legion of new challenges for Christians.

Of course the problem of "God and mammon" is not new. It is as oldas Christianity itself. H. Richard Niebuhr observed over half a century agoin his classic book Christ and Culture, that it is one of those perennialproblems that every generation of Christians must face in one form or another.But the forms of culture do change, and the things of capitalismwere in that sense of the word new. They were new incarnations of very oldquestions about our treasure on earth. They were like the new wine in Jesus'simile, and the old leathers of tradition were already cracking from thefermentation. The church urgently needed new wineskins, lest all authoritybe lost, and Leo XIII knew it - hence Rerum Novarum.

The need for new teaching on capitalism was clear and urgent enough.But what should be the answers to the questions it posed was anything butclear. Not a few Christian theologians had come to believe that capitalismwas a great, seductive evil, a harlot on seven hills that could deceive eventhe very elect. They believed that good Christians should do everythingthey could to defeat it. They had read the revolutionary writings of Marx.They observed the widespread exploitation of labor, the opulence of thefew, and the widening chasm between rich and poor. And in that grimlight, they had also read their scriptures with fresh eyes and awakenedhearts, and they did not find a very great difference between what theyfound in the Law and the Prophets and the vision of socialism put forth byMarx. They judged that he was right about the moral nature and future ofany society shaped by the order of capitalism. They believed that at the endof its evil was a grand triumph of irony: that capitalists would indeed manufacturethe very noose by which powers of justice would hang them onthe gallows of history. And the swelling ranks of Christian socialists seriouslybelieved (as many have done until quite recently) that state socialismwas the best framework for building a society that embodied the virtues ofChrist and the Gospel.

Leo did not agree - not entirely, anyway. His letter was no sterling defenseof capitalism (as none of the great encyclicals have been). The burnof his rather plain text is slow enough, but its sacred rage comes throughnonetheless. Its main focus is on evils done to this new class of workers - "labor" - in the name of this new form of property - "capital." But in responseto the new troubles and this newly proposed alternative to capitalism,Leo XIII did something that now seems very remarkable. For whilethe letter is indeed about the new social evils of capitalism, unlike theChristian socialists, he did not understand the essence of capitalism inthose terms. Instead, he looked into its deeper parts. And what he saw wasan order of economic life that was, in its core, the embodiment of certaineternal truths and virtues (both natural and distinctly Christian). Theseincluded the validity of private property, the primacy of the individual, theimportance and dignity of work, and the basic character of freedom - whichChristians must take care always to link with the distinctly Christiantruth about human beings as both created and fallen.

In sum, Leo XIII understood early that the evils growing from the systemwere not the marks of its true essence. He understood that they wereunnecessary and ironic indications of capitalism's strength. He understoodthat they grew from the distortion of something very good: that is,the newly won condition of freedom. It was the basic condition of freedomthat allowed people to pursue material happiness in this world in ways thathad never been possible before - not ever. So (and this is often forgotten)his powerful critique of capitalists in his day was also an implied affirmationof the basic principles in the foundations of the very system that theyabused.

Leo XIII thus understood capitalism in much the way that the churchhad learned (tortuously) to understand the other new orders of the revolution- democracy and free intellectual inquiry (science). The church hadlearned with no little difficulty to affirm these orders for the goods andtruths that they embodied rather than to renounce them for the dangersthat they, as orders of freedom, naturally carried with them. And it wascrucial that Christians give freedom the moral and spiritual direction itneeded. By the same reasoning, Leo XIII also presciently denounced socialism,alienated as it was from those key natural and Christian truths ofhuman existence. With that in mind he intuited its potential for evil, if notits sure demise. And his Christian sensibilities led him to believe that theMarxist order, no matter how appealing its rhetoric of justice, was completelyunfit in its metaphysics as a cultural environment for the expressionof even that basic social virtue.

Leo's encyclical is today a standard point of reference for official Catholicmoral theology on modern economic life. As Pope John Paul II observed on the one-hundredth anniversary of Leo's writing, it is indeed an"immortal document." But as he also pointed out, it is not immortal inthe sense that Christians can simply take its answers as given in 1891 to beanswers for all the questions about capitalism we have now. For the capitalismthat exists now bears almost no visible resemblance to capitalism asit was known then. Indeed, capitalism in 2002 looks significantly differentfrom the way it did even half a century ago. Neither Marx nor Leo XIII noreven John Maynard Keynes could have begun to imagine the global, high-techeconomy of our day, with its divisions of labor, its engines of investmentand credit, its astonishing distribution of capital and affluence - andthe really new challenges it poses. As John Paul II implied, RerumNovarum provides but a framework for the theology and ethics that weneed for coping with the new things of life under capitalism in our day. Butat very least, it stands as a monument to that most basic wisdom of all - thegood sense to know which end of the stick to pick up.

Christian intellectuals have made great strides in contending theologicallywith the modern orders of democracy and science. But when it comesto capitalism, for some reason we are still in the beginning stage. With rareexceptions, Christian intellectuals (as Western intellectuals generally) havenot offered systematic spiritual and moral guidance for living within capitalism.In contrast, we are long in supply of theologies that teach us how tobe good socialists - the entire movement known as liberation theology isa composite of various advocacies for Christian socialism. But the stunningcollapse of socialistic regimes in 1989 redoubles the truth of Novak'searlier observation that "Latin American liberation theology exists at present[1986] much more powerfully in books than in reality." On the otherhand, "For two centuries democratic capitalism has been more a matter ofpractice than theory." It exists almost exclusively in reality, and almostnot at all in the theories of books. While it has grown to dominate the realworld, "theologians ... have, however, failed to articulate a theology commensuratewith the novelty of the new world."

As Novak points out, one reason for this was the deliberate avoidanceof ideological disputation on the parts of war-weary European thinkers.Another is the unfortunate attraction that theories of anti-capitalism held(and continue to hold) for European and even North American intellectuals.But especially considering the events that came upon us so suddenlyin 1989 - the fall of the Berlin Wall and with it any hope that national socialismmight ultimately liberate the poor of the earth - this inattentionto theory for people living almost by default under the regime of capitalismis even more intolerable than it was in 1982, when Novak made his appealto Western intellectuals to get cracking. In his words: "Inattention totheory weakens the life of the spirit and injures the capacity of the youngto dream of noble purposes."

Indeed, countless people in the field we broadly know as business needthe sort of distinctly Christian theory that Novak (who for quite awhile soldieredon almost literally as an army of one) has brilliantly begun toframe. And it is an irony getting dangerously close to intolerable that weintellectuals, too, need that kind of carefully constructed theory for life undercapitalism. For like it or not, our universities and colleges and variousother educational institutions are corporations of one sort or another. Itwill not do anymore to tolerate that sad spectacle of the scholar who goesaround decrying things like materialism, consumerism, a "individualism"in ways that shamelessly expose her own behavior, too, as ludicrouslyimmoral. It is time for Christian intellectuals to understand that we are allin this boat together, and that the church needs our help in knowing how togo about navigating it the right way through very new waters.

In this chapter, I begin my own attempt at doing so. We begin by consideringsome very new things about capitalism that have not really figuredas heavily as they should in most recent moral theologies. In the nextsection, we shall consider the extraordinary achievement of capitalism: tohave liberated entire populations in twenty-five nations from poverty(about one billion human beings). At very least, we need to have this pictureof what capitalism has done (and is doing) in view, for it is the essentialcontext for our discussion of its moral and spiritual implications.


In the year 1941 there were but two capitalist powers left on Earth, and atthe time things did not look at all good for either of them. The economy ofthe United States was in what seemed an endless downward spiral of depressionand Great Britain was in visible decline. The emerging powersthen were the military dictatorships of Europe and Japan and the communistdictatorship of the Soviet Union. Economist Lester Thurow gives a soberingdescription of how it was and, worse, what might have been hadthings not changed:

The final crisis of the 1920's and the Great Depression of the 1930's had
brought capitalism to the edge of extinction. The capitalism that now
seems irresistible could, with just a few missteps, have vanished.

Today, however, that all seems ironic to an extent that makes our very recentpast seem dreamlike, if not nightmarish. But it is no dream. The"greatest generation" (to use Tom Brokaw's fine phrase) almost simultaneouslydefeated Hitler and put an end to the Great Depression. Then,having barely caught their breath, they waged and finally won a cold war inthe hard and bitter peace that followed. The events that came so "suddenly"in 1989 (to use George Will's term) were in fact the outcome of along and sometimes seemingly hopeless struggle.

So in that large sense our situation is about as dramatically new as itcould possibly be. And this only makes the achievement seem more remarkable.For in the dizzyingly brief span of fifty years, since America'smarch into the theater of world war, twenty-five nations have successfullyre-ordered their economies on the lines of modern capitalism. And whatthese nations have done would have been unthinkable to any sane personin any previous time. For they have done nothing less than eliminate realmaterial poverty as a significant problem in their societies.

To have even suggested this might be possible during antiquity or in theMiddle Ages would have landed one in a room with certain other biblicallysuspect people - like Galileo - who envisioned worlds that both Scriptureand experience declared (or so it seemed) not possible. For if anythingin the Bible was more certain than the fixed position of the earth, sun, andstars, it was surely Jesus' famous saying that "the poor you will always havewith you" (Matt. 26:11). And no wonder people thought that way. In his pioneeringbook The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, Michael Novak gives thisgraphic description of conditions worldwide prior to the 18th century:

Consider the world at the beginning of the democratic capitalist era. The watershed year was 1776. Almost simultaneously, Adam Smith published An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations and the first democratic capitalist republic came into existence in the United States. Until that time, the classical pattern of political economy was mercantilist. Famines ravaged the civilized world on the average once a generation. Plagues seized scores of thousands. In the 1780's, four-fifths of French families devoted 90% of their incomes simply to buying bread - only bread - to stay alive. Life expectancy in 1795 in France was 27.3 years for women and 23.4 for men. In the year 1800, in the whole of Germany fewer than a thousand people had incomes as high as $1,000.

Far worse conditions existed in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere:

In Africa, the wheel had never been invented. Medical practice was incantatory. Illiteracy was virtually universal. Most of the planet was unmapped. Hardly any of the world's cities had plumbing systems. Potable water was mostly unavailable. Ignorance was so extreme that most humans did not know that unclean water spreads disease. Except in Adam Smith's book the concept of development did not exist.

In our modern times, it is common to hear people speak with nostalgiaabout the old world that we have lost as the price of high-tech capitalism.And they have a point. But I think if they could go back in time even afew decades, they would not wish to stay very long. At any rate, the reasonall this began to change was - simply - capitalism. "In Great Britainreal wages doubled between 1800 and 1850, and then doubled again between1850 and 1900." And that was just the beginning.

The fact itself is plain enough.

Excerpted from
The Good of Affluence
John R. Schneider
Copyright © 2002 by John R. Schneider. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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