Can we think Christianly about economics?

Tim Hogg writes: Economists have never played a larger role in society than they do today. Economics is, ultimately, a tool to shape society. The dialogue between the church and economists has enormous potential to bear fruit; if the gospel can change my life, it can change economics.

Frustration and impatience can sometimes be the result of dialogue between economists and theologians (I am as guilty of this as the next economist), but we cannot let misunderstandings get the better of us—there is too much at stake.

This post is a brief (and naturally selective) primer for Christians on why and how to engage with economists, written by an evangelical Christian who happens to be a practicing microeconomist.

Economists as priests

For better or worse, economists play an increasingly important role in society, far beyond the confines of traditional (and dismal!) economic heartlands of tax policy or GDP statistics. Almost every government policy will come with an economic impact assessment stapled to the back, and you may rest assured that economists are at the centre of the government’s decisions regarding tackling the current pandemic. Indeed, as provocatively put by Tomas Sedlacek in The Economics of Good and Evil, economists are expected to…

perform interpretations of reality (as if capricious Olympus had been replaced by capricious Wall Street), give prophetic services (macroeconomic forecasts), reshape reality (mitigate the impacts of the crisis, speed up growth), and, in the long run, provide leadership on the way to the promised land.

This is misplaced trust; Jesus saves, economists do not.

Economics versus the gospel?

In the face of this, it is natural to ask whether economics is doomed, and should be abandoned as a bad job. This line of thinking can also get wrapped up in the (oft-seen on the Internet) argument that capitalism is morally bankrupt.

But you don’t have to be a capitalist to be an economist (Karl Marx being one of the more famous economists). Indeed, one can be an economist and be anywhere on the political spectrum. And this is precisely the point. Economics, like biology or maths or psychology, is primarily a tool, rather than an ideology.

It is a tool to illuminate what is at stake when making difficult trade-offs in the allocation of scarce resources—which is what the Christian idea of stewarding creation is all about. For example, should we increase industrial fishing to feed the hungry, or decrease fishing to protect the oceans? We might start to answer that question by quantifying the impact on the poor and on the environment of different policies.

It is a tool to help us understand institutions and behaviour. Caring for the poor is all about understanding (i) why people end up in poverty and (ii) what makes effective policy in alleviating that poverty—for example, by giving women greater control of their finances through offering restricted-access savings accounts in the Philippines. As a behavioural economist, I am hugely excited by the potential for behavioural experiments in alleviating poverty.

And it is a tool to help us analyse the incentives. Misaligned incentives leads to well-intentioned policy causing unintended consequences. For example, a laudable policy in the USA which aimed at reducing discrimination by employers against former prisoners (‘ban the box’) actually led to more discrimination by employers against racial minorities, as they were perceived to have a higher risk of being  former prisoners.

Economics thus remains a powerful empirical tool in the armoury of anyone wanting to shape society. Wouldn’t it be great for the church to play a larger role in shaping society? Influencing the thinking of economists would be one effective way of doing so.

Crossing the secular divide

However, the tool of economic analysis is based on deep assumptions about the nature of the world—and (perhaps unlike the fields of biology, maths and psychology) these assumptions are rarely uncovered. Indeed, economists are taught at university that theirs is the noble search for objective and verifiable facts, not based on anything that could be construed as opinion or a point of view. As claimed by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner in Freakonomics:

Morality, it could be argued, represents the way that people would like the world to work, wheareas economics represents how it actually does work.

This is misleading. Economic analysis typically makes a host of underlying, unwritten assumptions in assessing how the world works—assumptions that are deeply philosophical and moral in nature.

To take one example, microeconomic theory rests on the assumption that satisfying a person’s preferences (‘maximising their utility’) is the ultimate good. The pursuit of individual satisfaction enshrines hedonism as the ultimate source of human purpose at the heart of economic theory. But we rarely pause to ask ourselves whether an individual’s preferences are good, either for the individual or others.

One has only to think of addiction to realise that our preferences can be destructive, rather than life-giving. The purist economist answer to a destructive addiction would be: “Well, the individual clearly has a preference for self-destruction, and is maximising their utility by pursuing it.” The end justifies the means, even if the end is patently not the best long-term outcome for the individual!

Economics has no framework to evaluate the goodness of preferences. While economics does consider the effects of actions on the utility of others (called ‘externalities’), in practice this is (at best) a partial solution.

This is partly because economists are taught to focus on policy interventions that can be described as a ‘Pareto improvement’. These are policies that do not reduce the utility of anyone, while increasing the utility of at least one person. For example, imagine the hypothetical scenario where a small elite are fabulously wealthy, while 99% of the population are dirt poor and starving. Redistribution of some resources to the poor would save millions from famine, but would not be a Pareto improvement, because they gains by some (the poor) would be offset by the losses of other (the wealthy).

Thus we can be tempted dodge some of the toughest of trade-offs in order to preserve the sanctity of individual economic preference—without even recognising that we are making philosophical and theological claims.

Finding (true) hope

Unaware of deep assumptions, economists can overreach without realising that their philosophical foundations are built on sand. Take for example the chapter on ‘Privatising Marriage’ in the seminal (and otherwise excellent) book Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. They argue that any and every organisation ought to be able to define marriage as they wish, so (for example) it could become a ten-year contract. Is it really the case that marriage is primarily an economic reality, so that it should be economic perspectives which drive the policy approach to this institution?

Secular thinkers, such as Michael Sandel, also critique economists for overreaching (markets do, after all, have moral limits – whatever Freakonomics might say). But secularism cannot offer true hope, as the true and ultimate solution to the problems of the human condition are only to be found in the gospel. We cannot hope to truly solve the problems inherent in ‘horizontal’ relationships between people and our planet, until we understand the primary ‘vertical’ relationship with God.

Thus secular divide between economics and theology is a false one, even without considering what God has directly said about economics.

And one only has to cast a vague glance in the direction of the Old Testament to see that God has a lot to say about the economic life of Israel. And it is similarly clear that the new covenant demands our all, leaving nothing—not even our economic lives—untouched. It should therefore be obvious that as the church we do, in fact, have much to say about economics. Here are two brief examples.

Example 1: the primacy of relationships

The missing element in the discussion on personal utility and preference is arguably that of the relationships. The economic principles we find in the Bible are mostly (if not totally) concerned about the nature of the relationships between economic actors, rather than individual utility. The Bible lays down clear guidelines for different sorts of economic relationship (see After Capitalism: Rethinking Economic Relationships by Paul Mills and Michael Schluter). The twin concepts of love and justice are meaningful only when considered in a relational framework.

As described in The Relational Lens: Understanding, Managing and Measuring Stakeholder Relationships by Aschroft et al., relationships are the cornerstone of the economy and are thus worthy of economic analysis:

Creating value, managing risk, achieving performance in a fast-moving business environment, improving wellbeing, building social capital, developing nations: all these challenges are affected by the health or otherwise of relationships.

And small steps are often a good place to start. As I have argued elsewhere, the health of relationships might be a sufficiently concrete concept to incorporate into the existing framework for economic analysis.

Example 2: ownership does not confer the right to consume 100%

Well-defined and enforceable property rights are essential to a well-functioning economy. But do we have the right to consume 100% of the fruit of the resources we possess? Economic theory would say that, after taxes have been paid, the resources are yours in entirety. However, as explained by Donald Hay in Economics Today: A Christian Critique, the Old Testament teaches us otherwise.

From the creation story (Genesis 1:28-30) and the parable of the talents (Luke 19:11-27), we know that all our resources (and even our personal skills and abilities) are God-given. Despite private ownership, the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it (Ps 24.1).

Regarding the stewardship of those gifts, we are told to follow the example of Abraham (Genesis 14:17-24) and tithe our income, that is, to give away 10% to the work of God. So does that leave us with the right to consume the remaining 90%? Not exactly. We have an obligation to use our resources to provide for the disadvantaged (Deuteronomy 15:4), to be generous to the needy (Proverbs 14:31). For example, the Israelites were told to leave the edges of their fields unharvested, leaving this part of the harvest for poor people and foreigners (Leviticus 23:22). In other words, the possession of resources confers a responsibility to bless, rather than a right to consume.

Turning to the New Testament, we see that Jesus’ words to the ‘rich fool’ are consistent with the idea that our God-given resources are to be used for God’s glory (e.g. provision for the disadvantaged) rather than for our own consumption (Luke 12:13-21).

I hope you are also starting to see the applications of Biblical principle to economic thought.

How to engage with economists

First, I would strongly encourage both the church and economists to engage with each other. There are bound to be misunderstandings along the way, but learning to speak each other’s languages with a degree of grace and humility cannot be a bad first step.

Second, seek what God’s word tells us about economic principles. For example: our collective and individual calling to stewardship; the importance of relationships; our right and obligation to work; and the obligations that accompany personal stewardship of resources. If possible, explore this with economists together, as some very patient people have done with me! Indeed, this was how I started on my journey to dig into how my faith (should) affect my economics.

Third, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Yes, economics has some hidden underlying assumptions—but it remains a powerful tool for shaping society. I suspect that in many cases economic analysis will stand almost unchanged, but with a greater recognition of the assumptions involved to get there, and what this means when interpreting the results.

Fourth, try not to get sucked into the left-right political debate until you’ve established a common ground on the purpose of economics and the power of the gospel to speak into how we use economics.

Further reading

There are a number of excellent blogs, articles and books on the dialogue between economics and theology. For example, see the St Paul’s Institute and the Jubilee Centre. For economists, I highly recommend reading Economics Today: A Christian Critique by Donald Hay. I got my copy for £3.26 on eBay, generating a vast amount of consumer surplus.


Tim Hogg is a practicing microeconomist, specialising in behavioural economics. He is married to Rachel and attends All Saints Woodford Wells, London. He hopes to one day own a dog, possibly a Cavapoo [ed: a great choice!].


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163 thoughts on “Can we think Christianly about economics?”

  1. A key question in this debate is the view we take about Theonomy and Christian Reconstrunction – Rushdoony et al.

    Phil Almond

  2. One thing that’s been annoying recently — I mean it’s always annoying, but it’s been especially prevalent recently — is people talking about ‘the economy’, ‘protecting the economy’, ‘prioritising the economy’, etc, as if an ‘economy’ was something that a society could either have or not have, like an army or a health service, rather than simply a word which describes that aspect of society which is to do with how individuals obtain goods and services. A society can no more not have an economy than it can not have a demography.

    So it’s nice to see a piece which understands that.

    One thing makes me curious though: maybe I’m misinterpreting but ‘behavioural economics’ makes me think ‘nudge unit’, which has bad associations for me as it implies governments’ attempts to sneakily change the behaviour of its citizens.

    I don’t like this as (a) I don’t think it’s any business of the government to be trying to change the behaviour of its citizens; and (b) if it does, it certainly shouldn’t be doing it by stealth, using underhanded means. That smacks of deceit.

    Can I just check this isn’t the kind of behavioural economics we’re talking about?

    • Hi S,

      As a behavioural economist I can do my best to assuage your concerns…

      First, there is no such thing as a neutral choice architecture (“the first misconception is that it is possible to avoid influencing people’s choices”, Richard Thaler).

      Second, we therefore face a decision about how we influence people’s choices. For good or for ill? Transparently or non-transparently?

      Third, there is a growing literature about what defines ‘transparent’. See for example this article, which I find helpful in thinking about what an individual could easily work out when facing the nudge. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2555337

      Last, a plea to recognise that behavioural economics is a powerful analytical tool. The correct remedy to a problem may or may not be a nudge; but the tool is still very useful in understanding individuals and markets.

      Tim

      • Hello there.

        Your first point merely begs the question. Just because it’s not possible to be perfectly choice-neutral doesn’t mean that (a) it shouldn’t be the goal to be as choice-neutral as possible, or (b) that that makes it okay to therefore pick a particular choice you want people to make and then try to tilt the playing field to get them to make that choice.

        I mean, it’s not possible to make a playing field exactly symmetrical so that there’s no advantage to playing one end or the other. But that doesn’t mean we say that therefore it’s okay to bias it so that the home team has a better chance of winning. No, instead we do our best to make it as neutral as possible and adopt mitigation strategies, like swapping ends at half-time to iron out as much as possible whatever unevenness remains.

        So we’re left with your second point, which is exactly the rub. I don’t want a government that takes it upon itself to decide for people what choices are ‘good’ or ‘ill’, and tries to manipulate them into making those choices. For example, what if a government (perhaps the Dawkins Party was elected) decided that region was bad for people, both individually — that bringing Children up as Christians was child abuse — and for society (because it promotes bigotry) and therefore decided to adopt policies to influence people against it? Not blatantly, like China or the USSR (The CCP’s ‘social credit’ system being the ultimate nudge), but subtle policies that just made it easier to ‘go with the flow’ and not take children to church.

        Governments should not be in the business of trying to design the kinds of citizens they think they ought to have.

        I shall have to set aside time to read the paper.

        • (Which is not to say the government can’t provide incentives: tax breaks on pension savings, or for entrepreneurs, for example. But they ought always to be direct, obvious incentives where the rationale for them is obvious, so that the individual citizen can choose for themselves whether to they want to take or reject the incentive. There is no excuse for indirect attempts to manipulate people.)

        • Hi S

          I am sympathetic to your concerns about loss of individual liberty (those are indeed scary examples), but to pick on the neutral point…

          Any presentation of options A B C will influence the decision to choose A, B or C (e.g. the mere order of choices effects choices). Say C is bad for the individual’s health (e.g. smoking), then government can either ban C, or it can ‘nudge’ away from C (e.g. by putting pictures of cancerous lungs on tobacco products, or by putting C lowest on the list of options). Arguably (and this is Thaler’s argument), nudging preserves more liberty than banning C.

          Now, one could alternative between nudging towards A, B and C such that 1/3 people get nudged each way – but I am not sure we are all better off through that approach. Indeed, we would have actively encouraged smoking in 1/3 of the population.

          I think the heart of the issue is where you draw the line between a transparent nudge, and a non-transparent manipulation. The latter can be deeply concerning, as you suggest.

          • Any presentation of options A B C will influence the decision to choose A, B or C (e.g. the mere order of choices effects choices). Say C is bad for the individual’s health (e.g. smoking), then government can either ban C, or it can ‘nudge’ away from C (e.g. by putting pictures of cancerous lungs on tobacco products, or by putting C lowest on the list of options). Arguably (and this is Thaler’s argument), nudging preserves more liberty than banning C.

            Or it could do neither, and if people want to damage their own health and suffer the consequences then that is on them. Saying the choice is ‘ban or nudge’ is a false dichotomy. The government could just butt out.

            Adults are moral agents, and have free will and responsibility for their own choices, good or bad. They are not children to be ‘guided’ to the ‘right’ choice.

            (And please let’s have none of this ‘but they affect the rest of us because we have the NHS’: most health spending these days is on people at the end of their lives, and smokers, by dying early, cost the taxpayer much less than someone who lives to 110. If health exernalities were what we were concerned about we really would be trying to get people to smoke.)

            But to address the point of the order of options determining choices: indeed, and there are ways to mitigate that. If the form is dynamic (eg a web page) you could change the order each time its requested. If it’s static, like a printed leaflet, then you could choose the order randomly; at least then you’re not deliberately favouring one option over the others, which is the problem.

          • Tim,
            Some of what you described is known in Public Heath circles as Social Marketing, and as a separate “commodity”, Social Capital, with prof Robert Putnam an earlier proponent.
            Public Health has also sought to make use of demographic spending habits, what, where, when, using information from card companies, in order to attempt to target populations, such as middle class alcohol consumption (other classes are available: deep fried mars bars anyone?)
            Also brought into the vocabulary are terms such as “fuel poverty”.

    • I would also add to Tim’s observations that the Nudge unit is there, as far as I understand, to encourage the implementation of Government policy. In theory, those policies are transparent and arise from the manifesto of a democratically elected party.

      If there is a problem, it might actually lie in those last two issue, rather than in the use of ‘nudge’ itself…

      • If there is a problem, it might actually lie in those last two issue, rather than in the use of ‘nudge’ itself

        Well, yes. The problem is in the existence of a government which wishes to change the behaviour of its citizens to be more in line with the way it wishes they would behave. Having a ‘nudge unit’ is a symptom of that basic misunderstanding of the rôle of government, not the root cause.

        But it is a defining symptom: there is no valid reason for a government to have a ‘nudge unit’ so the existence of one is a sure sign that something has gone very very wrong.

        • There are non-worrying examples… e.g. I don’t see the issue with changing the drafting of letters from HMRC such that tax evasion falls?

          • Tax evasion is a crime; the correct response to tax evasion is to prosecute anyone who engages in it. If people choose to engage in criminal behaviour then the job of the state is to ensure they suffer the consequences. So behavioural manipulation is not appropriate for criminal behaviour.

            For non-criminal behaviour the state has no business trying to manipulate behaviour.

        • Hi S,

          I am having difficulty picturing your perfect government. If a perfect government doesn’t nudge then it presumably stands for the current order of things. But the current order of things is itself a particular moral stance. For example the current order of things in the US is that one percent of its citizens are in jail and a disproportionate number of them are African American. A refusal to nudge in response to this is itself a moral position. The presence or absence of a nudge are each nudges in favour of a particular moral state of affairs.

          • The state – like leadership – is God’s instrument to bring about his purposes. God appoints leaders (who run the instruments of government). He uses these leaders to both judge and to bless (both of which are for our good). God therefore never intends for it to be objective. If God never intends for it be so it will therefore never be so. Whilst part of the world refuses to submit to his will none of the world is capable of not submitting to God’s plans.

          • I am having difficulty picturing your perfect government

            Governments exist to (a) enforce justice and (b) provide solutions to collective action problems.

            They are not there to try to ‘mould’ their citizens into better people, mainly because there’s nobody I would trust with the power to decide what a ‘better person’ is. As I wrote above, what if the government decides that a ‘better person’ is a materialist atheist and that therefore it is going to try to make its citizens into materialist atheists?

            So my perfect government would be one which enforces the laws, maintains roads, armies, and other bits of infrastructure that need collective action, and otherwise interferes in the lives of its citizens as little as possible, alowing them free choices which they must then suffer the consequences of (so if the citizens want to smoke, for example, and as a consequence suffer a horrible painful death from lung cancer, that is up to them).

            That’s rather different from the ‘current order of things’.

          • “God appoints leaders (who run the instruments of government)“

            Philip I may be misunderstanding you here, but do you really think God appointed Donald Trump or Boris Johnson? (For just two examples?).

            S: your example of allowing people to smoke themselves to death if they so choose is by no means so simple as you make out. Firstly, treating people who are dying of lung cancer is extremely expensive in terms of resources and very direct costs. And in an NHS of limited resources treating lung cancer means not treating people with mental health problems, for example.

            Secondly, if you simply allow people to smoke freely because that’s their free choice, their free choice impinges on others by consequence of secondary smoking. You expose children living with smoking adults to lung cancer as well.

            What is the distinctively Christian response to these two things?

          • S: your example of allowing people to smoke themselves to death if they so choose is by no means so simple as you make out. Firstly, treating people who are dying of lung cancer is extremely expensive in terms of resources and very direct costs. And in an NHS of limited resources treating lung cancer means not treating people with mental health problems, for example.

            As I wrote above:

            ‘(And please let’s have none of this ‘but they affect the rest of us because we have the NHS’: most health spending these days is on people at the end of their lives, and smokers, by dying early, cost the taxpayer much less than someone who lives to 110. If health exernalities were what we were concerned about we really would be trying to get people to smoke.)’

            Secondly, if you simply allow people to smoke freely because that’s their free choice, their free choice impinges on others by consequence of secondary smoking. You expose children living with smoking adults to lung cancer as well.

            I never said that the government couldn’t openly and for a specified reason restrict where people can smoke (in the same way as it restricts, for example, which side of the road you can drive on, to avoid accidents). Just that it shouldn’t try to subtly nudge its citizens into choosing not to smoke.

            What is the distinctively Christian response to these two things?

            I don’t think there is one. Not everything has a ‘distinctively Christian’ response. Sometimes the right thing is just the right thing.

          • Cancer Research suggests rather different take on figures to this S

            Cancer Research’s figures (at least the report I found) are wrong because they only look at one side of the ledger: they only look at how much it costs to treat smokers, not how much more it would cost to treat them if they lived longer.

            The Cancer Research figure I got was: ‘Smoking costs society around £30.1 million every year. This corresponds to around £1,900 per smoker per year.’

            You believe everything you read in the Guardian, right? Have a look at this:

            https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/feb/01/ageing-britain-two-fifths-nhs-budget-spent-over-65s

            ‘More than two-fifths of national health spending in the UK is devoted to people over 65, according to estimates produced for the Guardian by the Nuffield Trust – a figure that is only likely to increase with the nation’s ageing demographic.

            The data shows that an 85-year-old man costs the NHS about seven times more on average than a man in his late 30s. Health spending per person steeply increases after the age of 50, with people aged 85 and over costing the NHS an average of £7,000 a year.’

            A common figure seems to be that smokers on average die 13 years earlier than they would have done had they not smoked.

            So, if a smoker costs £1,900 per year, and an over-85-year-old costs £7,000 per year, then you can see that a smoker who doesn’t live until 85 is a net profit to the NHS: they cost £1,900 for the years they’re alive but they save £7,000 for every year that they didn’t live over 85 that otherwise they would have.

            Scale that up and, again, it’s obvious that the more people give up smoking, the more people will live past 85, and therefore the larger the burden on the NHS.

            So if what you really care about is the burden on the NHS, you need to get smoking yourself and encourage as many other people to smoke themselves into an early grave as you can.

          • “You believe everything you read in the Guardian, right? Have a look at this:“

            Wrong. I don’t believe anything I read in the newspapers. They all have an angle. Not to be taken literally.

  3. Thanks, really helpful and interesting. The question I am wrestling with (help from those who know about these things in detail welcome) is whether, developing the views put forward by Chris Wright in ‘Old Testament Ethics and the People of God’, the kingdom of God has its own ‘economics’ in the same way as it has its own social and spiritual aspects which are accessible only to those who are ‘born again’.

    If it does, that economics should be part of the way the church lives out the life of the kingdom and demonstrates an alternative in the world now. That is what the economic Law did for Israel. Chris Wright suggests that this is part of Christian fellowship in its New Testament sense, demonstrated by the ‘koinonia’ family of words which pretty much always have an economic aspect.

    My own feeling is that the kingdom does have its own economics, but my experiments testing that idea are at very early stages so I can’t express more than a feeling at present!

  4. Can wholeheartedly second the recommendation of Donald Hay’s book. Having been taught economics by him at university, he definitely avoided the pitfall of pretending economic judgements are somehow objective. I remember one long discussion on the validity of the ‘maximising utility’ assumption and his parting, heartfelt, recommendation, ‘Don’t try to live like this!’.

  5. Well-defined and enforceable property rights are essential to a well-functioning economy. But do we have the right to consume 100% of the fruit of the resources we possess? Economic theory would say that, after taxes have been paid, the resources are yours in entirety.

    This is a confusion over the ambiguous term ‘right’ in moral philosophy. If you have ‘a right’ to do something, it merely means that anyone who stops you from doing it is acting immorally. If you have a right to be treated with dignity, then anyone who does not do so is acting immorally.

    However the fact you have a right to do something does not mean that it is right (ie, morally correct) for you to do it.

    So the answer to your question is: yes, we do have the moral right to consume 100% of the fruit of the resources we possess. It would be wrong for someone to try to stop us doing so.

    However, it would also be wrong of us to fully exercise that right. We ought, voluntarily, to not fully exercise our right, even though we have an absolute and total right to do so.

    You can think of it in terms of free will: God gives us the absolute right to sin, because if we didn’t have that then our choices would be meaningless. If we didn’t have the right to sin — if God prevented us from doing so — we would not be human beings, but mere robots. To exercise that right to sin is morally wrong, of course. But it is only because the right exists that our free will is meaningful.

    Similarly it is only because our absolute right to enjoy 100% of the resources we possess exists that our choice to voluntarily forego some proportion of those resources has any moral meaning. And it must be voluntary, because, as I hope is obvious, coerced virtue is no virtue at all.

  6. What about the distinction between scarcity and abundance? It is my understanding that much enlightenment economics worked on the basis that the mechanisms operate because there aren’t enough resources to go around. But for example in an age of content – there is far too much to consume but we still have to price it. And of course whether you work with an abundance or a scarcity model – economists are highly selective in deciding what has value and needs to be paid for and what is a free good which the system need not get payment for. The Bible says lots about scarcity and abundance and one of the challenges is that God is never troubled by scarcity or limited by it.

    • economists are highly selective in deciding what has value and needs to be paid for and what is a free good which the system need not get payment for

      Um, economists don’t ‘decide’ that — that’s like saying physicists are selective in deciding which particles carry charge, or which forces are weak or strong.

      What has value is determined not by anyone centrally making ‘decisions’ but by what people want and are willing to pay for. All economists can do is observe what people do when allowed to freely choose what they value.

      And if people do try to make central decisions about what things are free and what are to be paid for (and how much) then either you get economic ruin and shortages (eg, when there are wage controls) or a black market springs up (eg when good were rationed during the war) or both (eg, what happened in the USSR) — to use the physics analogy, it’s as if physicists had decided to try to make water flow uphill. It’s fundamentally against the laws of nature, it takes a lot of effort, it doesn’t work, the end result is messy and destructive, and in the end you’re better off not bothering to try.

        • And yet what people want is constantly changing and is quite changeable

          Is it? Really? People want food, and shelter, and clothing, and transport, and status… these things are mostly constant.

          What makes you say that what people want is constantly changing when really what people wanted was pretty much the same in, say, Adam Smith’s day as it is now?

          Particles do not choose

          Now that’s true: humans have free will, which is what sets them apart from the natural world. But equally it’s that which means that economists can’t ‘decide’ what things people are wiling to pay for: because that depend son each individual person’s free choices, for which they alone are responsible.

          • But my point is that human decisions are strongly affected by culture and context, which is why the controversial ‘nudge’ approach is so powerful—and in fact its very existence rather contradicts your claim.

            Take our current situation. It now transpires that people’s desire to go out for coffee, buy sandwiches, eat out and so on are the bedrock of our service economy. Yet many can remember times when these things were not even possible to buy, and we appeared to managed perfectly well without them. In fact, the economic drivers behind convenience food are the very things that are the cause of the epidemic of obesity in the modern world.

            One question the pandemic is asking is: will people’s patterns of consumptions change radically when we return to a kind of normality?

            All things shows how changeable, pliable even, are people’s economic decisions.

          • But my point is that human decisions are strongly affected by culture and context, which is why the controversial ‘nudge’ approach is so powerful—and in fact its very existence rather contradicts your claim.

            Well, exactly how powerful it is is up for debate, and it’s noticeable that a lot of the psycho-babble nonsense like ‘priming’ and ‘power posing’ and ‘implicit bias’ is turning out to not be reproducible, and be exposed as the rubbish it always sounded like. And I know that’s not quite the same as nudge theory but it’s certainly nudge-adjacent.

            But I would claim that while the form people’s desires take is dependant on culture and context, the desires themselves are pretty fixed. People desire status, for example. Exactly what conveys ‘status’ can vary form one culture and era to another: for example, in one culture being overweight might be high status as it shows you can afford more than enough food, but in another being slim might be high-status as it shows you have enough time to go to the gym. But it’s the same desire.

            Take our current situation. It now transpires that people’s desire to go out for coffee, buy sandwiches, eat out and so on are the bedrock of our service economy. Yet many can remember times when these things were not even possible to buy, and we appeared to managed perfectly well without them. In fact, the economic drivers behind convenience food are the very things that are the cause of the epidemic of obesity in the modern world.

            But in those times you’re thinking of people still wanted, and found ways to satisfy, the exact same desires as they get from coffee shops and restaurants: for food, and for socialisation. Coffee shops just gave them an easier, more convenient way to satisfy those desires, which is why they were successful.

            They didn’t change people’s desires. They just gave them an easier way to satisfy the same desires people have had since there were, well, people: the desire to meet up, talk, discuss, and preferably to do it over food.

            One question the pandemic is asking is: will people’s patterns of consumptions change radically when we return to a kind of normality?

            That’s one of those interesting questions to which the answer is no.

            All things shows how changeable, pliable even, are people’s economic decisions.

            But they’re not. As I say, what people want is pretty fixed. If a new thing comes along which gives them what they want in a more convenient, cheaper, or whatever form, then of course they will switch to it in droves. But that doesn’t mean their desires have changed. Quite the opposite: it shows how fixed their desires are, that they are so ready to switch to something new which enables them to more readily satisfy those desires.

      • S,

        I agree with your comment and have one addition. Economists do make decisions over how to put a value on things when informing public policy choices.

        Tim

        • Economists do make decisions over how to put a value on things when informing public policy choices.

          Yes, and always with the inevitable result of shortage, ruin or the creation of a black market — I mentioned that.

  7. ‘Regarding the stewardship of those gifts, we are told to follow the example of Abraham (Genesis 14:17-24) and tithe our income, that is, to give away 10% to the work of God. So does that leave us with the right to consume the remaining 90%?’

    Hi Tim – could you clarify who the ‘we’ are in the above? A significant number of Christians today do not accept that such instructions to the Hebrews are relevant today to believers. They would argue that 10% is neither a minimum or maximum figure, just arbitrary now and it is up to individuals.

    But if it is relevant today, would you define 10% as of the gross income, or after other compulsory costs such as tax, NI contributions etc, ie the net income?

    Finally, what is the difference between a practicing and non-practicing microeconomist? (no this isnt the start of a joke. Then again…)

    Peter

    • Hi Peter

      Personally, yes I think Christians should tithe (recognising that others disagree). But… the point I am trying to make is that we face obligations even after the tithe. So whatever our view on the definition of the tithe, we should not be limited by it.

      In answer to your question on practicing… I am both using microeconomics on a daily basis, and practicing hard to get better at it 🙂

      Tim

    • I was a little disappointed when “give 10%” came up. Surely this should be “keep 90%”.

      Having financially benefited enormously from the lock-down, from the commuting cost and involuntary curb on my wasteful spending, I wondered what to do with this extra money (£2.6k and counting). I raised the question at a Bible study (with colleagues from work) and was disappointed that they talked of house extensions and the like. Anyway I then noticed the plank in my own eye and shut up.

  8. Wants constantly changing?
    Um? Make mine a carrot or stick?
    How about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?
    Can recall a Chief Executive from a Mental Health Trust saying that people want:
    1 someone to love them
    2 someone to love
    3 somewhere to live
    4 something to do
    Perhaps food and water was assumed.
    Can also recall an expert in was then known as a “time and motion” in the workplace saying, don’t apply this at home in relationships: he was divorced.
    The management of change has undergone many flavour of the month theories and practices, is an ever changing growth industry.

    • Wants or needs?

      I think your comment demonstrates the limits of maximising personal utility – we don’t always ‘want’ the things we ‘need’.

      • Neither do we need the things we want?
        Are there not considerations of economies of scale, national, global, macro, on microeconomics, on utility and ethics.?
        And is there an ethical place for ” confusion marketing” with a knock – on effect on utility?

        And is there still a place for motivational factors, such as Hertzberg Hygiene factors in utility of the individual with the human value placed on being, economically active.

  9. As someone who studied economics in the early 80’s I can see that the profession has moved on. Kate Raworth’s book “Doughnut economics” moves us on from the obsession with GDP growth and thinks about how we operate within the bounds of the natural world. I suspect there would be a lot that Kate and theologians like Ruth Valerio would agree on.

    The lack of moral compass behind economics is well explained in Jonathan Aldred’s book “Licence to be bad: How economics corrupted us”

    Eve Poole is a Christian who teaches at Ashridge. Her book “Capitalism’s Toxic Assumptions: Redefining Next Generation Economics” is also worth a read

  10. I was helped by reading the article thank you.

    I think that the most powerful economic idea that Christians can present to the world is that the job of a business (or for that matter any non-profit organisation) is to make a true profit. To make a true profit it must profit, or at the least not harm, the wider community, the environment, its customers, its staff, its managers, and its shareholders. The problem with the current economic model is it believes that a business has made a true profit when it profits only some of the these groups at the expense of others.

    It’s the natural extension of the idea of loving one’s neighbour.

      • Thanks Tim – I will check it out.

        I don’t think this is purely a Christian thing. Although it only finds authority in Christianity. The emerging generations are going to apply standards to businesses that were not in the picture in decades past.

  11. To make a true profit it must profit, or at the least not harm, the wider community, the environment, its customers, its staff, its managers, and its shareholders. The problem with the current economic model is it believes that a business has made a true profit when it profits only some of the these groups at the expense of others

    No, that’s simply wrong. In our current economic model, because it’s based (mostly) on free exchanges of goods and services, a business, to be successful, does have to profit all those groups.

    It has to provide profit to its shareholders because otherwise they would remove their money and it would collapse.

    It has to provide profit to its managers and its staff because if they weren’t profiting from their employment they would leave, and it would collapse.

    It has to provide profit to its customers and the wider community because if it isn’t providing something that people want, at a competitive price, then they won’t buy from it and it will collapse.

    That just leaves the environment and honestly I’m at a loss as to what ‘profiting the environment’ might even mean.

    • If you were right S then we are already living in heaven on earth. There’s no need for Jesus to establish justice and righteousness because it is our daily experience.

      I was going to ask whether you are a Christian but then I realised that it was unnecessary – you believe in the market – that it will serve the interests of everyone and the community as a whole.

      • If you were right S then we are already living in heaven on earth

        Um, no, where on Earth do you get that from? There’s no such thing as ‘Heaven on Earth’, because we live in a fallen world.

        I was going to ask whether you are a Christian but then I realised that it was unnecessary – you believe in the market – that it will serve the interests of everyone and the community as a whole.

        Well, I believe that the market is the best method yet discovered for providing the things people need and want. If you disagree perhaps you could point to an example of an alternative arrangement working better? It can be in any country, in any era, the only stipulation is that it has to have really worked for an extended period in the real world: it can’t be a utopian fantasy of how things could be wonderful if only everybody was nice to each other all the time.

        • There’s no such thing as ‘Heaven on Earth’, because we live in a fallen world.

          And indeed if anyone ever tells you they have a plan to build Heaven on Earth run away, very very fast.

          Because the only question is whether their project will fail before or after the corpses start to pile up…

          • I suppose it depends on how you define ‘heaven’, but according to Jesus we should ask God for His will to flourish on earth, as it does in heaven. If His kingdom is already being established here, is that not a little like heaven on earth?

            Peter

  12. Yes Andrew Godsall I believe that God appointed Donald Trump and Boris Johnson.

    It’s standard evangelical Christian belief – see Romans 13.

    I’m just imagine for a second that I didn’t believe that. Then I’d be reduced to imagining that their being in power was due to the lies they told – that their corruption and dishonesty was able to grant them the right to destroy entire countries. That’s a pretty grim picture. If I didn’t believe that God appointed them I’m sure I would not know how to deal with my utter contempt for how they and others like them behave.

    • Thanks Philip. I don’t at all think that’s standard evangelical belief. I very much doubt Ian Paul believes that either.
      Let’s see if any other evangelicals here will own up to believing it.

        • Thanks PC1. I agree.
          But many evangelicals believe the POTUS is not only appointed but Anointed.
          I was told that if anyone disagrees with this view they should suffer the fate of Shimei who scorned David, the Anointed. There is no difference between appointed and anointed in the minds of many Christians.

          • It is looking doubtful that the belief that Donald and Boris were appointed by God is at all widely held…..

          • It is looking doubtful that the belief that Donald and Boris were appointed by God is at all widely held

            How would you know? Perhaps everyone’s busy.

            I don’t know why you have such a problem with the idea that those leaders were appointed by God; God has appointed far worse leaders than them. Half the kings of Israel, for example. And when Paul wrote about the authorities being appointed by God he was thinking about the Roman emperors, and they were universally a pretty nasty bunch. Bad as Trump might be, he has nothing on, say, Nero. If Nero was appointed by God, then why on Earth not Trump?

          • How does it work then S? Does God just make everyone vote the way God wants, regardless of whether they want to vote that way or not? Is the voting all just a charade? Or do human beings choose and then God actually reaffirms their choice? Please explain it for me?

          • How does it work then S?

            I don’t know; I’m not God. But either you think Paul was wrong and God didn’t establish the authority of the Roman emperors, or you accept that God did establish the authority of the Roman emperors, and therefore God has, for reasons of His own which you wouldn’t necessarily expect to be fathomable to us mortal creatures, established the authority of rulers far worse than Trump; and so there’s no real reason to think that He didn’t establish Trump’s authority as well.

            Do you think Paul was wrong, then?

          • I think Paul got a number of things wrong. But more than that, what Paul thought then isn’t necessarily what we think now or what Paul might think if he was around now. Paul wasn’t God either.
            What is clear is that democratic process appointed Trump and Johnson.

          • I think Paul got a number of things wrong.

            And God let him put those wrong things in the Bible?

            How careless of God!

          • S
            There are a lot of ‘wrong’ things in the Bible. To attribute them to God’s carelessness is a little naive.

          • God didn’t let anybody put right or wrong things in the bible. The bible is a record of how people understood the relationship of God to the creation and created beings. And of course a record of salvation history. It’s interpretation. Hence we always have to ask “what did they believe then that made them express things the way they did?”

          • There are a lot of ‘wrong’ things in the Bible. To attribute them to God’s carelessness is a little naive.

            Well, presumably God, being sovereign, could have stopped wrong things ending up in His written word, the very thing which He gave to the world to enable us to know the truth.

            That He let errors slip through into such an important, even vital, document seems very careless to me. Close to criminal negligence, in fact.

      • So God appointed Hitler. And Stalin. And Mao. And Pol Pot. And Franco. And Mussolini?
        Interesting chap, this God of yours.

        • So God appointed Hitler. And Stalin. And Mao. And Pol Pot. And Franco. And Mussolini?

          And Nero, at least according to Paul. And the kings of Israel who worshipped idols and destroyed God’s altars.

          Interesting chap, this God of yours.

          Yes indeed. Far more interesting than our mortal minds could hope to comprehend. Far more interesting than the God you have constructed in your own image who would never do anything to make you disagree with Him.

          • S

            I don’t think in terms of disagreeing with God. She’s a transcendent Being, not a chum.
            But I don’t believe She’s a monster who appointed Hitler et al, nor all those Israelite and Judahite rulers. Very small, your God.

          • Supposing Hitler *was* appointed by God. What would that make Bonhoeffer’s involvement in plans to overthrow Hitler? Would that be a plot against the authority of God?

          • S,
            There’s a very thin understanding of the Sovereignty of God, and the whole of scripture from liberals, even to the extent, as others have pointed out, that it is a different religion and when on the one hand they self categorise as evangelical, yet in an accusatory tone deride and goad others as evangelicals for their view of scripture and Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

          • Geoff: I’m genuinely interested in the range of evangelical views on this subject. Do you, therefore believe that Donald Trump and Boris Johnson were appointed by God? Or was it democratic process?
            And was Hitler appointed by God? And if he was, was the plan to overthrow him a plot against the authority of God?

          • Geoff

            From what I’ve read the Gospel Coalition are of a different religion.
            Now, how does that sound?

          • I don’t think in terms of disagreeing with God. She’s a transcendent Being, not a chum.
            But I don’t believe She’s a monster who appointed Hitler et al, nor all those Israelite and Judahite rulers. Very small, your God.

            A transcendent being, and yet you reckon you have the authority and knowledge to judge what would make Him a ‘monster’. Wow. What does that make you, an ultra-super-transcendent being?

          • S

            Of course I know what would make God a monster. Constructing a being who would behave like a spiteful god in the Greek pantheon.
            Appointing Hitler, ethnic cleansing, sending ‘heathens’ to eternal torment – that’s a god made in our puny human image.

          • Geoff

            Biblical inerrancy is a belief.
            Many Christians don’t subscribe to it.
            Do you want to build a hedge around the Law.
            Are we saved by grace or correct beliefs?

          • Of course I know what would make God a monster.

            So you do have the authority and knowledge to judge God. Wow. Can you catch Leviathan too, or are there any limits to your powers?

    • Or perhaps He just likes mad hair?!

      Im looking forward to the new series of Spitting Image. When Trump appeared on Family Guy, it was hilarious.

      Peter

    • One could argue they are in power because the people voted them in (even if Hilary got more actual votes than Trump). Have a read of the article below I mentioned to Andrew Godsall.

      Peter

  13. Bonhoeffer’s plan was a mistake. Vengence is mine says the Lord.
    Churchill had it right: Why remove Hitler when he’s making such a fine mess of prosecuting the war?

    • Steve: since you wouldn’t agree with lifting a finger to prevent the slaughter of innocent people I presume you are completely in favour of abortion on demand and euthanasia by simple choice.

        • No. I think that Bonhoeffer was right to try and overthrow evil and Try to prevent the slaughter of Millions of Jews.
          And I know Trump and Johnson were appointed by democratic process.

        • Ah so you think Bonhoeffer’s involvement as a Christian was a threat against the authority of God then S?

          • Ah so you think Bonhoeffer’s involvement as a Christian was a threat against the authority of God then S?

            I just think that ‘Because removing him might have saved countless lives’ is a very consequentialist justification.

            On the broader point, I don’t see why it’s not possible for God to establish someone in authority, but then for that person to exceed their authority — acting ultra vires — and for Christians then to be called to act against them insofar as is necessary to reign in the actions that are going beyond what authority they have been delegated by God. So I don’t see any necessary contradiction between the two things you claim are contradictory. Hitler can have been established in authority by God, acted beyond the authority with which he was imbued, at which point defying him, at last insofar as he has exceeded his authority, is not rebelling against God’s authority.

        • Yep. Rather better than sending countless Jews to the gas chambers because God must have appointed Hitler based on a simplistic reading of Romans 13.

  14. Andrew Godsall,
    This is veering well off the subject of the original article, and is perhaps worth a separate post, and I don’t have time and probably ability and resources to do justice to a genuine question, but it is all part of the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God, God’s contol, God’s will (active and permissive) and human responsibility and will, and is well illustrated in the cycles in history in scripture.
    It is not restricted to democracies and their processes.
    A key, underpinning doctrine is the Fall of all humanity.

    • Nice way of avoiding the direct question Geoff. I am genuinely surprised at the way evangelicals have avoided this question.

      • Andrew,
        I’m not at home and attended a service this morning.
        Suffice to say, I don’t subscribe to Deism nor Open Theism, nor neo Marciomism
        It’s hardly surprising that few, evangelical or otherwise, have made it this far down a tributary: given the subject of the post they may not have dialed in.

  15. Economics : is it the way the available food is plated up around a common table? In which case Salt n Light are condiments . Christians are not necessarily indispensable to a meal but their effect is very helpful.

    • Even a casual look at their website and ‘Confessional’ statement makes it clear that the Gospel Coalition are quite a different expression of religion to most of world wide Christianity.

      • Is that a world-wide, universal,
        objective understanding that you have or is it purely your personal opinion, Andrew? Where is the evidence for your “clear” contention?

        • Geoff: the clear majority of Christians in the world are Roman Catholic or Orthodox (capital O). The gospel coalition presents a totally different Expression of the Christian religion.

          • Geoff: where is your evidence that liberal theology is “outside the Christian religion”? (Your contention at 9.30am today). Looks purely like your personal opinion to me.

          • the clear majority of Christians in the world are Roman Catholic or Orthodox (capital O).

            Are you conflating the visible and the invisible Church there? Naughty!

          • Nope. The numbers of RC and Orthodox combined make up over 60% of Christians worldwide. All visible.

          • The numbers of RC and Orthodox combined make up over 60% of Christians worldwide. All visible

            You’re doing it again.

          • Nope. Like Geoff, you are expressing personal opinion and pretending it’s objective fact.

            Yeah but you don’t think it was a fact that the Earth went around the sun before the fifteenth century, so I don’t think you’re reliable on facts.

          • No. It wasn’t a *known* fact. Quite different.
            It is, though, for example, a known fact that Geza Vermes was a theologian. But you don’t accept that.

          • No. It wasn’t a *known* fact. Quite different.

            Ah. So something can be a fact even though there’s no conclusive evidence for it, just not a known fact?

            So what Geoff is saying might actually be a fact, just not a known fact?

            Can you prove what Geoff is saying is not a fact?

            It is, though, for example, a known fact that Geza Vermes was a theologian. But you don’t accept that.

            Because he wasn’t. Calling a dog a cat doesn’t make it a cat.

          • Oh yes – what Geoff is saying *could* be a fact.

            So your opinion that it isn’t a fact is just your personal opinion? You have no actual evidence that it isn’t a fact?

          • I don’t need any evidence to prove it isn’t a fact. It hasn’t been established as one. It could be. But it hasn’t been. At this stage it’s simply an opinion.

          • I don’t need any evidence to prove it isn’t a fact. It hasn’t been established as one. It could be. But it hasn’t been. At this stage it’s simply an opinion

            An opinion which might be also a fact.

          • Geza Vermes a ‘theologian’?? His home was in the faculty of Oriental Studies. What he was was a Hebraist and a historian of Judaism.

          • Oh yes of course it might be. Let him establish it i say!

            How about you establish your opinion that the Bible is… what was it… oh yes,

            ‘a record of how people understood the relationship of God to the creation and created beings. And of course a record of salvation history. It’s interpretation’

            Care to establish that personal opinion of yours, for which you have no evidence, as fact? Or do little things like the burden of proof only apply to other people?

          • Geza Vermes a ‘theologian’?? His home was in the faculty of Oriental Studies. What he was was a Hebraist and a historian of Judaism.

            Everyone knows that, but apparently it’s a fact (and maybe a known fact? I lose track) that if you call a dog a cat it will meow.

          • “Geza Vermes a ‘theologian’?? ”
            Yep, studied religion. Religions. God. (Theos). Scripts about God. (Theos) Scripts about religions. Doctorate in Theology.

          • Yep, studied religion. Religions. God.

            I would have thought you would have been the first to point out that the study of religions, and the study of God, are very very different things.

          • And of course if you have a doctorate in theology then, according to you, you are called a dog, not a theologian.

          • Andrew is right that ‘theology’ is (in the absence of many alternatives) used as an umbrella term for anything that involves God. Which (God being so large and of such broad and fundamental significance) is a whole cross-disciplinary mass of things. It would probably be quicker and easier to list the things that do *not* involve God in some way. What was meant was that although the layperson groups all these highly disparate things together (‘it’s all religion innit?’) on forums like this the expectation is that people will, in the learned manner, be more precise.

          • Yes of course Christopher. And theology has several sub divisions. But none of it alters the fact that Gera Vermes was awarded a doctorate in theology. Not a doctorate in biblical studies. Not a doctorate in Middle Eastern or Oriental studies. Not a doctorate in religious studies. But a doctorate in theology. It’s an odd thing to say “he is not a theologian”.

          • But none of it alters the fact that Gera Vermes was awarded a doctorate in theology.

            Even if we assumed for the sake of argument that the doctorate was awarded correctly, which seems unlikely, he wouldn’t be the first person to do their education in one field and then move into a different one. Angela Merkel was awarded a doctorate in Chemistry, but she’s not a chemist. Lots of people who were awarded doctorates in history aren’t historians.

          • Verifiable in several sources:
            Dr. Vermes was born on June 22, 1924, in Mako, Hungary. His father was a liberal journalist, his mother a teacher. He received his doctorate in theology from the Catholic University in Louvain in 1953;
            Now S, if you think that University got it wrong, do take it up with them.
            As to his books: – this is a tiny cross section
            1983: Jesus and the world of Judasim (Contextual theology)
            1993: The religion of Jesus the Jew (Historical theology)
            2008: The resurrection (Hermeneutical theology)
            2009: Searching for the real Jesus (Hermeneutical theology)
            2012: Christian beginnings (Historical theology)
            Hope this helps

          • Now S, if you think that University got it wrong,

            I do.

            do take it up with them.

            I have better things to do.

            1983: Jesus and the world of Judasim (Contextual theology)

            History.

            1993: The religion of Jesus the Jew (Historical theology)

            History.

            2008: The resurrection (Hermeneutical theology)

            History.

            2009: Searching for the real Jesus (Hermeneutical theology)

            History.

            2012: Christian beginnings (Historical theology)

            History.

            Hope this helps

            It does. He’s obviously a historian specialising in Israel in first century AD.

          • Well, as it’s clear you can’t even use your own correct name, I wold not expect you to use the correct name for other things.
            Enough said…..

    • Geoff
      I do believe the truth contained in the Creeds.

      I do not believe in complementarianism or PSA. No do many Christians – evangelical and liberal, low and high. The Gospel Coalition’s confessional statements are fine for those who subscribe to them; they are one version of Christianity. I happen to believe it is a mistaken one, but if you hold it in good faith….

  16. You must be getting dizzy, going round in circles, Andrew. It really is tedious, wearisome.
    In addition to the distinction between visible and invisible church, which you don’t seem to comprehend, there is a clear distinction and difference of religion between those liberals who don’t believe the truths contained in the Creeds and those who do, whether Protestant or Catholic.

  17. oh and well aware of the distinction between invisible and visible church thanks. It’s another expression of religion again and one not to to be taken too seriously.

    • It’s another expression of religion again and one not to to be taken too seriously.

      That’s just your opinion. You have no facts or evidence.

      • Yep. Any view about the visible/invisible church distinction is just opinion. It’s just a weird theory with no evidence whatsoever.

        • Any view about the visible/invisible church distinction is just opinion

          Including yours?

          It’s just a weird theory with no evidence whatsoever

          That’s just your opinion. You have no facts or evidence.

          • Any view about it. Just opinion. Including mine, of course.

            Oh, right. Well if even you don’t think what you’re writing is a fact, why would anyone listen to you?

          • Well, again it’s a case of establishing a fact isn’t it? It’s just a theory at present so I don’t need to do anything really other than say it isn’t very plausible as a theory. . It’s up to those who present it as a theory to make it plausible and establish it as a fact. Same with anything.

          • Well, again it’s a case of establishing a fact isn’t it? It’s just a theory at present so I don’t need to do anything really other than say it isn’t very plausible as a theory. . It’s up to those who present it as a theory to make it plausible and establish it as a fact. Same with anything.

            If only you applied that to your own personal theories.

  18. “Not to be taken seriously.”
    Andrew, I don’t take your here seriously. It’s the way of delusion, of madness, a way of perpetual mockery.
    “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.” Proverbs 26: 4-5
    Mockers scoff at all truth claims (except their own) and virtue : agitate people, stir up skepticism, doubt, division and cynicism with moral and religious syncretism, wise in own eyes, metronomically querelous in perpetuity, yet fixed in concrete, on this blog of Ian Paul.
    Andrew, we worship and believe different Gods.
    I worshipped a version of your God, until the age of 47 when I was converted to Christ.
    I’m checking out of your game playing.

    • Geoff: your ‘game’ is a rather sad one. It was played by the lawyers and scribes and Pharisees and is well recorded in the gospels. It was the game that says “we have the right religion and you can’t possibly know anything about God or have any relationship with him.”. You can read it all quite easily. It isn’t a game that ended well. But thank the lord there was one who wasn’t prepared to play it.

      • Weird that, Andrew, I was converted to Christ, to know Him, to be in Union with Him, indwelt. Saved by him, for him. Converted from being a lawyer, to Christ. Friends and family know the before and after me.
        Your understanding of scripture (only of human construction according to you), of conversion, of salvation is lacking, knowing neither the scriptures nor power of God.
        Knowing that I am a former lawyer, it really is an extremely poor rejoinder.
        Which (lower case ) lord are you thanking? Forget that – I’m not really interested.
        It certainly is not a game: it is of eternal significance.
        May you come to know God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

        • Geoff

          Sometimes my faith is a flickering candle. Sometimes I know god as creator, redeemer, sustainer; sometimes I feel her absence.
          Sometimes I love the church; sometimes I hate what she has become.
          A few good and godly men and women keep this frail barque from floundering. Among them Andrew and David Runcorn.
          Please do not play games and set yourself up as an arbiter of who is saved, justified, sanctified, redeemed.
          It is unseemly and far from charity.

          • Please do not play games and set yourself up as an arbiter of who is saved, justified, sanctified, redeemed.

            That’s quite a plea from someone who has the lack of humility to set herself up as an arbiter of God’s actions.

          • S

            I am not a judge of God’s actions. I do judge how they are portrayed by others – making of God a monster, an ethnic cleanser, a paedophile, a rapist. Nor do I decide who’s in and who’s out. Or who is the ‘right’ kind of Christian. I leave that to others on this thread.

          • I am not a judge of God’s actions.

            Oh yes you are. You say that if God had established certain rulers you disapprove of, then God would be ‘a monster’.

            So clearly you must think you have the moral authority to judge His actions, and the knowledge to do so — you know, for example, that it’s not possible that God established the authority of someone who turned out to be a tyrant, knowing that some greater good might come from it. So to be able to say that with certainty you must have a greater knowledge of the world and all of history, past and future, than God.

            Or at least you must think you do.

            Or who is the ‘right’ kind of Christian. I leave that to others on this thread.

            Like Andrew Godsall, yes.

          • S
            No I don’t have the moral authority to judge God’s actions because I do not believe in a god who kills 6 million Jews, along with Romanies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, political prisoners,and gays, so that some ‘greater good’ might come out of it.
            If you want to believe in a god like that, try Zeus or Poseidon.

          • No I don’t have the moral authority to judge God’s actions because I do not believe in a god who kills 6 million Jews, along with Romanies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, political prisoners,and gays, so that some ‘greater good’ might come out of it.

            Can you really not see how that makes no sense?

            That’s like saying, ‘I don’t have the moral authority to judge Vlidmir Putin’s actions because I don’t believe in a Vladimir Putin who poisons his political opponents’.

            You clearly do think you have the moral authority to judge God because you are quite willing to say what sorts of thing you think God ought not to do. That is the exact definition of morally judging someone.

          • So, S, you do believe in a god who would kill 6 million Jews etc. in pursuit of some greater good? If so, yes, that is a different religion. I would say some sort of paganism, except that I know some really nice pagans.

          • So, S, you do believe in a god who would kill 6 million Jews etc. in pursuit of some greater good?

            That’s not the question. The question is, am I qualified to judge God? And the answer, obviously I would have thought, is no. God judges me; not the other way around.

            I mean, to judge someone, you need moral authority, and knowledge. God has the first; He created me, and the world, so He has the moral authority to judge it. I didn’t create God, so I don’t have the moral authority to judge Him.

            As for the second, God knows all my thoughts and therefore can judge them. I do not know God’s thoughts (do you?) so I can’t judge Him.

            If you think you can judge God, instead of God judging you, then I suggest whatever religion you follow, it’s not the one explained by Jesus Christ — who was quite emphatic about the fact that God judges and we are judged, not the other way around.

        • Geoff: there is no correlation between the word lawyer as used in the NT and the work you did as a solicitor. It’s just a complete misunderstanding to think there is. The world of 1st Century Palestine will not map simply on to our culture.
          By all means go along with the gospel coalition. By all means believe that God appointed Adolf Hitler. But please do not tell those who do not go along with these novelties that they are not Christian.

          • By all means go along with the gospel coalition. By all means believe that God appointed Adolf Hitler. But please do not tell those who do not go along with these novelties that they are not Christian.

            Bit odd to describe something written by St Paul as a ‘novelty’. I mean you may well think the Bible is wrong (a personal opinion for which you have still yet to produce any evidence, by the way) but you can hardly call something two thousand years old, ‘novel’.

  19. Penelope,
    I’ve not done what you’ve said I have, particularly when there’s no attempt to give any meaning to the words you use.
    You, above, ridicule evangelicals with terms that are outside
    Christian Creeds that’s far from charitable. In fact I’d say it could be taken as goading or chipping in with your games.
    You claim fragility of faith but you are persistently robust in proclaiming your position and are not timorous in making judgemental remarks about the Gospel Coalition and their beliefs.
    As far as I can see from all your contributions you, together with Andrew, worship different Gods from the Triune God I worship and who has revealed himself in scripture, in incarnation, bodily death and bodily resurrection and ascension and will return.
    My view is that liberal theology is a different religion. We worship different Gods.
    And it is slightly beyond me why that isn’t “owned” when at the same time the Gospel Coalition is judged as being, in effect outside mainstream Christianity by Andrew.
    It is remarkable how we reached this place on the topic of the original article and the point at which you joined in and the comments made, are pertinent.
    And you are continuing with this in support of Andrew.
    I’m finished here.

    • “My view is that liberal theology is a different religion.”
      You are perfectly entitled to your view Geoff. My view is that you partly worship a God of your own making: a God who can appoint Adolf Hitler and other tyrants a God who can make a book written by human beings that is infallible. A God who secretly chooses some human beings and leaves others to flounder.

      • You are perfectly entitled to your view Geoff. My view is that you partly worship a God of your own making:

        So you agree that they are different religions then. Great. That’s sorted. What was the argument about then?

    • Of course the Gospel Coalition is outside worldwide Christianity. Some of it’s confessions would not be recognised would not be recognised by Catholics, Orthodox and many Protestants. That does not mean the coalition is wrong. It simply means that it is not mainstream and not necessarily right. I don’t know that I ridiculed the GC; I did write that I don’t agree with their beliefs in complementarianism and PSA. Nor do many Christians
      I too worship a triune God, who created, redeemed and sustains the word. I say the Creed. I have told you this.
      You may worship a different God. I don’t know. But, from what you write, this does not appear to better God revealed in the gospels, the God who turned the world upside down and whose sovereignty is Godself’s desire to offer love and mercy and graciousness to all.
      I do not see that God in a mean-spirited human judgment on who is in and who is out. I would call it pharasaical, if that were not an anti semitic trope.
      I am robust in my beliefs, but fragile in faith. I do sometimes tease evangelicals, as Simon knows, but I count very good friends who are evangelical, such as David Runcorn.
      Of course I support Andrew. He is a marvellous priest, a compassionate person, a witty man and a fine friend.

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