Economy of Grace Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1570 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Economics

Economy of Grace, Kathryn Tanner approaches the fiscal side of Christianity. She begins by asserting that there is a unique relationship between economics and Christianity, primarily because a Christian is compelled to incorporate faith into daily life. She uses other examples to demonstrate why God should be a part of economics. For example, she shows how making God part of love or fellowship not only enhances those two phenomenon, but also highlights what they are missing when God is not a part of them. Then, she goes on to explain that the economy is missing an essential element when God does not play a role in it.

Next, Tanner focuses on the economic nature of the modern world, which has had a necessary and dramatic impact on the teachings and beliefs of the church. She begins by demonstrating that Christians, living in the world, generally have to engage in economic activities. She does acknowledge that not all Christians have done so. For example, early Christians did not believe in the practice of usury, and even modern Christians talk about the duty to forgive some debts. (Tanner, p.2). In addition, some early additions espoused the superiority of community-owned property. (Tanner, p.2). Furthermore, some Franciscans did not engage in monetary transactions, or own property. (Tanner, p.2). However, the vast majority of Christians, both present-day and in the past, live in the world and must engage in financial transactions in order to survive.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Tanner then acknowledges that scripture does not place a tremendous emphasis on the economics of Christianity and that many discussions of economics and Christianity devolve into generic discussions of Christian morals. (Tanner, p.3). On the contrary, she believes that Christians and Christianity should have an impact on economic structures and not just be concerned with the individual moral character of the people involved in the economy; instead of an economic structure staffed by loving people, Tanner envisions an economy of love. (Tanner, p. 4). An economy of love would have to be a theological economy; one that references God in its use. Such an economy has two basic principles: a lack of self sacrifice, and a need to operate for the benefit of others. (Tanner, p. 31). In other words, a theological economy is a win-win economy, where none of the participants are expected to act to their own detriment, but where they are also expected to consider more than personal bottom-line when engaging in economic transactions. The result is an economy that is unlike capitalism, because it is non-competitive, but also unlike communism, because it allows for personal property ownership and permits monetary success as a religious goal.

Next, Tanner compares and contrasts her idea of a theological economy with traditional capitalism. To do so, she acknowledges that her interpretations of Christianity and how those interpretations have shaped her concept of a theological economy are not the only interpretations of Christianity. On the contrary, Tanner realizes that:

As evidenced by its variability over the course of complex two-thousand year old history, the Christian story about God, creation, providence, and salvation is a highly malleable story, susceptible to multiple readings of the notions at issue and multiple accounts of how those notions are all to be tied together coherently. (Tanner, p. 32).

However, because she wants to contrast a theological economy to capitalism, Tanner's interpretation of Christianity and what it says about the economy is specifically tailored to be such a contrast.

As a result, Tanner begins by pointing out how drastically un-Christian the present economy of capitalism is. As an American, living in an incredibly prosperous country, where even our poor are dramatically wealthier than the vast majority of people living in impoverished countries, it can be difficult to discount the success of capitalism. However, the United States operates as part of a world economy and it is naive, at best, to underestimate the impact that American prosperity has on world-wide poverty. This fact becomes even more disconcerting when one looks at the pervasive hold that capitalism has on the world market. Tanner explains that:

The economic options of history seem to have come to an end, to have narrowed to this final one. With the demise of Eastern European and Soviet-style communism and the introduction into China of capitalist economic principles, there seems no alternative to capitalism. It is capitalism or nothing- capitalism as presently organized or nothing. Experiments with social welfare states in the West have faltered; efforts by individual nations to stem the flow of capitalism's rush to spots with cheaper labor or stronger currencies seem flattened by the free-market juggernaut. (Tanner, p.33).

Because of capitalism's hold on the world economy, Tanner acknowledges that it is difficult to conceive of an alternative, but also makes it clear that it also makes such an alternative even more necessary.

One of the first problems that Tanner seems to identify with capitalism is its concept of property ownership. However, Tanner does not suggest a pure communal society. On the contrary, she discusses two specific economies, one theoretical and derived from the writings of John Locke and one based on an actual economy of non-commodity gift exchange in South Asia. (Tanner, p.33). Working with those two frameworks as a basis, Tanner hopes to develop a theological economy that is relevant and is an actual possible alternative to capitalism and exclusive ownership, unlike pure communism or pure socialism which have proven to be unworkable in modern society. To fully explain this concept, Tanner defines property in a different manner, as what is currently in one's possession and allows for some private ownership, and even for some exclusive ownership.

Even after developing a framework for a theological economy, Tanner acknowledges that it may seem impossible. In fact, she acknowledges that a "theological economy seems a singularly peculiar, wild, and unworkable ideal." (Tanner, p.87). In fact, her theological economy is a utopia and does not work in the present global economy. In order to establish a theological economy, it would require a complete and total replacement of the present economic system. (Tanner, p.88). Even if that occurred, Tanner seems to suggest that such an economy would be unlikely to survive if it existed outside of the rest of the world. That, of course, is a very real danger, if anyone were to ever establish a theological economy. After all, the examples that exist are antiquated: "subsistence agrarian economies of ancient Israel or... The desert monasteries of the early church." (Tanner, p.88).

Instead of existing outside of the world, Tanner posits that the role of a theological economy is not to replace the existing economy. In fact, she seems to acknowledge that a theological economy would never be capable of replacing today's economy. Instead, she believes that a theological economy is supposed to work in opposition to and in concert with an existing economy:

Theological economy encroaches on and enters within the territory of the economy it opposes for the purpose of transforming the operations of that field. Theological economy does not linger on the outskirts of the economy, waiting for it to die a natural death, but works within it, to turn or convert it to different principles of operation. A theological economy in this way germinates or comes to flower on alien soil. (Tanner, p.89).

A theological economy has to exist in conflict with capitalism, but, though they are oppositional, they can co-exist. There are points of intersection and intervention, where there is an opportunity for the theological economy to influence and shape the current capitalist economy. (Tanner, p.89). She points out that outside forces can change an economy, even a strong free-market capitalist society, and indicates that labor unions did exactly that in the early part of the 20th century. (Tanner, p.90). On a global scale, the practice of condition-free debt… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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