Dedicated to examining the nexus between a person's world view of ,and/or belief in God, and a person's economic choices. Furthermore, theonomics also examines the collective result of such beliefs and decisions in creating and shaping societal economies.

Location: Greater Philadelphia, PA, United States

Married, 3 kids

Friday, August 31, 2007

"Niceness", Morality and the Market Economy

Is being nice the same as being moral? I was talking a friend today and the topic came up about dealing with unproductive employees. The sidebar was how do you fire someone who may have a family? Is it a nice thing to do? More importantly it sounds immoral to take away from someone, a job that sustains one's family.

But within this context: is "niceness" necessarily the same as morality? What exactly is "being nice"? According to Webster's Dictionary, among other things, it means being polite or kind, or socially acceptable. Therefore it is determined by how someone, other than you, feels about one of your actions or some of your words.

Morality, on the other hand, relates to principles of right and wrong in behavior. In other words, it is about what is right or wrong.

So if someone is not being productive in a business setting, and their inefficiency or ineffectiveness directly affects the productivity and/or income of other people in the organization, how does one balance morality and niceness? Is there a theological angle to this?

Since I am a Christian, how does my theology affect my decision to retain or fire an employee, especially if their productivity and compensation is way out of sync. If they are underpaid, my theology informs me that I need to be fair and pay them what they are worth, as determined by a combination of factors that includes what I can honestly afford and what the market thinks they are worth. If they are overpaid, do I fire them or do I reduce their compensation -- which might result in them leaving.

Morality require me to be truthful; it requires me to be on the side of that which is right. Niceness requires me to be kind in the way I transition them out of their job, or coach them into realizing their productivity. I certainly, should not be asking them do something without giving them the adequate support.

But morality and "niceness" would also require me to protect the others in the environment by not taxing them because of another person's ineffectiveness, or by keeping away from them more money, because an inefficient person hogs up a share of compensation that is not commensurate with their productivity or abilities. Morality and niceness require me to reward a person for achievements and success.


Monday, August 20, 2007

New Theology, Old Economics by Stephen H. Webb (First Things, 4/2007)

After years spent trapped in the academic equivalent of a singles bar, eagerly courting any discipline, no matter how unattractive the results, theologians have been trying to recover their reputation by being more particular about the company they keep. So how are we to explain a book like Theology and the Political: The New Debate, a 2005 volume that captures some of the world’s best theologians in a compromising relationship with the economic left? Are the anti-global Marxists Antonio Negri and Slavoj Zizek really more useful interlocutors than, say, Douglass C. North, one of the developers of what has come to be called New Institutional Economics?

Theology and the Political is a helpful book because it gathers in one volume a representative sample of very serious theologians—so why are they laboring so valiantly to impede the advance of capitalism and democracy? The contributors are associated with the British theologian John Milbank and his Radical Orthodoxy movement, which has staged an inspiring revival of Christian metaphysics. While some scholars challenge Radical Orthodoxy’s reading of history, I find its political ambitions much more troubling.

Take, for example, Kenneth Surin’s pronouncement: “Zizek is quite right to insist that Christianity and Marxism are the only two real metaphysical alternatives to liberalism.” This remark misses how Marxism, with its forced eschatological reading of history, is a Christian heresy, while classical liberalism, with all its mixed results, is a Christian achievement.

Classical liberalism sought to maximize individual freedom by minimizing political restraints on both the economy and the Church. It unleashed European economic power but had a mixed impact on religion. The triumph of the market both rejuvenated and demoted Christianity, which suggests that classical liberalism requires a nuanced providential interpretation. Radical Orthodoxy, however, treats classical liberalism as a failed form of philosophizing by turning its metaphysical modesty into a vice-a vice that only a refurbished Marxism can cure.

If Louis Althusser was right that Marxism is profoundly antihuman (he thought this was to its credit), then any surviving Marxists—even, or maybe especially, the neo-Marxists who have emerged since the collapse of the Soviet Union—need a lesson in individual rights more than a metaphysical makeover. The Radical Orthodoxy theologians, however, are as suspicious of liberalism as they are excited about Marxism. Many of them have been inspired by the dazzling if discombobulated brilliance of Zizek, a Slovenian philosopher known for manically blending Lacanian psychoanalysis and Marxism. Zizek is best thought of as a performance artist whose routine involves dropping Lacanian concepts onto items drawn from popular culture: Think of the comedian Gallagher using his Sledge-O-Matic to splatter pieces of watermelon on his eager audience.

Like a multinational corporation determined to penetrate every market, Zizek incorporates everything into his philosophy, from Stephen King to Oprah Winfrey. He has recently conscripted Christianity, calling himself a “Paulinian materialist.” Zizek assumes the Church and Marxism can be allies because they have a common enemy in the corrosive consequences of consumerism. Christianity, he hopes, can strengthen the Marxist ideal of a classless society, which has been rendered fragile by global capitalism. Christianity is at such a low point in Europe that Zizek can retrieve it without worrying that he might induce anyone to actually practice it.

You might not think serious theologians would be fooled, but you can read, for instance, Daniel M. Bell Jr. explaining, “The struggle against savage capitalism must be waged at the level of ontology, for capitalism advances not merely by economic victory but by ontological capture.” Meanwhile, Creston Davis and Patrick Aaron Riches try “to complete the transition from commodity culture to a fully materialized socialism” by demonstrating how the circulation of collectivized goods, more so than private property, reflects the excessive nature of the Christian economy of grace. Similarly, Philip Goodchild takes an eschatological perspective on money, which leads him to fantasize about how the Christian promise of ultimate fulfillment can undermine a system based on credit and contracts.

A common theme among these theologians is that capitalism is the material equivalent of metaphysical univocity, because its reduction of production to the flattened playing field of the market leaves no room for a richer, analogical understanding of reality. Milton Friedman, it turns out, has not only done more harm to the world than Marxism; he is also as philosophically misguided as Duns Scotus.

Graham Ward borrows—as do many such theologians—from another neo-Marxist: the anti-globalism theorist Antonio Negri, a militant revolutionary who wrote some of his best work while incarcerated in an Italian prison. Negri’s most original analysis concerns the decline of national sovereignty and thus the need for new structures to mediate international solidarity. You might think this means that global prosperity is inextricably linked to the continuing growth of Christianity as a stabilizing influence in the Southern Hemisphere. Ward, however, focuses on the way capitalism commodifies everything it touches, on the assumption that Marx’s theory of the fetish is more insightful than the Christian understanding of greed.

For John Milbank himself, the leader of the Radical Orthodoxy movement in theology, Christianity can redeem socialism by incorporating economics into a vision of transcendence that promises social cohesion without threatening violence. Milbank has always struggled to explain the economic payoff of his heavily platonized metaphysics of participation, though he writes with the Hegelian passion of someone who believes that social practices are not real until they have been given a fully rational explication. Socialism can succeed, he insists, if its materialism is given an adequate ontological foundation. “Nonreductive materialism imagines matter as that which can itself occasion subjectivity and meaning,” Milbank avers, “because it is the site for the emergence of a spontaneous and unpredictable energy.” That staunch defender of the market, Friedrich Hayek, portrayed capitalism as a spontaneous system that unleashes more human potential than governments can control, but I don’t think that’s what Milbank has in mind with his spontaneous materialism.

Milbank valiantly prolongs the Marxist dream that “a real plenitudinous infinite” will produce a “new man.” He thinks that grace is more anti-economical than economical, in that God sustains us beyond our earning potential and disregards our debts. This divine anti-economy, when applied to the human condition, favors socialism over capitalism because capitalism accepts the laws of economic exchange while socialism works against them. The argument is perverse. We are expected to believe that socialism is better than capitalism at reflecting matter’s inherent longing for redemption despite the fact that socialism is so clumsy in transforming matter into social use.

It might be obvious, but we need to say that calling socialism an economy of excess does not make it so. Capitalism, in fact, ensures a more dynamic and expansive circulation of goods by honoring the way possession does not infringe on the goodness of creation. Exchange without possession, and the legal enforcement private property requires, offers an unconvincing account of the origin of personal responsibility and the stewardship of resources. Grace is excessive in the sense of being unearned, but human barter works best when prices are determined by the competition of the market.

Theologians who read the wrong kind of economists are not just wasting their time. They are also missing out on conversations that could be productive. Recent theories, such as those of the New Institutional Economics movement, have gone far beyond the reduction of human behavior to self-interested calculations of utility that was so common during the reign of rational-choice theory. New Institutional Economics began as an inquiry into the way ideas as well as incentives shape corporations. It takes only a small step from asking why some firms grow and others die to asking what cultural factors are conducive to economic progress in general. Under the influence of Douglass C. North, New Institutional Economics economists have taken this step by launching an inquiry into the necessary cultural conditions for economic growth. Religion, it turns out, is one of those basic conditions.

North, who was the corecipient of the Nobel Prize for economics in 1993, argues that Max Weber was wrong to trace capitalism back only to Calvinism—capitalism was simmering in both Protestant and Catholic countries before the Calvinistic combustion-but he was right to wonder why Christianity and capitalism have been so closely tied together. North confirms Weber’s insight into the transformative role played by Christianity’s positive view of the dignified use of nature for human benefit.

Indeed, North goes further than Weber, by examining what economists call the market paradox. Simply put, the market encourages a competitive spirit that can weaken social trust; yet without such trust, people will not participate in the market. Individuals have to learn how to become masters of competitive advantage while obligating themselves—and trusting others—to play by the rules. We take market behavior for granted today, but its development is one of the great achievements of the Christian West.

As North makes clear in his most recent book, Understanding the Process of Economic Change, how market economies develop is a pressing question for both the historian and the policymaker. There is little evidence that pouring money into developing countries has helped them much. If we can figure out how the West broke through to economic prosperity, then we will be in a better position to help other parts of the world achieve the same success.

When he is wearing his historian’s hat, North argues that the common culture of the Church was a necessary condition for the transition from personal to impersonal forms of exchange as Western trade expanded throughout the Middle Ages. More specifically, Christianity’s articulation of a thrifty individualism encouraged the growth of trade organizations that were not mired in tribal alliances.

When North puts on his policymaker’s hat, however, he does not always show that he has learned his own historical lesson. Rather than asking about the prospects for a universal culture to manage and stabilize global economic growth, he waxes eloquent about cultural pluralism. In place of offering financial aid, North wants, in effect, developing countries to buy into the moral relativism of the Western cultural elite. Consequently, he cannot see how Christianity has come to represent the developing world’s best hope for prosperity. Indeed, while North American intellectuals are busy dismantling the last remnants of Victorian morality, theologians in the South are constructing the cultural foundations for trust and self-discipline that make entry into the market productive and meaningful. Southern Hemisphere theologians preach against debt, praise thrift, and promote literacy among the laity. It is easy for the prosperous in the North to condemn the prosperity-preaching of the South, but the fact is that belonging to a community that promotes confidence in the future while teaching strict personal morality is crucial for financial success.

Adam Smith was fond of saying that nobody has ever seen a dog exchange a bone with another dog. He meant that only humans exchange goods for mutual benefit. Capitalism is uniquely human because it lifts us above the mere struggle for survival and forces us to reflect on our capacity to alter our environment. Capitalism is guilty of making our wants seem like needs and thus turning material objects into the stuff of our salvation, but it is also realistic in acknowledging that human solidarity cannot be achieved outside the making and trading of supplies and services. For that reason, capitalism has been a helpful corrective to theologies that portray salvation as an absolutely otherworldly affair.

At its best, capitalism imagines a world where the pursuit of the good involves the making of goods in a way that affirms both individual dignity and personal responsibility. It would be a shame if Radical Orthodoxy turned out to earn its adjective—and thus its right to be distinguished from ordinary orthodoxy—by its devotion to Marxism. Affluent theologians owe it to Christians struggling in the developing world to give them the same opportunity to develop prosperous economies as our ancestors gave us.

Stephen H. Webb is a professor of religion and philosophy at Wabash College. His recent books include American Providence and Taking Religion to School.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Great Source for Bibliography

I discovered a great source of bibliography for those interested in this subject. It is at Harvard University’s Forum on Religion and Ecology (FORE)

Check it out – it is a lot more exhaustive that what I have mentioned below.

Buddhism and Economics

Christianity and Economics

Hinduism and Economics

Islam and Economics

Judaism and Economics

Emotion and Purchasing Decisions

Here are some other areas that I have observed as reason why people spend on non-essentials, i.e non needs such as food, shelter and water, even though they may play a factor in these areas as well:

  • Pleasure
  • Guilt
  • Fear
Pleasure is described as that which gives me either momentary or long term happiness. It could be a car that makes me feel good about myself, or a donation gives me joy in seeing the smile in a child's face.

Guilt is what always me to compensate for something that I should have done, but did not do. An extra special gift for one's spouse because one had to work on his/her birthday.

Fear of the unknown -- risk management could be encompassed within this emotion.

What brings us pleasure; what causes guilt; what create fear -- is there a connection between that which creates this in us and our understanding of the Divine?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Consumer Theonomics for Purchasing Decisions

There are three major elements that I often observe in consumer (personal) buying patterns

  • Attraction to the sound bite
  • Emotion-based reasoning (an oxymoron, if there was one!!)
  • Short-term memory

The sound bite is an extremely effective tool in most personal buying decisions. A great sound bite is one that creates need-awareness in the prospective customer to check out the product or service. Emotion based reasoning is where the product appeals to our senses and then we engineer our thinking process to enable us to create a reason that we find perfectly acceptable under the circumstances, that then allows us to justify the purchase of the product or service. Short term memory is when where the attractive sound bite combined with emotion based reasoning allows us to forget any history of either personal lessons in impulse based purchases, or allows us to conveniently overlook the fact that we may either a. have a similar product that we have not used, or b. that we do not really need this product/service at this time. In either case, after we have acquired the product or service, we then return to emotion based reasoning to justify our purchase decision. The sound bite connects to the emotion based reasoning, and short term memory ensures the consummation of the purchasing decision.

One could argue that there is a common thread to all these three elements and that is the obvious paucity of depth of thought, and the centrality of the emotional comfort of self, in the decision making process surrounding the purchase/acquisition.

Are we pre-wired to think a certain way, or is it something that can be cultivated either through commission or omission. An example of cultivation by commission is where an environmentalist might develop a discipline by which he or she creates a matrix to guide the purchasing decision making process. In doing so, the discipline becomes ingrained into their psychic DNA and process of decision making tends to support that which is also supportive of environmental sustenance. An easy example is one where an orthodox Muslim or a Jew easily rejects food choices that contain pork. An example of cultivation by omission is one where a purchaser may continuously learn to ignore the signals of financial (or other) detriment caused by impulsive buying decisions. If one would care to think back a while, one could remember the time when a certain impulse buying spree resulted in the lack of funds for groceries to feed the family. Yet the thought of discipline is so mentally and emotionally painful, that the path of least resistance is to continue impulse buying, irrespective of the consequences.

A large part of this depends on whether we are living purely for the present, or if we live with some notion of future in mind? If the present is all that matters, then all of the three elements mentioned at the beginning of this piece is very appropriate. An added complexity is whether we live for the present, but also feel responsible for others. If the notion of future is to be considered within the purchasing decision making process, the sole consideration of the present becomes insufficient.

Taking this a step further, how would one define “the future” and how would one consider that definition in the decision making process. (Please realize that there may be exceptions to every rule – even a planned, methodical, future oriented man may give way to his impulses and buy his wife some roses, when overcome by a deep sense of love for his wife.) Is the future considered that which is until the end of life? Or would the “future” encompass something that is passed on after life on earth, either in the form of a legacy or in the form of after life? Regarding legacy, could someone consider life to finish upon death and still desire to eave a legacy? If so, what prompts such a thought and the associated decisions?

One’s notion of the future is a part of the overall purchasing decision making pattern of every individual? My question is: Is there a theonomic perspective of the future and how does that perspective affect economic choices?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Is charity is just as “selfish” as self-indulgence?

Here is an article from The Economist Print Edition of August 2, 2007

Blatant benevolence and conspicuous consumption

Aug 2nd 2007
From The Economist print edition

Charity is just as “selfish” as self-indulgence

GEOFFREY MILLER is a man with a theory that, if true, will change the way people think about themselves. His idea is that the human brain is the anthropoid equivalent of the peacock's tail. In other words, it is an organ designed to attract the opposite sex. Of course, brains have many other functions, and the human brain shares those with the brains of other animals. But Dr Miller, who works at the University of New Mexico, thinks that mental processes which are uniquely human, such as language and the ability to make complicated artefacts, evolved originally for sexual display.

One important difference between peacocks' tails and human minds, of course, is that the peahen's accoutrement is a drab affair. No one could say the same of the human female psyche. That, Dr Miller believes, is because people, unlike peafowl, bring up their offspring in families where both sexes are involved in parenting. It thus behoves a man to be as careful about choosing his wife as a woman is about choosing her husband.

Both sexes, therefore, have reason to show off. But men and women will have different criteria for making their choices, and so the sexual-display sides of their minds may differ in detail.

Testing this hypothesis will be a long haul. But in a paper he has just published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, in collaboration with Vladas Griskevicius of Arizona State University, Dr Miller goes some way towards it. He, Dr Griskevicius and their colleagues look into two activities—conspicuous consumption and altruism towards strangers—to see if these support the “mating mind” hypothesis, as Dr Miller has dubbed his idea. Their conclusion is that they do.

Things are seldom what they seem

Altruism, according to the text books, has two forms. One is known technically as kin selection, and familiarly as nepotism. This spreads an individual's genes collaterally, rather than directly, but is otherwise similar to his helping his own offspring. The second form is reciprocal altruism, or “you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours”. It relies on trust, and a good memory for favours given and received, but is otherwise not much different from simultaneous collaboration (such as a wolf pack hunting) in that the benefit exceeds the cost for all parties involved.

Humans, however, show a third sort of altruism—one that has no obvious pay-off. This is altruism towards strangers, for example, charity. That may enhance reputation. But how does an enhanced reputation weigh in the Darwinian balance?

To investigate this question, the researchers made an interesting link. At first sight, helping charities looks to be at the opposite end of the selfishness spectrum from conspicuous consumption. Yet they have something in common: both involve the profligate deployment of resources.

That is characteristic of the consequences of sexual selection. An individual shows he (or she) has resources to burn—whether those are biochemical reserves, time or, in the human instance, money—by using them to make costly signals. That demonstrates underlying fitness of the sort favoured by evolution. Viewed this way, both conspicuous consumption and what the researchers call “blatant benevolence” are costly signals. And since they are behaviours rather than structures, and thus controlled by the brain, they may be part of the mating mind.

There is, of course, a lot of evidence for the first part of this conjecture. Everybody knows that fast cars attract fast women. The second, though, may come as a surprise. So the team did an experiment to compare them.

They divided a bunch of volunteers into two groups. Those in one were put into what the researchers hoped would be a “romantic mindset” by being shown pictures of attractive members of the opposite sex. They were each asked to write a description of a perfect date with one of these people. The unlucky members of the other group were shown pictures of buildings and told to write about the weather.

The participants were then asked two things. The first was to imagine they had $5,000 in the bank. They could spend part or all of it on various luxury items such as a new car, a dinner party at a restaurant or a holiday in Europe. They were also asked what fraction of a hypothetical 60 hours of leisure time during the course of a month they would devote to volunteer work.

The results were just what the researchers hoped for. In the romantically primed group, the men went wild with the Monopoly money. Conversely, the women volunteered their lives away. Those women continued, however, to be skinflints, and the men remained callously indifferent to those less fortunate than themselves. Meanwhile, in the other group there was little inclination either to profligate spending or to good works. Based on this result, it looks as though the sexes do, indeed, have different strategies for showing off. Moreover, they do not waste their resources by behaving like that all the time. Only when it counts sexually are men profligate and women helpful.

That result was confirmed by the second experiment which, instead of looking at the amount of spending and volunteering, looked at how conspicuous it was. After all, there is little point in producing a costly signal if no one sees it.

As predicted, romantically primed men wanted to buy items that they could wear or drive, rather than things to be kept at home. Their motive, therefore, was not mere acquisitiveness. Similarly, romantically primed women volunteered for activities such as working in a shelter for the homeless, rather than spending an afternoon alone picking up rubbish in a park. For both sexes, however, those in an unromantic mood were indifferent to the public visibility of their choices.

These two studies support the idea, familiar from everyday life, that what women want in a partner is material support while men require self-sacrifice. Conspicuous consumption allows men to demonstrate the former. Blatant benevolence allows women to demonstrate the latter. There is, however, a confounding observation. The most blatant benevolence of all, that of billionaires giving away their fortunes and heroes giving away (or at least risking) their lives, is almost entirely a male phenomenon.

To examine this, the team did another experiment. They found that when requests for benevolence were financial, rather than time-consuming, romantically primed men were happy to chip in extravagantly. Giving money to charity is thus more akin to conspicuous consumption than it is to blatant benevolence. The primed men were also willing (or at least said they were willing) to act heroically as well as spend—but only if the action suggested was life-threatening. Women, romantically primed or not, weren't.

Heroism, of course, is a pretty high-risk strategy. But if you survive, you really have proved the quality of your genes. As the old saw has it, faint heart never won fair lady. On the other hand a soft heart, it appears, wins a gentleman.

The finite and the infinite

Let's say that I work on the presupposition that finite cannot grasp the infinite. And if one does have complete grasp of the infinite, could one be described as infinite though possibly unequal to another infinite being,i.e. God (Georg Cantor, a mathematician in the late 19th/early 20th century argued that not all infinities are equal. So although an infinite set is infinitely large, it may not be as large as another infinite set.)

If we see ourselves as finite, how does that view effect our economic decisions, considering that our information may be grossly insufficient. If we are indeed infinite (or have perfect and complete economic knowledge, i.e. no risk), how would that effect our economic decisions. Please remember that economics does make an assumption that people will act rationally when provided with sufficient information.

Also, within our finite understanding of our finite selves, is there any relationship, causal or otherwise, between us and the infinite, and how does that translate economically?

Monday, August 06, 2007

What is Theonomics?

First, a disclaimer. I am neither a theologian nor an economist; neither an academic nor a writer. I just find this subject fascinating.

Man is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness from which he emerges and the infinity in which he is engulfed. Blaise Pascal in Pensées (1670)

An Introduction
Lest anyone think that this word is my personal creation, I stumbled upon this word while reading Max Weber's book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. It refers to the intersection of theology and economics.

According to Lidell and Scott's Greek English Lexicon, the term θεολογια theologia is used in Classical Greek literature, with the meaning "discourse on the gods or cosmology". Economics is the social science that studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The word 'economics' is from the Greek for οἶκος (oikos: house) and νόμος (nomos: custom or law), hence "rules of the house(hold)." A definition that captures much of modern economics is that of Lionel Robbins in where he says that economics is "the science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses." Theonomics, therefore, is the study of the nexus of these two disciplines.

In using the term "theonomics", on a micro- level, I am attempting to understand what effect, if any, does a person's view of God have on one's economic decisions. On a macro level, I am trying to understand the theological underpinnings, if any, of large economic systems. Reversing the direction of analysis, another question is: does one's economics decisions reveal something about a person view of God?

Why is this important?
Throughout history, religion and trade have been vital underpinnings of society and civilization. In the modern context we observe, for better or for worse, the rise of fundamentalism, whether they be Christian, Jewish, Hindu or Islamic, or atheistic. I define fundamentalism as a "strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles". Of course, "strict adherence" in itself does not constitute a problem for society in general, but it does become an issue when one's "strict adherence" has a direct effect on the life of someone who is outside the realm of "strict adherence". Interestingly, the "strict adherence" leads to choices, many of which involve the economic realm. History has shown that the direct effects are not always bad, e.g. when William Wilberforce, propelled by his faith, influenced legislation that led to the abolition of the slave trade under the auspices of the British government. We also have our bad examples: the movie, The Mission, a depiction of a historical event also reveals the dark side of such a nexus. Lest anyone think that fundamental theistic beliefs are the only notions to blame, the fundamentalism of atheism has had also directed a large share of persecution and death to its non-adherents.

A Caution
There is a phenomenon that is sweeping the world, that notions of God are exhibiting themselves through the lens of political, social and economic policy. There is also a widespread belief (albeit , often untrue), and that a large part of historical and contemporary destruction that stems from direct human involvement has something or the other to do with people’s notion of God and what God has commanded them to do. People’s actions have their roots in people’s choices, and these choices stem from people’s world views that exhibit themselves through ways that have a correlation between the world views and the power (or the lack thereof) that they sense in being able to live through their world views in ways that result in, what they believe to be, a meaningful life. It is, therefore, becoming increasingly important to understand, and study, the nexus of theology and economics.

There is a danger when we make sweeping statements (often because we choose not to think through the issues) that belief in God is the problem. People proclaiming the name of God have done immense good. Evil has also been propagated by people who have used God as their personal battering ram. Once could argue that the very notion of good and evil, are in itself an acknowledgment of an external moral code, ascribed to an external code giver or law giver. When you get to the root of the discussion of God, one finds that often it is the external law or code giver that people often reference as God.

How can we do this?
N.T. Wright (in his book The New Testament and the People of God) argues that essential to historical knowledge is learning to see through the window of a world view other than our own. These world views do four things: First of all, they provide the stories through which humans frame reality. Secondly, these stories address the questions being asked by a people - Who are we? Where are we? What is the problem? and, What is the solution? Thirdly, they include symbols and boundary-markers which express the world view in daily life. And finally, they include a praxis, a plan of action, a way-of-being in the world. I believe that the symbols and boundary markers (Wright's 3rd point) are influenced by our view of God, and the praxis in the economic realm is worth this study.

Thus, theonomics is the study of the effects that the external law giver has on the choices we make, particularly those choices with personal and societal economic ramifications.

I trust you will be a part of the journey wherein I attempt to understand this issue.