03 Jun The Good of Affluence by Dr. John Schneider
Of all the issues that hold ideological significance in my life, none reach the level of gravity that the subject of faith and capitalism do. I am convinced that there are more souls to be won by demonstrating the compatibility of free market economics with the Judeo-Christian worldview than any other mechanism on the planet. Likewise, I am convinced that there are more societies and nations that can be won over to prosperity and freedom, if but only for the faith community’s stubborn inability to embrace such. Dr. John Schneider’s remarkable work, The Good of Affluence: Seeking God in a Culture of Wealth, is a huge first step in seeing this dream become reality.
I do not know what impact the book will end up having, as I do not believe it has received the audience it deserves. I am determined to change that. But allow me to comment a bit on what the book has successfully demonstrated:
– That God, as part of his normative will, desires for His people to live in delight. Our covenantal journey is one of starting at, and returning to, Edenic conditions. This is an economic journey, just as it is a spiritual and moral one. Schneider’s thesis ought not be confused with prosperity theology. Schneider does not argue that all Christians will live in prosperity; he merely argues that those who do are called to such, and ought not be ashamed.
– The doctrine of moral proximity. That is, that believers are most responsible for the things most proximate to them. After reading Schneider’s elaboration here, it is almost too obvious to be profound. But I believe it has gigantic implications in the Christian life.
– That the “problem texts” for rich Christians are 100% of the time “problems” only for those abusing the poor – not those whose hard work and ambition has created material abundance. Schneider carries us through Eden, the Exodus, the prophets, and the age of Jesus’ own earthly ministry. He powerfully posits that riches are not only not condemned in the Scriptures, they are encouraged. This is where Schneider’s credentials as a theologian become very valuable. Pagans like Adam Smith, F.A. Hayek, Joseph Schumpter, and Ludwig Von Mises have done yeoman’s work in demonstrating the superior capabilities of free market ideology. Contemporary economists like Milton Friedman and Larry Kudlow have elaborated on such, and done so with a certain appreciation for faith and values. But theologically pedigreed scholars have been few and far between in the movement to advocate a decidedly capitalistic culture. Schneider gives us the best of all worlds.
The notion that all Christians belong in the “promised land” is rank heresy. But so is the idea that all Christians belong in the “wilderness”. The sociological benefits of capitalism are so clear and so persuasive it is remarkable that the discussion still has to take place. The Proverbial message of hard work leading to prosperity is not merely descriptive – it is prescriptive as well. Schneider goes beyond the historical, sociological, and economic arguments for free market capitalism. He intertwines such with the theological prescription that has been so massively absent from the works of Ron Sider, Jim Wallis, and Brian McClaren. No theology professor in the country has written a book as important as Schneider’s this decade. I commend it wholeheartedly, and even more so, commend the efforts of all people of faith to bridge political and economic ideology with theology.