Economics, Calling & The Christian Faith
The Weber Thesis: A Virile Protestant Christianity in the First 100 Years of America's History the Primary Cause of the Prosperity of This Country
"They shall beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruninghooks..." - Isaiah 2:4
The Weber "Thesis": One Key to Christian Influence
In 1906, the renowned historian, diplomat, and economist, Max Weber published his book “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”. Marxist historians (not to mention Karl Marx himself) have historically recognized the fact that Christianity creates a powerful force in the creation of a free market, the rise of a powerful and influential "Middle Class", and constitutional government.
Note: Weber drew a clear distinction between papal Catholicism (noting Rome's many statements rejecting freedom and free enteprise throughout its literature) and the historic Protestantism. Historic Protestantism emphasized a biblical preaching (I Cor. 1: 17-18), a justifying faith in Christ (Romans 4), the Great Commission (Matthew 28), private charity through the deaconate (I Tim. 3:8-16), rule by eldership (Titus 1), systematic development of the truths of Scripture (Isa. 8: 10) and ethical conduct guided by the Laws of God (Romans 7: 9-25 and the Book of Proverbs).
Such a Christianity emphasized, Weber noted, the giving of the Word of God to "all men and women". He also noted the historical antagonism toward freedom and free enterprise in the extensive treatment of such subjects by the Roman Catholic Church (in its major policy position on the subject entitled Rerum Novarum). So Weber specifically excluded Rome, Eastern Orthodoxy, from among those "Christian" sects that would endorse a "sound" Christian expression of Biblical truths in the hearts of people.
Weber Thesis: Emphasizing Righteousness and What Righteousness Creates in the Heart
Weber's "Thesis" is simple: Christianity preaches and teaches "righteousness" in the heart leading to a discerned application of righteousness in life conduct. This results in good stewardship, virtuous conduct, trust and faithfulness in service, and skillful application of wise counsels to economic development. This emphasis is one of the most important cultural means God uses to expand the Gospel through a "productive" people.
The Weber's Thesis shows an active and culturally virile Christianity powerfully impacting society as opposed to a "pietistic" Christianity (a mystical, monastic-like withdrawal from the culture perceived as too impure/evil to "touch"). Pietism leaves Christians "passive", waiting for the Lord to act against evil, instead of a faithful, empowered Chrisitianity.
"Capitalism" is a Word Invented by Socialist Writers
Unfortunately, though “capitalism” is a term associated with a free market economics, the origin of the term is that of socialistic- minded writers who needed a pejorative term to bring “free market economics” into scorn and disrepute.
“Capitalism” a term that almost begs to be interpreted by the masses as if one were saying “Moneyism” – meaning, “Money is the “be – all” and “end – all” of life’s activities… and "anything that brings in money must be a good thing." In other words, "greed" is presumed to be the central motive and drive of "Capitalism" in the perception of the masses. This stands opposed to what is designed by God as the central motive of a free market: honesty, calling and the honorable servicing of the needs and desires of people.
That is NOT what the term means but few Americans understand it to refer to the use of "capital" investment: machinery, tools, dies, equipment utilized for the production of OTHER goods and services. This kind of "capital investment" allows for massive production to meet the needs of multitudes of people.
Weber Notes the Impact of Reformation in Heart and Conduct
That is NOT the ethic which the Christian faith brings to the table in the ongoing debate concerning a “Christian America” (the colonial foundation and inception of the United States). During those comparatively few eras when Christianity is strong in the culture AND is dependent upon the Word of the Lord (the Bible) for its Standard of interpretation and guidance, God’s people are undertaking vast changes in the religious, cultural, economic, educational, and political landscape. We call such eras, “reformation”.
It is also during such Reformation eras, Weber noted, that economic progress explodes in all directions culturally. Why? Because the Bible – and the preaching accompanying its use – radically affects the thinking of people, creating these responses in the hearts of many...
Calling – “Doing that which would be left undone if you don’t do it.
Stewardship – Effective and efficient use of the resources available toward personal and social progress.
Justification – The historic Gospel of a justifying faith in Jesus Christ which lays the bedrock for building a society upon reality. Justification drives mysticism, occultism, idolatry, atheism and superstition into the cultural woodwork of a society. Weber noted that as reformations progressed, societies affected by the doctrine also progressed in the arts, sciences and commercial progress and productivity.
Temperance – far from be relegated to the topic of “alcoholic consumption”, temperance is that Christian trait which moves the heart to apply time and resources wisely and only to that which is necessary (Psalm 90) and vital to a particular application. Running to excess is not a characteristic of such a person.
Profitability – That quantity of money above and beyond the cost of a product or service, demonstrating the capacity to transform resources, time, energy, skill, wit, and opportunity into a discerned “pleasing” of one’s neighbor on an honest, and habitual basis.
Weber and Historic Eras of "Reformation" and Economic Progress
America was once the home of churches whose pulpits regularly addressed these issues. As a result, America became a great nation whose impact grew due to its powerfully productive economy. In other words, it was the Christian ethic – stemming from pulpits – which distinguished the land during such reformation eras.
Such eras throughout our history included:
The English Reformation in which many fled the persecution of England and came to the New World and successfully planted a NEW CIVILIZATION. (1620 – 1689).
The Great Awakening in which the colonial landscape was CALLED back to its roots through the preaching of a justifying faith in Jesus Christ. This work commenced in the 1730s and extended through the inception of the new nation (1796). Men such as George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, the Tenant family, Frelinghuysen, Samuel Davies, and the “Black Regiment” (see “Black Regiment”). This reformation birthed the nation, provided a more mature understanding of "liberty" (as opposed to "license"), gave it its Constitution and Bill of Rights, nourished the development of industry which later grew exponentially, expanded its trade and cultivated overseas markets for the American farmer, merchant, and (later) industrialist.
The Second Great Awakening”, though inferior in its impact, nonetheless affected rural America to the extent that an Agricultural Revolution erupted across the country. (See Davy Crockett (See Legacy for Leadership on SolomonsToolbox.com) and his famous “education” at the hands of an honest “backwoods” Christian farmer in Tennessee.)
Today. Today God is now doing what He has performed in the past in reformation Christian history. Where there has been enough detail preserved in documentation, it can be shown that there are over 100 consistent “marks” of reformation during such eras (See “The 100”). Several of those marks are economic and commercial in character.
Pulpits Today, Strangely Silent and Ashamed of Reformation
Over the past 120 years the pulpits in America have been strangely silent upon such issues as these. Could it be that our seminarians aren’t taught a sound economic approach to culture, family and marriage in their training?
Yet, the Bible abounds with economic and commercial lessons. Indeed, the son of the Book of Proverbs is called to look at his own mother as a model of faith. But, note an important key to interpreting this famous text of Scripture: the faith of the woman of Proverbs 31 (“fear of the Lord”) is almost exclusively described in economic terms!
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Who in History was the Famous Woman of Proverbs 31?
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“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.