Skip to main content

Seeking the City







Seeking the City by Chad Brand & Tom Pratt

In their new book entitled Seeking the City by Professor of Theology Chad Brand and Pastor Tom Pratt, the authors seek to focus on the issues of wealth, poverty, and political economy from a biblical, historical, and economic viewpoint.  With both critique and construction, the following pages elucidate a free market capitalist position of the economy that hinges upon free enterprise.  What was benenficial for readers is the authors insistence that there is an underlying moral framework to market economics, for no market system is morally neutral but is always  bent in one direction or another.  This is a wide-ranging and fair assessment of the history and politics of our economy from a robust biblical perspective that addresses the questions we must face in the world in which we live.  

Done particularly well was the chapter devoted to The Reformation and Political Economy.  By looking at Calvin’s views on the politics of Geneva and for the world at large, there is a connection between what the Founders thought in line with what Calvin taught concerning politics.  “Calvin favored the idea of decentralization in governance, an idea consistent with Jeffersonian politics.” (339)  Yet, the specific teachings of Calvin were not followed by Jefferson or Madison.  The authors write, “Modern republicanism is a sort of working out of the basic idea that come from the Reformation, but it is not found in the Reformers’ teachings explicitly.” (340) There is a dependence upon Calvin and the Reformer for such primary concepts as limited government, but these explicit teachings are not linked like a chain is linked to each individual link. We also begin to see the challenge that Calvin was up against as he sought to promote a view of civil magistrates that they be ‘godly men who bear the task of governing, men serving as “vicars of God.” (337)  From outlining Calvin’s political theology to his view of civil magistrates as spiritual elders of the community, Chad and Tom do a good job at focusing in on the political expressions that come from the Genevan Reformer’s pen.  On a sidenote, I was pleased that the authors branched out beyond the Institutes and looked at Calvin’s commentaries  for comments on the political state.

There is a point of criticism that is necessary on the chapter entitled The Morality of Market Economics.  The authors go out of their way to address the question Does the Free Market Create Economic Suffering?  After bolstering their case by seeking to prove the thesis that economic development and free enterprise help most everybody in need, they make a couple of statements that are misleading at best.  They write, “It was not until the industrializiation of societies advanced that men were able to earn enough to support an entire family on their own.  The same situation applies in the underdeveloped world today, where “sweat shops” and “child labor” are a way out of poverty, not a consequence of globalization.  Were it not for these opportunities, the “victims” would simply die of starvation and/or disease or be selling themselves on the streets for sexual favors and risking death from AIDS or other such dangers of life on the street.” (734)  I didn’t find a footnote on this point but I’m not sure how can you can logically claim that by working in a sweat shop for meager pay, a family or an individual can come out of poverty or be on their way out of poverty.  Secondly, sweat shops exist because of both globalization and a market economy that can sustain them.  There must be an economic advantage and a global advantage (global footprint around the world)  to put a Nike shop in a foreign country rather than on American soil.  The worker is willing to accept the financial arrangement from his employer, yes, but this does not necessarily entail a way out of poverty.  Take a look at the ‘working poor’ right here in America and you will find that because there is a financial arrangement made and the worker is doing the job well, doesn’t mean that poverty is soon out the door.  

Lastly, I think the authors are spot on concerning the redistribution of wealth.  The write, “No rational consideration of what is actually going on here can be called moral.” (856)  To take money or property from one person/group and give it to another is none other than theft.  Masked by the words compassion and fairness only seek to add a bit of emotional skin to the argument.  Property rights are trampled over because politicians claim that humans have the right to help those in need by pillaging for those who have much.  This is not biblical nor is it the way forward to actually sustain the poor and disadvantaged long-term.  Rather than redistribution, training, education, business education, work, entrepreneurship lead the way in helping people from the bottom of the rung up.

This is a really good book and one that I will go back to time and time again.  
Thanks to Kregel Academic for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

My Favorite Color is Blue. Sometimes.: A Journey Through Loss with Art and Color

My Favorite Color is Blue. Sometimes by Roger Hutchison

Taking a look at the digital copy of this book allowed me to look at the striking art inside the book, and its connection to the words of the page that were focusing on loss.  Looking at the physical copy of the book even brings to life more the staggering similarity that the words and pain have together on the page.  The focus here is how certain colors express the sentiments of those who have lost a loved one.  I did not think that I would relate too well to this book until two days ago, as we lost our little boy, who was only 17 weeks old.  The pain is palpable and yet the pages of this book give me good reason to think of my son with a sense of pride and hope.

Roger writes, "You are a shooting star. Your light trails across the heavens.  I blinked and you were gone."  We were full of anticipation at the first and second ultrasounds, and there was the picture of our little boy Jackson, his developing face and little …

The Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South

Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose by Flannery O’Connor
A profound simplicity of thought, a penetrating vision of what it means to be human, Flannery O’Connor embodies the spirit of bringing fictional stories to life.  Others might call her fiction ‘grotesque’ in a rather unflattering manner, but O’Connor was not content to live up to their criticisms.  In this short book of collected essay and lectures, Mystery and Manners, editors and friends of Flannery, Robert and Sally Fitzgerald have given us a glimpse into the vision of her faith, style and life as a writer.   A lifelong Catholic, Flannery O’Connor sought to wed together the moral integrity of her faith with the character of her craft in writing.  Specifically, fiction for her was an exploration in imitation.
In a rather illuminating statement in the chapter entitled, “A Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South, “ O’Connor writes,
“I am specifically concerned with fiction because that is what I write.  There is a certain em…