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Notes on a Christian Approach to Work, Property, and Community in Roger Crook's Introduction to Christian Ethics

[This post continues notes on various authors regarding wealth, poverty, and economic justice.  Here is a chapter from Roger H Crook, An Introduction to Christian Ethics (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990), pp. 227-243.  I have organised the notes into the table, below.]

Crook’s concern is to find a Christian approach to work, property and community different from capitalism and communism.  Note the compatibility of his approach to natural law ethics.
Capitalism: ‘the system of private ownership of the instruments of production, distribution, and exchange, and the use of those instruments under a plan of individual initiative and open competition to earn private profit’ (Crook, p. 228):

1.     Problems with property: acquisition and use of property (falling into the hands of a few, misuse of property)
2.     Problems with free enterprise: unrestricted accumulation and use of money may run counter to the needs of society as a whole
3.     Problems with competition as the basis for trade: competition to regulate quality of products, set prices, establish wages, determine which products will be produced may not always be decided best by unregulated competition in the market-place.
4.     Problems with profit as the primary motive for driving the economic system: but profit now may involve payment later in destruction of the environment, or profit for a few may involve exploitation of the labourer.

1.     ‘Nature has an intrinsic value’: Gen. 1.31 (‘it was very good’); Ps. 19, 89, etc (nature praises the Creator); Ps. 8 (nature reflects Creator’s glory); Rom. 8.19ff (‘nature will take part in the final fulfillment of God’s purposes)
2.     ‘Human beings are part of the natural order’ and interdependent with it: Gen. 1-2 (part of creation); Gen. 3.19 (made from the dust).
3.     ‘Human beings have a responsibility for the natural order’ as trustees (not owners): Gen. 2.15 (till and keep the garden); Gen. 1.14 (‘dominion’ over creation)
a.     Value resources more than profit margins
b.     Value right of private property, but understood as trustees of God’s world: Ps. 24.1 (‘the earth is the Lord’s and all the fulness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein’); Ex. 20.15 (‘do not steal’àprivate ownership)
c.     Value the worker and work as a vocation (including being able to see connection between the product and the worker, being free to choose careers)
d.     Value the individual’s right to make significant choices
4.     Value one’s neighbour: Lev. 19.18 (love your neighbour as yourself)—perhaps going beyond the Genesis story, but creation or natural law does impose on us the value of others against any selfishness (or worse: vengeance, grudges—Lev. 19.18) to which we might be inclined
Labour Virtues: Industrious, diligent, efficient, faithful worker (cf. Gen. 2.15; 2 Thes. 3.10)

Social Virtues: Caring (cf. Acts 2.44-45; 4.32), compassionate, fairness (just) and honesty (related to justice and valuing the worker), respectful (of each other’s dignity and eternal worth as human beings)

Countering vices of endless accumulation of wealth (cf. Mt. 6.19-21; 19.24), greed and selfishness, competition (free market economy) on which capitalism is based
1.     Individual: conservation of energy, reduction of waste; acts of  compassion towards the needy (Mt. 25.40)
2.     Communal:
a.     Stop unfair distribution of wealth—unfair wage distribution (jobs, gender, age, race, abilities); unfair control of wealth by a few, unfair entrapment in poverty
b.     Assisting poor (Mt. 6.3; Lk. 18.22) and poor nations: land reform, sharing technology, education, gender issues keeping women in poverty
c.     Stop exploiting natural resources
d.     Educating others