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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What if Jesus Had Never Been Born?: The Rise of Modern Capitalism and the Protestant Work Ethic



In continuing our series on the book What if Jesus had Never Been Born? by Dr. D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe, we find that modern capitalism arose in large part through the efforts of the Protestant church and specifically through the teaching of John Calvin (above). Kennedy-Newcombe go on to cite author and historian Richard Dunn who informs us of the effect of Protestantism on the development of capitalism...

"Was it mere coincidence that the most dynamic businessmen were to be found in Protestant Holland and the most vigorous industrial growth in Protestant England, both states heavily tinctured with Calvinism? Why were the Huguenots [French Calvinist] so prominent in the business community of Catholic France? Or Protestant Brandenburg-Prussia under the Calvinist Great Elector almost the only seventeenth-century German state to exhibit increasing prosperity?" [1]

Indeed, Kennedy and Newcombe state that such writers as Ernst Troeltsch and Max Weber actually "blamed" Calvin for the start of capitalism.

Calvin is credited for transforming the school of thought that was quite prevalent at the time in which money was to be lent without interest. Calvin saw this Biblical admonition as actually classifying usury as the charging of excessive interest and thus lending was instituted that benefitted both the lender and borrower and the world has not been the same since. Kennedy-Newcombe conclude the chapter by saying...

"Accumulated capital or profit is transformed into tools and implements, which seperates the technological [twenty first] century from the poverty of the Middle Ages...

Jesus said that "whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant" (Matt. 20:26). And in the parable of the talents, Jesus said that God has given us certain amounts of wealth, as He has seen fit in His sovereign will, and we are responsible for how we use it."

I only hope that those who are blessed with having more than most will keep in mind that they will be held accountable one day for how they utilize their wealth
. It seems that in this day and age, politicians utilize class envy to soak the "rich" and create division when having material wealth in and of itself is not a problem. The political class focusing on the possesions of others and trying to create jealosy to balkanize society certainly is though.


[1] (Source cited by Kennedy-Newcombe), Dunn, Richard S.; The Age of Religious Wars, pg 117, Norton and Company, 1970

12 comments:

Gregg said...

Again, I have limited comments or even thoughts really since this is a moot point. It is incomprehensible and inconceivable to me to contemplate what if Jesus had never been born since it was an eternal decree of the Sovereign Father.

Arguing the validity of Christiany by its effects still alude me. I do agree that Christ and Christianity had definetly changed this world. The vast testimony of the lives that have been changed since BC 6 or AD 33 are undeniable as they are remarable.

The impact of true conversion on the life of a man cannot be disputed. There is the argument, where would man be and what would man be, and where would man go if Christ had not been given by God to be born of a woman under the law at the perfect time in history?

I don't really care if capitalism can be traced to Christianity or if any effects of Christ can be detected - what I do know is when Christ through the Holy Spirit of God intersected the life of a debauched, whore mongering, drunken slave trader Christ transformed his life into a sober, pure, wholesome slave of Christ who became a pastor and hymnist. The effect of Christ on John Newton led him to write Amazing Grace who sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.

Froggie said...

Gregg,
I find myself agreeing with a lot- most even- of what you say.
Christ was not about taking responsibility for every economic or scientific achievement of humankind.

Many Christians these days totally corrupt the message of Christ by trying to shoehorn every advancement of humankind into scripture.
There is no doubt that some early scientists, philosophers, and economists were some brand of Christian, but they did not use the bible as their basis for discoveries. They used logic, reason, and emprical evidence- the scientific method- for the advancements in their field.
People of the Koran try the same nonesense; trying to show that their book predicts every scientific discovery.

Trying to credit Christianity for every positive advancement of modern men is absurd and counterproductive to the message of the New Testament.

Froggie said...

-------------------------------1 of 2

JD,

Even a casual student of world history will see through the flaws in Kennedy's rantings.

This part of Kennedy's book is aimed at his credulous minions that need constant reinforcement for their irrational belief system while he completely ignores the realities of the facts of history.

Kennedy pays no attention to the spectacular commercial and economic achievements of the Near East societies that sprang up in the wake of the 1st/7thcentury military and political triumphs of Islam. He ignores the significant industrial role of the southeastern quadrant of the Mediterranean basin in affecting the course of medieval economic history.

Capitalism did not spring forth from the reformation and was not dependent in any way on John Calvin.
Trading and the loaning of money had been going on for eons.
"Dealmaking" was practiced from the dawn of history when tribes traded resources with other tribes and often tried to get the better value- because of- yeah, you guessed it- supply and demand.

The economic events of the medieval Islamic East and Christian Europe did not evolve in a trade vacuum, they were linked in a network of international commerce.

Early forms of commercial capitalism slowly evolved in the market places of the medieval Islamic empire, which reached its peak in the 3rd/9th and then the –6th/12th centuries, which made possible a massive Near East trade expansion.

Froggie said...

-----------------------------------2 of 2

The Muslims passed many of their highly developed business techniques on to Venice, Genoa, Gaeta, and Pisa and Marseilles, the very cities wherein many modern economic historians claim that “Western” capitalism was born.

Italian merchants employed business methods directly borrowed from the Muslim empire, and benefitted from the strong trade that the Persians/ Muslims produced. That is what presipitated medieval Europe’s commercial renaissance commencing in the 5th/11th–6th/12th centuries, a prime factor in that continent’s eventual emergence from its unfortunate three-centuries-long experimentation in “Dark Age economics.”


Medieval Muslims and originally the Persians were able to produce their spectacular commercial accomplishments of the early Middle Ages because they adapted their religious tenets with the dictates of economy, unlike the Muslims of today.

The Muslims of that day incorporated earlier Persian economics, plus Greek and Roman ideologies, and then passed them back to the West in the 5th/11th–7th/13th centuries.
Then the passed free market-based capitalism into Christian Europe through the Italian city states in that same period. Thus, the early seeds of modern capitalistic practice took root and, richly nourished in the fertile entrepreneurial soil that the Crusades engendered, soon blossomed throughout the entire continent.

These events produced the economic transformation of Europe starting in the 7th century. Those trade tools slowly evolved into modern western commercial instruments.

While I defend capitalism as a viable economic system, in my long life I have observed that most people do not resent "Rich people." They do resent sometimes when the rich use that accumulated wealth to systematically get more wealth through unethical means. That is why we have our anti-trust laws and other laws preventing the rich from depriving the poor from their guaranteed right to vote for whom they choose in free elections.

Kennedy's book is a total fail as evidenced by actual history.

JD Curtis said...

Kennedy's book is a total fail as evidenced by actual history

I checked your above comments a couple of time Froggie, and yet there seems to be something strangely absent from your commentary...

A. Was it incorrect that "the most dynamic businessmen were to be found in Protestant Holland and the most vigorous industrial growth in Protestant England"?

B. Is it untrue that "the Huguenots [French Calvinist] (were) so prominent in the business community of Catholic France?"

C. Or that "Protestant Brandenburg-Prussia under the Calvinist Great Elector almost the only seventeenth-century German state to exhibit increasing prosperity"?

Were these statements debunked somewhere? If so, could you please point it out to me and by whom?

Let's just start with these 2 examples.

Froggie said...

Sorry, JD. Correlation is not causation.

Your claims are invalid. Those people were doing nothing that hadn't been done before and economics evolved over time like most other things.

Froggie said...

JD,

After showing that the wheels of capitalism were rolling long before Calvin, and he had no contribution to the "invention" of capitalism, it may be edifying to you in some way to know that at best, Calvin merely got out of the way of the wheels of capitalism, which were about to roll over him, and that did have a certain positive effect upon the business communities that you mentioned, even though there were other vibrant economic communities before and after his time that came out of non-Christian based societies of which the early Italians and later Japan are examples.

JD Curtis said...

Those people were doing nothing that hadn't been done before and economics evolved over time like most other things

"For many centuries, the term usury referred to the taking of any interest at all...
In ancient Greece, Aristotle condemned interest as "most unnatural," and early Christians deemed it sinful. Because Christians could not make interest-bearing loans in medieval Europe, borrowers turned largely to Jews. Only in the 16th century, after the Reformation and John Calvin's defense of interest under certain conditions, did lawmakers begin redefining usury as the collecting of "excessive" interest. Link

So here's what to do Frogster. Write TIME magazine and inform them of their error. If they concede the point, then so will I. Good luck.

Secret Muslim said...

If the Christians were wrong about this for sixteen hundred years, what else are they wrong about now?

JD Curtis said...

I believe that Froggie was wrong in this instance. Unless you would like to show otherwise.

Secret Muslim said...

Froggie's not the one who spent sixteen hundred years defining usury as interest.

JD Curtis said...

No, he's just the one ignorant to the fact that it's demise was signaled by a Christian.

Who was the Christian that wrote Deuteronomy?