Archive for the ‘Commerce & Christianity’ Category

As I was on the road a couple nights ago, NPR’s All Things Considered was broadcasting a piece educating Joe the Plumbers like me concerning a major, yet overlooked catalyst contributing to the present economic crisis.  That villain is called the ‘Credit Default Swap.’  Very briefly, what was once a sober mode of obtaining a form of investment insurance degenerated into what professionals concede was nothing less than gambling.  For the full text and/or to listen to the piece, go to How Credit Default Swaps Spread the Financial Rot.

Interestingly, I just came across an insightful quote that bears directly, I think, on this whole financial debacle from an biblical perspective:

We believe that in this speculating world, amid all these risks and ventures which perhaps must be entered into to make business prosperous and to keep pace with the age, it is only a very strong religious spirit, a practical exercise of religion, that can make anyone judge accurately between legitimate and reckless commercial speculation. . . . From the danger we are all in of taking our moral standard from the tone of the common morality of society, we are apt to forget the higher standard of the law of Christ. [But] we are every now and then recalled to a sense of the difference of these two standards by some tremendous commercial failure; in which we see that speculation has been carried so far into the region of uncertainty and risk, that trust and confidence has been abused, and the ruin of one man has invovled in it that of hundreds, who trusted in him.  Now we only see this by reason of the failure of speculation, not from the speculation itself: had that proved successful instead of disastrous, many would not have seen the immorality at all (Anonymous review in The Ecclesiastic and Theologian, vol. XXII, 1860: 261-64).

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I just started reading Thomas Chalmers’ Discourses on the Application of Christianity to the Commercial and Ordinary Affairs of Life. Here is a profound quote that strikes me as a prophesy fulfilled this week on Wall Street.

“Without offering any demonstration, at present, upon this matter, we simply state it as our opinion, that, though the whole business of the world were in the hands of men thoroughly Christianised, and who, rating wealth according to its real dimensions on the high scale of eternity, were chastened out of all their idolatrous regards to it – yet would trade, in these circumstances be carried to the extreme limit of its being really productive or desirable.  An affection for riches beyond what Christianity prescribes, is not essential to any extension of commerce that is at all valuable or legitimate; and in opposition to the maxim, that the spirit of enterprise is the soul of commercial prosperity, do we hold, that it is the excess of this spirit beyond the moderation of the New Testament, which, pressing on the natural boundaries of trade, is sure, at length, to visit every country, where it operates with the recoil of all those calamities, which in the shape of beggared capitalists, and unemployed operatives [workers], and dreary intervals of bankruptcy and alarm, are observed to follow a season of overdone speculation.”

Once again, Chalmers being dead yet speaketh.

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