April 21, 2014

Review: How the Byzantines Saved Europe

The Surprising Life of  Medieval Empire

The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies. Edited by Elizabeth Jeffreys, John Haldon, Robin Cormack. Oxford University Press (2008) Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire by Judith Herrin. Princeton University Press (2008) Ask the average college student to identify the 1,100 year old empire that was, at various points in its history, the political, commercial, artistic and ecclesiastical center of Europe and, indeed, was responsible for the very survival and flourishing of what we know today as Europe and you’re not likely to get the correct answer: Byzantium. The reasons for this are manifold but not least is that as Western Europe came into its own in the later Middle Ages and Renaissance, Byzantium gradually succumbed piecemeal to the constant conquering pressure of Ottomans and Arabs. When Constantinople finally fell in 1453 (two years after the birth of the Genoese Christopher Columbus), Europe, now cut off from many land routes to Asian trade, was already … [Read more...]

Are We A Profitable Church? And Shouldn’t We Be?

“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:24-30 Let me offer an admittedly radical, and maybe even frightening, thought experiment. What if Orthodox … [Read more...]

More Thoughts on Economics and the Church

This was originally posted on my own blog and then posted here in the comments section.  I thought for ease of those who read and comment here I would simply repost  it here for your comments. In Christ, +FrG My post on the implication for the Orthodox Church of Novak's understanding of capitalism (for the original post, click here)  has inspired an interesting, if not always edifying, conversation over at the American Orthodox Institute Blog where I cross posted the piece (for the post and comments, click here). As I mentioned on the AOI blog, my interest in Novak's work is not a technical interest (I am not primarily interested in how his understanding compares with who other scholars view capitalism) but on the anthropological vision that he says  contributes to the extraordinary success in capitalism (or a free market approach to the economy) is raising the standard of living for the vast majority of people on the planet. This all came to mind when I read Matt … [Read more...]

Stealing, Lying, Cheating and the ‘New Sins’

The Economist surveys recent commentary by religious leaders on economics and the environment, focusing on Pope Benedict XVI's recent encyclical Caritas in Veritate. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I gets a nod for his upcoming symposium on the Mississippi. The Economist does a passable job of summing up these issues as viewed through the lens of faith, but does recoil a bit at more "purist" sentiments, such as when the pope invokes life issues. A good line here: Globalization, technology and growth are in themselves neither positive or negative; they are whatever humanity makes of them. And to make them good and for the glory of God and his Creation, we need more "purist" notions like the Christian virtues. Text follows: New sins, new virtues Jul 9th 2009 | ISTANBUL AND ROME As the world heats up and economic dislocation ravages the poor, religious leaders offer up their diagnoses and prescriptions Globalization, technology and growth are in themselves neither … [Read more...]

Defining Capitalism and Some Thoughts for the Church

An interesting post on First Things by Michael Novak, “ Caritas and Economics.” Novak discusses the different understandings embodied in the six different Latin words for love. In anticipation of some of my own work looking at private property in light of the tradition of the Orthodox Church, my attention was drawn to Novak's definition of capitalism. I think he is correct in his assertion that, “ Especially in Europe, capitalism is a term supposed to be spoken with faint—or not so faint—moral disapproval.' He continues that, at least among those who are self-appointed and anointed right thinker, “It is what all are supposed to be opposed to, not only by Marxists, who spent more than a century vilifying (and misdefining) the term, but also by humanists, poets, playwrights, churchmen, journalists, and all sensitive spirits.” The key to his criticism of the critics is, I think, the charge that most of those who reject it do not understand capitalism. While he doesn't say this, in my … [Read more...]

Patriarch Kirill ‘copying John Paul II’

In the New York Times, Sophia Kishkovsky files a report on Patriarch Kirill's recent youth rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg where he struck both nationalist and highly personal tones. Patriarch Kirill also did not mention America, but said immoral economies are doomed to collapse. “An economic system built only on the striving for profit, on indifference to the fate of people, on disregard for moral norms, is deprived of stability and can collapse at any moment, burying the fate of people under its rubble,” he said. Here in St. Petersburg, Patriarch Kirill struck a much more personal tone. He made a generous reference to Martin Luther King Jr. — whom Kirill said he met in 1968 — and his “I Have a Dream” speech, and stressed the importance of true love and of striving for ideals. “He wasn’t a dreamer, he was a brilliant politician, orator, and Christian pastor,” Patriarch Kirill said of Dr. King, addressing some 8,000 students. “But he had a dream, and this dream led to … [Read more...]

Orthodox Christianity and Capitalism — Are They Compatible?

Kevin Allen, host of The Illumined Heart podcast on Ancient Faith Radio, interviews writer, attorney, and college professor Chris Banescu, an Orthodox Christian, about the economic, moral and spiritual issues surrounding the market economy. Kevin asks: Does the capitalist system serve "the best interests of Christians living the life of the Beatitudes?" Listen to Chris Banescu on Orthodox Christianity and Capitalism: Read "A Primer on Capitalism" on Chris' personal Web site. He also runs the ONet Blog. … [Read more...]

Glad we got that one solved

money

HT: The Economist … [Read more...]

Roepke was right

Wilhelm Roepke

In my Winter 2007 article on economic globalization for AGAIN Magazine, I quoted economist Wilhelm Roepke: Economically ignorant moralism is as objectionable as morally callous economism. Ethics and economics are two equally difficult subjects, and while the former needs discerning and expert reason, the latter cannot do without humane values. In light of all that has happened with the U.S. economic meltdown in the last few months, I continue to subscribe to the following statement from the same article: ... there is no real understanding of "social justice" without an understanding of basic economic principles. These principles explain how Orthodox Christians work, earn, invest, and give to philanthropic causes in a market-oriented economy. Economic questions are at the root of many of the problems that on their face seem to be more about something else -- poverty, immigration, the environment, technology, politics, humanitarian assistance. I remain a convinced … [Read more...]

WCC’s ‘Homespun’ Economic Fallacy

The World Council of Churches, which claims to speak for most Orthodox Churches around the globe, has formulated a number of proposals to reform the global financial system because of its inherent "injustice." General Secretary Samuel Kobia sees the need for new transnational financial watchdog organizations that will "qualitatively regulate the growth in massive movements in capital." The problem here is that Kobia fails to understand that a global economy requires an international flow of capital -- along with an international flow of goods and services and, very often, labor (indeed immigrant labor). In cataloging a long list of ills flowing from the current economic crisis, and the "neoliberal economic myth" of efficient markets, Kobia neglects to mention -- or fails to see -- how markets work to create wealth, economic growth and jobs. These are not things created by, as he would have it, "democratizing all global finance and trade institutions" across international boundaries. … [Read more...]

Thomas Sowell before the election

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Metropolitan Kirill on Economic Globalization

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, the President of the Department of Foreign Religious Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate, has written a prologue or introduction to “The Ethics of the Common Good in Catholic Social Doctrine” (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2008) by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s Secretary of State. The article by Metropolitan Kirill was translated from the Italian and into English for the first time by Paola Fantini, an intern in the Rome office of the Acton Institute. Considering the Orthodox concept of the common good, it must be noted that this concept refers not only to material well-being, not only to peace and harmony on earth, but most of all to the aspirations of man and human society to eternal life, which is the ultimate good of every Christian. For this reason, according to the Orthodox conscience, the debate on the common good will always be incomplete if it considers earthly life exclusively, while the highest good – life in … [Read more...]