In yesterday’s post I quoted from Deirdre McCloskey’s work on bourgeois life, and I want now to return briefly to that. Late in the first volume of her trilogy she refers to a 1945 book called The Economic Order and Religion:
It develops that Knight and Merriam are arguing that social life in a large group with thoroughgoing ownership in common is impossible. That is what they believe Christian love entails. Their source is always the gospels, never the elaborate compromises with economic reality of other Christian writers, such as Paul or Aquinas or Luther, or the thirty-eighth article of the Anglicans: “The riches and goods of Christians are not common, as touching the right, title, and possession of the same, as certain Anabaptists do falsely boast.”
What, the Gospels aren’t supposed to count? Methinks they count indeed. But I can understand why someone looking at Luke 12:33 and Luke 14:33 might want to quickly turn aside. In any case, it’s not just the Gospels that tell this story: we also have (and Hart cites) the book of Acts and the letter of James. If McCloskey is going to argue that we should imitate “the elaborate compromises with economic reality of other Christian writers,” then she really needs to say why we should follow those “other writers” when they disagree, or at least certainly seem to disagree, with the Gospels, Acts, and James.
And as we think about all these matters we should surely remember Kierkegaard’s comment that most Christians think that the commandments are intentionally over-severe, like setting our clocks ahead half-an-hour to make sure we get up in the morning. (He can’t mean what he says.)
As always: the evidence all seems to point in one direction when you ignore or suppress all the evidence that points in the other direction.