Last week, we concluded “The Christian Economic Model” two-part webinar series hosted in partnership with The Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (IFWE). Our speaker Contributor Anne Bradley presented on economics from a biblical worldview. We are incredibly grateful for the hundreds of you who participated in this event and are encouraged to see so many people passionate about implementing their beliefs in the public sphere.
For those of you who missed, below are the recordings and a summary of both sessions.
Session 1: Human Flourishing and Economic Thinking
In the first session, Dr. Anne Bradley addresses three important questions:
- What is God’s design?
- Which principles in creation inform how we should live today?
- What type of society does this require?
She begins in Genesis with the “cultural mandate” or “creation mandate” where God creates man in His own image (imago Dei) and tells them to fill, subdue, and rule the earth: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:27-28)
He also tells man to work by taking care of the garden He has placed both Adam and Eve in: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15) Even after the fall this mandate doesn’t change, as seen with God’s mandate to Noah and his descendants: “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1)
Therefore, work has always been a part of God’s plan for humanity, and it is a good thing. It is what God uses to promote shalom, commonly translated as peace, within His creation. Dr. Bradley explains that the concept of shalom is much deeper than peace, however; it is “human health and wholeness…resulting in strength, fertility, and longevity…the vision of shalom is at the core of God’s redeeming work.” Shalom is God’s design and desire for us.
In our interview with IFWE founder Hugh Whelchel, he explains how this concept of shalom is the key to Christian living:
Dr. Bradley then shifts gears to examine our anthropological realities. Both Scripture and human experience support that we as individuals have dignity, agency, reason, and uniqueness. These are core worldview concepts about humanity that shape how we approach economics. Additionally, human beings tend to place subjective value to things, act on purposive action, and are driven by self-interest.
Taking all of this into consideration, we need a system that works alongside these realities of human nature, not against them. Dr. Bradley mentions Adam Smith and The Wealth of Nations which emphasizes the importance of a system that channels human self-interest into public good.
“By pursuing his own interest (the individual) frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.” Adam Smith
While using self-interest might seem counter-intuitive, responding to human desire in this way actually creates a system that is mutually beneficial—not exploitative. By responding to scarcity and incentives through prices, property rights, and profits and losses, we create a coordinated market that serves not only those making a profit but everyone who voluntarily participates in the exchange of goods and services that improve their lives. This promotes not only shalom but the greatest commandment in Scripture to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Dr. Bradley concludes the first session by showing what is commonly known as the “hockey stick graph”:
You can see that where global GDP (in blue) and global population (in yellow) skyrocket in the timeline is when economic freedom is on the rise. Why? Here’s a clip of Dr Bradley explaining this in her interview with us:
Session 2: Applying Economics to Human Flourishing
In our second session, Dr. Bradley builds off the principles discussed in session one. If economic freedom is the key requirement to creating an economic system that respects the dignity of every person and their ability to serve others, how do we promote that economic freedom? Dr. Bradley mentions the five pillars of economic freedom for a country:
- Sound Money What are the policies of this country’s central bank? Are they cautious about inflation?
- Freedom to Trade Does this county have freedom to trade with other countries?
- Regulatory Burden Does this country make it easy or difficult to open a business?
- Property Rights Does this country protect property rights and incentivize people to make investments for the future?
- Size of Government Is the size of government relative to the size of the economy?
Dr. Bradley then shares a graph of countries scored on the Index of Economic Freedom using these five pillars. As the graph clearly shows, there is a correlation between economic freedom and prosperity.
In addition, there is a correlation to economic freedom and per-capita incomes, economic growth, educational achievement, infant mortality rate, and more.
In her presentation, Dr. Bradley also touches on the myth associated with the shrinking middle class (more people are becoming higher earners, not less!) and the issue with highly regulated industries. She also explains how this demonstrates any country can experience economic mobility and the human flourishing that results if freedom is prioritized.
While a free-market economy cannot solve all of the world’s problems, it ultimately allows for people to be used for God’s glory and promote shalom here on earth. At the end of her presentation, Dr. Bradley shares how one man’s entrepreneurial efforts helped save the life of her baby daughter through the invention of the infant nasal feeding tube. Because of the economic freedom to innovate and markets to coordinate, Dr. Bradley’s family gained access to this life-saving invention. She closes with this final thought: “It’s not just growing incomes; it’s what growing incomes give us.”
We are so thankful for Dr. Bradley’s time and expertise that she shared with us. If you’d like to join us for our next webinar event, make sure to sign up for our email list to know when to register.