By Delaney Fox, Staff Writer
The Center for Political and Economic Thought sponsored a talk from Dr. Shawn Ritenour of Grove City College on Feb. 8. The lecture, titled Do God and Economic Science Mix?, was held in the Fred Rogers Center at 7:30 p.m.
Ritenour, a professor of economics at Grove City College, said that Christians are generally skeptical of economics because the field deals with worldly things and/or is too individualistic and selfish. He argued that there are actually two fundamental theological purposes to economics: economic laws manifest God’s glory, and economics helps humanity to live out the creation mandate given by God to Adam.
Through the creation mandate, people are expected to both work and keep nature. Economics, Ritenour said, is attempting to answer the question of how people can keep this mandate without starving to death or killing one another.
“What we call our property is God’s gift to us… we glorify God partly by fulfilling the cultural mandate, and doing so requires the use and transformation of the earth which God has given us,” Ritenour said.
According to Ritenour, a better understanding of people can be cultivated by studying the characteristics of God, and growing closer to God forms a better understanding of people. God thinks, plans, is rational and is omniscient. Because man is created in his image, people also possess mental faculties that allow them to perceive reality and discover truth.
Economics is built on the understanding that man is equipped for dominion with a mind and a will that can act. Economics studies how people interact and exchange.
Ritenour broke down economic ideas in terms of linking means to ends. Economic goods are means that are scarce, so people must choose which ends to fulfill. Cost, then, is the end that cannot be fulfilled. Profit is when the benefit of fulfilling a certain end outweighs the cost; the opposite is loss. Because people are rational, each economic good will be used to fulfill the highest value end.
Ritenour discussed three sources for economic progress: division of labor, accumulation of capital and entrepreneurship. Institutions must support the security of private property and voluntary exchange for each of these sources to exist.
God forbids cheating, fraud, theft, moving property markers and extortion. He requires the fulfillment of contracts and payments of debts owed. Private property, then, according to Ritenour's argument, is a Christian ethical social institution. Through both general and special revelation, private property must exist according to God’s will–the right to property is a divine right.
“As owner of all there is, God alone has the right to defer the use of property on whomsoever he places and under whatsoever restrictions he pleases,” Ritenour said.
Ritenour closed out the main portion of his talk with an examination of the story of Ananias and Sapphira, pivoting into a discussion of state intervention into the realm of private property.
“If you want to call something truly ethical, then it must respect voluntary exchange. If it does not, then I argue that it is not compatible with Christian morality… It is the height of the fall when man sets himself up above God-ordained economic law,” Ritenour said.
The Center for Political and Economic Thought will be sponsoring another lecture the evening of Feb. 22. The talk, titled Why Originalism?, will be given by Christopher Wolfe of the University of Dallas.