The Good of Affluence - John Schneider

February 5th, 2007 / 1 Comment

In 1977, Ron Sider published the significantly influential Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, which criticized the western Christianity’s acquisition of wealth and material goods, and ambivalence towards third world poverty. Sider argued that to follow the example of Christ meant a literal denial of wealth and possessions.

John Schneider, professor of business at Calvin College offers a capitalist response to Sider’s theology of wealth. His book The Good of Affluence argues that the wealth, comfort, and pleasure accessible to Christians in a western culture can be consistent with the demands of following Christ. While avoiding the problems of the prosperity gospel, Schneider maintains that material wealth can be received as a blessing of God. He further argues that economic wealth can be an important asset towards enabling the work of the church.

Excerpt: "Rethinking the Moral Objection: Injustice"

Questions:

  1. As a Christian, have you ever felt convicted because of things you want or own?
  2. How have you personally responded to the problem of third world poverty?
  3. Do you believe the luxuries available to those in western capitalist culture’s are appropriate for Christians considering the poverty of those in the 3rd world?

Comments (1)

  1. David Sims JD PhD / November 10, 2007 / http://www.davidasimsjdphd.com

    1. Yes, over and over still

    2. Increased giving, forming an evangelical-critical consciousness in myself, wife and children as to those on humanity’s underside, our responsibility to them in view of our calling to lose our lives for Jesus and the gospel (Mk 8:34-35, 10:17-31)

    3. I think answering this question requires much more space than I should put here; suffice it to say that I find Schneider’s advocacy for cultivating the “twin habits of capitalism”, as he calls them, i.e., acquisition and enjoyment of affluence, quite problematic. I take Schneider to task on this point in my doctoral thesis submitted to the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Durham in Durham, England. While brilliantly argued, Schneider’s thesis of the good of affluence starts on a faulty premise in his first chapter, where he extols the “new” culture of capitalism upon, what I suggest, is a rather thin reading of the literature on that “culture”. I think it is much better to talk of the “problem” of late modern affluence, particularly its subcultural e/Evangelical reality, rather than the typically modern either-or tendency to speak of either the “good” versus the “evil” of affluence. There are varieties of both “goods” and “poverties” of affluence that, as Christians, we must wrestle with and nuance in light of the 21st century complexities that global-local affluence confronts us with

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