Oikonomia vs. Chrematistics
In direct opposition to what those possessing a GCU (Great Commission Utilitarianism) mindset state, God’s ends reveals that human beings are placed on earth for economic purposes: to be the catalysts to allow families, communities and nations to reach their fruition. We see this unfold in the biblical concept of oikonomia – administration of the house. The English word economics is derived from this concept. Oikonomia creates a unique economic philosophy and practice.
Oikonomia is derived from the intersection of two views for understanding the universe: Open vs. Closed System and Moral vs. Amoral Universe. The intersection of these two frameworks creates four quadrants: Oikonomia, Chrematitistics, Idealistic-Socialism and Classic Communism:
1. Oikonomia – The intersection of a Moral Universe and an Open System is internally consistent in that they are both derived from a universe in which God exists; the universe is both moral and open. In this quadrant, justice is defined as inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and all human beings are equal before God and before the law.
The tenants of this economic philosophy are that human beings are made in the image of God and the universe is his creation. Human beings are God’s vice-regents, placed here to manage the household – God’s creation – and to create wealth; the world was designed by God to flourish. We were placed here to make families, nations and the world bountiful (Gen. 1:26-28). Resources are only limited by imagination and moral stewardship. Wealth is created through long-term time horizons (multi-generation); the end of history includes the wealth of nations (Isa. 60:5; 61:6; 66:11-13; Rev. 21:23-26). Through the moral stewardship of creation, the land—the farm, the forest—is left healthier, and the world wealthier for the next generation. In this quadrant, God is God; neither poverty nor riches are idolized (Prov. 30:8-9). The goal is wholesomeness, health, bounty, justice and wisdom for all families and nations. The idea of oikonomia is to be naturally held by Judeo-Christian theists.
2. Chrematistics – The intersection of an Amoral Universe and an Open System is internally inconsistent since part of the quadrant is derived from a theistic framework and part from an atheistic framework. Chrematistics was identified by Aristotle as the counter point to oikonomia. This quadrant is inhabited by people who are either consciously or functionally atheists, who are self focused with no moral framework but are living inconsistently on the biblical memory of an open system where wealth can be created. These people define justice as freedom from interference in their personal gain and use of wealth.
The tenants are that human beings are highly evolved consuming animals. The universe is one cosmic machine that exists for man to exploit. Manipulation of property and wealth to maximize short-term exchange value (there is no tomorrow) for individual consumption is the name of the game. Because there are no moral constraints, any means may be used to maximize wealth, including bribery, dishonest scales, raping the land and destroying forests and communities.
This quadrant idolizes opulence and conspicuous consumption. It is held by atheist materialists from the West who are living off a memory of biblical theism’s Open System. They are known as hedonistic consumers, predatory “Capitalists,” Libertarians, and in some cases, evangelical Gnostics who function religiously from a theistic point of view but who exhibit the same lifestyles as hedonistic consumers.
3. Idealistic-Socialism – A Moral Universe with a Closed System. Those who promote this are internally inconsistent, living on the memory of a biblical morality and yet consciously/unconsciously operating from a closed system model of the universe. They define justice as “equal outcome” of economic activity.
The basic tenants of Idealistic-Socialism are that human beings are highly evolved consuming animals. The universe is one cosmic machine that exists for man to exploit. Resources are physical things in the ground and are limited. If some people are poor it is because the rich have stolen from them. The solution is to redistribute scarce resources so that all have equal outcome. Poverty tends to be idolized here, and wealth demonized. This position is held by Liberation theologians, and liberal evangelicals like Ron Sider, author of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, Jim Wallis, founder and editor of Sojourners Magazine, and others with a moral conscience who are aware of the needs of the poor and who have consciously rejected hedonistic consumerism.
4. Classic Communism – The meeting of an Amoral Universe with a Closed System. Like those who articulate and live out oikonomia, classic communists are internally consistent but from an atheistic, rather than a Theistic, paradigm. They define justice as equal outcome where everyone ends with the same. As Karl Marx has said: “From each according to his ability to each according to his need.”
The basic tenants are that human beings are highly evolved consuming animals. The universe is one cosmic machine that exists for man to exploit. Resources are physical things in the ground and are limited. Some nations are rich at the expense of other nations that are poor. The forced redistribution of scarce resources allowing all people to end with the same economic condition is the solution to the problem of poverty. Wealth is generally demonized, along with those who create it. This position is held by Marxists, Maoists and many Western intellectual elite.
-Darrow L. Miller
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