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How Should We Then Live - An Economist's Perspective

January 19, 2023
By Amy Boswell

We at Rockbridge intend to continue to use our economics course as one means to foment hope, right relationship with God, and to create a spark in our students that will drive them into conversations, courses, and careers that support not only Godly market relationships, but that also champion truth, beauty, and goodness in any environment.

The Rockbridge Academy economics course policies document states our overarching goal for learning for the year: “The market economy is a gift from God for orderly procedure in a fallen world. Your understanding of this truth and ability to contrast Biblical truth with economic fallacies will be essential to successful navigation of the course.” This statement is distilled from what we at Rockbridge Academy state as our purpose in teaching economics:  “The twelfth grade study of economics affords the student the opportunity to sharpen rhetorical skills by integrating a broad range of course formation from mathematics, Great Ideas, and history. The course cadence flows with the first trimester and a half devoted to in-depth study of economic theory and policy as well as training in discerning economic fallacy, both from historical context and relative to current events. The remainder of the course is devoted to history of economic thought, tracing the effects of cultural presuppositions on all aspects of economic behavior, starting with evidencing biblical economics and ending with the modern era of econometrics. The students’ rhetorical skills are honed through instilling the economic way of thinking  by reading primary sources, textbooks, and periodicals. 

At Rockbridge Academy, we have learned that economics, taught rightly and well in a Godly framework, can be life changing for our students. We make a concerted effort to undo the damage wrought by enculturating the subject of economics as the dismal science. This term was coined by Scottish essayist, historian, and anti-abolitionist Thomas Carlyle in the nineteenth century. Carlyle was influenced by TR Malthus' gloomy prediction that population would always grow faster than food, dooming mankind to unending poverty and hardship.

Clearly, neither Malthus nor Carlyle seems to have been rightly inspired by the Dominion Mandate as stated in Genesis 1:28: “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.’” Blessed with these commands, placed here in the earthly kingdom, how could we fail to call economics anything but the hopeful science? Here in Genesis 1:28 we see applied economics–how we should live.

Fast forward a couple of tumultuous millenia. We find ourselves faced with real upheaval. Upheaval aptly summarized in a July 2022 essay for World, penned by author Brad Littlejohn. The essay states, “No sooner had the long shadow of COVID-19 begun to recede into the rearview mirror than a new set of clouds gathered on our national horizon. Not since the Great Recession of 2008–2009 have Americans had so much cause to worry about the economy. Inflation has soared to levels not seen in more than four decades and shows no signs of slowing, with the conflict in Ukraine acting as an accelerant to a price spiral that was already threatening to get out of control…” That’s some dismal stuff there. Maybe the idea of economics as a dismal science is not far off the mark.

The author doesn’t stop here with this dismal tirade. He goes on to say, “Most depressingly of all, there now seems no way for policymakers to rein in inflation without making it harder for struggling Americans to borrow and for investors to protect their current savings, much less make a profit. For the time being, at least, most of us can expect to see our savings keep shrinking and our cost of living keep rising—and the worst part is that no one knows how long this season will last.” Yet the author sees something behind these storm clouds, and he invites us to use a hopeful lens to take another look: “…these clouds do have a silver lining. In the midst of an increasingly hostile culture, it can seem harder and harder to make our faith seem plausible and relevant, but the current economic gloom actually presents a powerful opportunity for Christian witness—if we can have the courage to capitalize on it.”

The author chose a key economic term–capitalize–to call Christians to action to be arbiters of hope in a world clouded with gloom. To capitalize means ‘to take the chance to gain advantage from.’  The essay implies that we have a chance to profit from these seemingly disastrous times. Not the type of profit that can be deposited in the bank, but the profit resulting from evangelizing the truth that sets us free to live in right relationship with our creator God. We at Rockbridge intend to continue to use our economics course as one means to foment hope, right relationship with God, and to create a spark in our students that will drive them into conversations, courses, and careers that support not only Godly market relationships, but that also champion truth, beauty, and goodness in any environment.

Littlejohn Brad, Money and Christian witness https://wng.org/opinions/money-and-christian-witness-1657278541

Amy Boswell has been working at Rockbridge Academy for nearly two decades, and she currently teaches Economics. She has four children who all attended Rockbridge Academy.

Posted in Upper School

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