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What can pastors—who are not experts in either politics of policy—appropriately say from the pulpit about the European financial crisis?

Greg Forster—whose book The Contested Public Square: The Crisis of Christianity and Politics (IVP, 2008) may be the single best volume for an introductory survey of Christianity and politics in the past 2000 years—gives a very helpful answer.

Here’s a snippet:

No doubt America’s church leaders are as concerned as anyone else about the grave news emerging from the European financial crisis. It threatens a disruption so serious that every economy in the world would be damaged. But pastors may naturally ask what, if anything, it all has to do with their work as the spiritual leaders of God’s people.

I don’t think pastors are called to become experts in international finance. However, I do think the European crisis intersects with the daily work of stewarding the mysteries of God and equipping the saints for discipleship in the American context.

One of the most important callings of the pastor is to equip the saints in discerning and carrying out the various callings God has for them in every aspect of their lives, including as members of their civil communities. And thinking Christianly about our daily calling to be good citizens in our homes, workplaces, and communities actually provides unique insight into the financial crisis and what we, as ordinary citizens, can do to make a productive contribution to the good of our neighbors and nation.

Read the whole thing.

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8 thoughts on “The Pulpit and the European Financial Crisis”

  1. Paul says:

    I’m not sure why one would point all the way across the Atlantic. The US financial crisis is far, far worse than that of Europe. The US debt-load is unrecoverable at this point.

    I agree with the gist, though, that stewardship should be taught.

    1. Greg Forster says:

      Thanks for your comment! I would disagree, however, with the assessment that the US crisis is worse (much less “far, far worse”) than the European crisis. If you think the US debt load is unrecoverable, take a look at Greece, Portugal and Italy. As I remarked in my article, we are much worse off than Germany, but much better off than Greece. A complicating factor is that the economies and financial systems of the European nations are now so interconnected that no one can really predict how the whole system will respond to default in the weaker members. The US is worse off than Europe if you think Germany can prop up Greece; the US is better off than Europe if you think Greece will bring down Germany. While no one really knows, I’m definitely in the latter camp.

      1. Paul says:

        Greg, thanks for your reply.

        The reason I say the US is far, far worse off is really based on the size of the economies. The US is an elephant, while Greece is a mouse, relatively speaking (albeit a diseased mouse).

        History tells us that the US simply won’t recover ($14,000,000,000,000 and counting; and that’s the official number, so the reality is likely much higher: If you want to teach stewardship from a negative perspective, there is no better example of the US.

        Greece and other European countries are largely socialist in their ideology; not so much in the US. That’s where most of their issues stem from. The US suffers largely from greed and consumerism. The US has transformed, like no other, from producer to consumer at a level that almost defies imagination.

        So, while I agree with your premise that stewardship lessons can be learned from Europe, the issue on your doorstep is much more telling and revealing.

        1. John C. says:

          Paul, I think you’re right. James Rickards shows in his recent book “Currency Wars” that when the real crisis hits the dollar, the whole global economic system will be poised to collapse–whereas the European crisis blowing up would be but a trigger for the dollar crisis.

          The scale of the problem in America, combined with the dollar hegemony is the greatest threat to our own national security, but also the stability of the world’s financial system.

  2. Ralph says:

    Likewise I’m not sure if this is a particularly European issue. The genesis of the current downturn seems to be in the consuming nations (e.g. US, Spain, Ireland, Greece) with large trade deficits borrowing money from the producing nations (e.g. Germany, China) to buy products from the producing nations. A good deal, in the short term for Germany and China – but a bad deal overall. The trigger for the loss of confidence goes back to sub-prime mortgage crisis which originated in the US in ’08, triggering the collapse ultimately of Lehman Brothers…the world economy hasn’t recovered since and the unsustainable levels of debt and consumption in various countries has been exposed. Anyway the “European crisis” is the one with the current focus, but the issue is worldwide.

  3. One of the things I was taught by Dr. Lornezo J. Greene, the great Black Historian of Lincoln University in Mo. (mentioned by John Hope Franklin in his bibliography on the 8th chapter of From Slavery to Freedom as “the authority on slavery in colonial New England”), was to do research outside the box (though he never used that term). We are left with the impression in this age that research into conspiracy theory is an empty endeavor, that any such conspiracy would be too big to be kept secret. But consider how our son at the tender age of 11 was taking a two week course in computers in a state school for the really brilliant some 28 years ago and what he encountered. As he said to us, “Dad, Mom, there was a strange question on that computer today. The question was: If you were an official in a world government and had an over population problem with a country in Africa, how would you handle it: a. Have a war and kill them off. b. Use an infectious agent, germ, or disease and kill them off. c. Let them starve.” Strangely, his mentor was a 20 year old black college student.

    Later, a friend said he had had the same question on an exam for the state dept. Of course, there are books like Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope and his The Anglo American Establishment with the 6th will and testament of Cecil Rhodes, Cleon Skousen’s The Naked Capitalist, R. Buckminster Fuller’s references in some of his writings, and many, many more. In fact, there are whole collections devoted to the subject, and one can eventually boil the conspiracy down to certain parties (not political, by any means) in several nations, powerful, wealthy groups, remorseless, lacking any conscience worth mentioning, impersonal, inhumane, driven by the desire to control. Over and against it is the outpouring of grace with which the conspirators for ever struggle in a war that they must lose even when they seem to be winning. After all, we are promised a stone becoming a great mountain and filling the whole earth, a counter flood to the enemy, a world full of His knowledge and glory as the waters cover the sea, and a thousand generations (a little bit different than the millenium usually portrayed) plus how many worlds in space settled by mankind during that period of 20,000 – 100,000 years or more.

  4. Ralph says:

    Anyone interested in the reasons for the European funding crisis can get a decent overview from the BBC at:

    Ireland, like Spain, actually had very low deficits before the crisis (in fact we paid down a huge amount of debt during the boom years). It was private debt, mainly bank debt, that has been the big issue here. Of course the governments poor fiscal policies that encouraged a housing boom and a hands off regulation approach to the banks are also a huge factor. But it’s not the case that the Irish government was borrowing tons of money and running a big tab in order to finance social services.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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