Non-science meets non-science

Some clever individual thought it might be funny to put a science writer on the mailing list for the Southern Evangelical Seminary, home of one of the leaders of the intelligent design movement. The regularly bombard me with things that are badly off target, but few so far amiss as this one.

Southern Evangelical Seminary Conference Speaker Dr. Craig Mitchell Discusses Why Christians Should Care About Economics

SES Says It is Important That Christians Are Equipped to Answer Questions About the Morality and Science of Economics

CHARLOTTE, N.C.— Why should Christians care about economics? Are there moral or biblical principles related to economics?  Furthermore, why is it important to contemplate whether or not economics is a science?  The answers lie within what Dr. Craig Mitchell, a world-renowned economic apologist and speaker this past October at Southern Evangelical Seminary’s (SES, 2013 National Conference on Christian Apologetics, has studied, researched, written and presented in his lectures.

Dr. Mitchell points out that what we call science today used to be known as “natural philosophy.”  The social sciences all began under the field of moral theology and moral philosophy, and economics, law and politics – the social sciences – were all sub-disciplines under the philosophical and theological fields.  As such, all of the first economists included a view of the nature of man, morality and God in their systems. While economics is the most scientific of the social sciences, it is not a science like physics.  More and more economists are beginning to realize that you cannot divorce morality from economics, law and politics. They also realize that you cannot separate these disciplines from each other.

Mitchell comments, “Despite all of the mathematics in contemporary economics, there is no getting away from the fact that it is still moral philosophy. Consequently, every economic decision is value laden.  A good economic decision reflects the use of phronesis (or practical wisdom), which is both a moral and intellectual virtue. The man of character is one who normally acts in accordance with virtue. Consequently, one who is a good man will generally not allow himself to make many bad economic decisions.

“The man of character will normally be influenced by virtue of the moral, intellectual or political type. The Christian is guided by the theological virtues of Christian faith, Christian hope and Christian love…”

Aristotle argued that a government’s expenditures should be less than its revenue. He understood that debt was an evil that should not be undertaken lightly, especially by governments. Adam Smith, who was also a moral philosopher argued that government should only spend money on three things; national defense (the first duty of a sovereign), a legal/ judicial system, and public works. Thomas Jefferson and the other founding fathers of the United States would agree with both Aristotle and Adam Smith.

Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary stated, “Apologetics – or defending one’s faith – is one method of evangelism. Economic apologetics, which employs logic and rationality combined with the tenets of the Christian faith, is necessary as a method to reach a group of individuals who have a way of intellectually thinking that may preclude them from being open to a higher authority when it comes to something as worldly as money and the economy.  In light of the current state of our economy and in light of the division among fiscal and social conservatives, now is the time that Christians must be equipped to be able to discuss why these fiscal and social precepts are intertwined and should not be separated, either in practice or in sound thinking.  Therefore, it is also imperative that Christians are practicing the biblical principles of economics so that their witness has substance.”

Craig Vincent Mitchell, PhD is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) where he also serves as director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement. In addition, Dr. Mitchell is also a Research Fellow for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and he serves as a part-time lecturer in economics at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Dr. Mitchell has completed seven degrees. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electronic engineering technology/ mathematics from Savannah State University and a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. In addition, Dr. Mitchell holds master’s degrees in engineering management and information systems, both from West Coast University, and a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern. In 2011 he completed a Master of Arts degree in economics from the University of Texas at Arlington. Dr. Mitchell holds a PhD in Christian ethics and philosophy of religion from Southwestern and is the author of two books: Charts of Christian Ethics and Charts of Philosophy and Philosophers, both published by Zondervan.

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