Christianity and Poverty: Two Views (Introduction)

A frequent commenter (at the group blog SCO at which I contribute) and blogger (his blog is here) Dan Trabue graciously sent me a copy of a book which he finds a significant work describing his view on how Poverty and the Christian relate. In a short series of essays I’m going to compare, review, and contrast this pamphlet The Biblical View of Sabbath Economics by Chad Myers with a somewhat older work on basically the same topic. The the latter part of the 4th century St. Gregory of Nazianzus gave a lengthy oration “On the Poor”. It is these two works I’m going to compare.

Chad Myers according to the frontispiece has “worked for three decades in the field of non-violent activism for social justice, church renewal and radical discipleship.” Mr Myers has degrees in philosophy from UC Berkeley and the Graduate Theological Union (also in Berkeley).”

St. Gregory of Nazianzus on the other hand was the most accomplished rhetorician of the 4th century Church. The piece “On the Poor” is the 14th oration that has been passed on from his era. The most famous orations, the 5 theological orations given just outside of Constantinople was a major turning point forever cementing the Nicene tradition in the Church over the more popular (at the time) Arian heresy. It also should be noted that St. Gregory unlike his friend St. Basil (the Great) took a different approach to asceticism. He personally eschewed the monastic and extreme asceticism practiced by St. Basil and others around him. His asceticism was a more literary (and spiritual) asceticism of contemplation without embracing all or perhaps many of the rigors of the monastic life. It might be noted however, that he did take at an early age a vow of celibacy which he maintained throughout his life.

Both of these pieces have some similar conclusions. Both stress that charity is a primary virtue. However their methods, arguments and ultimately their conclusions are very disimilar.

I will also admit up front that I have a lot of difficulty giving Mr Myers work a fair reading. Stylistically he makes blanket assertions about, for example, the nature of the free market society which at best are a caricature of the market economy as told by a Marxist. In short, a lot of false statements are made about economic truths and conditions in markets and in pre-market, i.e., early Bibilical societies which need disentangling from his main argument. What is left after the dissection … is a question I can’t answer at this point of this study. It is indeed one of the questions that will need to be answered in this short series.

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One comment

  1. Diane R says:

    A Marxist? Really? Let’s see…he went to two schools in Berkeley…go figure..LOL. Seriously, I am getting more and more concerned how many of the younger leaders (espeically the emergent villagers) are getting into Marxism liberation theology or close to it. Sadly, their young followers are often historically ignorant of this doctrine. Charity must be voluntary and that is what the early church father taught. They didn’t teach tht the government was supposed to take money by force from people and give to others. In communist nations, we find that it is played out by the money not ending up with those who need it, but with the communist party leaders. Yes I know the emergents will do it differently—yeah right. Many CHristians begin with the noblest of motives but when going that far fromt he Biblical model always end up betraying us. It’s hard enough to walk circumspectly as Christians without these sad ideas confusing us.

    I grant that our evangelical churches need to ramp up helping the poor and especially those within their own assemblies. But we need to follow the first century model in Acts, not the psuedo-Marxist model or even the late antiqua-early medieval asceticism.