posted August 1, 2007

Book Views Economics in Christian Perspective

 A new book by two members of the economics faculty at Hope College presents a case for bringing a Christian sensibility to understanding and shaping economic practice.

Dr. Victor Claar and Dr. Robin Klay are co-authors of "Economics in Christian Perspective: Theory, Policy and Life Choices," being published in August by InterVarsity Press.

"Economics is not primarily about money. And markets are only one sphere of public life. Indeed, a just and prosperous society depends for its success on the active engagement of citizens in all three spheres of public life: democratic governments, market-organized economies, and strong moral and cultural institutions," Claar and Klay explain.

The two authors demonstrate the need to consider economic forces precisely in order to act effectively upon Christian values. "Good intentions alone cannot address important social issues like unemployment, environmental damage and poverty," they note.

Reviewer John Pisciotta of the economics faculty at BaylorUniversity noted that the book "has lofty goals. One purpose is to explain the economic process, emphasizing the benefits of free markets and voluntary choice. The second task is Christian reflection on economic involvement from an evangelical perspective. The result enriches economic and biblical understanding."

The book's cover demonstrates one way in which the linkage between faith and economics is carried in the wallet of nearly every citizen in the nation. Its main illustration highlights a detail from the back of the dollar bill: the words "In God we trust."

The 260-page book is divided into 11 chapters covering topics including "Markets: Mechanisms for Creating Good and Exercising Christian Responsibility," "Savior or Leviathan? The Role of Government in Our Daily Lives," "Creation Care: Exercising Good Stewardship in the Garden," "International Economic Relations: Hope for the Third World," and "Going Beyond Markets: Renewing Neighborhoods, Reconciling People and Restoring Hope." An epilogue features action steps for individual readers, presenting "Nine Big Ideas from Economics That Can Help You Be a Good Steward Every Day."

Claar is an associate professor of economics whose research interests include the macroeconomic implications of behavioral economics, time series econometrics and forgiveness. His research has appeared in journals such as "Applied Economics," "Public Finance Review," and "Markets and Morality," and he has served as a referee for the "Journal of Money, Credit and Banking," the "Journal of Public Economics" and the "Review of Political Economy." Working with a Hope student he recently developed the Lakeshore Economic Index that measures West Michigan's economic health based on nine categories. He has spent the 2006-07 school year teaching and conducting research in Armenia through an award from the Fulbright Scholar Program.

Klay is a professor of economics whose primary research emphasis is on the connections between Christian faith and practice and economic theory and policy. Her publications include the 1986 book "Counting the Cost: The Economics of Christian Stewardship," as well as articles published in journals such as "The Christian Century," "Perspectives," "Faith and Economics," and "Markets and Morality." She is also interested in issues involving international trade and economic development. She spent three years teaching and doing research in Cameroon, and has developed a summer internship program through which Hope students work with civil and mission organizations in Puerto Escondido, Mexico in linking their academic and vocational interests with needs in the community.