The Five Points of Economic Calvinism

David Hall and Matthew Burton summarize their research on Calvin’s economics in five points. Here they are, from page 214 of Calvin and Commerce: Transforming Power of Calvinism in Market Economies (Calvin 500). These points will either pique your interest in the book itself, or ensure that you will not buy it.

1. The inequality of wealth is an enduring dynamic and must be accepted. In other words, classlessness will not be reached in this life; nor did God intend for it to be reached. Differences in income and status will persist. In whatever station of life we find ourselves, a spirit of contentment, diligence, and thankfulness should prevail.

2. God made us to be creators, developers, and entrepreneurs. In the opening chapters of Scripture, Calvin and others have seen both the abundance of creation and the call to shape, tame, and order it. Man, made in God’s image, is designed to work and create.

3. Because of sin, accountability and incentives will always be needed. Selfishness will counteract good if we are not properly motivated. One way to motivate is to offer wages and incentives, and human beings are not above needing such a stimulus. Conversely, accountability, including the withholding of benefits if counterproductive behavior occurs, must be designed and expected.

4. Personal freedom (or non-interference from outside hierarchies) is necessary for business to thrive. If overlords must be satisfied, then feudalism will occur. The freer the markets, the more personal freedom fuels development. The sovereign God may be trusted to use such markets as means for his providence.

5. Profit is commended in order to provide more for others. A charity ethic, which seeks to use profits philanthropically, derives from the best Calvinism.

Ezra and the Farmer


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