Book Review: Economic Shalom by John Bolt

In the closing statements of  Economic Shalom: A Reformed Primer on Faith, Work, and Human Flourishing, John Bolt sets forth the goal he has achieved with this volume, “I have put forth an unapologetic affirmation of a free-market economy set with in a liberal democratic polity.”  If that statement sounds confusing to you then you’re not alone. I struggled through this volume which addressed such issues as Economics, Morality, Stewardship, Capital, and Consumerism. Topics that do not get much thought among the general landscape of Reformed theology.

EconomicShalomIn the opening chapter Bolt comes to a definition of Economics that rears itself throughout the rest of the book. Bolt defines Economics as, “that practical and moral scientific study of the one aspect or dimension of human behavior that involves stewardly exchanging, by free moral agents, scarce things of value for the sake of profit.” I admit after reading that statement several times I still don’t understand fully the idea behind Economics. Bolt goes on to develop this definition and the principles that govern human flourishing which leads the reader to a clear understanding of the topic at hand by the time the epilogue is reached.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing chapters in the volume is chapter 3 titled, It Takes a Village. In this portion John Bolt lays out a biblical suggestion to Flourishing Life in Human Society. I find this chapter most helpful because of the vocation I find myself in and the family I am helping to flourish. John bolt points us to God’s law in helping to guide the readers on a path to flourishing. “We can make it rather simple by saying that flourishing comes from heeding God’s laws. The so-called ‘second table of the law’ –commandments five through ten- are a good place to start.” Reading further on Bolt makes the statement that really hits when he, almost prophetically, tells us “And, we should add, so will societies [flourish] that honor marriage between free men and women and support the families they produce.” That statement for me drew together the entire chapter and the subsequent ideas Bolt examines.

Bolt goes on to describe, in no great detail, the idea of sphere sovereignty which comes to us from the brilliant neo-Calvinist mind of Abraham Kuyper. Here John Bolt points us to Christ and all his glory in saying, “To state it differently, worship of the true God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator of heaven and earth, is the true key to human flourishing.” To me the book could have ended on that note and would have been a home run but much more study is needed on how sinful man and a broken culture can find themselves fulfilling the worship of God in the world today.

Overall this volume was well put together and easy for the reader to follow along the thought patterns of John Bolt. While terms are defined and ideas worked out in all the chapters, personally I found myself lost in the myriad of ideas which come along with economics. It’s not a subject I have studied much of and so I found myself a little bit behind even in this primer on the subject. In all the chapters John Bolt seems to point to Christ over and again which makes this volume not only a primer on economics and human flourishing but on Christ and the glory due to him. If you’re looking for a beginner’s guide to human flourishing and what that means in society then I would highly recommend this volume.

 Economic Shalom: A Reformed Primer on Faith, Work, and Human Flourishing
John Bolt/Christian's Library Press, 2013
Review Copy Courtesy of Christian's Library Press
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