Public Discourse: No, Early Christians Did Not Think Wealth is Intrinsically Evil

Today at Public Discourse, I respond to a recent Commonweal article by Orthodox philosopher David Bentley Hart, in which he claims the New Testament and other early Christians believed wealth was intrinsically evil, that property is theft, and that Christ’s command to the rich young man to sell everything and possess nothing was meant to be applied to universally to all Christians.

I disagree. There is a lot more I could have said, but here is an excerpt:

As for what the desert fathers themselves taught, we may note the teaching of Abba Theodore, recorded in the Conferences of St. John Cassian: “Altogether there are three kinds of things in the world; viz., good, bad, and indifferent.” He identifies virtue as the only true good and sin as the only true evil. “But those things are indifferent,” he says, “which can be appropriated to either side according to the fancy or wish of their owner, as for instance riches…”

According to Hart, “it was … the Desert Fathers, who took the Gospel at its word.” Will he take Abba Theodore and St. John Cassian at their word? Or did they not understand the New Testament or ancient Christianity either?

Read the whole article here.