I Wrote a Book

Front CoverI’m delighted to announce the publication of my first book: Foundations of a Free & Virtuous Society!

The back cover text written by my wonderful editor Kevin Schmiesing does a great job summing it up:

Creative, quirky, and always winsome, Dylan Pahman builds a systematic case for a positive relationship between a biblical understanding of the human person and the economic flourishing that freedom enables. His tour of scripture, philosophy, and economics mirrors the curriculum of the Acton Institute’s highly successful conferences. Free-market advocates will discover a sound theological groundwork and people of faith will learn how to speak “Economish” as they follow Pahman through this crash course in the principles of a free and virtuous society.

The table of contents is as follows:

FOREWORD by Samuel Gregg vii
INTRODUCTION xi

Part 1
Christian Anthropology
1. What Does It Mean to Be Human? 1
2. What Is Society? 25
3. What Is an Economy? 49

Part 2
What If?
4. Property and Prices 77
5. Inequality, Equality, and Freedom 107

CONCLUSION 135

APPENDIX: ACTON INSTITUTE’S CORE PRINCIPLES 139
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 143
ABOUT THE AUTHOR 145

At less than 150 pages, the book is designed to be an accessible crash course in a Christian approach to the intersection of faith and economics.

Pop references include: Back to the Future, Sliders, Choose Your Own Adventure, Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Calvin and Hobbes, and many more!

Ever wonder how Sunday relates to Monday through Saturday? Ever wonder how to speak the language of economics? Ever wonder how to bring morality into the marketplace and more effectively alleviate poverty and seek social justice? Then my book is for you!

You can buy it on Amazon here.

Were the Church Fathers ‘Corrupted’ by Greek Philosophy?

That’s the question I ask and answer today at Orthodoxy & Heterodoxy. (Short answer: “No.”)

Excerpt:

[D]espite what some would like to claim, the extent of the Hellenization of Jewish life and thought by the first century AD should not be limited to the Diaspora (i.e., Jewish communities outside of Judea). In fact, some, such as historian Martin Hengel, have demonstrated the thorough infiltration of Hellenism into Palestine from the third century BC onward. By the first century AD, Greek language and culture had affected literally every level of Jewish society. Furthermore, we even find that in cases of the most extreme opposition to Hellenization, such as the Maccabees, 1 Enoch, and Ben Sira (Ecclesiasticus), there still exist elements of Greek language, culture, and thought, even in the midst of anti-Hellenist polemics.

Furthermore, the significant influence of Hellenism on the Jews of the Diaspora is well established since the attitude among such Jews towards Greek philosophy was much more favorable. As Harry Austryn Wolfson, a scholar of the works of the ancient Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, put it, “The Scripture-trained Jew unconsciously approached other gods with the attitude of a student of comparative religion.” None of this is meant to portray Second Temple Judaism (515 BC – 70 AD) as syncretistic but merely to demonstrate that Jews of this time period, whether consciously or unconsciously, acknowledged that the light of God’s truth had shone among the Greeks as well, albeit in a somewhat diminished form.

Additionally, we must consider the significant force of Jewish and other Semitic influence on Hellenistic culture, as well as the growing Greek fascination with “barbarian wisdom” in the centuries preceding the birth of the Christian Church. In fact, New Testament scholar Dale B. Martin has noted, “Most scholars nowadays agree… that all forms of Greek culture in the same period had been influenced by ‘oriental’ cultures, to ask whether something is Hellenistic or Jewish would seem to be a misleading question.”

Read the whole essay here.

St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly: A Theology of Asceticism

This week I received two copies of the most recent issue of the St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, Vol. 60, no. 4 (2016), which contains an article by me offering a theological and philosophical analysis of Christian asceticism. In particular, my concern in this paper is asceticism and personal identity. A full philosophy or theology of asceticism should account for its social and communal dynamics as well (inter alia), which I have explored in other academic work.

Excerpt:

This paper examines the compatibility between ancient and modern, East and West, through a philosophical and theological analysis of asceticism. Drawing upon Hegel’s dialectic of self-consciousness, I bring together Vladimir Solovyov’s account of the ascetic principle in morality and Pavel Florensky’s dynamic, non-essentialist understanding of personhood to argue that the logic of asceticism follows a dialectic of awareness — denial — transformation or, in Christian theological terms, life — death — resurrection. This modern perspective is then compared to and supplemented by Patristic accounts of the nature and goal of asceticism that generally rest upon Stoic axiology, (broadly) Neoplatonic metaphysics, and the specifically Christian themes of self-denial and divine grace. This synthesis of modern philosophical and ancient Christian understandings of asceticism is offered as an example of how, in this instance, such narratives of incompatibility are both unfounded and unhelpful. In addition, this dialectic of asceticism is offered as a paradigm for further study of asceticism in both theology and philosophy.

Be sure to pick up a copy of the new issue and check out my article here.

Everyday Asceticism: My Son’s Questions about “Our Father”

Last night at Everyday Asceticism, I reflected on my son’s questions about the “Our Father” or “Lord’s Prayer.”

Brendan, who is four years old, has been able to recite the prayer from memory for over a year. I have prayed it with him nearly every night since he was born. So now that he’s bigger he’s the one who says it. As a reward, he gets a smiley face on his chore chart.

After a few months of having him pray, he started asking questions. “What’s evil?” was the first one. “What’s heaven?” was the second. He has also asked what “our daily bread,” “our trespasses,” and “temptation” are. These are great questions!

I’ve tried my best to answer him in ways he could understand.

“What’s evil?”

“Evil is when good things go bad.”

“What’s heaven?”

“Heaven is where everything is good and right and true.”

“What’s our daily bread?”

“That’s everything we need every day.”

“What’s trespasses?”

“Trespasses are when we do things that we shouldn’t do.”

“What’s temptation?”

“Temptation is when we feel like we want to do something we shouldn’t. It can also just mean when life gets hard.”

Read the whole post here.

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.

Everyday Asceticism: Some Pauline Beatitudes

In honor of St. Thecla, whose memory we commemorate today, I took the morning to reflect on some interesting beatitudes from the ancient Christian text of the Acts of Paul and Thecla. Excerpt:

[T]hink of all the things that stress people out. I remember being single and I know that singleness comes with a lot of stress of its own; please don’t mistake my meaning. But still, now I worry about keeping my job, paying my bills, maintaining my house, being a good husband, being a good father, and so on. These things are all wonderful and ascetic in their own ways (rightly done), but they are not the same as praying all day or helping the needy.

The chaste, by contrast, are empowered to devote far more time to these things that ought to hold a central place in life of all Christians. It is a life where one does not need to put oneself through the great ascetic exploit of going camping to notice the voice of God in the flowers or a stream or the clouds. Perhaps the statement “for unto them God shall speak” means audible words, but we need not read it that way. God is always speaking, but we are not always listening.

Read the whole post here.

Public Orthodoxy: Orthodox Theology and Economic Morality

Today at Public Orthodoxy, the blog of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University, I have an essay on the need for Orthodox theology to more seriously engage modern economic science. The argument would likely apply in some degree to other theological traditions as well.

I write,

Personal relationships and the monastic life have different norms than impersonal markets. This does not mean that markets have no norms, nor that the norms of markets should overrule any other concerns. But it does mean that if we wish for our economies to be more moral, whether we hail from the political right or left (or somewhere outside of that simplistic binary), we must first understand what they are and how they function.

Read my full essay here.

Faith & Economics: Toward a Kuyperian Political Economy

This week, my article on Abraham Kuyper and the relationship between ethics and economics was published in Faith & Economics. The abstract is below. The issue also includes two other articles and two response articles. So be sure to order a copy or subscribe!

Modern economics is generally considered an entirely positive field of study, and the role of ethics and normative analysis is found to be irrelevant in contrast to facts and data. However, economics was once considered a portion of the broader field of political economy that evolved from the study of moral theology, and this origin is significant in understanding the extent to which normative analysis is appropriate in economics. Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper emphasizes the use of sphere sovereignty to explain the relationship between different academic disciplines, and his perspective is applicable to the discussion of the role of normative analysis in economics. Kuyper found that while each sphere of study is distinct, each sphere is essentially related to the spheres that it evolves from. This paper applies the theological perspective of Kuyper to the field of economics and compares and contrasts this point of view with modern scholarly opinion on the subject.

Read the whole article here.

PowerBlog: Barna Study on Confused Morality is Itself Confused

Today at the Acton PowerBlog, I take a look at a new Barna survey on moral confusion among Americans. Unfortunately, one of the survey questions presumes a false dichotomy. Excerpt:

In particular, the question “Moral Truth: Absolute or Relative?” gives as possible answers only “Absolute,” “Relative,” or “Never thought about it.”

I presume that “both” wasn’t an option because the questioners believed that the two options were mutually exclusive. However, this is simply not the case.

Find out why by reading the full post here.

PowerBlog: How to Have a Great and Holy Council

Today at Acton, I have a post that combines Church politics, spirituality, economics, history, and theology (oh my!). Excerpt:

Put in spiritual terms, we know that the path to sainthood is not instant perfection but a long and dedicated repentance. Like a healthy market economy, “Successes in life often come at the end of a long road of many failures.” So too with sainthood. If that is what it takes for individuals to be holy, why should Church councils be any different?

Read the whole post here.