Workshop 6B economy

Prof. Dr. Patrick Nullens – Hope Guided by Justice and Mercy: A Contribution to Christian Normative Economics

Hope seems to play an important role in economic decisions. With the growth of the importance of behavioral economics comes along an interest in topics that traditionally belong solely to the domains of philosophy, psychology, literature and theology. The main focus of the paper is the contribution that hope can make, as a useful concept for a normative economic paradigm.

Most prominent is the cognitive approach in positive psychology (C.R. Snyder, 1994). Hope is perceived as “the ability to produce pathways to achieve goals and to motivate oneself to use those pathways” (Rand & Cheavens, 2011, p. 323). This focus on mental conditions as well as human behavior as being goal directed assimilates well with the economical scheme of problem-solving reasoning. A reduced view on the human person leads inevitably to a reduced view of hope (Marcel, 1998). More attention needs to be given to aspects such as emotions, spirituality, community, religion, social images and worldviews. Recently such a model has been provided by Scioli & Biller (2009). According to them, hope is a complex emotion that reflects several goal-strivings, longings for connectedness and basis issues of survival. Three dimensions of hope are essential and have biological as well as cultural roots: the mastery motive (in line the cognitive model), the attachment motive (community as well as spirituality) and the survival motive (in line with the coping focus of clinical studies).

After providing a summary of this multi-level approach, the paper mentions some weakness in this holistic model of hope. Also, and more importantly, it describes the need for a critical integration with a Christian view on hope. Since virtues in themselves are insufficient for morality there is the quest for the telos, the goal of virtue, in this particular case the telos of hope. Therefore, one of the key adjustments is the significance of connecting the motive of hope to the search for liberating justice. Justice, (ie: ‘God’s Kingdom’), has to become the guiding factor for our hopeful aspirations. Optimism is grounded in the potentialities of creation and the powers of humankind but hope is grounded in Gods justice (Wolterstorff, 2004) and mercy (Kasper, 2014). Finally, coming  back to the economic sphere, the paper concludes by mentioning briefly the promises of the capabilities approach in economics as an expression of the search for such a view on hope connected to liberating justice and mercy (Sen, 2009; Nussbaum, 2013).


Kasper, Walter. (2014). Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life, NJ: Paulist Press.

Lybbert, T.J. & Wydick, B. (2015). “Poverty, Aspirations, and the Economics of Hope” Presented at the Conference for Human Dignity, University of Notre Dame.Marcel, G.

Marcel, Gabriel. (1998). Homo viator: prolégomènes à une métaphysique de l’espérance. Paris: Association Présence de Gabriel Marcel.

Nussbaum, M. C. (2013). Creating capabilities: the human development approach. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Rand, K. L., & Cheavens, J. S. (2011). “Hope theory”. In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology (pp. 323–335). New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Scioli, A., & Biller, H. B. (2009). Hope in the age of anxiety. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Sen, A. (2009). The idea of justice. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Snyder, C. R. (1994). The psychology of hope: You can get there from here. New York: Free Press.

Wolterstorff, N. (2004). “Seeking Justice in Hope.” In M. Volf & W. H. Katerberg (Eds.), The future of hope: Christian tradition amid modernity and postmodernity (pp. 77–100). Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.

Dr. Roel Jongeneel – Understanding the Normativity of Economics: Insights from a Budget Constraint-approach

According to Christian approaches to economics, economics is a normative discipline  (Oslington, 2014). This also holds for the Reformed Christian Economics (RFE) tradition. The founder of the Dutch neo-Calvinist philosophy, Herman Dooyeweerd, as an example,clearly advocated a normative approach to economics. Hengstmengel (2001), however, concludes that the early followers and developers of his thinking did not succeed (yet) in developing such an approach, although several attempts have been made by amongst others Diepenhorst and Van der Kooy. From the work done by the later generation Kouwenhoven, Haan and especially Goudswaard a number of important insights into the normativity of economics were gained. In their contributions, however, there has been a relative strong emphasis on cultural criticism and critical social philosophical analysis of the economic behaviour of firms and consumers. With the exception of Goudzwaard(see his work on causality and economic growth) their focus has less been on the reformation of economic theory.

In the paper it is argued that the normativity with respect to economics is multi-dimensional. This includes the role of normsrelevant for human behavior that are external to the economy or economic theory, but that impact and critically reflect on the direction of the economy or economic life.It is argued that there is an “inside” normativity in economics that needs further development.Reflecting on the work of the Hungarian philosopher-economist Janos Kornai (1980) and US economist Axel Leijonhufvud(2011) the point is made that in economic decision and choice situations there is always a budget constraint. This budget constraint is an important source of economic normativity, be it not the only one. It is argued that when properly recognizing this several derailments in the economy that caused a lot of social and ecological harm could have been avoided.

Reconsideration of the budget constraint and its significance and meaning could contribute to restore the normativity that should characterize economics. Soft budget constraints (Kornai, 1980), broken budget constraints (Leijonhufud, 2011), and incomplete or “shortened” budget constraints are all examples of budget constraints that lead to anti-normative economic behavior and the externalisation of costs to third parties (e.g. the recent financial crises) and the environment (e.g. the environmental crises, climate change). Properly-defined and hard budget constraints generate important guiding rules or norms for economic behaviour and are a key source to operationalize economic responsibility in human behavior. As an illustration examples of derived norms are given for consumers, firms, banks, public finance and the balance of trade.


Joost Hengstmengel (2001) Dooyeweerds filosofie van de economie. Radix, 37(3): 191-201.

Janos Kornai (1980) The economics of shortage.Amsterdam: North Holland Press

Axel Leijonhufvud (2011) Nature of an economy. Center for Economic Policy Research

Paul Oslington (2014) The Oxford Handbook of Christian Economics. Oxford, OUP.

Prof. Dr. Kees van der Kooi – God’s Oikonomia.

In this contribution I want to explore the possibility to understand theological categories like creation, salvation history and renewal in terms of economy and policy making. The word oikonomia is not only part of the idiom of the New Testament, but belongs also to the conceptuality of systematic theology. Concepts such as ‘economic trinity’ and ‘the economy of the covenant of grace’ (oeconomia foederis gratiae) have a firm place in the idiom of protestant orthodoxy. In its most simple form the concept means the organisation of God’s grace.

It can however be argued, that we have more substantial reasons to inquire in what way the connotations of the word economy fit the biblical narrative. It belongs to an old theological tradition to say that creation was a kind of project that God started and wanted to use for a win-win situation: the glory of God is a living human being and the life of a human being is to see God in his glory (Irenaeus: ‘Gloria enim Dei vivens homo; vita autem hominis visio Dei’). The frequently used formulation of the covenant of God and his people also expresses this mutuality: ‘I will be your God and you will be my people’. That is the formulation of goal, that God wants to achieve. But this goal is not something that easily is realised. The narrative of God and Israel tells of many occasions in which the project seems to end in a complete failure or bankruptcy. Sometimes God says that he regrets having created the human being. At other occasions God is told to be weary of the people of Israel. The story is told as story in which God as an investor and employer has to reconsider his policy, is even hurt by his employees and is urged to take new measures to reach his goal. The story of the God of Israel is told as a drama, in which the mission of the Son and the Mission of the Spirit can be seen as two measures, which are meant to be decisive for the whole project. Is it possible to picture theology and the drama of the story of God and man in terms of an attempt of increase of value, as a pursuit of a win-win situation? Is God a high risk investor, when he started to create fallible human beings?

What effects does this perspective on salvation history in terms of economy and policy making have for our understanding of God, his council, divine attributes like immutability, eternity and more general his Lordship? And how does it affect our view on the ongoing history after Easter and Pentecost and –not the least- our own role as participants in this story? In the Neo-Calvinist tradition the ongoing history and the goal of God with his creation have been elaborated  in the concept of Common Grace and Palingenesis. These concepts do not only relate to the salvation of the individual human being, but to a full blown theology of culture. Can they still be used when we look at salvation history in terms of economy and policy? Or does the conceptuality of economy and policy making have some boundaries that make its use ambivalent if not impossible?  What do we gain, and maybe what will be lost?