Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute, where he also serves as executive editor of the Journal of Markets & Morality. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht), and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church’s Social Witness (Christian’s Library Press) and general editor of Sources in Early Modern Economics, Ethics, and Law and Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. He is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.
Deelproject(en) in het Goede Markten Project
Selection of Publications
Ballor, Jordan J.
Interdisciplinary Dialogue and Scarcity in Economic Terminology Journal Article
In: Journal of Markets & Morality, 23 (1), pp. 131–137, 2020.
"As an illustration of the various challenges in interdisciplinary dialogue, particularly with respect to theology and economics, the remainder of this essay will focus on the economic concept of scarcity and its typical reception and use by theologians. One of the most common errors in interdisciplinary dialogue is to take a technical term used in one field and apply to it a nontechnical or mundane meaning. In the case of scarcity, this would take the form of understanding its meaning to be simply something like 'lack' or 'poverty.' When theologians think of scarcity, we, perhaps like most people, commonly conceive of a scorchedearth vista, starvation, or deprivation. The immediate reaction is one of horror and sorrow: Scarcity is a result of sin and thus is not the way the world is supposed to be. The answer to the problem of scarcity is thus clear: God is the source of all good things and he gives bounteously, first in creation and, after the fall into sin, in the context of his ongoing providential care. The basic distinction in this case is between economics as a science of scarcity, which is concerned with material deprivation and poverty, and a broader understanding offered by theology, which emphasizes divine abundance."
Ballor, Jordan J.; van der Kooi, Cornelis
In: Reformation & Renaissance Review , 21 (3), pp. 188-202, 2019.
This article examines the moral status of wealth creation, particularly within its theological and religious contexts, across Reformed confessions from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These confessional standards are a key source for the moral teaching of Reformed churches, and their treatments of the eighth commandment demonstrate a relatively nuanced and sophisticated view of wealth. Rather than simply denouncing wealth itself as intrinsically evil, these confessional standards, from a variety of national and ecclesial contexts, both on the European continent and Britain, provide a basis for viewing wealth creation as a moral good, even while warning against excess, temptation, and vices such as avarice and envy. This survey of the treatments of wealth from a diverse set of Reformed confessional standards provides a foundation for understanding a critical element in the formation of Reformed, and more broadly Protestant, economic ethics in the early-modern period.
Ballor, Jordan J.
In: Melloni, Alberto (Ed.): Martin Luther; A Christian between Reforms and Modernity (1517-2017), pp. 965–982, De Gruyter, Berlin, 2017, ISBN: 9783110499025.
Appearing at the dawn of the twentieth century, the German sociologist and philosopher Max Weber attempted to define a religious basis for economic life in his essays on "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism." The argument in these essays came to be known as “The Weber Thesis,” which held that in the development of the modern world there was an intimate connection between religious doctrines and ethos on the one hand, and economic life and practice on the other.
After a summary of Weber’s basic argument, we will proceed to examine more closely the figure of Martin Luther (1483-1546) in Weber’s study. Then we shall examine the significance of Protestant rhetoric as it influenced both Protestant ethics and the cultural spirit underpinning modern economic life. As this survey approaches the contemporary era, we will find that there are good reasons to question Weber’s identification of specifically Protestant, and particularly Puritan, backgrounds for the spirit of modern capitalism. We will conclude with an evaluation of Weber’s thesis, which must be judged to be insightful even as it is incomplete and in some ways mistaken. In highlighting the doctrine of predestination as the dogmatic ground for the Puritan ethic and in turn the spirit of modern economic life, Weber displays an erroneous understanding of both this doctrine and its historical role. At the same time, however, Weber does rightly identify important features of capitalism and its grounding in Christian ethics, and these insights continue to have relevance and insight today.
Ballor, Jordan J.
A Biblical Myth at the Origin of Smith's The Wealth of Nations Journal Article
In: Journal of the History of Economic Thought , 39 (2), pp. 223–38, 2017, ISSN: 1053-8372.
There is a subset of scholarly literature that asserts that the title of Adam Smith’s famous work, The Wealth of Nations, is an allusion to passages from the Bible, such as Isaiah 60:5. Strong forms of the claim of this relationship between Smith and Scripture argue for a direct reliance of the former upon the latter. Weaker forms of the claim merely raise the possibility of the relationship or point more broadly to the significance and relevance of scriptural passages. This article sets these claims against the historical context of Smith and his work, finding that the relationship among “the wealth of nations,” Adam Smith, and English translations of the Bible demonstrates that Smith did not, in fact, allude to the passages in Isaiah. Thus, the rise of political economy itself, of which Smith’s work was an important element, was part of the background for, and preceded the appearance of, the phrase in English bibles.
Articles & Blogs
August 6, 2020
March 27, 2020
Journal of Markets & Morality (vol. 20, no. 2)
February 12, 2019
Series "Journal of Markets & Morality":
The Journal of Markets & Morality is a peer-reviewed academic journal published by the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. It seeks to bring together theologians, philosophers, economists, and other scholars for dialogue concerning the morality of the marketplace. From each issue that is made open access (1 year after publication) we select some articles for you.
Articles in this series:
September 26, 2018