“Creation theology” in economics several catholic traditions

Michael Novak

Summary: 1. Introduction. 2. The Shocking Facts. 3. Looking Down on Commerce. 4. Anglican and Orthodox Catholic Traditions. 5. John Paul II and Creation Theology.

Abstract: In the last 250 years, capitalism has transformed and liberated societies from poverty in an unprecedented way. "Caput", the Latin root for capitalism reflects the idea of "mind-centered economy." More than anything else, mind is the cause of wealth today, so the spirit of capitalism is far from being entirely materialistic. It teaches people to turn away from what they now have, to put that at risk, to set off bravely toward inventing new futures. The weberian interpretation of Protestant ethics ignores this and pays little attention to the fact that the first experiences of modern trading and entrepreneurship were developed by catholic cities in the late Middle Ages. After the Reformation, Catholic culture fostered invention in the visual and tactile arts. By contrast, the dissident Protestant churches favored simplicity, plainness, and the absence of ornament. Even now capitalism faces resistance within catholic culture, but John Paul II's encyclicals (Laborem exercens, Sollicitudo rei socialis and Centesimus annus) made clear that work is a way of human development (both personal and social) and that economic creativity, teamwork and cooperation are our chief hope of lifting the poor around the world out of poverty. The free society is three systems in one: an economic system that liberates the poor from poverty, a political system that frees all its citizens from torture and tyranny, and a moral/cultural system that nourishes an "ecology of liberty," designed for human flourishing.

Keywords: capitalism, Catholic Social Thought, economy, creation theology