Last week someone asked me what studying economics in a distinctly Christian environment, like Calvin College, looked like. To be honest I was a bit taken aback. It was a good question. A question I had not fully answered for myself.
So I slowly felt my way through my answer. I said something general like themes of justice, development, and health fulfill larger roles in our course curriculum. The man asked for a specific example of how a Christian faith shapes economics education. I told a story about an experience I had just last semester. Mainstream economics uses a model that describes rationally thinking labor decisions. The basic idea is people will take time off from work if they are happier during the time of leisure than during the time of work. In economic jargon people will substitute leisure for labor if and only if the marginal utility of leisure is greater than the marginal utility of labor. This concept taught in a Christian setting will certainly summit (as it did in my class) different issues than in a secular setting. For instance, how does vocational calling and kingdom restoration fit into our idea of work? Is work always bad and leisure always good? Can this concept be simplified to this level? Does a feeling of happiness really indicate long term fulfillment?
Upon further reflection I wondered if John Wesley, co-founder the Methodist Movement, is the father of Christian Economics.