a society built on usury

This C.S. Lewis passage and the current economic crisis make me wonder.

There is one bit of advice given to us by the ancient heathen Greeks, and by the Jews in the Old Testament, and by the great Christian teachers of the Middle Ages, which the modern economic system has completely disobeyed. All these people told us not to lend money at interest: and lending money at interest—what we call investment—is the basis of our whole system. Now it may not absolutely follow that we are wrong. Some people say that when Moses and Aristotle and the Christians agreed in forbidding interest (or “usury” as they called it), they could not foresee the joint stock company, and were only dunking of the private moneylender, and that, therefore, we need not bother about what they said.

That is a question I cannot decide on. I am not an economist and I simply do not know whether the investment system is responsible for the state we are in or not This is where we want the Christian economist But I should not have been honest if I had not told you that three great civilisations had agreed (or so it seems at first sight) in condemning the very thing on which we have based our whole
life. (C.S. Lewis in mere Christianity)

I’ll add some of Rob Bell before stating my case:

l was traveling in Turkey awhile back and kept noticing that a large number of the homes there seemed unfinished. Piles of wood and brick beside the house, half a foundation built,  construction equipment everywhere. It looked like a lot of homes had been started and then the workers went to lunch… for a year. l asked my friend, who has spent a lot of time in Turkey, about it. He said the reason is that the Mustim culture doesn’t allow for financial debt, so people only build with cash. They work for a while, run out of money, save up, keep working, and eventuaüy get the house done, which they own, debt-free. l was struck with how different Western culture would be if we had a similar aversion to debt. How many people do we know who are crippled with financial debt? Having less debt is a better way to live. l affirm this value of the Muslim people of Turkey because it is true, it is good, and it is a better way to live. (Rob Bell in Velvet Elvis)

so maybe our financial crisis is just the logical outcome of our house built on quicksand: a financial system built on usury. Is there any Christian economist who aswered Lewis’ question without taking our western culture for granted?

If this is sin. We may have to repent. How? What can we learn from the jubilee-laws in the torah? How do we have to be ‘not conformed to the world’ in this?

And can we be good news to the people who are the victims of this monster? Maybe if we’d really be as radical as the first christians (or shane Claiborne ) it would really make a difference.

I don’t know. So much questions, no answers,…




3 responses to “a society built on usury

  1. Hey, Bram.

    You might find the following to be fairly enlightening.

    Money as Debt
    -explains how the system basically works

    Money as Debt 2: Promises Unleashed
    -more directly answers your specific questions, I think

  2. Bram, Great work!

    Zack, great resources.

    I agree. It seems the world is starting to protest this system that God warned us against.


  3. If you got my comment earlier about having a chance to talk, it was because of this post.

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