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Rational Religion: Economic Patterns in Old Testament Thought

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By tracing institutional and constitutional economic patterns to Old Testament thought, the thesis of a rational economic dimension of the biblical text can be advanced and the actual nature and substance of religion can be conceptualised in economic terms. Here the paper questions the widespread assumption that religion will be radically different from modern ethics (“economics as ethics”) in the tradition of the Scottish Enlightenment. In this regard the paper specifically addresses the call for a concept of “rational religion” as early on identified by Smith but contests the explicit claims of Smith or modern institutional economists like Buchanan that a concept of rational religion or “economics as ethics” necessarily is separated from the Bible. An institutional economic theory of Old Testament-based religion is proposed through a set of four theses. On the basis of these arguments, the paper outlines why Old Testament-based religion still has and could have a persistent and pervasive influence in contemporary, capitalist society.
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Keywords: (rejection of) dualism thesis; Old Testament; institutional / constitutional economics; Rational religion; economic pattern thesis; institutional economic theory of religion; new unitary thesis; pervasiveness / persistence of religion thesis

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Business, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK

Publication date: January 2, 2018

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