Faith and Wealth: A History of Early Christian Ideas on the Origin, Significance, and Use of Money, by Justo L. González (HarperCollins, 240 pp., $19.95, paper). Reviewed by Arthur Boers, who is pastor of Windsor (Ont.) Mennonite Fellowship and the author of On Earth as It Is in Heaven (Herald).

Some believe liberation theology and the Roman Catholic bishops’ pastoral letter on the economy reflect a faddish twentieth-century obsession with economics. But in Faith and Wealth, Justo González shows that this concern is merely an extension of an ancient, even biblical, preoccupation.

Examining the writings from the church’s first four centuries, González finds a consistent concern about the relationship between faith and wealth, a concern that has been largely ignored by historians and thologians alike, including González himself. The author has impressive historical credentials, having authored the two-volume Story of Christianity and the three-volume A History of Christian Thought. In 30 years of studying the early church, however, he focused on traditional doctrines and never noticed the material regarding wealth and its uses. But when he finally did focus on such matters, he found a number of consistent themes.

Such prominent leaders as Origen, Tertullian, Cyprian, the Desert Fathers, John Chrysostom, and Augustine all believed that faith and wealth were not separate issues but crucial pastoral, theological, and ecclesial concerns. “From the earliest time economics was a theological issue, and still is.”

While some conclude that the communal experimentation of the Jerusalem church in Acts failed, González argues that voluntary sharing (or koinōnia) continued for centuries. The church did not celebrate communalism or renunciation ...

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