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God and the Evil of Scarcity

God and the Evil of Scarcity

Moral Foundations of Economic Agency

Albino Barrera, O.P.

“This is a very big, very important work that takes up a large and urgent issue and follows it through with vigorous, meticulous study.” —Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

“Professor Barrera addresses an important theological question: ‘Why would a benevolent God create a world of material scarcity with all the suffering accompanying this fact?’ He goes beyond answering this question by showing that the sacrifices demanded to deal with the challenge of scarcity create virtues and situations that are deeply Christian. Barrera’s well-written, jargon-free book will capture the attention of anyone interested in this topic.” —Wilfried Ver Eecke, Georgetown University

Written for theologians, philosophers, social scientists, and policymakers interested in the theological and philosophical foundations of economics, God and the Evil of Scarcity argues that precarious, subsistence living is not an immutable law of nature. Rather, such a chronic, dismal condition reflects personal and collective moral failure. Barrera contends that scarcity serves as an occasion for God to provide for us through each other and that there are strong metaphysical and scriptural warrants for enacting progressive social policies for a better sharing of the goods of the earth.

ISBN: 978-0-268-02192-4
304 pages
Publication Year: 2005

Albino Barrera, O.P., is professor of humanities at Providence College, where he teaches theology and economics.

“The overall impression one is left with is that Barrera is engaged in a much-needed project. His sophistication in both economics and theological ethics allows him to carry forward a conversation that has too often stayed at the level of vague generalities about capitalism and socialism, or well-meaning but not particularly strategic pleas on behalf of the poor.” — The Thomist

“There are comparatively few scholars who are well versed in both theology and economics, but Barrera is clearly one of them. . . . God and the Evil of Scarcity is written in a clear and easy style, and has good headings, structure and index. It engages seriously with economics as well as being rich in theological insight, and can be highly commended. . . .” — Theology

“Barrera . . . suggests that the purpose of God’s design in confronting humans with ‘scarcity’ is not humanization but, more piously, ‘participation in God’s goodness, righteousness, and providence’ . . . His second proposal is the claim that it can be deduced from the nature of God that the world must have been endowed with at least ‘conditional material sufficiency’, that is, ‘sufficiency contingent on human response and cooperation.’” — Journal of Markets & Morality

“Written for theologians, philosophers, social scientists, and policymakers interested in theological foundations of economics, this book argues that precarious subsistence living is not an immutable law of nature. Rather, such a chronic, dismal condition reflects personal and collective moral failure. The book argues that scarcity serves as an occasion for God to provide for us through each other.” — Abstracts of Public Administration, Development and Environment

“How do we understand God’s purpose in a world of material scarcity? Rather than accept the solutions of Malthus, Sumner and Paley, that material want encourages striving and discipline, Barrera contends that God intends that scarcity can be eliminated through human cooperation, humanity’s role as co-creator. Basing his argument upon biblical sources, both Testaments, as well as the thought of Aquinas, he says that God’s will is a world with care. He adds that scarcity is accidental. . . .” — Horizons

“The book is fascinating in many ways. First, I cannot recall anyone taking up the issue of scarcity as theodicy since Malthus. Second, his use of Thomistic thought here is quite clever. Third, his use of Pauline theology is unusual. . . . Finally, by addressing scarcity within the framework of theodicy, Barrera asks a more specific question than a general question of theodicy does.” — Christian Scholar’s Review

“The overall impression one is left with is that Barrera is engaged in a much-needed project. His sophistication in both economics and theological ethics allows him to carry forward a conversation that has too often stayed at the level of vague generalities about capitalism and socialism, or well-meaning but not particularly strategic pleas on behalf of the poor.” — The Thomist

“. . . Reports a great deal of recent biblical scholarship . . . My summary of Fr. Barrera’s argument must fail to do justice to its many virtues. Part II is scholarly, thorough, and ‘catholic’ in the best and truest sense of that much-contested world.” — Faith and Economics

“Albino Barrera, an economist and theologian at Providence college, skillfully and lucidly revistis scarcity with an eye toward encouraging a mindset of economic agency in place of Malthusian resignation. The book is masterfully crafted and beautifully written, and it is important reading not only for scholars of economic ethics but also for students in need of an introduction to questions of scarcity and theodicy. Barrera also has a gift for demonstrating the significance of methodology in theological ethics, which can be an inspiration to those seeking to make sense of the larger conversation and to locate their own thinking within it.” — Christian Ethics

“The book is masterfully crafted and beautifully written, and it is important reading not only for scholars of economic ethics but also for students in need of an introduction to questions of scarcity and theodicy. Barrera also has a gift for demonstrating the significance of methodology in theological ethics, which can be an inspiration to those seeking to make sense of the larger conversation and to locate their own thinking within it.” — Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics

“A hallmark of Barrera’s writing is that he slowly builds all the elements he uses to make his arguments. Often he proceeds so carefully that larger points are established through series of mini-treatises, many of which, due to the depth of their analysis, are worth reading in their own right.” — Review of Social Economy

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God and the Evil of Scarcity

Moral Foundations of Economic Agency

Albino Barrera, O.P.

 God and the Evil of Scarcity: Moral Foundations of Economic Agency
Cloth Edition
Paper Edition

“This is a very big, very important work that takes up a large and urgent issue and follows it through with vigorous, meticulous study.” —Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

“Professor Barrera addresses an important theological question: ‘Why would a benevolent God create a world of material scarcity with all the suffering accompanying this fact?’ He goes beyond answering this question by showing that the sacrifices demanded to deal with the challenge of scarcity create virtues and situations that are deeply Christian. Barrera’s well-written, jargon-free book will capture the attention of anyone interested in this topic.” —Wilfried Ver Eecke, Georgetown University

Written for theologians, philosophers, social scientists, and policymakers interested in the theological and philosophical foundations of economics, God and the Evil of Scarcity argues that precarious, subsistence living is not an immutable law of nature. Rather, such a chronic, dismal condition reflects personal and collective moral failure. Barrera contends that scarcity serves as an occasion for God to provide for us through each other and that there are strong metaphysical and scriptural warrants for enacting progressive social policies for a better sharing of the goods of the earth.

ISBN: 978-0-268-02192-4

304 pages

“The overall impression one is left with is that Barrera is engaged in a much-needed project. His sophistication in both economics and theological ethics allows him to carry forward a conversation that has too often stayed at the level of vague generalities about capitalism and socialism, or well-meaning but not particularly strategic pleas on behalf of the poor.” — The Thomist

“There are comparatively few scholars who are well versed in both theology and economics, but Barrera is clearly one of them. . . . God and the Evil of Scarcity is written in a clear and easy style, and has good headings, structure and index. It engages seriously with economics as well as being rich in theological insight, and can be highly commended. . . .” — Theology

“Barrera . . . suggests that the purpose of God’s design in confronting humans with ‘scarcity’ is not humanization but, more piously, ‘participation in God’s goodness, righteousness, and providence’ . . . His second proposal is the claim that it can be deduced from the nature of God that the world must have been endowed with at least ‘conditional material sufficiency’, that is, ‘sufficiency contingent on human response and cooperation.’” — Journal of Markets & Morality

“Written for theologians, philosophers, social scientists, and policymakers interested in theological foundations of economics, this book argues that precarious subsistence living is not an immutable law of nature. Rather, such a chronic, dismal condition reflects personal and collective moral failure. The book argues that scarcity serves as an occasion for God to provide for us through each other.” — Abstracts of Public Administration, Development and Environment

“How do we understand God’s purpose in a world of material scarcity? Rather than accept the solutions of Malthus, Sumner and Paley, that material want encourages striving and discipline, Barrera contends that God intends that scarcity can be eliminated through human cooperation, humanity’s role as co-creator. Basing his argument upon biblical sources, both Testaments, as well as the thought of Aquinas, he says that God’s will is a world with care. He adds that scarcity is accidental. . . .” — Horizons

“The book is fascinating in many ways. First, I cannot recall anyone taking up the issue of scarcity as theodicy since Malthus. Second, his use of Thomistic thought here is quite clever. Third, his use of Pauline theology is unusual. . . . Finally, by addressing scarcity within the framework of theodicy, Barrera asks a more specific question than a general question of theodicy does.” — Christian Scholar’s Review

“The overall impression one is left with is that Barrera is engaged in a much-needed project. His sophistication in both economics and theological ethics allows him to carry forward a conversation that has too often stayed at the level of vague generalities about capitalism and socialism, or well-meaning but not particularly strategic pleas on behalf of the poor.” — The Thomist

“. . . Reports a great deal of recent biblical scholarship . . . My summary of Fr. Barrera’s argument must fail to do justice to its many virtues. Part II is scholarly, thorough, and ‘catholic’ in the best and truest sense of that much-contested world.” — Faith and Economics

“Albino Barrera, an economist and theologian at Providence college, skillfully and lucidly revistis scarcity with an eye toward encouraging a mindset of economic agency in place of Malthusian resignation. The book is masterfully crafted and beautifully written, and it is important reading not only for scholars of economic ethics but also for students in need of an introduction to questions of scarcity and theodicy. Barrera also has a gift for demonstrating the significance of methodology in theological ethics, which can be an inspiration to those seeking to make sense of the larger conversation and to locate their own thinking within it.” — Christian Ethics

“The book is masterfully crafted and beautifully written, and it is important reading not only for scholars of economic ethics but also for students in need of an introduction to questions of scarcity and theodicy. Barrera also has a gift for demonstrating the significance of methodology in theological ethics, which can be an inspiration to those seeking to make sense of the larger conversation and to locate their own thinking within it.” — Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics

“A hallmark of Barrera’s writing is that he slowly builds all the elements he uses to make his arguments. Often he proceeds so carefully that larger points are established through series of mini-treatises, many of which, due to the depth of their analysis, are worth reading in their own right.” — Review of Social Economy