The Bible Is Clear About One Thing

The Bible Is Clear About One Thing March 20, 2015

Fred Clark has a great blog post, pointing out that, in most cases, saying “the Bible says” involves ignoring those places where the Bible says something else different from what it says in the passage you cited.

But there seems to be one exception, which the Bible is consistent about: usury, i.e. the charging of interest on loans. Fred writes:

It’s interesting, then, that this biblical clarity does not translate into Christian teaching, belief, practice or politics. “The Bible is really clear about usury,” but nearly every Christian, church, denomination, etc., clearly takes the opposite position from what the Bible really clearly says.

See also his follow-up post, “How I learned to stop clobber-texting and love George Bailey.”

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  • Ppfft. The fact that the Bible confirms Fred Clark’s biases in some instances does not mean those instances are somehow exceptional. Matthew 25:27-30, Deuteronomy 23:20. Come on, James, you’re a Biblical scholar, aren’t you? Shouldn’t you know your Bible? I haven’t even looked at it in months, and I still know that with interest, what applies to the Jew does not necessarily apply to the Gentile. How else could a good number of Jews become some of the richest people in Europe since the Middle Ages?
    Also, James, have you ever heard of the negative interest rate? It’s become unusually common in Europe.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/28/business/dealbook/in-europe-bond-yields-and-interest-rates-go-through-the-looking-glass.html

  • PorlockJunior

    Reading the Lewis quote, I was struck by what I had failed to notice in reading it before. In the list of important civilizations that ban usury, I really thought that the most obvious and unequivocal of all was there, but it’s not — where is Islam?

    I guess the answer is that Islam doesn’t give us any of our traditional wisdom; hence Lewis is not omitting something that belongs on the list. Still, it’s funny: here are one or two billion people among whom a real enmity to interest is common: certainly more so than among Christians and Jews, and I’ll just bet the Greeks weren’t all that united on the matter. But they have no relevance to the question.

    (That there are now attempts to formulate a market economy on Islamic terms is of interest, but doesn’t (yet) change the picture. The theory behind it is that equity investment is all right in that it shares the rewards and the risks; what we would call good sound debt, however, is seen as coercive and exploitative, the debtor being forced to pay even if he has lost his money. An interesting point of view, and one wonders how well it could work in practice.)