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In many respects, the US economy bears little resemblance to a genuine free market system. The economic policy-making process has been captured by powerful interests, resulting in regressive arrangements that redistribute wealth upward. The inequality generated is sanctioned in popular discourse by a confusing of ideal free markets with real world markets. “Market fundamentalism” imagines the market as self-regulating, governed by economic laws inscribed into the natural order, and thus a free and fair system. This rhetoric disguises how the system’s structure favors some at the expense of others.

Evaluating market fundamentalism with a theological lens reveals resemblances to the ancient Pelagian heresy. The “Pelagianism” of market fundamentalism lies in: (i) the assumption the market is natural, untainted by original sin; and (ii) the notion that every market participant possesses unfettered freedom, along with equal opportunity, to succeed. A Christian account of humans as entangled in sin should lead us to recognize all human constructs, including economic systems, are flawed and corrupted. This conviction should render Christians alert for systemic injustices and distortions.

Market fundamentalism’s most insidious function is to prohibit moral evaluation of market outcomes on the grounds that free markets are fair. Christians bear a responsibility to expose the “heresy” of market fundamentalism as a “deceptive rhetoric” and to evaluate market outcomes in light of Jesus’ premium upon human well-being.


Originally published as:

Crane, R. (2019). Enslaved imaginations: The [Pelagian] heresy of market fundamentalism and Christian moral discernment. Review and Expositor (Berne), 116(1), 16–32.