Historical Perspective on the Interplay of Christian Thought and
CHRISTIANITY AND BUSINESS ETHICS 6
HistoricalPerspective on the Interplay of Christian Thought and Business Ethics
Theauthors in the article are concerned over Christianity religion andits expected efforts to ameliorate ill effects associated withbusiness conducts in the society. Historically, institutionalizedcustoms and rules were set to limit the influence and status ofbusiness principles there were control principle regulating commerceactivities but with change in civilizations businesses began tooperate in free reign. The resultant effect was a capitalism spiritwhich encouraged harmful and immoral business behaviors. As suchbusiness ethics and principles were left to individual and societalprinciples. Fundamentally, Christianity religion was touted to havestrong ethical principles and influence on the minds and conduct ofindividuals and was expected to fill in the gap of promoting businessethics. However, this never materialized as the same religionpromoted and revered unacceptable and immoral business practicescontrary to its doctrinal teaching.
Christianityand business ethics
Theearly Christianity religion had great principles and ethics ofconduct in regard to individual material acquisition and commerce. Inthe early Christianity it is evident that society promoted ethicalpractices of common ownership of property people were supposed towork but not make profits, accumulating earthly riches was seen asevil and ungodly and personal ownership of property was loathed,business or economic activities were seen as external and irreverent(Bayet al.2010). However, the same religion failed to control and guide landand property acquisition practices which set pace for unethicaldeceit and greed of property and land ownership witnessed today.
Unlikein the early Christianity religious beliefs, during the PatristicPeriod there was shift from the ethical practices that blamedindividual wealth to encouraging individual wealth and selffulfillment through personal gains than the societal needs. This wasreverse of what the early Christians advocated. Despite this, thespirit of communal sharing and objection to private property stillthrived. Thebeliefs held by early Christians in regard to personal ethics wererelevant to personal principles in regard to establishing limits toindividual deceit and greed as witnessed today. However, as much asthese beliefs promoted good principles, they could hardly guideanyone in business today. The teaching advocated by the churchrequiring merchants to share their wealth with poor, could hardlysustain any meaningful business in the modern world.
Similarly,contrary to early Christianity beliefs in regard to private ownershipof wealth, the middle ages witnessed great shift on these principleshigh levels of individualism was witnessed particularly fromChristians. Complete change in belief and practices took place in theMiddle Ages when pure trade was accepted and conducted by themerchants who were highly reveled. The advent of reformation ageculminated in changing religious principles pertaining economicactivities. In fact the division of church in sects was definitely aculmination of capitalism values. Initially the church valuedcommunal caring and accumulation of wealth, but societal changes ledto increased individualism, encouraging personal accumulation,building expensive churches and promoting individual selfsufficiency. It is clear that this spirit of capitalism led to churchdivision. Focus and teaching were based on personal enrichment as asign of Gods blessing while disdain for the poor was open (Bayet al.2010).
Onthe other hand, contrary to expectations, change in Christianityvalues and business ethics was un avoidable. As society evolves newvalues comes into play disregarding the old held values, this wasalso the case during early civilization. Changes in political, socialand economic aspects of society is accompanied by change in values,no society remains static the shift from Christianity principles topursue business gains was inevitable. It is also interesting how thechurch doctrines changed tune and began encouraging new businessattitude without sanctions as observed with the early Christians.
Inaddition, the enlightenment stage brought with it a differentperspective regarding religious and political authority the laterwas powerful than religious authority in guiding personal relations.The growing political authority encouraged material acquisition inessence of authority positioning. The enlightenment ideologiesencouraged principles of ‘natural law’ in business activitieswhich allowed individuals to conduct business activities in their ownways depending on market forces. As such, the strict business ethicsand principles held by early society were no longer applicable inestablishing business principles that was left to market forces (Bayet al.2010).
Inline with this, analyzing the turn of events in religious practiceswas not accidental. Trade and economic activities were important forthe society to progress no business would have developed withoutinterest on loans. Like the authors observes, businesses weresupposed to accommodate themselves in Christianity principles ratherthan the opposite this is where business principles got lost.Similarly, if religious principles emerged due to economicnecessities, it would be hard for such principles to check onbusiness conducts of those engaging in business today. Looking backthe historical perspective of religion and economic principles, thereligious principles failed to control economic pressures and as suchthese religious principles would achieve less success in controllingmodern businesses.
Furthermore,the religious principles advocated by the church were a means ofpromoting salvation and not economic growth. Although the use ofreligious principles is still emphasized, corporate behaviors andresponsibilities rests on principled decisions of management in whatthey assume as socially acceptable and good for business. Operationdecisions in business are guided through striking a balance betweenbusiness principles and the society. Therefore, indicating that thereare ‘good’ set of principles would compromise businessactivities. In most cases businesses operates under their ownprinciples as governed by the organizational structure and anyexternal referents in regard to social, political or religious valueswould not be practical to business(Bay et al.2010).
Religionhad set good precedent principles in regard to personal wealth andbusiness values but this changed what was unacceptable and immoralbecame the centre of reverence. However, societies do not remainstatic changes as witnessed in the political, social and religiousaspect in the historical Christianity trend were bound to causechanges in the religious principles. It is true that religiousprinciples should guide and enhance effective control on businessbehaviors but the main tentative issue is whether Christianityreligion provided stable principles relevant for successful businessethics.
Mostof these principles were inconsistent and therefore can not be a goodbasis to rationalize contemporary business ethics in the commerceindustry. The author relies heavily on historical information tosupport the current theory and research on business ethics. Theiropinions are that, to understand current business ethics andbehaviors, research of the context in historical perspective isbeneficial. The authors’ justifications for relying on historicalmaterials in their research are that to understand historicalphilosophies and theories of business ethics one can justify currentbusiness ethics. Historical perspectives provide answers to thecapacity of individual ethical principles to enhance a stable controlon business ills that may affect society
BayDarlene 1, McKeage Kim & McKeageJeffrey2010,‘AnBusiness Ethics’Retrieved from http://bas.sagepub.com/content/49/4/652.refs.html,SAGEPublications.