The thread must be at least 500 words and demonstrate course-related knowledge. In addition to the thread, you are required to reply to two 2 threads below. Each reply should be at least 250 words and each reply must be different.
In your review of the article An Historical Perspective on the Interplay of Christian Thought and Business Ethics[in attachments], the authors discuss both the feasibility and challenges of providing effective guidance for business decisions by using a set of ethical principles that remain stable over time, rather than responding to changes in the business environment. Discuss the major points in this article that cause the authors to conclude that ethical principles based on non-business sources are ineffective as a check on the undesirable effects of business on society. Discuss the challenges modern business leaders have experienced, and currently experience, applying ethical principles in the workplace. Share your experiences as they relate to the authors’ main points.
Reply(250 words each)
Thread Reply 1
This article discusses how the role and values of Christianity affected the business of commerce from early times to the time of Enlightenment. Business Insight journal stated, “once a particular religion or a certain part of its purportedly religious enterprises becomes characterized as commercial, this aspect of the religion is quickly deemed either nonreligious or marginal to religious concerns.” (Meyler,2009). One of the main reasons this article favors religion as ineffective is that Christian views are considered subjective and can be changed to better fit the current environment or time. This statement is supported because various scripture in the Bible is vastly regarded as open for interpretation. One typical example is the difference between the Apostolic and Baptist churches. St. Matthew the Evangelist stated that “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19, NIV). Apostolic churches don’t believe in the Holy Trinity the same way as Baptist churches do. Apostolic beliefs state there is one God who manifests as three different entities. This article list five aspects that should be considered when looking at the effectiveness of Christian values in the world of commerce. One is how wealth and poverty have been viewed is another topic that demonstrates some of the shortcomings of ethical principles from a non-business source not being the most effective manner to conduct business. As time progress, the status of one economic standing varies vastly on location and time. To properly answer this question, there must be a standard of life acceptable for all people. Wealth also has a connection with the altitude of work where the certain type or skill levels of works which another major topic where Christian values may not be enough on their own. “Christian ethics in economics and business has a long tradition but still needs future developments.“ (Melé & Fontrodona, 2016).
One of the biggest problems found when applying ethical principles in the workplace is ethical decision making where people sometimes struggle to act ethically. The problem is not limited to the individuals, but the company itself is vitally important to exemplify standards of ethical conduct. Another problem is that ethical behaviors in the workplace are crucial in creating an atmosphere for positive organizational growth, and the opposite will greatly damage that positive environment. I can see why the author feels that Christian ethics alone will not be enough, but the value of Christians should be considered the fundamental base in any business. Unfortunately, one disadvantage of using biblical ethics to make a moral decision is the lack of advice on modern-day issues. Several principles and lessons can still be used today, but the cultural distance could still be addressed. As stated earlier, some areas where decision-making from a biblical perspective is considered open for interpretation. So I would strongly suggest that the company base the moral on biblical ethics and apply business-based ethics to ensure a modern company that will succeed.
Thread Reply 2
The article An Historical Perspective on the Interplay of Christian Thought and Business Ethics by Darlene Bay, Kim McKeage, and Jeffrey McKeage discussed how Christianity’s view toward ethics have evolved over time. The article discusses five periods through time Early Christianity, The Patristic Period, The Dark and Middle Age, The Reformation, and The Enlightenment. In early Christianity it was not okay to charge interest or to have any personal property and work should only be done to benefit the community. In the Patristic Period it was still not okay to charge interest. Ownership of land and possessions were allowed but only what was needed to support yourself and the church. Some Christians in this period still lived in small communities but some Christians no longer lived in small communities and were members of society. In the Dark and Middle Ages it was okay to have land and possessions and there were no limits to the amount. The topic of interest began to be debated during this period. During this period Christians now were are part of society and the Catholic church controlled much of society. In the Reformation it became okay to charge interest and modern capitalism began to take shape. During this period the Catholic church lost there power over society. During the Enlightenment the church began to turn business ethics over to the government and laws. As this article illustrated that over time as society has evolved and changed over time Christianity’s view toward business has changed as well. The article talked about how at times the ethical views changed as a result of having to give justification to the changes society. The article An Historical Perspective on the Interplay of Christian Thought and Business Ethics discusses Charles Avial book Ownership: Early Christian Teaching: Early Christian Teaching which says “Believers were no longer taught that they should strive to acquire only enough wealth on which to live but were instructed to maintain adequate wealth according to their station in life. This shift in ideology can be seen as encouraging the peasants to be content with their earthly life, while justifying the wealth and comfort of the nobility (Avila, 1983)” (Bay, 2010). The article An Historical Perspective on the Interplay of Christian Thought and Business Ethics also talked about how the changes in Christianity’s view on business ethics happened as a necessity to adapt to the changing ethics of a changing and evolving society. The article An Historical Perspective on the Interplay of Christian Thought and Business Ethics discusses the works of Cohen, De-Jaun, Gilchrist, Grassby, Kaelber, and Monsalve and stated that “By the end of the Reformation, a somewhat ambiguous attitude toward business had developed, even among the clergy. Business was praised and deplored even within the same sect. Although business might still be considered heresy, the obvious benefit of business to society and to the church through donations and bequests could not be ignored (Grassby, 1995). The changes in the business environment had made some of the old principles as developed by St. Aquinas and others difficult and ineffective. For example, the shift to a more mercantile system, where products are produced in bulk and sold at some distance made the original conception of a just price obsolete (De-Juan & Monsalve, 2006). It should be noted that not everyone agrees with Weber’s theory regarding the direction of the causation between capitalism and Puritanism. Some believe that the new sect was simply responding to societal changes that would have occurred in any event (Cohen, 2002; Gilchrist, 1969).” (Bay, 2010) I believe that a business ethics will need to adapt as they evolve and as society evolves around them but they must remain consistent to there core values.
Business & Society 49(4) 652 –676
© 2010 SAGE Publications Reprints and permission: http://www. sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav
DOI: 10.1177/0007650308319739 http://bas.sagepub.com
An Historical Perspective on the Interplay of Christian Thought and Business Ethics
Darlene Bay1, Kim McKeage2, and Jeffrey McKeage
To provide effective guidance for business decisions, a set of ethical principles must be stable over time, rather than responding to changes in the business environment for expediency sake. This article examines the ability of religious principles to maintain such stability by reviewing the historical relationship between commerce and Christianity, beginning with early Christianity and concluding with the Enlightenment. The changes in five constructs are examined: ownership of land, acquisition of wealth, attitude toward work, charging of interest and acceptability of trade. For each construct, the attitude evidenced in early Christianity was, at least to some degree, inimical to business as we view it today. That perspective changed over time, with the practice becoming at first acceptable and later even admired. The authors conclude that ethical principles based on referents from outside business are ineffective as a check on the undesirable effects of business on society.
business ethics, history of business ethics, Christianity and business ethics, religion and business ethics
For tyme . . . has taught all Ages that noe penalties nor policie, could yet inter- pose between ye Merchant & his profit.
William Sanderson as quoted in Robertson (1933).
1Brock University 2Longwood University
Bay et al. 653
From the time of the writing of the Code of Hammurabi to the more recent Kenneth Lay trial, a tension has existed between the individualistic goals of business and the pluralistic goals of society. Models of a just society, for example Rawl’s (1971), emphasize limiting social and economic inequities. Business, on the other hand, is supposed to provide for individual gain, not to promote equal opportunity or equal distribution of wealth. Commerce does benefit society by promoting a higher general standard of living that supports the development of loftier pursuits such as the arts and education and by providing luxury goods and encouraging progress, but it may also cause social dissatisfaction and venality.
As eminent historians like Braudel (1981) and McNeil (1963) have noted, most civilizations have chosen to err on the side of caution, instituting cus- toms and/or rules limiting the status and influence of business. Throughout nearly all of human history in virtually all localities, there was a conscious check on commerce. However, at some point in time, the civilization of Western Europe and North America took a different course, resulting in a society that allows business more free reign than ever before.
Regardless of the reasons that this normative repression of business eased, when it occurred exactly, and whether the spirit of capitalism was inherently benign or malicious (all matters of great and ongoing debate), some limits were still needed. Business still encouraged—and even rewarded—behaviors inimical to the goals, and immoral by the standards, of society as a whole. The task of controlling the degree to which business was allowed to affect society increasingly became a matter of individual conscience and personal ethical principles.
Historically, as Western culture moved away from societal controls on business, it was the Christian religion that was expected to fill the gap (Tawney, 1938; Weber, 1958). The effort to ameliorate the ill effects of busi- ness in this manner should have been successful, because religions comprise sets of ethical principles as strong as any others, their ethics fundamentally aspiring to higher purposes for both individuals and community. Christianity has been termed “one of the most powerful influences over men’s minds for all time and the most potent single source of inspiration for individual con- duct.” (Roll, 1957, p. 25) Thus, the ability of religious principles to exert effective control on business behavior is an important question.
In what follows, we examine the stated principles of the Christian religion as regards various aspects of business beginning with the early Christian era and continuing through the Middle Ages to the time of the Enlightenment. It is important to stress that the paper examines normative beliefs and expressed tenets of the religion rather than the behavior of individuals or of the church
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as an institution. The interest is whether religion provided a set of principles compatible with successful business behavior and the stability of those principles, not whether the principles were consistently applied. As Tawney (1938, pp. 43-44) stated, “The denunciation of vices implies that they are rec- ognized as vicious; to ignore their condemnation is not less one-sided than to conceal their existence; and, when the halo has vanished from practice, it remains to ask what principles men valued and what standards they erected.”
There are several reasons the investigation of history is important for busi- ness ethics research. The potential usefulness of historical information to inform current theory and research has been noted for the management litera- ture (Goodman & Kruger, 1988) as well as the accounting literature (Parker, 1997). The benefits cited apply to the business ethics field with equal valid- ity: the improved understanding of current situations in their context, the possibility of finding old solutions to newly perceived problems, the ability to gain multiple perspectives, assessment of the reasons for the impact or failure to impact of some ideas and the opportunity to avoid repeating past errors (Goodman & Kruger, 1988, Parker, 1997; Feldman, 2002; Marens, 2005).
In addition to these potential benefits, others specific to business ethics may accrue. Business ethics research frequently applies theories (mainly philosophical theories) that were developed in periods when multinational corporations did not exist. The discipline must, therefore, remain sensitive to the question of the continuing applicability of these theories in a modern context. If it can be argued that agency theory should not be applied uncriti- cally to business contracts of the past (Gray & Calvasina, 1995), then it may also be true that philosophies from earlier centuries could suffer in the attempt to apply them to current practice.
A further benefit of a review of history with respect to business ethics is the potential to highlight assumptions that have become so well accepted in current research practice that they may occasionally be forgotten. For example, the questions that are investigated in most business ethics papers are frequently stated in terms of the corporation and its stakeholders rather than individual decision makers: “Corporations make decisions that have impact around the world” (Dawkins, 2002, p. 273) and “evidence of reprehensible firm environ- mental behavior” (Sharfman, Shaft, & Tihanyi, 2004, p. 15). Certainly, all concerned know what is meant by such statements. However, Kimber and Lipton (2005, p. 205) express hope, but not certainty, that “those in senior roles are aware that the sustainability of corporations, economies, and societies rests ultimately on their personal capacity to maintain high standards, principles, and foster ethical practices.” In the past, it was more clear than it perhaps is
Bay et al. 655
today that individuals, not corporations, make the decisions that result in the positive or negative impact of business on society.
Another implicit assumption that is sometimes glossed over in business ethics research is the ethical status of the business system as a whole. Cri- tiques of the system itself are rare, though not nonexistent (see for example Corlett, 1998). However, many business ethicists begin with the current system as the starting point (see Solomon, 1993, who makes the point explicit). Discussion of concerns that were considered important prior to the establishment of the current capitalist (for lack of a better word) system may provide insight on the questions that are considered relevant today.
Although those reasons for the use of historical information are clearly benefits of the current study, we employ a historical perspective mainly because it is the only way to answer the question in which we are primarily interested: the ability of a set of personal ethical principles to provide a stable basis to control the potential of business to do harm to society. Feldman (2002) has argued that in a business world characterized by change, ethical principles must be stable if they are to have the effect of overcoming the effects of short-run expediency, opportunism and economic pressures: “Moral authority that changes too fast soon loses all credibility” (p. 174). This claim can only be investigated with longitudinal data and a fairly long time horizon (see Marens, 2005, for an example).
Survey of Christianity and Business Ethics To examine the stability of Christianity’s principles with respect to business, we trace the relationship of Christianity and business ethics through five dis- tinct time periods. The first era, early Christianity, covers the time immediately following the death of Christ when the Christian religion was very new. Next is the Patristic period, which is the time over which the Christian religion began to be more firmly established and the basic tenets more widely dis- cussed. Following that, we proceed to the Dark and Middle Ages, the Reformation and finally the Enlightenment.1
For each era, we begin by providing a brief description of the position held by the Christian church in society. The relative power of the organiza- tion is important to understanding the influence it could expect to wield with its teaching and proclamations as well as the pressures that would be exerted on it by other forces in society. We then look at the teachings of the church with respect to five constructs: the purpose of work, ownership of land, amassing wealth, charging interest on loans and conducting trade, and making a profit. See Table 1 for a summary of manner in which each
T a b
is ti an
is ti c
Is o la
M o st
is ti an
th o ri
rp o se
o f w
t o e
t o b
ta ti o n
o f la
(M o st
pr o hi
ea lt h
Pr o hi
cc o rd
ta ti o n
po o r
ep ti o ns
pr o fit
pr o fit
lim it ed
ef o rm
rp o se
o f w
t o m
o f la
o f G
ra ti o na
ll y In
ep ti o ns
ga l l
im it s)
d/ o r
Pr o fit
o o d
Bay et al. 657
construct was viewed during each time period. Although none of these appears frequently, if at all, today as a topic of business ethics research, they were all once seen as important issues and the resolution provided by the Christian religion changed over time. Had society continued to uphold the original views of the Christian religion with respect to these concerns, our current business system would not be what it is today.
The first of the five topics is the attitude toward work. Hard work has not been a respectable occupation in all cultures through all times. It has some- times been denigrated as fit only for the lower strata of society and has sometimes been held to be an important aspect of a fulfilled life. It has some- times been deemed important only in so far as it results in the ability to consume and live a comfortable life and has sometimes been touted as an important activity, an end in itself. These various attitudes have important implications for the relationship of employees to the firm, as well as the obli- gations that the firm may have to its employees, both of which are current business ethics topics.
The right to own land is similarly not today seen as an issue by many busi- ness ethicists. It is important to remember that agriculture once comprised by the far the major portion of economic activity. Thus, ownership of land was the key to potential economic and social advancement. Societal changes that caused the proportion of the population that owned land to shift had far reaching implications for other aspects of economic activity such as produc- tion of goods and trade (Gordon, 1988). Even very recently, it has been argued that failure of a society to provide for a clear avenue to ownership and control of property can jeopardize its economic development (De Soto, 2000).
Wealth may be amassed in a number of ways, only one of which is as a result of the conduct of business. However, the ability of individuals and cartels to amass sufficient funds to increase the scope and geographic reach of their enterprises has often been cited as necessary to the beginning of the capitalist system (Tawney, 1938; Weber, 1958). In addition, Solomon (1993) claims that the core purpose of business is distributive justice:
It sounds trite, but it is time to remind ourselves that prosperity for all and not just for a few really is the purpose and justification of business life and that there is an assumption of shared public life and the social virtues without which business would still be—as it was for thousands of years in Western civilization—a marginal and largely contemptible set of activities confined, for the most part, to the outskirts of proper society. (P. 21)
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If that is the case, then the relative wealth of business people and others is precisely a business ethics issue during all ages.
We now rarely question the charging of interest on loans, or the right to buy items and sell them at a profit to be restricted only by the laws of supply and demand. However, those are both activities that were seriously ques- tioned at one time. In the past, usury (charging any interest) was strictly prohibited. In much the same way, merchants were not widely respected and commerce was a suspicious activity that was believed to bring out the worst in man. The pursuit of business goals was anathema to the ancient Greeks and pre-eighteenth-century European civilization alike (Gerde, Goldsby, & Shepard, 2007). The manner in which formerly ethically questionable behav- ior was transformed into a respectable and even honored activity is important to business ethics. Imagine a business system in which the type of behavior we all decry in Enron executives has become expected and admired!
We now turn to an examination of each of these topics through time.
Early Christianity Christianity began as a small movement, attracting largely marginalized people, and was often proscribed. Although inspired by religious ideals, its leaders also had to attend to group identity, cohesion, and survival. Many early Christians came from the poorer members of society, so their tight-knit groups may have made it possible for members to survive where individually they would have struggled (Laveleye, 1878). During times of hardship such as famine or disease, the Christians were often the only ones who were able to organize relief efforts (Avila, 1983). It should be noted that these people did not withdraw from the world, as did the monks of later centuries, but remained within societies where there was sometimes active hostility to the new religion.
The earliest Christians gathered in communities sharing common beliefs, common ownership of earthly goods, and common use of the product of their labor. New converts were expected to give everything of themselves to the community (Avila, 1983). Members of the community were expected to work, not to secure profits from their labor, but to support the community, keeping it as self-sufficient as possible, and to glorify God by imitating Christ. In contrast to the negative attitude toward physical labor that had been common for many centuries, the first Christians honored hard work for itself (Roll, 1957).
Ownership of land by an individual was proscribed. Any land should be owned by the community and dedicated to the use of the community (Zum- keller, 1986). Personal wealth should also be given to the poor or to the
Bay et al. 659
communal stores. It was not considered appropriate for an individual or family to acquire more than necessity dictated; accumulating earthly goods would indicate one had abandoned the all-consuming concentration on God that was expected.
Business was sometimes regarded by the early Christians as something external and irrelevant. Economic success or failure was not looked on as a sign of God’s favor or lack thereof (Gordon, 1988). A new world was immi- nent and the precept of brotherhood in Christ prevented anyone from becoming wealthy at the expense of his neighbors, or from enjoying plenty while allowing his neighbors to suffer want. Usury, which was then defined as taking anything (even “gifts” or foodstuffs) in interest was strictly forbid- den (Gordon, 1988).
It would have been impossible for the early Christians to apply one set of principles to their business lives while using another set in their personal lives—every aspect of daily life was colored by religious beliefs. All activity was to be conducted in a spirit of brotherly love untainted by self-serving motivations (Zumkeller, 1986). The strong belief in community and the pri- ority of spiritual needs before all else would have precluded any substantial business activity.
From time to time over the centuries, splinter groups of Christians have attempted to return to the radically communitarian principals of the earliest Christians. Some have adapted and practiced manufacture and trade (Shak- ers) or nonsubsistence farming (Mennonites). However, these groups, when they have survived, still tend to be very small and marginalized, and are forced to practice a degree of withdrawal from the world, and devote a great deal of energy to group identity.
The Patristic Period As early as the second century, the new religion needed teachers and theolo- gians. The men who filled these roles attempted to clearly state the tenets of the religion, to provide explanations of disputed points, and to defend their particular beliefs from those of the many rival sects that had sprung up (Frend, 1988). The foremost among these theologians became known as the “Fathers of the Church” and their teachings were considered fundamental for many centuries afterwards. The Roman Empire was still a pluralistic society, but the Christian Church gradually gained more adherents and more power during this time (Gordon, 1988).
Some Christians still lived in communal organizations, but they were a special kind of Christian known as monks. They lived apart from the world
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to avoid secular influences and distractions and to attend to their spiritual lives. Most Christians no longer lived in tight-knit communities, but the basic tenets of brotherly love and a community in Christ had not been abandoned. Rich and poor worshipped together. It was one of the challenges for the growing church to forge and maintain a feeling of community among diverse constituencies (McLynn, 1994). Christians were no longer threatened so much by the animosity of the external world as by problems of ideological conformity and internal strife (Brown, 2000).
Working was still admired and expected of all. St. Paul was often quoted in this regard: “Whosoever will not work, let him not eat.” St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), whose teachings became the basis of much of later Chris- tian thought, wrote that, “whatever task men perform honestly and without deception is good” (Zumkeller, 1986, p. 169). Thus, work was to be done for its own sake, rather than a means of securing worldly goods. Even the wealthy were encouraged to do physical labor (Applebaum, 1992). In direct opposi- tion to the invisible hand theory, man was assumed to have his needs satisfied as a result of his good living (Gordon, 1988), rather than the good of society being assumed to happen as a result of each person satisfying his own needs.
Some of the words of the Fathers have been interpreted to mean that pri- vate ownership of land was not acceptable, although the injunction was not echoed by all. For some of the writers, it was the use of the land to help others that mattered, not its ownership (Gordon, 1988). Others believed that the land had been given by God to be held by all. Perhaps the clearest speaker on this subject was John Chrysostom (344-407), the Bishop of Constantinople: “We have received all things from Christ. Both existence itself we have through him, and life, and breath, and light and air, and earth” (Avila, 1983, p. 58). He went on to state that no one has more right to the use of these things than his fellow, and that the use of the terms mine and thine creates waste, poverty, and war (Avila, 1983).
It was not expected that converts would give up all their earthly life or possessions. However, the Fathers of the Church stressed that worldly goods were to be used, not possessed for their own sake. The wealth of the rich had only one true use—the care of the poor. In addition, the wealth commanded by rich converts was valued for the contribution it could make toward the maintenance of the church and the monasteries. St. Augustine compared the wealthy to the cedars of Lebanon that support the sparrows (the monks) (McLynn, 1994).
According to St. Augustine, those who simply accumulated wealth for its own sake committed an injustice: “Certainly, what is lawfully possessed is not another’s property, but ‘lawfully’ means justly, and justly means rightly.
Bay et al. 661
The one who uses his wealth badly possesses it wrongfully, and wrongful possession means that it is another’s property” (Brown, 2000, p. 110). This requirement was for the benefit of the rich as much as anyone. Excessive wealth was considered a burden to the possessor—it could make it difficult for the Christian to worship God as the primary function of his life (Tawney, 1938). Wealth and its pursuit would come to require more and more attention, detracting from the spiritual life.
A further reason for the strong prohibitions against too much wealth and too great a concern for acquisition of goods was the concept of brotherhood and the belief that all Christians should strive together to improve conditions on Earth. Acquiring more than one truly needed was considered the same as robbing others (Avila, 1983). Several of the Fathers of the Church believed that the avarice of the rich was directly responsible for the poverty that existed along- side. Poverty could be considered the cause of many evils, such as theft, insult to human dignity, dissension, and even wars (Avila, 1983).
Although some believed that poverty was a sign of the care and favor of God (Gordon, 1988), it was also believed that one in a condition of abject pov- erty could not be expected to strive after “higher things” and thus would have difficulty maintaining a devout attitude (Avila, 1983). Therefore, poverty was not to be sought for its own sake. Clement (150-215), head of a Christian school in Alexandria, wrote that Christians should be as self-sufficient as pos- sible, requiring as little as possible. In this way, man could be closer to Jesus, who had required nothing to live. For example, one must eat to live, not for the enjoyment of the feast (Behr, 2000).
Usury (the charging of any interest on loans), which was to become an issue during the Middle Ages, was still strictly forbidden at this time. Some writers even suggested that return of the principal should not be sought from an impov- erished debtor (Gordon, 1988). Usury was numbered by others among the many ways in which the rich do damage to the poor (Avila, 1983).
The general acceptance and respect for those who worked hard did not extend to merchants (defined as one who “buys cheap to sell dear”). In soci- ety, there were two basic functionary groups—those who worked and a hereditary elite, who controlled most of the wealth. Merchants, however, were sometimes able to acquire wealth without having inherited it. The elite reviled them as having secured their wealth in an inappropriate manner, and this attitude seems to have been accepted by the Fathers. John Chrysostom wrote that “there is hardly anything a merchant can do that pleases God” (Avila, 1983, p. 97). Trade and commerce were assumed to provide too many opportunities for deceit and greed (Gordon, 1988).
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During the Patristic period, religious beliefs continued to rule all aspects of life—no need was seen to produce a separate “business ethic.” For exam- ple, Clement wrote rules of deportment that were intended to guide the behavior, speech, and even physical demeanor of Christians at all times. It was important that every moment of every day be dedicated to serving God (Behr, 2000). Carrying on daily life, working on the land, or even serving as a governmental administrator were all expected to be done in accordance with Christian principles of hard work, love toward one’s fellow man, and maintenance of the proper calm.
These beliefs could hardly have guided the commercial conduct of any but the simplest transaction, such as selling the product of one’s labor to a neigh- bor. Only a scrupulously honest businessman, who took care to make sure none of his employees and none of his customers lived in poverty, did not increase his own wealth above that necessary for survival, and used any prof- its to help the poor or support the Church, could be said to be following the religious principles laid out by the Church Fathers. Business conducted in this manner could never have evolved into the multinational corporations of today. That “no Christian should be a merchant” was a generally accepted truism during this time (Roll, 1957).
Already some shifts are apparent in the Christian teachings. Ownership of land and acquisition of wealth, although still seen as potential problems, are no longer absolutely precluded as they were under very early Christianity. As more wealthy people became converted to the new religion, some allowances began to be made for their station in life. However, trade as a profession was still unacceptable.
Dark and Middle Ages
In the fourth century A.D., Constantine, the ruler of the Roman Empire became interested in and later converted to Christianity. The rule of Con- stantine marked the end of persecution of Christians and the beginning of Christianity as the dominant faith in Europe and other parts of the Roman Empire (Frend, 1988). In 325, Constantine called all the bishops of the church together for the first time to join him in a council at Nicea (Frend, 1988). This meeting would set the tone for the future of the new universal or Catholic Church as the state religion. The Catholic Church edged out most of the alterna- tive sects (Brown, 2000) and developed into the largest, most influential, and, sometimes, most wealthy and powerful institution in Europe.
During this time, it was considered a matter of divine design that some were born into the aristocracy and others were born to work the land and
Bay et al. 663
provide the necessary labor. Everyone had his or her place in the hierarchy and was expected to stay there (Tawney, 1938). Early in the Middle Ages, work was expected to maintain one’s personal self-sufficiency, and that of the community and to guard against the proble
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