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Keywords:

  • freedom;
  • ethics;
  • Adam Smith;
  • Ernst Troeltsch;
  • theology;
  • economics

Abstract

Both Protestant theologians and “preference” economists believe that freedom is necessary for moral action, but such theologians and economists have seemingly irreconcilable accounts of freedom and, thus also, morality. Instead of learning from each other, they typically ignore each other or claim that one field reigns supreme over the other. This essay digs into the theological and economic traditions of each side to find points of similarity between them. It engages Adam Smith and Ernst Troeltsch to develop a view of “ethical freedom” that pulls together the “libertarian freedom” emphasized by preference economics and the “egalitarian freedom” emphasized in much Protestant theology. The three-part view of freedom draws the disciplines together and opens possibilities for a more robust theory of moral action.