Edited by Jan Peil and Irene van Staveren
Chapter 53: Protestant Ethics
William Schweiker Introduction Foreshadowed by reform movements throughout Europe, the Protestant ‘Reformation’ broke onto the world scene in the early sixteenth century.1 Protestant ethics is difficult to describe definitively, as it takes many forms. Moreover, diversity of expression makes it near impossible to isolate unifying themes. Nevertheless, Protestants have always insisted that the core of the Gospel, the Christian message, is the reality of God’s free act of grace in Jesus Christ, accepted in faith and lived in love for the neighbour. In the words of Martin Luther, a central originating figure, in The Freedom of the Christian, [A] Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbor. Otherwise he is not a Christian. He lives in Christ by faith, in his neighbor through love. By faith he is caught up beyond himself into God. By love he descends beneath himself into his neighbor. (Luther  1961, p. 80) The connection between faith and love is at the centre of Protestant ethics, although this is variously expressed by different Protestant churches. This chapter explores the core aspects of Protestantism – faith and love, callings and spheres of life and ideas about the Church – in order to isolate the distinctiveness of Protestant ethics but also to note the most salient differences between Protestant communities. Insofar as this handbook examines the connection between economics and ethics, the following pages explain some of the ways in which Protestants conceive of economic life. For many reasons, some of which have little to...
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