This book shows how early economic ideas structured Christian thought and society, giving crucial insight into why money holds such power in the West. Examining the religious and theological sources of money's power, it shows how early Christian thinkers borrowed ancient notions of money and economic exchange from the Roman Empire as a basis for their new theological arguments. Monetary metaphors and images, including the minting of coins and debt slavery, provided frameworks for theologians to explain what happens in salvation. God became an economic administrator, for instance, and Christ functioned as a currency to purchase humanity's freedom. Such ideas, in turn, provided models for pastors and Christian emperors as they oversaw both resources and people, which led to new economic conceptions of state administration of populations and conferred a godly aura on the use of money. Divine Currency argues that this longstanding association of money with divine activity has contributed over the centuries to money's ever increasing significance, justifying various forms of politics that manage citizens along the way. Devin Singh's account sheds unexpected light on why we live in a world where nothing seems immune from the price mechanism.
About the author
Devin Singh is Assistant Professor of Religion at Dartmouth College.
"Ground-breaking, erudite, and a pleasure to read, Devin Singh's book prompts us to view the history of Christianity in a new and wholly unexpected way, and in so doing sheds fresh light on the modern world and our contemporary situation. It is also scandalous in the best and most productive of ways."
—Adam Kotsko, North Central College
Divine Currency offers an incisive contribution to the debate about neoliberalism's Christian origins. Devin Singh's bold reading of the sources challenges us to reconsider the relations between theology, politics, and economics."
—Philip Goodchild, University of Nottingham
"Devin Singh probes the true meaning of divine economy, revealing the centrality of economic thinking to the formation of Christian theology. His book is a welcome and timely addition to recent scholarship in religious as well as finance studies, and with far-reaching consequences."
—Susanna Elm, University of California, Berkeley
"Singh's illuminating study shows the power of economic discourse to shape theology, while also demonstrating that one of the reasons theology is able to alter economic practice is precisely that it does not stand outside economic thinking.Clearly written and modestly argued, Singh's work should be taken up by those who would seek to keep economics and theology at arm's length, and by those who would see theology as an artifice which simply hides the "real" power of money."
—Myles Werntz, Reading Religion
"Divine Currency is an intriguing work in religious and cultural studies that challenges much of the work done in theology and economics suggesting that it failed to attend to how the two central mysteries of the Christian faith, the Trinity and incarnation, are implicated both in ancient and modern Western economic dominance....The strength of Singh's work is his historical attention to the use of economic metaphors in the development of Christian doctrine."
—Stephen Long, Marginalia: Los Angeles Review of Books