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Affluent Christian Investor | December 13, 2018

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Paganism vs. Labor

The School of Athens by Raphael.

The ‘greatest’ of the ancient pagan thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle and Cicero had contempt for manual labor. They thought it distorted the body and the mind. Aristotle said that there were three kinds of knowledge: Theory, Action (by which he meant leadership and persuasion) and technical knowledge. And that was the order in which he ranked them: Theory was the highest and philosophers and mathematicians were the ones in this group. Second was the politicians, lawyers, rhetoricians who led by being models for those beneath them. Last were the those who studied ‘techne’, or the mechanical arts. Engineers, artisans, etc.
But when the Lord of Hosts became a man, He decided to come not as a philosopher nor as a politician, but as a ‘techton,’ a practitioner of ‘techne’, which is allegedly the lowest subject of knowledge.
Why? I think He did it to reverse the order of the hierarchy. God Himself was a builder. He built the universe. He is a builder and He built builders. That’s how the Jews saw it, which is why many of the greatest Jewish sages were, in addition to being rabbis, also craftsmen. They did not share in the Greek and Roman contempt for physical and technical labor. But for Plato, God did not create the world. His creation story, The Timeaus, has some inferior very junior quasi-divine figure, the Demiurge, as the maker of the material world. The highest god, the Absolute, would not deign to touch this world. (Ironically, later Jesus meets a ‘son of’ (bar) Timeaus, a Bar-Timeaus. He doesn’t philosophize to him, nor ‘lead’ him, but instead reaches out and touches his diseased eyes, restoring the matter to its original use.)

But the God of Genesis separates the waters, grows the green things, fills the fisheries, leads the cattle up out of the very diret, shapes man as a potter shapes clay, plants a garden, digs rivers, writes His commands on stone with His fingers.

The God of the Gospels comes as a tekton, builds houses and yokes with which to dig those little rivers by which farmer water their crops, tables on which feasts are laid, becomes a plank Himself and is nailed to the wood on which He earlier had worked. Even at that moment, the world is saved by the work of the hand, the swing of the hammer, the penetration of the nails.

Labor Day, also, is one of His days and stands beside Christmas and Easter as sacred.

Jerry Bowyer is a Forbes contributor, contributing editor of, and Senior Fellow in Business Economics at The Center for Cultural Leadership.

Jerry has compiled an impressive record as a leading thinker in finance and economics. He worked as an auditor and a tax consultant with Arthur Anderson, as Vice President of the Beechwood Company which is the family office associated with Federated Investors, and has consulted in various privatization efforts for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. He founded the influential economic think tank, the Allegheny Institute, and has lectured extensively at universities, businesses and civic groups.

Jerry has been a member of three investment committees, among which is Benchmark Financial, Pittsburgh’s largest financial services firm. Jerry had been a regular commentator on Fox Business News and Fox News. He was formerly a CNBC Contributor, has guest-hosted “The Kudlow Report”, and has written for, National Review Online, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as many other publications. He is the author of The Bush Boom and more recently The Free Market Capitalist’s Survival Guide, published by HarperCollins. Jerry is the President of Bowyer Research.

Jerry consulted extensively with the Bush White House on matters pertaining to the recent economic crisis. He has been quoted in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine, The International Herald Tribune and various local newspapers. He has been a contributing editor of National Review Online, The New York Sun and Townhall Magazine. Jerry has hosted daily radio and TV programs and was one of the founding members of WQED’s On-Q Friday Roundtable. He has guest-hosted the Bill Bennett radio program as well as radio programs in Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles.

Jerry is the former host of WorldView, a nationally syndicated Sunday-morning political talk show created on the model of Meet The Press. On WorldView, Jerry interviewed distinguished guests including the Vice President, Treasury Secretary, HUD Secretary, former Secretary of Sate Condoleezza Rice, former Presidential Advisor Carl Rove, former Attorney General Edwin Meese and publisher Steve Forbes.

Jerry has taught social ethics at Ottawa Theological Hall, public policy at Saint Vincent’s College, and guest lectured at Carnegie Mellon’s graduate Heinz School of Public Policy. In 1997 Jerry gave the commencement address at his alma mater, Robert Morris University. He was the youngest speaker in the history of the school, and the school received more requests for transcripts of Jerry’s speech than at any other time in its 120-year history.

Jerry lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Susan, and the youngest three of their seven children.


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