Pre and Post-Scarcity Ecotheonomics

by John Holbo on July 29, 2016

Erick Erickson:

In Genesis, God put Adam and Eve to work in the garden. There is something soul nourishing about work. When we all get to Heaven we will all have jobs. Getting people comfortable not working sucks their souls away and destroys their families.

Two questions here.

First, did Adam and Eve work in the garden? My distinct impression is that they may have done a spot of more or less recreational-sounding ‘dressing and keeping’, but the garden grew without initial tilling. And all that ‘getting bread by the sweat of one’s brow’ business only came later. Eden was a pre-scarcity economy, in which Adam and Eve enjoyed guaranteed, basic subsistence without work.

Second, how does the job-market operate in Heaven? Is it a capitalist economy? If so, who owns the means of production? Can you be fired? By whom? If you are fired or don’t want to work, is there unemployment insurance? Is the labor market tight? It seems like infinite Goods, all around, are going to make a mess of macro and micro calculations. What about money? Is Heaven on the gold standard or is it some ‘in God we trust’ paper scheme like we’ve got on earth? A lot of these speculations sound vaguely absurd, perhaps, but it’s surely equally absurd to count on every saved soul working on the assembly line at their local Hosannah Factory just for the love of it, the inherent satisfaction. Work may be inherently satisfying but obviously people will only avail themselves of those inherent satisfactions if prodded with economic sticks. God’s omnipotence is such that He can create a post-scarcity economy that includes scarcity, for incentive purposes. We want Heaven to be a safety net, not a hammock, as Paul Ryan would say.



Kiwanda 07.29.16 at 11:10 pm

“Getting people comfortable not working sucks their souls away and destroys their families.”

Not to distract from the ecotheonomics, but I’m shocked that Erickson is so opposed to inherited wealth.


bianca steele 07.29.16 at 11:27 pm

I feel like pointing out that Erickson’s biblical knowledge may be flawed is agreeing to play by his rules. So I won’t point out that . . . (bonks self on head) . . . in Genesis God tells Adam to work after he has to leave the Garden . . . oh yeah, I guess that’s kind of what he was going for. . . .


Donald A. Coffin 07.29.16 at 11:30 pm

Only two comments…and the definitive comment has been made.


RNB 07.30.16 at 12:09 am

Reincarnation saves the problem of having to work out the job market scheme specifically for heaven, and this is one of the big reasons I never converted from Jainism to Christianity. I knew that the job-market-scheme-in-heaven and money-standard-in-heaven problems would be more daunting than the economic calculation problem. Can’t work in a state of nirvana, thankfully.


Matt 07.30.16 at 12:11 am

The mechanization of agriculture was apparently the greatest orgy of sin in history, because machines enabled humans to weasel out of the sweaty toiling for food that God imposed as a punishment. Erick and his ilk should consider returning to subsistence agriculture using only handmade tools. That way they don’t risk sweating too little or enjoying too much. They’ll simultaneously avoid diminishing anyone else’s virtue taking this route, since they’ll have no taxable income to redistribute.


SamChevre 07.30.16 at 12:15 am

The traditional distinction between wrt the Garden of Eden vs post-Fall is work vs toil–the difference between teaching a class of capable, interested students about a subject you love, vs giving yet another day of standardized test prep to students who would rather watch paint dry.

It does seem that work–as distinct from toil–is important to psychological health and functional communities.


js. 07.30.16 at 12:37 am

Work may be inherently satisfying but obviously people will only avail themselves of those inherent satisfactions if prodded with economic sticks.

Well, people do work—as in, engage in productive activity—without being prodded by economic sticks. It’s a common phenomenon, it seems to me. What this has to do with heaven is rather obscure to me.

Also, everyone should listen to this song.


marcel proust 07.30.16 at 12:41 am

Sam Chevre wrote:

It does seem that work–as distinct from toil–is important to psychological health and functional communities.

But only because all of us, as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve (of course, esp. daughters of Eve) we are born with original sin. Does anyone think that the sephardim seraphim and cherubim have to toil and live by the sweat of their brows?


Just An Australian 07.30.16 at 12:55 am

The only work apparently required in the Garden of Eden is “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground”. From which we can deduce approximately nothing about the actual work required, since when they were turfed out of the Garden God says “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food” – .e.g actual sweat wasn’t required.

As for the Kingdom of Heaven – there’s very little specific promises given. There is “No longer will there be any curse” – which is a reference to the quote above. Also, no pain, sorrow, sickness, or dying. There is much disagreement about exactly which promises are literal, and how.

Economics just isn’t that important, and one will fall in a hole if one tries to make it so


Dr. Hilarius 07.30.16 at 1:32 am

Does Erickson’s blogging qualify as work? Exposure to Erickson certainly sucks away my soul.


ZM 07.30.16 at 1:35 am

John Holbo I commend your theology in this post — you are quite right, in the Garden Of Eden Adam and Eve did not have to work, and then after they ate of the tree of knowledge which they were told not to do, they were cast out of Eden to labor for their own sustenance forevermore.

God was quite angry about them eating from the tree since he told them not to, and increased the pain of giving birth for Eve and told Adam “cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

So you can see that they only had to work after they got expelled from Eden, as God was quite angry and said they wouldn’t get an after life as well and just turn back to dust, and also giving birth would be more painful. They got cast out of the Garden of Eden so they didn’t eat the fruit of the other tree they got told not to, the tree of life, which if they did then they would have lived forever and given God a headache like when Monkey did that in the Chinese book and it caused so much drama.

On your second point, the operation of the job-market in Heaven, it is organised like several choirs with a somewhat hierarchical structure. This is the current idea about the organisational structure:

First Sphere

These angels serve as the heavenly workers of the Son.

Seraphim – this means burning and these are the highest angels and continually chant praises Holy Holy Holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!

Cherubim — these are the next highest and have four faces: a man, an ox, a lion, and an eagle. Thomas Aquinas thought Satan was probably a cherub who deliberately tried to get higher promotions by using illegal methods, and then got downgraded. Cherubs are sometimes mistakenly taken for putti which are baby sort of angels without wings.

Thrones — these are living Elders who are connected to the Cherubim and listen to God

Second Sphere

Dominions or Lordships — These regulate and superintend the lower orders of angels

Virtues or Strongholds — These are very virtuous and strong, and both reach toward the ever higher virtue of God, and send down virtue and strength to those below

Powers or Authorities — These are warrior angels that oppose evil spirits like police, and also make sure all the stars and planets stay in order. They are bearers of conscience, and keep history as well, and they distribute powers to humans. As you see this is a very important and diverse heavenly workforce. Some people say none of the Authorities have ever done anything wrong and needed disciplining or downgrading, but others say they think Satan was the Chief of the Authorities before he got found out doing the wrong thing always trying to get promotions he didn’t deserve, and was downgraded from there.

Third Sphere

Principalities or Rulers — these angels guide and protect countries, groups of people, or institutions like the Church. They preside over the normal angels, and carry out orders from the higher Spheres and give blessings to Earth. They also are the graces of the arts and the sciences and are educators and guardians.

Archangels — there is some confusion about this. Whether these are everyday archangels or Seven Archangels that are highest and closest to God like the Archangel Michael. They are suppose to protect countries and be concerned with events of politics and the military and commerce and trade. So these are like your Defence Minister, Trade Minister, and Treasurer and very important.

Angels — These are the most abundant and these are concerned with helping living things, and include personal guardian angels.


fishfush 07.30.16 at 1:56 am

I heard there was this chap called Lucifer whose KPIs weren’t up to scratch…


merian 07.30.16 at 2:08 am

Well, that’s easy to figure out. There’s work, but yes, basic subsistence is assured. I agree that the idea of work as opposed to labour and toil is in the text somewhere.

Genesis 2, according to the New International Version

8Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

10-15 [stuff about rivers and how they’re named, and geography, yay!]

15The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

18The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

19-20 [stuff about naming animals, which was apparently part of the work; nice work! zoology!]

But for Adamf no suitable helper was found. 21So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; [about woman, known stuff]


JHW 07.30.16 at 2:10 am

I sort of understand reading Rod Dreher, but Erick Erickson?


Asteele 07.30.16 at 2:17 am

Erik Erikson: a man who wants to bitch about black people on the Internet, for eternity!


F. Foundling 07.30.16 at 2:27 am

The primary occupation of souls in Heaven is, AFAIR, praising God. At first glance this might sound like something in the PR department, but since the main target audience is also the object of praise, I suppose it should count as working in the entertainment business.

> If so, who owns the means of production?
> Can you be fired? By whom?
By God. Well, ideally, you shouldn’t ever need to be, if you’ve got there in the first place, but, assuming your work is unsatisfactory… Also, you can be everything-ed by God, by definition.
> If you are fired or don’t want to work, is there unemployment insurance?
I think you’re just literally, ahem, *fired* (cough). I suppose you could call it a safety … pit.
>Is the labor market tight?
Yes, infinitely so. The employer can create new employees at literally no cost, and he doesn’t really need your labour anyway. He’s only giving you the job out of Mercy. The salary, on the other hand, is nothing short of endless, indescribable Bliss, so there are no grounds for complaining. And we know that this is true, because God says so (as employers generally do, incidentally).


pnee 07.30.16 at 2:38 am

@9: It may be important to remember that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are different versions of the same story. Genesis 2 definitely says that Adam was created to work the Garden, Eve is an afterthought, and there’s a strong implication that they are not having sex until after they eat of the forbidden fruit.

There is an alternative interpretation where the serpent is a Promethean figure who frees Adam and Eve from mindless servitude by giving the knowledge, including the knowledge of how to reproduce. Not saying that’s the best supported interpretation, but it is an interesting one.


ZM 07.30.16 at 2:56 am


I think there is a distinction between pre-Fall and after-Fall in Genesis 2: pre-Fall “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till and keep it.” This sounds like a very gentle sort of labour you just go about tilling the ground a bit and eating fruit and things. Then post-Fall God says “cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life… by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust and to dust you shall return.” This is really hard labour, having to toil and sweat to farm grains and then grind it and cook it into bread. Its much harder year around work, hardly any rest. Then the family suffers a great tragedy when they divide up the farm labour between their sons with one doing the horticultural labour and the other doing shepherding.

Genesis 1 just says God created humankind to have dominion over fish and birds and every living thing that moves upon the earth. Dominion is a bit different from work, so it doesn’t really contradict Genesis 2.


J. Edgar Mihelic 07.30.16 at 2:57 am

Make America Farm Again!


LFC 07.30.16 at 3:29 am

about 4 graphs down
(this refers to after Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden)


pnee 07.30.16 at 4:04 am

@17: Genesis 1 and 2 do contradict each other in a lot of small ways (the order of creation, and in Genesis 1 man and woman are created together, in 2, separately).

The old testament is replete with this sort of duplication.

So, I think the idea of using to Gen 1 to clarify or explain what Gen 2 says is problematic.

As for the rest, yes God is pissed, and man’s lot is punishment. The question of why God might be so angry about “stolen” knowledge, and how He feels about human autonomy is worth considering. There’s no one right answer here.


J-D 07.30.16 at 4:22 am

‘Your God person puts an apple tree in the middle of a garden and says do what you like guys, oh, but don’t eat the apple. Surprise surprise, they eat it and he leaps out from behind a bush shouting “Gotcha”. It wouldn’t have made any difference if they hadn’t eaten it.’
‘Why not?’
‘Because if you’re dealing with somebody who has the sort of mentality which likes leaving hats on the pavement with bricks under them you know perfectly well they won’t give up. They’ll get you in the end.’

Douglas Adams, The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe


JimV 07.30.16 at 5:01 am

Work is force times distance, or kg*m^2/s^2. This implies some passage of time, which, if I were in charge of heaven and hell, would not occur there. The simplest way to provide eternal bliss and torment, it seems to me, is to freeze time in an instant of bliss or agony. The idea of an eternity of time, passing from moment to moment forever is so incomprehensible to me as to seem incoherent, although that may be (one of) my problem(s). Whether ir not that is the case, my way seems more energy-efficient.

Heaven of course is whatever people want and will pay for. A colleague of mine at work, one with some significant accomplishments, once remarked to me, “I wonder what will happen when we die. I’ll bet we get a tour of the galaxy to start.” He had faithfully paid his dues as a Shriner and volunteered as a caller at Bingo games, and so on.

As far as i know, there is no way known to science (no forces, fields, or particles which have shown up in any reliable experiment) to extract memories and personality from a living (or dead) brain and store them in any cosmic cloud, and we know from natural experiments (e.g., brain tumors) that memory and personality are brain functions, so I expect that when my brain dies my memories and personality (such as they are) will cease to exist. At least then I won’t have to do any more work.


Faustusnotes 07.30.16 at 5:05 am

How were Adam and Eve meant to know it was wrong to disobey god if they hadn’t been taught knowledge of good and evil? That’s kind of mean. Also Adam didn’t die when he ate the apple, so god lied to him. But is t God meant to be virtuous? Sounds like a bit of a dick to me.


Evagrius 07.30.16 at 5:26 am

Just look at monastic “work requirements”…about 4-6 hours a day…max…the rest of the time is meant to be rest, contemplation and prayer, ( the last two can be combined).


js. 07.30.16 at 6:01 am

Work is force times distance, or kg*m^2/s^2.

Um, work—aka labor—is productive activity. (Though you are right that it implies the passage of time.) This is an odd sort of argument to get into, but it is less depressing than some others.


Lee A. Arnold 07.30.16 at 11:19 am

The Genesis story and religious texts in general are rooted in early attempts to describe and explain the expansion in consciousness that is experienced in the activity all brain functional networks at once, a salubrious state of being which can be instigated after long practice of asceticism and single-point concentration on transcendent intellectual concepts like “God”, or a mandala or the world in a mustard seed, and so on.

The sudden onset comes as indescribable revelation.

The status of labor in the post-scarcity economy, similarly, has everyone going in circles.


chris y 07.30.16 at 12:09 pm

As I understand it, in Heaven you spend eternity singing God’s praises, which doesn’t really call for a labour market as such, unless there are individuals dedicated to arranging, conducting, rehearsing etc. If that is the case, I would imagine those jobs have been filled some time since. However, much as I enjoy a good choral concert, I suspect that this would be work at least in the sense that eventually you’d be heartily sick of it and longing to be generating a Gantt chart in MS Project just for a change.

Also, it makes God sound far too much like Trump for comfort.


Rich Puchalsky 07.30.16 at 12:21 pm

Work as productive activity is engaged in by every living creature in an ecosystem. One of my best exchanges on CT in the last year or so was with bob mcmanus when he, defending the labor theory of value, alluded to the lilies of the field, and I pointed out that plants “work” to produce flowers, which feed bees, who pollinate plants and incidentally make food for us.

So the Garden of Eden was working before Adam and Eve started to toil, if that’s what you mean by work. That’s pretty much the sense of “work” that we need to have as global resource limits become felt and economies don’t get to treat the non-human workers as an inexhaustible source or sink.


jake the antisoshul soshulist 07.30.16 at 2:28 pm

Disobeying God is the original sin. Since God is the creator, he can make whatever arbitrary rules he wishes and can and will punish you for disobeying. (And may someday reward you with the opportunity to obey him forever, if you do obey him well enough and punish the disobedient well enough.)
If you are a believer, the arbitrary rules are not to be questioned. They are the word of God which must be obeyed. That is why fundamentalist religions are so attractive to
authoritarians and authoritarian followers. And probably why I see God as the ultimate
tyrant whose authority is to be opposed.
I likw the idea that the serpent was a Prometheus figure. And that my own theory that Adam and Eve were humping like bunnies all over the garden.


Yankee 07.30.16 at 2:30 pm

One time I heard a sermon that claimed the Serpent’s Question: “Hath God said?” showed that it is wrong to question things like boundaries. But actually it was exactly the right question. He hath said.

So Adam and Eve ate the fruit which gave them the “knowledge of good and evil”. That is, they could now say, “This is right and true!! That is false and terrible no-good stuff!!” which may indeed be an important milestone in cultural formation, but still today causes no end of trouble and is a good candidate for “original sin”.

Arguably the newly Fundamentalist couple was expelled not strictly for disobedience but for hiding from God, from being ashamed to admit what happened and do the necessary. Again still today, forgiveness is possible with honesty, but Temptation is to go with the coverup, the Bart Simpson defense: I didn’t do it, nobody saw me do it, you can’t prove I did it.


b9n10nt 07.30.16 at 3:50 pm

In the original Greek, “Garden of Eden” translates to something like today’s “Optimal Currency Area”, and likewise “toil” roughly means “austerity”.


Howard Frant 07.30.16 at 4:14 pm

marcel proust @8

Yes, unlike the seraphim, the sephardim do have to live by the sweat of their brows. The ashkenzim, on the other hand, are often academics.

pnee @16

“…there’s a strong implication that they are not having sex until after they eat of the forbidden fruit.”

On the contrary. Genesis 2 talks about man and woman becoming one flesh. I think the implication is that they were having sex; they just weren’t ashamed about it.

faustusnotes @22

Adam died. He lived 930 years . Unless you’ve seen him around lately.

What makes an economics of heaven absurd is not just infinite supply. It’s also finite demand. All the social sciences are sciences of fallen Man.


Henry 07.30.16 at 4:31 pm

When Adam delved
And Eve span
Who was then the gentleman?

(I’m somewhat disappointed with our readers that I’m the first to quote this, one day and thirty odd comments in)


SusanC 07.30.16 at 6:52 pm

(cough) Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

Less seriously, I’m imagining heaven as like a workhouse.

In the state of Nirvana, on the other hand, we will no longer need material possessions or other non-material status symbols to gratify our narcissism.


bianca steele 07.30.16 at 7:01 pm

Henry, LFC linked to that upthread.

I feel like my song reference was too obscure, but I’m not sure I want to ruin my reputation for being respectful of religion by explaining it.


LFC 07.30.16 at 7:34 pm

Henry @32
As bianca said, I linked to that quote upthread (@18), so you were the first to type out the quote, but not the first to refer to it.

[Btw, there was a time when I thought those lines were perhaps obscene, before I looked up and/or otherwise clarified for myself the meanings of the key words ‘delved’ and ‘span’. First ran across it I think in Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down, which is about radical mvts during the pd of the English civil war — but some of them recycled these lines, orig. from a sermon preached during the 1381 peasants’ revolt.]


F. Foundling 07.30.16 at 8:58 pm

F. Foundling @ 07.30.16 at 2:27 am
>>Is the labor market tight?
>Yes, infinitely so.

Oops, that should have been the opposite – ‘infinitely slack’, that is.

Yankee @ 07.30.16 at 2:30 pm
>That is, they could now say, “This is right and true!! That is false and terrible no-good stuff!!” which may indeed be an important milestone in cultural formation, but still today causes no end of trouble and is a good candidate for “original sin”.

Human minds cause no end of trouble. I’ve always said the move to bilateral symmetry and a central nervous system was a grave mistake.

Rich Puchalsky @27 07.30.16 at 12:21 pm

>Work as productive activity is engaged in by every living creature in an ecosystem.

I see no reason to restrict this only to living ones. The H20 cycle is most meritorous and verily virtuous, so all bodies of water participating in it possess certain inalienable rights and deserve fair remuneration for their efforts. Well, we do have to destroy lakes and bee swarms occasionally, but the same applies to annoying humans, doesn’t it.

chris y @ 07.30.16 at 12:09 pm

>Also, it makes God sound far too much like Trump for comfort.

Now seriously, that’s a good point – Trump is a terrifyingly God-like presidential candidate. ‘Yahweh for President!’ is one of the scariest slogans I can imagine hearing. Not so for many others, I’m afraid. Perhaps one should try to persuade the Evangelicals that voting for an upstart wannabe deity is an act of disloyalty.


jake the antisoshul soshulist 07.30.16 at 10:58 pm

William Blake saw the traditional patriarchal God as doddering senile old man. And sometimes referred to Y*W*H as “Nobodaddy”. But then Blake was some sort of Christian Universalist/Animist. Blake is one of my favorite “interesting nuts”. Alfred Korzybsky and Wilhelm Reich are a couple of examples.


relstprof 07.31.16 at 8:27 am

Jonathan Edwards, a “new light” Puritan, imagined heaven as a grand choir where love united all in a harmony of diverse voices. No work here. And he wasn’t on board with the capitalism rising in Scotland and the idea of unforgivable debt.

But he also believed in Aquinas’ hell, where the redeemed scorn the sinners who didn’t conform.

So you know, America. Calvinism is a mixed bag. Marilynne Robinson displays a bit of this complexity in her collections of essays. Mercy + Justice.


DavidtheK 07.31.16 at 3:23 pm

Someone should represent traditional Judaism on this thread so I’ll jump in.

The shorter answer is N0 there cannot be work; and actually the question is itself ridiculous.

Maimonides believes the world of reward will be entirely spiritual with no physicality at all. It will be just souls basking in the radiance of sensations of the divine. Obviously no work here.

Nachmanides argues on this and posits that there will be a physicality; but that physicality will no longer have properties of deficiency or decay. There would no point in working to prevent say – boredom, because boredom is a property of deficiency.

In Talmud tractate Avodah Zarah there is a thought experiment of what this world would look like if there were no temptation or choice to disobey the divinely expressed will:
Animals stopped reproducing
Plants stopped growing
People lost interest in reproducing and in WORKING. – In other words the world had only one motivation left – to do as much as possible to bask in knowledge of the divine.

There is a science fiction story (well really a series of books) by the late Phillip Jose Farmer called “Riverworld” . Riverworld is a mashup between an Edenic world populated by people with full memories of life as it was when they lived on Earth. One of the main characters winds up marrying a child who died on Earth at age 5 and grew to adulthood on the Riverworld. The marriage ultimately fails because there is too great a psychological and emotional gulf between someone whose psyche if formed from the motivations of dead Earth and someone is psyche is formed in a more Edenic model.


chris y 07.31.16 at 3:31 pm

Henry @32:

When Adam delved
And Eve span
Who was then the gentleman?

The answer was of course Adam but the mystics of the church wanted to conceal this dangerous knowledge. We have this on the authority of such eminent authorities as Sellar and Yeatman.


Laie 07.31.16 at 10:01 pm

About heavenly working hours:

Von morgens acht Uhr bis Mittag zwölf Uhr: frohlocken.
Von Mittag zwölf Uhr bis acht Uhr abends: Hosianna singen!

Won’t try to translate or explain, but if you have a good grip on the german language you should seek out “Ein Münchner im Himmel” on a video portal near you.


ccc 08.01.16 at 12:05 am

“What about money?”
I heard we’d get pie.


James Wimberley 08.01.16 at 9:35 am

Jake @30, Howard @33: the well-known hippie John Milton went out of his way in “Paradise Lost” to have Adam and Eve enjoy sinless sex before the Fall. They have sweaty sinful sex afterwards, but Milton is too classy to draw a convincing contrast, as with rape.


J-D 08.01.16 at 9:44 am

chris y:
Snap! You beat me to it.


Peter T 08.01.16 at 10:28 am

The orthodox Christian belief is in the resurrection of the body – perfect as is Christ’s body. Hard to know what comes with this? Sweat? Tears? Excretion? Or are these imperfections? The only detail provided is that one shall be immortal, glorious, powerful and infused with the spirit. So worth a really high wage except for the competition.


Lee A. Arnold 08.01.16 at 11:04 am

John Holbo: “obviously people will only avail themselves of those inherent satisfactions if prodded with economic sticks.”

What is the meaning of “obviously” in this sentence? Is it

“apparently” (when it means: seemingly real or true, but not necessarily so), or

“certainly” (when it means, “proven” as a finding in science to be the human condition)?


zeb 08.01.16 at 11:46 am

The best part of “Ein Münchner im Himmel” is the end, where Heaven’s messenger angel just goes and stays forever in the Hofbräuhaus, drinking beer, so Bavaria’s ruling party (which is as xenophobic and conservative as they come) to this day is still waiting for divine advice, but will never receive it.


Magpie 08.03.16 at 8:43 am

Evidently, workers don’t go to Heaven: Heaven is for the good, hard-working, and virtuous. In other words, Heaven is for capitalists, not for workers. Workers belong in Hell.

Now, allegorically speaking, capitalists go to Heaven “naked”, as born-again Christians well know. They leave behind all their possessions. It could not be otherwise: workers don’t go to Heaven, so, in Heaven, those possessions would be useless, anyway.

Therefore, Heaven is actually Hell: to go to Heaven capitalists must lose all they have and need to work for God, a particularly powerful and wrathful boss.


William Meyer 08.03.16 at 9:01 pm

I thought the most recent, up-to-date interpretation of the Garden of Eden story is as a metaphor for the conversion from hunter-gatherers (nature’s gentlemen) to farmers (grunts.) The hunter-gatherers labor perhaps an hour or two a day (in good times anyway) for their subsistence, while the farmers have to hump it all day long every day. No wonder the transition was experienced as a “curse.” Also, it seems to suggest that the much higher level of (coercive) social organization demanded by farming communities required draconian rules–which could easily have passed for the “knowledge of good and evil”, which had been unnecessary in the good old days. Since it seems generally accepted that hunter-gatherers were healthier and probably happier than their farming descendants, the whole story seems to hint that the transition may well not have been voluntary. Farming communities were much denser than hunter-gatherers and would certainly have won any military encounters, and may have spread for reasons having little to do with the well-being of the average person.


relstprof 08.04.16 at 9:06 am

51: William Meyer,

Yes, you’re right that this is a current interpretation. This makes the prohibition more paradoxical — what was it to “disobey” the divine command? What would it be to live in continuity with the divine notion of giving and receiving gifts? Some Christians interpret Jesus’ saying and parables as a response to this — the exploitation of labor is contrary to divine intention. There’s also the historical work suggesting Jesus might have been an exploited worker himself.


relstprof 08.04.16 at 9:11 am

Some of Jesus’ sayings and parables, of course. Not all.

And this would suggest both that ancient Israelite and first-century Jewish ‘Jesus Movement’ writers took economic concerns seriously. I tend to agree, but it’s a contested area of research.

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