Prior to the modern world, the economic sphere was bounded by the limits of the production of value by human labor, on the one hand, and the finite amount of money in circulation, on the other. In the modern world, however, the limits of production have been partially overcome by harnessing the energy stored in fossil fuels and the elements. At the same time, the finitude of currency has been overcome by treating signs of monetary value as themselves valuable, ensuring the value of newly created money by issuing it in the form of loans, attached to debts. Rates of production and rates of interest escape finitude by compound growth. Production for the sake of profit replaces production for the sake of use.
It is easy to observe how this shift naturally leads to secularization and a direct opposition between God and money. Where God promises eternity, money promises the world. Where God offers a delayed reward, money offers a reward in advance. Where God offers himself as grace, money offers itself as a loan. Where God offers spiritual benefits, money offers tangible benefits. Where God accepts all repentant sinners who truly believe, money may be accepted by all who are willing to trust in its value. Where God requires conversion of the soul, money empowers the existing desires and plans of the soul. Money has the advantages of immediacy, universality, tangibility, and utility. Money promises freedom and gives a down payment on the promise of prosperity.
Money exercises a spectral power that exceeds all merely human powers. Adapting itself to any desire, it also shapes desire. First, the value of money is transcendent. It is a promise, taken on faith, and only realized to the extent that this faith is acted out in exchange. One cannot hold the value of money in one’s hand, even if one can use that value to pay for things. “The eye has never seen, nor the hand touched a dollar. All that we can touch or see is a promise to pay or satisfy a debt for an amount called a dollar.”
Phillip Goodchild, Theology of Money
Grendel’s Laundry List is an irregular but continuing series of readings in texts helpful to an understanding of the Atheology and Theodicy of the Seventh Day Atheist Aztec Baptist Church. See also this previous Laundry List: