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What kind of society does this budget enable?

  • 12 May 2016
  Theological study is demanding, but it also offers diversions. For example, it makes one alert to the way in which arguments deployed in recurring theological issues are mirrored in political and cultural issues of the day.

Predestination, for example, in American exceptionalism; the tension between original sin and freedom in feminist theory; the conflict between God's love and mercy in penal policies; salvation outside the church in refugee policies.

To self-assured theologians this shows that all important issues are ultimately theological. I would be content to say that all serious theological, cultural, economic and political issues touch on deep human questions. So we should expect to find recurrent patterns of argument.

These reflections were occasioned by the description of the budget by Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull as a plan. Labor spokespersons, too, give priority to plans over budgets.

This was a refreshing change from the more recent fetish with balancing budgets to the neglect of discussion of national goals. The reference to plans invites questions about what values underlie the budget and about what kind of a society it is designed to encourage.

It offers hope that the election may provoke a discussion of the economy that goes beyond dogma and technical issues to ask how the economy may serve a just and humane society.

At first sight this talk of budgets, plans and the economy may seem centuries away from theological discussion of the divine economy. The word 'economy' referred initially to the regulation of a large household. It had elements of plan and budget. But when speaking of God's economy Christians emphasised God's large plan for the world.

Its stages encompassed God's making the world and human beings for a high destiny, the human collapse into sin and misery, God's accompaniment and education of humankind through the calling of Israel, God's joining the human race in Jesus and freeing it through his death and rising, so offering a transformed way of living and ultimately promising a transformed world.


"This election invites us ask in human terms what the economy is about. It has already produced a budget criticised by those who believe fairness has nothing to do with budgeting."


In short the economy was God's large plan for the world and for human beings. It met the deepest human hopes and was motivated by compassion for those who had lost their way.

In God's governance the plan invited a human response, and so budget-like discipline. This corresponded