Religion & Liberty Online

Adam Smith and a life well-lived

Over at Law & Liberty I had the pleasure of reviewing Ryan Patrick Hanley’s new book, Our Great Purpose: Adam Smith on Living a Better Life.

I highly recommend it:

Ryan Patrick Hanley’s latest book offers an accessible, erudite, and concise introduction to Adam Smith in full, the moral philosopher of wisdom and prudence. In Our Great Purpose, Hanley eschews the extensive reference apparatus and jargon that is so characteristic of contemporary scholarship. Instead, Hanley has taken an approach that is more faithful to Smith’s own purposes. Our Great Purpose functions as a guidebook to Smith’s thought, taking its point of departure in Smith’s own words, working through the ideas and texts to arrive at a comprehensive, nuanced, and coherent picture of the Scottish philosopher.

One of the more fraught questions related to Smith has to do with his religious belief and more specifically the role of religion and theology in his thought. For his part, Hanley acknowledges the worldly-mindedness of the great Scottish philosopher. But Hanley also concludes that Smith is not so earthly-minded to be of no heavenly good.

One of the key questions for Hanley thus arises in the final chapter: “What sort of relationship is fitting between a wise and virtuous person and a wise and good God?”

To find out the answer Hanley gives, you’ll have to check out the bookAnd you should.

Jordan J. Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is director of research at the Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy, an initiative of the First Liberty Institute. He has previously held research positions at the Acton Institute and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and has authored multiple books, including a forthcoming introduction to the public theology of Abraham Kuyper. Working with Lexham Press, he served as a general editor for the 12 volume Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology series, and his research can be found in publications including Journal of Markets & Morality, Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Faith & Economics, and Calvin Theological Journal. He is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary and the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity & Politics at Calvin University.