Fortress Press

Work Out Your Salvation: A Theology of Markets and Moral Formation

Work Out Your Salvation

A Theology of Markets and Moral Formation

D. Glenn Butner Jr. (Author)


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In Work Out Your Salvation, D. Glenn Butner Jr. demonstrates that participation in markets forms our moral character, perceptions, actions, and ideas. Drawing on experimental economics and moral theology, he argues that the nature of such formation varies based on the design of the market and our interactions within it. How, he asks, does formation of the market relate to the formation of grace--providence, justification, and sanctification? Are these forces at war for our souls? 

Through a detailed analysis of these three doctrines and the theology of common grace and concurrent divine/human action, Work Out Your Salvation argues that God can work through the social context of markets, through human identity, and through economic incentive structures to foster providentially the created basis for the supernatural gifts of justification and sanctification. Careful and theologically guided participation in a market can, by common grace, provide the occasion for positive spiritual formation through concurrent divine action. 

However, such formation is not guaranteed. Maladaptive practices, ideas, and identities can also be fostered by markets not oriented toward a supernatural end. Butner provides detailed evidence backed by extensive experimental and empirical research as to which market practices allow Christians to "work out their salvation" (Phil 2:12) and which practices resist such moral transformation. Work Out Your Salvation undermines simplistic endorsements or rejections of capitalism in favor of more nuanced analysis and lays bare which features of markets make us better and which make us worse. 

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506479415
  • eBook ISBN 9781506479422
  • Dimensions 6.25 x 9.25
  • Pages 262
  • Publication Date April 9, 2024


Butner's theology of the market is a risky endeavor. Previous attempts fall into serious theological error by sacralizing the market, instrumentalizing the Trinity, or invoking "common grace" to justify existing social relations. With judicious insight, Butner avoids these errors and produces a remarkable achievement--a theology of the market that helps us reconsider its place in the divine economy. Combining in-depth knowledge of economics and theology, this work is a must-read for anyone who works in the intersection of faith and business.

D. Stephen Long, Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics, Southern Methodist University

Dr. Glenn Butner superbly utilizes market design and experimental economics research to show that markets are what we make of them. He then demonstrates how theology can help us steer markets away from moral corruption toward moral improvement. Readers will not fail to see the value of solid economic research and thoughtful theological considerations to major issues of our day.

Dr. Robert C. Tatum, Cary Caperton Owen Distinguished Professor in Economics, University of North Carolina Asheville

Butner has greatly contributed to the literature on Christian theology and economics. He develops a number of theological themes too often neglected by economists. Moreover, his ability to see the complexity of different market mechanisms, and to draw upon a wide variety of social science literature, has helped him craft an argument that brings nuance and clarity to a topic too often dominated by polemics and ideology. I will be turning back to this book in my work for years to come.

Steven McMullen, professor of economics, Hope College, and editor of Faith & Economics

This wholly original book intervenes with wit and rigor in conversations about moral agency and moral formation, sin and salvation, Trinitarian theology, and, not least, economic ethics. Glenn Butner succeeds admirably in his nuanced aim, neither to defend nor to deride markets, but to help us see them more clearly, urging Christians to recognize our own agency in shaping markets as they, inevitably, shape us.

Kate Ward, associate professor, Marquette University, and author of Wealth, Virtue, and Moral Luck: Christian Ethics in an Age of Inequality

How should Christians respond to living in a society where most economic activity occurs through markets? D. Glenn Butner explores this question with theological, philosophical, and empirical analysis, avoiding both blind support and easy criticism of capitalism. He examines how markets shape us and how intentional design might transform them. Butner offers a theological framework that centers on God's redemptive work, seeing markets as a space where divine and human agency intersect. This work is a welcome exercise in faith seeking economic understanding.

Jules Martínez-Olivieri, visiting professor of theology, Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, and author of A Visible Witness: Christology, Liberation, and Participation