Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
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sky-psalm192The mission of the Acton Institute is to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles. We seek to articulate a vision of society that is both free and virtuous, the end of which is human flourishing.

That phrase—“human flourishing”—has become such a buzzword, though, that it’s in danger of losing any real meaning. As Scott Swain says, “Due to its widespread usage across our culture, its susceptibility to multiple meanings, and its role in theological revision, some Christians have begun to disparage the language of human flourishing. I think this is the wrong tactic to take.”

The church has a stake in human flourishing, says Swain. Rather than discard the term, we should rescue and restore the concept:

The challenge for the church is therefore to define and promote human flourishing (which we might otherwise describe as human well-being, human happiness) in accordance with biblical teaching, to present and commend its alternative approach to human flourishing in the face of competing cultural visions, and to embody human flourishing in the presence of God amid a culture of death and destruction. Christian theology has a role to play in assisting the church to meet this challenge.

Christian theology has a lot to say about human flourishing. Following the instruction of Holy Scripture, Christian theology instructs us about human flourishing by instructing us about human nature and about human nature’s relationship to law and gospel.

Swain argues that “we may appreciate the true character of human flourishing by looking at Psalm 19.”
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The Acton Institute has been named as one of six finalists for this year’s $100,000 Templeton Freedom Award for its documentary film, Poverty, Inc. The announcement of the finalists was made Monday by the Atlas Network, a Washington-based organization that advances the work of market-oriented public policy organizations all over the world. The winner will be selected Nov. 12 in New York.

Templeton’s description of Poverty, Inc. says the documentary “provides a comprehensive perspective on the issue, giving voice to charity workers, local micro-entrepreneurs, politicians, and leading development experts such as Paul Collier of Oxford University, Marcela Escobari of Harvard University’s Center for International Development, and Hernando de Soto of Atlas Network partner the Institute for Liberty and Democracy. This film is part of Acton Institute’s multi-year educational initiative, PovertyCure, which also includes a dedicated website, a group study curriculum, a mentorship program, and a ReThink Missions toolkit.”

Kris Mauren, executive director of the Acton Institute, said that on issues of international development and foreign aid, the United States is at a tipping point. (more…)

Blog author: bwalker
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
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5 Interesting Facts About The Christian Faith of Martin O’Malley
Ray Nothstine, Christian Post

O’Malley, a lifelong Catholic, grew up in an Irish Catholic home in Maryland and attended Catholic schools all the way through college. After college, he graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law. He is the only Roman Catholic presidential candidate on record of supporting Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change.

22 Pope Francis Statements Proving He’s a Leftist
Mike Garcia, NewsMax

Pope Francis upset many conservatives when he released his encyclical on climate change this summer, but it’s certainly not the first time he’s raised eyebrows. The pontiff’s past comments on homosexuality, capitalism, and international geopolitics have also ruffled those on the right.

Faith Digest, Aug. 28, 2015: Forum to focus on Pope Francis’ Encyclical
Santa Cruz Sentinel

The forum will include brief presentations from three distinguished local authorities followed by questions and comments from the audience. Presenters will include Keith Warner, a Franciscan friar with a doctorate in environmental studies; Jeffrey Kiehl, head of Climate Change Research Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research; and Andrew Szasz: chairmann of the Environmental Studies Department at UC Santa Cruz.

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Pope Francis recently declared September 1 as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, an annual day of prayer begun by the Orthodox Church in 1989.

In conjunction with the event, Catholic Relief Services and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have released “Care for God’s Creation,” the first of a seven-part video series on Catholic social teaching.

(Via: Crux)

Enlightenment-920x383In a recent article for The Stream, Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg asks the question, “Is Catholicism Compatible with the American Experiment?” Gregg cites an article by political philosopher Patrick Deneen who suggested that “the main argument among American Catholics will concern the relationship of modern liberal democracies–and, at a deeper level, the American Founding–with Catholicism.” Gregg doesn’t necessarily disagree with this assertion, but argues that it “reaches further back to the early modern period often called the Enlightenment.”

The Enlightenment was hugely influential on the American founding:

Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, for instance, sharply disagreed on many subjects, but all their serious biographers concur that both were profoundly shaped by Enlightenment writers.

The intellectual developments associated with the Enlightenment shared an emphasis on (1) asking every belief and institution to justify itself rationally, and (2) applying the tools associated with the scientific method to as many spheres of life as possible. This focus on natural philosophy and the natural sciences was especially influenced by Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia (1687) and Newton’s successful integration of the mechanics of physical observation with the mathematics of axiomatic proof, and his development of a system of scientifically verifiable predictions. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
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Katrina 10 Years Later: Disaster Recovery and the Political Economy of Everyday Life
Peter Boetkke, Mercatus Center

It is important to explain this history because it was in this intellectual context that the events around Hurricane Katrina have to be understood in order to appreciate our rationale behind undertaking the Gulf Coast Recovery Project in 2005 and continuing it to this day.

The Moral Argument Against the Minimum Wage
Ben R. Crenshaw

The minimum wage is immoral. To understand why, we must first explore its social and economic dimensions.

What Malcolm Gladwell Gets Wrong About Poverty
Robert Doar, The Federalist

In discussing the Hurricane Katrina victims who left New Orleans, Malcolm Gladwell ignores a major factor contributing to modern U.S. poverty.

The Economic Cost of Truancy
Emily Deruy, The Atlantic

It doesn’t matter how good a school is if students don’t show up to class.

Blog author: bwalker
Monday, August 31, 2015
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SOS to Pope Francis: It’s souls that need saving not the environment
Judi McLeod, Canada Free Press

Protocol and pomp and ceremony aside, why would Christ’s Vicar on Earth come to pay homage to a president who is unabashedly the world’s top champion of abortions, including partial birth abortions; whose party refuses to defund Planned Parenthood whose organization sells body parts of aborted babies on the black market; and whose presidency is driven by a soul-corroding hatred of the country he was elected to serve?

Spiritual roundup: ‘Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality’ by Pope Francis, more
Barbara Mahany, Chicago Tribune

This breathtaking amalgam of urgency and poetry mines the spirit and appeals to the moral core. Billed as the pope’s pontifications on the environment, it is in fact a sweeping letter addressing a spectrum of global sins, not the least of which is summed up in Francis’ declaration that “(t)he earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”

Pope’s climate stance is still sinking in
Jeff Montgomery, The News Journal

Enthusiasm is building across the Wilmington Diocese over Pope Francis’ scheduled visit to Philadelphia late next month, with some local Catholics planning to join a million-or-more-person crowd in Philadelphia and many more saying they’ll watch every moment from afar.

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katrina-superdomeThis week marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall on the Gulf Coast. As always happens when remembering such ignominious events, we look back in hindsight to attempt to learn what could have been done differently. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we conservatives will admit that we share some of the blame for the disaster—just not in the way many of us realize.

The colossal failures in leadership in the wake of Hurricane Katrina proved once again that, as historian Richard Weaver famously claimed, “ideas have consequences.” In the aftermath of a natural disaster, abstract theories about public policy and governance were tested in the laboratory of reality. Bad ideas, naturally, can have catastrophic consequences. But as we saw, even good ideas, when poorly implemented, can be calamitous.

A primary example is the principle of subsidiarity, an idea found in both Catholic and Reformed social thought, and which is often embraced by conservatives. Almost twenty years ago in an issue of Religion and Liberty, David A. Bosnich explained,

This tenet holds that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization. In other words, any activity which can be performed by a more decentralized entity should be. This principle is a bulwark of limited government and personal freedom.

While limited government, personal freedom, and other such goods are worthy reasons to support such an ideal, there is an even more primary justification: it saves lives. The evacuation of New Orleans provided a useful example of how this works out in a real-world context.
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So far, 2015 has given us our busiest Acton Lecture Series ever, and we’re pleased to share more of it with you today on the PowerBlog. Back on April 16, Acton had the privilege of hosting Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus, who spoke on the topic of the book they jointly authored, The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution.

First, the bios: Wayne Grudem is Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary; he is the author or co-author of twenty books, including his Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical DoctrinePolitics According To The Bible, and Business for the Glory of God, which we just happen to have in the Acton Book Shop; he also served as a member of the Translation Oversight Committee for the English Standard Version of the Bible, and also as General Editor of the ESV Study Bible. Barry Asmus is a Senior Economist with the National Center for Policy Analysis, which promotes private sector, market-based solutions to problems. He has been speaking, writing and consulting on any number of political and business issues for over 25 years.

Grudem and Asmus jointly authored a book with a title that nods to Adam Smith’s classic The Wealth of Nations, which inquired into what factors led certain nations to prosper; The Poverty Of Nations looks at the flip side of that question: what causes some nations to remain mired in poverty, and what might they do to change their circumstance?

We’re pleased to share with you the video of their joint presentation today; after the jump, I’ve included the episode of Radio Free Acton that features an interview with the two gentlemen.

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flag-21096_640Despite ongoing conflict and regional unrest, Israel’s economy is doing exceptionally well. Unemployment is under six percent, incomes are up, and the Index of Economic Freedom shows Israel’s rank improving over the last few years while America and many Western European nations are declining. Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, discusses this situation in a new article for the Jerusalem Post. He says:

[I]t’s no exaggeration to say that many developed economies – mired in debt, out-of-control welfare spending and high unemployment – would envy the Israeli economy’s current overall trajectory.

It’s the economist’s job to try and understand why some economies, like Israel’s, are doing comparatively better than others. Less well-known, however, is that more economists are looking beyond strictly economic explanations to explain economic successes and failures. As it turns out, they are discovering that culture matters.

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