Acton Institute Powerblog

A Dutch Protestant Reflection on a Polish Catholic Pope

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Rev. Zandstra discusses the experiences of his life, which led him “from an interest to a profound appreciation for Pope John Paul II.”

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Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • John Bolt

    Permit me to add my Calvinst, 2.875 cheers to those of Jerry Zandstra’s for John Paul II’s clear and consistent witness to the full dignity and worth of each person as an image bearer of God. It was Michael Novak who really tuned me on to the rich tradition of Catholic Social teaching from Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum to the present day. Slowly it dawned on me that my communitarian instincts were best served by the associational model of society and not by socialist dreaming. (I became an American in my thinking long before I became a citizen last year.) Along with the Catholic tradition, my own Dutch Calvinism, spurred on by Abraham Kuyper provided a lens and program for social engagement that was hopeful not cynical, honored initiative and did not criminalize it, yielded freedom and prosperity and not despairing economic pain and social upheaval.
    John Paul’s encyclicals on labor, on social justice, on the centenary of Rerum Novarum, on the third millennium, on life, and above all on truth, remain for me the lodestars of Christian testimony to our world culture and society in the 21st century. His testimony will be read (if our Lord tarries), 50 years from now, 500, years from now and, yes, in the fourth millenium, just as we still read Augustine’s City of God, and Gregory’s Pastoral Advice. John Paul’s legacy for us is to have shined the light of modern communication ability on the truly permanent things of gospel and law, of grace and nature. For that testimony lived out in a life of witness that helped change our world for the better, I am profoundly grateful to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even as a Protestant I have little doubt that the Holy Spirit was present in the last conclave and I pray for this one.

    John Bolt
    Calvin Theological Seminary
    Grand Rapids, Michigan

  • Ron Dirkse

    Looks like at least some in the CRC are broadening their outlook. Positive direction for some, others probably see it as the wrong direction.

  • Tapsearch Tapart News Editor

    Free Trade contradicts Rerum Novarum and it is not directly confronted in terms of human dignity by any church teachings. Free Trade has made labor the main commodity being traded. Workers are put on a world trading block to compete with the lowest common denominator down to wage slave labor. Free Trade lives off class struggles and establishes a new kind of state capitalism where only elite grouging control the flow of wealth. A market is not free- free trade is not free either – when sellers of buyers control a market. The only alternative for a truly free market place is to have economic diversity where even the smallest enterprise can survive.
    However, with free trade there is a manipulation of powerful forces outside any real democratic process where only a few decide on the destinty of the masses.
    Investments have become a priority over labor and workers are fired and hired to increase values in the stock market. Many large corporations govern their operations based on the manipulation of stock values. The basic fundamentals of free enterpise become muted. Capitalism is supposed to be a simple process where someone can enjoy a profit or margin in making or growing something. Capitalism based on investments alone evolves into something else. We must get back to the basics of what free enterprise is supposed to be. Rerum Novarum teachings steered the way for many of years but now even devout Christians promote things like free trade which is actually based on moving production and outsourcing labor down to the lowest denominators. The workers are “commoditized” in the process.
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